Sunday, November 25, 2012

2005 Haiwan 'Nong-Xiang' Raw 357g

I was at the Amoy tea shop (one of my fav local chinese tea shop) when the owner Mr Tan, told me that they found a couple of tongs of this 2005 Haiwan raw pu erh in their warehouse and had thought they had previously sold out this tea.  Since I am a fan of Haiwan pu erh especially their ripe/shu range of tea,  I decided to buy 2 of the raw cakes.

The chinese characters on this cake were in traditional Chinese while later versions of these cakes were simplified Chinese.  I also noticed that the inner labels did mentioned the year of manufacture as well.  This pu erh cake seem to smell like a little woody with a hint of dried herbs scent.  I was intrigued as I had opened a 2003 Haiwan raw a couple of months ago (see 22 Sept 2012 blog) and that cake was a nice fruity scent when brewed.  The differences between these two Haiwan raw cakes are quite pronounced.  This 2005 cake has a musky and woody edge to the tea and does have hints of aging.  The 2003 haiwan cake I had, was more fruity with a 'fresh floral bouquet' aroma.  Haiwan tea factory is very famous for their ripe or shu pu erh.  Its distinct Haiwan ripe aroma had gained many followers, including myself.  The raw pu erh produced by Haiwan, in my opinion do offer, value more money as their new raw tea are usually of a lower price when you compare to newer Dayi brands of pu erh tea.  

This 2005 cake does brew to a nice amber color with a slight aged taste when infused.  I tend to add a little more leaves in my brew as I enjoy a stronger tea.  I did noticed a mild bitterness and my mouth/throat did felt a little dry after a tea session of this tea; which should dissipate with a couple more years of storage.    

This tea is quite inexpensive and should be easily available at your regular Chinese tea supplier.    Yunnan Sourcing sells the 2006 version for $24, a price that is comparable to some new 2012 pu erh tea that are being sold in the tea markets today.  ......if you are shelling out $24 to buy a new pu erh cake, you should consider getting a 6 yr old very drinkable tea at this price.   

Yes, I did noticed that the prices of tea are inching up quite quickly.   The cost of living in China and the affluence of the Chinese citizens do contribute to the much higher prices of tea being sold today.  It is my opinion the higher prices are here to stay and may even face upward economic pressures in prices over next few years.  

Saturday, November 17, 2012

Sow Mee

Sow Mee (aka Shou Mei) is a white tea that is produced in Fujian, China.  This very inexpensive tea is made of withered tea leaves.  From the attached pix, you would have observed the tea leaves looked brownish  and very dry.  I found that the tea leaves are extremely brittle and breaks easily when I handled the tea.  

I did some reading on this tea and found out that this tea belong to the lower grade end of the white tea range.  The silver needle (aka yin hao) and the bai mu tan are considered better white teas than the shou mei.  I think the term 'sow mee' is another 'lost in translation' description when a chinese word is being translated to English many years back.  

I filled my porcelain teapot with about 1/3 of the sow mee and used 90 degree celsius of hot water (about 194 F), rinsing once.  The tea is surprisingly good.  It had nice hints of sweetness, slightly minty with nice fresh floral notes.  I could make 4-5 good drinking infusions.  This tea is somewhat similar to the bai mu tan, with the silver needles taken out.  A refreshing drink and I believe would taste just as nice if chilled.  

I enjoy my white tea, drinking them about twice a week.  I do drink the yin hao and bai mu tan,  whose fragrance and taste are more pronounced than the shou mei but nevertheless, I regard shou mee as a good white tea as well.  

This new sow mee was inexpensive but older ones can be extraordinary pricey.  It came in a 100g aluminum white foil pack and then packed in a bright yellow box under 'Sunflower' brand.  If you drink white tea, do try out the sow mee.

Friday, November 9, 2012

2006 Mengku Ripe 145g - a revisit

My first encounter with this mini cake was in my Oct 24 2009 blog.  

This is the 2006 Mengku 145g cake.  The wrapper indicated that this was a gold medal award winning cake at a tea competition.  Since I had purchased a few of these cakes and had quite good impressions of this tea, I did a revisit and opened up a cake.

It was a big surprise that when I broke off a chunk to brew; this tea tasted quite bland; nothing impressive.  It was a worrying moment.  Was my storage conditions not good for tea?  Were my expectations of this tea too lofty?  Maybe this was just a regular ripe cake?

I had brewed this tea by breaking off a 9g chunk and started my tea session.  This had deviated from my current practice of breaking up tea cakes/bricks and putting it in a tea caddy for a few days before I start drinking the tea.  I cannot give you a clear explanation on why the pu erh tea would taste much better if the tea chunks had a few days to 'breathe'.  I had consumed a good number of pu erh cakes for the past few years to arrive at this conclusion.  I find that the taste and aroma improvements are more pronounced in ripe/shu than raw pu erh.  Perhaps this is what tea masters call 'tou-chi', a chinese term to describe taking a breather.  Some tea experts have also mentioned about 'waking the tea' (aka xin-cha).......perhaps this is what I might be doing.  I even have a Malaysian friend, that had advised me, that he unwrapped his tea cake (for drinking), enclosing the cake in a biscuit or mooncake tin for a week before he break up the cake.  

Yes, what I have just said would have sounded like a 'believe it or not' urban legend.  I may be wrong.  I may be imagining or bluffing myself.    Anyway, let me know your thoughts. 

So, after a few days of storing my broken up chunks of this Mengku tea cake, my tea session of this pu erh became a very pleasant experience. The aroma and taste of this pu erh is strong and highly aromatic.  This tea would brew to a darker color but its not bitter and its very enjoyable - a very comforting sensation when I drink up every cup. 

Sunday, November 4, 2012

Peony Tea S.

Peony Tea S. is an online tea shop.  Owned and operated by Mr & Mrs Derek Chew, they specialize in selling loose tea from China and Taiwan.  Having started the business last year, Derek is slowly but surely adding a good range of teas for sale to tea drinkers around the world.

In his own words :

“It was over 10 years ago when a major paradigm shift was experienced, his parents had returned from Hangzhou and brought back none other than the fabulous Long Jing. Then, prices of Long Jing was not so ridiculous and inferior knock-offs did not flood the market like they do today hence even his parents who were casual tea drinkers could purchase decent quality Meijiawu Long Jing as tourists.
For Derek it was love at first sip- falling in love with the refreshing taste and sweet lingering finish he only knew later as ‘hui gan’. It changed his perspective on Chinese tea completely.
Still his fear of insomnia and packed weekend schedules- he was a teenager (and later a young adult) then after all- meant tea could only be a sporadic indulgence for him. It was only when Derek discovered the humble infuser mug that he was liberated to enjoy tea daily in the office.
Derek always believed that if more people had the opportunity to experience authentic Chinese tea, brewed right without the intimidation and mystique that could frighten novices off, it could gain a mass following instead of being a somewhat niche interest.”

Derek had included his take on brewing a Danchong as follows:

“Fill the gaiwan with 1/3 to ½ full of leaves (depending on the ‘density’ of the leaves)
Rinse with hot water
Add hot water (85°C or 185°F)
Infuse for 30 sec (for the first steeping) – or until my nose tells me it’s okay- and pour out
Increase about 10-15 sec for each infusion

The combination of the lower heat and steeping time allows a fuller release of the nuances of dancong without an excessive amount of bitterness.”

Derek has created a sample set of his tea for sale and included a discount code (WLTT1020 – valid till 23 Nov 2012) for readers if you decide buy tea from Peony Tea S.

I do not have any business interest in this company.  I wish Derek and his wife the very best in his tea business.