Saturday, December 31, 2011

2011 - Looking Front And Back

I am grateful and thankful that 2011 was a good year for my family.  I made many new tea friends and had the opportunity this year to visit Guangzhou, Hong Kong and Malaysia for my tea adventures.

For next year, I will be visiting these places again as well as Yunnan to learn more about tea.  If any of the readers are interested, it would be a pleasure to meet up with you at these places and I would show you the sights and sounds of the tea markets.  Free.

I got to drink lots of pu erh tea this year. For ripe pu erh this year, the 2004 Xiaguan ripe, the ‘04 brick from Lau Yu Fat (Hong Kong) and ’06 Hong Tai Chang cake were very impressive ripe pu erh tea in my opinion.

I was also fascinated with raw pu erh that has the smoky aroma.  I was smitten with the 2007 Xiaguan te-ji tuo.  I found the brew simply delicious and I finished 2 tuos within one month. 

For next year, I will endeavor to find out more about smoky raw pu erh tea during my travels and will continue to document those tea I have drank.  I intend to revisit some tea I had consumed ….. I did buy doubles and triples ….. and see whether what I had blogged about the teas still hold true.

In one my earliest blog on tea, I stated  “For me, its a happy and "at peace" sensation   when I taste a good cup of tea.”  After 3 years of blogging, that statement continues to summarize my tea drinking adventures. 

Thank you for reading.  Thanks for the feedback and encouragements.  Happy New Year 2012.

Saturday, December 24, 2011

Yoda drinks tea - I kid you not

I was browsing the internet when I came across this website -

The picture also from the website, had me started whipping up my credit card to make an order.  This is the one.....the tea that Master Yoda drinks.  The site describes the tea as "Dagobah Green Tea is the drink of choice of Jedi Masters. Just because a planet is devoid of civilization doesn't mean it's not civilized. Deep in the jungles of Dagobah grow the most delicious green tea leaves in the galaxy. If you need a moment alone to ponder the Force, do it while sipping a hot cup of Yoda's favorite tea."  The tea is a blend of green pu erh, white peony and matcha.  Each tin has 1 oz of tea leaves which is "enough for 14 cups."

The entire set of Vader's coffee, Hoth cocoa and Dagobah tea goes for US$29.99.  Drats! Its out of stock and its only for sale within USA.  I have 'vibered' my American friend to get me this order for me. In the movie The Empire Strikes Back, one of Yoda's quotes was "No! Try not. Do, or do not. There is no try."

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

2007 Xiaguan "te-ji" 100g tuo

This is the 2007 Xiaguan tea factory "te-ji" tuo.  Pu erh tea are usually compressed into cake, brick or tuo shapes before they are sold in the tea markets or shops.  This makes for easy storage and takes up less space as well.  If you look at the last pix, you can even see the Xiaguan logo when the tea was compressed into the factory mould.  There is a hollow at the bottom of the tuo, which I was told, helps to allow moisture to escape during the drying process.

Xiaguan tea factories are famous for their pu erh tuos and iron disc cakes.  The latter cakes refers to tea cakes that are compressed and shaped into flat cylindrical discs that normally come in the standard 357g weight.  I will purchase this disc in my next teashop visit and will put up the pix of the disc.  I should add that these tuos and disc are very tightly compressed and you would need at least a metal letter opener or a tea pick to break up your tea.  Be careful......I accidentally poke myself.......drinking tea has its hazards.

I had bought this raw pu erh tuo locally at Amoy Tea at Sims Drive.  This "te-ji" (special grade) tuo was sitting in an obscure corner of the shop when I decided to buy a tuo and give it a go.  The 1st 5 infusions was, to me, the highlight of this tea.  The aroma was a light flowery bouquet with a mild citrus scent.  In addition, there was this strong burnt-firewood scent in the tea.  I had found out that, during the pu erh processing, the tea leaves are pan fried at one stage, and wood was used as fuel in the pan frying process (there are now tea factories using electrical pans for convenience and I was told, is easier to control and get a even heat).  I had mentioned in my earlier blogs to keep all your tea away from odours as tea absorb smells easily and its hard to get rid of that scent.  This Xiaguan tuo as well as as many of the Xiaguan pu erh, had absorbed some of the burning firewood smoke,  thus the signature smoky scent in their tea.  

The highlight, to me, of this tea is that the smoky scent combined with the light flowery and citrus aroma makes this tea a wonderful brew.  I would like to add that if you have never tried a smoky pu erh like this tuo, you may need a little time to get used to it.  My wife, in her very first sip of this tea, commented on the strong smoky burnt wood scent......I told her that this scent is part of this Xiaguan tuo and told her to evaluate the entire tea again with this scent in mind.   And me, she likes this tea very much.

There are tea drinkers I know that told me the smoky aspect of a tea distorts the true taste of the pu erh.  Many will agree and disagree with this statement.  For me, you should buy and drink the tea you like.  Every tea will have its own distinct aroma and taste and every tea factory have their own style of tea processing.....which is the very reason I enjoy drinking Chinese is a wonderful adventure for me - every time with every cup.    

This 2007 Xiaguan "te-ji" tuo  comes bagged in hypo-allegernic bag (5 tuos in a bag).  I had purchased a single tuo locally from Amoy Tea for $5 to try and subsequently buying a few bags of this tea a couple of weeks later.  I would encourage you to try out a tuo if you are at the teashop  (I do not have any business interest in the shop and will not receive any commission).   Highly recommended - for $5.   

Sunday, December 4, 2011

2006 Yang Ji Tian Ripe Pu erh Cake

This is my first Hong Kong pu erh cake that I had purchased in 2007.  This is a 2006 Yang Ji Tian ripe pu erh cake.  One of the nice things about buying from pu erh teashops in Hong Kong, was that you could, most of the time, sample a tea before you part with your money for that tea.  As I drink quite a fair bit of tea, I try to sample the tea before a purchase. Yes, you are unable to sample a tea when you buy from the internet or at certain teashops....... but if its a small amount, its fine but if its expensive, I suggest you buy only from a reputable seller or just buy a sample.  I would advise you not to plonk down your money if you cannot do the above as you may regret the purchase when the tea is not up to your liking.

Back to this tea; this 357g cake feels and look thicker and bigger, but this simply means that the compression of the tea leaves is low.  I could break up the tea cake gently with just my hands and this resulted in less tea dust and fannings.  I like tea cakes with low compression as it is less dangerous for my hands (I accidentally poke myself with a tea pick when I tried to pry open a tuo last week - thats another story).    

The aroma of the tea is very strong and fragrant.  It has a earthy and a 'chinese herbal soup' scent.  This tea has similar taste characteristics of the 2004 Xiaguan ripe (see blog 6 Feb 2012)  but with a milder sweet aftertaste.  A brew can make 10 very good infusions.    This is a nice cake and I had consumed half the cake within 3 weeks.  

But I digress - I have, in the past couple months, encountered great difficulties uploading pictures on blogger.  It sometimes take more than half an hour for one picture to upload. It is doubly frustrating to see an upload error after waiting for a long time. Posting the pictures for this blog entry was very excruciating this time, and I hope readers can recommend me a solution if this problem continue to persist.