I drew this spread as part of Liz Steel‘s Sketching Now Sketchbook Design course, and it records my experiences from the final virtual tea seminar session that I had with Juyan from The Chinese Tea Company. I took all of the seminars that she offers, and I can see that she’s running a few of them again later this month and next month. I highly, highly recommend them (I’m not affiliated or paid to say this in any way, I’m just a happy longtime customer of her wonderful shop). Whether you are just starting out in Chinese tea or you’re well versed in Gong fu tea brewing, you’ll learn a lot about tea and tea tasting in her seminars, and have a lot of fun along the way. You get four tea samples that you drink while your in the seminar (and there’s enough left over for another brewing post seminar too), Juyan gives a presentation about the tea, the grower and the growing region, as well as tips on how to assess the leaves, brew them and taste them. The seminars are small and intimate, and are a wonderful way to spend an evening. If you’re starting out the Fundamentals of Oolongs and Green Tea Exploration (currently sold out) are phenomenal, the Wu Yi Rock tea seminar is a must – a gateway into understanding a complicated and elusive tea (as is the Phoenix Oolong seminar, if she gives it again). The Puer tea masterclass (also sold out) is just that, and a great way to get familiar with an easily misunderstood class of teas, and the Silver Needle White Tea seminar will take you by surprise. Until this seminar I thought that white tea in general and Silver Needle in particular is boring, but it’s anything but that.
I decided not to take part in Inktober this year. Instead I’ll be drawing at least one page a day in my Stillman and Birn Pocket Alphas. You can see days 1-5 here.
I had some failures and some successes with my drawings this week. I did a very quick and not very accurate drawing of my gong fu table, and with that finished my first Stillman and Birn Pocket Alpha.
I’ll probably write a post about the Pocket Alpha, maybe later this week. In any case, the sketch above didn’t come out great and I considered not even investing in painting it, but then I figured out that while I learned from my mistakes in sketching the gaiwan proportions (I’m not using a pencil under drawing because I’m trying to speed up my process), I wouldn’t get a chance to improve my watercolour skills if I didn’t watercolour it. So the result was an OK watercolour, and another proof that paint can cover a multitude of sketching sins.
The next sketch took my two days, mostly because I was busy. It’s a “flowers of the urban desert” spread, and I created the top left sketch on day 2 and the rest on day 3. I’m trying to get myself used to composing pages, and this one will probably get some text added to it later.
We’ve just entered our second lockdown, and I got nostalgic to the office and to our little escapes to our excellent local coffee shop. Found a photo of this latte from one of my final pre-Covid visits there and decided to draw it.
This drawing, of the excellent Paul’s Café in Jaffa, took me the longest to draw, and that’s after I edited out a ton of details. It was fun to do and reminded me of better times. I hope that they pull through and I’ll be able to go back there someday soon.
I didn’t feel like breaking the tea table out for a gongfu session with all the fixings, but I really felt like some Shu pu’er, so I improvised a quick tea setting. This is my Shu Yixing teapot. I have two more teapots that I’m now prepping to be my Oolong and Sheng teapots, to replace the lower quality teapots that I’ve used so far.
The tea is from the Chinese Tea Company in Portobello road, London and it’s fabulous, like all the teas that I get from there.
I’m not a cooked (Shu) Puer person normally, but this aged cake that I got from the Chinese Tea Company in London is a joy to drink.
My gongfu setup waiting for the water to boil:
My very happy tea pet:
The brew – dark and delicious.
A chocolaty black tea from Yunnan Sourcing that’s worth trying out, naturally sweet and malty. The half rolled leaves look like tiny golden snails, but don’t let that put you off them.
First try — expect improvement.
- Book: The Night Watch, Sergei Lukyanenko. An urban fantasy that has restored my faith in the genre. Very Russian — melancholy, self-reflective, intelligently and subtly written — and very good. Lukyanenko takes Russian folklore and breaths new, modern life to it in a set of three interconnecting stories that have a fresh take on the concepts of good and evil.
- Podcast: Writing Excuses. This 15 minutes long podcast is all the inspiration I need lately to get my ass into a chair and write. What more do you need? (They need a new, more modern website, but the podcast is great, trust me).
- Tea: it’s been too hot and I’ve been too lazy to drink much of it now, except the occasional cup of Fortnum and Mason’s Assam Superb in the morning. A fabulous Assam, but still too expensive to wholeheartedly recommend.
- Also: finally saw Wonder Woman and loved it. A fresh, nuanced take on a superhero movie that doesn’t apologize for having a female lead.
Podcast: Cortex, with Myke Hurley and CGP Grey. A two guys talking about their work process, their workflows, the tools they use, and their respective businesses in a surprisingly entertaining way. Worth listening to from the beginning, but you can also dive in to the latest episode.
Book: A Horse Walks into a Bar, by David Grossman. Grossman is my favourite Israeli author, and one of my favourite authors in general. A Horse Walks into a Bar just won the Man Booker award, but it is something of a tough read. If that doesn’t appeal to you, try some of his more optimistic books, Someone to Run With (a great YA novel for teenagers and up, and a beautiful love story in and of itself), and the Zig Zag Kid (a magical realism novel that is also suited for practically all ages).
Tea: Yunnan Sourcing’s Imperial Dragon Well Tea From Hangzhou, which is a sweet and refreshing Dragon Well (green) tea that is incredibly affordable for the quality you get. Put a few leaves in a glass tumbler and top-up with hot (but not boiling) water for an all day treat.
And also: Reminding myself not to take old fools to heart. They too shall pass.
Podcast: The Daily, by the New York Times. A 20 minute daily podcast that doesn’t sum up the news of the day, but instead gives interesting insights into a few top stories. There’s a very good reason that this podcast has become so popular even though it’s so relatively new.
Book: If you’re looking for an easy summer read, try M.C. Beaton‘s Hamish Macbeth or Agatha Raisin mystery novels. They’re dirt cheap, even in dead tree format, short, not too trashy, not too violent — the beach books.
Tea: if you haven’t watched this delightful YouTube TED Ed video by Shunan Teng, I highly recommend that you do. It briefly goes through the history of tea: youtu.be/LaLvVc1sS20
And also: Monument Valley 2 is out and it’s as awesome as the first one was. Really taking my time to enjoy it.
Summer is here. Get thee to the beach.
Podcast: Download. Jason Snell, with Stephen Hackett as a editor and a rotating pair of guests talk technology in what is the most charming, informative and polished of tech podcasts. Worth listening to if only to hear the “story you might have missed” segment.
Book: World War Z, by Max Brooks. Forget the movie (it has nothing to do with the book), and forget that this book is “about zombies,” because it isn’t really. It’s an “oral history,” very well written and researched, of a plague of the kind that exposes our humanity to the very core — all the good, all the bad, laid bare. A facinating and disturbing read precisely because it is so very realistic.
Tea: Lately it has been nothing but Yorkshire Tea, in dependable teabags, brewed stronger than you would believe possible and taken with milk-and-sugar. My aunt died last week, and at times like this I look for “comfort tea,” simple and soothing in its familiarity.
Also this week: Nasturtiums are hanging in there, despite the hot weather.