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from white2tea
from Old Ways Tea
Two green teas: ganlu and taiping houkui
I have subscriptions to two tea clubs: the one from white2tea and the one from Old Ways Tea. At this point in the year, they’ve both sent me green teas, but these two green teas are as far from each other as you could be and still count as “green tea.” So I thought I would do a companion tasting this week.
Tea #1: Ganlu, meaning “sweet dew.” White2Tea’s green tea philosophy is this: only sell green tea picked from the first tea leaves produced from a plant, and then sell it fast and sell it fresh. They sell green tea for a short period of time (maybe a week or two) in March, and then they’re done. That’s it. No more green tea for the year.
Ganlu is one of the greens they sell. Ganlu leaves are tiny, most under an inch in size. They float delicately in hot water, gradually unfurling into little half-pipe needle shapes. The smell of the leaves before brewing is heady: rich and nutty with a deeply vegetal undertone.
The tea itself is melon-sweet, almost crisp, and the taste lingers after each mouthful. The soup has a luscious texture that clings to the mouth. I ended up brewing this in my 16 ounce glass pitcher, rather than gong fu style, and the end of the tea was bitter enough  that it was just at the edge of my tolerance.
A few dry leaves in my hand, for size comparisons.
Ganlu while brewing: unfolding into little leaves, so tiny they suspend in water.
Tea #2: Taiping Houkui, by contrast, is—no, let me show you the dried leaves, and that will give you some idea of the difference between these two teas.
Just ginormous.
The leaves are stacked carefully together in the package, everything facing the same direction. The scent is such a rich, quintessentially green tea smell that it makes me smile just thinking about it. Even in my 16 ounce glass pot, the leaves don’t entirely fit, sticking out of the top when they’re dry like spaghetti that’s too brittle to sink into the hot water.
They soak faster than spaghetti, though, curling in on themselves.
Massive leaves dangling in 
hot water.
Where Ganlu was sweet, but fragile enough to lapse into bitterness near the end, Taiping Houkui is almost savory and very, very robust. The flavor is almost vegetal. The closest comparison my mind comes up with is something like fresh fenugreek. (Fenugreek, if you haven’t had it, is described as tasting of celery and maple.) This is not a great comparison, because it doesn’t taste like fenugreek at all, but it has the same kind of flavor profile: something vegetable with notes that are almost caramel.
The leaves stand up to long brewing. The final cup of the brew was as satisfying as the first one. And when I was finished, there was the fun of pulling out the individual leaves and spreading them apart.
When they’re dry, they just look like long green sticks. After brewing, you can see the form they take: two leaves and a tea bud.
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This is one of the things I love most about tea: one plant, five millennia, and the entirety of human ingenuity can give us not one beverage, but several thousands. Where the tea is grown, what age of tea plants, what varietal, whether it’s first leaves collected or last, how long those leaves are left on the plant, how many buds are included—we haven’t even gotten to questions about oxidation, processing, or fermentation, and there are already more options than I could drink in a lifetime.

The sandman by neil gaiman
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I started reading The Sandman comics again because of the Netflix streaming series.
I can remember the time and place I first read Sandman vividly. I was probably a sophomore in high school. One of my best friends (who was part of the same restrictive religion that I was in) shoved it into my hands and said “you need to read this.” 
I said, “I’m not really into comics,” and she just glared at me and said “you need to read this now.”
We are still friends. We are both no longer part of that religion. We have both come out as queer. The story is sometimes vividly violent and gruesome, but Sandman was one of the first places where I saw kindness to queer people, to mentally divergent people, to people who just didn’t fit in modeled on a regular basis. That was something I really, really needed to see at the time.
The sets feel like they are ripped from my childhood memory: grand on a ridiculous scale, larger than the screen, and so, so vividly part of my imagination that I almost can’t imagine it any other way.
I am a much, much different person than the young girl who started reading Sandman, worrying that maybe this was exactly the kind of thing my parents would think I wasn’t supposed to be reading, but feeling that maybe it was exactly the kind of thing I needed to be reading.
This no longer feels like something I need to be reading in the way I needed it when I was a kid. It feels like something I’m glad was there for me, and I hope that it’s there for others when it’s needed.
You can find Sandman on:

The duchess war
The Duchess War
A book about two giant nerds, I guess
One of the reasons why I enjoy writing historical romance is that I feel like there is a certain safety in writing about history. No matter how awful things were then, we know that they survived.
I think a lot about how the Industrial Revolution must have felt to people living in the 1860s. In The Duchess War, Minnie and Robert can go to London for an afternoon or even to Paris on a trip that would have taken less than a day.
Thirty or forty years before that, these things would have required a horse, a carriage, a small fortune, and somewhere between a day to several weeks. In the space of those years, society went from having horses as the fastest form of transportation, to having trains run almost everywhere. They went from ships that were propelled by wind to steamers that ran off coal. And with these changes came bigger changes: they went from people living, working, and then dying in the same village for years on end to people who went all over the world.
I wonder if people then also worried about whether the world was ending. I wonder if they wondered if their children would ever live in a better world, or that they were being left behind by an accelerated pace.
One of the reasons I love writing historical romance is that it’s a reminder that times have often sucked, and we have gotten through them. One of the things I enjoyed about The Duchess War was writing about a world in change, one where what it meant to be a doctor, a worker, a woman, and even a duke was in flux.
It’s a lot more fun to write about change than to experience it.
Buy The Duchess War on:

Quick yuzuru hanyu update
Figure skating bonus: In case you missed Yuzuru Hanyu's streamed practice last night, he
  • did increasingly amazing off-ice warmups
  • did on-ice warm-ups, which happened to include segments of Hope and Legacy,
  • Threw in a very-close 4A (under, but standing up)
  • Actually did a 4Lo-3T, a jump nobody has ever cleanly performed in competition before, like it was nothing
  • performed Seimei, his Olympic gold-winning program, back-to-back three times, until he skated it clean the third time.
  • generally looked really happy!
  • skated a few bars of White Legend at the very end
  • waved bye-bye with Pooh-san
Pure serotonin. It's kind of amazing to realize that this is the beginning of his career, and not the end.

The beginning of the world
I have a number of semi-useful catastrophizing tendencies. Is everything falling apart? Probably, according to my brain.
This is useful when I’m an author, sometimes useful when I’m in a world that is actually falling apart, and often counterproductive in regular day-to-day situations. Unfortunately, the state of the world right now is not always easy to handle with this kind of brain. It feels like this moment in time is dilating, getting shorter and shorter as crisis after crisis overlaps, running together into one overarching Mega Crisis. I worry constantly about what we are leaving to the next generation, about how we can save what we have while we still have it. Every time I read a news story, it feels like there’s someone holding up a sign saying “the end is nigh!”
I don’t think I am wrong about how urgent this next decade is. But in some ways I feel like I have fooled myself into thinking that because these years are so important, I cannot think about what lies beyond them. That means that I feel reactive, that all I’m thinking about doing right now is putting out fires, which is understandable because everything is on fire.
In the midst of deep worry, a friend of mine sent me this video, lovingly entitled “The Last Human.” It’s a bit of a thought experiment—less focus on what is happening now, and more discussion of a long-term view.
What if the billions of human lives that have existed this far, who have come up with all of the amazing things that we have in this world—what if there continue to be more of them? So many more that we can’t possibly contemplate those who are yet to come. What if we make it through these few rocky years and come out on the other side?
These last few weeks, I’ve felt more hope than I had in some prior months, and that’s always a good thing. Maybe we are not at the end of the world. Maybe we are at the beginning.
SEE YOU next week.
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