Sunday, October 26, 2014

2003 Sea Dyke Brand Wu-I Ta Hung Pao

Xiamen Tea Import and Export Co Ltd produces and exports large quantities of tea especially oolong to many parts of the world.  One of its brands - Sea Dyke is a popular brand whose tea can be found in many tea shops and even supermarkets worldwide.  The better quality tea are packed and sold in tins and the economical teas are sold in paper boxes.  

One of the famous 'Sea Dyke' oolong is this Da Hong Pao tea (tin spelled it as Ta-Hung-Pao).  This is a popular oolong varietal.  Quality Da Hong Pao tea can command very high prices.  The best quality Da Hong Pao tea that are harvested every year are sold at more than US$2000 for 50 grams.

The story behind this tea was that a high ranking China official was sick when he was visiting one of the Xiamen provinces.  He was tended to and was given this tea to drink while he was recovering from his illness.  When the officer was cured, he took out his royal red robe and 'wore' it on the tea plants, something like a royal honor....thus the name Da Hong Pao which means big red robe.  

Da Hong Pao tea is primarily grown in the Wuyi region of Fujian China.  Tea grown in this region are also famously called yan cha or rock tea to reflect the geographical terrain in the tea growing region there; rocky and mountainous.  

This 2003 tin of Da Hong Pao is from this region.  It is interesting to note that later versions of this tea does not have the 'Wu-I' word printed on the tin.  I believed the higher costs of Wuyi tea had prevented 'Sea Dyke' from selling Da Hong Pao tea from this region.  My guess is that present production of this tea are a blend of oolong tea from other Fujian provinces.  

Back to this tea.    I enjoy the nice wood aroma and the mild salivating sensations after drinking a cup of this tea.  I was told to drink this tea strong or concentrated and to use small teapots and teacups.  I agree to this 'small scale' brew as the aroma does linger in the mouth for some time even though I had consumed only a mouthful of tea.  

I would like to thank my good friend Su from Malaysia, who came all the way to Singapore to give me this tin of very old oolong.  

Saturday, October 18, 2014

2004 'Duoteli Brand' Liu Bao Tea

This is a 2004 Liu Bao tea from Duoteli.  This tea is made in Wuzhou, China.  Liu Bao tea is a black tea with the tea undergoing 'fermentation' as part of processing this tea.  Think ripe pu erh as pu erh do undergo fermentation for about 2 months before the tea is dried and packed away in cakes, tuos or bricks.  Liu Bao tea on the other hand, are also compressed into cakes or bricks but they are more commonly packed in loose form into large bags or baskets that may weigh from 1 kg to 30 kg.  They are also sold in smaller boxes like this 250g box I had opened.  

Liu Bao tea was a favorite with migrant Chinese workers that had came to work in tin mines in Malaysia (from late 19th century)  and it is no surprise that Malaysia is a popular place to find old aged Liu Bao (though most of these old tea are in the hands of collectors now).   I was told Liu Bao during that time was simply brewed Grandpa style, meaning a few spoonfuls of the tea is brewed in a large porcelain kettle and refilled a few times  daily with hot water when the kettle is empty.  

Today, Liu Bao tea is brewed in smaller tea gaiwans and teapots and  older Liu Bao tea (more than 30 years old) if available for sale, are expensive.  

I enjoy drinking liu bao tea.  Its aroma and taste has similarities to very old ripe tea.  I can detect strong fragrant wood and nice combinations of chinese herbs in the aroma liu bao tea.  I like to brew liu bao on the stronger side to enjoy that 'oomph'.  Let me forewarn my readers that this is an acquired taste and may not be liked by some of you.   

It is no surprise that there are some unscrupulous tea dealers that try to make a fast buck to newbie ripe tea drinkers, passing off the liu bao tea as very old ripes.  Do be careful if you are not familiar with your teas.  

Back to this 2004 liu bao tea.  This tea is very easy to drink with a nice aromatic character.  Good for 8-10 infusions.  I can only determine the date of this tea from an unopened carton that has the date printed on the carton.  The actual 250g box is undated.  I was also told that pre 2005 versions of this tea is hand-wrapped with cellophane plastic while later versions use shrink wrapped plastic.  

A nice tea but if you are living in Singapore or Malaysia, I recommend that you spend a bit more (take out your credit card) and buy the older liu bao tea, where the taste and aroma are amplified and more pronounced.  I will be visiting the tea expo in Malaysia in December and I will learn more about liu bao and share my findings with you.

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Single Hole Teapot

Do you use a teapot when you brew your Chinese tea? And you are using a Chinese teapot? is a fun quiz for you.  Can you identify, if any, a single hole teapot from the 1st 2 pix?  I will tell you the answer later.  

A single hole teapot is.......nah.....just look at pix 3.  Look at the inside of the teapot where the tea will pour out through the spout.  It is a single hole.  This is a single hole teapot.  Single hole teapots were considered older teapots and building a filter inside was considered a newer improvisation.  Pix 3 has a pretty ball filter inside.   I was told that teapot makers do not make these ball filters themselves as there are people in the same industry that specialized in ball filter production.  I will find out more on teapot making when I visit a teapot maker in China soon.  Please be aware that when you are buying Chinese teapots, single hole teapots now does not mean they are old, as some new teapots now are 'single hole' as well. 

Chinese teapot users like their teapot to pour out tea well when they use the teapot to brew tea.  A teapot is considered not good when it takes a long time to pour out tea from the pot.  Some tea friends in Malaysia use a 10 second test when they buy a teapot.  These friends will fill a teapot with water and count the time for the teapot to empty its contents.  Taking more than 10 seconds would means 'fail' and they will not buy this teapot.  

Putting a single hole teapot to the 10 second test would get you a 5 star performance.  You can understand why such teapots will pour fast.  When I started using such a teapot for the 1st time, I was hesitant that my precious tea leaves would pour out from the teapot as well.  No worries....the hydrated tea leaves expanded and stayed in the single hole teapot.  

There is a catch.  Tea leaves will sometimes get lodged in the mouth of the teapot and pouring of the tea would slow down to a trickle.  Swirling the tea while holding the teapot may not help as the leaves are seriously stuck at the 'single hole'.  Users of such teapots will usually have a bamboo food skewer or a toothpick  and use this stick, poking it in from the spout into the teapot to dislodge the tea leaves.  It is no coincidence that most single hole teapot have a straight that a user can poke and clear the tea leaves.  

The Chinese teapot had 'evolved' and you see that filters are now designed into the making of teapots.  Pix 4 & 5 are some examples.  Any tea leaves gathering around the 'holes' of the teapot can be 'swirled' out gently by the user.  For single hole teapot users, they can now buy a metal attachment to affix to the inside of the teapot, which acts as a filter and also to resolve the clogged leaf issue (see pix 6).

So which teapot should u get? Single hole, multi hole or ball filter?  If you are a Chinese teapot user, you will, eventually, own one of each.  It does make a tea brewing session more interesting.  

And....did you identify the single hole teapot from pix 1 & 2?  The answer.... there are 3 of them that are single hole, the teapot at the front of the pix is a multi hole  one.