Thursday, February 03, 2005

Robert Parker's influence

Planet Bordeaux, a German blog found on die Zeit, has found a good article analyzing the power of Robert Parker, the "Master of Taste", on the wine industry. Steven Shapin, a Harvard scholar, shows how Robert Parker became such an influential, and sometimes controversial, wine taster. Many lessons can and should be learned by the Tea Masters. I know one who is paying much attention!

First, he got famous because he is fiercely independent from the wine makers: ‘I don’t give a shit that your family goes back to pre-Revolution and you’ve got more wealth than I could imagine. If this wine’s no good, I’m gonna say so.’, says Robert.

Second, he tries to be as objective as possible about rating and commenting a wine. That's why he introduced a 50 points rating (from 50 to 100): "a wine gets up to five points for colour, 15 for aroma and bouquet, 20 for flavour and finish, and ten for ‘overall quality level’". He also uses straightforward vocabulary to describe a wine, instead of poetic bullshit.

Third, he does have a good palate, which even his critics admit, and it has helped wine makers all over the world produce more of the kind of wine he likes: "lots of ripe fruit, lots of alcohol, lots of oak, wine that tastes ‘hedonistic’ even when young."

We can see that true Teamasters, like Chih, Jung Sien, are following Robert Parker's path. Independent, we don't sell any tea and don't hesitate to say if a tea is bad. We believe in a more rational approach to understand and describe tea. That's why we like to taste it with neutral gaibei/gaiwan, or use a detailed form (translated in French below) to analyze the tea. And, finally, we hope that we can educate tea lovers to appretiate better teas and thereby giving incentive to producers to put more emphasis on quality than quantity.

2 comments:

J Kandell said...

Tea Vow of Chastity
by the Arizona Buddhist Militia
We are on a mission to rescue tea from the cult of exoticism, decadence, and habit. Previous revolutions in tea have had their day, but we find ourselves now in an age of idle chatter and soggy grounds. The ripples of previous tea masters have washed ashore and turned to muck. The following dogma is not intended as the truth of tea, nor a new way to judge others. Rather, the "Vow of Chastity" is a self-imposed exercise in restraint. Those willing to take the Vow, for a time of their choosing, will find their old habits shattered, their vision renewed, and their taste buds made fresh. Well-known teas will taste new-sprung, old cups and pots will shine aglow, untainted by the years of aesthetic accumulation.

"The Vow of Chastity for Tea Drinking"

I swear to submit to the following set of rules drawn up and confirmed by the Arizona Buddhist Militia:

1. Drinking must be done in one's natural location, home, work, or neighborhood.

2. No special lighting, background music, or other artificial changes of mood shall take place during tea drinking.

3. One must avoid exoticism at all costs.

4. Superficial devices and equipment, such as thermometers, kettles, spoons, should be kept to a minimum.

5. Special designs and ornamentation without personal meaning on tea cups and pots should be avoided.

6. No tea ritual should be done which is not part of a person's authentic lived experience. No tea ritual should be performed just because of history or popularity in a past historical period. The tea drinking ritual must be true to one's class and geographic location.

7. One should avoid the fetish of "quality", or "trophy" teas, owned for prestige or extravagance. One's best teas should be shared.

8. The number of types of teas one owns at any time should be kept to a minimum.

9. Teas should be purchased based on reaction to the individual batch, not the reputation of the tea's name, type, or previous experience.

10. Avoid the dreaded under-dose.

11. No claims should be made about the superiority of types of clay, material, design, or shape of pots.

12. In all of one's tea drinking, no principle is sacred, no matter how noble its lineage--be it wabi, yixing, gungfu. This goes for the Vow of Chastity as well.

13. Violation of any of these vows is acceptable if done so in the spirit of the rules taken as a whole and confessed publicly.

Smoothsay2 said...

There should be a rule number14,' tea is not God or a religion, it is a generous gift from God to be used for pleasure & good health' it should not be worshiped.