Saturday, March 27, 2010

Haiwan 2005 ripe Pu erh

I opened a Haiwan 2005 ripe pu erh cake today.  You will notice this cake carries the "laotongzhi" (old comrade) label as well.  It is a signature label of Haiwan Tea Factory, produced under the auspices of Mr Zhou Pin Liang, a world renown teamaster.  Prior to setting up his own tea factory (Haiwan), he was a production manager of Menghai tea factory for many years. 

This ripe 357g cake was purchased when I was in Kunming last April.  This cake, I was told, used mostly grade 6 pu erh.   In Singapore, I had kept this pu erh, wrapper intact, in a new clean brown envelope.  These are those normal larger envelopes that you send your mail.  I keep my pu erh tea this way on my bookshelves this way.  I have dedicated 2 long shelves to store my tea.  (hehe....actually have even more tea stashed at my mum's place).

The color and appearance of this tea looks pleasant.  The taste is lighter than I expected....... maybe I had expected it to be stronger and more robust.  Given its age of 5 years and it was stored here for a year in Singapore (hot and humid),  there was no post-fermentation smell or taste (called wodui - some describe wodui as slight fishiness in scent).  There was instead  a nice floral scent and a very mild sweet aftertaste sensation.  It makes for a very smooth mellow drink and my tea session was finished in a hurry.    I felt that this tea was produced  under 'middle ground status'.........I meant that for ripe tea drinkers like me.....this tea has all the good characteristics of a ripe pu, ie woody, earthy, floral, sweetish and so on.....and the tea did not go overboard in its taste.  This is to me, a standard straight forward pu.  Yes, tea drinkers (me included) will have their individual preferred taste and will pursue those teas which is adjusted (woody, floral, sweet, robustness) to suit their taste buds.  For example, the 2007 Menghai "golden needle/white lotus" ripe cake (see previous blog - 8 Jan 2010) which I also enjoy has the robust factor up many notches.  

This tea cake was inexpensive and cost me about us$10(purchase date april 2009). Makes 10 infusions easily.   A tasty and very good value for money tea, which I regret not buying extra as this cake is now not readily available in the tea shops or on the net.  

Saturday, March 20, 2010

Bamboo Pu erh

Bamboo pu erh is pu erh(raw or ripe), that is stuffed into bamboo tubes and these tubes are lightly roasted over an open fire.  This tea will then be kept by tea drinkers either with the bamboo intact with the stuffed tea or by breaking the bamboo and storing the tea in its cylindrical shape. (see pix)

This traditional practice of making bamboo pu erh originates from a minority tribe in Yunnan called the Dai.  (see my earlier blog 3 Jul 2009)  The unique taste of the toasted bamboo pu erh resulted in some Yunnan tea companies making such teas on a commercial scale.  

The taste of bamboo pu erh is refreshing and unique.  The bamboo tea I have is the raw Yi Wu  pu erh.  This tea was sold without the bamboo (I wish the bamboo was intact as it would give a very traditional sensation) and came in 3-4 inch pieces.  Its about an inch thick.  The light toasting of the raw tea seems to reduce the harshness of a new raw pu erh.  Instead, I find the tea to be sweet, floral, an oak like finish with a hint of smoke.  Its like those wines that has been kept in oak barrels and you can detect the oak flavor when you drink the wine.  Well back to the tea...its a delightful tea and its no wonder I finished my 100g pack within a month.  A brew (8-10g) can yield 4-5 good infusions.  

Bamboo pu erh is inexpensive and its available at most teashops and on the internet.  

Saturday, March 13, 2010

Tao Of Chinese Tea

“Tao of Chinese Tea” is written by Ling Yun (Grace).  Published in 2009, this book is produced under the Reader’s Digest Association Inc. 

This beautifully illustrated book introduces the reader to the classic stories of tea, the various types of popular chinese teas, teapots and accessories, golden rules of selecting good teas and storage of tea.

The author Ling Yun is recognized as a teamaster in China.  She also possesses a master’s degree in Economics from Peking University and owns a studio called “House of Lingyun” teaching Chinese culture such as tea, calligraphy and Chinese opera.

I found the book informative and well written.  There are step by step(in photo format) guides on the different styles of brewing Chinese tea. 

One section of the book deals with the selection of a good zisha (clay) teapot (see pix 3).  The author asserts that there are 3 requirements of a good teapot:

a) the spout, mouth and handle should all touch the surface of the table if turned upside down.

b) the water pours out smoothly without leaks.

c)  fill up the teapot with water and cover it with lid.  Block up the pot mouth and turn the pot upside down.  Then keep the pot upside sown, hold the lid while unblocking the mouth.  It’s also a sign of a good pot if water doesn’t come out.

It is the 3rd point that caused me certain consternation.  It would be difficult (may not be allowed) if I want to do this test on a teapot before purchase. I am even more fearful if the lid falls off and caused a breakage.  I think I understand the logic of the 3rd prerequisite, that is, to ensure the lid is well formed and exact causing a vacuum when the teapot is turned upside down.  It is my opinion that many teapot sellers will not allow such tests in their shops.    I have conducted this experiment on my teapot but only with a teapot over a deep pail of water.  I am happy to announce I own a teapot, which has passed all the 3 requirements.

I find this book very good and informative.  A recommended read. 

Saturday, March 6, 2010

Yunnan White Tea

This is Yunnan's white tea.  It is also known as white hair silver needles.  This is an apt name as you will observe, from the above pix(click pix), that this tea resembles a needle and has tiny white silvery hair on its leaves.  

White hair silver needle (Baihao YinZhen) is mainly produced in Yunnan and Fujian province.  It was a tribute tea during the Song and Tang dynasties and was considered a valuable tea.  This white tea is harvested from new tea buds.  Tea harvesters picked new buds that is characterized by one shoot and 2 leaves (which should be covered with white hairs).  This harvested white tea is slightly fermented during the drying process.

Lam Kam Cheun, the author of 'The Way of Tea' tells about a fairy tale behind the origins of this tea as follows : "In Fujian in China there was once a drought and nothing grew for many seasons.  A plague started in the villages and settlements and lots of people died.  As the situation got worse, the elders told the story of a holy plant that grew besides a dragon well on a nearby mountain and how the juice extracted from the plant would restore the land to fertility and cure the sick.  Many brave young men from Fujian went up the mountain to find the holy plant but none came back as the well was guarded by a fierce black dragon......(a young girl decided to try her luck).....She saw the dragon had turned all the men to stone.  Using her cunning she avoided the dragon's magic, reached the well and slew the dragon with an arrow.  She then picked the shoots of the holy plant and watered them with water from the well." The story ends with the young girl using this tea juice and restoring the men, who had turned to rocks, to life.  The juice from the plant also rejuvenated the land and Fujian today grows and drink this tea.   

I brew this white tea the fast and easy way; take about 15-20 leaves in a cup, pour about 250ml hot water ( wait 30 seconds/1 minute after water boils) and tea is ready to drink in a minute.  You will have your personal tea preference, so... adjust the amount of tea leaves or water as you like.   

The taste of the tea, compared to oolongs and pu erh, is subtle and delicate.  It has a delightful lingering fragrance and a hint of sweetness.  This is a nice tea to drink and I would recommend a purchase of this tea.  A 100g pack of this Yunnan silver needles would costs about us$8-12, which would brew a good number of cups.  I usually make 1 infusion of this tea even though I was told I could get up to 3 infusions from one brew.

There are other white teas like Pai Mu Tan and Shou Mei which I will cover in my later blogs.