Sunday, June 26, 2016

My European Adventures

I brought my family to Netherlands and Germany for a vacation.  My family are now so internet dependent that the hotels chosen had to have free wifi.  Not a bad thing actually as there are now apps that allow a user to key in places of interest and we could use these apps offline to locate hotels, bus routes, places and eateries and finding them with relative ease.  No more holding up a large map and figuring out the general directions.  There was  even an app where train routes could be accessed offline, when and where to switch trains and alternative routes and times in the event of missing a train connection.  

I did my tourist role dutifully eating lots of German wieners, German beer, pork knuckles and buying souvenirs.  No keychains this time (got 30+ lying in my drawer) but I bought loads of dutch cheese, westerwald pottery teacups and blocks of wood.  I discovered that eating cheese paired with ripe pu erh is pleasantly interesting.   My family gave me the look when I loaded my luggage with a few blocks of wood. These are cutting boards but I think they make suitable tea accessories for tea brewing. The top 2 pix is an alder wood board with pretty concentric age rings on the board.   I also bought a couple of olive wood boards as well.  The boards have a nice woody scent and I enjoy looking at the patterns on the olive boards. 

UK voted to 'leave' the EU while I was in Europe.  It was  an unexpected result.  A historical decision.  Economic and political repercussions?  Time will tell.  Cup of tea anyone? 

Sunday, June 12, 2016

Takahi Electric Hot Plate

I bought a Takahi electric hot plate.  Many people in this part of the world use this 'hot plate' for cooking.  I had observed that even a few coffee cafes in Singapore were seen using this hot plate for boiling water and keeping the water hot for brewing coffee. I was at such a cafe, asked a staff in charge of brewing coffee, and had received very good reviews on this model. He had used this hot plate for more than a year without issues and this plate was constantly used throughout the whole day.  I got this plate for about $50.

I had also observed a 'hot plate' in action during a recent trip to Hong Kong.  A tea drinker friend had invited me to his house for dinner and it was going to be a 打边炉 (“da bin lou” in Cantonese) dinner.  After an afternoon tea session in Hong Kong, my friend brought me to the market to buy the food for dinner that evening.  Hong Hong people love their food fresh and markets there are opened twice a day (mornings and evenings) to meet this demand.  We bought, if memory served me right, pork bones, prawns (shrimp), beef, a fish (filleted on the spot), meatballs, tofu and vegetables.  At his home, his wife cooked up some rice and took out a similar hot plate placing it on the dinner table.  A pot of water was placed on the hot plate, then adding in the pork bones as stock.  We sliced up the food we had bought and dinner was ready.  All we did was to cook the food in the simmering hot pot of soup and eating this soupy meal with a bowl of rice.  A simple and very delicious dinner. 

Back to my hot plate.  I had purchased this device mainly to pair with my tetsubin and Lin ceramic kettles.  I was advised by my friends not to use the kettles over a gas stove as such kettles perform best on a charcoal stove or an electric hot plate.  Using an electric hot plate would allow the user to control the heat allowing the water at a 'constant slow boil' which my friends claim would make the water softer.   I intend to test these claims when I use this hot plate in a tea session.  But not before a da bin lou dinner tonight!  

Wednesday, June 1, 2016

Sea Dyke Da Hong Pao 400g Tin

Sea Dyke had being busy revamping itself by introducing a wider range of tea as well as using more fancy packaging for their tea.  As a result, teas produced by Sea Dyke are now more expensive.  Maybe its the higher costs of production and the very high demand worldwide for their tea that had driven up the prices for their products.

One of their new range of products introduced in 2013 were Lao Chung Shui Hsien and Da Hong Pao 400g tinned edition.  Yes, both of these oolongs are already available and had been produced by Sea Dyke in boxes and tins.  Readers would had read my tea sessions with their Lao Chung (link) and Da Hong Pao (link).   

These 2 new offerings by Sea Dyke are different in that Sea Dyke's selling point for these 2 tins are that the tea are harvested from Wuyi mountains.  Oolongs grown in the Wuyi region are considered to be 'the original' oolong.  Traditional oolong tea drinkers attest that oolong from the Wuyi region are best and oolong harvested from certain tea reserves there can be extraordinarily expensive.  

I opened the Da Hong Pao tin (2014 edition) and you will observe that the tea are packed in tin foil packets, 10g of tea in each bag.  You get 40 packets in a large 400g tin.  The use of such tins can be really challenging if you are buying them and have to carry the tins home after your purchase.  It will take up lots of luggage space if you are flying.  However, such tins do protect the tea leaves from breaking if the tea were packed in paper boxes instead.  

You can brew this tea 3 ways.  One is economy - use 5g per session in a 80ml teapot of smaller, the other business class - all 10g in a 130ml teapot in one tea session.  10g of oolong in a 130ml teapot sound luxurious but my oolong drinker friends in Ipoh, Malaysia brews 1st class - 9.5g in a 80ml teapot.  My Ipoh oolong tea drinker friends (more in later blogs) believed that aged oolong should be appreciated and taste best under '1st class' brewing method. 

For this tea, I like brewing the tea using all 10g in a 130ml teapot.  One way to appreciate this tea is to take a sip of the tea, hold it in your mouth, take a breath of air through your teeth and then breathe out the air through your nose while holding the tea in your mouth.  This will 'envelope' your nose, mouth and throat with the aroma.  Brewing your oolong on the strong side will result in a very aromatic sensation in your mouth and nose which will linger for some time.  Of course, you have to do it gracefully. Some practice is needed if not, you will look like a dribbling or salivating baby.

I must go slow with this tea…..less than half a tin left after 2 months of opening.