Sunday, May 21, 2017

Teabag Shopping







I have a friend that drinks and collects Chinese tea bags as hobby.  I never thought that collecting Chinese tea bags can be a hobby.  Most of his teabags were already factory packed in boxes and these boxes were normally factory wrapped in clear plastic.  Chinese teabag boxes normally comes in a box of 20 teabags or in larger boxes of 100 teabags.These boxes are quite colourful and are sometimes decorated with nice drawings usually about tea.  One tip, I got from my friend, is not to expose the tea boxes  to prolonged light as the colours on the tea boxes will fade.  My tea friend is pretty serious in his collection keeping his tea boxes mint in carton boxes and only displaying those which he has multiple 'copies/boxes'.  

I met him for lunch last month and we went round a few shops in town looking for Chinese teabags to add to his collection.  You would have noticed that I ended up with 2 tea boxes and a rice pattern porcelain jar.  I believe the right description is a milk pot/jar.  This unused late 80s milk pot is 4 inches (10cm) high and I am guessing would hold about 350ml of tea.  Yes, I intend to brew tea in it and it would be brewing with Chinese tea bags.  I was also considering to use it as a small tea waste jar when I am brewing tea by myself.  A happy purchase.

Back to the teabags.  The Da Hong Pao is produced by  Xiamen Tea Import and Export Co under the 'Butterfly' Brand.   The Yunnan Tuocha teabag is not produced in Yunnan but by Guangdong Tea Import and Export Ltd.  There were French words on the labels of this Pu erh tea box which seems to indicate that one of the major markets for this pu erh was France.  I was not surprised as I had seen a 80s Xiaguan ripe tuo in box, printed with information about the tea in French.  

I found the Da Hong Pao tea light.  Its not the teabag's fault though.  I drink my Da Hong Pao very strong, up to 10g of tea for a 150ml teapot.  The 2g of tea in the teabag was mild.  I could detect the floral scents and oolong taste but I think using 2 teabags next time might be a better solution for me.  The pu erh teabag was, to me, a more interesting purchase.  One teabag could get me a strong cup of ripe pu erh (better results when you use boiling water for teabags).  Aroma was quite pleasant and it even had hints of old leather scent in the tea.  

Buying Chinese tea in teabags will not burn a hole in your wallet.  They make for a good and inexpensive tea when you are on the road.  Can be an interesting hobby too.  

Sunday, May 14, 2017

Colourful Teapot










This teapot is called "Tao Se shui ping hu".  'Tao Se' literally means colourful teapot, while 'shui ping hu' refers to the classical design of this teapot.  

Colourful teapot here meant that 2 different clays were used in the production of the teapot.  You will notice the red clay used for the body while a greenish clay for the spout, teapot cover nob and the handle of the teapot.  'Colourful' teapots was quite popular for a period in the 80s.  One of the teapots in the last pix is a duan ni (yellow clay) and green clay combination.

You would had noticed that the teapot lid wall literally stands out.  Known as 'gai chiang' (lid wall), the wall is noticeably longer or higher than modern Chinese teapots.  This 'high wall' has an advantage in that when you pour tea from the teapot, you can actually tilt the teapot at a more forward angle without worrying the lid falling off as the 'high wall' would be working to keep the teapot cover on.

The disadvantage of this 'high wall' is that it will displace some tea when the lid is on.  For this small teapot, the displacement is significant.  Let me explain, I could fill about 75ml of tea to the brim of this teapot, but once the lid is on, only 60ml of tea can be retained in the teapot.  For Chinese teapot collectors, Chinese teapot capacity is measured with the lid on.  

A fun teapot to use.  Makes great tea as well.

Sunday, May 7, 2017

2009 Haiwan Lao Tong Zhi Brand - Yue Chen Yue Xiang Ripe Pu erh








I opened this cake a few weeks ago.  I had purchased this tea from the Guangzhou Haiwan distributor 6 years ago and wanted to check on the progress of storing and aging this tea in Singapore.  

Haiwan tea factory had produced a special range of tea in 2009 and I was lucky to bought some of these tea while I was in Guangzhou.  I am a fan of this tea factory and I especially enjoy their ripe tea production.

'Yue Chen Yue Xiang' is simply a Chinese phrase meaning - the longer you store the more fragrant it becomes.  This phrase is commonly used in many pu erh tea labels and many tea factories have their own versions of 'Yue Chen Yue Xiang'.  Do not walk into a tea shop asking for pu erh tea with this phrase and you might end up a number of pu erh tea cakes with such phrases on their wrappers.  

This ripe tea brews up a very strong session of tea.  7g in a 140ml teapot got me 8 strong jet black syrupy ripe pu erh tea.  Some of Haiwan's ripe tea brews up strong and I would advise drinkers to cut back a little when they have a Haiwan ripe tea session.  This tea has nice earthy and wood notes.  Smooth and faintly sweet.  A nice tea session for an afternoon break.  




Sunday, April 30, 2017

Black Million Flower Porcelain - Small Tea Set










I owned some 80s "Black Million Flower" porcelain in their original unopened packing and had posted pictures of these pieces last year (link).

This label of 'Black Million Flower' is a name given by local porcelain collectors to this design that was produced in China in the 80s.  If you read the Chinese writing on the box in the 2nd pix, the written description was 'ten thousand flower' design.  I suppose and agree that 'million flower' sounded better for this porcelain.

I managed to get an unopened and mint in box 'million flower' tea set last month.  As you will observe, this set came with a teapot, 4 cups and a tea tray.  The tea tray,  to me, was the highlight of the purchase.  The colourful flowers that were hand decorated on the tray was very captivating.  I believe that this is the only porcelain decoration made in China in the 80s that reflected the the bold colours and variety of flowers on a unique black background.

The only chop or seal markings on this set were only found on the bottom of the teapot (pix 3). 





Wednesday, April 19, 2017

Cambodian Kampot Pepper and Lemongrass Infusion






I bought this tin of 'tea' when I was in Cambodia last December.  This is a blend of crushed Kampot pepper seeds with dried lemon grass strips.  This tin held 30 grams of 'tea' and came nicely packed in a fancy looking aluminium tin. This packing is suitable for tourists and this product should do well as a Cambodian souvenir.  

The instructions say to add 2g into a cup and adding hot water would get me a cup of Kampot pepper tea.  Kampot pepper is a famous pepper grown in the Kampot province in Cambodia.  I enjoy cooking and I found this Kampot pepper to be one of the spiciest pepper I had came across.  It is hot and aromatic and would make a nice addition to your spice rack.

I brewed up a cup with 2g of this 'tea' and found the tea pleasant.  The pepper pods and lemongrass float to the surface and I suggest you spoon these away before you start drinking.  I added honey in my second session and my family preferred this sweetened version.  

A fun drink.  

Thursday, April 6, 2017

2004 Xiaguan 'Old Smoky' Tuo







I was at the Xiaguan distributor in Guangzhou last month and was sampling some of their tea when the manager there asked me whether I would be interested in an older raw pu erh tuo that is considered by the store to be one of the smokiest Xiaguan tea in his store.  I was immediately interested.

I like smoky raw pu erh tea.  Yes, a few reader friends dislike the smoke and a few do think it is like having a cigarette after a tea session.  I think the smokiness adds an additional dimension to raw pu erh.  This is especially seen in older raw pu erh (10 years or more) where the smokiness would had receded over time leaving a faint smoky scent.  I like old raw with this faint smoke.  I feel such tea gives a more punchy taste and feel and makes a tea session more enjoyable.  Interestingly, most vintage tea cakes (20 years or more) do have that faint smoky signature and these old vintages are today very highly sought after and highly prized as well. 

I named this tea 'Old Smoky'....it is 13 years old and the smoke is strong in the tea.  This tea is smooth and the smoke is strong especially in the 1st 4 infusions.  I found the smokiness had made this tea slightly 'ginger spicy' in the aroma.  Interestingly, the tea has a very light hint of fruity sweetness in the later infusions.  

For readers who are interested in 'Old Smoky', I have made this 100g tuo available in my online store (link).

Tuesday, March 28, 2017

Vintage Korean Celadon Teacups














I recently purchased a set of Korean Celadon teacups online.  The seller indicated that this 5 teacups were made by Kim Jonmoku Tongoku. I have no idea about this maker and I would need my Korean readers to give me more input on the maker as well as on Korean celadon.  I had noticed that there are many Koreans that enjoy drinking Chinese tea and many of these drinkers do take very nice pictures of their tea and tea ware and posted online especially on Instagram. Do check them out.

I found these teacups fascinating as the looked like they were made from jade when held against the light.  The signature 'cracked' glazed lines seen on the cups gave the impression that these cups were delicately made. 

I am very fascinated with teacups.  I felt that Chinese tea does taste different with different teacups.  Lin purion teacups were unique that they held heat very well (the cup stays hot for a long time) and the tea tasted very pronounced in taste and aroma.  This Korean celadon teacup gave very good results.  I gave one of these cups to a collector in Guangzhou and he felt that the tea was 'hua' (smooth) compared to his regular cups.  Even a good lady friend that is an expert on coffee, told me that coffee tasted better using older Chinese porcelain cups.  

Are we mad thinking that teacups would make a difference in the tea? Yes, yes yes .

Thursday, March 16, 2017

The Final Infusion





How many infusions of tea do you brew when you have a tea session?

For me, the average would be about 5-6 for oolongs and 6-8 for pu erh tea.  This does not include the initial flash rinse I perform on the tea before I start my session.  If the tea still brews strong, I may set the teapot aside and return to brewing more tea later in the day.  

Then you have the last or final infusion before you discard the tea leaves.  I suppose for many tea drinkers, myself included, the final infusion would be considered the weakest in taste and aroma. 

Let me recommend a fun and interesting brew for your final infusion :
- empty the tea leaves in a small metal pot
- add 2-3 teapots of water
- boil the tea for 5-10 minutes

Surprise! Your final infusion will taste and smell slightly different.  It will be strong as well.  I have tried it on pu erh, oolongs, Liu Bao and white tea and have pleasant results so far.  I think you will like the results as well.  If you already had too much tea to drink, I suggest you keep that last infusion in a small thermos and drink it when you are ready for tea again.  

Time to relook at your final infusion.  Have fun and let me know what you think.



Tuesday, March 7, 2017

1993 Dayi Menghai Tea Factory Ripe Pu erh













I gave myself a treat opening an old Taetea (aka Dayi) ripe pu erh tea over the Chinese New Year weekend.  This is a 100g loose ripe pu erh packed in a paper box.  Produced in 1993 (you can see the stamp pressed impression in the 3rd pix), the tea leaves appeared to be  small leaf grade.  

This is one of my oldest pu erh tea in my collection and when I started brewing this tea, I had or was expecting, I don't know, maybe fireworks coming out of my ears or getting seriously tea drunk after the tea session.  None of these dramatic effects were present, but instead I was treated to a very comforting pu erh tea session.  The tea was very smooth with aromatic old antique wood and herbal scents and the tea glided down the throat easily.  8 very good infusions. 

But I digress.  When you are having a tea session with friends or you are at a teashop sampling tea with 3-4 drinkers present, you can tell whether a tea drinker likes that particular tea - that is - the tea cup empties very fast.  You will also observe that the tea drinker will (myself included) be 'looking forward' to each cup of tea.  One more thing, when you are at a teashop sampling tea and when you had enough of  tea, stop drinking or your teacup will continue to be refilled.  Alternatively, you can drink up the tea and tell politely,  while returning the empty cup to the host, that you do not want any more refills.

I noticed my tea sessions with this Dayi ripe pu erh normally finished in a very short time.  I drink this tea fast.      




Saturday, February 18, 2017

Taetea Dayi Sampler Presentation Boxed Set
















Taetea (we call the company Dayi in our part of the world) in 2015 introduced a sampler box of their teas.  This very large presentation box (I placed a gaiwan on the box to give you a sense of the size) was very fancifully designed with 10 compartments within the box.  30 different Dayi teas were individually packed in the box, each pack containing 30g of tea.  There were 15 raw teas and 15 ripe teas.  

Information of the box indicated that the tea were of various ages from 2007 to 2015.  The intention of this sampler box was to give the buyer a better perspective of Dayi tea, the large assortment of raw and ripe tea and at the same time allow the buyer to 'taste'  the different ages of the tea.  I personally felt that 30g was a good minimum sample size as it will allow the tea drinker to have at least 3-5 brews of a tea so as to have a better appreciation of that tea.  

Although you get a total of 900g of tea, the overall size and weight of the box may deter some online shops from carrying this product.  So if you are overseas and want a good tea souvenir to carry home, this Taetea sampler box may make a nice gift for yourself or for a Chinese tea drinker friend.  Just make sure to have luggage space for this sampler box.

  

Sunday, February 12, 2017

A Valentine Tea Present







Valentine's Day is this coming Tuesday, Feb 14.  It is the time of the year for a few romantic gestures.   A gift to your tea lover partner may demonstrate your passion for everything hot and steamy.  Get ready to infuse your love by giving this heart shaped box containing pu erh balls wrapped in pastel colors suitable for this occasion.

Produced by Xiaguan Tea Factory, this heart shaped tin contains 22 balls of pu erh, 11 raw and 11 ripe. Turn on the kettle and be prepared for a wild night of tea drinking session.  It will be a little hard to over infuse your tea as each tea ball is only 3g of tea.  

And to my new readers....I hope you will know by now that Chinese tea drinker friends are fun people to be with.  Really.   Happy Valentine's Day!

Saturday, February 4, 2017

2004 Double Lion Raw Pu era










I gave myself a treat during the Chinese New Year weekend by opening a 2004 'Double Lion' cake.  This cake was produced by Qiu Xiang teashop, a Malaysian tea company and used the 'double lion' label on the wrapper.  You can just figure out the 2 prancing lions on the wrapper in the third pix.    I had remembered that this lion label were also seen on old vintage cakes and I was told the cake recipe follows the old cake tea production.  

Information on the neifei, or enclosed label of this cake told me that this 357g cake used wild pu erh tea leaves found in the Bulang region of Yunnan province.  I had bought this cake in 2011 during one of my visits to Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.  I sampled the tea and like it.  There was also the 'Malaysia' print on the wrapper that made me buy this cake.

This tea brews very strong.  There is some bitterness, camphor, herbal and medicinal taste and aroma in the tea.  I got a light pleasant buzz from the 3rd infusion and a little tea drunk with the next few cups.  A nice tea....must remind myself to use less leaves for subsequent brews (I had used about 7g for a 130ml teapot).

But I digress.  I was told and I believed it myself that to look for new pu erh tea to store away and age, that new tea should be aromatic and taste strong. The logic being if the new tea is mild in taste and aroma, it would be unlikely that aging the new tea would result in a stronger taste and aroma.  So choosing a new tea strong in taste and aroma might be a 'better chance' that the tea would aged better after a 7-10 years of storage.  Happy to say that its 'so far so good' on my teas being aged in Singapore.  Do you agree with me?  Do share your thoughts. Thank you. 

Friday, January 27, 2017

Happy Chinese New Year













Happy Chinese New Year 2017.  The first day of Chinese New Year falls this Saturday 28 Jan 2017.  This will be the year of the rooster.  Those born in the rooster year are supposed to be hardworking and dependable. 

Chinese all over the world would be busy preparing for this important festive occasion.   Families would be baking pastries and buying special treats for the traditional family reunion dinner on Chinese New Year's eve.  Kids would be delighted to wear new clothes and look forward to receiving red packets containing some money (a blessing given by adults to children).  It is one my favourite time of the year to meet relatives and friends, eating lots of food and snacks and the 3 day long weekend holiday would also allow me, hopefully to have extra tea brewing sessions.  

I will be making a few trips later this year to China and Hong Kong and if you, the reader want to have a detailed look at the tea scene there, do contact me and I will be happy to show you the tea markets there.  It will be mainly semi budget, some shopping, lots of eating and you should be tea drunk by the end of every evening.  More importantly, you get to see the variety of tea and tea ware available, talk to the tea distributors directly and have tea sessions with tea drinkers who are passionate about Chinese tea.    A 7/8 day trip would see us having tea adventures in Hong Kong (3 days) and Guangzhou (5 days).  

I would like to thank all readers for your support - reading this blog, sharing your thoughts with me and supporting me recently in my online tea store.  Thank you very much.

To all my readers, Happy Chinese New Year.  May the odds be forever in your favour. 


Tuesday, January 10, 2017

My Pu Is Bigger Than Your Pu - The Sequel










There were never plans to make a sequel to my "My Pu is bigger than your pu" blog entry I made in 2010 (link). That 2 kg raw pu melon is still sitting in storage. That melon is already 10 years old (2007 production) but I am still figuring out how to break open that melon. I had even dreamt of using an industrial saw I saw at a butcher shop that should be able to nicely slice the melon into manageable 'cuts' without too much wasted tea dust. I told myself to keep away from giant pu. Yes….. to us pu erh tea drinkers….size does not matter. Really? I had noticed however these few years that size actually matters. The new cakes are getting smaller and getting more pricey as well. I see many new cakes now made in 150g to 200g sizes. 'Downsizing' seems to be the marketing strategy now. Even my bag of potato chips seemed lighter nowadays. 

Let me explained how I ended up with this 3kg cake. A tea shop owner had included a sample of raw pu erh tea in my carton of tea which I had bought from the shop last year. I found the sample nice. It had hints of a variety of floral scents and came with a hint of smokiness which I enjoyed. I made calls about the tea and I was quoted a very good price for the tea. I remembered I heard that it came in 3kg. I had assumed that with the new marketing strategy by pu erh manufacturers, the tea would be in packed in either 150 or 200g sized cakes packed to a 3kg box. I confirmed an order of 6 kg.

When I went to pick up my order last month, my eyes nearly popped when the tea shop took out 2 huge boxes of tea……with each pretty giant box neatly holding a 3kg pu erh cake. Perhaps, the pu erh gods were kind to me….my Malaysian friend who drove me to the teashop quietly asked me whether I could spare him one of the cakes. All is well and I only had to hand carry one 3kg cake on my flight home.

A happy and humorous tea adventure. Another tea for the collection. Can any reader out there loan me an electric pizza cutter?

Should I consider another sequel? Till then (hopefully not, must not and shall not), my pu is bigger than your pu!