Monday, July 1, 2019

Pardon Me, But What Is Your Cup Size?











In the late 80s and early 90s, there were teapots that were sold by their cup size. I have a collection of teapots made during this period that actually had the 'cup size' clearly labeled on the tea box. You can see from the 2nd pix,  3 teapots and their respective sizes on the box - 4,6,8. The 6 cup teapot stated that it was for 6 cups. I measured this teapot and the teapot could hold about 90ml ....which would suggest that a 6 cup teapot can fill up 6 teacups of 15ml each.

I was intrigued. I asked my teapot collector friends and yes, it was considered, in the 80s, that a standard teacup size was 15ml. I managed to lay my hands on a few early 80s tea sets (see pix 3) where the teacups came in 15ml sizes.

Today, teapots and teacups come in many sizes. Teapots are sold with pretty accurate description on the capacity usually in ml.

Wouldn't it be great if teapots today are sold by their cup sizes? On the other hand, would it be better if we drink our tea in 15ml sized teacups?   



Monday, June 17, 2019

The Case For Drinking Older Pu erh









The famous fairy tale of Aladdin is a well beloved story that even movie adaptation of this story can be a money making business even to this day.  We can fondly remember the royal sorcerer tricking Aladdin's wife with the 'new lamps for old' exchange so that the sorcerer (the baddie) can get his hands to own the genie that resided in that old lamp.  

Older pu erh is like an old lamp that has a genie inside.  This genie inside your older pu erh is called complexity.  There is complexity in older puerh that is not found in newer pu.  This complexity is made up of a combination of taste and aroma that is only present with 'time in storage'.  The pu erh must had been stored away for a certain period and in a climate that will aged the pu erh.  In my opinion, about 8-10 years for raw pu erh and 6-8 years for ripe pu erh.  The tea when stored away, will age to a smooth, sweet and mellow cup of tea.  You can actually taste the difference between a newly pressed pu and an old pu.  

Another reason you may consider buying older pu erh is the price.  Yes, older pu are and should be more expensive than newer made ones.  But if you looked harder, you can actually can buy a decent older cake that is comparable in price to a new tea now available.  The 1st pix shows a 2007 Xiaguan.  This 12 year old tea can still be purchased for about $80 (I found several online and teashops that sells this tea for under $80 as I post this blog).  For this price , you are not only paying for the tea, you are also paying for the 12 years of storage.  New pu erh can be expensive.  This would be due to the higher cost of production (salaries, rent, warehousing).  I have seen a couple of anomalies where a previous year's production is cheaper than a current year's pu erh tea.  If you are a tea drinker and wished to age some tea yourself, may I humbly suggest buying a slightly older tea (3-5 years old) that will already give you a head start in your storage adventures.  Storing away a 10 year old tea for another 10 years.....you will get a 20 year old tea for your efforts.  

Thats my 2 cents worth.  Time to watch Aladdin.  Its a whole new world out there! 

Wednesday, June 5, 2019

Fukien Tea Shop High Roast Tie Guan Yin - A Happy Anomoly








When it comes to high fired or roasted oolong, many Chinese tea drinkers would like to drink older and aged versions of these tea.  Such oolongs with some age in them are highly prized and can be quite expensive as well.  The high firing tea, after aging, would be more subdued and the aroma and taste of the oolong would become more smooth and mellow.  

There is a anomoly - The Fukien teashop Tie Kuan Yin

Fukien teashop in Hong Kong produces and sell a high roast oolong.  The roast levels are very high of about 40 hours of roasting over 2-3 days.  The result - a high roasted but sweet caramel finish.  This very popular tea has gained fans from Korea and Japan that a few of these loyal customers would patiently stand outside the shop in the mornings waiting for the doors to open (10am).

I had a tea drinker friend that had purchased this oolong and found out to her dismay that the tea lost its flavours and became 'flat' and mellow after the tea was opened and kept for a year.  

I was in Hong Kong last week and bought out this concern to Mr Yeo, the proprietor of Fukien Tea.  He explained that the high roasted oolong would mellow out after one year and the 'roastiness' of the tea would decrease after a year.  Mr Yeo explained that this tea was produced to be enjoyed for its high roast and this tea should be consumed within 1 year.  This tea is not designed for aging.  

A loyal customer myself, I buy the tea for the roast and the aromatic caramel results of this roast.  This appreciation of this tea is different when compared to the traditional high roasted oolong where it is more desirable to age the tea to reduce 'high fire' oolong to a more mellow and smoother finish.   

I buy my tea from Fukien about 3 times a year in small quantities and will continue to do in years to come.  

A happy anomoly.  Time for tea.  




Sunday, May 12, 2019

Roku Gin - Sencha And Gyokuro Tea Botanicals







This is an adult post.

This Roku Gin is a Japanese Gin from Suntory. I was intrigued by this bottle as I read, from the label, that this gin had included the following botanicals - Sakura flower, Sakura leaf, Yuzu peel, Sencha tea (green tea), Gyokuro tea (refined green tea) and Sanshō pepper. Further traditional botanicals were also added which include eight traditional botanicals ; juniper berries, coriander, angelica seed and root, cinnamon, cardamom, bitter orange and lemon peel.


Tea in gin?  Interesting.

I bought this bottle at the airport duty free and decided to try this 'tea'.

I drank it neat (I recommend adding a cube of ice) and at another time, followed the Suntory Roku website recommendation, of adding a few slices of ginger, ice and tonic into a tall glass.   I admit gin is not on my drinking list, but this Roku made me relook at gin again. The aroma is fresh, floral, citrusy and sweetish ( I thought there was eucalyptus).  43% APV.    A refreshing drink...a little intoxicating though.  Yes, this is a tea blog....there is a little tea in the drink.  Counted. 

But I digress.  I will be on a business trip next week (20-25 May) and I will not be able to mail out any tea during this period.  Apologies in advance.  

To all mothers....Happy Mother's Day 




Wednesday, May 1, 2019

The Book Of Matcha









This book is a fun book to read.

"The Book of Matcha" is written by Louise Cheadle and Nick Kliby. Published in 2016 by Sterling Epicure.  This is a tea book that delves into the world of matcha, from history production, health benefits and the recipes included in the book would make you reach out for your matcha and give the tea a new twist.  

This book is easy and fun to read and the illustrations and pictures are lavishly included to make reading the book a breeze.

The authors categorise Japanese green teas into 6 classes; matcha, sencha, genmaicha, kukicha, hojicha and gyokuro.  The last, gyokuro is considered by the authors as one of the most expensive green teas as follows:

"Gyokuro Tamahomare (its full name) is one of Japan's most precious teas revered for its purity and richness of taste.  Mainly grown around Kyoto, Japan's ancient capital, gyokuro males up less than one percent of Japan's tea production.  Produced from just one harvest a year in late May or early June, twenty days before the tea leaves are plucked the tea bushes are covered with a netting. Covering the bushes in this way increases their production of chlorophyll (the pigment that makes the leaves bright-green) and amino acids.  As with matcha, the leaves are rich in L-theanine, which gives the tea a lovely sweetness.  Gyokuro is also known as 'jade dew' and is one of the most expensive green teas."

The matcha lemonade  recipe was one of my favourites.  Half teaspoon of matcha, syrup, lemon juice, club soda and ice with a garnish of mint leaves are all thats needed to make this drink.  

Yes, to make matcha ice-cream, you will need lots of matcha, 1-2 spoons full.  This would suggest using a lower grade as high end matcha would be too expensive.  

The authors misspelled Singapore as 'Sinagpore'.  Nevertheless, it is a good read.  

Tuesday, April 16, 2019

A Closer Look At Tea Infusers








Tea Infusers are tea ware that help you brew tea leaves in a container, which acts something as a teabag.  Tea infusers will contain your loose tea leaves and prevents  bits of tea leaves (most of it anyway) from mixing into the teapot or kettle.  

In most cases, it makes easier cleaning of the teapot when you are trying to remove and a dispose the tea leaves after a tea session.  The big teapot at pix 4 gave me a hard time when I try to remove the tea leaves when I am washing up.  I would normally fill the pot with some water and turn it upside down to wash the leaves out.....which may be take an additional rinse or two most of the time.  

Should you get a tea infuser?  No....its not necessary.  But if your teapot comes with one as in pix 1 and 2, then it might be a fun experiment to try brewing your tea with the infuser.  

But for the bigger tea pot in pix 4, I would now brew my tea in a smaller teapot and pour all 10-12 infusions into the bigger teapot.  

The stainless steel tea infuser in pix 3, is about the size of a baseball.  This can be opened by unscrewing the infuser and placing your tea leaves inside.  This infuser comes with a chain and you can use it like a giant tea bag and jiggle it in a teapot of hot water.  

There are now many fanciful infusers available for you to use.  I have seen the Star Wars Deathstar model and even a Jaws shark infuser.  These are eye catching and may even be a collectible hobby for the tea enthusiast.  


Monday, April 1, 2019

2005 Taetea Dayi Raw Pu erh Tuo








Taetea or Dayi tea is a popular tea among the Chinese tea drinking community.  Many tea drinkers will easily rattle out Dayi's famous and popular tea like 7542, 7572 and even list the many special Dayi editions like the recent Colourful peacock.

Dayi produces tuo shaped pu erh tea too.  They are not as popular as the Xiaguan tuos but older Dayi tuos are now hard to find as most of these are in the hands of collectors. Newer tuos and even some Dayi teas post-2013 had a change in the processing of tea.  My Dayi collector friends in Malaysia and China call this new process as 'dark horse technology' and had stopped collecting these tea except for special Dayi editions.  I shall devote a blog entry on this issue.

Pix shows a 2005 Dayi 100g too.  It is no surprise that the tea is composed of pu erh tea leaves harvested from the Menghai region as the factory is located in Menghai.  I enjoy tea from the Menghai region for its signature floral bitter sweet taste and the fragrant sweet aftertaste.  This tea did not disappoint.  Strong bitter herbal taste with a sweaty chi after downing a few infusions.  Impressive  - the 'kick' as good as banzhang in my opinion.  

This tea is hard to find. Will keep my eyes open when I go shopping for tea when I am overseas next month.    




Saturday, March 16, 2019

Tea Strainers













I am sure you have seen tea strainers in action during a Chinese tea brewing session. You may be using one yourself when you brew your tea at home.

When you are a teashop sampling tea, almost of these tea sessions will employ the use of a tea strainer.  The tea is your teacup would be free of mini bits of tea leaves and you can examine and sample the tea 'in more detail'.

Most teashops would use a simple strainer as the one in the 1st pix.  It is simple to use.  The tea is poured through the strainer into a cha he (server) before the tea is poured out into the tea cups.  

There are now more fanciful strainers.  The 2nd pix show a bamboo strainer while the 3rd pix is simply a dried leaf.  That leaf, I was told, is called a pu ti leaf.  From Taiwan.  You simply pour tea over the leaf into your tea server.  The leaf stays 'strong' - it does not wobble or spill over when tea is poured through it.  A marvellous conversation piece to have in a tea session.  




Saturday, March 2, 2019

Silver Kettle






No, I did not buy a silver kettle.  I was at a tea drinking session at a tea buddy's house last month and a silver kettle was used in our tea session.  This was my 2nd experience drinking /brewing tea using a silver kettle and I would like to share my thoughts on such kettles with my readers.  

Silver kettles are very expensive.   I remembered seeing a similar Japanese made (about the same size as pix) with a price tag of a few thousand dollars.  Silver kettles are very pretty.  The 'bling bling' shine did made me stare at the kettle a few times during the tea drinking session.  

Boiling water in a silver kettle makes the water softer.  Some tea friends call it sweeter.  Personally, I find that this is good for newer tea like pu erh.  The astringency and 'roughness' of a new raw pu erh tea is much reduced making the tea easier and pleasant to drink.  However, when the kettle is used on older tea,  the flavours of the tea, in my opinion, seem subdued.  I had also tried drinking older tea from a silver cup and also experience this 'subdued' taste in the tea.  

When I used an iron Japanese tetsubin for my tea brewing sessions,  there wasn't  a drastic change in the taste of the tea when compared to using a silver kettle.  I personally think that clay and iron kettles are better in this instance.  This is my own opinion.

Buying a silver kettle is an expensive proposition.  I recommend you try out a few teas with one, if possible, before you decide on a purchase.  

Monday, February 11, 2019

Fukien Teashop Tie Kuan Yin - Thailand Blend









This Tie Kuan Yin is produced by Fukien Teashop in Hong Kong primarily for their Thailand customers.

This oolong is very high roasted and this tea is specially hand wrapped in small packets. Each packet contains 1 liang of tea. This is an old Chinese weight measurement where 1 liang is approx 37.5g of tea.

I was told that Thai businessmen had been patronising Fukien tea shop since the 70s when Hong Kong was the place to purchase Chinese goods and commodities. Oversea Chinese businessmen from South East Asia would go to Hong Kong and purchase Chinese goods and foodstuffs and had it shipped back to their countries. The elder Mr Yeo of Fujian Teashop told me that the Thai businessmen liked a particular version of the shop's oolong and would regularly purchase this tea whenever they are in Hong Kong. Mr Yeo realised that this tea was a favourite of the Thai community that the 2nd and 3rd generations of these businessmen would continue buying the tea to this day. Though the demand of this tea is not big, Fujian teashop continues to pack and sell this tea.

This oolong is high roasted and very aromatic. There is a dried floral component in the aftertaste and a caramel sweet finish in the tea.

This tea is nice.  A little history in every cup.

Monday, February 4, 2019

Happy Chinese New Year





Happy Chinese New Year 2019.

Tomorrow is Chinese New Year.  This will be the year of the pig.  Pigs were pretty important in the olden days where pigs serve as a source of income and food for the Chinese communities.  The Chinese word, Jia, for home is  is actually a pictorial of a pig in a home.  The year of the pig symbolises great abundance and happiness.  If you are born in the year of the pig, you are a happy and possibly rich person.

Looking back, there had been recently many economic uncertainties - Brexit and US/Sino trade disputes are some the highlights or main causes of these uncertainties in the world today.  However, this bodes well for us, the Chinese tea drinkers.  I do not see any significant price increases in the Chinese tea market.  There is a also a possibility of 'big time' collectors selling their tea to generate cash in these wild economic times.  I will be making my Guangzhou trip after April this year and I should get a clearer picture of the tea prices In China when I am there.  

Have a Happy Chinese New Year.  I wish all my readers happiness and good health.  


Saturday, January 19, 2019

My Fondness For Traditional Hong Kong Oolong








I enjoy drinking Hong Kong traditional oolong.  This is an acquired taste.  Some of these oolong have some age in them and most of these tea are highly roasted.  

Here 'highly roasted' is literally super high roast.  The Tie Guan Yin in the 2nd pix sold by Fukien Tea is roasted close to 40 hours.  There is a delightful caramel aroma and taste in the tea.  Addictive......and  now there are many faithful followers of this tea from Japan, Korea and recently from Russia (I happened to be at the shop when 2 Russians walked in to ask and purchase this tea).  These tea drinkers, I was told, would turn up regularly (at least once a year) at the shop buying few packets to bring home   

The Tie Lo Han, in the 1st pix, sold by Cheung Hing is similarly high roasted.   There are old plum notes in the tea that lingers in the mouth throughout the tea session. Holding a sip of this tea in the mouth, breathing in through the mouth and out through the nose makes the aroma of the tea stays within you for a nice few minutes. I enjoy this tea and would brew it at least once a week.

The present prices for high mountain Taiwanese tea and Wuyi mountain oolong are pretty intimidating to many tea tea drinkers (myself included).   I prefer my oolong to have some age and a higher degree of roast.  These inexpensive high roast oolong from Hong Kong makes me happy every time I have a sip of the tea.

I am currently exploring more 'older' tea shops and trying and sampling more tea, which I look forward to introduce to my readers.  

I feel extremely thirsty.  









Tuesday, January 1, 2019

Vietnam Oolong








Happy New Year 2019.

Time literally flies.  I looked at my very 1st blog post 10 years ago and it was about my first trip to Taiwan, staying a few days in Alishan and living with a family that owned a few plots of land specially growing Alishan oolong.  It was an eye opener watching within 24 hours the tea process from harvesting the tea in the early morning, drying the tea in the afternoon and processing the tea late till the next morning.  

I also had the opportunity  to 'check out' the tea scene in Taipei visiting the tea shops there.  While sampling the local teas there, a teashop owner told me to be careful when I buy Taiwanese oolong as he was aware that some of the Taiwanese oolong tea sold had a mix of Vietnamese oolong.  Vietnam oolong was much cheaper and could 'passed off' as local oolong. I did not think much of this information.  

Wind forward to April 2108.  I am in Taipei again at the teashops drinking and sampling local oolongs.  A sales staff there told me their tea was '100%' Taiwanese oolong.  She mentioned that there were some Taiwanese oolong sold in the city that were not 'pure'.

I was in Vietnam last month and I managed to buy a packet of Vietnam oolong. I did not visit any tea shop there and I only manage to buy a 'top supermarket grade' oolong there.  I am sure there were better grades than the packet I bought.

To 'pass off' as Taiwanese oolong, a tea must, in terms of aroma and taste, have certain similarities to make the grade.  I took this tea to a my local tea drinking group and also had a few sessions of this tea by myself.  

This tea could last about 5 infusions.  There is good aroma and taste especially in the initial infusions.  Fragrant with the signature hint of 'egg white' taste in the tea.  This tea did not perform well later infusions weakening badly from the 4th infusion.  

In my opinion, a higher grade of Vietnamese oolong could be quite impressive.  That is an ideal excuse to make another trip to Vietnam and spend time looking at the oolong there.  I like the food.  And the egg coffee there is super yummy.