Monday, February 21, 2011

The Ancient Art Of Tea

The Ancient Art Of Tea - Written by Warren Peltier from Tuttle Publishing. Printed this year and its already available at the public libraries here.

This book attempts to translate some of the chinese texts and writings on chinese tea and as the author puts it "More Specifically, this book demonstrates the variety of tea brewing skills in ancient times. Much of this knowledge can be directly applied and used in tea preparation today........I hope these translations, many of which have never been translated into English, provide clear insight into Chinese tea culture and help to foster a deeper appreciation of tea."

The author did a a wonderful job in the translations (I myself acknowledge that such translations are difficult as sometimes the meaning or thoughts can be lost in the translation process). Look at pix 2 (click for enlarged views) and you can appreciate that during the olden times, the preparation, tasting and the etiquette of tea can be quite complex. Very interesting reading.

An excerpt from Hu Zai's "Three Don't Pours"
"1. Tea non-new, spring water non-sweet, utensils unclean: first don't pour
2. Foul weather. ugly scenery: second don't pour
3. Uncultured, rude guest: third don't pour."

This book also comes with a few colored illustrations and overall makes a very interesting read for me. Price listed on cover is US$15.95.

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Rose Tea

The general description of the above pictures would be 'rose tea'. I suppose, since there is an infusion process in the brewing method, using the word 'tea' would be more logical and commercially acceptable than 'rose drink or essence'. I myself use the general 'rose tea' label even though there is no single tea leaf used throughout the brewing process.

You will noticed by now only unopened dried rosebuds are used for rose tea. I had purchased this rose tea from Guangzhou, China last December. The rose tea, which I had purchased was imported from Iran, which I was told, produced the best rose tea.

The scent of these dried rose buds was very pleasant. Brewing the rose tea was also pretty simple; just use about 6-8 buds in a 150-200ml vessel, pour hot water and your tea is ready in about a minute. The aroma of the infused rose tea was like a subtle floral perfume. My daughter thought we had fresh flowers in the house when I brewed a pot of this tea.

I found the taste of the rose tea to be subtly sweet. It was a pleasant surprise that there was a creamy finish to the tea. Very light and refreshing. The color of the tea is light yellow. I could also managed a 2nd infusion of the rose tea but found the taste weak.

But I digress - Add one rosebud in your next ripe pu erh brew and you get a very mild floral hint to your pu erh brew. Quite nice actually. Haiwan Tea Co. had sold a production of mini ripe pu erh tuos that incorporated rose tea in the tea some years ago.

Saturday, February 5, 2011

2004 Yunnan Ripe Brick

This is a 2004 pu erh ripe 250g brick. I had purchased this brick from Lau Yu Fat tea shop, Hong Kong (see my previous blog).

The pu erh range sold at Lau Yu Fat tea shop was very good. I could sample any of the tea cakes that was displayed for sale. I chose to sample 2 ripe pu erh bricks from 2003 and 2004. I was fortunate and extremely privileged that the proprietor Mr Lau did the brewing of the tea for me.

Mr Lau skills in tea brewing was silky and fast. As I had previously mentioned, Mr Lau used 3 flash rinse for the brewing of the tea. Sorry I did not have the camera with me at that time. Mr Lau held a kettle of boiling water in his left hand while his right hand managed the gaiwan for the tea rinse. The coordination of the hand movement was like 'art in motion' ; skillful, graceful and artistic. In no time the teacups are filled with tea for my sampling.

The gaiwan used during the tea sampling was about 120-130ml and about 7g of tea leaves was used. My estimation of the weight of the tea leaves was visual. I had been practicing visual estimation of the weight of my tea leaves every time before I have a brewing session. I would then checked whether my estimation was correct by weighing the tea leaves on a electronic scale.

The taste of this 2004 ripe brick was very good. The aroma had a combination of chinese herbs with a good earthly and toasty sensation. It was like drinking a chinese herbal soup that underwent long hours of cooking. Nice color. This tea makes a smooth drink and the aftertaste was very pleasant.

I normally use about 7g of tea and brew it in my 150ml teapot. I could not quite achieve the taste sensations of this tea that I had sampled in Hong Kong. I had to increase the amount of tea leaves by an additional 1-1.5g of tea to achieve the stronger aroma and taste. The additional amount of tea (1-1.5g), which I recommend that you increase, sounds minuscule, but in my case it is a 15-20% increase in tea leaves used. This is a substantial increase. I had also noted that, during my brewing sessions at home, this tea tend to weakened by the 8th drinking infusion. This was fine with me as I usually stop my drinking session at this point.

I had paid about HK$140 for a brick of this tea. The taste and aroma of this tea is, to me, very good. I, however, had to use more leaves for this tea, than what I would normally use for ripe tea, to achieve my preferred brew.

I am happy I had purchased 4 bricks of this tea home ........ I had already used up almost half a brick.

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Happy Chinese New Year

Chinese New Year falls on 3 Feb 2011.  This is the main event that is observed by the Chinese around the world.  Many Chinese families will have the traditional Chinese New Year's eve dinner and many Chinese will find their way home for this meal even if they are overseas or work far away from home.  Its a common sight to see transport hubs in China overflowing with people a week before and after the Chinese New Year (nicknamed the great migration).  

Chinese have their own version of the horoscope.  They have the animal zodiac where 12 animals take turns yearly to be the zodiac animal of that year.  Tomorrow starts the year of the rabbit.  

You can observe the 'red' or gold paper packets in the 1st pix has a stylized rabbit on the cover.  These packets were issued by the famous Swedish furniture store, Ikea, which was given to customers of their store.  I will be filling my red packets with money to give my grandparents, parents, my kids as well as my younger nephews and nieces.  Oranges symbolizing gold are given to elders when I visit them.  Good food usually follows during such visits.  

Pix 2 & 3 shows the various chinese lanterns and firecrackers (fake ones) that were sold in Guangzhou leading to the Chinese New Year.  There were literally hundreds of wholesalers selling these festive decorations when I was there.  It was really a colorful sight.

As a Chinese celebrating Chinese New Year, I wish all my readers "Happiness and Good Health".