Saturday, December 25, 2010

My Pu erh is one year older

Looking back at 2010, I had the privilege to be able to make oversea trips to China to learn more (buy more also) about Chinese tea. The tea markets in Guangzhou was a real eye opener and is a worthwhile visit for a Chinese tea drinker or collector. I am visiting Guangzhou again during this Christmas week.

A few readers have asked me the travel aspects of my past trips to Guangzhou, Hong Kong and Kunming. They had requested information on hotel, dining and shopping besides tea. I will include such information in my subsequent blogs when I go overseas to learn (and buy) Chinese tea. Hotel stays for me is about 3 stars (sometimes the internet gives real deep discounts on good hotels)……as long as its clean, safe, has internet and has a hot shower. I do not use the hotel’s facilities as I tend to be out from 8am to 8pm (earliest). I eat regular local food fare but will look out for those preferred or rated eats by the locals there. I might give myself a hotel buffet on my last night there. Travel guides (Frommer or Lonely planet) and internet searches do provide some guide on good hotel rates, dining and subway maps. Most importantly, make all hotel bookings online and you can get the best rates.

Back to tea. I had drank lots of ripe pu erh this year and the Haiwan 06 mavin and the Fuhai 07 large leaf pu erh were the highlights of my 2010 ripe teas which I had opened from my collection. These 2 teas were highly aromatic and tasty as well. Highly recommended. I did not drink much raw pu erh this year as my raw pu collection are relatively new teas (less than 5 years). I have recently acquired a couple of older raw pu erh and I hope to opened them in 2011. The above pix shows a 2003 Haiwan and 2001 Menghai raw pu erh (both had been stored in Singapore for more than 6 years).

For oolongs that I drank this year, the traditional “Sea Dyke” and Wuyi Shuixian, both Fujian oolongs packed in nifty tea tins were, to me, good quality traditional shui xian in terms of robustness, fragrance and taste. These oolong teas are very inexpensive and I have been happily brewing these oolongs a couple of times a week.

Happy Holidays and I hope everyone will have more time for tea.

Sunday, December 12, 2010

The Tea Enthusiast's Handbook

Printed this year by Crown Publishing, 'The Tea Enthusiast's Handbook' is written by Mary Lou Heiss and Robert J. Heiss. A look at the the back of the book (click pix for enlarged views) revealed that the authors are also tea retailers for their shop 'Tea Trekker' in the States.

I found the book very informative and the many photo illustrations make this book an extremely readable one. I found, that the authors took many pictures of the various teas and also the various colors of these tea brews, which makes the reading very pleasant and it was easy to relate and understand the tea information presented by the authors.

The book deals with purchasing tea, steeping the perfect cup and the 6 classes of tea (green, yellow, white, oolong, black and pu erh tea). The authors, in their selection of teas, do provide detailed information of each type of tea and recommend the steeping times for brewing these teas.

The authors also provided some interesting information on pu erh tea which is as follows;

"We had the opportunity to visit the Xiaguan Tea Factory, which is famous for their tuo-cha(nest-shaped) Pu-erh, the very tea we observed in production. The maocha is blended by the workers before they pack it into the perforated mold that will shape the tuo-cha. Two workers sat with two bags of mao cha in front of them, and they put some leaf from each bag into the mold in such a way that the smaller leaves were tucked inside the tuo-cha and the larger, more attractive leaves were visible on the surface.......

Shou Pu-erh is made in tea factories using the wo dui process. Wo dui begins by spreading the mao cha in a deep pile on the factory floor, and the leaf is dampened with mists of water. After the proper dampening, a thermal blanket is put over the pile of leaf. Heat builds up in the pile, encouraging both oxidation of the leaf and fermentation as enzymatic changes start to occcur within the leaf. This heat buildup encourages the viability of the natural bacteria present on the leaf, stimulating and initiating the fermentation process. The pile is turned every day or so a to allow each leaf to spend some time in different layers of the pile. When we visited the Menghai Tea factory, we were told that their wo dui process takes sixty to seventy days to complete. After wo dui is completed, the leaf is dried to a moisture level of approximately 10 percent.
After this stage, the leaf is compressed and shaped in a hydraulic machine. The tea cakes are then put in a drying room where they will rest and continue to dry on racks before being wrapped."

A reading of the above passages seem to suggest the following:

a) it is a normal practice for a tea cake to have nicer or bigger leaves on the outside of the cake and have the 'not so nice' leaves on the inside of the cake. My discovery of this phenomena was highlighted in my 13 nov'09 blog when I found out that the leaves inside a 2000 ripe brick looked different from the leaves that were on the surface of the brick. I suppose it makes economic and marketing that you can't expect perfect leaves in every production. Sure you will get tea leaves of different sizes not to mention some broken or torn leaves. My recommendation is that you break up a cake totally and and place the pieces in a tea caddy, That way, a brewing of this tea will be more representative of the tea than just peeling bits and pieces of the cake.

b) the authors seem to suggest that the fermentation of ripe pu erh is natural in that the tea factories do not add any enzymes or fermenting bacteria into the fermentation process. Ripe puerh achieved a super fast fermentation process than raw pu erh due to to the added moisture and heat(thermal blankets).

I enjoy reading "The Tea Enthusiast's Handbook".

Saturday, December 4, 2010

2006 Haiwan Mavin Ripe Imperial Tea Brick

This 100g ripe tea brick is produced by Haiwan in 2006. I am a fan of Haiwan tea and this "Imperial tea brick" strengthens my admiration for Haiwan tea products.

This 2006 tea brick comes packaged in a nice presentation box. You will have noticed that the 'English' side of the box had the "Mavin" imprinted on the box. I had the impression that "Mavin" was used to represent the chinese words "Lao Tong Zhi" used by Haiwan. I believe this translation was abandoned as it was not used in later Haiwan products.

Before I forget, use less leaves and do a quick brew, at least for the 1st three infusions. Quick brew here means - pour boiling water in teapot, cover the lid, and waiting time. This tea brews fast and strong.

The aroma of the brewed tea is "WOW". There is a deep toasty, herbly and earthy scent. Compared to the various ripe teas I have drunk (see a few of my previous blogs), the aromatic index of this tea has been turned up a few notches. Taste is nice and smooth with no bitterness. I could get only 7 drinking infusions from one brew.

For those who like ripe pu erh like me, do consider getting a brick of this Haiwan tea. This 100g brick is also ideal when you order from tea dealers online, especially when you need to fill up your order to round up to the nearest kilogram or pound without incurring additional postage.

A local food critic in Singapore used the following phrase when he wants his viewers to try a dish, and I will likewise use this phrase to summarize my thoughts on this tea - "Die, Die Must Try."

Saturday, November 27, 2010

TEA The drink that changed the world

I was at the public library when I came across this book "TEA The drink that changed the world". Written by Laura C. Martin and published by Tuttle Publishing in 2007.

This book traces the history of tea, tea in China, Korea and Japan, the Japanese tea ceremony and how tea was spread to the rest of the world.

Below is an excerpt from the book:
"During the middle of the eleventh century, the process of creating tea underwent a dramatic change in China as tea masters discovered new ways of processing tea leaves to bring forth enhanced flavor. Instead of being pounded and formed into bricks, tea leaves were dried and powdered, then boiling water was added, and the brew was whipped with a bamboo whisk until foamy. The resulting beverage was called 'whipped tea' and the taste was decidedly superior. It was sometimes poetically called 'frothy jade' because of its green color and foamy appearance caused by the whipping motion. Because the flavor was so much better, this new method of preparation proved to be a monumental step in the development of tea. This type of green tea (which we call matcha today) is still used in the Japanese tea ceremony.
This new whipped tea formed what tea scholars call the 'second phase' of tea. During the first phase, brick tea was the most common form of processed tea, and during the third phase, which we're still in today, tea lovers began to steep loose tea leaves in hot water. The three 'schools' or 'phases' of tea are Brick, Whipped and Steeped, based on the most commonly used preparation method.

There are numerous illustrations in the book from old drawings, sketches, photographs, maps and diagrams. It was a pity that there were no color illustrations in this book. I was disappointed that the author wrongly described ripe pu erh tea as "The second type of Pu erh tea is cooked to speed the aging time."(pg 218)

I liked the author's use of collecting quotations on tea. William Gladstone, the British prime minister (1809-1898) was quoted "If you are cold, tea will warm you. If you are heated, it will cool you. If you are depressed, it will cheer you. If you are excited, it will calm you."

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Wuyi Shuixian

This is Wuyi Shuixian. Produced by Fujian Tea Import & Export Co Ltd (, this 125g oolong tea was one of the two commercial teas produced by China that was sold in Singapore in the early 1960s. I had gleaned this information from Amoy Tea during my last visit. According to the proprietor Mr Tan, this Wuyi Shuixian and Sea Dyke's Lao Chung Shuixian, were the first two teas that was exported to Singapore during the '60s. (see 15 Oct 2010 blog)

Tea produced in Wuyi is also known as yan cha (rock tea). I had read that the name yan cha was used to label tea that was grown in rocky terrain in Wuyi. Da Hong Pao and Tie Luo Han, renowned oolong teas come from this location as well. A tea dealer told me that even the areas on the outskirts of Wuyi are now labelling their tea 'yan cha' to take advantage of the popularity of this tea.

The flavor characteristics of this tea is similar to Sea Dyke's Shuixian. I noticed that the Wuyi Shuixian is slightly less intense than that of Sea Dyke's oolong. It is still very strong in flavor and very smooth. It literally slips down the throat and is very pleasant. Though it is slightly less popular (also slightly cheaper as well) than Sea Dyke's oolong, this Wuyi oolong has a loyal group of followers. I enjoy this tea very much. I love the robust taste of Sea Dyke's shuixian but I appreciate the slightly delicate but very smooth Wuyi shuixian.

There are very expensive and better grades of oolongs than these two oolongs as mentioned above, but I believe they served as a yardstick to compare or even to start your Fujian oolong adventure. These two oolongs are very inexpensive and in my opinion, good representatives of Fujian oolongs.

Forgot to mentioned that this Wuyi oolong comes in a nifty metal tea caddy that you can reuse for your tea storage.

Saturday, November 13, 2010

The Chinese Art Of Tea

I came across this book at a used book store (such shops are a rarity in Singapore) and I purchased this book to add to my collection. "The Chinese Art Of Tea" is written by John Blofeld and published Shambhala Publications Inc in 1985.

This book deals with the various Chinese teas, history of tea, tea gardens and houses, poems and songs of tea, and tea and health. The book even devotes a chapter on a "manual for practicing the Artless Tea" which the author describes "The art of tea is artless in that it is practised with the maximum of informality and freedom from restriction. There are no rules to be observed other than those pertaining to making fine tea in such a manner that its flavour and aroma are at their best........Getting the fullest satisfaction from the tea requires special state of mind analogous to what the Buddhists mean by awareness. This is achieved by attending to the responses of all the six senses: hearing, smelling, tasting, seeing, touching and consciousness. Once it has become habitual, there is no need to bestow further thought on it."

The 2nd pix shows a tea brewing setup called "tea boat style" where the teapot is placed in a bowl. I am using this method to brew my pu erh teas. This dispenses the use of a tea tray to brew tea. I will pour out the 1st two infusions into this bowl before throwing out the tea. Moreover the tea bowl will collect any spillage when I pour too much hot water into the teapot.

This book is out of print and a new copy fetches about US$90(I checked today) on Amazon. I personally found the writing style a little tedious to read. Click pix 3 for enlarged views. Anyway, I did not have any regrets having this book in my collection.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Wild Pu erh sun dried buds

I had noticed that Yunnan Sourcing (YS) had some interesting loose teas for sale and my recent order had included some of these teas. The pix above shows wild pu erh sun dried buds. YS described the tea as "These little white buds come from the same plant varietal of camellia tea tree that the 2005 Xiaguan Wild Ancient tea cake comes from. It is a varietal of camellia that grows in Lincang, Baoshan and Dehong area of western Yunnan. The buds are picked in late-march and then sun-dried. The flavor is fresh and a little fruity somewhat similiar to a good white tea but more complex flavors. The brewed liquor is whitish and clear, and there is a hint of fresh pine needles in the aroma"

When I received this order of tea, I had imagined that I will get to brew a pot of wild pu erh in its wildest and raw-est form. It was a surprise when I opened the aluminium foiled bag. I had forgotten about the pix posted by YS. This tea was all buds about 1 cm long with whitish hairs on the buds. YS had classified this tea under the 'white tea' category and I decided to brew this tea as a regular white tea......which for me is to take a pinch of tea, put it in a regular size mug and pour hot water. Surprise....YS was has taste characteristics of a white tea. I did not detect any raw pu erh tea taste in the brew. Instead, this tea has hints of white silver needles and pai mu tan (white peony) tea with a slight sweet aftertaste. I would recommend this tea to those that favor white teas. A 100g pack which I ordered is a good quantity to start with. Nice.

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Chinese teamaster calls pu erh a detergent

This very interesting article is from Cnngo by Virginia Lau entitled “12 things about tea your local dim sum restaurateur won’t tell you” (dated 7 Oct 2010). The writer interviewed Master Leung Ka-Dong who had been working at Ying Kee Tea House for almost 40 Years.

"What type of tea do you usually order when you eat dim sum?" asks Ying Kee Tea House Master Leung Ka-Dong (梁家棟).

"I usually order white hair peony because my family always orders it," I reply.

"Did you know that almost all restaurants mix their white teas with black to to add flavor and color?" he says.

No, I did not know that. I did not know that it's only in the recent 50 to 60 years that white, green and pu-erh have become Hong Kong's most popular teas either.

With a richer economy, Hong Kong people stirred away from simple black teas from India and Sri Lanka and began to enjoy tea for various health reasons or collect pu-erh tea like wine.

Thanks to Master Leung, who has worked at Ying Kee Tea House since the early 1970s, I now know a little more about how to appreciate Chinese tea.

Here are 12 things he told me about tea that no restaurateur would have:

1. Never drink tea on an empty stomach

Always drink tea during or after a meal. Our stomachs are acidic and tea is alkalizing.

Acid and alkaline combined have a bloating effect.

2. Drink white tea if you are a smoker

White tea is really good for the lungs and throat, so it is especially beneficial for smokers.

A cup of white peony tea helps clear all the phlegm in our throats and cures coughs.

3. You won’t be able to tell the quality of white tea by its color

Most restaurants mix white peony tea with black tea to add color and flavor because customers generally prefer tea that tastes richer and looks darker in color.

Pure white tea itself has hardly any flavor or color compared to other teas.

4. Only fine dining Chinese restaurants serve screw shaped green tea

Genuine screw shaped green tea is the highest grade of green tea and the most expensive. At Ying Kee Tea House, it sells at HK$5,067 per kilogram (HK$380 per 75 gram bag). Produced only in Jiangsu Province’s Dong Ting Mountain, it’s also the rarest green tea in China, producing only about 1,000 kilograms a year.

It must be consumed fresh, within a year after picking the tea leaves. Screw shaped green tea of higher quality is best consumed within six months even. If it is tasteless, solvent or extremely bitter, that means it has already gone bad.

But while it is certainly expensive, screw shaped green tea has a very particular taste that not everyone may like. Even when it is fresh, it tastes more bitter than other teas.

For all those reasons, screw shaped green tea is only served at fine dining Chinese restaurants, usually at hotels.

5. Treat pu-erh tea like a digestible detergent to flush all the grease away

Always pair oily food with pu-erh tea. Dim sum, no matter steamed or fried, contains lard. When you eat shrimp dumplings, there is always a piece of fatty pork in there to add flavor and fragrance.

Pu-erh tea helps you rinse all the grease from the food out of your system. It aids digestion, blood circulation and lowers cholesterol levels.

If you don’t have detergent at home, boil some pu-erh tea and use it to wash your dishes. It’s like a digestible detergent.

6. Sweets go best with green tea

Sweet food is best paired with tea that is more bitter. Loong cheng green tea helps moderate the sweetness of desserts.

Like pu-erh tea, drinking green tea helps lower cholesterol levels and break down fat.

But while most teas are best brewed in boiling hot water, green teas like screw shaped green tea and loong cheng only need to be brewed in water that is about 75 to 85 degrees. If the water is too hot, it will be difficult to maintain the same fragrance in the second brew.

7. Teh kuan yin goes best with spicy food

Spicy foods are best paired with teh kuan yin because it has a bittersweet effect. If you ever visit a Chiu Chow restaurant, they always serve teh kuan yin tea with their spicy dishes.

Plus, Chiu Chow city borders Shantou city and Fujian province, which is known for harvesting teh kuan yin leaves.

8. Fried food goes best with white tea

Basically, any type of fried or deep fried food goes well with white tea. In Chinese medicinal terms, fried food is considered “dry hot.”

White teas like white hair peony help release body heat.

9. Smell quality

Aside from pu-erh tea which is almost odorless, quality tea should always give off a fragrant smell.

If you can’t smell the tea or or see that it is very solvent, then it has probably expired.

10. You won’t be able to find good pu-erh tea at dim sum restaurants

It is simply not cost-efficient. Pu-erh tea is like wine. The longer you store it, the richer it becomes. Storage for at least three to six years is optimal.

Regular pu-erh teas served at restaurants have generally been modified during the fermentation process to reduce storage time. By doing this, they lose whatever fragrance and flavor they originally had.

Good pu-erh tea should look very smooth and deep red in color, not black like regular pu-erh tea.

You can also test the quality of your pu-erh tea by the stain it leaves on your cup after drinking it. If you see a stain surrounding the rim of your cup, that means you are drinking regular or low quality pu-erh tea. If your cup is left with no stain after consumption, you are drinking pu-erh tea of high quality.

11. Teh kuan yin, daffodil and oolong are all the same at dim sum restaurants

No matter which of the three you order, dim sum restaurants will serve you low grade daffodil tea. All three teas come under the same oolong tea category, yet they are very different in flavor.

Teh kuan yin tastes more clear and fragrant. Oolong is stronger and more solvent. And daffodil is the purest of them all.

12. The best moments of tea enjoyment are when you have time

Drinking tea is a matter of mood. And when I talk about mood, it mainly has to do with the condition of time.

You’ve probably heard many rules about tea, from water temperature to color. But at the end of the day, drinking tea is a very personal experience.

Some people like their tea boiling hot while others like theirs lukewarm. Some may like theirs stronger than others. So it’s all about time. We need time to brew that perfect cup of tea.

Saturday, October 16, 2010

"Sea Dyke" brand Lao Chung Shui Hsien

I was at Amoy Tea shop (see 20 Aug 2010 blog) last month when a couple of elderly gentlemen walked in and bought a few tins of "Sea Dyke" Lao Chung Shui Hsien. They communicated in a Hokkien dialect with Mr Tan, the proprietor, before leaving the shop happily with their tea.

Mr Tan later told me a little history of this tea. Amoy Tea in the 1950's was the sole distributor of "Sea Dyke" tea. As the export quantities of this tea was controlled by the Chinese government, there was a good and strong demand by the tea drinkers here in Singapore. This is especially from the migrant Fujian community in Singapore where many had taken up work and residence here in this country. I suppose, that this tea represented, to the migrant Fujian tea drinker, a kind of link to their roots in China. A sense of nostalgia perhaps but it brings back memories of their times in China. This tea was sold for $16 during that time. This was a luxurious amount to pay for the tea. A bowl of noodles with a drink costs about $0.50 during that time ( it costs $4 now). Mr Tan had observed that there are many old "Sea Dyke" tea drinkers especially from the Fujian dialect who are still faithful patrons of this tea. Mr Tan also mentioned that his clients of this tea do tell him that even though there are occasions that the tea is not up to the mark (due to a poor harvest), his clients will be faithfully buying and drinking the tea. This tea now retails for S$11 (about US$9).

This tea is produced by Xiamen Tea Imp & Exp Ltd. Their website, also in English describes this tea ( as "It is one of our traditional high- grade tea products, fully displaying the four features of "YAN" flavor; vivid, sweet. clear and fragrant. It is black bloom in color, with thick, lasting fragrance, heavy, mellow, smooth taste as well as distinct "YAN" flavor. Even thick tea soup won't taste bitter or astringent. It can retain its unique flavor even after several times of brewing."

This 125g tea is well packed in a tin. The tea has a nice strong fragrance and the color of the brew resembles a ripe pu tea. I found the flavor robust but not bitter. The tea has a nice toasty and woody aroma with a slight sweet aftertaste. It is not bitter and the tea make a really enjoyable drink. My family members like this tea and gave good opinions on this beverage. A brew can make 5 good infusions.

I enjoy this tea very much. I would recommend a buy on this inexpensive tea. The added bonus from purchasing this tea is the tin that houses the tea. This tea is packed to the brim in this 5 inch high tin. Its like a well decorated tea caddy. It comes with a plastic stopper and this tea container can be reused to store your other teas you have in your collection. Time to make a brew of this tea.....

Saturday, October 9, 2010

How much did you spend on tea?

A news article from the Wall Street Journal, 23 Sept 2010 by Josh Chin:

"Worried gold has topped out? Don’t trust the stock market? Can’t raise the money for real estate?

Some in China claim to have the tonic for your investment blues.

In a new special report(transcript in Chinese), China’s state broadcaster CCTV delves into the stunning rise of dahongpao, a once obscure tea from the southern coastal province of Fujian that has suddenly become one of the country’s hottest commodities. Literally.

Since the middle of last year, the report says, prices of certain types of dahongpao have increased tenfold. According to one expert interviewed by CCTV, the wholesale price for mid-range varieties of the tea has risen from between 200 and 400 yuan to around 4,000 yuan per kilogram, with retail prices reaching 20,000 yuan or more. CCTV found one retail shop in the Fujian city of Xiamen that claimed to be selling one variety for 200,000 yuan, or roughly $30,000, per kilogram.

“I never thought it would get so expensive,” CCTV quotes tea producer Wu Zongyan as saying. “It’s one price one day, another price another day. Between when we pick the leaves and when it’s ready to sell, the price has already gone up.”

The dahongpao phenomenon mirrors in exaggerated form the burgeoning demand in China for high-end French wines. In both cases, high prices suggest buyers aren’t in it for the sipping pleasure but instead are purchasing the beverages as an investment.

Strange as it may sound, this isn’t the first time Chinese tea prices have gone stratospheric. A few years ago, puer, a smoky-tasting tea from Yunnan Province typically pressed into saucer-sized cakes for storage, underwent a similar transformation from tea-lover’s fetish to luxury-grade investment. Prices for some puer cakes reached the tens of thousands of dollars before crashing back to earth in 2008.

The attraction of dahongpao, a form of Oolong, is its rarity. Grown only in a small mountainous area in the Fujian interior, all genuine dahongpao is said to come from cuttings of a handful of trees originally planted to provide tea for the imperial family during the Ming Dynasty (1368-1644 A.D.).

CCTV explains the dahongpao craze as a reaction to uncertainty over real estate and stocks, among the only traditional investment outlets available to the average person in China. To meet demand, the report says, exclusive dahongpao shops have been multiplying across Fujian—from 200 to more than 1,500 in the town, Wuyi, where the tea is produced—while fake dahongpao has begun to flood the market. But in a bad sign for would-be investors, CCTV finds many of the new retailers losing money, unable to unload their more expensive tins.

In other words, this particular tea party may not be going on much longer."

Sunday, October 3, 2010

Gunpowder Tea

Gunpowder tea is a green tea. It is mainly produced in Zhejiang province. Green tea there is harvested and goes through steaming, drying and rolled into tiny nuggets or pellets. I suppose it got its name as it might have resembled gunpowder pellets that were used some time ago.

It is interesting that the rolling of these tea leaves resemble the rolled up tea leaves of Taiwan high mountain tea as well as TieGuanYin oolong tea. I remember, when I was in Alishan Taiwan, the tea was also placed in a large cloth bag and the bag was compressed and rolled around in a machine, so that the leaves are rolled into a nugget/pellet shape. I suppose gunpowder tea is also rolled in this way but I was told that some gunpowder tea from Zhejiang uses the very old traditional method of hand-rolling each individual tea leaf by hand. I personally believe that among the green teas that are produced in China, gunpowder tea is one of the driest form of green tea, and if kept properly, is able to store well for a few years.

I have also read that good gunpowder tea is characterized by the high shine on the tea pellets as well as the tight roll of the tea leaf. If you do a search on the net, there are also gunpowder tea produced and sold in Taiwan and Sri Lanka. I also read that in Morocco, gunpowder tea is served with mint and sweetened.

How's the taste? I took about 10 pellets and brew them in a regular mug. The tea color is yellowish - like a regular green tea brew. You will also observe that the gunpowder tea unfurl to whole tea leaves when you brew a cup. I usually let my family taste new teas and the feedback I got from one of my girls is that there is a slight smoky aroma and taste. I myself found it slightly sweetish but without the floral notes found in Longqing green teas. Quite a delicious tea actually. I have yet to verify whether the gunpowder tea underwent a roasting stage but Yunnan Sourcing in his Zhejiang gunpowder tea page stated that the tea was roasted during the processing stages.

Gunpowder tea is an inexpensive tea. It is very suitable to bring a small pack when you are on the road. Just pack it in a tiny bag and there are no worries that it would break or damage easily like other green teas.

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Yi Pin Tang 2006 ripe pu erh tuo

Pu erh are sold as loose tea or compressed and are commonly sold as cake, brick, tuo or melon shape tea. This 2006 ripe tea which I had purchased in Hong Kong 3 years ago was compressed into a tuo shape. This 'bowl shape' compressed tea has a hollow at the bottom of the tuo. This was to ensure that, during the steaming and compression process, this hollow will allow the tea to properly dry out and be ready for packaging and sale. Without this hollow, moisture may be retained in the cake thus damaging the cake. I am always fascinated by this tuo shape but I find, to me, storing tuos to be more tedious than regular size tea cakes. I store my tea cakes individually in brown paper envelopes and line them up on a shelf. I had kept this tuo for three years and it stood up as a sore thumb on my shelf.

Anyway back to this tea. This 250g tea was produced by Yi Pin Tang tea factory. I had no idea of this factory and went on the internet to solicit more info on this factory. This factory has a website ( China business listings I use, also mentioned that this factory was set up in 2005 with a staff strength of about 200. The company had also obtained ISO 9001. Yunnan Sourcing which sell their tea also states that is "run by yet another Menghai tea factory manager".

It is no surprise that this tea compares very favourably to the ripe teas produced by the other big boys (menghai, mengku etc). This tea has a nice color, a woody and fragrant aroma (hint of leather in early infusions) with a nice sweet finish. Easily makes 8-10 infusions from one brew. This tuo is compressed very tightly and it took me some effort to break up this tuo tea cake. Overall, this tea did not disappoint and I enjoyed this tea very much.

I enjoy drinking ripe pu erh tea very much (almost a tong a year). There are distinct flavor characteristics produced by the various pu erh tea factories. I believe the production of ripe pu erh requires intimate knowledge of tea fermentation and that ripe pu erh stored over time will develop into a better pu erh tea.....maybe the tea goes through further natural fermentation......but I find that older ripe pu erh (say more than 3-5 yrs old) can really make a super nice brew.

Friday, September 10, 2010

"Teapot worshipping" religon

Since my last couple of blogs was on teapots, this news about teapot worshipping makes an interesting read.

This article is from, written by Thomas Bell 4 Mar 2008.

"A sharia court in Malaysia jailed a woman for joining a "tea-pot worshipping" cult. Kamariah Ali, a 57 year old former teacher, was arrested in 2005 when the government of the Muslim majority country demolished the two storey high sacred tea pot and other infrastructure of the "heretical" Sky Kingdom cult. For the eccentric sect, which emphasised ecumenical dialogue between religions, the tea pot symbolized the purity of water and "love pouring from heaven".

But in Malaysia, despite constitutional guarantees of freedom of worship, born

Muslims such as Mrs Ali are forbidden from converting to other religions."

So the next time you hold a teapot in your hand, think of the many things you can do to the teapot.

Saturday, September 4, 2010

Anatomy of a teapot - pt 2

There is usually a 'built-in' filter inside your teapot. If you look inside your pot, you can observe a filter at the spout joint. This filter is also known in Chinese as the 'bee hive'. This filter is useful to prevent the tea leaves from exiting when you pour out your tea. The Japanese teapots sometime have a small metal mesh filter instead. Do keep your filters clean by washing out any tea leaves that is caught in the filter. Exercise some care as not to damage the filter if you are using tools to clean the filter.

The 1st pix shows a ball filter. There are also flat, unobtrusive filters in many teapots. I know many tea drinkers and tea shops use an additional mesh filter (handheld), when they brew their tea. They use this handheld filter prior to pouring out the tea into a pitcher before serving. This is to ensure that your served tea do not contain any tiny tea leaves that is not caught by the teapot filter. I personally do not use the handheld metal filter.

I was told that the Chinese teapot develop the use of beehive filters in the manufacture of the teapots only in the past 12-15 years ago. The older teapots do not have a built-in filter (see pix2). It is interesting that I found this teapot felt lighter for its size.

Almost all Chinese teapots (yes, even the very expensive ones) today are made from moulds. Teapot makers make moulds from a teapot and subsequent teapots are made from these moulds. Though you will expect that every production of a teapot production run will be identical in terms of size and shape, there will be small differences when you compare these teapots. This is because there are some hand-work done during the production stage. Spouts and handles are joined by hand. The overall teapot is also hand-finished. You can easily spot this handiwork when you are buying a teapot.....alignment of the handle or spout are some examples. Some teapot makers use a potter's wheel in the production stages, thus the concentric lines on the inside of the lid and teapot (pix 3&4).

I myself have bought a couple of teapots. I did buy a few teapots from Yunnan Sourcing especially the Da Hong Pao range (I will devote a blog entry on this). I have not bought any teapots for investment. I only buy teapots if they catches my eye.....and since I am a little clumsy(broke a couple already).....will not buy the expensive teapots.