Issue #13 October 2011
There has been such a flurry of new developments since we sent Tea Tidings #12 sailing into your inbox earlier this year, both out in the world at large and here within the world of tea, that it seems more like six years than six months since I wrote that issue, and the world seems like a very different place than it was before. One thing, however, remains the same as ever: the peerless pleasure of preparing and savoring that first pot of High Mountain Oolong Tea in the early morning. For me, the sun rises with that first sip, and the day does not begin until the second pot.
The Art & Alchemy of Chinese Tea
For our worldwide circle of High Mountain Tea devotees, the first and foremost development this year must surely be the publication of my new book, The Art & Alchemy of Chinese Tea, a book I’ve wanted to write for decades. Spending most of the past three years living in the heart of tea’s ancient homeland in far western Yunnan, in the old walled town of Dali, which for centuries controlled the tea trade along the Ancient Tea Horse Trail, has provided me with the inspiration and insight , as well as the perfect setting, to finally put pen to paper and write this book about Chinese tea, exploring the mystery and allure that tea has held for humanity throughout the ages, and tracking its long and colorful history as a central pillar of Chinese civilization.
It’s therefore with great pleasure that I announce the publication on November 14, of the elegant, hardbound American edition of The Art & Alchemy of Chinese Tea, designed and published by Singing Dragon (Jessica Kingsley). Another edition published by Caravan Press in Kunming, China, and distributed outside the USA will appear shortly after the first edition.
The hardbound edition may be ordered online directly from: www.singingdragon.com/catalogue/9781848190863 or via amazon.com (click here). The other edition may be ordered from: mandarinbooks.cn
My own journey on the path of Chinese tea was launched by a book written by a Western connoisseur of tea and all things Chinese - John Blofeld’s The Chinese Art of Tea. If my own book on tea inspires sufficient interest and inspiration to steer readers in the same direction, then my purpose in writing the book shall be fulfilled.
In addition to chapters on the history, variety, and alchemy of Chinese tea, plus a chapter devoted exclusively to High Mountain Oolong Tea, edited versions of the first twelve issues of Tea Tidings appear in the last section of the book.
The Tzolkin Trilogy
Another major event this year was the release of my first musical production, a three-disc CD album entitled The Tzolkin Trilogy, which introduces a new sound sensation that we call the “Dream Drone,” performed solo by Si Mullumby, one of the world’s foremost players of the ancient Australian instrument known indigenously as the yidaki and to the Western world as the didjereedoo. Not only does the Dream Drone sound beautiful to the ear, it also transmits healing energy deep into the core of the human system, with rhythmic waves of vibration, some of them inaudible, that resonate through every cell and tissue in the body. These healing effects are produced by the unique properties of the new material used to make these instruments: instead of wood, yidaki maker Jon Worsley uses pure hemp fiber with a bit of ochre clay to create a new generation of this ancient wind instrument. He calls his creation the yidachi, which in Chinese ideograms means “the breath of great intent.”
We chose three themes from the Mayan Calendar, also known as the Tzolkin, as the framework for these recordings: Volume 1 is “The Nine Underworlds,” Volume 2 “The Thirteen Heavens,” and Volume 3 “The One Source of Energy & Light.” We recorded the second volume on December 5 last year, deep inside the Green Jade Gorge, 3500 meters high up on Evergreen Mountain behind Dali, at a power spot and in a sacred cave there. This is my favorite of the three, because when I listen to it, I clearly hear the mountain speaking to me.
This is a very suitable sound to listen to as “Tea Tunes,” especially when drinking tea alone and undisturbed at your own tea table. The album includes a 16-page printed insert with three essays written by Si, Jon, and me, explaining the entire concept behind this album, how the Dream Drone was discovered, and why it functions as healing energy to body and mind.
You can order The Tzolkin Trilogy online at: www.vitamin.net.au/albumdefault.asp?ai=487
You can order The Tzolkin Trilogy online at: www.vitamin.net.au/albumdefault.asp?ai=487
Hemp Fiber Travel Tea Caddies
Our friend Jon, the man who makes the hemp fiber yidachi Si used to record The Tzolkin Triology, has also become a confirmed cha ren (“tea person”) of the High Mountain Oolong order, and so he has created for us a new innovation in travel teaware—a tubular tea caddy with an air-tight cork made from the same hemp fiber material as the yidachi. This material, composed purely of hemp, is denser than the hardest hardwood, colorfully marbled in beautiful swirling patterns, and keeps your tea fresh and fragrant under all travel conditions. We’ll be offering this unique, hand crafted item on our menu soon, in two sizes. The smaller one also makes an excellent tobacco case, for those who roll their own cigarettes.
“The Land of the Rising Radiation”
Ever since the catastrophe that struck Japan earlier this year, when an earthquake and tsunami destroyed several nuclear power plants there, releasing enormous amounts of radiation into the air and ocean, we’ve received numerous queries regarding the safety of this year’s crop of High Mountain Tea in Taiwan. In response to these queries, our main supplier of organic teas, Mr. Lin, sent samples of tea leaves from this year’s harvest, plus water and soil from his plantation, to be tested at a government-accredited laboratory in Taiwan. We are pleased to inform you that there is currently no trace of exposure to radiation in the tea plants, soil, or water in the mountainous regions of central Taiwan where most of the island’s best High Mountain Oolong Tea is grown.
Nevertheless, this is the sort of thing I was referring to in Tea Tidings #12, when I strongly suggested that all confirmed connoisseurs of High Mountain Oolong Tea stock up enough of their favorite leaf to last at least three years, because the ongoing series of natural and man-made disasters that are rocking the entire Pacific Rim region, as well as other parts of the world, is likely to cause some serious disruptions in the production and distribution of this precious item, interrupting supply lines for up to a year or more.
And if that’s not sufficient reason for you to stock up, then consider also the fact that the price of this tea goes up each and every year.
Still not convinced? Then consider this as well: Taiwan’s precious treasure lode of High Mountain Tea has finally been discovered by tea people in mainland China, who may now travel freely to Taiwan and who have barrels of cash to spend. One of their favorite ways of spending money in Taiwan is to visit a famous High Mountain Tea plantation, taste a few of their best teas, then buy up the plantation’s entire supply of those teas, paying for it on the spot and having it shipped back to China. This development has already caused a shortfall in supplies of the best grade teas within Taiwan, and it’s bound to make it increasingly difficult to buy these teas overseas. Fortunately, our suppliers are also our friends, and so far they have always reserved a quota of their best teas for us, but the quantities available to us are definitely shrinking, so if the prospect of running out of High Mountain Tea and not being able to buy any more is as terrifying to you as it is to us, you’d better grab a stash of your favorite leaf while we still have it.
OolongOz High Mountain Tea Plantation
Way back in the first issues of Tea Tidings, we announced our long range plan to establish an authentic High Mountain Oolong Tea plantation here in Byron Bay, Australia, where OolongOz was born. Since that time, we have received numerous queries about this idea from our global flock of High Mountain Tea connoisseurs, some of whom have expressed interest in the possibilities of investing in this venture.
So I’m pleased to inform our tea friends near and far that we now have in hand the key item required to make this dream come true, here and now—authentic pedigree High Mountain Oolong Tea plants descended from Taiwan stock grown in Australia. When we have propogated a sufficient number of these precious Taiwan offspring to plant our first field in the Land of Oz, we’ll be ready to launch this project, and hopefully most of the investment will come from our far-flung High Moungtain Oolong tea tribe. Anyone interested in this venture may contact Dave at firstname.lastname@example.org
There is no question in our minds that OolongOz could produce superior grades of High Mountain Oolong varietals in and around Byron Bay. Years ago, we had samples of local soil taken back to Taiwan to be tested for its suitability for growing High Mountain Oolong, and the results showed that the soil in this region is as perfect as could be for growing High Mountain Tea.
And thanks to Byron Shire’s coastal location, the surrounding hills get abundantly drenched with fresh ocean mist, providing the plants with the vital minerals and trace elements from the sea that are indispensable elements in producing the rich floral flavors for which High Mountain Oolong varietals in Taiwan are so famous among connoisseurs of fine tea.
Our goal in this project is to produce such a superior grade tea that it wins a gold or silver ribbon at the annual Taiwan Tea Fair. Any plantation whose tea wins this distinction instantly becomes a super-star in the world of High Mountain Oolong, and all teas produced by that plantation immediately double or triple in price.
In a world where almost every sort of business is suffering loss and failure, the high-end market for good quality High Mountain Oolong continues to grow by leaps and bounds, and demand always exceeds supply. Moreover, with the sudden burst of interest on mainland China in High Mountain Oolong varietals produced from Taiwan genetic stock, and the enormous purchasing power of tea drinkers there, the demand for this sort of tea in China’s vast market is swelling by the month.
As far as we know, authentic top-grade High Mountain Oolong Tea grown from Taiwan stock is the single most expensive agricultural product on earth, with some of the best grade varietals leaving the plantation at wholesale prices of up to $500 per kilo. Even the most expensive organic foods grown for the gourmet and health food markets sell for less than a tenth that price.
Enough said on this for now. We will keep our subscribers informed of our progress with this project, and meanwhile we welcome your queries and expressions of interest.
We always like to conclude our Tea Tidings report with a pithy phrase or couplet that expresses the core essence in the art & alchemy of Chinese Tea, and this time our own resident tea master, Snow, has composed some well chosen words that express a basic axiom of this ancient Chinese art & alchemy as clearly and concisely as anything ever written by a tea-drinking Chinese monk or poet, past or present.
(Cha ren jih jiao chun ru cha)
“Friendship among tea people is mellow as tea itself.”
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