Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Lao cha tou & pu erh wang

Lao Cha tou is a ripe pu erh tea.  Yunnan Sourcing describes the tea as "Cha Tou is a type of compressed nugget that is the by product of fermenting Pu-erh tea. At the end of the 40+ day fermentation process (where the Pu-erh tea is fermented unto itself), the tea is fed into a wind-blowing sorter that sorts the tea according to its size (grade). The cha tou is found near the bottom of the pile of Pu-erh and is formed as a result of heat and relatively high compression.  "Lao Cha Tou" translates roughly to: old tea nugget. The resulting flavor is smooth and never bitter, with a a fair amount of sweetness. This tea can be infused many times but requires the hottest water possible."

A tea book written in chinese, describes this tea as "after the fermented ripe tea has been sorted by the machine (wind sorted), there will be some tea remaining n the machine as some tea leaves had lumped together and is too heavy to be sorted out by the wind machine.  The author mentioned that these lumps of tea are fermented ripe tea on the outside with some tea leaves inside the lumps remaining unfermented (raw).  This gives rise to a sweetish combination of ripe/raw tea when brewed.  My trip to Yunnan made me realised that lao cha tou is a popular tea among the tea drinkers in the city.  These drinkers informed me that there are good grade lao cha tou.  I gather that the grading would depend on the quality of the tea leaves, the fermentation process and the age of the tea.  I enjoy this tea very much.  It is an excellent drink, cheap and can make more than 15 infusions easily.  

Just for information, Yunnan Sourcing sells the haiwan and menghai lao cha tou.  I mentioned this source as there are not many tea shops or vendors on the internet selling this tea.

The second pix shows a tea I had purchased in Yunnan in easter April '09.      This shop tells me this tea is raw pu erh called "pu erh wang".  The appearance looks like ginseng oolong (see my april 6 blog).  It even taste similar to the ginseng oolong.  The tea merchant insist that it is raw pu erh that is hand rolled and nothing had been added to the tea or during the tea process.  I have examined the leaves and can confirmed its pu erh tea leaves.  I have gave a sample to my expert tea friends for their opinion and will let the results be known soon.  Meanwhile......I have a kilo of both these teas for my enjoyment.

Monday, April 27, 2009

Kunming Adventures part 2

I managed to chance upon a Lanmao tea market in Kunming city.  It is actually a large compound operated by Lanmao which also has their own house brand of pu erh tea.  I was asked to sample a early 1990s blue mark pu erh which they were retailing at 1900 rmb.

The videos shows the brewing of the tea.  One observation I had in all the tea houses I visited was that they do not drink the first two infusions.  Notice the time taken for the 3rd infusion (about 20 sec).  The tea demonstrator in the video told me that she judged the tea by immersing part of the gaiwan cover into the tea and then determine from the tea color, whether the tea is ready for drinking.  Many dealers in Kunming informed me that color of the tea is an important yardstick in the assessment of the tea.   Also notice the exquisite large tea table.

The second video shows the making of the 5th infusion.  She also asked whether there was a sweet sensation the the back of the mouth after drinking 2 rounds of tea.  

Kunming adventures part 1

I seized the opportunity to visit Kunming, China during the Easter week.  Coupled with cheap promo airfares as well as the chance to redeem my hotel stay with my credit card points,  I found myself in Kunming.  This is the place for pu erh tea.  I want to drown myself in pu erh and hope to fill my whole luggage with tea.

My first encounter with tea was on the flight there.  The air stewardess was promoting a famous branded perfume scented with green tea.  Wow.....I would like to announce that I am thinking of pu erh perfume, ripe and raw tea for the special occasion.  Use liberally and your body should have that teapot glow.  

Wikipedia describes  "Kunming is the political, economic, communications and cultural center of Yunnan, and is the seat of the provincial government. It is also home to several universities, museums, galleries and other important economic, cultural, and educational institutions. The headquarters of many of Yunnan's large businesses are in Kunming as well.  It covers an area of 21,501 km² and its urban area covers 6,200 km². Kunming has an estimated population of 5,740,000 including 3,055,000 in the urban area and is located at the northern edge of the large Lake Dian , surrounded by temples and lake-and-limetone hill landscapes."

Kunming is a modern city, with many western influences found in the city.  The famous french mega supermarket chain Carrefour has 7 outlets in this city.  Thats where I got the pu erh cake dessert in box. Its, to me, taste more like candy than tea, but its fun to eat.  Fast foods like KFC and Macdonalds are also easily found in the city.  New buildings are being built at a super rapid pace.  However there are still pockets of old Kunming still existing side by side with the modern architecture.   Tea wholesale centers are an example.  

The short video shows a local tai chi  exercise by the locals in downtown Kunming on early morning Sunday.

Monday, April 6, 2009

Green Tea Chocolate & Ginseng Oolong

I got this chocolate bar from Japan and you see this very popular brand incorporating green tea in their wafer bars.  It really taste good with a nice flavor of the green tea.  I also bought green tea sold in a pepper shaker.  The sales people at the japanese supermarket had me buying the tea after a tasting session.  You just have to sprinkle ( or give 2 shakes) into a small teacup, add hot water and presto....a good tasting green tea.   While in Japan, I also took the opportunity to purchase local pastries and cakes and marvel at the intricate packaging done to every piece of cake and confectionary.

Ginseng Oolong Tea.  The name itself initially made me have a second look at this tea.  The unique combination of ginseng and oolong is a pleasant one.  The floral scent of the oolong now has a slight herbal-like scent and a sweet aftertaste.  You would have to allow more longer infusion times for this tea brew to allow the oolong leaves to open and release the ginseng powder.  Water must be boiling hot.  Makes about 6 infusions.  When you are using clay teapots, make sure you dedicate a pot for brewing oolongs as the scent will stay in your pot after washing and may take some time before the scent dissipates.  I like this tea and prefer to drink it warm and not allow it to cool to room temperature.