Tea Marathon

by Arina on April 20, 2010

in Tea Marathon

Marathon Runner, www.quanjing.com

Marathon Runner, www.quanjing.com

Being by nature rather a coach potato, I’ve never run a marathon in my life. Not even a half-marathon. Not even a tiny slice of it. Have you? Then please go ahead and tell me. How did you feel upon crossing the finish line for the first time? You were like Neil Armstrong on 21 July 1969, weren’t you? – exhilarated and immensely proud to have pushed the limits of the impossible? But then, after having heard my envious “wows”, please don’t spare me the true story of the highs and lows of this ascending to stardom. Because I would never believe it had been all roses.

It is this idea of setting a rather insane goal, challenging yourself and not giving up even when the road seems awfully long and bumpy that I especially like when I think of the word “marathon”. So will mine be about running? Well, not at all. It will be a drinking marathon… No, it’s not that you might have thought, I’m too old for Saturday night fevers. Mine will be much quieter and will have to do with the subject I’m passionate about – tea.

My ambition is to taste 214 varieties of Chinese tea. And document this smashing bitter-sweet success it in this blog. Originally I wanted to put a deadline of 31st December 2010, but finally decided to abandon this idea. I want to enjoy the project, not to be limited in time to taste and explore.

Now a couple of words about my inspiration for the project.

About a year ago, on one of our Chinese travels, I believe it was Yunnan, we were waiting at the airport for the flight to return to our Beijing home. At the airports, when not busy trying to keep our offspring occupied and reasonably quiet, I have a habit to take a minute to churn through the bookstalls. On that day, I came across a book that became my first book on tea in Chinese.

Tea Tasting handbook

Tea Tasting handbook

I was almost totally lacking in Chinese reading skills at that time, but the character for “tea” was already familiar to me. I could also figure out that “214” on the book cover actually referred to 214 tea varieties introduced by the book. What a luck! All the books on tea in English, French and Russian that I had collected so far covered no more than 50 varieties of Chinese tea, those most famous and publicized in the West. And here impressive 214! Having briefly looked through the book, I noticed its encyclopedia-like structure, whereby the varieties were organized by type and then by province. My analytical mind also appreciated legible schemes of how one and the same freshly picked green leaf can be transformed into six main types of tea. All the explanations I’d read elsewhere were more or less obscure or too generic. Well, here it is. 品茶图鉴 (pǐnchá tújiàn), Tea Tasting Handbook, edition 2008. Now that I’ve slightly improved my Chinese language skills, I think I’ll actually be able to read it! It may not be THE Book that lists ALL the varieties (if you know one in Chinese, please do tell me), but one has to start with something, don’t you think?

Another inspiration also has to do with the airports. On a plane from Beijing to Moscow in late December 2009 I happened to watch “Julie & Julia” movie. I tuned in with both ladies, so positively obsessed. I loved the idea of the blog and the sense of accountability that it gives you. I also loved the idea of setting up a measurable goal to explore the subject of your interest. So why not 214 teas? Too often pregnant/breastfeeding for wine, too plumpy for hot chocolate, and too bitter for anything else but tea, Arina is looking for a challenge.

My sipping obsession and tasting (mis)adventures are going to appear here as blog posts. The complete list of 214 teas can be found under the tag “tea marathon” in the navigation menu.  Mon Dieu, now it feels like “the failure is not an option”. Hope it will not ruin our family budget either…

And now get off my butt and start sipping.

PS. By the way, I may run a half-marathon one day. Will keep you posted…

{ 1 comment… read it below or add one }

gingko May 22, 2010 at 8:49 pm

Oh that’s great! I have a long wish list of teas too! But living in Beijing, you can access more teas! I don’t think there is a book that can include all the teas. This is already the largest I’ve seen. My favorite one is 中国茶谱 by 宛晓春, a little smaller than this one.
I will be in Beijing June and July this summer. Maybe we can get together :D

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