Sunday, May 26, 2013
A reader wrote to me commenting on my ripe pu erh blog entries. He observed that my blogs on ripe pu erh tea were somewhat similar with small differences between the different ripe pu erh tea that I had drank and written. I am not insulted but very happy instead.....really.
I am happy because one of my purpose on my ripe pu erh blogs was to highlight the differences from one ripe tea cake to another. Yes, I agree that a cursory look and even a sip of ripe pu look and taste similar. But for serious ripe pu erh tea drinkers, the differences in the aroma, taste, aftertaste and overall impressions after having a tea session of ripe pu erh is distinct and obvious. So far, I had came across aromas like a dried dates, longans and even the scent of a new leather bound book (sounds weird but I like that). I have tasted ripe pu that resemble a double boiled chinese herbal soup or woody like or resembling freshly toasted bread. Some pu erh may have a vanilla-like or a hint of a creamy taste. There are so many aromas and taste sensations of ripe pu erh as you can read from my blogs. My intention of my blogs is simple.....to share my experiences and adventures from drinking Chinese tea and in a tiny way to help my readers be aware of the different taste and aromas of the teas I had drank, so if a reader may have a particular preference (like he or she may looking for a 'leather' scented pu), it would be helpful. Yes, we tea drinkers are a little different.
This 2007 Yong De ripe cake was purchased from Yunnan Sourcing, I think in 2009 and kept till now. Scott of Yunnan Sourcing had recommended this cake as one of his favorite ripe pu. I can understand why as this cake is very smooth. A nice woody aroma with a nice hint of a creamy vanilla scent. Nice warm sensation after the tea session.
But a digress.....The 2013 Tea Expo in Kuala Lumpur Malaysia will be on the 15th June (1 week expo) this year. Its held at the Tropicana Mall. I will be there. I have just booked my air tickets and hotel accomodation. Tea-jamming time!!!!
Saturday, May 11, 2013
This very interesting article below is written by Taylor Orci appeared in The Alantic 8 April 2013. (http://www.theatlantic.com/health/archive/2013/04/are-tea-bags-turning-us-into-plastic/274482/)
Here's what happened: I was making tea one day, waiting for my water to get hot, and I started reading the box. It touted the fact that the company didn't use "silky" plastic tea bags, which prompted my the question, "Wait... silky tea bags are plastic tea bags?"
I'd used "silky" or "mesh" tea bags before, and as someone who is turned off by the idea of eating heated plastic, I never made the connection that "silky" didn't actually mean silk, and "mesh" isn't really a specific thing at all. More put off by the fact I'd been had than anything else, I wanted to find out if my alarm about using plastic tea bags had any real basis to it.
At first blush, "silky tea bags" sound like drinkable luxury. Often pyramidal in shape, this type of tea bag is supposed to have higher quality -- sometimes even whole leaf -- tea inside, a departure from the "dust" in most tea bags. If the quality isn't higher, the tea is definitely more colorful. The see-through mesh allows you to view what looks like edible potpourri.
Tea companies are very forthcoming in the pains they've gone through to adopt such an innovative design. Boasts one website, "In 2000, Revolution started a full-scale uprising, overthrowing the paper tea bag in favor of the first flow-through Infuser bag." Another site, Tea Forte, explains adopting the silky tea bag because "[They] wanted to create a total sensory and emotional experience that was relevant to life today." What many of these sites don't mention is that these silky tea bags, (or "sachets," or "infusers," or "sculptural works of art," etc.) are plastic. Or, in the case of a few companies such as Mighty Leaf, corn plastic.
The idea of a plastic tea bag might be unpalatable for folks for a number of reasons, the most clear-cut being the contribution to landfill waste, but additionally because heating plastic can rouse alarm in consumers. That's probably why tea companies like to describe their silken sachets as a quality compromise for loose leaf lovers who "are switching to [mesh tea bags] as their lives get more hectic," instead of emphasizing "get the plastic hot and then drink the thing it was in." For these reasons, some tea companies like Numi even use their lack of plastic tea bags as a selling point.
Could plastic tea bags also be bad for our health? They are most commonly made from food grade nylon or polyethylene terephthalate (PET), which are two of the safest plastics on the scale of harmful leaching potential. Both have very high melting points, which offer some assurance to consumers, as one would think the melting point of plastic is the temperature at which one would need to worry about accidentally eating it.
There is another temperature point for plastics, though, that we may need to worry about, called the "glass transition" temperature (Tg) . That is the temperature at which the molecule in certain materials such as polymers begin to break down. As a rule, the Tg of a material is always lower than the melting point. In the case of PET and food grade nylon (either nylon 6 or nylon 6-6), all have a Tg lower than the temperature of boiling water. For example, while the melting point of PET is 482 degrees Fahrenheit, the Tg is about 169 degrees. Both nylons have a lower glass transition temperature than PET. (Remember that water boils at 212 degrees.) This means the molecules that make up these plastic tea bags begin to break down in hot water.
"If the question is, 'As the polymer goes through that transition state, is it easier for something to leach out?', the answer is yes," said Dr. Ray Fernando, professor and director of polymers and coatings at Cal Poly San Luis Obispo. "However, just because it makes it easier for something to leach out, it doesn't mean it will." There seems to be something in the plastic collective consciousness that says there are inherently toxins in all plastics, and when they begin to break down, they will naturally gravitate toward food. "This would only happen if there are potential materials trapped in the substance. What we don't know is what FDA requirements manufacturers have to meet before they go to market," sais Dr. Fernando.
There is also a matter of whether or not the leachate is hydrophobic or hydrophilic. If hydrophobic pollutants were potentially in the plastic tea bag materials, their nature would be to stay in the bag and not go frolicking into the water and into your mouth.
So polymers will only leach out harmful chemicals, like cancer causing phthalates, at their glass transition temperature if there are said phthalates to begin with. It almost seems silly to think that either of these materials would have toxins to begin with, considering we eat off of them and in them. That's what food standards are for, right? The Lipton website reassures us their Pyramid Tea Bags made of PET are "the same food grade material clear water and juice bottles are made of and ... are microwave safe." That sounds, well ... safe.
But then there are studies like this: In 2009, a study found that single-use PET plastic water bottles were found to have estrogen-mimicking pollutants in them. Such toxins have been linked to cancer. If PET is found in these water bottles, the same material Lipton claims to use in their plastic tea bags, it's fair to say there is a chance these tea bags are leaching toxins into the tea they're brewing. Further, this study did not look at the glass transition temperature and how that could increase the leaching of said toxins. And while this study is only about PET plastic, it is logical to question if nylon has the same potential.
"The consumer doesn't have a way to know how to choose a safe plastic," said Stephen Lester, science director for the Center for Health, Environment & Justice. He made mention of a study decades ago where researchers found putting hot liquids in styrofoam cups could be harmful. If I was at a party that was serving hot cocoa in styrofoam cups, I probably wouldn't decline it -- the same with plastic tea bags. It's not like I'm unaware they may pose a health risk, but I unconsciously file them under the heading of, "probably not so bad." But this may be at my own peril. There's just no comprehensive way of knowing.
In our discussion, Dr. Fernando departed from talking about the sexy topic of polymer toxicity potential for a moment and mentioned that paper manufacturing is also highly polluting, "[Regarding the paper tea bag] paper is a very chemically intensive process. But the thing is we've been using the [paper] bag for a long time, so we know it's okay." One would love to soothe the nerves agitated by this topic with a scintillating cup of White Tea with Island Mango and Peach, if only one knew for sure it was okay.
My polymers expert made mention-- and I agree, that to test the level of phthalates in tea made from plastic tea bags would be an easy one to conduct. So I contacted the Center for Health, Environment, and Justice to see if they had any such study in their databases. As helpful as they were digging up many peer reviews about plastic, tea, and toxicity, a study about the toxicity of plastic tea bags couldn't be found. I also contacted the Center for Disease Control -- the disease here being cancer which has been linked to phthalates, and asked the same thing, but as of this writing I've yet to hear back.
Saturday, May 4, 2013
I was gifted with a tin full of old shui hsien. One of my tea friends had gone to Taiwan for holidays and had bought some tea there and this tin was given to me.
Looking at this 6 inches (15cm) high tin, I observed that this is a lao chong shui hsien tea produced in Fujian, China, namely Wuyishan General Tea Factory. I have no idea on the age of this tea but it should be old - telephone number on the tin is 5 digits while its 7 digits in china now (less the area code). I would put the tea to be at least 12-15 yrs old....minimum.
Taking a whiff inside the tin, I could detect this tea was a high roasted....meaning it should have kept well. I had opened a green TGY last month which I had kept for 2 years and the brewed tea tasted yucky. But I believe that high roasted oolongs are able to store well.
This shui hsien aroma was slightly woody, nice shui hsien floral scent with a sweet finish. It is a very nice tea. My limited experience with Shui Hsien seems to indicate that older Shui Hsien tasted more mellow, in that the sharp finish is not present but instead a wood and herb aroma is more pronounced in the tea. My opinion is reinforced with a sample of an old shui hsien given to me by Su, a famous tea collector in Malaysia. This tea was even more aromatic.....strong intense woody aroma and sweet aftertaste. The difference in taste was so great compared to a new tea that it was initially hard to tell that it was Shui Hsien.
However, I would like to point out to my readers that buying old oolongs like this is very tricky. Prices for such teas has no guide price. It is best you get to sample the tea before a purchase. Don't buy too much.....there is always another tea out there.