Sunday, August 2, 2020

Tea In Chinese Culture

As a Chinese tea drinker, you would have realised that tea is brewed and drank differently especially when in Europe or America.  Milk and sugar are not used in Chinese tea.  Tea bags are a less common sight as well in a Chinese eateries.  As I am in Singapore, I enjoy the various versions of tea offered in my country. I savour the Indian Masala tea where milk and spices are added to the tea, and you get a sweet, spicy and milky addictive that I normally have a second cup after I finished the first.

Tea in Chinese culture.  Oolong, pu erh, dan chong and long ching are some of the common teas drank by Chinese tea drinkers.  Many drink tea daily, during and after meals, in the office and at home.

Chinese tea is used in rituals and even religious ceremonies as well.

In religious ceremonies, cups of Chinese tea are place on alters and offered to Gods (taoism) or ancestors. You may have even seen these offerings when you visit a Chinese temple as well

In wedding ceremonies,, Chinese tea is offered by the wedding couple to elders of the family.  Drinking the tea symbolises the acceptance and in return the elders will give the couple a 'red packet' (gold or money) as a blessing as well.  

Pix shows an unused 90s wedding Chinese tea set.  The dragon and phoenix motifs represent the groom and bride respectively. Sweet red dates tea are usually selected as the tea of choice when tea is offered to elders of the family. 

Thursday, July 23, 2020

My Weekly Affair

I have a confession to make. I have a weekly affair. At least once a week.......I will have a smoky raw pu erh session.  Smoky raw pu erh?  Thats pu erh tea that has a smoky finish in the aroma and taste of the tea. 

There are many tea drinkers that are not into smoky tea or smoky drinks (try smoky whisky).  Many dislike the smokiness comparing the aroma and taste to a bonfire, burnt food and a friend even calling it a charcoal mouthwash.

There are a couple of famous smoky teas that you can easily buy from a tea shop.  One is the famous lapsang souchong.  This Chinese black tea is smoked dried with burning pinewood, whose smoke would be 'infused' into the tea.  The other is smoky pu erh.  I believed that smoky pu erh was a consequence of smoke introduced at some stage in the tea production that made the tea smoky.  Many newer pu erh now, are mainly non smoky.  New smoky pu erh are a rare commodity.  

I enjoy drinking older raw pu erh .  The tea makes for a more mellow, smoother and sweeter taste and aroma with age.  Smoky pu erh will lose their smokiness over time leaving a whisper of smoke in the tea. I also believed, that some old raw pu erh that exhibit a menthol or camphor aroma is the result of residual 'smoke' that resembles menthol or camphor.  This 'camphor' finish (called Zhang Xiang in Chinese) in pu erh tea are highly sought after by seasoned pu erh tea drinkers and usually these tea would command a high price.

Pix shows 2 Xiaguan pu erh tea.  Xiaguan tea factory continue to produce some excellent smoky pu erh and I know a quite a number followers of Xiaguan smoky pu erh in Malaysia and Guangzhou.  

Mysteriously addictive.  Which explains my weekly affair.

But I digress.  I would have to defer the reopening of my online store.  The re-outbreak of covid virus worldwide had severely delayed the delivery of international parcels.  Post offices and other couriers had warned of severe delays and even suspension of services in certain countries due to lockdowns and work suspension.  I will keep my readers informed when I reopen my online shop.  To all my readers, please stay safe.   

Sunday, July 12, 2020

Xiang Ji JI

This is Pek Sin Choon's most premium hand wrapped tea sold in a tin of 50 packets.  15g per pack, this tea is called Xiang Ji Ji.  The roast levels lies between mid to high roast.  

Pek Sin Choon described this tea as follows : 

"As the standard of living in Singapore improved, the preeminent fragrance was developed in between 1970s and 1980s to cater to the requirement of the tea drinkers who wants to enhance their experience in tea drinking. The tea soup is mild red in colour which is simple at first sip but leave a strong aroma around the throat and produce great aftertaste."

I used half a packet on a small teapot (100ml).  The aroma was cheerful like a fresh bouquet of flowers.  The mouthfeel was good, oily and mouth watering.  I had brewed this tea after dinner and I found it very suitable as a after-meal tea.  A good addition to my oolong stash.

Sunday, June 14, 2020

The Art Of Being Stationary

As many countries are slowly reopening their economies in June, we will find ourselves in a slightly different environment.  We are all masked up, always carrying a bottle of sanitiser and keeping a respectable distance from each other when we queue in line to do our stuff.

Many of us are emerging from a lockdown and as avid tea drinkers, we would had been brewing and drinking more tea at home.  We enjoy the brewing ritual and the taste and aroma of the tea.  Somehow to me, I felt it made the lockdown at home more manageable.

I was asked a few times during this lockdown how I drink my tea.  There is no secret and I will share with you what I did.  

Stay still, don't move.

That's it.  For a couple of minutes, be still.  Be stationary. Enjoy the aroma and taste.  The stillness will amplify the tea session even if for a minute.  

Being stationary sounds easy. There are however, many distractions in the home or office that will disrupt this deliberate stillness.  Try it for a minute.  Be still, don't move.  The tea will taste better.  

Tuesday, June 2, 2020

Sea Dyke Lao Chong Shui Hsien

Sea Dyke brand is a very popular brand for oolong tea.  They had been producing tea and had been exporting their tea worldwide.  In the 70s, many Chinese immigrants that had migrated and set up new homes in South East Asia were loyal supporters of this tea.  They are comforted that drinking this tea was a little reminder of their home province or village.

Sea Dyke has a showroom and outlet in Xiamen, China.  Locals and tourists can gawked at the wide variety of tea for sale and buy some tea home as a souvenir.  One in-house oolong sold at this shop is a Lao Chong Shui Hsien.  This particular grade is only sold at this shop.  A relative had given me a few packets in 2017.  You will notice that this oolong had been packed in 250g aluminium foiled, self sealing bags.

This Lao Chong Shui Hsien is an 'above average' tea.  Not top shelf tea but decent enough to please any oolong tea drinker.  Heavy roasted and a strong aroma that will linger in the mouth for a good few minutes after a tea session.  Makes about 6 good infusions with every brew. I had hoped to visit this shop this year but it looks like I have to defer my travels to Xiamen till next year.  

But I digress.  Many economies worldwide are slowly reopening in June.  Post offices, couriers and airmail are slowly resuming 'operational' status.  I hope to resume tea mail by end June.  I will keep my readers informed.    Stay tuned and stay safe. 

Tuesday, May 5, 2020

Do You Have Time For Tea?

This worldwide pandemic has extorted a high price for many people.   For most of us , we are staying at home, working from home and simply riding out the pandemic.

There is a silver lining in that we get to spend quality (quantity) time with our family.   If you had been wishing you had more free time to pursue a hobby or interest, you would suddenly found yourself granted this wish.  Many of my friends are learning to cook and bake (they cheated by buying a bread making machine).  Like it or not, I hope you are making use of this lockdown fruitfully.  

If you enjoy your Chinese tea like me, this lockdown period would allow us to explore and appreciate our tea and tea ware.  I find myself more deliberate in my tea brewing.  I try different tea and tea ware, infusion styles and get to drink more tea on a daily basis.  There may be certain teapots that pour I reduced the tea leaves.  There are certain pu erh that does better, in taste and aroma, with longer infusion times.  

A few readers had asked me whether I will be buying more tea.  Yes.  I hope to travel nearer the end of the year,  Moreover, with many countries attempting to restart their economies,  many post offices worldwide will be resuming International deliveries by June.  I will update my readers in due course on the reopening of my mini tea store.  

I had just opened a 2007 Lan Tie.  Produced by Jing Mei Tang, this 13 year old cake stored in my part of the world, has a very traditional old style taste and aroma.  It is strong, herbal and medicinal.  Very faint sweet aftertaste and slightly intoxicating.  A fun tea session.  

On second thought, maybe I should get a bread making machine.  Time for my 2nd tea session for the day,    

Wednesday, April 15, 2020

Working From Home WFH

Help!  I have to move out my tea corner.    Singapore has initiated a lockdown in the country for a month (the government called the lockdown a circuit breaker) and as a result, my whole family are working from home.  I personally support a lockdown as it will help break the spread of the virus within the community and lessen the stress on our medical providers.

Video conferencing is one of the work that is performed daily.  My family members have such daily  'meetings' online and video conferencing 'areas' had been set up at home.  My tea corner had to be given up for this noble cause.  It now appears my tea brewing will be done in the kitchen till I can find another corner for my tea toys. Mornings and afternoons have to be pretty quiet to accommodate these 'meetings'. 

I would like to recommend a few tips on your video chats sessions
- raise your laptop about 5 inches from the table.  You would 'look' better as viewers will not see up your nostrils during the conversation.
-  position yourself from the camera that your shoulders and face can be seen. Not too near in that your entire face occupy the whole screen.
- some lighting on yourself and not depend on the laptop screen to light you up,  You will look like a walking dead character if you do that.

Meanwhile, stay safe and drink lots of tea.