Sunday, September 10, 2017

Plates And Dishes











Give your old plates and dishes a new lease of life by using them in your tea sessions.

I am sure there are small plates and dishes in  your kitchen cupboard (or even at your mom's place).  These porcelain pieces could be the remnants of a complete set of dinnerware that got accidentally broken over time leaving you with the odd surviving piece.  You could had bought such pieces at a garage sale or from a flea market.  

Some of these porcelain can be used in a tea session.  You would have noticed from the pictures I had used them as teacup or teapot plate stands.  I had collected these plates during my tea travels.  A few of these plates were inexpensive as they were found in flea markets or in the odd and ends shelf of a shop.  The last pix shows an old plate, which I believed was made about 40-50 years ago. There were Chinese villagers that may own similar designed porcelain and the families would carve their surname on the porcelain pieces for easy identification in the event that there was a village gathering or party where villagers 'lend' their plates for the occasion.  You can make out the surname 'Lu' on the plate.  

I feel using such plates and dishes makes a tea session more interesting.  It does add a little whimsical nostalgia when you sipped your tea.  Wouldn't it be nice if you later discover that you owned a rare porcelain piece that can sell for a million dollars.  Dream on.  





Sunday, September 3, 2017

2006 Fu Hai 7536 Menghai Pu erh Cake









This is a 7536 recipe produced by Fu Hai Tea Factory.  This 2006 raw pu erh, is already 11 years old and this tea had been stored in Singapore for about 10 years.  The information slip in the tea stated that the pu erh is harvested from the Menghai region.  Pu erh tea drinkers would be familiar with the Menghai region as many vintage and classical old cakes were traditionally made from this region.  

This tea had aged well over the 10 years in Singapore.  The tea when brewed is mellow and sweet.  Notice the pleasant dark gold color of the tea.  Surprisingly, I found the tea paired nicely with fresh fruits (apples, pear and peaches).  I felt, that sipping the tea after having these fruits, the tea tasted sweeter.   Overall the tea has a nice pleasant sweet aftertaste and a nice floral-herbal  complexity In the tea.  I recommend that this tea should be brewed on the stronger side....by adding an extra gram of tea to your standard brew.

But I digress.  Making your tea on the stronger side......adding more tea leaves or a longer infusion?  Don't you get a strong tea from both methods?  Yes, but there are 2 main differences.  
a) using more leaves can get you more infusions in your tea session.  If you let your tea infuse for a longer time after every pour, you would get lesser rounds of tea.
b) there is a difference in taste and aroma.  The chi or energy from the tea is more pronounced with adding more leaves.  

I would try to get an ideal brew when I opened a pu er tea cake.  Yes, its a personal preference in terms of strength.  It would normally take a few brews for me to determine whether I should use more/less leaves and the infusion times for the brew.  It may take 3-4 tea sessions before I settle down and conclude the brewing parameters for the tea.  How do you, my reader, determine your brewing parameters for your tea, please share with me your methods.  Thank you.




Saturday, August 26, 2017

Tsen Chi Cha






Tsen Chi Cha is a oolong tea produced in Amoy China.  This version is the Sea Dyke brand.  This tea is packed in a metal foil bag and packaged in a paper box.  This tea had been produced for many years by Sea Dyke and is available in many South East Asian countries.  They are commonly found in Chinese tea shops or Chinese emporiums.  I remembered I saw this tea at a Chinese tea shop in San Francisco and Toronto as well. 

I was in at Yue Hwa Emporium, Hong Kong last  year browsing at the Sea Dyke tea section when an elderly man came to the same aisle and picked up 2 boxes of this tea.  I asked him why he had chosen this tea.  He replied that he drank lots of tea (oolong, puerh, longqing), but because he lived in a very small apartment, he only had a small shelf for his tea.  When he had finished his stash, say oolong, he would replace them.  He mentioned he does not buy to store his tea long term but buy to drink.  He smiled and went off to pay, not before telling me that this tea was good.  I bought a box of this tea.

This tea brews up 5 good infusions.  It is high roasted and has a taste and aroma like a hybrid shui hsien and a tie kuan yin.  Nothing sophisticated or extraordinary but the traditional roast and comforting aroma made this tea a value for money purchase.   I can understand, when I sipped this tea at home, why the Hong Kong gentleman liked this oolong.  

Sunday, August 13, 2017

Japanese Tea Ware










I bought some Japanese tea ware last month.  

The teapot you see in the 1st pix is a teapot with a side handle.  Teapots, known as Kyusu in Japanese, are used in brewing tea and are traditionally brewed on floor mats or on very low tables.  The teapot shown is made with Tokoname ceramic and employs the Nerikomi style of kneading patterns with coloured clay.  You can understand my fascination with this teapot; the colours are very hypnotic and I could stare at the teapot for a good few seconds.  The height is about 2.8 inches and I am guessing its capacity at about 150ml.

I had also purchased an old copper kettle.  Kettles or Yakan in Japanese, often used for brewing Japanese tea, are usually made from iron or copper.  Iron kettles or tetsubins from Japan are much appreciated by tea drinkers all over the world for its artistic styles and the 'smooth' water when used with such tetsubins.  Japanese copper kettles are less famous but I was intrigued by the design of this copper kettle.  This design is known as tanuki or racoon style.  A story tells of a racoon, who made itself looked like a kettle to avoid capture by a hunter, found itself  'smoking' when the hunter placed this 'kettle' over a fire.  

This kettle can easily hold 1.5 litres of water.  I had already tried using this kettle but found the water less tasty than a tetsubin.  Maybe I should had washed the kettle thoroughly.   

But I digress.  I would be in Guangzhou in the last week of Sept.  I would welcome any readers to join me for a week of tea adventures in the tea markets of Guangzhou.  Breakfast not included.


Tuesday, August 1, 2017

2006 De He Xin Raw Pu erh







My Malaysian friend and I had bought this tea 5 years ago at a Malaysian teashop.  We had sampled  this and found the tea to be very strong but new in 2012.  My friend and I decided to buy a carton each for slightly better price.  

I met this friend early this year and he was quite excited over this tea.  He had been sampling this tea every 6 months since our purchase and he found that this tea had 'turned' this year.  The term 'turned' is just a name used among my Malaysian friends that described a pu erh tea that seem to mature/age significantly or suddenly.  Let me explain.  There are some pu erh tea that, when you had bought them and stored them away, the taste and aroma do not seem to change for a few years since the purchase.  I had noticed that, there are some pu erh tea, when they turned about 8-10 years old, will taste and smell slightly different.  The mellowness and smoothness of the tea seem to be more pronounced.  There is a mature taste in the tea as well.   

I have a old Chinese tea collector in Guangzhou, that had explained to me his thoughts; that pu erh tea will change in both taste and aroma in phases, about 10 years per phase.  He claimed that the 2nd phase would see the pu erh tea take on a more medicinal character in the brew.  I had tried a few of his much older cakes as well as 20 year tea cakes at teashops and I can attest to some medicinal aroma in these tea.  

This 'turning' phase is something that many pu erh tea drinkers and collectors look forward to when they store and age their pu erh tea.  The pu erh tea may become more floral or more herbal or even may developed a camphor aroma in the tea after some time in storage.  These changes in both aroma and taste, in my opinion are due to the tea leaves and the storage conditions of the tea.  When you and I buy older pu erh tea, we are also indirectly  buying the time as well as buying the storage of the tea.  

De He Xin is a well known teamster in China.  He had produced a raw (this tea) and a ripe pu erh tea cake in 2006.  This tea, as described in the note enclosed with the cake, are composed from Bulang region.  De He Xin had also had this tea certified that it  met the organic label requirements.  I do admit that the tea had 'turned'.   The tea is now more vivid in both taste and aroma.  

What do I advise a few of my readers that had posed me a question about whether to store away tea for 10 years or buy a 10 year old pu erh tea outright.  My answer, do both if possible.  I find that pu erh tea stored in various countries like Malaysia, Hong Kong and China will have their unique storage characteristics that cannot be easily replicated in a home if you stay in a temperate country( your tea will have its own unique storage result).  For me, that is the fun in trying all these pu erh tea and having an adventure in every cup.  

Tuesday, July 25, 2017

2007 Changtai Ripe Pu erh Brick









I was pleasantly surprised when I sampled this 2007 Changtai ripe brick.  This is a 2007 production and this tea had been stored in Malaysia for almost 10 years.  The 250g brick is individually wrapped and packed 4 bricks in a larger wrapper.  

My readers would know that I had been encouraging readers in 2 aspects when it comes to pu erh tea:
a) breaking up a brick or cake into pieces and storing in a tea caddy for 2 weeks before drinking
b) use boiling water when brewing the tea

These 2 simple steps, in my own opinion, does make the pu erh tea (raw and ripe) more amplified in both taste and aroma.  I have tea drinker friends that only leave a cake or brick unbroken and only peeling off a small chunk whenever they want to brew their tea.  I can understand tea caddies does need space.  I would like to suggest using smaller tea caddies or tea boxes, with about 50-100g capacity, might helped address the space issue.  As for my readers using electric or stove kettles, I recommend a quick reboil prior to every infusion.  As the water is already hot, such reboiling should take less than 30 seconds.  These 2 steps would make your pu erh tea session more yummy.

Back to the Changtai tea.  I could get about 8 strong infusions from a tea session.  The tea is mellow and smooth with nice earthy herbal notes with a faintly sweet aftertaste.  Happy days.    





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.