Saturday, February 27, 2010

2004 Menghai 7542

I had purchased this 2004 raw pu erh cake at the Singapore's Yue Hwa emporium in Chinatown.  Costing me $50, this 357g Menghai pu erh came encased in  very thick cellophane plastic wrapper.  I could see that this cake came from Hongkong, as the Yue Hwa' distributor name was stickered on the back of the wrapper.  See pix 2 and it states "Yau Shing native tea products co." in Hong Kong.  It seems its distributor has individually wrapped the tea cakes securely with thick cellophane plastic before the cakes were distributed for sale.  I believe the wrappers serve to protect the cake and to prevent unwrapping of the cake before it is sold.

Menghai 7542 raw pu erh is a very famous recipe from Menghai's stable of pu erh tea.  This particular recipe has a strong following of tea drinkers, me included.  The popularity of this tea is very good and prices for the older 7542 especially before 2005 have risen a fair bit.  7542 cakes before 7542 are very expensive.  Tea drinkers.... be careful when you are buying old 7542,  lots of fakes.  I believe that there are already fakes for 2-3 year old cakes.  One helpful hint, is when you buy the newer 7542, take a good look at the security sticker on the back of the cake.  Examine the hologram strip on the sticker.  You can see the "dayi" chinese words on the hologram strips.  And.........  always buy from reliable and reputable tea sellers when purchasing your tea.  

The brewing results of this tea was interesting.  The tea tasted like  new raw pu erh brew,  It has a very mild floral scent with a sharp finish.  One of my conclusions on this taste is that the thick plastic wrapping, encasing the pu erh, making  the tea cake 'breathe very slowly' and thus unable to achieve the aged taste (for its age) from natural fermentation.  It is a known fact that raw pu erh will 'ferment' with proper ventilation, temperature and humidity.  It will, over time, loose the sharp aftertaste and be a mellow aged tea.  Pu erh tea tea drinkers and collectors enjoy this aged tea taste and many of these collectors store  new pu erh away and drinking them after some years.  Back to this 7542.....I did not have an opportunity to taste test this tea before buying and I did not know the storage conditions of this tea.  I have no regrets buying this tea (I have put away the tea and will come back to it in a few years time) as it has taught me a valuable lesson when it comes to buying slightly older teas.  I had written to the emporium, giving my feedback on the tea and some suggestions on the packaging of the tea cake.

Saturday, February 20, 2010

Zealong Tea

This very informative write-up  about New Zealand tea is from a news article (“OneNews" 14 april 2009').

"Zealong Tea is ready to export after having taken the bold move of developing the first plantation for an ancient variety of Chinese tea in New Zealand.

The 4,000-year-old Oolong tea is grown in the Waikato - the first time it has been grown outside of Asia.

"The Waikato region is good for agriculture because it's not that dry, the moisture is all right and so the plants grow here is quite good, and tea likes foggy [weather]," says Zealong Tea general manager Vincent Chen.

New Zealand's clean, green image also serves as a unique selling point.

"I think in Asia, in China or in Taiwan everyone says New Zealand is the last piece of clean land of the world," says Chen.

China consumes around $NZ13 billion of tea each year, and this amount is expected double within the next 10 years.

With prices ranging from $600 to $11,000 dollars a kilo, Oolong tea is not only seen as a sign of prestige, but it also plays an important role in Chinese business practice, serving as a conversation starter at business meetings.

Zealong Tea grows, processes and sells the tea from its Waikato base unlike China where each part of the process is usually carried out by different parties.

However, because of the specialised skills required in tea production, overseas talent has had to be brought in order to ensure quality control.

"We invited our tea maker to come from Taiwan who specialised in producing this tea to make sure that we are as close as the China market and the quality," says Zealong Tea marketing manager Gigi Crawford.

With over 10 years of fine tuning behind it, the company is finally ready to launch into the market.

"We are basically doing the packaging right now, and then we will be going to China to do a trade show," says

Crawford says the company is also talking to New Zealand Trade and Enterprise about launching the product in different parts of China."

My thoughts are that this new zealong tea will have its own unique taste due to different soil, climate conditions when compared to Taiwan or China oolongs. Yes, the overall characteristics of this oolong  tea will be similar, but it will have its own tea admirers and critiques.  I would love to have a sample of this tea. 

Above pix is that of the famous Taiwan  Ali-shan high mountain oolong tea.

Saturday, February 13, 2010

Chinese Lunar New Year

The Chinese New Year  falls on Feb. 14 this year.  This is an important occasion for the Chinese and is a public holiday ( or a few days) in countries like China, Taiwan, Singapore, Malaysia and many asian countries.  

One event of the chinese new year that is observed is the family reunion dinner held on the eve of the new year.  Family members will gather and feast, something like thanksgiving in the states.  In major cities in China, you may see many workers all returning home (usually cross-province) and clogging up the transport system, as they rushed back for the reunion dinners.  The chaotic atmosphere at these bus/train/plane terminals may be intimidating to the 1st time visitor.  

In Singapore, Chinese New Year is celebrated with the children wearing new clothes when families visit each other.   Mandarin oranges and red packets (1st pix) are given during the visit.  The oranges, known as "kum" in cantonese and "kum" is also known as gold, are given to head of families as respect.  Red packets containing money are given to children and elders as a "blessing".  BBQ sweetened red meats, usually pork, (pix 2) are traditional gifts during these periods.  In Singapore, one has to queue up for more than 3-5 hours, one week prior to the festive new year, to purchase these red meats due to their popularity (us$15 for 500g).  

One of my elderly tea friends (he was from Hongkong) told me that tea was also given to family members during the reunion dinner.  He recalled his dad buying a tong every year, or 7 pieces or pu erh and giving out a piece to each of his 5 grown-up children during the reunion dinner, and keeping 2 pieces himself for drinking.  I think this tea gifting custom is a nice gesture.

Last pix is a  2005 Haiwan ripe cake.  

Saturday, February 6, 2010

2002 CNNP Ripe Puerh 7581 brick

This is a 2002 CNNP ripe brick.  This brick used the 7581 recipe, meaning the recipe originated in 1975, using an average grade 8 leaves and the recipe was formulated by Kunming Tea Factory (aka CNNP).  

You will notice that the wrapper on this 250g brick did not indicate the recipe number nor the date of production, which is sometimes indicated on the back of the wrapper.  This is where the buyer will have to depend on the seller or shop for the tea specifications of the tea being sold.  The seller should and must know the background on the tea being sold.  An example would be like informing the buyer that the tea was purchased directly from the tea factory or the tea had being stored in a warehouse since production.  Such informative details may help the buyer in his purchase.  

I purchased this brick from Yunnan Sourcing and was told this brick was "The classic 7581 Ripe Pu-erh recipe from Kunming Tea Factory (aka CNNP).  This is a 2002 production and is comprised entirely of fermented Menghai area large leaf varietal Pu-erh.  The brewed tea is sweet and smooth.  The color of the tea liquor is deep red wine hue.  A very enjoyable tea with just the right amount of aging."  There were also other favorable reviews on this Yunnan Sourcing's brick on the internet.

This pu erh costs me US$35 (inclusive of freight).  The tea is compressed quite tightly and some tea tools are required.  I only need to opened it lengthwise and then break (by hand)the tea leaves into 12 pieces to be place in my tea container.  One of these pieces would be later halved to brew a pot of tea.  I usually found that after breaking up a brick/cake, there are small and tiny pieces of tea left in the tea wrapper, which I put aside to make my 1st few brews of the tea.  

The taste of this tea is smooth and has a hint of sweetness.  Quite nice actually.  This 7581 ripe brick's aroma reminds me of cooked chinese rice; a fragrant scent.  Makes 10 drinking infusions easily.  It was a surprise when I detected an extremely mild taste of raw pu  in this tea, and upon checking up with my learned tea friend from Penang, he indeed confirmed my findings  that this 7581 tea recipe has some raw pu erh mixed to the formula.

This tea is pleasant to drink, and has a nice smooth taste and aroma.  Somehow, I have not learnt how to appreciate this mix of ripe/raw pu erh brick.  My personal preference is still simplified that ripe or raw pu erh should be appreciated on its own.  Likewise, I believe all tea drinkers will have their own personal taste and preferences.  No right or wrong.  Just buy what you like.  Would I buy this tea again?  Not now and not endearing  enough, and I will use the money  to try other pu erh in my tea adventures.