Sunday, January 14, 2018

2008 Taetea Dayi Qiu Xiang Raw Puerh Cake












I am pleasantly surprised with this 2008 Taetea (aka Dayi) raw pu erh cake.  This is the special edition 'Qiu Xiang' (aka autumn aroma) cake.  It was interesting  that this cake came in 500g size.  This is a lot of tea.  This upsized tea cake is unusual in that many tea factories usually now produce a standard 357g cake size or smaller and many newer tea cakes you see in the tea markets now even come in smaller sized 150-200g cakes.  

This tea is strong and I found that using lesser leaves and a slightly longer infusion times gave me a cup of tea that has pleasant complications of both herb and Chinese medicinal aroma and taste.  Even though this tea had been stored in hot and humid Malaysia for almost 10 years,   I felt this tea would also be a candidate for further aging.  I believed the tea would be more mellow if stored few more years.  I can already detect a aged medicinal taste and smoothness in the tea.  It would be a shortcut, in that I had already a 10 year head start in the storage of this tea.  

This tea cake comes packed in 5 cakes a tong.  I will keep an eye for these cakes in my next tea buying trip.  


Monday, January 1, 2018

Reminiscing







When I looked at my older pu erh last week, I tried to recall what I was doing during that year the pu erh cake was made.  

The top pix shows a Haiwan raw cake made in 2003.  That was some time ago.  My youngest daughter was still walking in her diapers. The bottom pix show the Xiaguan 'happy tuo'.  Produced in 2008, these tuos were made under the Fei Tai (FT) label which was made primarly for the Taiwanese tea markets.  I recalled at 2008, I started to drink Chinese tea and started buying tea, which included this 2003 Haiwan cake.  I remembered  started buying tea online in 2009 before venturing to Taiwan and China the following year  visiting the tea farms and wholesale tea markets to learn more about tea. 

What were your favourite memories or milestones in 2003 or 2008?  I am sure you can recall the many memorable and happy occasions then.  

Drinking pu erh tea when it is new compared to drinking it when it is 10 years old or more is a totally different experience.  There is a clear difference in mellowness, sweetness and smoothness in the tea.  Storing your tea especially pu erh tea for 10/15 years is quite a challenge.  Humidity and temperature are important factors to consider especially when you are storing pu erh tea.  You need space, cupboards or unused refrigerators as tea storage facilities.  And you need to let time do its work.  When you move house, you literally move your tea storage facility as well.  Storing and waiting 10 years for your tea to age is a long time but many milestones will happen.....You might have changed cars, homes and jobs or see your kids through school while your pu erh tea is aging away.  

I recommend whenever you have a milestone in you life, like graduation, having kids or even buying your new house.....buy a couple of cakes and label the respective milestones.  Years later....drink that tea while we reminisce, thankfully of these occasions.  I remembered an old Chinese tea drinking friend that buys a tong (7cakes) of tea every  Chinese New Year and gives away 3-4 cakes to his children and keeping the rest for himself.  I found this gesture meaningful.    

As I opened the 2003 Haiwan cake, I recalled vaguely I looked pretty good in my speedo back then.

To my readers, Happy New Year 2018.  

Tuesday, December 12, 2017

Malaysia Tea Expo December 2017











I managed to make time to visit the Malaysia tea expo last week.  This tea expo was held at Viva Mall, Kuala Lumpur from 8 -12 Dec.

I was extremely happy to meet my Malaysian tea drinker friends and tea drinking groups.  It was something like a old class reunion; catching up with each other and comparing notes on our tea and recent purchases and having gift exchanges with each other.  

I was able to be an 'early bird' to the tea expo on opening day and I managed to snagged a few promotional items for early visitors to the fair.  You can see from pix 2 that I got a couple of 90s Sea Dyke Tie Guan Yin teabags and 2 old unused 80s tea bowls.  Teabags?  Yes!  And they are good. Old Chinese tea bags especially the Sea Dyke brands brew up an old medicinal tea taste and aroma which I simply adore.  I intend to give one of these boxes to my local teabag collector friend.  The 2 80s bowls was advertised as tea bowls.  They were, I recalled, more commonly used as rice bowls rather than tea bowls.  Chinese porcelain collectors will recognised the chop marks as from Jingdezhen.   A happy purchase.

I had the privilege to sample  teas while at the expo.  The new 1959 Xiaguan recipe tuo (250g) is blended with banzhang and yiwu tea leaves.  While at the Xiaguan booth, I was especially impressed with the 2007 iron cake that had a unique smooth sweetness which I liked.  I will add that iron cake to my shopping list on my next trip.

I was also invited to sample the Taetea (aka Dayi) 2017 super premium Xuan Yuan Hao pu erh tea.  With a asking price more than US$300 per cake at the fair, I sensed this cake will be an investment/speculative cake, a 'bitcoin' cake if you can call it.  The Dayi manager told me that this cake had Banzhang material inside and the accompanied literature that came with this cake also indicated that there was a blend of old bulang tea leaves as well.

I received a early Christmas gift of a 1999 Xiaguan tuo from a Malaysian tea buddy. Thank you if you are reading this. And.....I bought a teapot tray before I left the fair.  The dark green jade colour was simply too pretty to pass up.  I could hear the tray calling out to me to buy it......must be the due to the new Star Wars movie coming out this weekend.  Light sabres and Chinese tea?  Happy Holidays to all my readers.






Monday, December 4, 2017

Fairness Cup








Gong Dao Bei, literally translated as fairness cup is used in Chinese tea sessions to pour out or distribute tea into teacups.  

If you have brewed a teapot /gaiwan of Chinese tea and you are to pour the tea into 4 or more teacups, you may have the issue that there may be uneven distribution of tea in terms of amount of tea and strength of the tea.  You may discover some cups had more/less tea and some cups look stronger /weaker than other cups.  It is especially tough to ensure an even pour out of the tea (as in the last pix) where each cup has the same colour in terms of strength of the tea.  It will take lots of practice to achieve that skill.  Thats where the fairness cup is useful in a tea session.

All you need to do is to empty your tea from a teapot/gaiwan into a fairness cup. This will ensure the tea when poured out from the fairness cup into tea cups are similar and 'fair' in terms of strength of the tea.  Gong dao bei is an essential accessory used in tea sampling session to ensure uniform taste per infusion when sampling a tea.  

I have a few fairness cups.  This 1st one was given to me while I had visited a tea farm in Taiwan many years back.  The 2nd pix show  an old unused dark red 'wan shou hu jiang' and a rice porcelain cup.  I believed their original use were as mini tea pitchers or milk jugs.  I do see such similar shaped jars used to dispense milk when I am drinking tea or coffee in a restaurant.  The 3rd pix are fairness cups made from glass.  One is a stylized cup, with an extended glass spout, that sits in a bamboo holder while the one on its right is a double glass walled version.  

One good idea is to use another Chinese teapot as a fairness cup.......or if you have a teapot with a broken lid, keep that topless teapot as a gong dao bei.  In Guangzhou, I saw a new teapot being seasoned by using it as a fairness cup.  

My wife is eyeing to use one of my porcelain fairness cups as a gravy cup for our year end turkey dinner. 













Sunday, November 26, 2017

2007 Liming Ba Jiao Ting Raw Pu erh











This raw pu erh tea cake is produced by Liming Tea Factory under its Ba Jiao Ting (aka 8 sided pagoda) logo.  The date stamp on the wrapper is blurry but I think I could make out the year as 2007.  Although Liming tea factory is an established and well known tea factory, their tea remained 'under the radar' and the prices of their tea are less pricey than the more famous brands.  Collectors that invest in Chinese pu erh tea would normally purchase the bigger brands or special limited edition cakes to store long term.   

However, in the latest Tea Art Magazine issue #61, Liming tea factory took out an advertisement on their new Lao Ban Zhang tea cake (last pix).  I remember I had walked pass their distributor in Guangzhou and I will visit them to find out more about their new tea cake.  I hope not to lose an arm or limb when I buy this tea.  

Back to the 2007 Ba Jiao Ting cake.  This 10 year old cake brews up a nice clean and strong tea.  I noticed this tea cake is highly compressed and you need your tea tools to pry open the cake.  This tea is clean with a pleasant amber color in the drink.  Nothing extraordinary but I enjoyed the herbal / medicinal aroma and slightly sweet aftertaste.  I realised I had brewed this tea 3 days in a row.  A happy purchase.  



Sunday, November 19, 2017

2015 Xiaguan Ripe Tuo










I was in Hong Kong last year and I wanted to brew a late night tea in my hotel room.  The Xiaguan sales manager recommended me to buy this ripe tuo, telling me that this 2015 pu erh tea was actually much older and that Xiaguan had produced this tea 2 years earlier and had stored the tea away before releasing this tea in 2015.

I had noticed that the bigger pu erh tea factories like Xiaguan, Taetea and even Haiwan are actually 'storing away' pu erh tea (the finished product) and releasing this tea after a few years of storage.  This applies to both raw and ripe pu erh tea.  This makes a lot of sense.  As a pu erh tea drinker, you will attest that newly produced pu erh tea is a bit rough and astringent especially for raw pu erh.  You can also detect a fermentation smell in newly made ripe pu erh tea as well.  If you had stored away these new pu erh tea away for 3-5 years, you will discover that the tea is much easier to drink.  The aroma and taste is more smooth and mellow.  

I think in this age, people demand 'instant gratification' when they buy and consume goods and services. It will be tough to sell/buy a product  knowing the product is better 3-5 years down the road.  I suppose these pu erh tea factories are making their new pu erh products a ready to brew/drink tea.  In a way it is like buying older pu erh tea.  

Back to this 2015 Xiaguan tea.  I actually did not brew this tea when I had returned to my Hong Kong hotel room.  I had went for late supper instead.  I only opened this tea last week.  This tea, to me, is still young, but I enjoyed the strong aroma and taste of this ripe tea.   This tea would be a good candidate for aging for another 8-10 years.     





Sunday, November 5, 2017

Qi Pottery

















These tea ware in the pictures are made in Singapore. They are not only made in Singapore but the clay also comes from Singapore.   The potter is Kim Whye Kee.


Kim was involved in bad company during his younger days and was incarcerated when he was 18 years old.  He picked up pottery making while in prison and his passion for this craft intensified when he was released.  He took up a full time course in pottery, graduated with a degree in fine arts in 2013, and now is a proprietor of Qi Pottery.  He owns a small electric klin in his apartment to create his own works and hold small classes for the public to learn pottery.

The local newspaper, The Straits Times, on 10 Jan 2016 published an article about him. Written by Ng Hui Wen, I attached an excerpt from the article:


"One collaborative work on display was a mixed-media installation titled Family Dinner.

It was created by the exhibition's artist-in-residence and potter Kim Whye Kee and 10 inmates from the Visual Arts Hub at the Changi Prison Complex.

The piece was inspired by an inmate's experience behind bars, and depicts his longing for a simple family dinner.

"Every inmate hopes to go home to his family. It was usually the first thought I would have when the handcuffs were around my hands," said the 36-year-old Kim, who went in and out of jail for about a decade after getting involved in gangs and drugs from the age of 18.

"I dreamt of going home for a simple meal with my father. But six months before I was released, he passed away from cancer. It was too late," he said.

After his father's death in 2007, Mr Kim picked up pottery in prison, which gave him the peace and motivation he needed following his father's death.

In the installation, which he has dedicated to his parents and sister, he placed a lone chair facing three cracked rice bowls on a dining table. Each bowl was carved with messages that could be seen only through their reflections on the table.

"It's like a person sitting there, thinking about what to say to his family during dinner," he said.

"Sometimes, we feel pai seh (Hokkien for embarrassed) and the words just don't come out."

Also featured were 14 other ceramic bowls which were smashed and mended back together.

"I put the pieces back together using clay and gold paint. I wanted to show the inmates that even though they've made mistakes, their family and the community will always offer them a second chance," he said.

Three years ago, Mr Kim, who was released in 2008, graduated with a degree in fine arts from Lasalle College of the Arts with the support of his mother, who worked as a cleaner, as well as his sister and the Yellow Ribbon Project. Mr Kim now runs pottery workshops in his own studio."




I had visited Kim at his workshop/studio and I could tell that he was passionate about his craft.  He took time to me to explain the various clays he had used and tested for his works.  He had even bought clays from Australia and UK to experiment making tea ware with these clay.  He had, a couple of months ago, wanted to used local clay to make tea ware and I had requested him to sell me one of these "Singapore teapots" when it was ready.  Kim completed making the Singapore teapots in September.  As you can see from the 2nd/3rd pix, Kim had created a series of gaiwans and kyusu-styled teapots.  Kim explained that this clay was dug up in Tampines (an area in Singapore) 30 years ago and was stored away by his local pottery teacher.  Kim managed to get a few clay packets.  In Kim's own words:

"This clay is quite rough to work and instead of burnishing it, I decided to keep the characteristics of this clay, staying true to its look and feel.  No glaze for this ware but if you look carefully, the body is slightly flushed and each pot will be unique"

I purchased one of the kyusu teapot and the 4th pix showed the teapot photographed under yellow lighting while the other 2 pix below were taken under natural lighting.  

If any reader is interested to know more about Kim and and his works, you may visit his website (link) to get more details.  

I wish Mr Kim the very best in his pottery business.