Saturday, January 21, 2023

Happy Chinese New Year

Happy Chinese New Year.  2023 is the year of the rabbit. and falls on 22nd January.   My essential checklist include Mandarin oranges, red packets of money to give to parents and kids, lots of snacks and of course Chinese tea.

One last reminder - I will be closing my online store for about 6 months as I will travelling a fair bit. Europe in next 2 months and USA in summer.  Hopefully Malaysia and Hong Kong in between.  

I wish all my friends and readers a Happy Chinese New Year.  Live long and prosper. 

Sunday, January 8, 2023

Selecting Tea For My Overseas Trip


I had written in my previous blog entry that I will be closing my online store for 6 months - Feb thru July.  I will be travelling and hope to meet tea friends and hope to have a tea session with them. 

For 2 months (February and March), I will be in Europe; specifically Paris, Amsterdam and Brussels.  I do not many opportunities to go to Europe and I hope to do the touristy stuff while I am there. If you want to meet me for tea, please let me know. We will have a tea exchange as well. 

I will follow up with trips to Hong Kong in May and to USA in June. 

I intend to bring some older tea for my trip. I have decided on a late 90s Langhe raw pu erh cake, a late 90s CNNP 7581 ripe brick and a pack of Hong Kong Cheong Hing Tie Lo Han. I will also throw in a 100g of 90s y303 oolong. As for tea ware, I will show you pix when I am brewing and drinking my tea overseas.  

Looking forward to my oversea adventures in every cup. 

Saturday, December 31, 2022

Happy New Year 2023

Happy New Year to all my readers and friends. 

An important announcement. I will be travelling a fair bit next year and I will be suspending my online store sales for about 6 months from mid January 2023.  More updates on my trips to follow.  I will be posting less tea stuff during my travels and I hope to update my store; more tea, better pictures and hopefully better prices.  More info in later posts.  

Happy New Year 2023.

Sunday, December 11, 2022

Back To The Future or Forward To The Past


We are coming to the end of the year.  Here are my year end thoughts and findings for Chinese tea for this year. 

1.  The Chinese lockdown to curb the covid pandemic was a mixed result for Chinese tea. Tea drinkers, old and new, were buying tea and tea ware during the lockdown. Online sales, as expected were higher during this period. My Chinese tea dealer friends took this opportunity to sell tea at a retail level selling tea to families and tea drinkers.  Sales were good but dried up immediately when the lockdown was lifted. At the same time, my tea dealer friends had also observed that major tea factories had reduced the tea for sale. Production batches of Chinese tea were also reduced.  Selling prices for such new tea had also gone up by more than 10%. 

2.  The profile of Chinese tea buyers in China - There are less younger tea drinkers. The younger generation prefer to drink coffee at fancy establishment like Starbucks or prefer to drink bubble tea instead. My tea dealer friends noticed less people were willing buy tea for investments now. Present economic conditions are not conducive for tea investment even in Malaysia and Hong Kong.  My 3 visits to tea shops in Malaysia these past few months indicated that tea business there was 'quiet'.  

Chinese tea drinkers drink their tea 'neat'. We do not add pumpkin spice creme or cinnamon powder to our tea. There is no Chinese tea outlet where we can bring our laptop to sit by a window and do our work.  At home, Chinese tea drinkers do not have fancy machines to brew tea. No capsules or drip tea. Only a gaiwan or a teapot. Many people still associate drinking Chinese tea only at Chinese eateries or brewing Chinese tea bags at home. 

Serious Chinese tea drinkers should not be hermit tea drinkers at home. Invite friends and relatives over for a cup of tea. Let them enjoy the fragrance and taste of a good cup of Chinese tea. That is one sure way to increase the Chinese tea drinking community. 

Saturday, November 26, 2022

2007 Xiaguan Iron Cake 8633


Xiaguan tea factory is famous for their pu erh iron cakes and tuos. Many tea drinkers including myself enjoy Xiaguan puerh that has a smoky aroma in the tea.  It is sad that many of their new offerings now do not have the smoky profile. 

The Xiaguan iron cake. 

There is no metal in the Xiaguan iron cake. The metal name refers to the high compression of the pu erh tea.  The compression is really hard. You simply cannot break up the cake with your bare hands.  Many use a letter opener or knife or an ice pick to break up the tea cake. I use an ordinary plier to break up the cake. You would have noticed a Xiaguan iron looked unique; smooth on one side with tiny sharp stumps on the other side of the cake.  The machines used to pressed the cakes, I was told, were a Russian invention (maybe its an unfounded rumour but its adds to the mystic of an iron cake).  Based on my experience, Xiaguan iron cakes taste best after you had broken up a cake and let it rest for a couple weeks before you start brewing this tea. 

How do you brew pu erh iron cake? and high compressed pu erh cakes?  You have broken up your iron cake to small chunks, but based on my experience, 1.5 to 2g chunks of tea may still be 'too big' for tea brewing. I use boiling water for my tea infusions but I did noticed that those bigger chunks tend to remain as a chunk after a few infusions. This is due to the very high compression of the iron cake; that the tea chunks did not open up after a few infusions. I have a couple of suggestions that will resolve this issue.  You can use a thin wooden food skewer to pry open the chunks in between infusions. You can also break the chunks into  even smaller pieces prior to starting your tea session. This will ensure you get to better enjoy the iron xiaguan tea.   

There are a few variants of the iron cake.  The popular 8653 and the less popular 8613 and 8633.  These numbers are just recipe names of the tea. Even though the 3rd digit represented the tea leaf grade, many Xiaguan tea drinkers believed that the recipe numbers reflected more on the different tea blends of the cake, referring more to the mix of pu erh tea from different pu erh tea producing regions. 

This 8633 iron cake is not smoky. If you like Chinese herbal soups, this tea is right up your alley. This tea has a nice herbal profile; like those Chinese herbs used for a soup. I found the tea nice when sipping it hot. A nice tea for a quiet evening. 

Sunday, November 6, 2022

De Hong Pu erh Tea - A Smoky Treat


I had blogged about this tea last year.  I had wanted to drink a smoky pu erh and this cake was the 1st smoky thing I saw among my tea stash. 

I like this tea. This is a 100g De Hong factory mini iron cake. Undated with my guess that it was made around 2008. Initial infusions remind me of a peaty scotch whisky.  If you enjoy drinking peaty scotch whisky, say Talisker 10, this tea is right up your alley. The aroma is almost like this whisky. This tea is to me the non alcoholic version. The smoke does linger in the mouth after every sip. Later infusions of this tea has a hints of camphor. This tea is not suitable for everyone. You must like smoky stuff to enjoy this drink. 

But I digress.  There is another smoky tea called Lapsang SouChong.  It is a black tea that has a strong smoke profile when you brew this tea. I had read that the tea was 'smoked' by burning pine wood and letting the smoke infused into the tea.  This is something similar to peated whisky where peat is used as fuel to dry the barley for whisky making. The peat smoke was infused with the barley and alcohol distilled from the barley in the production phase continue to have this peaty profile in the aroma. 

Smoky pu erh was common about 15-20 years ago as the tea farmers may not have easy access to electricity. Today, tea leaves are pan dried by electrical pans and ovens. Many tea farmers do not even sun dry the tea leaves instead opting for the more reliable ovens to dry the tea leaves. These modern innovation makes work easier for the tea farmer.  New pu erh now are mainly oven dried.   I am lucky I have some old smoky tea to drink. 

Sunday, October 23, 2022

Gaiwan - Too Hot to Handle

The gaiwan. 

It was primarily used to serve tea to guests.  The cover is used to prevent any dirt or dust from landing on the tea. The cover would had helped to keep the tea warm (to an extent).  

The gaiwan can be used to brew tea. 

No teapot needed. A simple set up of a gaiwan and a couple of teacups are you need to have a great tea session.  Place tea leaves in the gaiwan and add hot water.  Hold the gaiwan in one hand, tilt the cover a little bit and pour out the tea into the teacups. You only tilt the cover only enough to pour out the tea while keeping the tea leaves in the gaiwan.  

You would need to practice to get your 'brewing with a gaiwan right'.  Here are some tips

- filling the gaiwan with hot water to only about 3/4 of the gaiwan. This would not make the gaiwan too hot to handle.  

- after filling the gaiwan with water, do not keep keep opening the cover to look at the infusion. The tea would lose heat in a hurry and the tea might not be optimally brewed under such 'cooler' conditions. 

Still too hot to handle.  Yes, brewing with a gaiwan can caused small accidents. A small slip or unbalance can make the cover to slip off and cause a 'breakage'.  Your fingers may be accidentally be scalded while you are pouring out the tea. 

There are gaiwan-like variations that you may consider adding to your collection. 

A Japanese Shibo is a gaiwan except there are grooves on a section of the cup that makes the pouring out of tea without tilting the cover. This balancing act of holding the cover and cup while pouring out the tea, would be easier in my opinion. 

Then we have the flared out gaiwan with a spout. This would keep the fingers 'cooler' and the spout, which has a built in filter would keep tea leaves inside the gaiwan when the tea is dispensed. 

Still to hot to handle. Use this one in the last pix. Comes with handle and built in spout. That would resolve any heat or accidental spillage issue.