Saturday, March 24, 2012

2008 Haiwan Lao Tong Zhi 958 Raw Tuo

I opened a 2008 Haiwan 958 Lao Tong Zhi tuo.  This 100g tuo is compressed tightly and I needed my tea pick to break up this tuo.  This tuo comes in a bag (5 tuos) but some teashops may sell single tuos as well.  

There are a couple of things that I do not like about tuos.  Breaking the tuo can be a pretty dangerous exercise.  I had a mini accident 2 months ago, when my tea pick slipped off the tuo and pricked me.  Fortunately, it was not serious but shudder to think that a potential and serious accident may occur in breaking up a tuo.  To my careful and take your time when you 'operate' on your tuo.  I also realized that breaking up a tuo gave rise to much tea dust.  These tea fannings might clogged up your teapot  during a brewing session and might upset the brew strength of your tea.  With your tea filter within your teapot clogged up, the pour-out is slowed down considerably and your cup of tea may end up much stronger than you had wanted.  I believe these tea dust make the tea slightly bitter.......maybe its my imagination.

I did not have any high expectations when I brewed this 4 year old tuo.  It had a mild woodsmoke scent, mild floral notes and a hint of sweet finish.  I felt slightly sweaty when I drank 2-3 infusions quickly. However, there was a mild astringent feel in this tea, where my tongue seemed to tingled a bit after drinking this tea.  This astringency is normally more pronounced in newer raw (sheng) pu and the tea will lose this characteristic and become more mellow with storage over time.  I am sure this Haiwan tuo will be even more impressive in a couple of years.  A nice and inexpensive tea.  In my opinion.....drinkable now but may even be better with a couple more years of storage.  I finished this tuo in less than 2 weeks.  

One reader had emailed me commenting that he himself, and the people he knew, that drink pu erh, tend to buy cakes and brinks than tuos.  He seemed to imply that cakes and bricks have a higher collectibility value and of a better quality than tuos.  Yes, its visually more eye catching to display cakes and bricks in teashops or in a tea collector's showcase.  Easier to store too.  But tuos, small and big, are part of pu erh culture.  The  tuo, I suppose, gives that added dimension to the pu erh drinker and collector that is not found in other teas.  

Saturday, March 17, 2012

Tea Urchin

I would like to introduce my new tea friends, Eugene and his wife Belle.  Located in Shanghai, China, Eugene and Belle had travelled to Yunnan and had shared their adventures in their blog -

You would have realized, after reading their blog entries, that these two tea urchins had now produced a smaller tea urchin.  Congratulations.

They have now set up an online tea store  This would allow us, the readers of their blog, to purchase and have access to the teas mentioned in their tea trips.  I would like to highlight that their speciality, presently, are in new raw pu erh teas.  They had sourced these pu erh from specific regions and the teas; single estate teas, are new teas......which means less than 2 years old.  You must know your tea and if you are not familiar with these teas, Eugene had indicated that he would be selling samples (large 30g packs) and smaller sized cakes for your purchase consideration.  

I wish Eugene and Belle all the very best in their tea business.  The pix and the information below are provided by Eugene.

"Eugene & Belle launched Tea Urchin to share their love of Chinese tea with the world. Eugene is an Australian who moved to Shanghai in 2004, where he discovered gongfu cha & became obsessed with puer. There he met & married Belle, a feisty Shanghainese tea lover with a penchant for sweet reds & fragrant oolongs. 

Together, we specialize in finding premium and rare Chinese teas, with a story.
We hope what makes us different is our down to earth honesty and integrity.  Even though Eugene works in advertising, you won't hear us using marketing speak like "organic, heirloom or artisanal", nor overstate our involvement in the making of the tea. We enjoy finding good tea, made by good people, and we help them to find an international market.
We sell 3 kinds of tea - hidden gems produced by our tea friends, great deals found in the Shanghai markets, and our own line of Puer which we sell under the brand “Cha Ren” (茶仁 which means “tea compassion”). We also sell hand crafted tea wares from Yixing, Jingdezhen, Longquan & Taiwan.
Each year, we travel to Yunnan to source traditional, hand crafted puer teas directly from the best farmers & producers. We work with the same trusted producers each year, to ensure our tea is pesticide free, and not blended with cheaper or inferior teas. You can meet our producers & follow our tea adventures on our blog ( We try out best to show you where our tea came from, who made it, and how it was made. We hope with this deeper understanding of each tea's story, you will find more enjoyment in each cup, and feel more connected to the people who made it.
Eugene & Belle"

Saturday, March 10, 2012

2007 Haiwan 7588 Ripe Brick

One of the main features of this ripe brick that stood out was its size.  This 250g brick, when I compared its size to my other pu erh 250g bricks, was much larger.  It was at least broader by 20%, which meant that the compression of the tea leaves of this brick was not too tight.  I had the brick broken up by hand and had the tea stored away within a couple of minutes.

This 2007 Haiwan brick has the recipe code 7588 printed on the wrapper and inner label (neifei). This code 7588 simply refers to a recipe of the pu erh.  Basically the 1st 2 digits refers to the year, in this case 1975 where this recipe was formulated. The 3rd digit refers to the grade of the leaves in this case grade 8 (this is pretty subjective, according to my serious tea drinking friends) and the last digit refers to the factory code, in this case the digit '8' refers to Haiwan Tea Factory.  I am speculating that pu erh cakes and bricks that has a recipe number are blends of pu erh leaves from various pu erh regions within Yunnan.  I made this conclusion as I believe pu erh tea processed from only one region are usually marketed as from that region, like Bulang or may be a specific area like Ai Lao Shan.  Blends and single estate pu erh tea give pu erh drinkers like me, more choices and make my adventures of pu erh drinking more interesting and enjoyable.

Do not fret over this code.   Many tea drinkers, if they liked a particular recipe, will ask teashop for this tea by the recipe number when they make a purchase.  When you visit teashops, you may get to see these shops displaying for sale such cakes with different production years on them.  This meant that you may have a choice to buy a current year cake or even a same recipe cake that is a few years old. Popular pu erh recipes are produced yearly and sometimes a few batches within the same year.  Examples of such recipes are Dayi (Taetea) 7572 and 7542.

When I opened a pu erh brick or cake, I would try different brewing parameters to determine the best (based on my personal preference) tea session for this tea.  I would use different amount of leaves (between 6-10g) and different infusion times (from 1-5 seconds for the first 5 infusions) in the initial brewing of the pu erh tea. I would usually find a combination, usually by 5-8 tea brewing sessions, that I like and I would continue using this combination till I finished the tea cake or brick.  Perhaps this is a reason why I do not buy and discourage my readers to purchase tiny tea samples.  A pu erh sample of 10-20g is really difficult to be assessed.  There is no standard pu erh brewing technique......everyone has their own tea drinking preference and every pu erh tea has its own characteristics.......some teas brew strong and fast while some pu erh tea may require a few more infusion seconds for a better taste.....and you are unable to assess the tea properly as you had finished the samples.  In my opinion, pu erh tea samples should be at least 30g or more.

I enjoyed drinking this Haiwan brick very much.  I like this tea to be brewed very strong as the flavors of chinese herbs and sweet dried fruit (chinese dried longans) are pronounced when I add more leaves than usual for the brewing session.  I use about 10-11g of tea in a 200ml teapot.  Sigh........opened it last month and less than 50g left.

One more thing......I realized that if you break up a ripe cake or brick and let the tea sit out in your tea caddy for at least a week.......the flavors of your ripe pu seems much better.  I cannot yet fully explain my findings.  I only started drinking ripe  pu erh tea 5 years ago on a daily basis - I tend to finish a cake or brick within a month.  I hope you, the reader can share your findings on this issue.

Monday, March 5, 2012

Long Run Trading - A Malaysian Tea Shop

During my last visit to Kuala Lumpur last December.  My Malaysian tea friends brought me to a couple of popular teashops which they patronized.  A few of these well known teashops are located in the Kepong district.  It is not very easy for a tourist tea drinker to visit this area ( no direct train) as it is located in the suburbs.  The best way is to take a cab there.

Long Run Trading is a popular teashop that is patronized by my tea friends.  This shop is owned by Mr Lim Yong Yak. Located at 32 Jalan Metro Perdana Barat 2, Taman Usahawan, Kepong,  Mr Lim is a very friendly proprietor and I was privileged to had Mr Lim personally brew some of his favorite teas for my tea session there.  

Pix 3 shows one side of his shop wall that had some of the tea for sale.  Pix 4 is a 2004 ripe 7262 cake that was retailing at 60rm (about US$20). 

Mr Lim is very knowledgable in his tea and his jovial personality had made my visit to his shop a memorable one.  I purchased a bag of 5 raw tuo before leaving his shop (more on this tea in my later blogs).