My 100th tasting note on Steepster! Thanks to everyone for making this community what it is: a friendly and fantastic hangout for tea fanatics. I visit this place at least a couple times a day (usually more) because it’s just a great place to be!
This was a sample I got with my last Verdant order, and I tried it gongfuish style in my tasting cup, with subsequent short steeps. Like the Laoshan black, the little curly dry leaves gradually unfold into full tea leaves. On my first sip I was immediately hit with asparagus! Thankfully I love asparagus. Next there were green beans. On the second steep the beans were still there but also a bit of toast flavor. Third steeps and after it got really creamy and buttery, almost like the bi luo chun I had a few months back but the sesame oil flavor was not quite as strong. Unfortunately I didn’t try the summer harvest while it was available, but this is a really delicious and well-made green. What can I say? The He family just makes fantastic tea.
Warning: this ended up really long!
I’ve been swirling something around inside my brain for awhile now on the nature of snobbery as it relates to tea and literature, and I think I will finally share it. Without going into too many details, awhile back someone came on the Steepster forums and said something about a much loved tea company that was not nice (or true), and it was pretty snobby too. It got me thinking.
At the time I was working on a paper comparing Shakespeare’s “Titus Andronicus” to Thomas Kyd’s “The Spanish Tragedy”. I had a couple of thoughts on how I think of snobbery, and I think Shakespeare serves as a good example for both of them. First, that sometimes people make things highbrow or “fancy” when the original creator did not intend for it to be highbrow or fancy. Second, that being able to appreciate what is “fancy” does not necessarily take away from one’s enjoyment of things that are not. (Can you tell I just put on my academic writing hat?)
To tackle the first issue, let’s think about Shakespeare and “Titus Anddronicus”. Our society absolutely views Shakespeare as highbrow entertainment. In part, this is an issue of language; the English language has evolved quite a bit since the Renaissance. However I think Shakespeare is largely thought of as highbrow because academia has made him so. How many times have we heard Shakespeare referred to as the greatest author that ever lived? And yet, Shakespeare was far from highbrow in his own time. In later years his troupe performed for royalty on occasions, but if you were a Londoner in Shakespeare’s day you could see one of his plays for a penny. You could also see a bear-baiting for a penny, in fact those took place right down the street. Shakespeare wrote from popular demand; playwrights had to keep up with popular opinion if they did not want to lose a sale to bear-baiting. “Titus Andronicus” is a prime example of this; it’s full of revenge, spectacle, and dead bodies. Revenge tragedies were very popular when he wrote it. People wanted to see revenge and dead bodies, so Shakespeare gave it to them. It’s only now that we make it highbrow entertainment. Likewise, I do not imagine that all tea makers think of making tea as a “highbrow” beverage, but how often do people make it so?
Secondly, I understand that as we enjoy better tea, our tastes change. As I have learned more about literature, I’ve gained a better appreciation of certain authors and books. Five years ago I would not have written a six page paper based off of four lines in a Shakespeare play. However, this knowledge has not made me only happy to read Shakespeare or classic authors. In fact, many of the books I read for enjoyment are new and popular books. I may not feel they are as complex as Shakespeare, but that doesn’t mean I don’t like them. However, there are limits to this; there are some massively popular books out there that without naming titles, I just think are bad. Likewise, there are many teas I might have enjoyed years ago that I now think are bad. What I hope is that I continue to find a balance. I want to be able to appreciate very fine teas as well as the ones that are decent, or middle of the road. I hope that I also always appreciate fine literature, as well as the books that are just decent. I think sometimes we can like things that are not “highbrow”, and things that are fancy don’t have to be fancy.
And if you’re still with me after all that, I award you five gold star stickers.