Thursday, February 15, 2018

Happy New Year





Happy New Year.

Today is Chinese New Year's eve.  You will know that many Chinese would be trying to make their way home, these past few days, to attend the new year eve dinner with their family. It is like a Thanksgiving occasion where  families get to eat dinner together.  It is a yearly milestone which I look forward to every year.

To all my readers, Happy Chinese New Year.  Live long and prosper.

Sunday, February 11, 2018

2007 Xiaguan T8613 Iron Cake And The Puerh Pliers








2007 Xiaguan iron cake.....I get that. But puerh pliers?

Yes, Valentine's Day is only a few days away and a pair of puerh pliers would be an ideal gift to get for your tea drinking partner. You can almost imagine and hear your partner squealing in delight when he/she used this tool to open up an iron cake.

Pu erh tea drinkers would agree that prying open an iron cake or tuo can be a challenging and sometimes a dangerous task. You would normally use a tool like a small metal letter open or a mini ice pick to open the cake. The very high compression of the tea will normally cause much tea dust when the cake is being pried open. Tea dust are not good for brewing as they clogged up your teapot and may upset the brewing parameters of your infusion times. Moreover, the amount of tea dust from opening up an entire iron cake can be quite substantial....easily more than 20 grams. The element of danger is present as a tiny slip can cause an accident if the puerh knife or pick accidentally poke your hands.

That is where the puerh pliers comes in. Simply grip the side of the tea cake with the pliers, hold down the tea cake, then lift the pliers as if you opening a cap of a soda/beer bottle. As you can see from the pictures, I could get nice small chunks of tea from just a quarter 2007 Xiaguan iron cake within 1 minute. This meant that an iron cake would be broken up easily within 5 minutes....and with minimum tea dust.  I shall name this tea opening method as the 'heartbreaker'.

Sadly, there is no such thing as puerh pliers.  A normal plier would suffice. But use your hard earned money to get your partner an old iron cake. This 2007 Xiaguan iron cake has a very good complication of flavours and aroma. It is like a time capsule as the high compression of the tea seem to make this tea a very vivid tea session where every infusion varies delightfully from each other. Good and strong 12+ infusions.   The broken up smaller chunks of tea are still highly compressed and you will get the 'tea get stronger with subsequent infusions' phenomena.  This is not that the tea was made from gushu, as you may be led to believe, but this is due to the highly compressed tea chunks 'loosening up' with later infusions.

Happy Valentine's Day.

Sunday, February 4, 2018

Japan Tea Souvenirs














I bought some tea ware while I was in Japan last December.   It was a little tough for me, in the sense that I had purchased the 1st two pieces during my first day in Japan and I had to hand carry them for the next 2 weeks during my trip.  It was a good and cold holiday experiencing my first Japanese winter.

This new tetsubin is a Nambu Tekki production.  A 800ml capacity, I was drawn to this kettle while I was at the Nambu shop along kitchen street in Asakusa, Tokyo.  The tetsubin was made to look old and rusty.  The embossed dragon motifs on the side of the kettle were very pretty and I made a quick decision to buy it.  I have a soft spot for Japanese tetsubin.  I think this will be the fourth kettle in my collection.  

I bought 2 shiboridashi teapots while in Japan.  The insides of the spout have raised grooves which acts as a filter to allow tea to dispensed when you serve the tea from these teapots.  Unlike regular gaiwans where you had to tilt the cover to dispense tea, shiboridashi allowed me to position the cover properly without any side tilt.  I find the pour out of tea to be more elegant.  You would had noticed that my 2nd shiboridashi is a side handle model which is actually fun to use.  

I would strongly recommend that whenever you are in Japan, getting a Japanese tea ware will be the best souvenir for yourself.  And.....  do not forget the matcha and hojicha tea. 

Sunday, January 21, 2018

2004 Sea Dyke Tie Kuan Yin Teabag







Chinese teabags??

Yes...and these are good.  Produced in 2004 by Sea Dyke, these teabags brewed up a very aged and mellow oolong.  This tea as you can see had French descriptions on the box, and it would indicate that these tea may have been primarily produced for the European markets.  

I will usually include a couple of teabags in my tea box whenever I travel.  These teabags act as a 'quickie' when I want to have tea, and hot water is available while I am on the road.  

For this aged teabags, I used 2 teabags and brewed them a 100ml teapot. Teabags work best, in my opinion, with hot boiling water.    Good for 4 infusions, the tea was strong, aromatic and old tasting.  It was interesting that such teabags are able to produce such a pleasant tea session....almost as good as a regular old oolong tea leaf brewing session.  I can only guessed that either Sea Dyke used good tea in the teabags in early 2000s and the tea had aged nicely in my part of the world.  I had tried newly produced  Sea Dyke teabags but the taste was a little bland (in my opinion).  

An unusual find.  I recommend if you do come across older Sea Dyke teabags, to buy them.  They should be inexpensive but good.   

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.