Monday, September 14, 2020

Chinese Tea and Goldilocks


I had been reading more often especially during the lock down.  I came across an article about the Goldilocks zone.  This is a reference in astronomy where astronomers look for planets whose distance from its star is similar to Earth's distance from the sun.  Astronomers believe that looking for such planets may yield a higher chance that the planet may contain water and the chance of life on that planet.  In other words, astronomers are looking for planets that is not too hot and not too cold, just like the story of Golilocks.

When It comes to Chinese tea, I want to believe there is 'Goldilocks zone' for the tea - not too strong, not too weak, not too astringent, not too bitter.  I tend to find this zone by adjusting the amount of tea used and the infusion times when I brew the tea.  I believe every tea is different whether pu erh or oolong, that each tea may require different or micro adjustments to achieve the Goldilocks zone of tea.  Haiwan ripe teas brews notoriously strong and I would normally reduce about 25% of tea I normally used to brew.  However, I would add extra 1-2g when I brew Mengku ripe tea as the tea would taste better with that extra tea.   Maybe it is a personal perception, like letting my Xiaguan iron cake pu erh infused for a few extra seconds before I pour the tea out from the teapot.  I would like to point out that such adjustments should be done if you are a hard core tea drinker.....if may waste a lot of tea for this experiment.

A few serious tea drinkers had also shared similar thoughts that different tea require its own set of infusion times and amount of tea used.  I can appreciate that tea reviewers normally stick to a firm set of rules and practice like 7g for a 120ml teapot or gaiwan when they review the tea.  I would encourage that they should further recommend or conclude based on their initial brews, whether the tea should be better with less/more tea leaves or less/more infusion times in order to have a better cup of tea.  Yes, this would be subjective but I think the review would be much better for it.  

To my readers, do not be entranced by the notion of fixed amount of tea and fixed infusion times when brewing your tea,.  Try micro adjustments, that you as a serious tea drinker, so we can find the 'goldilocks zone' for that tea.  

Saturday, August 15, 2020

2012 Jingmai - Yunnan De Yu Tea Factory


I decided to drink one of my 'odds and ends' tea today.   These are the tea that I had bought in small quantities when I visit a shop when I am overseas.  There are many occasions when I had sampled tea at a teashop (2-3 samples) and I would tend to buy something from the shop before I leave.  There is usually no buying obligation for me to make a purchase when I sample tea at a shop.....but when I sit through a couple of samples, I would tend to buy a little tea from them.  Most of the times, I was undecided on making a purchase (especially for the newer produced tea).

I got these cakes at the Hong Kong tea fair in 2012 and I had sampled a few pu erh teas at this De Yu tea factory booth.  I decided to purchase 2 cakes of this Jingmai tea and even got the owner signed on the wrapper of the cake. I even remembered  passing one of the tea cakes to Prof Lawrence, the famous tea celebrity blogger of Tea Addict when I met him at the tea fair.

Time flies. Yes, I wish I was now flying to Hong Kong and China to have tea with friends and visiting tea shops and tea fairs.  The recent pandemic has really put a dent on my travels.  Many post offices worldwide still continue to issue 'severe delay' notices for international mail.  I had sent out a couple of boxes in June and it had taken more than 2 months for the parcels to reach my overseas friends.  Many of us enjoy buying stuff online from overseas but waiting for the orders taking 2-3 months to be delivered would be quite challenging and frustrating for both for the buyer and seller.  I will be mailing out tea via registered international air mail, but please be prepared to wait more than 8 weeks for your box to reach you.   

Back to this tea.  I decided to use a travel tea brewing gaiwan set to have a session of this pu erh.  This  8 year old tea is really good.  The arrival is slightly bitter and herbal, but the long faint oily and sweet aftertaste is very satisfying.  Mouthwatering and very smooth.  Very good workhorse as this tea brewed up a dark amber coloured beverage for more than a dozen infusions.  Impressive.  Sigh...I wish I got more of this tea.  

Sunday, August 2, 2020

Tea In Chinese Culture

As a Chinese tea drinker, you would have realised that tea is brewed and drank differently especially when in Europe or America.  Milk and sugar are not used in Chinese tea.  Tea bags are a less common sight as well in a Chinese eateries.  As I am in Singapore, I enjoy the various versions of tea offered in my country. I savour the Indian Masala tea where milk and spices are added to the tea, and you get a sweet, spicy and milky addictive that I normally have a second cup after I finished the first.

Tea in Chinese culture.  Oolong, pu erh, dan chong and long ching are some of the common teas drank by Chinese tea drinkers.  Many drink tea daily, during and after meals, in the office and at home.

Chinese tea is used in rituals and even religious ceremonies as well.

In religious ceremonies, cups of Chinese tea are place on altars and offered to Gods (taoism) or ancestors. You may have even seen these offerings when you visit a Chinese temple as well

In wedding ceremonies,, Chinese tea is offered by the wedding couple to elders of the family.  Drinking the tea symbolises the acceptance and in return the elders will give the couple a 'red packet' (gold or money) as a blessing as well.  

Pix shows an unused 90s wedding Chinese tea set.  The dragon and phoenix motifs represent the groom and bride respectively. Sweet red dates tea are usually selected as the tea of choice when tea is offered to elders of the family. 

Thursday, July 23, 2020

My Weekly Affair

I have a confession to make. I have a weekly affair. At least once a week.......I will have a smoky raw pu erh session.  Smoky raw pu erh?  Thats pu erh tea that has a smoky finish in the aroma and taste of the tea. 

There are many tea drinkers that are not into smoky tea or smoky drinks (try smoky whisky).  Many dislike the smokiness comparing the aroma and taste to a bonfire, burnt food and a friend even calling it a charcoal mouthwash.

There are a couple of famous smoky teas that you can easily buy from a tea shop.  One is the famous lapsang souchong.  This Chinese black tea is smoked dried with burning pinewood, whose smoke would be 'infused' into the tea.  The other is smoky pu erh.  I believed that smoky pu erh was a consequence of smoke introduced at some stage in the tea production that made the tea smoky.  Many newer pu erh now, are mainly non smoky.  New smoky pu erh are a rare commodity.  

I enjoy drinking older raw pu erh .  The tea makes for a more mellow, smoother and sweeter taste and aroma with age.  Smoky pu erh will lose their smokiness over time leaving a whisper of smoke in the tea. I also believed, that some old raw pu erh that exhibit a menthol or camphor aroma is the result of residual 'smoke' that resembles menthol or camphor.  This 'camphor' finish (called Zhang Xiang in Chinese) in pu erh tea are highly sought after by seasoned pu erh tea drinkers and usually these tea would command a high price.

Pix shows 2 Xiaguan pu erh tea.  Xiaguan tea factory continue to produce some excellent smoky pu erh and I know a quite a number followers of Xiaguan smoky pu erh in Malaysia and Guangzhou.  

Mysteriously addictive.  Which explains my weekly affair.

But I digress.  I would have to defer the reopening of my online store.  The re-outbreak of covid virus worldwide had severely delayed the delivery of international parcels.  Post offices and other couriers had warned of severe delays and even suspension of services in certain countries due to lockdowns and work suspension.  I will keep my readers informed when I reopen my online shop.  To all my readers, please stay safe.   

Sunday, July 12, 2020

Xiang Ji JI

This is Pek Sin Choon's most premium hand wrapped tea sold in a tin of 50 packets.  15g per pack, this tea is called Xiang Ji Ji.  The roast levels lies between mid to high roast.  

Pek Sin Choon described this tea as follows : 

"As the standard of living in Singapore improved, the preeminent fragrance was developed in between 1970s and 1980s to cater to the requirement of the tea drinkers who wants to enhance their experience in tea drinking. The tea soup is mild red in colour which is simple at first sip but leave a strong aroma around the throat and produce great aftertaste."

I used half a packet on a small teapot (100ml).  The aroma was cheerful like a fresh bouquet of flowers.  The mouthfeel was good, oily and mouth watering.  I had brewed this tea after dinner and I found it very suitable as a after-meal tea.  A good addition to my oolong stash.

Sunday, June 14, 2020

The Art Of Being Stationary

As many countries are slowly reopening their economies in June, we will find ourselves in a slightly different environment.  We are all masked up, always carrying a bottle of sanitiser and keeping a respectable distance from each other when we queue in line to do our stuff.

Many of us are emerging from a lockdown and as avid tea drinkers, we would had been brewing and drinking more tea at home.  We enjoy the brewing ritual and the taste and aroma of the tea.  Somehow to me, I felt it made the lockdown at home more manageable.

I was asked a few times during this lockdown how I drink my tea.  There is no secret and I will share with you what I did.  

Stay still, don't move.

That's it.  For a couple of minutes, be still.  Be stationary. Enjoy the aroma and taste.  The stillness will amplify the tea session even if for a minute.  

Being stationary sounds easy. There are however, many distractions in the home or office that will disrupt this deliberate stillness.  Try it for a minute.  Be still, don't move.  The tea will taste better.  

Tuesday, June 2, 2020

Sea Dyke Lao Chong Shui Hsien

Sea Dyke brand is a very popular brand for oolong tea.  They had been producing tea and had been exporting their tea worldwide.  In the 70s, many Chinese immigrants that had migrated and set up new homes in South East Asia were loyal supporters of this tea.  They are comforted that drinking this tea was a little reminder of their home province or village.

Sea Dyke has a showroom and outlet in Xiamen, China.  Locals and tourists can gawked at the wide variety of tea for sale and buy some tea home as a souvenir.  One in-house oolong sold at this shop is a Lao Chong Shui Hsien.  This particular grade is only sold at this shop.  A relative had given me a few packets in 2017.  You will notice that this oolong had been packed in 250g aluminium foiled, self sealing bags.

This Lao Chong Shui Hsien is an 'above average' tea.  Not top shelf tea but decent enough to please any oolong tea drinker.  Heavy roasted and a strong aroma that will linger in the mouth for a good few minutes after a tea session.  Makes about 6 good infusions with every brew. I had hoped to visit this shop this year but it looks like I have to defer my travels to Xiamen till next year.  

But I digress.  Many economies worldwide are slowly reopening in June.  Post offices, couriers and airmail are slowly resuming 'operational' status.  I hope to resume tea mail by end June.  I will keep my readers informed.    Stay tuned and stay safe.