Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Observations of Twitter: Misadventures in Social Media

I’ve found that dislike for Twitter is a often matter of misinformation, which can lead to misadventures. Often, people simply don't understand what it is or how to use it. Read on for my suggestions to find maximal Twitter enjoyment.

The Basics: Start with this formula and see if it fills your need for information.

  1. Choose 10 to 10,000 people who you admire or who fascinate you to follow.
  2. Follow 10 to 100 local news sources, 5 to 50 national, and 3 to 30 international.

Take it to the Next Level: Get inspired.

  1. Check out who the people and groups you follow are following, paying special attention to those are retweeted. Add a few of these people to your list. The reason for this really gets at the heart of the matter, and no one is an exception: Everyone needs inspiration. Did you ever wonder where the people and groups that inspire you draw their inspiration from? 

Sunday, January 27, 2013

Welcome to Oregon: Wine, Truffles...and Tea? - By Katie Lewis

Excerpt from Take Root magazine (Winter 2013). Read the full version here:

Just north of the Salem tea plot, the red clay hills of Dundee produce elegant, earthy Pinot noirs. Could tea prove to be another latent agricultural phenomenon in Oregon like wine or, more recently, truffles? Similar to wine, tea reflects its terrior, is somewhat temperamental, and requires intensive processing prior to consumption. It’s no easy task and the economic viability of tea has yet to be proven in Oregon. The majority of the world’s tea grows in China, Taiwan, Japan, India, and Sri Lanka, where it’s supported by thousands of years of culture and knowledge on tea cultivation, processing, and consumption. While it’s certainly possible to cultivate tea in the Northwest, as evidenced by the efforts of Minto Island and Sakuma Brothers, the region lacks tea harvesting and processing equipment and knowledge. At present, this appears to be the major challenge for the endeavor.

Rob Miller holds some fresh picked leaves on his experimental tea plot

Curing the leaves at J-TEA

The finished product...

Thursday, January 24, 2013

Porcelain Vendors

What does it mean to brew tea in porcelain? When you buy from a vendor who brews your samples in porcelain, the vendor is basically saying, “I have confidence in the quality of my tea and I have nothing to hide.” My favorite vendors will also let me choose the standard used when comparing tea (either 3g and 5 minutes or 5g and 3 minutes). Porcelain does not enhance the quality of the tea like unglazed clay so what you taste in the shop is pretty easy to replicate with the brew ware you use at home.

Brewing in unglazed clay, however, improves the quality of the tea. If an unglazed clay teapot, like an Yixing pot, is used to brew extremely high quality tea over a long period of time, the high-grade tea will permeate the pot’s walls. When using the same pot to brew a lower quality of tea, it will taste better than it normally does and, as a result, it might be impossible to replicate the quality when returning home to brew your newly purchased tea.   

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

The Yi Xing Teapot is the New Honey Badger

Sitting at the table ready to brew tea. These little teapots sit in front of me. Why are the pots so small? Even a tiny teapot can brew up quite a bit of tea.

Some days I like to sit and drink pot after pot of tea. In this type of scenario, the best practice is to have food near at hand so that mealtime can be given a priority (this is best accomplished in Taiwan where exceptional street food is plentiful). Tea and food are connected. Tea was first used as a medicine to help the stomach; I’ve found that it aids in digestion. Consequently, it’s no surprise that the type of tea I want to drink correlates with the types of food I've been eating.

The small teapots are not used just for making an individual serving of tea. They are made to accentuate the characteristics a particular tea has to offer. Remember, a tea has a range of flavors it can express. The same tea can be either bitter or sweet, but the most interesting teas are both bitter and sweet. In terms of flavor, there is no right or wrong, it really is a matter of preference.

Here's the real reason for the Yixing teapot. Teas such as oolong and puer are special, and have an amazing range of flavor. But to really get these flavors to come out, Yixing teaware is critical.

The Yixing teapot evolved side-by-side with oolong tea and dates back to between 1400 and 1500 (if we are to believe Wikipedia). The Yixing teapot has the following characteristics: Its small size is ideal for a higher leaf to water ratio and its small surface area means there is less room for the heat to dissipate. The small size also reduces the time it takes to decant the tea, resulting in a tighter control of the time variable. Yixing teapots lack glaze so eventually the pot becomes seasoned with tea. This, in turn, enhances the flavor of the tea. Additionally, the clay used has a high iron content, which keeps the water temperature higher. This is favorable for oolongs with a higher level of oxidation and a strong roast. These types of teas require a high temperature in order to extract the magical flavor within.

In summary, the Yixing teapots are small, but they are badass, much like the honey badger.