Monday, 28 June 2010

Easing lightly toward an Oolong dreamland

This Gong Fu-style of brewing is really helping me see what all of the excitement was about. To be clear, I don't yet have an actual Gong-fu pot, so I'm only using more tea and less water for a much shorter time. I've been reading about the varying character of multiple infusions for so long. Only in the last few weeks have I been able to appreciate it.

The tea I'm doing this with is a very middle-of-the-road Oolong called simply Formosa. It's not bad, but not the nicest I've had either. I'm enjoying experimenting with this simple tea and planning to employ my new tricks with better tea once I get better at it.

One thing that surprises me is that even with far shorter steeping times, the tea is still so strong. Some places I read about twenty second infusions, and I'm not there yet. Nevertheless, I can get a good strong cup of Oolong by only leaving the leaves in the water a minute. I used to use the same temperature water as I did with green tea, but I seem to be getting better results by using boiling water.

I've considered taking photos of the leaves like I see on so many other people's blogs. But my photos make the leaves just look like any other leaves. I continue to believe I should play to my strengths. You didn't come here for photos. Obviously. It's the stories you get when you come here, right?

So I'm going to tell you a story about an afternoon without tea. Most days, when I'm going to be gone for more than a few hours, I'll brew a few thermoses and tote them along. Today was an exception. Had my hands full with both a guitar and an amp, while my bag was filled with gear. There just wasn't room for tea. I thought I could find a shop on the way, and get a decent cuppa. If worse came to worse, I could always duck into an Italian place and have an espresso. That's exactly what I did.

When the morning tea started to wear off, I went into a cafe to fill up. I always check to see if they have loose-leaf tea, but often it's simply teabags of dubious quality. In this case, it was just easier to have some java. But even with the little cup of water that typically accompanies coffee in both Austria and Italy, I was soon totally dehydrated.

By the time I got to my rehearsal, I was parched. My mood soured a bit. I had plenty of energy, but something just wasn't quite right. After the rehearsal I hurried to my class, but not before downing another espresso. Now my heart was racing, but I was going to at least make it through.

My students were eager to see the results of their end-of-course exam. As I returned their work, I noticed I was blathering. More so than normal. I could take responsibility for my river of words, but instead I plan to blame the coffee. It was the coffee. There. I said it. My pal Shirley, who visits here despite the fact that she doesn't enjoy tea, often talks about the positive effects of coffee drinking. One thing she says is that it sometimes loosens people's tongues similarly to alcohol. I can see that happening.

After they pleaded their cases on some questionable marking, I sent them on their way with my normal 'What you can do to further improve your English' spiel. They seemed attentive, but I doubt they do any of what I suggest. They'll wait until next semester, study madly right before the exam, and then promptly forget most of what they learned.

I could take the view that their relaxed attitude keeps people perpetually employed teaching them English, but instead I'm continuously searching for methods to keep them engaged with the language even without me breathing down their necks. Especially without me breathing down their necks. It's how I've had the most success when learning languages-when I do it leisurely and at my own speed.

Noticing I was short-tempered, I tried to compensate by being especially gracious with my students. When I finally got home, I was able to go through my above-mentioned Gong-fu ritual. Somehow, that was all I needed. My the third infusion, I was human again. Or as human as I can get.

I'm slowly easing towards dreamland now. As I slip out of consciousness, the Oolong lets me down lightly. Very lightly.


  1. I feel paticularly interested and excited by this because, as a very recent convert to tea drinking, I am finding myself more and more drawn to the Oolongs. I don't know about Gong-fu pots and multiple infusions but at the rate I have been going.......

  2. Gong fu is not just about the tea, that is what is fascinating about it.
    It is a relaxing experience.
    For me, I will usually have at least one if not two gong fu sessions throughout the day.

    As for the espresso...well...that is why one should stick to tea haha
    Great post my friend!

  3. It seems your espresso was too strong for you.
    I am always impressed when people I know that have been drinking coffee for years and still do it, tell me that it helps them wake up.
    I think their body can no longer use the cafeine to get a boost but their mind is craving for it.
    How do you call this?

  4. Barabara, keep on keeping on. You might get a Gong-fu pot before I do.

    Sir Will, do you have any places to recommend where I could read up on the ceremony? I'd prefer websites, but if you know a good book, that'd be nice as well.

    Ice, do you mean something like drug resistance? The only thing I immediately thought of was phantom limb syndrome, where one still feels an arm or a leg is there even after it's been somehow lost or amputated.

  5. You can google "gongfu cha" and come up with many different places that you can read up at and piece together.
    I learned from a book;
    "The Way of Tea" by Master Lam Kam Chuen

    Great read if you are really interested in Gongfu cha!