Sunday, July 22, 2018

H2O And Tea






One nice thing about Singapore is that I can drink water straight from the tap.  I have been to a few countries where I have to buy bottled water for my drinks as the tap water is not safe for consumption

But I am fussy.  I bought a standing filter for my tap water.  I simply fill up about 4-5 litres of water into a container and let gravity do its work.  The water will flow down slowly through a few sets of filters clearing out the chlorine and other stuff.  Water pipes are old in my housing estate and the ceramic filter turns slightly brown after 1-2 months of use and thats when I have to give the ceramic filter a good brushing.  

I used the filtered water for my tea brewing.  It is pretty good.  At least....its a cheap option.

We can also buy bottled water and experiment the taste and aroma when using these bottled water.  In Singapore, I can buy water which is bottled in Europe, Canada, USA and even Himalaya water.  They cost about $1-4 for a large bottle.  

Water makes up a large component in your tea and using such water may give a different taste or aroma in the tea.  There are also some bottled water which I could not discern any difference when I used them for my tea.  

Pix shows a bottle of water from Canada. When I used it on a raw puerh tea session, the tea seem to taste more smooth.  Maybe it is my imagination.  Fun though.  

Sunday, July 15, 2018

Rougui Shui Hsien - A Lau Yu Fat Premium Oolong









This is a premium range of oolong tea offered by Hong Kong's Lau Yu Fat Tea shop.  This tea came from the famed Fujian Wuyi mountains where oolong tea grown there are considered the 'quality stuff'.

You will notice that the leaves are plump and dark.  Being an expensive tea and the leaves looking pretty clean, I dispensed with washing the tea and starting drinking from the 1st infusion.  The aroma from the 1st infusion is very impressive.  There is a nice complicated bouquet of flowers (fresh and dried) which gave me a nice mouth watering sensation.  

Such oolong tea or yancha would  surprise a new oolong drinker in the sense that the tea is good only for about 4 infusions before the tea aroma and flavours fade away.  Many oolong tea drinker friends would also add more tea leaves in a brewing session to maximise the 'oomph' in the tea.  Swirling the tea in my mouth while breathing in air through the mouth and exhaling through the nose at the same time would enhance or encapsulate the aroma in my mouth and throat.  This tea is very good.

However, this is a new tea.  The 'newness' is evident in the later infusions where the aftertaste seem to 'cut short'.  This tea would be better if kept for 10 years for further aging.  An expensive proposition.






Sunday, July 8, 2018

Tea Appreciation - An Alcoholic Perspective






I have been exchanging emails with Wilson.  No I am not going bonkers.  Since my alcoholic post last month, many readers now know that I enjoy drinking many other liquids besides Chinese tea.  I grind my Ethiopia coffee beans on weekends for morning coffee and I do drink a dram of whisky 2-3 times a month.

A Scotsman named Wilson (its really weird writing to myself) wrote to me last month.  He enjoys his pu erh tea and his scotch drinks and wanted to compare tea notes with me.  At the same time, he explained to me the proper way to drink and appreciate scotch whisky.

Here are some notes that will interest the Chinese tea drinker:

1.  Scotch Whisky does not age in the bottle.  You buy a 12 yr old scotch, the taste and aroma of the liquor will (should) remain unchanged in the bottle after say 10 years.  Pu erh tea will continue to age after you bring it home.  A 10 yr old pu erh cake will be aged to a 20 year old tea if you keep it for another 10 years.  

2.  A tea session is cheaper than a session (call a dram) of whisky.  A tea cake can be broken up to 50 tea sessions (assume we use 7g from a 357g cake).  A bottle of whisky can get you 28 pours (one 25ml pour from a 700ml bottle).  If you work out the math, a $100 cake will give you a bigger bang for your money compared to a $100 bottle.  

3.  You can have a tea session daily.  Or twice daily.  But having a double whisky session daily may not be good and may cause an unhealthy addiction.  

But Wilson (the Scottish One) pointed out other differences

1.  Tea set up can be expensive.  Tea kettle, tea tray, teapot and teacups can be a little expensive.  You need to boil water and you have to prepare and later wash up the utensils.  However, all you need is a good nosing glass for your whisky and a few drops of water to bring up the flavours in the glass.  It takes less effort.

2.  You can walk into a whisky bar and have a choice of 50-200 varieties of different age and character.  I answered him by saying I can walk into a teashop and sample (for free) a tea as well.  


Looks like Chinese tea is the better deal.  

Scottish Wilson explained that nosing of the whisky is very important.  He pointed out that a good nosing glass like the Glencairn glass in the pix, is tulip shaped that will encapsulate the aroma of the liquor.  He says nosing of whisky normally takes 5-15 min as one try to identify the scents and aroma of the whisky.....floral, sweet honey notes, wooden oak or sherry scents.  Yes...even smoky or scent of the sea are seen in some whiskies.  Then sipping a whisky and 'chewing' the sip to cover the whole mouth before swallowing is also carried to to maximise the aroma and flavour.  

As a Chinese tea drinker, you will notice some of the similarities in whisky and tea appreciation.  Nosing for Chinese tea take up only a few seconds as the teacup we normally use does not hold the tea aroma well.  There was a significant improvement when I used a deeper Lin Ceramics teacup, filling half the cup with tea and nosing the tea for about 30 seconds before drinking the tea.  I feel that Chinese tea appreciation could be made more interesting if we a proper nosing cup of the tea.  Yes, we have scenting Chinese tea cups but I feel a bigger and deeper cup where you can 'put your nose in' makes a significant difference.  And I am not drunk stating this....whisky taste aroma and taste seem enhanced if drank from a Lin purion cup.

That is my 2 cents worth of thoughts.  I have been invited to Scotland where Wilson will bring me to a few distilleries and bars.  He proposed we do an tea-whisky exchange.  Sounds good...... but I have to put the bottle In my checked-in luggage and hope it will not break during the return journey.   My wife is excited when I told her we may be visiting Scotland.  I left out the distillery and bar visit bits though.

Sunday, June 24, 2018

Sea Dyke Zhen Cang Rougui Oolong








This rougui is produced by Sea Dyke and comes in a pretty double lid tin.    This tin contains 100g and my tea was produced in 2016.  "Zeng Cang' literally meant collection which I guessed it implied this rougui was a 'collector' grade of oolong.  

This is a new tea offering by Sea Dyke and I was looking forward to this tea.  I was impressed with their newer Shui Jin Gui tea which came foil packed in 12.5g and packed individually in small orange boxes. That tea was nice, mellow and smooth.

The tea leaves in this rougui tin looked plump and pleasant.  I had looked forward to trying this tea.  

This tea did not meet my expectations.  The roast was more medium than high roasted.  I suppose Sea Dyke was trying to appeal to both medium roast and high roast tea drinkers with this roast level.   I wished this rougui to be higher roasted as the flavours seemed muted in my opinion.  There are many high roasted oolong offerings that I enjoy from Sea Dyke but this rougui is not my cup of tea.  Sigh! 

Sunday, June 10, 2018

Alcoholic Pu erh






If you are below 18 years of age, do not read this blog entry.  If you think you are young and feel like you are below 18 years of age, do not read this blog entry.  This is because of the high alcoholic content in this article.  

A tea buddy from Yokohama Japan, Mr Sato, emailed me last May.  Mr Sato enjoys Chinese tea especially raw and ripe pu erh.  He told me to try drinking pu erh tea with alcohol.  He recommended using whisky, one part whisky and 2-3 parts pu erh.  He mentioned to drink it cool.  My guess is to drink it when the tea had cooled to room temperature or I had to add ice to the tea or drink. 

I was excited to try this tea (it has more tea than alcohol anyway).  I realized that I had finished my bottle of scotch over last Chinese New Year and will be refilling my alcohol stash when I buy a bottle at the duty free airport during my next oversea trip.  I could not wait so I went online to get a bottle. You can buy literally everything now on the Internet.  My daughter recently got herself a metal drinking straw with brush which I see as an attempt to be more environmentally conscious.  

Anyway, I bought a Japanese whisky.  I had wanted to try a Japanese one as I had read an article that the Japanese made ones were quite good.  So I got a Hibiki Harmony.  No age statement on the bottle but I had read reviews that there was good age and maturity in the whisky.  

I brewed up a 2006 Xiaguan iron cake, poured out the infusions into cups and and left the tea to cool to room temperature.  I used 1 part whisky/2 parts tea and sat down for a drink.  Gee......the tea or drink tasted nice. Sweet, spicy, woody and fruity.  Very good chi....I think from the alcohol or tea.  I had another round, this time with ice.  This time, the drink is more minty with a sweeter aftertaste.  Xiaguan on steroids.

I am going to try, next time, this bottle with ripe pu er and high roasted oolong.  I will also experiment adding a few whisky drops to a cup of tea.  I will report my findings to my readers.  I do not think this bottle will keep till Christmas.  

But I digress.  The Kim-Trump summit is happening here in Singapore on June 12.  I hope something meaningful comes out from that meet.  A toast to peace.  

Sunday, June 3, 2018

2008 Haiwan 8808











This is my earliest pu erh purchase from my China trips. I had purchased this tea during my 1st trip to Kunming back in 2009.  I met a few Kunming tea dealers there including Scott Wilson of Yunnan Sourcing.   

This 2008 Haiwan 8808 cake was produced by Haiwan tea factory for the Kunming tea markets.  I wanted to bring back some tea home and I managed to lugged a few tongs of pu erh tea which included these 8808 cakes.

Last week, I decided to open a tong to check on my storage of this tea.  I had stored in an empty bedroom and and left it for more than 9 years.  Cake is clean and dry and compression of the cake is high that I need a pu erh pick to open up the tea cake.

This tea is woody and herbal.  The 'woodiness' seem to remind me of old antique furniture.   Good workhorse brewing up 10 strong infusions easily.  I am happy the tea is smooth and clean.  Pix of tea in cup in the 4th infusion (8g in a 130ml teapot).

Sunday, May 27, 2018

Pek Sin Choon Unknown Fragrance Oolong












I had introduced to my readers on Singapore's Pek Sin Choon teashop in my previous blog entry.

This is their flagship and famous tea. They called it "Unknown Fragrance". The shop described the tea as follows:
"Renowned Unknown Fragrance is a locally blended traditional tea. When the founder, Bai Jin Ou, was naming the tea, he found that he just can’t describe the fragrance in words and thus the renowned unknown fragrance became the rightful name for the tea. Because of its uniqueness in taste, this tea has been unsurpassed in the Bak Kut Teh (pork rib soup) segment. The tea soup is dark red in colour which is luscious at first sip and produce great aftertaste. Due to its unique mix of tea species, the tea is good for slimming, reducing blood pressure, reducing blood sugar, reducing cholesterol, anti-aging."


This tea comes packed in a tin of 50 packets.  Each packet is individually hand-wrapped at the shop. Each packet weights about 16g.  Notice 2 pieces of paper (pink paper inside) used to wrap the tea.  

I was told that this was a blend of Wuyi and Anxi oolong. This would explained the appearance of the tea leaves; rolled Anxi leaves and straight Wuyi leaves.  I was told that this blend used premium tea leaves and it was about 2-3 times the price of regular oolong tea even when this tea was introduced in to the tea market about 60 years ago.   

This 'Unknown Fragrance' (also known in the hokkien dialect as 'Put Tee Hiong Tea') is very aromatic.  I enjoy the bouquet of floral notes and the lightly sweet finish.     An interesting and refreshing tea.  

Sunday, May 13, 2018

Pek Sin Choon Tea Shop












You will think that you are in a time capsule when you enter Pek Sin Choon tea shop.  Chinese tea are still hand wrapped in small paper packets and sold in aluminium 'biscuit' tins.  This Singapore tea shop, established in 1925, with their famous 'shepherd boy on buffalo' logo has been selling tea to tea drinkers and eating establishments for more than 90 years.  Now managed by the 4th generation, Kenry Pek runs this tea business  faithfully keeping to the traditional methods of blending and packaging the tea.  

Pek Sin Choon has recently produced a commemorative tea box to showcase the company's history of producing Chinese tea.  This metal tea box come with 5 of their famous hand wrapped teas and a specially made gaiwan with 2 cups.  Notice the 'shepherd boy on buffalo' on the cover of the gaiwan.  The box has an incision on the cover that allow the tea box to be used as a mini tea tray or small saving coin bank.    

Information on the box detailed the history of their teas.  The table tennis, aka ping pong tie guan yin wrapper was designed in 1959 to congratulate China winning the World Champion Men's Table Tennis for the 1st time.  Kenry told me that his family was pretty patriotic at that time.  

For the tea drinker and collector, make a point to visit Pek Sin Choon tea shop.  Located in Chinatown - 36 Mosque Street.  Own a piece of Singapore tea history by getting the metal gift box.  I got mine signed by Kenry.  Do remember to purchase a tin of tea and savour every drop of nostalgia when you brew up a cup of tea. 

And....Happy Mother's Day to all Chinese Tea drinking mums.     



Sunday, May 6, 2018

Tea Stains on Wrapper








Remember this Ba Jiao Ting I had blogged in Nov last year (link).   I had noticed that there was significant tea staining on the tea wrapper.  I examined the wrapper and found that these tea stains were dry. The surface of the tea cake was normal. There was nothing extraordinary that I observed about appearance of the the tea cake.

I had initially thought that these tea stains was due to water damage.  This might be due to the production process, that the cakes were not fully dried out and wrapped causing the stains.  I had also thought that storage of the tea could be another factor, that the storage facility was damp.  Checking with my supplier of this Ba Jiao Ting, it seems that this was the only tea that had these tea stains.

I was in Guangzhou last March, and I asked out this 'tea stain on wrapper' with my tea dealer friends. A Chen Zhen Hao (famous for Banzhang) told me that there were many teas, across many brands, that has this 'tea stain on wrapper' phenomena for 2010 batches. Even the zodiac series of the Chen Zhen Hao had this tea stain issue. This tea dealer told me that it was possible there was a change in weather just prior to the pu erh tea harvest. It could have been very cold or hot, causing the pu erh tree to retain more 'tea oil' in the leaves. The stains on the tea wrapper were actually tea oil and will not affect the pu erh tea in any way, except for the slight ugly appearance on the wrapper.  A retired tea production manger in a tea drinking group in Guangzhou told me that some old pu erh tea, that had this phenomena..... the wrappers are now full with holes.  He said there was nothing wrong with the tea. He also reminded that this was not an issue and reminded to sample any tea before I make a purchase regardless of the wrapper condition.

I like this tea.  The medicinal herbs taste is very pronounced. Quite addictive.  Did the tea stains affected the tea in any way?  I do not know.   This was a tea cake that I finished in 2 months and I am already on my second cake.

Sunday, April 22, 2018

Teapot Maintenance






If you are using a Yixing teapot for brewing your Chinese tea, I am sure you felt that your tea tasted better brewing with a Yixing teapot than a porcelain gaiwan or teapot.

There are a few reasons why the tea seem to taste better
- frequent using of a clay teapot will have a coating of tea patina inside the pot.  It is like a layer of tea being brushed on the inside of the teapot every time the teapot is used in a tea session.  Somehow, the patina will affect and improve the taste of your tea.
-  it is possible that Yixing clay retains heat better than other material (like porcelain or glass) and the difference in taste and aroma of the tea could be due to the warmer or hotter tea.
- there are many other possible reasons and it could be even a combination of  factors that could explain the improvement of your tea.

But.....you have to maintain your teapot to continue having similar good tasting tea.  Another important  reason is that your teapot would look nice and shiny and 'seasoned' over time.  Some of the factors listed below may be already practised by you.  Others may be unheard of and even eye opening.  I had collated and listed below a few of these 'practices' from observing how my teapot friends maintain their teapots.

1.  Dedicate a teapot to a type of tea.  Use a teapot for pu erh and and another for oolong.  Some teapots might have retained the aroma or flavour for the tea from a previous tea session.  Chinese tea drinking purists think that the appreciation of a tea, say oolong, would be more accurate and precise.  Many of my Chinese teapot user friends even dedicate teapots exclusively for raw or shou pu erh, heavy and light roast oolong, floral Taiwanese oolong, Liu Bao and Liu An tea.  For me, my pu erh teapots are used for both raw or ripe pu erh and my oolong teapots are for types of oolongs (light or heavy roast).  

2.  Wiping down  your teapot after use. Do this method only to the exterior of the teapot.  The teapot on the right of pix.....I wipe down the teapot after every tea session.  I would wash the teapot for a minute under a running tap and take a cloth to wipe and dry the exterior of a teapot for another minute.  I would than place the teapot (upside down) and on dish drainer and keeping away the teapot the next day.  Teapot users believe that wiping down a teapot would give an even sheen to the exterior of the teapot. The teapot on the left of pix, was not wipe down at all after the teapot was washed.  This teapot was originally more 'light yellow' in colour but has now, as you had noticed, changed to a more dark amber look to the teapot. I have used the teapot on the right for more than 500 tea sessions while the teapot on the left of pix went through about 250 tea sessions. 

3.   I believe that your teapot must be dry and clean before using it for a tea session.  If the teapot is still damp and not dried out completely from a previous tea session, the tea may taste and smell different.  One Malaysian tea friend dries his teapot using the following method; he washed the teapot after use, but then filled the teapot with hot boiling water and leaving it for 1 minute before emptying out the hot water.  I do noticed that the 'heated' teapot will help dry out the inside of the teapot much faster. 

4.  A Guangzhou teapot user, utilised a toothbrush to lightly brush the exterior of the teapot after use.  He claimed there are certain areas of a teapot that will be more 'stained'  and brushing these areas would even out the staining and make the teapot more pretty.

5.  Another common practice I observed was using the 1st or 2nd rinse of the tea and pouring this rinse over the teapot.  Many users believed this 'help' make the exterior of the teapot more seasoned in its appearance.  

There are many methods teapot users employ to maintain their teapot or to seasoned their teapot.  Do you use any interesting technique on your teapots?  Do share.  Thank you.  

Sunday, April 15, 2018

2008 Taetea Dayi 8582








Taetea's (aka Dayi) 8582 raw pu erh is one of Dayi's flagship tea that is produced almost every year.  Not as well known as the famous 7542 cake, this 8582 is a quiet favourite among Dayi's tea drinkers and collectors.

For those newer tea drinkers of pu erh tea, there are famous pu erh cakes that are named as numbers rather than a 'proper name'.  A 4 digit number is named for the various cakes. You will actually asked for the cake by this '4 digits' when you are at the tea shop.  The teashop will also then tell you which vintage year of that tea they have.  Sound complicated.  It is not.  You can even sample the tea (at tea shops in China, Hong Kong and Malaysia) before you make your purchase.

As mentioned, 8582 is actually a popular pu erh tea.  The tea when brewed has a very good herbal taste and aroma in the tea.  There is a nice faint sweet finish and a nice warming sensation after a tea session.  A few of my Malaysian tea drinker friends actually prefer the 8582 to the famous Dayi's 7542 as the 8582 has a stronger emphasis on dry medicinal herb aroma and taste. 

It is my opinion that if you intend to drink a 8582, look for the older cakes (its not that expensive) as the mellowness after a few years of storage does make this tea more smooth and delicious.  



Sunday, April 1, 2018

A Visit To Lin Ceramics











I was in Taipei, Taiwan last week and I spent an afternoon at Lin Ceramics Studio.  

For readers who are unfamiliar with Lin Ceramics - this ceramic company was started in 1983 in Taiwan.  They mainly produce mainly tea ware and are famous for their purion ceramics.  Today, Lin Ceramics have more than 10 showroom / outlets throughout Taiwan.  

I had good impressions of Lin's purion tea ware and own a few purion teapots and teacups.  I was introduced many years ago to Lin's purion  by Mr Lau of Lau Yu Fat teashop in Hong Kong.  I found that pu erh and high roasted oolongs seem to taste more amplified.  I cannot explain the reason for this 'change' and a few tea buddies who owns these tea ware found similar results in their tea as well.  

Purion is a mixture of natural mineral ore and pottery clay.  Lin's brochures stated that the mixture "combined both Porphyries Andesite, infrared ray and bamboo charcoal".  I googled this and found andesite was mainly volcanic rock.  The brochures further elaborated that "we partnered with a Taiwanese ceramic artist Gu Chuan Zi, to develop the purion collection.  Purion is a mixture of natural mineral ore and pottery clay.  This formula is able to improve water quality, elevating the taste and texture of tea, liquor and coffee".  

But I digress.  I cannot explain why using purion tea ware seem to make the tea taste different.  There are other tea ware I had encountered that makes the tea taste different as well.  Japanese tetsubins, Yixing clay and certain porcelain seem to have different effects on tea as well.  The difference is subtle but serious or hardcore Chinese tea drinkers can discern this difference.  I will devote a blog entry on this topic.


Back to Lin.  I visited the concept store in Yongkang area.  The 2nd pix showed an artistic tea set.  The 5th pix shows a Lin Celadon set which is popular with tea drinkers that drink lighter roasted oolongs and green teas like the famous Taiwan's high mountain oolongs.  I had the opportunity to compare and taste tea using various Lin teapots (see last pix).

Lin Ceramics are also located in the famous Taipei 101 building / mall.  They also operate 2 branches at the Yingge old street in Yingge district, which is less than an hour's train ride.  Yingge old street is renowned for the many ceramics shops and is a wonderland for the tea ware enthusiast.  

I managed to purchase and hand-carry home a few purion tea ware, including the rare triple fired purion teacups.  I will list a couple of these soon.


Sunday, March 18, 2018

Hong Kong Cheung Hing Da Hong Pao






This is Cheung Hing tea shop's premium version of Da Hong Pao (DHP) oolong. Cheung Hing tea shop in Hong Kong is one of the oldest tea dealers in Hong Kong since they opened for business in 1932. They are more famous for their Tie Lo Han oolong that has similar packaging but the packaging color is in yellow instead.

This Da Hong Pao is twice as expensive as the Tie Lo Han but I had observed that this tea is gaining popularity worldwide as well. I know a group of Ipoh tea drinkers that simply adore this tea and they regularly purchased this tea from Hong Kong.

This DHP is very high roasted.  If you are familiar with the flowery light roast DHP, you will be in for a surprise.  It is totally different.  This is an acquired taste.  I was caught off guard many years ago when I tried high roasted Hong Kong oolong.  Drinking such tea emphasized on aroma and mouthfeel.   I learnt that to appreciate this tea you have sip this tea, holding the tea in your mouth, then try to breathe in through your mouth before breathing out through your nose. This action will fill your nose and mouth with a satisfying aroma that will last for a minute or two. There will then be an extremely faint sweetness that you will later enjoy in the back of your throat.  Such high roasted oolong normally makes 5-6 strong brews and you would need time to sit down and fully appreciate and enjoy these infusions fully. 


I am normally very 'tea satisfied' for a few hours after drinking such high roasted oolong.    


Sunday, March 4, 2018

Xin Cha - Tea Awakening




Hooray!
 Your tea mail has arrived.  It is looking good.  Smells good too.  Time to try out the tea.  Wait!  I suggest humbly that your new arrivals need time to be awake.  The tea needs awakening.  The Chinese call this procedure as xin cha.

Xin Cha literally means tea awakening.

There are a few reasons why you should adopt 'xin cha' as part of your Chinese tea routine.

- your tea which you had ordered overseas would likely had been air-flown to your doorstep.  I had found out, on the internet, that checked- in luggage and goods like postal boxes or other goods are placed in the cargo compartment of the airplane.  The cargo hold, if we assume a commercial airline, would be less insulated than the passenger cabins. I read that the temperatures in the cargo hold, during flight, would be around 7-10 degrees celcius. It is pretty cold and understandable as there is less insulation than the passenger cabins.  This would meant that your 'tea' would had experienced a cold moment while it is in the air.  Did my tea hibernate? I do not know. But internet chat forums seem to suggest that tea buyers/drinkers find their purchased tea tasted better after 2-3 weeks after arrival, than if it was drank immediately when they had received their box.  This may imply or suggest that the tea needed time to 'acclimatise' itself (I think you understand what I am trying to say).

-  I had mentioned that breaking up a tea cake, brick or tuo, storing the tea pieces in a tea caddy and drinking the tea 2-3 weeks  after the 'breakup' seem to make the tea more aromatic and tasty.  I had suggested to my tea readers to try breaking up half a cake, storing the pieces in a tea caddy......and do a comparison by brewing up tea from the caddy and brewing tea by chipping off some tea from the unbroken tea cake.  The difference is clear in that the broken up tea pieces taste better. 

These 2 points I had highlighted seem to suggest that pu erh tea needs a stable temperature and any drastic change in temperature may 'upset' your tea and the tea may need time to acclimatise/ stabilise itself.  Breaking up a tea cake may also imply that the tea have the opportunity to be fully exposed to the air and to 'stretch out' which seem to make the tea better In taste and aroma after the breakup. Yes, it seems like mambo jumbo.  But .....there is a clear difference if you employ these methods.  It might be a great idea when your overseas tea mail arrives at your door, you break open your pu erh cake/ brick (at least a quarter of it) into a tea caddy and brew the tea after 2 weeks.  

I strongly encourage my pu erh tea readers to 'xin cha' their pu erh.  This is not a tedious or expensive exercise.  It does make a better brew.  













Thursday, February 15, 2018

Happy New Year





Happy New Year.

Today is Chinese New Year's eve.  You will know that many Chinese would be trying to make their way home, these past few days, to attend the new year eve dinner with their family. It is like a Thanksgiving occasion where  families get to eat dinner together.  It is a yearly milestone which I look forward to every year.

To all my readers, Happy Chinese New Year.  Live long and prosper.

Sunday, February 11, 2018

2007 Xiaguan T8613 Iron Cake And The Puerh Pliers








2007 Xiaguan iron cake.....I get that. But puerh pliers?

Yes, Valentine's Day is only a few days away and a pair of puerh pliers would be an ideal gift to get for your tea drinking partner. You can almost imagine and hear your partner squealing in delight when he/she used this tool to open up an iron cake.

Pu erh tea drinkers would agree that prying open an iron cake or tuo can be a challenging and sometimes a dangerous task. You would normally use a tool like a small metal letter open or a mini ice pick to open the cake. The very high compression of the tea will normally cause much tea dust when the cake is being pried open. Tea dust are not good for brewing as they clogged up your teapot and may upset the brewing parameters of your infusion times. Moreover, the amount of tea dust from opening up an entire iron cake can be quite substantial....easily more than 20 grams. The element of danger is present as a tiny slip can cause an accident if the puerh knife or pick accidentally poke your hands.

That is where the puerh pliers comes in. Simply grip the side of the tea cake with the pliers, hold down the tea cake, then lift the pliers as if you opening a cap of a soda/beer bottle. As you can see from the pictures, I could get nice small chunks of tea from just a quarter 2007 Xiaguan iron cake within 1 minute. This meant that an iron cake would be broken up easily within 5 minutes....and with minimum tea dust.  I shall name this tea opening method as the 'heartbreaker'.

Sadly, there is no such thing as puerh pliers.  A normal plier would suffice. But use your hard earned money to get your partner an old iron cake. This 2007 Xiaguan iron cake has a very good complication of flavours and aroma. It is like a time capsule as the high compression of the tea seem to make this tea a very vivid tea session where every infusion varies delightfully from each other. Good and strong 12+ infusions.   The broken up smaller chunks of tea are still highly compressed and you will get the 'tea get stronger with subsequent infusions' phenomena.  This is not that the tea was made from gushu, as you may be led to believe, but this is due to the highly compressed tea chunks 'loosening up' with later infusions.

Happy Valentine's Day.

Sunday, February 4, 2018

Japan Tea Souvenirs














I bought some tea ware while I was in Japan last December.   It was a little tough for me, in the sense that I had purchased the 1st two pieces during my first day in Japan and I had to hand carry them for the next 2 weeks during my trip.  It was a good and cold holiday experiencing my first Japanese winter.

This new tetsubin is a Nambu Tekki production.  A 800ml capacity, I was drawn to this kettle while I was at the Nambu shop along kitchen street in Asakusa, Tokyo.  The tetsubin was made to look old and rusty.  The embossed dragon motifs on the side of the kettle were very pretty and I made a quick decision to buy it.  I have a soft spot for Japanese tetsubin.  I think this will be the fourth kettle in my collection.  

I bought 2 shiboridashi teapots while in Japan.  The insides of the spout have raised grooves which acts as a filter to allow tea to dispensed when you serve the tea from these teapots.  Unlike regular gaiwans where you had to tilt the cover to dispense tea, shiboridashi allowed me to position the cover properly without any side tilt.  I find the pour out of tea to be more elegant.  You would had noticed that my 2nd shiboridashi is a side handle model which is actually fun to use.  

I would strongly recommend that whenever you are in Japan, getting a Japanese tea ware will be the best souvenir for yourself.  And.....  do not forget the matcha and hojicha tea.