Sunday, April 24, 2016
I was taking pictures of this mushroom tea when my daughter walked by my 'photo taking' area. "What's that?". I answered pu erh tea. I went on to explain that Chinese merchants that do trade with markets outside China, usually carry their goods by horseback in those days before the age of cars and planes. There were ancient travel routes and these merchants had used horses and travelled on these routes to countries like Tibet and beyond. These merchants had also figured out compressing their tea products would help transport tea easily. Tea producers in Yunnan compressed their pu erh tea into tuo, brick and even mushroom shapes. I suppose the tea producers found these shapes best in reducing moisture within the tea after compression.
Readers would know I had purchased some 2003 Xiaguan iron cakes last year (link) and I had commented that even though the iron cake had an aged pu erh taste, I could detect a newness in the tea. It could be the very high compression had 'slowed' the aging of the tea.
I located these 2004 mushrooms during another Malaysian trip last February. These mushroom tuos had been stored in Malaysia for more than 10 years. Each mushroom weighs 250g and comes in a bag of 3.
Compression of this tea was not high. I could dismantle the mushroom, with a pu erh pick, within 10 minutes. This tea can make 10 good infusions easily. There were spicy notes with a mild sweet herbal aftertaste in the tea. I liked this tea and my brewing sessions with this tea finished quite quickly on many occasions. How does this mushroom compare to the iron cake? I felt the iron cake used a higher grade of tea leaves as evidenced by the more complex taste profile but this Xiaguan mushroom is extremely addictive due to its more aged character in the tea.
I had read that Tibetans add milk and spices to their pu erh and this tea, which was regularly drunk, was an important mild laxative for these people as the diet there did not have much fiber in the meals. I would like to highlight to my readers that drinking lots of pu erh tea especially newer raw pu erh can be quite punishing to your tummy and I would advise that you should have some food every time before a tea session.
Thursday, April 14, 2016
Readers would know that I normally bring a bit of tea with me when I travel. I would pack some pu erh, oolong as well as a few pu erh teabags in my luggage when I go overseas. Yes, I even packed extra tea when I go visit the tea markets in Guangzhou. I could share some of my tea (from my Hong Kong or Malaysian trips) with my tea drinking groups there and gather their thoughts on a particular tea or on the storage of the tea. Not a very serious session, but done in great fun. Most of the times when I am overseas and having tea with the various tea drinking groups, I had noticed a 'loyalty to their country tea' stance in these discussions. Let me explain, my friends would think that tea stored in their country is best. My Malaysian friends would say their storage of tea in Malaysia is best as the climate there is hot and humid 365 days a year and good for tea. My Hong Kong tea buddies would argue their country is best as their short 2 months of cooler winter allow the tea to rest before the cycle of tea aging starts again in Spring. What do you think? I believe pu erh tea will age in any home anywhere but the aging process will be faster or slower depending on the climate where the tea is stored. Taste and aroma will be different for a similar cake if stored in different countries and to me, that is an adventure for me; to try these tea, to make new friends and drink even more tea.
I had made a couple of trips to North America recently and I noticed brewing Chinese tea in Canadian and American hotels can be a challenge. I would like to qualify that I only stayed in the touristy hotels from Best Western, Hilton, Hyatt, Travelodge to Super 8s and while these hotel rooms are great…..super comfy and great location, I can, however, only get hot water for my Chinese tea, from the coffee dispenser machine in the room. Most of the hotel rooms I had stayed do not have a kettle but instead have a nice fancy coffee machine in the room. You would have guessed that the hot water dispensed from such machines had a coffee aroma scent in the water.
This Toyomi travel cooker may be a solution for my Chinese tea brewing when I am overseas. I had contemplated bringing a travel kettle but I settled for this cooker as I could not only get boiling water for my tea, I can heat up canned soups or even cook up some instant noodles as a late supper. Notice the cooker is packed within the pot. The handle of the pot can be 'swung' for better portability. The dual voltage switch is useful especially in America.
I will be using this travel cooker when I take a short vacation in June visiting Amsterdam and Germany (Cologne, Frankfurt and Munich). If you want to have a tea session with me, let me know and I will pack more tea for our meet up.
Sunday, April 3, 2016
This 125g shui hsien comes packed in a paper wrapper, nicely wrapped like a brick. This is the 2008 Wu-I Chen Chung Shui Hsien produced by Xiamen Tea Import and Export Co Ltd. This particular oolong product had been discontinued and I was a little lucky to lay my hands on a few packets of this tea. It was a little tough to find these tea but I managed to located a few packets from 3 tea shops in Malaysia.
This tea is good. This high roasted oolong is very mellow with a pleasant complication, in the aroma and taste, of chinese medicinal herbs and dried fruits. The tea produces a nice salivating effect and the aroma lingers nicely in the mouth after the tea session. This tea has that aged dimension in the taste which reaffirmed that good high roasted oolong would age to a very good tea and satisfy the serious oolong drinker. Old traditionally made oolong can get very expensive and are highly sought after by oolong tea collectors around the world. Be prepared to pay more than US$1000 per kilo for old oolongs made in the late 80s and early 90s.
During my tea sessions with my various tea groups overseas, I became aware of the various styles of brewing oolong, in terms of ratio of tea leaves to size of teapot. I will share my findings in a blog entry later this year. For this tea, I used 7g of oolong in a 110ml tea pot.