Saturday, September 22, 2012

2003 Haiwan Lao Tong Zhi raw pu erh

This is a 2003 Haiwan Lao Tong Zhi raw pu erh cake.  I had purchased a few of these cakes locally and had kept them for 4 years in my study.  I opened one of these cakes for 2 reasons; to check the condition of the cakes and to find out how a brew of this pu erh cake would taste like.

One observation from the pictures seem to me that the cake had turn sightly brownish.  Compression of the cake is not as tight as new cakes.  Many tea dealers and tea friends had also told me that older cakes tend to lose their tight compression over time and a tea drinker may pry off a chunk of tea by hand especially for the older stored teas.  And....was also told to use less leaves as older teas tend to brew on the stronger side.

This cake came out 'fruity'.  This positive designation of 'fruity' as a description of raw pu erh tea refers to the subtle taste and aroma of fresh fruits.  No its not the stronger scented fruits of mangos or pineapples.  It rather like putting your nose in an apple where if you sniff deeply, and there is a light fresh fruity scent in the fruit.  This smell is more pronounced in an organic apple than a non organic one (so is the sweetness actually).  Perhaps many of the pu erh tea drinkers now prefer to buy and drink from gushu, or old tree pu, than plantation pu (aka tai de pu).  Many new pu erh tea are now being marketed as gushu or old tree pu, and it takes experience and time in drinking to distinguish a genuine gushu pu erh.

Back to this tea.  As said, the 'fruity' element in the tea is subtle.  Is this a gushu?  I am not sure.  I found that this tea is mellow and calming, with a very light sweet finish.  Non smoky.  It did not 'wow' me.  Maybe I had recently came across some older raw pu erh teas that had a camphor and a stronger and robust taste and aroma that I currently enjoy. 

Older pu erh tea has a very wide spectrum of taste, aroma, feel and aftertaste.  I look forward in enjoying this wide array of taste and aroma every time when I drink a cup of older pu erh tea.  I consider myself lucky I have in my collection a few of these cakes, that possess this nice 'fruity' characteristic.  

Saturday, September 15, 2012

Tea News - Hong Kong

From Agence France Presse 30 Aug 2012, this well written article is written by Beh Lih Yi.  Titled "Work, mahjong and tea : Hong Kong's secret to longevity".  

HONG KONG - Covered in smog and cramped apartment towers, Hong Kong is not usually associated with a healthy lifestyle. But new figures show that Hong Kongers are the longest-living people in the world.
Hong Kong men have held the title for more than a decade and recent data show women in the southern Chinese city overtaking their Japanese counterparts for the first time, according to the governments in Tokyo and Hong Kong.

Hong Kong women's life expectancy rose from an average 86 years in 2010 to 86.7 years in 2011, while Japanese women's longevity was hit by last year's earthquake and tsunami, falling to 85.9 years, census 
figures reveal.

So what is Hong Kong's secret to a long life?
Experts say there is no single elixir, but contributing factors include easy access to modern health care, keeping busy, traditional Cantonese cuisine and even the centuries-old Chinese tile game of mahjong.

Rolling stones gather no moss
"I love traveling, I like to see new things and I meet my friends for 'yum cha' every day," Mak Yin, an 80-year-old grandmother of six says as she practices the slow-motion martial art of tai chi in a park on a Sunday morning.

"Yum cha" is the Cantonese term to describe the tradition of drinking tea with bite-sized delicacies known as dim sum. The tea is free and served non-stop, delivering a healthy dose of antioxidants with the meal.
"My friends are in their 60s—they think I'm around their age too, although I'm much older than them," Mak laughs.

Mak's favorite food is steamed vegetables, rice and fruit. Cantonese food is famous for steamed fish and vegetables—dishes that use little or none of the cooking oils blamed for heart disease, obesity and high cholesterol.  But before Mak enjoys her afternoon tea, she  joins a group of elderly people for her morning exercise of tai chi, an ancient Chinese practice said to have benefits including improving balance and boosting cardiovascular strength.

A study published in the New England Journal of Medicine in February found that tai chi reduces falls and "appears to reduce balance impairments" in people with mild-to-moderate Parkinson's disease.

Another factor behind Hong Kongers' longevity, experts say, is work. While others long for the day they can retire and kick up their heels, many people in Hong Kong work well into their 70s and even 80s.
Hong Kong does not have a statutory retirement age and it is common to see elderly people working in shops, markets and restaurants alongside younger staff.
"Many old people in our city remain working, that contributes to better psychological and mental health," Hong Kong Association of Gerontology president Edward Leung says.
"For older people, a lot of them are stressed because they have nothing to do and they develop 'emptiness syndrome'. This causes mental stress."
Fishmonger Lee Woo-hing, 67, says he could not bear to sit at home and do nothing. His inspiration is local tycoon Li Ka-shing, Asia's richest man, who still runs his vast business empire in his 80s.
"If Li Ka-shing continues working at the age of 84, why should I retire?" asks the father-of-four during a break from his 14-hour shift at a bustling market in central Hong Kong.
"If I just sit at home and stare at the walls, I'm worried that my brain will degenerate faster. I'm happy to chat with different people here in the market."

'Mahjong delays dementia'
Hong Kong's cramped living conditions are famously unhealthy, fueling outbreaks of disease and viruses including bird flu and severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS) which have killed dozens of people.
The city's reputation won it the dubious distinction of a starring role in director Steven Soderbergh's 2011 disaster thriller "Contagion", about a deadly virus that spreads from Hong Kong to the United States.
But in the day-to-day habits of ordinary people, experts say Hong Kong is a great place to grow old.
A popular local way of keeping busy and meeting friends is mahjong—a mentally stimulating tile game which can help delay dementia, according to aging expert Alfred Chan, of Hong Kong's Lingnan University.
"It stimulates the parts that control memory and cognitive abilities. It helps old people with their retention of memory," he says.

The complex rules and calculation of scores make mahjong, also known as the Chinese version of dominoes, mentally demanding. But the social aspects of the four-player game are just as important.
"In mahjong you need to play with three other people. It is a very good social activity, you have to interact with each other constantly," says Chan, who has studied the game's effects on the well being of elderly people.
"It is also a self-fulfilling game because if you win—whether you play with money or not—it gives you a sense of empowerment."

Mahjong parlors are popular in Hong Kong, and mahjong tables are a must at Chinese wedding banquets.

"I'm in semi-retirement. I work in the morning and hang out with my friends by playing mahjong in the afternoon," says 67-year-old tailor Yeung Fook, on the sidelines of a game in his modest garment shop.
"I'm happier when I work. It's boring to just sit at home." 

Friday, September 7, 2012

1999 Ripe Pu erh Brick

This is a 1999 ripe pu erh tea brick.  This tea weighs 250g.  These tea does not come in a tong but a bundle of these tea would be 4 bricks tied together with a white string.   This ripe pu erh brick is a 7581 recipe.

I enjoy drinking ripe tea and readers will know I drink a fair bit of ripe pu erh tea.  Based on my personal drinking experience, ripe tea will develop an aged taste with time.  I realized that new ripe tea is slightly unpleasant to drink.......there may be a fermentation smell and the aroma is less than welcoming.  Store it away for 2-3 years, and the ripe tea will be a delicious drink.  I found that older ripe pu erh will develop into either a dried fruit, herbal medicinal or old wood aroma.

You will notice that the color of the tea brick is a 'rusty brown' color. If you compare the color with new pu erh bricks and cakes, the newer pu tends to be of a dark brown, almost blackish color.  I interpret that this brick had fermented over time.  I drank a similar 7581 brick, a 2002 production (6 feb 2010 blog) and there is a clear contrast in the color of the tea leaves.  Many tea drinker friends have insisted that ripe pu erh does not ferment as raw pu erh, but look at your older aged does turn to a 'rusty brown' color as well.  Let me know your thoughts.  I will be opening a couple older raw pu in my collection and would like to exchange samples with my readers if you are keen.

This brick has that nice old wood aroma.  One of my tea friends called this tea 'old mother hubbard'.  I enjoy this aroma very much.  I had also found a couple of rice grain husks in the brick but the tea was clean.  I added more tea leaves than usual to enjoy the enhanced old wood scent.  This is an acquired taste; a personal preference  for such a ripe tea.  I enjoy the sweet aftertaste.  A happy drink.  A nice acquisition.  

My advice to the tea drinker and buyer - when you buy an old tea anywhere in the world, whether raw, ripe, oolong - sample the tea.  Its not the tea may be spoilt.....but what I am saying is that there will be aged tea that you will not like or enjoy.  Do not buy if you are not able to sample older may be a waste of money, time and luggage space.    

Sunday, September 2, 2012

Taetea Dayi Teabag - 6 year raw pu erh

I bought this tea at the 2012 Hong Kong International Tea Fair.  I was at the Dayi booth when I saw that Dayi had teabags containing pu erh tea for sale there.  I was especially curious about the Dayi 6 year old raw pu erh tea bag and I parted with HK$60 (US$7.80) to buy a box.  

The information on the box said it contained 45g of tea packed into 25 teabags, which implied 1.8g of tea per bag.  Overall packing of this tea was good; in my opinion.  The teabag as you can observe from the last pix is that of a regular teabag.    

I cannot give a proper assessment of this tea.  I don't know how.  It is not right to compare it with pu erh cakes and bricks.  It sounds expensive, per gram basis if compared to cakes and.......  the teabag is only good for 1 infusion.  

Instructions for making this tea was simple......dunk teabag in hot water and its ready to drink in 2-3 minutes.  Its fast and convenient.  

If you had given me a cup of this tea and telling me after I had consumed the tea that it was from a teabag,  I would be pleasantly surprised.  Its a nice raw pu erh tea......Its like drinking a raw pu erh tea in its 5/6th infusion of a regular raw pu erh cake.  Did it taste like a 6 year old raw?  The tea is not astringent and does not taste like a new Dayi raw pu erh.  This is very subjective.  

This tae tea (dayi) teabag was produced for a target market, where the consumers may want a decent cup of Chinese tea without the fuss of brewing with teapots and gaiwans.  I suppose and hope that these teabags will piqued the drinkers to further explore the more exquisite taste of pu erh tea in the near future. 

A few readers have asked me on occasions on the teas I have drunk and purchased during my tea travels.  I am doing up a few sample packs of tea for exchange with my readers.  I have included some teas which, in my opinion, give the reader a taste of Chinese tea from the places I had visited and blogged about.  NO GUARANTEE you will be happy with the tea exchange.  Drop me a line if you are interested. You will get a teabag as well.