Hime Brand – Bancha

August 27, 2007

Hime Bancha

The Huo Mountain yellow tea is still dominating my tea drinking completely, so in the mean time I’ll cover some teas that I had been drinking in the interest of keeping to a post a day. I bought an 8oz. box of Hime Brand Bancha from an Asian grocery for about $4 and it has been a decent quick cup of green tea while at work. It is very one-dimensional, vegetal/grassy with little else. It is pretty forgiving as far as brewing time and temperature, but it is rewarding if brewed properly. I’ve begun to use very little leaf in my gaiwan to keep the flavor light as it can be a bit much in full strength. It isn’t bad in any way, and recently my taste has changed to the lighter fare of greens (BiloChun) so that may be another reason why it doesn’t do much for me right now. I will say that I’ve paid much more for Sencha that is basically indistinguishable from this tea, so overall it is a good value and a good basic green.

Not Tea – Vitamin Water

August 24, 2007

OK, I’m not schilling here… but I have been absolutely addicted to two flavors of Glaceau’s Vitamin Water for the past few months: XXX (Acai-Blueberry-Pomegranate) and formula 50 (grape with 50% dose of many daily vitamins). It has nothing to do with any perceived health benefits (although welcome) but with the taste, they are sweet but not sickeningly so and not filled with additives or anything funky/artificial.

There are a ton of flavors, and I’ve tried just about all of them, but these two are far and away standouts in my book and to my palate. Acai can be harsh sometimes, but the mixture in the XXX is fairly balanced so it is not pronounced.  They are a nice alternative to the sugars in juice and certainly to soda. Just figured I’d share since it can’t be tea all the time… can it?

Seven Years In Tibet

August 24, 2007

No, not the dreamy Brad Pitt film. Seven Years in Tibet is Heinrich Harrer’s real-life epic tale of his fight to stay outside the internment camps during WWII and his determined goal to make it to the mysterious and elusive Tibet. I’ve never watched the film adaptation, but when I was fortunate enough to come across and purchase an original copy of this novel, I jumped on it. I have a real soft spot for old books, but I also have a strong love of true tales of survival in the outdoors. From young adult books like The Sign of the Beaver and Hatchet to more current ones like Jungle: A Harrowing True Story of Survival, Into Thin Air: A Personal Account of the Mt. Everest Disaster, or even the slightly humorous A Walk in the Woods: Rediscovering America on the Appalachian Trail… I am always a sucker for a good survival story. I love the outdoors, camping, hiking, kayaking, no-match fire-making, ultralight hiking, etc. so they are enjoyable to me. I may have never been running away from imprisonment, but I’ve “accidentally” climbed the Pennsylvania Grand Canyon when a “shortcut” to the trail turned into a thousand+ foot climb with no gear, and in some places beyond vertical… so I can relate as well.

The story itself is fairly raw since Heinrich is not an author (again, sort of like me) but it gets the job done. It skips around sometimes and fails to flesh out some important areas and concepts but on the whole it places you there in his shoes. It lingers in a few spots for far too long, and I grew tired of some of the constantly rehashed themes long before the last page, but I’m glad I read it. I learned some new things about life in Tibet as well as customs and some regular aspects of daily life that never see print in other writings on this land. I had been looking forward to his encounters with “Butter Tea” and I wasn’t disappointed as it comes up fairly frequently, yet it seems he has a pretty decent time of it. I struggled with whether I should place this in the Good Reads section or not since it is kind of like watching a film by a first-time director, but sometimes – especially if you read a ton – that is just what the doctor ordered. It was a nice break from careful prose and storytelling, and if anything makes you appreciate the talents of a real author that much more.

Huo Mountain Yellow (Huo Shan Huang Ya)

August 23, 2007

Huo Shan Huang Ya

Huo Shan Huang Ya

A year ago I had some amazing Que She (Bird’s Tongue) tea that I stretched about as far as possible because I knew I could not get anymore of that particular tea and it was breathtaking. Very fresh yellow-green little tongues that brewed a nice pale liquor with a slightly sweet, vegetal, and delicately thick/slippery feel. I have grown into more of the delicate and pale greens for some unknown reason lately, breaking away from my more standard Bancha, Sencha, and Gyokuro.

I took a walk today downtown Pittsburgh just to break up the monotony of my day, and swung by a little coffee roaster shop to see what teas they had and to find if they had any single brew coffee in teabags for those rare times when I want a quick cup at my desk. I struck out on the coffee, but found a new tea in their lineup of loose teas. It said Huo Mountain Yellow Sprouting Organic. As soon as I saw and smelled it, it brought back the feeling of that fabled Que She. It was dryer looking, wispier, and a bit darker green… but I went with my senses and bought some anyhow. I couldn’t wait to slog the 6 blocks through the oppressive heat/humidity to get back to my desk and my Gaiwan to see how close it truly was.

I couldn’t have got it any more right! This tea brewed up into an almost perfect match of my prized Bird’s Tongue of yore. Pale, vegetal, slightly milky/thick feel… maybe not as delicate as the Bird’s Tongue but very close. I’m a happy man, and this afternoon could stretch on for as long as it wants since it is just more time to enjoy a few more gaiwans of this yellow tea.