ceramics, personal, work

Good tea amidst stressors…

Today, we actually got to visit Teance’s new headquarters in Berkeley. That was the good thing. The…not so good thing, is that I did check in with HR, and apparently they feel I could benefit from more training in working with children. They didn’t tell me this until I initiated contact today (after a week of near-silence). Should I be looking to work within an Academic Library setting? (That is, a College or University library setting: I might be more comfortable with the patrons, there, whereas Public Library settings, I’m seeing now to revolve around babies, children, and teens.)

Another not so good thing: our visitor has to leave pretty soon, and I don’t know if anyone is really happy with that. The third not-so-good thing: our power company has instituted rolling blackouts and threatened to cut off the power last night (which never happened). This is likely because they’ve been implicated in causing two large-scale fires with death tolls relatively recently…it’s not like I can remember the names of either of them, though.

Also, I’m supposed to go and take my test to regain my Learner’s Permit, tomorrow (EDIT: later today). So I can, you know, drive. Again.

I have also recalled why I stopped making gemstone and sterling jewelry (expensive — not from the stones, so much as the metals). And there’s talk of my relative now moving out of the country. The latter makes me question why it was that we were planning to move out-of-state to join them if they’re only going to move again…

Good part first (turned into “good part, only”): Teance is now open, and their Yin Hao Jasmine Green tea is pretty good. The location is also very close to the place we normally get tea from, so it’s easy to stop off there and get some higher-quality tea.

I’ve been doing some research on East Asian tea ware: I do like some teas like Tieguanyin and Chrysanthemum, both of which are more characteristically Chinese than Japanese…so I was thinking that they may work better (have evolved along) with Chinese ware, more than Japanese ware.

I did find a Taiwanese oolong that I’m curious about…it was mid-range expensive, which means that it wasn’t extravagant, but that it should be high-quality. I haven’t yet opened it. Even though I only got one ounce, it takes up a lot of space in its package. I also inadvertently crushed some of the leaves doing something, today, that I can’t even remember anymore. I only regret this because when I opened the Yin Hao, it was full-leaf. So, I mean, I was really crushing stuff.

So…the Yin Hao is very nice, less astringent than most green teas I’ve tried, although on first brewing it did initially smell like baking soda. It’s a good thing that I only brewed a very small amount in a little bit of hot water initially, as I could then rebrew (and rebrew…and rebrew…) the same leaves without losing a lot of flavor (though some mellowing does happen, as I’ve found with many teas). Anyway, I don’t feel I lost anything by brewing just a small amount of leaves. At this rate, one ounce will last a while.

Anyhow, I noticed that the Taiwanese oolong recommended a Yixing or porcelain teapot, whereas the other two I got (Yin Hao Jasmine [Jasmine-scented Green] and a Genmaicha [Green, with roasted rice]) were okay to brew in glass. I also did get a Longjing (Dragon Well) from a separate grocery, as I’ve forgotten what it even tastes like.

I started looking up Yixing ware and that led me to gaiwan brewers. Gaiwan…I’ve seen before, though I don’t own one, and haven’t used one yet, myself. Upon reading around, I found that instead of going for a Yixing teapot, a porcelain or glass gaiwan set would be better for my tea-drinking habits.

(The reason I’m looking at a different way to brew this stuff is that it’s kind of clumsy to try and clean out either of my tall, narrow Pyrex teapots.)

Well, and for the Japanese teas, I probably won’t have to worry about finding a genuine zisha (purple sand) clay pot, as I drink lighter and herbal teas. I did, however, realize that one of the more notable teapots I found in Japantown this last time, was likely related more closely to a gaiwan than to a normal Japanese teapot. This would explain why it was unglazed, lacked a handle, and was meant to be lifted by its edges. It was beautiful, but it was also $85…

I’ll think about it, okay? (Maybe.)

The major reason why I wouldn’t get a teapot like that, is concern about what minerals or metals would seep or leach into my tea. This teapot in particular was also black…which sounds like some kind of basaltic clay (or soot from the firing), unless a coloring agent was added.

The thing about teapots that get seasoned with use is also apparently that, being porous, they impart flavors from past brewings into future brewings, so it isn’t great to switch around with different types of tea. It’s like there is one pot for Taiwanese oolong, a different pot for Tieguanyin, etc.

I also don’t drink intensely flavored teas (black teas or dark oolongs) much at all (they’re just too strong for me), which means I probably don’t need an unglazed teapot to season. Yes, apparently they do need to be seasoned! And I’m not really a formal-tea-ritual type of person.

I’m also still tasting a lot, which implies that a gaiwan would be best for me, until I settle into a favorite type (over Jasmine, I guess, which would also be great in a gaiwan).

I also learned a new term: tisane, which refers to an infused drink like a tea, which is not made of camellia sinensis.

Anyhow — I should get some rest, but I wanted to post this. I am not sure how much going over things in my life which I don’t like but can’t change, will help. And, tomorrow I will be able to work at my driving stuff. Things go on, I have foundations to build. And I haven’t been fired yet. :) Even if I am, I have the active backing of a vocational program. And, my family. It should be OK.

personal

Another day in Nihon Machi

I swear I didn’t initiate another trip to Japantown, today. It just sort of happened. Whether or not I ended up materially gaining anything from that trip (or losing money from same) is a different question. I stuck to spending cash so that I wouldn’t go overboard.

You know…a short while ago, we did get a Zojirushi. For the uninitiated, this is a hot water heater. Which for some reason has an elephant for a logo. But it’s not just any hot water heater. It will heat up up to two liters of water, and keep it hot. For things like tea. TEA!!!

We’ve been drinking a lot of tea. I think the habit (drinking tea instead of juices or sodas) is causing weight loss. M recently found my Chrysanthemum tea from Teance, which I had been searching for — it’s a year old, but I unsealed it from its foil just earlier this month. It is so good. It’s enough to make me want to go herbal with my tea drinking (not to mention, opening my Lupicia low-caffeine teas).

Chrysanthemum tea used to be a favorite of my grandmother, who would ask for it at Chinese restaurants. I’m used to it tasting something like what I imagine unflavored artichoke steaming water, would taste like (if the lemon, rosemary, salt, and garlic weren’t there). The Teance stuff…you can actually taste the nectar in the chrysanthemums as it steeps into the liquid. It’s sweet, but mildly sweet. The liquor is golden. The whole blossoms expand with hot water, which I can watch through my Pyrex teapots. It’s just kind of magical.

The first day, I did have some itching in my throat (I’m allergic to pollen), but this subsided with drinking straight water, and after the first two cups of tea. It also didn’t bother me the next day, when I drank more. Chrysanthemum is supposed to help take down inflammation and allergies — I’m not sure whether this is an actual benefit, but it makes sense. Like eating local honey will expose a person to low levels of pollen, and that’s supposed to help desensitize them to hay fever. (It has been a while since I’ve had bad allergies…I blame it on moving away from the freeway’s tire dust, and away from constant mold and eucalyptus. After I moved to a well-lit suburban area [as versus a shaded hillside near a freeway and industrial steam], my allergies and associated ills [asthma, eczema] essentially disappeared…not to say that everyone will have that experience.)

The day after I drank this, I went back to Organic Jasmine Pearls (a bulk item from the local grocery), then ended up dumping out that pot and steeping these chrysanthemum blossoms, instead. I mean, if I was going to drink something, I wanted to drink something I enjoyed.

I started out with two ounces in the little pouch I got from Teance. I don’t know how many I have left, but it’s a lot, even after I dropped too many blossoms into my teapot, the first time. (That teapot holds over 600 ml of hot water.) I realize I went high-end with my tea, here, and that another pouch of this will not come cheaply. But it is so worth it.

Having a convenient source of hot water has also gotten me to realize that I don’t have to use a high-volume teapot anymore. Today I was at Cha-To by Kinokuniya bookstore, waiting and looking at the little Pyrex teapots. (It helps to bring people back, the fact that they welcome you with a little cup of iced tea.) Then I realized…if I have a ready source of hot water, I don’t actually have to use Pyrex. I can use an actual handmade ceramic or iron teapot.

Like, a real teapot. A real, actually nice, teapot. A NICE TEAPOT. And I can actually only brew what I’ll immediately drink (over and over and over again) and extend the life of my good tea. And maybe I can get it in dimensions that will be easy to clean out, unlike the two tall Pyrex pots I have.

Good tea is…I mean, it can be really good. And with bad tea, it’s like, “why am I drinking this?” I mean, just drinking water is often better than drinking bad tea.

So…now I have to find a good Iron Goddess (Tieguanyin) tea again: I tossed mine because it looked like it had expired three years ago (the label I put on it said, “’16,” as in, “20…’16,” though I don’t know if I bought it in 2016 or it expired in 2016)…being an oolong (partially fermented) tea, I was wary of using it (microbes!), though I’m now told it basically lasts a really long time when it’s kept dry and sealed (which it was; we have too many tea tins).

I am now thinking, though, of going herbal. Jardin Sauvage from Lupicia is another tea that I’ve liked, which has no camellia leaves in it (“true” teas — black [called “red” in China, IIRC], oolong [called “black” in China, IIRC], green, and white — are all camellia leaves). Camellia sinensis is the plant that normally gives regular tea its caffeine content. “Herbal” teas are anything that is not camellia, regardless of whether it is medicinal or not.

So, technically, at least in my region, Yerba Mate would be herbal, even though it also is a stimulant. Tulsi (Holy Basil) is the same way. I don’t think they work the same way in one’s system, though…not to mention that some teas (like Tulsi) will interact with medications, as they are essentially medications, themselves.

Disclaimer: I just need to let you know to do your research and take responsibility for your own health before drinking an extract of anything you don’t understand, as there’s a possibility it could harm you, especially if you’re on other drugs (even prescription ones).

There’s also a chance that if you’re allergic to preservatives, you could have a reaction (possibly severe) to things like dried fruit which have been added to teas and also treated with preservatives. I’ve personally had my throat start to close up because of eating Golden Raisins (which, like standard dried apricots [which I also can’t eat], are treated with sulfites to preserve their color and flavor). I’ve been driven to vomit from eating dried apple slices which have been treated with preservatives. I just, at this point, know that my body doesn’t play nice with sulfites (at the least).

Note that I am saying this as a person, not a Librarian, and I am not representing anyone other than myself on this! Every time you choose to put something in your body, you take your life and health in your own hands. This is true for food; this is even true for tea.

In any case, Jardin Sauvage is a blended herbal tea from Lupicia (basically, a high-end tea company which you’ll probably only be able to mail-order from) with a base of Green Rooibos. It does have dried fruit in it, and also flower petals. Rooibos is an African plant which is usually oxidized, and makes a caffeine-free, red liquor. Green Rooibos is not treated the same way as regular Rooibos…I’m not sure if I can describe the difference in taste or aesthetic, as I still haven’t broken into my straight Green Rooibos herbal tea. I’ve also tasted such different qualities of Rooibos (sometimes also called “Honeybush”; and I am still unclear on the difference between the two), that I have no standard baseline to compare it to.

However…Rooibos can be good. Jardin Sauvage is just particularly…nice. At least, to me. I generally don’t drink flavored teas, either. Even though I am allergic to sulfites, and there is dried fruit (mango?) in this tea, I can still drink it (at least, so far). Not everyone will have the same reaction, though.

Elderflower is also something that I’ve had good luck with…we still have a tiny bit of Elderflower + Chamomile here, which is a gorgeous tea, flavor-wise. It also has that effect of putting people to sleep. :) Should I go to sleep? It’s almost 1:30 in the morning, right now…

I…there’s just something about this that makes me feel like I actually am Asian-American, which I know I am, but still: I’ve felt excluded for a fairly long time, because of the race thing. It wasn’t really until getting into the fact that I am, ethnically, different from most of the professors I had in college…that I did start investigating this.

Some things you grow up around, and you don’t realize until late in the game that not everyone is like you. Not everyone eats yokan at New Year’s. Most people don’t know what yokan is. Not everyone sees New Year’s as a thing to celebrate, and I’ve been participating in osechi for decades without knowing the word, “osechi.”

By the second generation, it’s common for children of first-generation immigrants not to pass on their parents’ native languages to their own children. Even though English is the only language I’m currently skilled in to the point of functionality (same with my parents), that doesn’t mean I can’t or don’t have a cultural background that originates outside the U.S. It also means that maybe the people who do speak those other languages might not be so different from me.

Grandma may have tried to be, “American,” but that didn’t erase the environment and family she grew up in, or the training that her parents had. They provided the context of her life in her formative years. That has to leave a mark on someone.

That’s not to ignore culture from my other side, or the experience I have had of growing up in this area. It is just that I think the parent I’m thinking of now, did want me to have a cultural grounding…which is not always easy to come by for someone whose historical reference to a “home” outside the U.S. was essentially obliterated. What culture there is, we made, and we inherited. Without necessarily knowing that was what we were doing. That there was something different that other people did, or that we did, and that it made us, as a community, unique.

And that’s complicated. As is the difference between myself as nikkeijin (Japanese-of-foreign-birth) and the experience someone who grew up in Japan, would have. It’s not a bad difference, or a “wrong” difference, but it is a difference. (The word for “to be different” in Japanese language is “chigau:” it also means “to be wrong.”) And yeah, that’s something I’ve grown up with, too! People thinking that I am wrong, or that I shouldn’t exist, because I am different (in some way that mattered to them, but was based on appearances — on race — not deeper realities of culture or family. Or clan).

But my experience is an authentic experience, for me. How often have I even been able to think, that I am something that I can identify? That I can point to, and say, “that is me”?

It hasn’t been often. But maybe I’m growing into myself.

And yes, I am glad to be with family, family I connect with, again.