Sunday, July 16, 2017

My New Boiling Water Setup









I had plans to have a new 'boiling water' setup and had purchased these items many months ago.  Procrastination crept in.  The kettle in the top pix, which I had bought in Hong Kong about 18 months ago, is a Lin Ceramics model.  This is a 1.4 litre kettle.  A similar kettle was also used at Lau Yu Fat teashop in Hong Kong. The shop had been using these kettles for a few years and I had been impressed with the performance, durability and the 'smoother' boiled water from the kettle.

I had also purchased an infrared cooker.  Made by Kamjove, China, this brand is preferred by the tea drinking communities in China.  Their induction cookers were reliably used by many teashops in China and reviews on Kamjove products were good.  The model I had purchased is a radiant (infrared) cooker.  The 'shell' of this cooker is made from clay.  I had observed this cooker being used at a teashop in Guangzhou.  The cooker was used throughout the day and I like its ability to have controls to boil a full kettle of water but also keep the water at a very small boil as well.  It has a auto-off function after 5-10 minutes.  I personally believe that for brewing pu erh and high roasted oolongs, water temperature should be as high as possible (close to boiling) so that the aroma and taste could be fully brought out during brewing.  Information on the cooker box indicated that kettles/pots made from iron, silver, copper and glass can be used on this cooker.  This gave me more flexibility in using different kettles made from different materials.  I realised I have a small kettle collection as well (about 10 in all). 

Now all I need is to season my ceramic kettle.  I was told to boil/cook a mild rice porridge in the kettle to season it.  I had been procrastinating on this procedure but hope to do it during this weekend.  Last pix show a trial run I had with this cooker.  I felt the tea 'stayed' warmer using this setup....maybe its my imagination. 

I had mentioned many times in my blog that all you need is a gaiwan/teapot and 2 cups to have a good tea session.  So why did I spend moolah on this boiling water setup?  Visually, it looked good.  And....the water tasted better but ever so slightly.   The improvement is very tiny.  To me....brewing tea using a seasoned teapot or purion tea ware will also give me a tiny improvement in the taste and aroma of my tea.  All these tiny enhancements, which I perceived, are some of the 'fun things' to have in a tea session.  Yes, these add-ons are not necessary but on long weekends...... using these 'extras' does make a tea session a more interesting exercise. 





Tuesday, July 4, 2017

2017 Maosheng Liu Bao Tea










At the Malaysian Tea Expo in early June 2017, I came across a booth that promoted Maosheng Liu Bao tea.  The distributors promoted this tea by packing this tea in 250g paper boxes made specially for this tea expo and selling them at special prices to visitors of the tea expo.

There was even a manager from Maosheng tea factory at the booth and he invited me to sample their Liu Bao tea (see last pix).  He informed me that their tea factory was located in Wuxi, China and their processing of their Liu Bao tea used modern technology in the fermentation of the tea.  He explained that Liu Bao tea was traditionally fermented on factory floors and the tea was covered with blankets during the fermentation process.  The tea was also 'hand stirred' every few days to ensure a consistent fermentation of the tea.  Maosheng tea factory does the tea fermentation 'off ground'. Their Liu Bao tea are placed in large steel vats where humidity and temperature are controlled to provide 'optimal' formation of the tea.  Temperature and humidity are calibrated throughout the entire fermentation process. This would enable the tea to be fermented to exacting conditions/ specifications of the tea factory.

How did this tea compared to my current stash of Malaysian Liu Bao tea? I  am unable to make a proper comparison.  This Maosheng Liu Bao tea was only produced this year while my current Liu Bao tea is more than 10-15 years old.  If you like traditional Chinese herbal tea (those brewed in South East Asian Chinese medicinal halls), you will like this Maosheng.  The aroma is medicinally herbal.  There were some fermentation scent in the tea but overall the tea is easy to drink.  I bought about 2 kg of this tea and intend to store the tea in a large jar.  I will revisit this tea after some time in storage.

To my American readers, Happy Independence Day.

And to James, of Teadb(link), congratulations on your marriage.  On the tea blog, James and his tea partner, Denny usually drink and review their tea on their site.  They even 'video' their tea sessions with both of them sitting side by side and having a good time with their tea.  I have a friend that is a 'fan' of these guys and she will tune in weekly for their latest episode.  James is a real hardcore tea drinker.  I believed, based on his latest post, he had a honeymoon in Japan, Taiwan and Hong Kong.  It was incredible he incorporated tea drinking sessions/meetups and tea shopping in all these 3 countries during his honeymoon. Wow.





Sunday, June 25, 2017

2007 Nan Qiao Tea Factory Raw Pu erh








"The force is strong with this one".

I am surprised with this tea.  The strength of this tea caught me off guard.  This 2007 raw tea cake is produced by Nan Qiao tea factory.  I do not have much information on this tea factory except that it is located in the Menghai region in Yunnan, China.  It was common that many owners of smaller tea factories usually learnt their tea production skills from working in the larger tea factories before they venture out forming their own tea factories.  

This tea cake had been stored in hot and humid Malaysia for about 10 years.  The storage of this tea is clean and dry and I could hear the 'crispiness' while I broke up a tea cake to store in my tea caddy.  

This tea has bitterness with strong aromatic notes of hay and dry herbs.  I only get a very faint sweetness after the tea session.  I felt sweaty drinking this tea which lasted about 5 min.  I must remember not to brew this tea on a hot afternoon.

But I digress.  A reader emailed me wanting to drink raw pu erh and asked for recommendations.  I am sure many expert readers would and can easily mention the various blends and vintages they enjoy.  My concern is whether a 'newbie' can enjoy and appreciate these tea we like.  I would recommend trying as many raw tea as possible.    One solution might be to contact tea writers on forums and blogs...when they write something about a tea that interest you, perhaps you can write to them to sell you a sample/samples of the tea that had been reviewed.  It will allow you to compare notes.  More importantly, you get to make new friends and would allow you to ask questions about tea.  Tea writers can be very generous.  Yes, you may find the tea different in what was described, but this is the fun of drinking tea; that a cup of tea will appeal differently to tea drinkers.   As for myself, I started with a few cakes and used them for comparisons before buying more.  A few friends now calls me a tea hoarder.  That is another story.        


Wednesday, June 14, 2017

Art Of Tea Magazine Issue 59











Tea Art magazine issue #59 main article was about Liu Ann Tea.  I hoped the pictures on that article will give you an idea on the production of Liu Ann tea.  This tea is mainly produced in Fujian Anhui in China.  Vintage Liu An tea are now very expensive and are highly sought after by the Chinese tea drinking community.  Liu An are traditional packed into bamboo baskets and this tea can be kept for many years allowing the tea to 'age' to a mellow and smooth tea.  

I was also told, while have tea sessions with my tea drinking groups, that Liu An tea was also drank as a medicinal drink.  A good strong brew of Liu An tea will help alleviate cold and flu symptoms. Old Chinese medical halls would often used Liu An tea as a liquid base to concoct a bowl of Chinese herbs for their customers.  

This issue also showcased young teapot potters.  Notice the interpretation of the tea set in in the 7th pix. Nice.

There was a rare article on teapots in English as well.  Written by Chi Lin Lu, the author suggested that for collecting vintage teapots, a collector must be familiar with the clay, production styles and appearance of that period before you purchased a vintage teapot.  The author compared teapot appreciation to that of buying vintage pu erh tea where a buyer must be familiar with certain characteristics of that tea citing features like type of paper wrapper used, size and thickness of the cake and even the appearance and depth of the cake centre hollow.  An interesting read.  

Thursday, June 8, 2017

Huang Chin Kuei Oolong






Huang Chin Kuei, or more commonly known as Huang Jin Gui, is a oolong produced in the Fujian province in China.  Fujian oolong is highly regarded by the Chinese tea drinking community as oolong produced there are considered 'traditional or original' as the tea there had been produced by many generations of tea farmers.  

Tea farmers in the many Fujian provinces would usually have a special name for their oolong tea.  The four most famous names would be Rougui, Tie Kuan Yin, Shui Hsien and Bai Chi Guan.  

This Huang Chin Kuei is produced and packed into tins by Fujian Tea Import and Export Co Ltd under the Butterfly brand.  Every tin is filled with 125g and you will noticed from the 2nd pix, that the tea is 'rolled up'.  The tea leaves will unfurl when you brew the tea and the unfurled tea leaves looks greenish in my teapot as the roast levels of this tea was medium.      

This tea makes 5-6 good infusions.  This tea has very good floral notes with a delicate sweet finish.  I found this tea very suitable, when I had the tea served and paired, with a Chinese dinner.  

Monday, May 29, 2017

Fried Rice Green Tea






When I think of fried rice, I will imagine a Chinese chef literally frying rice using a wok over a big fire.  This is one dish that I enjoy eating especially as a 'take away' meal when I have to eat dinner alone.

It was about 2 weeks ago while shopping for Chinese tea bags that I came across this Fried Rice Green Tea.  If you continue to read the label, this tea is Genmai Cha.  I went online to get more information and Genmai tea is actually green tea blended with roasted rice.  This tea, seemed to suggest, from the picture on the teabox, that this is a popular tea in Japan.  I remembered that I had tried Hoji tea in Nagoya a few years ago and that tea was actually roasted green tea.  I remembered the tea tasted earthy and had a mild sweet aftertaste.  I might still have a packet of Hoji tea in my freezer.  

My conclusion is that 'Fried Rice Green Tea' must be an episode of 'lost in translation'.  There was a time in the 80s and 90s where English translations were sometimes taken too literally that reading them would sound frightening or humorous.  The 2nd pix was sent to me by a friend some time ago.  I have no idea who took this pix.  I will give credit to the pix when I get the information.  

Sadly, there is no fried rice in this tea.  I am going to my tea cupboard to choose a tea to brew today.  Perhaps a pu erh tea biscuit.  

Sunday, May 21, 2017

Teabag Shopping







I have a friend that drinks and collects Chinese tea bags as hobby.  I never thought that collecting Chinese tea bags can be a hobby.  Most of his teabags were already factory packed in boxes and these boxes were normally factory wrapped in clear plastic.  Chinese teabag boxes normally comes in a box of 20 teabags or in larger boxes of 100 teabags.These boxes are quite colourful and are sometimes decorated with nice drawings usually about tea.  One tip, I got from my friend, is not to expose the tea boxes  to prolonged light as the colours on the tea boxes will fade.  My tea friend is pretty serious in his collection keeping his tea boxes mint in carton boxes and only displaying those which he has multiple 'copies/boxes'.  

I met him for lunch last month and we went round a few shops in town looking for Chinese teabags to add to his collection.  You would have noticed that I ended up with 2 tea boxes and a rice pattern porcelain jar.  I believe the right description is a milk pot/jar.  This unused late 80s milk pot is 4 inches (10cm) high and I am guessing would hold about 350ml of tea.  Yes, I intend to brew tea in it and it would be brewing with Chinese tea bags.  I was also considering to use it as a small tea waste jar when I am brewing tea by myself.  A happy purchase.

Back to the teabags.  The Da Hong Pao is produced by  Xiamen Tea Import and Export Co under the 'Butterfly' Brand.   The Yunnan Tuocha teabag is not produced in Yunnan but by Guangdong Tea Import and Export Ltd.  There were French words on the labels of this Pu erh tea box which seems to indicate that one of the major markets for this pu erh was France.  I was not surprised as I had seen a 80s Xiaguan ripe tuo in box, printed with information about the tea in French.  

I found the Da Hong Pao tea light.  Its not the teabag's fault though.  I drink my Da Hong Pao very strong, up to 10g of tea for a 150ml teapot.  The 2g of tea in the teabag was mild.  I could detect the floral scents and oolong taste but I think using 2 teabags next time might be a better solution for me.  The pu erh teabag was, to me, a more interesting purchase.  One teabag could get me a strong cup of ripe pu erh (better results when you use boiling water for teabags).  Aroma was quite pleasant and it even had hints of old leather scent in the tea.  

Buying Chinese tea in teabags will not burn a hole in your wallet.  They make for a good and inexpensive tea when you are on the road.  Can be an interesting hobby too.