Friday, October 30, 2009

Review Series Green Tea 3: Mighty Leaf Organic Green Dragon (pouch) 2009

Things have changed since I last ventured to use a teabag. Mighty Leaf uses a nylon bag (presumably scent free), in which they place their "Organic Green Dragon," which is their title for Longjing (Lung Ching), which is typically known as Dragonwell in the Western world. It's description, found on their Web site, reads,

An organic dragonwell green tea from China (also known as Lung Ching), our Organic Green Dragon envelops the whole palate with a slightly sweet, very refreshing liquor. A classic wok-fired chinese green tea, it has a delicate chestnut like flavor, captivating aroma, and a lovely yellow-green color. Whole loose leaf green tea fills our silken tea pouch, our gourmet tea bag twist, to infuse the senses.

Longjing is one of the great Tribute Teas of China, and it's almost always placed on the list of 10 Famous Teas. These teas were given in tribute to the Emperor, who got first pick and distributed it at his will among his loyal followers. A longjing tea is nothing to sneeze at.

Longjing is typically supposed to come from West Lake, a region in China famous for this tea. Leaves from this region will fetch a high price, and the very best leaves still never leave China, but are kept for the leaders in their government. One problem with purchasing a longjing is that leaves grown all over China can be labeled, "Longjing," even if they are what Chinese would typically think of as being not quite kosher. One thing that makes longjing teas unique is their processing, where specially trained tea wranglers (so to speak) will wok-fry the leaves in a tiny amount of tea tree oil, and they use the "Ten Movements," which are a series of hand movements (typically 10, but can be more or less, depending on who is doing it) to form the leaves into careful, flat spears.

In addition, the early, pre-Ming Festival leaves demand the highest price, and leaves plucked after that date are often discounted as not being quite top-drawer.

Now, Mighty Leaf does not identify when their tea was plucked (though I must presume 2009), nor the location of origin (other than "China"). I would suggest to them, if they are in possession of this information, that they might wish to provide it on the Web site, to help sell their product.

When I drink a longjing, I look for a bright, fragrant cup with a lovely yellow, pure character. I hope the leaves will be bright and fresh looking, and in pretty good shape, to avoid bitterness.

The Web site suggests steeping the sachet 2-3 minutes in 170 to 180F water. I chose 80C (176F) as being a good average, and for the full 3 minutes, in a glass pot (very happily provided by Jing Tea).

For this cup, I couldn't really see how the leaves were formed, because they were in the tea bag, though I could see a bit of broken leaf. The wet leaves had a pleasant enough aroma, though rather faint. The liquor is pure yellow-gold. The flavor is grassy with a hint of an acerbic, herbaceous quality I find appealing, and which I've missed for several long months, as I've been drinking other teas.

Ultimately, though, I find the Organic Green Dragon to be rather flat and disappointing. I do not know if it's because of the leaf itself, or because it's been placed in a sachet for convenience sake, or because of deficiencies in my own steeping. I love longjing, and I wanted this to be brighter and much more fragrant than it ultimately was. Again, I enjoyed the flavors and aroma, but I wanted more of them in the cup, on my tongue, and in my nose.

(Cross-posted on

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Review Series Green Tea 2: TeaHub Pre-Ming West Lake Long Jing 2009

The folks at Tea Hub are smart. When discussing the provenance of their tea, they are very, very serious about ensuring that, say, their Long Jing (Dragon Well) tea really comes from the West Lake region in China. For buyers like me, this is invaluable as I learn about the Great Teas of the world.

Provenance is what the game is all about. Many famous Chinese teas are fairly costly, because there are only so many acres available upon which to grow a region's characteristic tea. Thus, limited source leads to cost increases in the tea when it comes to market. So unscrupulous dealers will try to sell quite similar counterfeits from other, less-famous regions, as the real thing. (As an example, imagine a Peruvian wine dealer trying to pass off their bubbly wine as "Champagne," even though it does not come from that region of France. It's misleading and harmful to the industry, and it sets the experts' teeth on edge when they see it.)

The Tea Hub's Web site (and their Twitter feed, @TeaHub, which is a place to speak directly with the knowledgeable staffers who know their tea) is a great source of information, and I urge you to wander through and learn something, as I did. This, I learned from their article, "Majority of Long Jing and Bi Lo Chun Are from Si Chuan."

Recent news from ChengDu Business Paper said that 80% Long Jing (from Zhe Jiang), Bi Luo Chun (from Jiang Su) on the market are actually from Si Chuan. According to the news, unethical business people purchase Si Chuan teas at low prices and sell them as Long Jing or Bi Luo Chun at 3 to 4 times the paid prices.

An expert told the reporter that appearance of real Long Jing and Si Chuan tea, Zhu Ye Qing, are quite similar. It is very hard for regular people to tell the differences. Experts from Tea Research Institute also said that Long Jing demanded high prices while its production was low. Therefore, some business people produce Si Chuan Long Jing to make high profits.

Good grief: 80% of the stuff was reportedly fake, back in 2004, when the article was written. For someone like me, who is only discovering Long Jing in the first place, this is just so frustrating. How can one discover what is the real deal, and what is faked?

Tea Hub followed up with a companion article this year, "Reading Long Jing Tea Leaves," which addresses the same situation. An excerpt:

Below are photos of the most common faked Long Jing on the market. The one on the left is Wu Niu Zao from Wen Zhou, Zhe Jiang, and the one on the right is Zhu Ye Qing from Si Chuan.

Both Wu Niu Zao and Zhu Ye Qing are early-harvest teas. Because that early-harvest Long Jing demand much higher prices and only have limited productions, some illegal business people chose to fake Long Jing with Wu Niu Zao and Zhu Ye Qing in pursue of maximum profits. Real Long Jing teas have beautiful straight, flat leaves with none or very few hairs. Faked Long Jing, on the other hand, have fluffier leaves, some even covered with hairs. Leaves of faked Long Jing from Zhu Ye Qing are smaller than real ones. Leaves of faked Long Jing from Wu Niu Zao are bigger than real ones.

There are other sources of information about this same phenomenon, as well; I think I will write an article about, "The Great Tea Counterfeit Heist: The Seamy Underbelly of the Dirty Tea World," sometime. In the meanwhile:

THE TEA HUB: West Lake Long Jing

Tea Hub's description of their West Lake Long Jing scans with the information above.

Pre-Ming West Lake Long Jing/ Dragon Well (明前西湖龙井) 2009 Spring Tea!

Another great West Lake Long Jing (also called Dragon Well or Lung Ching) from Tea Research Institute in HangZhou, the only authority in tea quality test in China.

This delicate pre-Ming Long Jing was grown at Tea Research Institute's Long Jing tea garden in the protected West Lake Long Jing Origin area, and hand fired by experienced masters. This year's extremely cold weather caused delay in harvest. Our Long Jing is the few early harvest. This tea carries Chinese Green Food Certificate.

Exactly as described. Sadly, when I originally started writing this article, I did not have camera on hand to document the leaves, but they were a brilliant green, sharp and flat because of the method of frying the leaves, and delicious. And when I say, "delicious," I meant that I tasted the leaves, and it's like wonderful tea candy. Seriously, they could market it as a snack-- except for the fact that you get a mouthful of rather gummy tea leaf residue once the crunch has worn off. When wet, the leaves took on a beautiful citrus-grape and seashore aroma. It's the aroma that is so intoxicating with this type of tea, really.

The liquor: pale greenish, clean. It's highly fragrant, and this Long Jing is as good as any I've ever had. It's refreshing, like the aroma of freshest grass clippings, like citrus, like lemon...

I found a sweet, sweet aftertaste, which rises up through the throat. This is why I drink tea.

I can quaff this down in large quantities, because it is so easy and pleasing to drink (same with cranberry juice: can just chug it forever, seemingly) without coming up for air.

The package says it is pre-Ming, and it's been dated quite carefully. Happily, because of the certification, I can have some certainty that this is the real deal, and not faked. As I attempt to develop my palate enough to be able to tell the real thing from the fake, it helps when I can perhaps trust the dealer to be providing something legitimate.

I can't wait until next Spring to be able to buy the 2010 Long Jing. This tea is best purchased right around the time of picking, so when it's drunk, it'll be at its best. When I took the tasting notes on this tea, it was only a couple weeks after it had been harvested. (Sad, how long it took me to finish the rest of the article! I'm trying to catch up, really I am.) You would not really want to buy or taste a Longjing in midwinter, for example, because by then the leaves would have lost their "oomph." Green tea, in particular, is a seasonal, vintage product, and it's best enjoyed on those terms.

(This review has been cross-posted at

Lochan Tea Tasting Event

There are a few spots still available for the Lochan Tea Tasting event, which they are hosting on Facebook.

Ankit Lochan
Online facebook tea tasting... We will supply you with 10 ounce of tea (free of cost).. only shipping 20 USD per head shall be applicable.. we will wait for 50 sign up's .. once we have them we will start posting the samples... once you receive ...the samples you will have a weeks time to assess the teas and then we will take one tea at a time and proceed with online posting of the results and we will see what all of us have to offer.. the best review writer shall be awarded a prize.. (the prize is a secret).. to be disclosed after the event is over.. any suggestions.. please advise... thank you... for signing up please confirm on facebook and email us your adress and vivek shall be in touch with you. his email is ... thank you!!

Please consider participating in the event, which I'm sure will be quite a good introduction to Indian and Himalayan teas. Contact Vivek Lochan with your contact information: Vivek supplied this list of the teas that will be showcased:

1. Doke Silver Needle, 2nd Flush 2009, Bihar
2. Meghma Oolong, 2nd Flush 2009, Nepal
3. Korakundha FOP, 2nd Flush 2009, Nilgiri - South India... Read More
4. Hattialli Golden Bud, 2nd Flush 2009, Assam
5. Harmutty Golden Paw, 2nd Flush 2009, Assam
6. Margaret's Hope Muscatel, 2nd Flush 2009, Darjeeling
7. Thurbo FTGFOP 1 CL TPY, 2nd Flush 2009, Darjeeling
8. Jungpana Imperial Muscatel, 2nd Flush 2009, Darjeeling
9. Castleton FTGFOP 1 CH SPL, 2nd Flush 2009, Darjeeling
10. Masala Chai, Indian Chai Blend

1 ounce of each tea will be sent to all participants

As for myself, I've tasted teas from only four of the nine estates listed (not counting the chai, of course), so I expect this to be a good learning experience. As you can see from the list, these are all second-flush (picked in summertime) Indian and Himalayan teas from Bihar, Darjeeling, Assam, Nilgiri, and Nepal.

If you haven't dipped your toe into high-quality India teas, this would be a good way to start. Because it's a group event, people will be able to learn with each other as they taste the various teas.

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Review Series Darjeeling 1: Risheehat Clonal Flowery SFTGFOP1, Second Flush '09

I'm dealing with quite a backlog of partially written reviews, which have been piling up for a while. I'm creating a number of interlocking series of reviews, and this kicks off Review Series Darjeeling.

My great tea friend, Benoy Thapa, is the face of Thunderbolt Tea. He blogs occasionally at the Darjeeling Tea Blog, and his very useful Twitter feed is @DarjeelingTea. Thunderbolt Tea also has a Facebook page, which is another pretty useful way to keep up with him. Quick tea fact: Did you know that the word, Darjeeling, is a reference to the thunderstorms that keep the tea so well watered?

Now, why am I shilling so shamelessly for Benoy? Mainly, as a lover of Darjeeling tea, I appreciate learning about what's happening in Darjeeling, and how the weather is affecting the crops and so on. Plus, it's lovely to think of whether the clouds are hiding the mountains, and which festival is going on, and the like. For me, it's been a great help in gaining a better understanding of the local conditions in which my beloved Darjeeling teas are grown.

Earlier this summer, Benoy sent me simply the most extravagant shipping I've ever seen, with the tea encased in no less than five packages: a paper sack, within a mylar or some such shiny metallic plastic bag, packed with four other teas, all within another mylar bag, within a cardboard box, all sewn into a burlap package covered in sealing wax, with almost every square inch of the package covered in writing for customs officials. Shipping things from overseas to the United States is no mean feat, because the laws governing herbs are so strict. I very much appreciate the great effort Benoy took to ensure this great tea arrived here intact.

Today I'm drinking a Summer '09 Risheehat Estate Clonal Flowery. Now, for those of you who haven't really dug deeply into the world of Darjeeling teas, you have to learn that great teas are like great wines: They are vintages that can differ greatly from region to region, and farm to farm, and season to season. The first flush is the Spring plucking of the leaves, and they typically have rather a lighter touch than the second flush or autumnal flush pluckings. The second flush, which is plucked in summer, is typically more complex and robust than the first flush. The teas from a great estate like Risheehat can be so exciting, because they are unique in the world's tea, with a character distinctly special.

I've found that most high-quality Darjeeling tea leaves have a fairly similar appearance when they are dry: tight, fairly small twists of black leaf, with a bit of golden tippiness and no sign of branches. Once they have been steeped, they take on more varied character. for the Risheehat clonal flowery, we see a bit of reddish-brown, broken leaf, well oxidized, though with bits that have a greenish cast.

This tea had a pretty dark-brown liquor, with the characteristic Darjeeling aroma, very classic; with a lovely, bright floral scent of summer berries. Now that autumn is here in Illinois, with the gray clouds streaming by, it's like drinking a bit of summer in a cup, with bright colors and sharp flavor. The tea has such a sharply defined taste, which is a bit difficult to describe. There's sort of an astringent chocolate, like bitter dark chocolate, overlaid with a fruity high note of berries and brown honey. It's sweet-- requires no sugar or milk at all-- and has a huigan [sweet aftertaste] that moves into more a light cocoa flavor I sense hints of almond nuttiness. (I always think of Ratatouille, in which Remy's brother, upon hearing Remy spout some such nonsense, said, "Oh, I sense nuttiness, all right.")

When drinking this tea, please do not neglect to make a second steeping. I have heard much discussion about how to conduct a second steeping: Some people say only steep a few seconds (10 or 15) on the belief that the leaves, already opened, are ready to release their flavor quickly; others suggest doubling or tripling the length of the steeping, so that you draw the most out of the leaf. I just steeped the same amount as the first time 'round (3 minutes, Third Boil (98C), and poured off. Same dark-brown color. This time the flavor is a bit brighter, absent some of the darker notes that were evident in the first steeping. Slightly more astringent, which means it's a bit dry in the mouth, like a white wine. Not quite the body of the first round, but pleasant enough.

Quickly, go to the Thunderbolt Tea Web site, and buy up some of these wonderful teas before Benoy runs out of them. Many of the first-flush teas are gone, but there are still quite a few great second-flushes available for purchase. Thunderbolt has an amazing selection of high-grown, single-estate teas, and the Web site has good information about each distinct vintage, to give you an idea of what you're buying. And the Autumnal Flush is not far off, I believe!

Saturday, October 10, 2009

Review Series Green Tea 1: Grand Tea, Premium Bi Luo Chun 2009

Grand Tea has a video in which a tumbler of Bi Luo Chun leaves are steeped. Strangely, whenever I make my own glass of this lovely green tea, seagulls do, indeed, start calling, and soothing music rises up in the background.

For some background on the tea, I found this on their Web site:

Bi Lu Chun is one of the most famous Green tea in China, it means "Green Spring Snail" in Chinese and is named by an emperor in seventeenth century by its look.'s Bi Luo Chun ( Pi Lo Chun , Bi Lu Chun) is first class Green Tea comes from Suzhou province in China. To product this tea, the leafs and buds are picked by skilled hands one by one in the early spring. The tea has almost no broken leafs and the shape is so called "one bud two leafs" which is an ideal shape of the best quality green tea. Taste, and aftertaste is light, sweet and pleasant with a hint of fruity fragrance. This Bi Lou Chun is limited produced and will only be available in a limited time each year. Preparation of this tea need to do with care. General tips are use one tablespoon or 3-4 grams of tea leaves for every 160 ml water. The temperature should be 75-80 °C with a steeping time 1-3 minute depend on the desired strength.

Opening the package, I found tiny, olive-green twists of leaf, which opened up to become . . . tiny, obviously new-growth leaves in the pot. It's always a great idea to study the loose-leaf tea leaves when you make a cup of tea, so you can learn a lot about a tea by the appearance and aroma of the dry leaves. In this case, because the leaves were so tiny, I could tell they were plucked at an early stage in Spring. If it takes twice as many tea plants to produce the same weight of leaf, it will obviously cost more to produce. Also, because the leaves are so fresh, their taste will be more delicate. Chinese will spend quite a lot of money for these early leaves (which they refer to as "Pre-Ming," in reference to the QingMing festival, which takes place on the 15th day from the Spring equinox; and in which everyone goes outside to tread on the green, enjoy the weather, and take care of their ancestors' graves).

I followed the steeping instructions provided by Grand Tea's Web site, though I used my great-grandmother's century-old porcelain Japanese teapot instead of a glass tumbler.

My family and I love this tea. It is bright, pleasantly vegetal, with a slightly dry mouthfeel and a nicely floral fragrance. Settling into the cup, I enjoy the clean refreshment of the liquor: yellow-gold in color, perfectly transparent. Exactly what I expect a high-quality Bi Luo Chun to taste like. This particular one tastes of sweet rice, and a bit buttery. I enjoy the long finish with notes honey and grain.

Why drink this tea? It's very refreshing and clean, with a happy Spring feeling. After I let the tea rest a bit and come back to it, it's surprisingly green, and upbeat, and bright, with a crisp, dry edge that keeps all that sweetness from becoming cloying.

(This review has been cross-posted at

Friday, October 9, 2009

Review: Grand Tea Baihao Yinzhen 2009 (White Down Silver Needle)

White Painting (Three Panels), 1951, Robert Rauschenberg
, via

As readers of my blog know, I am not much for white tea, because my palate is a bit too barbaric and longs for more robust, in-your-face teas. So I face the cup of Baihao Yinzhen, provided very kindly by Grand Tea, with a bit of caution. I am convinced that there's something here I am simply missing, and this is part of my ongoing quest to discover how to make a decent cup of white tea that I will actually enjoy. Wish me well.

Here is the description of the tea, found on the Grand Tea Web site:

First Harvest White Tea (白毫銀針) - Loose leaf

White Down Silver Needle (Baihao Yinzhen) is one of the finest white tea produced in the districts of Fujian province. This tea is delicate and has a subtle, fresh sweetness.

I'll direct you to the Web site, if you wish to read more about what they say of the tea's health and beauty benefits.

The Grand Tea Web site tells me to steep at around 71C or so, and for only a minute. Surprisingly short! I would have thought a longer steeping time would be more appropriate for such a low steeping temperature. Let's get into it, then.

I wonder, if tea trees were allowed to bloom, if they would take on the floral aroma of these leaves. Actually, they are really the buds of the tree: pointed needles with silver-gray hair over the olive-green flesh.

This tea is perfectly clear, with a liquor that is pale gold, without a cloud in the sky. I drink this from a JING Tea clear cup and saucer, which seems to highlight the clarity and shininess of the tea itself. Quite lovely. When I bring the tea to my nose, I find the aroma is quite faintly floral. The mouthfeel of the tea is pleasant enough. The tea's flavor is quite subtle: merest hints of flowers, a touch of pine, perhaps-- like a wisp of mist on a lake in the morning: faint, subtle enough to make me wonder if it's all in my imagination.

As is usual, while I'm drinking the first cup, the already-steeped tea in the pot continues to oxidize, with the complex chemical compounds combining and recombining, causing that second cup to be much more complex and nuanced than the first. And so it is, here. While the first cup left me grasping, the second cup's flavor came forward more directly. There's the slightest drying in the mouth and a good, throat-coating mouthfeel. The aroma is still too subtle for me to easily observe, except again for a hint of some kind of floral sweetness. People suggest it's the aroma of peony, but as I'm not too familiar with that scent, I'll pass on further description. And the flavor: mown hay, and the echo of some honeyed sweetness. Again, notably subtle. The tea's huigan, which means the sweet aftertaste, is enjoyable, because it kind of sneaks up on you and whacks you hard on the back of the head with a feather. Sweet, like a hot summertime meadow, remembered rather than being experienced directly.

I'm sorry my wife is not here to drink this tea, because she would tell you that it is refreshing and smooth, with an enjoyable lightness that seems designed for her delicate palate. Then she'd demand my cup and finish it for me.

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Life, Love, and Li Shan

Last week, Aura Teas sent me a package of a number of "gift" teas, some of which are samples only and are not necessarily available for sale on their Web site. We had the opportunity to open one up and share it with a family member, who is going through a crisis. I include below my letter of thanks to Aura Teas, which I sent earlier this morning.

Tea is not something that really solves any problems in life, but it gives us the opportunity to share something beautiful with people we love, and by painstaking care in hospitality (all that trouble taken in brewing as perfect a cup of tea as I am able), I can in some measure to show someone how important she is to my wife and me, and how deeply we care about the well-being of her and her family.

My letter to my contact at Aura Teas follows here.

Hi, and thank you so much for your gift of the lovely teas.

[Redacted] was visiting during a quite horrible family crisis, and we fed her and afterward served her your Li Shan oolong (about a half-dozen steeps, gongfu style, until she couldn't take more), which was a great comfort.

It's amazing, how a gift of tea from you to me became a gift of tea (and love) from us to her, a way of saying, "We love you. We are looking out for you. We are taking time to listen to you. We are pulling out the good stuff to show you that you are important to us."

Obviously, tea didn't solve any problems, but it did help us express our love and concern for a family member in need, and for this I thank you.

Very sincerely,

Steven Knoerr
The 39 Steeps

Saturday, October 3, 2009

Review Series Pu-erh 5: "Epsilon" by Yunnan Sourcing

I am excited about the newest sample, ε, which is the final one in the tasting event hosted by Hobbes at The Half Dipper blog. He has identified this as 2009 Yunzhihuan/Ruicaoxiang "Banzhan Chunqing."

This pu is pretty heavily compressed, and it took some doing to separate out the leaves in the beeng. I thought the aroma was quite subdued coming from the package. After the leaves are first steeped, they remain quite quiet about it, and don't have a heavy or terribly exotic aroma. It's pleasant enough, with that tobacco aroma dominating, and a lightly floral texture to it.

Rinse: 10s

First steeping: 13s
The epsilon pu-erh is quite assertive, right off the bat. A bit of bitterness balanced nicely with a sweet quality that makes it very drinkable. Lovely yellow-gold color, light and pure.

Second steeping: 12s
Sweet tobacco, a hint of smokiness. Very crisp flavor, bright and clean. There's a greenness to this, but not much of what I would think of as the huigan, the aftertaste-- the tea remains quite constant in flavor from the moment it hits my tongue, with little variation in the ensuing seconds.

Third steeping: 13s
I'm aware in my mind of Michael J. Coffey's advice not to write about what you're tasting, because it diminishes one's ability to remember the flavors later. Well, I do what I can: I try to taste first, just experience the nondiscursive element; and then later to give voice to it, if I can. This tea has a touch of bitterness, still (and enough that my seven-year-old boy found it a bit too much for him). However, nicely complex, with a sort of leatheriness, perhaps, in the flavor, and a quite sweet burn a few moments after the tea is up.

Fourth steeping: 15s
Astringent and drying, with a full, robust mouthfeel that coats the tongue. The bitterness is still present, but not dominant; and it fades into a nicely sweet tobacco flavor. I wouldn't really think of this as a sweet pu-erh, but it's complex and fun to drink.

Fifth steeping: 17s
Getting a mite twitchy, I must say, after the fifth steeping (on top of the several pots of Darjeeling earlier today). My little boy says, "It has a good texture. It's a little, tiny, tiny, tiny bit bitter." He's seven years old, by the way. He's right: good texture, and the slightest bit bitter. Maybe he needs less pu-erh, because he hasn't stopped talking (about his comic book, The Battle Begins, which he is writing) in the last 10 minutes.

Sixth steeping
I am continuing this steeping onward, as I have with others. If I feel the need to add anything, I shall do so as an addendum later. I'm very much enjoying this particular pu-erh, with its lovely tobacco smell and pretty bright complexity.

This series of tea tastings has been, for me, a great introduction into the world of pu-erh. Along the way, I've made a couple new tea friends, which has been very gratifying. Honestly, for the last couple years I've been very hesitant to try the genre of pu-erh, because of all the pretty terrible press it's received, what with all the faked beengs being sold at ridiculous prices, and the near certainty that I would ruin my palate by learning about pu-erh the wrong way: by drinking lousy tea, made the wrong way, setting up incorrect assumptions. For me, this tasting is invaluable, because it allows me to check my tastebuds against those of other tea drinkers, and to try to understand what they're experiencing as well, in a context in which I'm allowed to simply enjoy myself without guarding myself against being scammed or something by a dishonest pu-erh salesman. Additionally, I got to share this with my family and allow them to have fun learning right along with me. Brilliant fun.

Thank you, Hobbes of The Half Dipper, and Yunnan Sourcing, for opening the door for me to the world of pu-erh.

The above photos: antique green bowl by The Haeger Potteries; Yixing pot by Art Zisha, Zhuxinnan Products, via Bret at Tea Goober; antique tea trays (which perfectly match the orange-gold of the pu-erh, and which nicely complement the green bowl) via my Great-Aunt Lydia Behm; and Tiger Drill hero image by my seven-year-old son. That's his hand in the picture at top. And buster, you haven't seen anything if you haven't gotten a look at his newest creation, "Explosive Cowboy Man."