Monday, December 23, 2013
One of my most pleasant purchases during my visit to the Malaysia Cultural tea expo last month (link) was this ripe pu erh. Visitors to the expo could purchase this 1996 ripe pu erh for a price of 68RM (US$23) for a set of 3 tuos. Each tuo was 100g each so it seemed to be a good bargain. Yes, no sampling and you are buying blind.
Breaking up the tuo was a simple 1 minute procedure with a letter opener. I am happy to say that this tuo was one of the better ripe tea I had drank this year. Brewing the tea with a little bit more tea leaves resulted in a very aromatic and flavorful session. There were even an unusual hint of camphor and leather in this tea. I like. However, I discovered that a tea session of brewing this tuo could only get me 5-6 good infusions, leaving subsequent infusions very weak.
Christmas is 2 days away. To all my readers, Merry Christmas! Yes, I was a bit lazy this year and I did my Christmas shopping for my family, via the internet. Got something for myself too - from Japan and its tea related. Show you when it arrives, hopefully tomorrow.
Friday, December 13, 2013
I had just purchased a Chinese tea art scroll. I am not trained in art appreciation but I tend to buy those art pieces that appealed to me. Last year, I had purchased Japanese tea art scrolls (link) and had wanted to frame up these art pieces on my wall, something I had procrastinated. Perhaps the cost of framing such art scrolls is high enough to give me a reason to delay visiting the art framing company.
I bought this Chinese art scroll because it was 'tea' theme. As you will have observed from the pix (click the pix for a larger view), the depiction of a tea drinking session (suppose to be a tea competition) caught my eye. The seller told me that this was an old painting scroll done by Xiang Wen Yan. I had actually took this art scroll to my framers and my framing friend, told me that this scroll seem like an old woodblock print. I am totally new and have zero experience in such art pieces.......just happy its a 'tea' theme art piece. As this scroll measured more than 2 meters in length, the cost of framing this artwork was exorbitant....."%&*$#@#!!!!" (censored).....I feel better now.
Thursday, December 5, 2013
This exhibition was held in Viva Home Mall from 29 Nov - 3 Dec 2013. Viva Home Mall is actually a shopping mall specializing in stores that provide furnishing needs for homes. This mall has an exhibition hall that is big enough for events like this Tea and Chinese Cultural Expo. The location of this mall is convenient and a LRT (subway) stop is located next to it making my travel to the tea expo very convenient and comfortable.
Yes, if are a regular reader of my tea blog, you will have noticed that this tea expo closely resembled previous Malaysian tea expos I had visited for the past 3 years. Most of the local tea shops and tea dealers are represented in this expo. The Xiaguan and Dayi booths were the main feature booths. I noted that there is a new Malaysian Chen Sheng Hao distributor which also had a booth there. Such tea fairs are important in Malaysia as the tea drinking population, collectors and speculators can gather and be updated on the tea scene in Malaysia. I was told that Dayi Tea Factory is taking up a bigger presence in Malaysia by opening a Dayi showroom In Malaysia. I will update my readers on this news when I get them.
There were also Chinese cultural events like a Chinese Chess competition for kids. Not very serious as you can observed from the pix, no chess clocks but the kids seem to be very absorbed in their games when the competition began. Chinese chess is slightly different from International Chess (congratulations to Magnus Carlson who became the new world chess champion last month) in that the chessmen are positioned on the chess lines on the chessboard. In Chinese Chess, the king and 2 queens can only move within a small area on the chessboard and the pawns do not get promoted when the pawns had marched to the end of the board. Chinese chess has cannon pieces where the player must hop over a chess piece to make a capture. Interesting!!!
I had managed to snagged 1996 Mengku tuos; 3 tuos for 68rm and 2 of 2006 Dayi green peacock raw pu er cakes at the tea fair and.......1.5kg of 90s liu bao packed in a pretty rattan basket.
This tea expo is well organized. I am happy to meet up with all my Malaysian friends and had a good time drinking tea with them. I managed to catch a movie, in the evening, at the mall. Girl on Fire!
Monday, November 25, 2013
I made an order from teaurchin.com. I selected a pu erh tea cake and a tea caddy. Making a selection from Teaurchin's website was simple. Payment was made through Paypal site. My order arrived on 19 Nov, exactly 19 days from placing my order.
I choose a 2013 Bao Tang Pu erh which Eugene and Belle, the proprietors of Teaurchin, had went personally to Yunnan to source this tea. Eugene warned me in a handwritten note that this tea 'packs a wallop'. I had also purchased a tea caddy as well. The unusual design of this tea caddy was simply too irresistible.
The above pix shows the secure packing of the items I had ordered. Yes, Eugene did include a complimentary tea sample and a pu erh pick. The sample was a 2013 Yiwu Year of Snake pu erh tea which Teaurchin had produced. I brewed the sample and found this tea, to my surprise, very drinkable.....no bitterness or astringency. I felt that the tea had very nice floral notes and a nice sweetish aftertaste. A refreshing tea.
This order came up to US$127 (pu erh $58, tea caddy $49, air freight $20).
Monday, November 18, 2013
Rougui is a name of a chinese cooking herb that taste like cinnamon. I do not know why this particular oolong is called Rougui. It is however amusing to note that a couple of online teashops describing their Rougui in their store as 'taste and smell like spicy cinnamon'.
Rougui oolong does not taste spicy or has any cinnamon aroma. It however has a very pleasant highly aromatic floral scent that stays in the mouth for some time after you had drank a cup of Rougui. I could detect some woody notes that nicely complemented the floral scent of the tea.
Rougui is a very popular oolong in China and the better rougui teas are known to be expensive. Rougui oolong is primarily called Wuyi Rougui as the tea leaves are primarily harvested from the Wuyi region in Fujian, China.
Pix 1-3 shows a tin of Rougui produced by Fujian Tea Import & Export Co Ltd. This 125g tea locally retails around US$25. I have a Rougui tea drinker that recommended me to buy this tin as he felt that the Rougui was of good quality for its price. While brewing this tea, my daughter could detect this sweet floral scent from quite a distance and even asked for a cup of tea.
Pix 4-5 showed a gift I had received from a Guangzhou tea friend. This Rougui was produced in the 90s, is based on a 1989 Rougui processing method. I have no idea of the taste. Must be good, I suppose. But....I am keeping this 50g pack of tea, unopened in its original factory sealed wrapper.
Monday, November 11, 2013
For many pu erh tea drinkers round the world, pu erh stored in Hong Kong (HK) is a subject of interest that is commonly discussed over a cup of tea, in internet forums and in teashops. Traditional Hong Kong stored pu erh is..... pu erh that has been stored in Hong Kong warehouses where the humidity is much higher than a regular Hong Kong home. These warehouses are usually located away from the city and may even be found in the countryside. These warehouses, I was told, are only opened when the teashops add or remove pu erh stocks. As a result, the pu erh are stored in an enclosed warehouse or room, and the higher humidity had helped developed this Hong Kong stored tea. Hong Kong tea drinkers had nicknamed this tea as "yap chong" pu erh - literally pu erh tea that 'had entered a warehouse'.
The difference in this traditional HK stored tea is in the taste and aroma. The pu erh tasted older and more mature for its age. I had purchased a '06 CNNP ripe cake (see pix) in HK 2 years ago that is traditionally stored. The tea, tasted and felt more like a very old tea.....something like older than a 10-15 year old pu erh. It closely resembled an old ripe tea......aroma of the tea was an old, slightly musty wooden scent. The taste was very mellow and very pleasant to drink. I had also just finished a traditional HK stored raw pu erh and that tea had an old, wooden matured taste. It is my opinion that such storage in an enclosed high humidity room had accelerated the aging of the pu erh tea.
Wow! Wouldn't tea drinkers round the world rush to buy such HK traditional stored Pu erh teas? It is cheaper than real old aged pu erh. I had paid about US$50 for this '06 ripe cake (see and click on the above pix).
However......such teas are not aged tea. Yes, the taste somewhat resembled the very old aged pu erh that tea drinkers and collectors enjoy, but I would like to emphasize the word : "resembled'. The taste and aroma is close, in my opinion about 60% close. My opinion is that for such traditional HK stored tea....the herbal characteristic is much lower and for raw pu erh tea, the aroma and taste are not as pronounced as old aged raw pu erh tea. I could detect a very mild hint of dampness in the tea which I suppose is the reason why some pu erh tea drinkers do no like such tea. It is an acquired taste. I find that drinking HK traditional stored tea tasted best when hot or warm but is unpleasant when the tea had cooled down.
It is important that pu erh tea drinkers are able to distinguish the difference between HK traditional stored pu erh tea and aged pu erh. You may be cheated by an unscrupulous tea seller, trying to sell you 'very old pu erh' at very high prices.
I enjoy drinking HK traditional stored pu erh teas. Such teas are harder to find in Hong Kong as the prices of real estate are astronomically high and many of these old tea warehouses had made way for new housing developments. Do not be surprised that some Hong Kong tea shops do not stock the traditional HK stored pu erh, due to non availability but instead are selling the regular stored pu erh on their shelves. It is very interesting to note that a few tea drinker friends described the regular stored pu erh as having a 'clean' taste and aroma. You, the reader can conclude the description given to the traditional HK pu erh.
But I digressed. There are many occasions I had read from tea forums and blogs (mine included) about drinking a particular tea and giving one's thoughts on the tea. Many tea drinkers who owned such a tea would have different opinions on their tea. I felt one of the main reason, beside a personal taste preference, was that the storage conditions and climate may had caused the tea to taste different. A solution would be having a tea drinker to share his tea with 5-6 other tea drinkers. This tea drinker, when he opens a tea cake, would split this tea into 5-6 portions (about 50-60g per portion). No freebies of course, but the 5-6 other tea drinkers would pay for their share (and postage if necessary). This tea would then be assessed on the internet within a month of receiving the tea.......which would make the discussion more meaningful and hopefully more fun. I would like to be in such group.
Saturday, October 26, 2013
Most people will associate the term 'yearbook' with the times spent in school, college and university. I am sure with your school yearbook, you can recollect your fonder memories of your exuberant youth. Were you watching Star Wars or Aliens movies? Maybe you were dancing to Black Eyed Peas or Village People (yes!, there was such a group). On the television, were you following X-files or the Six Million Dollar Man? (yes again, this was a famous TV series some time ago).
This Xiaguan yearbook 2009-2010 is a record of all the Xiaguan puerh tea produced in 2009-2010. Beautiful photographs of the pu erh tea and their respective packaging are properly listed. You will also read a little history of Xiaguan factory. Its a fascinating book especially if you drink, collect or invest in pu erh. Click pix for larger views.
Xiaguan tea factory is one of the major puerh tea producers and this yearbook is a testimony of the range of puerh made and sold by Xiaguan in 2009, from tuos, bricks, cakes and even mushroom shaped tuos. There are many puerh tea drinkers that are fans of Xiaguan tea - I am one of them.
Tuesday, October 15, 2013
Tuocha in a teabag? That was the question in my mind when I saw this box. I really had a 2nd and 3rd look. It was inexpensive and I bought it.
This tuocha teabag seem to suggest it was a Xiaguan production. The colorful green design seem to originate from the famous tuocha round box that housed a ripe tuocha wrapped in a Xiaguan brown paper wrapper. However, a closer look at this teabag box did not reveal the name of the tea company, just "China Yunnan Tea Branch". I suspect that this might not be a Xiaguan production. I might be wrong.
Click on the 2nd pix for a bigger view and do enjoy the 'lost in translation' humor where this black tea becomes a dark red tea after brewing. And yes, "Minimum recommended quantity : 4 cups a day".
I think I might buy another box to try the tea. I will keep an unopened one for keepsake.
Wednesday, October 9, 2013
Tuesday, October 1, 2013
I opened a 2008 Haiwan 'high mountain' ripe pu erh cake. The tea leaves as indicated by the enclosed information sheet, were harvested from tea grown in higher elevations of 1700 feet.
The phrase 'high mountain tea' brought back some memories of my earliest tea adventures to Alishan Taiwan to explore the Taiwan high mountain oolong (see my 1st 3 blogs). My recollections were these regions were less densely populated with agriculture being the main activity. I hope to visit Yunnan next year and hope to get a better understanding of pu erh tea grown in Yunnan.
Haiwan tea factory produces pu erh tea under its 'Lao Tong Zhi' brand. I was particularly interested in this cake as in 2009, I had bought a premium range of Lao Tong Zhi ripe pu erh that had used tea from 'high mountains' as well. I opened this cake as I wanted a sneak preview (something like that) of the 2009 cakes I had brought back home 4 years ago. I will start drinking these 2009 cakes next year.
I do feel a bit sad that my older collection of ripe tea pre 2006 is getting less. I had drank most of them. I now understand why collectors are reluctant to cash in their old pu erh cakes and rather keep and drink for themselves.
Back to this 357g cake. You would have noticed from the above pix that there are brown patches on the wrapper and inner labels in the cake. No worries. These are tea stains (I was told tea oil) that may naturally occur during storage. The tea is not spoilt or affected in any way. The compression of this cake needed me to use a metal letter opener to pry open this cake. With a little patience, I broke the cake up into smaller pieces within 10-15 min.
The aroma and taste of this tea cake ....I am quite happy. Simple, earthy with a mildly sweet aftertaste. Nothing extraordinary but a pleasant tea session. I finished half the cake within a fortnight.
Sunday, September 22, 2013
NO! I did not steam a pu erh cake.
Look at the enclosed information and instructions that came with this 2006 Mengku cake (click pix 2 for enlarged view). The instructions to break up the cake was "Shell the tea biscuit first, steam and knead it in loose state ready for use". This "steam" instructions were clear and not a mis-translation from Chinese to English.
So is 'steaming' to break up a tea cake correct? The instructions did came from a renowned tea factory. I asked many pu erh tea drinking friends in Singapore, Malaysia, Hong Kong, Taiwan and Guangzhou. This is what I found out.
You do not break up a pu erh tea cake by steaming the tea cake.
All my tea drinking friends and proprietors of tea shops I know do not steam their pu erh cakes. This is what I surmised after talking to them about this steaming method - Adding moisture deliberately to a tea cake by steaming is not good. This excessive moisture will affect and 'spoil' the tea leaves and would make brewing tea with these leaves unpleasant. Moreover, if this steamed tea are not drunk and kept in a tea caddy, the tea may turn moldy due to the higher moisture content in the tea leaves.
You will not see this 'steaming' instructions in newer cakes.
Old traditional Hong Kong storage of pu erh cakes are different. Here the tea is stored in warehouses that are slightly more humid. The storage time of the tea are controlled and checked..... and are taken out of the warehouses when the desired level of storage is achieved, about 6 months to a year (I will verify this again).
I break open a tea cake with just my hands if possible. If the compression of a tea cake is high, I would use a metal letter opener or a pu erh pick (resembles a mini ice pick) and gently pry open the cake into smaller pieces so I can loosen up the tea leaves.
Anyway, back to this cake. I had enjoyed this cake and I am happy I had purchased a few of these cakes when I had visited Guangzhou back in 2009. I normally use 8g to a 180-200g teapot but for this tea, I add 2g extra to make a brew. This enhances the strong chinese herb aroma. I particularly like this comforting tea and would brew it just before my bed time.
Sunday, September 15, 2013
This is a Kamjove Press Art Tea Cup 500ml. This 'apparatus' can brew an excellent cup of Chinese tea. This Kamjove would make a very nice conversation piece when you brew tea with it for your friends. The brewing method looks high-tech but it is easy to use.
This inexpensive (about US$10-12) Kamjove comes in 2 parts. One is the glass jar with handle and the other part; a brewing food grade plastic brewer that rest in the glass jar. Brewing tea is very simple. As illustrated in the 2nd pix, scoop the tea leaves into the brewer (scoop is provided as well), pour hot/boiling water. When tea is ready, press button,which releases a valve below the brewer and your tea will pour down into the glass jar. Lastly serve and enjoy the tea.
You will notice in the last pix that there is a fine mesh in the brewer. This will prevent any tea leaves from clogging or blocking the pour out valve. Cleaning this Kamjove is relatively easy and detergent can be used to wash this tea making set.
This Kamjove does brew Chinese tea satisfactorily in the sense that you can control the brewing strength and prevent overbrewing simply by judging the color of the tea in the brewer. When the tea had been 'released' in to the tea jar, the tea leaves remained separated from the tea and kept 'dry' for subsequent infusions. (see pix 1)
This Kamjove appears fanciful but it does make a good cup of tea. In fact, Mr Lau of Hong Kong's Lau Yu Fat teashop used a similar set to brew tea when my Singapore tea friend was at his shop last month.
Inexpensive and I would recommend you get one. Easy and fun to use.
Monday, September 9, 2013
I bought this brick during my recent trip in Guangzhou. This is a 2003 Xiaguan raw brick 250g. From what I gathered about this tea, this Xiaguan brick was not individually wrapped. No wrapper - naked, and placed in a carton of 80 bricks (if memory serves me correct). My Guangzhou teashop people told me that such tea were meant to be shipped to Hong Kong, which was the main export market for most of the pu erh tea, but some cartons were purchased by local tea shops in Guangzhou as well. These tea bricks were very inexpensive during that time with no premium prices attached to such tea.
But I digress. It has been 4 years ever since my first visit to the Guangzhou tea markets. I had noticed a few significant changes. There are even more teashops at the Fangcun tea markets. Most importantly, prices of tea had gone up.....a lot!! The general cost of living had risen significantly these past 4 years; labour costs doubled, rents and property prices more than doubled, raw commodities are more expensive partly due to the higher standard of living, higher demand and the not too good weather China had experienced these couple of years. In other words.....tea prices are up. Add on the fact, there is some speculative elements these 2 years due to the more affluent consumer, new prices of tea like new pu erh cakes can command as high as US$80-100. I would argue that the tea shops are not making a killing of us, the tea buyer. The teashop owner is now faced with higher tea prices, higher staff costs and rentals and may not have much of a choice that the new tea sold today are significantly more expensive. Many smaller Guangzhou tea shops are family run business, and their livelihood are solely dependent on selling tea. Prices have to be competitive as there are thousands of similar shops in the tea market.
However, this situation had caused an anomaly - the older teas that are unsold and/or still on display at the teashops may be cheaper or compare favorably (price wise) to the new teas.
Back to this tea. This is a 10 year old tea. When I brew the tea, there were slight hints of an aged tea. Nice light woody notes of sandalwood and camphor with a mild fresh herb aroma. I could sense this pu erh tea brick when new was a smoky tea, but this smokiness had dissipated, over time and perhaps the brick was packed without a wrapper. Quite a mellow tea. This tea had exceeded my expectations. It is made more pleasant that it was sold at a faction of the price of a new tea. Don't forget; you would, for your new cakes, store it away for 5-10 years to achieve some aged tea taste.
However I would like to warn my readers not to jump for joy and start twerking when you come across such good-priced 'older' teas. It is very important that you sample the tea before you purchase. Make sure you like it.