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.  

Sunday, May 14, 2017

Colourful Teapot










This teapot is called "Tao Se shui ping hu".  'Tao Se' literally means colourful teapot, while 'shui ping hu' refers to the classical design of this teapot.  

Colourful teapot here meant that 2 different clays were used in the production of the teapot.  You will notice the red clay used for the body while a greenish clay for the spout, teapot cover nob and the handle of the teapot.  'Colourful' teapots was quite popular for a period in the 80s.  One of the teapots in the last pix is a duan ni (yellow clay) and green clay combination.

You would had noticed that the teapot lid wall literally stands out.  Known as 'gai chiang' (lid wall), the wall is noticeably longer or higher than modern Chinese teapots.  This 'high wall' has an advantage in that when you pour tea from the teapot, you can actually tilt the teapot at a more forward angle without worrying the lid falling off as the 'high wall' would be working to keep the teapot cover on.

The disadvantage of this 'high wall' is that it will displace some tea when the lid is on.  For this small teapot, the displacement is significant.  Let me explain, I could fill about 75ml of tea to the brim of this teapot, but once the lid is on, only 60ml of tea can be retained in the teapot.  For Chinese teapot collectors, Chinese teapot capacity is measured with the lid on.  

A fun teapot to use.  Makes great tea as well.

Sunday, May 7, 2017

2009 Haiwan Lao Tong Zhi Brand - Yue Chen Yue Xiang Ripe Pu erh








I opened this cake a few weeks ago.  I had purchased this tea from the Guangzhou Haiwan distributor 6 years ago and wanted to check on the progress of storing and aging this tea in Singapore.  

Haiwan tea factory had produced a special range of tea in 2009 and I was lucky to bought some of these tea while I was in Guangzhou.  I am a fan of this tea factory and I especially enjoy their ripe tea production.

'Yue Chen Yue Xiang' is simply a Chinese phrase meaning - the longer you store the more fragrant it becomes.  This phrase is commonly used in many pu erh tea labels and many tea factories have their own versions of 'Yue Chen Yue Xiang'.  Do not walk into a tea shop asking for pu erh tea with this phrase and you might end up a number of pu erh tea cakes with such phrases on their wrappers.  

This ripe tea brews up a very strong session of tea.  7g in a 140ml teapot got me 8 strong jet black syrupy ripe pu erh tea.  Some of Haiwan's ripe tea brews up strong and I would advise drinkers to cut back a little when they have a Haiwan ripe tea session.  This tea has nice earthy and wood notes.  Smooth and faintly sweet.  A nice tea session for an afternoon break.  




Sunday, April 30, 2017

Black Million Flower Porcelain - Small Tea Set










I owned some 80s "Black Million Flower" porcelain in their original unopened packing and had posted pictures of these pieces last year (link).

This label of 'Black Million Flower' is a name given by local porcelain collectors to this design that was produced in China in the 80s.  If you read the Chinese writing on the box in the 2nd pix, the written description was 'ten thousand flower' design.  I suppose and agree that 'million flower' sounded better for this porcelain.

I managed to get an unopened and mint in box 'million flower' tea set last month.  As you will observe, this set came with a teapot, 4 cups and a tea tray.  The tea tray,  to me, was the highlight of the purchase.  The colourful flowers that were hand decorated on the tray was very captivating.  I believe that this is the only porcelain decoration made in China in the 80s that reflected the the bold colours and variety of flowers on a unique black background.

The only chop or seal markings on this set were only found on the bottom of the teapot (pix 3). 





Wednesday, April 19, 2017

Cambodian Kampot Pepper and Lemongrass Infusion






I bought this tin of 'tea' when I was in Cambodia last December.  This is a blend of crushed Kampot pepper seeds with dried lemon grass strips.  This tin held 30 grams of 'tea' and came nicely packed in a fancy looking aluminium tin. This packing is suitable for tourists and this product should do well as a Cambodian souvenir.  

The instructions say to add 2g into a cup and adding hot water would get me a cup of Kampot pepper tea.  Kampot pepper is a famous pepper grown in the Kampot province in Cambodia.  I enjoy cooking and I found this Kampot pepper to be one of the spiciest pepper I had came across.  It is hot and aromatic and would make a nice addition to your spice rack.

I brewed up a cup with 2g of this 'tea' and found the tea pleasant.  The pepper pods and lemongrass float to the surface and I suggest you spoon these away before you start drinking.  I added honey in my second session and my family preferred this sweetened version.  

A fun drink.  

Thursday, April 6, 2017

2004 Xiaguan 'Old Smoky' Tuo







I was at the Xiaguan distributor in Guangzhou last month and was sampling some of their tea when the manager there asked me whether I would be interested in an older raw pu erh tuo that is considered by the store to be one of the smokiest Xiaguan tea in his store.  I was immediately interested.

I like smoky raw pu erh tea.  Yes, a few reader friends dislike the smoke and a few do think it is like having a cigarette after a tea session.  I think the smokiness adds an additional dimension to raw pu erh.  This is especially seen in older raw pu erh (10 years or more) where the smokiness would had receded over time leaving a faint smoky scent.  I like old raw with this faint smoke.  I feel such tea gives a more punchy taste and feel and makes a tea session more enjoyable.  Interestingly, most vintage tea cakes (20 years or more) do have that faint smoky signature and these old vintages are today very highly sought after and highly prized as well. 

I named this tea 'Old Smoky'....it is 13 years old and the smoke is strong in the tea.  This tea is smooth and the smoke is strong especially in the 1st 4 infusions.  I found the smokiness had made this tea slightly 'ginger spicy' in the aroma.  Interestingly, the tea has a very light hint of fruity sweetness in the later infusions.  

For readers who are interested in 'Old Smoky', I have made this 100g tuo available in my online store (link).

Tuesday, March 28, 2017

Vintage Korean Celadon Teacups














I recently purchased a set of Korean Celadon teacups online.  The seller indicated that this 5 teacups were made by Kim Jonmoku Tongoku. I have no idea about this maker and I would need my Korean readers to give me more input on the maker as well as on Korean celadon.  I had noticed that there are many Koreans that enjoy drinking Chinese tea and many of these drinkers do take very nice pictures of their tea and tea ware and posted online especially on Instagram. Do check them out.

I found these teacups fascinating as the looked like they were made from jade when held against the light.  The signature 'cracked' glazed lines seen on the cups gave the impression that these cups were delicately made. 

I am very fascinated with teacups.  I felt that Chinese tea does taste different with different teacups.  Lin purion teacups were unique that they held heat very well (the cup stays hot for a long time) and the tea tasted very pronounced in taste and aroma.  This Korean celadon teacup gave very good results.  I gave one of these cups to a collector in Guangzhou and he felt that the tea was 'hua' (smooth) compared to his regular cups.  Even a good lady friend that is an expert on coffee, told me that coffee tasted better using older Chinese porcelain cups.  

Are we mad thinking that teacups would make a difference in the tea? Yes, yes yes .

Thursday, March 16, 2017

The Final Infusion





How many infusions of tea do you brew when you have a tea session?

For me, the average would be about 5-6 for oolongs and 6-8 for pu erh tea.  This does not include the initial flash rinse I perform on the tea before I start my session.  If the tea still brews strong, I may set the teapot aside and return to brewing more tea later in the day.  

Then you have the last or final infusion before you discard the tea leaves.  I suppose for many tea drinkers, myself included, the final infusion would be considered the weakest in taste and aroma. 

Let me recommend a fun and interesting brew for your final infusion :
- empty the tea leaves in a small metal pot
- add 2-3 teapots of water
- boil the tea for 5-10 minutes

Surprise! Your final infusion will taste and smell slightly different.  It will be strong as well.  I have tried it on pu erh, oolongs, Liu Bao and white tea and have pleasant results so far.  I think you will like the results as well.  If you already had too much tea to drink, I suggest you keep that last infusion in a small thermos and drink it when you are ready for tea again.  

Time to relook at your final infusion.  Have fun and let me know what you think.



Tuesday, March 7, 2017

1993 Dayi Menghai Tea Factory Ripe Pu erh













I gave myself a treat opening an old Taetea (aka Dayi) ripe pu erh tea over the Chinese New Year weekend.  This is a 100g loose ripe pu erh packed in a paper box.  Produced in 1993 (you can see the stamp pressed impression in the 3rd pix), the tea leaves appeared to be  small leaf grade.  

This is one of my oldest pu erh tea in my collection and when I started brewing this tea, I had or was expecting, I don't know, maybe fireworks coming out of my ears or getting seriously tea drunk after the tea session.  None of these dramatic effects were present, but instead I was treated to a very comforting pu erh tea session.  The tea was very smooth with aromatic old antique wood and herbal scents and the tea glided down the throat easily.  8 very good infusions. 

But I digress.  When you are having a tea session with friends or you are at a teashop sampling tea with 3-4 drinkers present, you can tell whether a tea drinker likes that particular tea - that is - the tea cup empties very fast.  You will also observe that the tea drinker will (myself included) be 'looking forward' to each cup of tea.  One more thing, when you are at a teashop sampling tea and when you had enough of  tea, stop drinking or your teacup will continue to be refilled.  Alternatively, you can drink up the tea and tell politely,  while returning the empty cup to the host, that you do not want any more refills.

I noticed my tea sessions with this Dayi ripe pu erh normally finished in a very short time.  I drink this tea fast.