Tuesday, December 11, 2018

2011 Teahouse Hong Kong Puerh Tea Cake

This is a Lau Yu Fat house cake.   This is their 1st ever 'house cake'.   Produced in 2011, this cake is a blend of Bulang and Bada tea leaves.  

I had been their customer for more than 7 years and I will always pay a visit to the shop whenever I am in Hong Kong.  I would also use this opportunity to 'practice' my Chinese Teochew dialect with Senior Lau, who had on many occasions explained to me the history of the Hong Kong tea scene for the past 50 years.  This teashop had been around since the 60s and is now managed by the 3rd generation of the Lau family.  

Back to this tea cake.  This cake is strong in both taste a aroma.  There is no fresh floral notes or hardly any sweetness.......maybe very very faint sweet hints in the aftertaste.  There is good herbal bitterness but the tea is very smooth.  I am angry with myself for opening his tea cake.  This tea is still 'newish' as evidenced by the harshness of the tea.  This tea would be very impressive if stored for another 5 years or more.  I had already stored this tea for more than 6 years in Singapore.  Sigh.    I will break the cake in a tea caddy and will open this canister again after a few years.   

Sunday, December 2, 2018

An Old Ni Xing Tea Set

I managed to buy a Ni Xing tea set.  No typo.  It is Ni Xing clay.  This Chinese clay is from the Guangxi region and this clay a popular clay for making ceramics pottery.  This clay comes in a spectrum of colours from dark brown to light red.  This clay is not so popular or as pricey as the famed Yixing Clay.  I guess is that Ni Xing clay looks more muddy in colour so perhaps less appealing to the eye.  

I do not own any Ni Xing tea ware till now.  It was my good friend Su from Ipoh that told me to get a Ni Xing tea pot.  In her words; "Once you use, you will fall in love.  Especially if you brew a lot of old tea.  New sheng don't brew up so well but old teas are fantastic, steeped in good well seasoned teapot".

I had been looking for a ni xing  teapot for a few months and was over the moon when I saw this unused set.  I was told this set was made in the late 90s.   Notice the set came with 4 cups and a covered pot / container.  This container could act as a tea tray for tea waste bowl as well.  This workmanship appears rough to me but I am not complaining.

Time to season the teapot and cups.  I am using an old traditional seasoning style
a) Wash teapot and cups under running water.  Place teapot and cups in a large pot of water and low boil for 30 min.  When water has cooled, rinse teapot and cups well.
b) brew tea in teapot.  5-6 infusions.  Do not drink and discard the tea.  Wash and air dry the teapot.
c). The teapot is ready

I look forward to my 1st tea session with this Ni Xing teapot this Christmas holidays.    

Friday, November 23, 2018

2005 Changtai Bulang Raw Puerh Cake

2005 Changtai Bulang Raw Pu erh cake.  400g cake at $74.  18.5 cents/gram.

The above 'information' are used by tea reviewers to give the readers a summary overview of the cake that is being discussed.  

This information is good and is important to the reader.  You get to know the age of the tea and the tea factory that made the cake.  You can see that this cake is a 400g size.  And.... finally you get the price of the cake including a technical price per gram basis.  You can 'calculate' the costs per brew if you buying this cake.  If you are using 7g our session, you are looking at about $1.30 per brewing session.  

I think we can do more.  

When you buy pu erh tea, you are not only buying the tea, you are buying the storage.  

This 2005 Changtai is 13 years old.  This tea had been Malaysian stored for more than a dozen years.  This 13 years of storage should be an important feature in a assessment of this tea.  13 years of storage, in my opinion, is a pretty long time.  The tea would have some age in taste and aroma.  I would expect that the storage would comprise at least 40-50% in an overall assessment of the tea.  

And this 'assessment' is not easy.  There is the issue of different storage consideration.  This tea would taste and smell different under different storage conditions.  Such conditions would include different climate / countries where the tea is stored or even whether the tea cake is broken up and stored in a tea caddy or if the drinker chipped off a piece of tea to brew.  I myself find assessing a tea difficult.  When I sample a tea stored in Hong Kong, Kunming, Taiwan, Guangzhou, a same year Xiaguan tuo has considerable differences in taste and aroma.  It is not better or worse, but it is the result of the storage....and I would present the tea to the reader as it is.  I learnt / try to appreciate the tea and the respective storage.  It Is this uniqueness that should be appreciated and enjoyed.  The storage of pu erh tea should be / must be highlighted.  

Yes, my perceptions of the tea with regard to sweetness or bitterness or feel of the tea is subjective.  As a reader, you will also realise that your taste preferences are different and may change with time.  So I can only suggest - when you like a tea, it is a good tea.  And....a cheap tea can be a good tea.    A $1/g tea does not mean that it is 5 times more aromatic and tasty than a 20 cents/g tea.  For me, giving the reader the price per gram is just telling the reader how much a tea brew would cost to brew.  It does not indicate a bargain or quality.   Never use price to judge a tea.

But I digress. I would not mail out tea for about 2 weeks before Christmas.  No Haiwan spa for me this time as I will helping out in a poorer community in Vietnam.   If you are getting tea or exchanging tea with me during this time, please exercise some patience.  Thank you. 

Wednesday, November 14, 2018

Things to improve a puerh tea session - Part 2

Continued from Part 1 - link

3.  'Xin' Cha -  this is the Chinese term for awakening your tea.  I believe that  pu erh tea needs awakening at certain times.  Let me explain.

a). you would have read from the tea forums that many pu erh tea drinkers that had bought tea online found that  their tea tasted better after letting the tea rest for 1-2 weeks. 
When your tea had travelled for many miles and spent some time flying by air before your order reached your doorstep, it might be possible that your tea went into a moment of 'hibernation' and needed time to stabilise. I cannot provide a scientific explanation for this phenomena, but many of my tea friends 'swore' that tea was better after some time of rest.

b) I also propose that you break up your cake, too or brick into small pieces and store your tea in a tea caddy for 2 weeks before you start on the tea.  
You can do simple inexpensive experiment where you break up half a cake of your tea and place the tea pieces in a tea caddy.  Do a comparison testing after 2 weeks.  I am also unable to provide a scientific explanation, but tea stored in a tea caddy is more aromatic and tasty compared if you break off a piece of tea and brew up the tea.  

4.  Attend or have a small group pu erh tea session.  Many of us are 'home alone' tea drinkers.  We tend to brew and drink tea at home.  It easy and comfortable to drink tea alone at home.  You choose your time and brew whatever tea you like, whatever way you like; gaiwan or teapot and no one will say anything.  You buy your tea on the internet from round the world and may even participate in tea forums giving your thoughts on the tea.  

But I recommend that you join or conduct small pu erh tea drinking groups.  It is fun to share your knowledge on tea and at the same time, actually get to 'socialise' literally.  You get to see the different interpretations of tea in terms of tea brewing, tasting and other stuff like storage.  Do a tea exchange.  Yes, tea can be appreciated alone but as a group it is just as fun.  It is sad that many of us are 'busy' in this present 4G society.  We have more friends and followers on the internet, but to have friends that sit right across a table is more meaningful, in my opinion. Yes, there will be many things you may be uncomfortable or disagree when you have a tea session with fellow tea friends.  It is all in good fun.  
Invite me to one of your tea sessions. Who knows I will really appear.  By the way. I intend to / hope to visit my Czech And Scottish tea friends real soon.  They do not know it yet.  

Sunday, November 4, 2018

Ipoh Leong Swee Sang (Bliss) Liu Bao Tea

A collector had put this bag of Liu Bao tea up for sale last month in Malaysia and I had an opportunity to sample this tea. 

This tea is the Ipoh Leong Swee Sang Liu Bao.  It came packed, all 40kg, in a thick white bag.  The available literature was that this tea was exported through Hong Kong to Malaysia in the 80s.  Such Liu Bao tea in the 80s was a popular tea among the Chinese tin mining community in Ipoh from the 30s to the early 80s when the tin mines was depleted.  Note the big pink neifei with the Chinese 'fu' character.

This tea has a nice medicinal aroma and taste in the initial infusions.  Good for more than a dozen infusions, this tea now is expensive and highly sought after.  

Pix 2 shows the tea in its 5 or 6th infusion.  

Sunday, October 21, 2018

A Letter To James of Teadb

James Schergen is one of the most famous celebrity on the internet when it comes to Chinese Tea.  He appears on his own videos and his articles appear frequently  on teadb.org (link).  He had recently written to me giving his insight on my previous blog post about Chinese teapots (read my 2 latest posts).  I had given much thought and I decided to reply to him in a 'letter'.

Hello James,

Thank you so much for your thoughts about my Chinese teapot blog entry.  I am a big fan of your work and I tune in regularly to watch your tea videos.  I imagined myself literally sitting across the table while you are brewing and sampling the tea.  Sometimes, I shout out loud at the video to call you to reheat the water for your later infusions as cooler water might affect the interpretation of the tea.  It was in good fun.   I did hear on the grapevine that there is a possibility that you may coming to our shores.  I am so happy and I hope to see you and get you to sign autographs.....so I can sell them later to the many tea auntie fans that simply adore you and may even camp overnight at the airport to welcome you if you are really coming.

In your comment on Chinese teapots, you posed a question which literally caught me off guard 

"Can a serious tea drinking person be into tea without owning teapots? This is a harder question, but I do think it is possible."

I actually was dumbfounded for several days.  In my tea drinking groups which I join in Singapore, Malaysia, Hong Kong and Guangzhou, we often discuss many things about tea and tea ware.  We would also debate on tea issues like storage but never whether a serious tea drinker can do without teapots. You had suggested that owning a teapot is a luxury than a 100% requirement.  

An old Chinese idiom - those who understand do not speak while those who speak do not understand.  Indulge me, James, for speaking as I really do not understand.  Here are my thoughts:

1.  Marshaln (aka Lawrence) the author of the the famous A Tea Addict's Journal (link) is the most respected and his articles in English and has a strong and steady following of readers worldwide. From reading his entries, I felt he was inclined to use a teapot than a gaiwan to brew his tea.  One of his entry on 25 Feb 2008 :

"I realized today I haven’t touched any of my gaiwans since I returned from Taiwan.

I remember I used to use the gaiwan for everything…. from greens to blacks. Gaiwan was my weapon of choice. Gaiwan was the only thing I’d use, pretty much.

Then slowly, I started using more yixing pots. I gradually bought a few more, and found them, somehow, easier to use. Maybe it’s because I will no longer burn my fingers, as I do once in a while with a gaiwan. Maybe they provide more aesthetic variety. Maybe they do make better tea?

On the better tea question, I am now quite certain that some yixing pots will make softer tea (whether that’s better or not is up to individual taste). I’m still not sure exactly what goes on in a yixing pot that actually changes the tea. There are many theories out there, from temperature retention (sort of true…) to pores in the clay (really depends) to seasoning (maybe true, maybe magic…. and also depends, greatly). Gaiwans, though, still give you an “honest” tea, without really messing with the tea in any particular way. "

Is Marshaln a serious tea drinker?  Yes!  He is the master sifu of tea.  He had invited me once to his palace and his collection of teapots he use for brewing tea is pretty impressive. 

2.  During one of my tea drinking sessions in Guangzhou a few years ago.  A retired manager of CNNP who was in this tea drinking group had remarked that the invention of the Yixing teapot was one of the best things for Chinese tea.  I find that his thoughts are appropriate in this discussion.  

3.  I spent last Tuesday morning at a local teashop in Chinatown and I posed this teapot question to the manager there.  Instead of answering my question, the manager asked me to sample an old shui hsien with her. The manager used a gaiwan and a teapot to brew the oolong (see bottom pix) and we proceeded to sample the tea.  Tea brewed from the gaiwan seems more aromatic while the tea from the teapot was very smooth in the taste and finish.  

Personally, I use teapots to brew my tea at home.  I have a few gaiwans and hardly use them.  Many serious tea drinkers I know use a teapot than a gaiwan.  I do not see a teapot as a luxury.  

I had also noticed that the gaiwans used for tea sampling at teashops tend to be better quality gaiwans.  Many believed that the older gaiwans made in the 90s or earlier are very suitable for sampling tea.  Maybe it is the glaze or the quality of the raw material.  These gaiwans can be expensive and asking prices for these old gaiwans can be a few hundred dollars each.  

You mentioned that 'good Yixing can improve' a tea session.  However, I interpret your argument that you find that this improvement or difference as not significant or dramatic enough to warrant that; using a Yixing teapot is 100% necessary.  I respect your view even though I disagree with it.  

Do look out for me at the airport, if you are coming to our shores, as I will be standing with your hoard of screaming auntie fans to welcome your arrival.  It will be a dream meet for me.

Your fan, 



Wednesday, October 10, 2018

Can a serious tea drinking person be into tea without owning teapots?

Tea celebrity James of TeaDB commented on my previous blog entry and his comments are reproduced in full below. I shall give my reply in another blog. Thank you, James for your thought provoking comments.

Hi Wilson,

I think you referenced one of my recent posts. I think we mainly agree about most of this. But in regards to the importance of teapots, I'd respectfully share a few of my thoughts and push back a little bit.

In my opinion, good Yixing can improve a session. I also use Yixing for a significant majority of my own sessions so I'm certainly not a total skeptic. I also do believe that it's importance can be overly inflated.

My post was written towards people newish to Chinese tea and/or pu'erh. The cost of good clay pots can be quite high and getting a $200 teapot is often seen as a significant barrier towards trying Chinese tea, when I think it'd be better if it wasn't.

From what I've seen, a fair number of people just starting will end up with cheap pots that they'll stop using at some point. You could argue this is necessary just as tuition tea is.. But.. I'd argue newer people would be better off focusing more on tea rather than concerning themselves with the intricacies of the teaware market.

Can a serious tea drinking person be into tea without owning teapots? This is a harder question, but I do think it is possible. I have a good tea friend that's been into tea for several years.. They have a couple pots, but when resources are limited he just about always ends up buying tea. Having old, nice pots is a nice thing to have but I also don't think it is a 100% requirement to be considered a serious tea person. I'd argue it is a luxury more than a 100% requirement.