Me and My Camera

Infusion of sheng puer called Mini Menghai 1999It’s been longer than I’d like since I last wrote a post, but I’ve been developing a relationship with my digital camera. I don’t have a whole lot of photography experience, mind you, so I’ve been feeling the learning curve. Meanwhile, I’ve also been tasting new teas for upcoming classes (listed here plus a new one at Teahouse Kuan Yin on November 5th), and working on some research for the Tea Geek Wiki.

Buddhist Green in a GaiwanWhile I do all of this, I’ve been taking pictures of tea, tea, tea. You can check out my pictures that I’ve got on the wiki’s articles on Bai Hao, Tie Guan Yin, and Keemun, and I’ve included some pictures of my samples here. Sometimes it seemed as if my tea (or a gaiwan in this case) were a wild animal, leaping out of the frame at the last moment.

Next time, look for some history on tea in America…I’ve been working on an entry about that one in the background.

The Four Evils of Tea Storage

A somewhat frequent question I get is “how should I store my tea?” I figured I could put my answer here on the blog so that folks could find it if I’m not around to ask. While you hear lots of variations on the “best” way to store tea (with additional variations based on what type of tea), for most teas it boils down to four simple principles.Tea Tins

1) Avoid Evil #1: Moisture. This is a fairly basic one. Keep your tea away from moisture. Moisture is good when you want to steep your tea, but for storage, moisture is bad. Keep it away from places that tend to be damp or steamy. For example, next to the shower isn’t the greatest place, nor is right above the stove when you’re boiling pasta. Which brings us to…

2) Avoid Evil #2: Extreme Temperature. Excessive heat ain’t so hot (thus above the stove is doubly bad). And in many cases, excessive cold ain’t cool. Don’t freeze your tea–especially if it’s been open to the regular air. You know how that condensation thing works? Well, that happens on the tea if you’ve got warm air in the bag and you cool it down in the fridge of freezer…then you’ve got Evil #1 going on.

3) Avoid Evil #3: Bright Light. This can tie in to the heat thing from #2, but light itself can affect how long a tea will retain flavor. Glass jars next to the kitchen window may look pretty, but it’s not a good idea if you want to actually drink your tea more than a couple of weeks from now. Your tea should not be more enlightened than you–it’s okay for some things to be kept in the dark.

4) Avoid Evil #4: Air Flow. Nobody likes sitting in a draft, and tea’s no different. With the exception of puer tea, which needs access to a little bit of air to properly age, you pretty much want to seal up the tea so there’s no wicked winds wafting away the wonderful flavors of your tea.

Solution: Use some kind of opaque packaging that you can seal reasonably well (which means no *breathing* materials like paper or cloth unless you’re storing puer). Put it in a closet, drawer, shelf, or cabinet where there isn’t much temperature fluctuation. I’ve included a photograph of some tea storage containers I use.  I keep them in a drawer that only comes open when I want to brew some tea.

If you stick with these tips, you shouldn’t go too far wrong.

Extra! Extra! Tea Makes Front Page!

Boy, tea’s been in the news!  The October 2nd edition of the Wall Street Journal had an article about puer on the front page (below the fold, of course, but still…front page?).  It talks about how newly-wealthy Chinese investors have been looking for things to invest in and have caused the price of puer to skyrocket, but now there are fears of a collapse.

Then, today, another article about tea appeared in US News & World Report.  This one was about research into the amino acid theanine and how it helps concentration (with speculation that it might help with attention deficit disorder, or ADD).  They also had a link to another article about green tea and possible connections with healthier skin.