Thursday, August 07, 2014

Pu'er Tea & 甘

Yesterday, I bought some pu'er tea. I haven't been able to find my original jar of pu'er since moving, and it had been too long. Pu'er is my favourite tea, of all teas. I may treat English Breakfast with milk as the default 'cuppa', but I actively adore pu'er.

I don't know if T2 can be said to purvey the finest specimens of this tea, but it's good enough for me. That lovely whole and upward-rising flavour, the beautiful clarity of the liquor; I love to disturb the water, and watch skeins of red tea rise up in the glass.

This led to me, unsurprisingly, reading the wikipedia article on pu'er. Pu'er is indeed a unique tea among all teas, and the measuring and production of it appears to be more complex than brewing of beer. Especially considering good pu'er is considered to be aged at least 10 years. Yunnan has always been high on my list of places to go, but after reading that article, oh. I want to visit the tea factories and the Six Great Tea Mountains of old, and see the 'feral tea plantations'.

As you can see, I was having a jolly good time educating myself on the basics of pu'er production, when I came to the following:

甘 is my family name. That is my family seal.

I have never, in 33 years of reading, learning, experiencing and communicating, never, not once, encountered our name beyond the scope of our family. The fact that I can't read Chinese contributes to that, regardless, I haven't even met anyone who shares our name in pinyin. 'Gān' is Mandarin; our name is Cantonese, or Hakka, but that is the character.

I forgot how to breathe, and then promptly broke down crying. I can't articulate why. I'd guess that, somewhere in the sub-levels of my subconscious, is a plaintive and desperate need to belong. To something. Let me stake a tiny claim in any culture that predates my own experience.

And it's tea terminology. It's something I love without obligation.

I'm crying again.

ETA: The lovely Charles Tan brought this site to my attention.  It provides examples of pronunciation and accent for 甘. The variations in regional accents and dialects is obvious, even without examples from all Chinese languages. 


  1. Lovely piece, Tessa. And I have just added Pu'er to my shopping list so I can give it a try.

  2. Ross, I've never seen it in Coles or Woolies. Definitely need a tea shop or asian supermarket if you're interested. I recommend. It always leaves me feeling really clean.

  3. Thanks for the heads up. :)