Thursday, January 23, 2014

Year of the Horse is almost here!

Jayme Allen says that most of his time is spent waiting. He works with the raw earth. More specifically, he transforms Willamette Valley clay in process that involves several steps. Each of these steps demands time, hence the waiting. But Jayme fills his waiting time by moving the clay from one stage of the process to another. And because there is so much waiting, he has several batches processing at one time so that he can work on one thing while he is waiting for another. Ultimately this results in a workable piece of clay. This local clay is one of the things that made me scratch my head when I first met Jayme. His clothes were covered in mud and he looked exhausted. He had just returned from mining a batch of local clay. You know the stuff that makes it impossible to have any type of workable garden? Most local gardeners replace this stuff with compost blends and topsoil. But Jayme works with it to make a high-grade local clay. It’s hard work, but for Jayme, it’s also a source of inspiration.  Pictures of his process can be seen here: Firebug Pottery Facebook Page.

Jayme is fully involved with the pottery he makes. He digs the clay, processes it, wedges it, throws it, and when he is able to use a wood-fired kiln, he splits the wood for the fire then loads and unloads the kiln. He is involved in every part of the process and that’s the way he likes it. Ultimately, he is developing his kung fu through his work.

We invite you to come to our Year of the Horse Tea Sealing Celebration on February 1, 2014. We'll be sealing tea in clay vessels made by Jayme and Elkton-based potter and ceramic artist, Hiroshi Ogawa. This year’s seal was designed by local artist Dave Snider. More of his work can be found on his blog: Sniderland


Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Revamping for improved results

For years or at least weeks now, I've been collecting information on how to best improve my web presence. I can't believe I just used “web presence” in a sentence. We've recently invested a lot of time, energy, and a bit of money in our website to improve its SEO, or search engine optimization. What is all of this talk of SEO? Pretend you are trying to date a hot person named Google (Goo). Well, if you want to have a chance with Goo, and since you can't really take Goo out and get Goo drunk to improve your chances, it's time to get to work to improving yourself. If you improve yourself, Goo notices. Goo wants a match that cares about how they present themselves, so you've got to improve some personal grooming habits, at the very least, make an effort to look good. Google will notice. Goo is fare, because everyone has a chance. Goo's likes and dislikes can be found online. And web designers can help you hook up with Goo, online of course.

First on our list was to get some products onto the home page. We achieved this goal and now have nine products perched ever-so-pleasantly there on J-Tea's homepage. They are nine products that are awesome: our top sellers. My only warning to you is that you will get hooked on the stuff. Then you might try something better, and you will want that, and eventually you become spoiled. Yes, I am your pusher, and no, the first one is never free.

The idea is that the nine featured teas can rotate. The nine products currently listed on J-TEA's homepage are Charcoal Dawn (a green oolong roasted over charcoal of the Dragon Eye fruit tree), Cooked Beauty Puer, Eugene Breakfast (Yunnan Dian Hong), Green Oolong (four seasons like spring varietal of oolong), Roast Pear (Fall Harvest from “Li Shan” = Pear Mountain), Rou Gui (an amazing variation on the wu yi classic cinnabar varietal), Tai He Sun, Top Bao Zhong, and Yunnan Gold Tips. This group is a strong representation of what J-Tea has to offer. Something strange, something solid, something exciting, something enticing, and something smooth.

Another innovation on the site, and what I consider to be a huge step forward, was the creation of individual product pages. So now you can see each product in its product category page as shown here: Green Oolong Tea. When hovering over the photo on the card there is a rollover effect and the photo will switch to a picture of that tea’s extraction. We have used the translation of the Chinese term used to describe the liquid tea, “tea soup.” And a note about the tea soup pictures: the tea soup picture tends to be a bit light. It's okay because it makes some of the darker teas a little bit translucent, but generally the tea is brewed slightly lighter than how I'm used to seeing it.

Thursday, January 16, 2014

As Horse Sayings Go!

When we seal tea, we are making history. Looking forward, we are creating aged tea. The tea, as it ages, becomes something else. This is not unlike our own experience as so often the beginning, middle, and end of one’s life are three connected, yet separate adventures.

This year's seal features some made up Chinese word play. Because Chinese can be read left to right and right to left, we've intentionally created a saying that has meaning when read either way. It's safe to say, that this saying cannot be understood by either native speakers of English and Chinese. So as one customer put it, I'm two for two.
“Ma3 Shang4 Cha2 Lao3”
From this can be inferred, 馬上茶變老 “Ma3 Shang4 Cha2 Bian4 Lao3”
Tea immediately becomes old.
For Year of the Horse, we chose the word “immediately” because pictographically translated from Chinese into English it means “by way of horse, or horse driven,” which is so fast that it might as well be immediate. It’s another way of saying time goes by so fast, with the blink of an eye. The act of sealing tea is most enjoyable when there is some special purpose of commemoration. Sealing tea at such a time confers the sense that the ever-changing future is at hand, and our hope is that we will be here to enjoy this tea in 20 years. In this way, we create antiquity at the moment the seal is adhered. Thus, tea immediately becomes old.

“Lao3 Cha2 Shang4 Ma3”
Aged tea is placed upon the horse.
Many people are still not aware that J-TEA is a great place for aged tea. Currently, we still have great aged tea available, though the availability of old tea is never certain. Aged tea placed upon the horse indicates that tea is on a journey. This tea travels over oceans, across continents, and around the world – and as soon as you order aged tea from J-TEA, we send it via horse directly to you. Actually, we send it with the next best thing, the U.S. Postal Service. In other words, when you order aged tea from us, it will be arriving shortly.