Monday, January 28, 2013

Zesta Masala Tea

Mustafa Centre is a multi level shopping store, open 24 hours and is found right here in Singapore. Highly recommended for the very wide range of goods from India and around the world, Mustafa is a highly recommended shopping stop for all locals and tourists. International travel sites like Frommers and Lonely Planet gave good reviews on this mammoth department store.

Located along Serangoon Road/Syed Alwi Road junction and within walking distance of the Farrer MRT stop (subway), Mustafa prides itself especially with hard to find goods and reasonable pricing.

I decided to pop into Mustafa one afternoon. I was really impressed with the wide range of goods. In particular, the dried herbs and spices section was so comprehensive (impressive as well) that walking though the aisles was a mind boggling experience. As Mustafa is a huge store, I can understand why certain products are repeated and found in many parts of the store. Let me explain, there are a few similar toiletries sections that are found within Mustafa. This would make it convenient for me to locate this section and I do not need to walk back or try to recollect which floor or corner the toiletries section was.

I had also bought some tea from Mustafa. I had purchased 'Zesta' brand of tea. From Sri Lanka, this tea carry the famed Ceylon tea and the tea I had purchased, had spicy herbs added to the tea. Masala tea is a very popular tea that is drunk in India and in this part of the world. Black tea is brewed and spices like cinnamon, cardamon, ginger, fennel and cloves are added (minute amounts of course) to the tea. The tea becomes mildly spicy and makes a very nice beverage. Sometimes sweetened milk is added to the masala tea to make this tea into a more flavorful beverage.

This reminded me of the Mongolians that drink their pu erh tea with milk and spices. (see Ethnic Minority tea blog) It is somewhat similar to making Masala tea.

With a quick dunking of my Masala tea bag in my cup for 1-2 minutes,  I would enjoy the spicy dimension of this tea. I prefer to drink this tea hot and without sugar, though a chilled sweeten version would be nice if one has visitors on a hot day. An inexpensive tea and I recommend you try a masala tea if you can. Yes, I had also purchased  a coconut and pineapple tea from Zesta as well. This tea give off a nice sweeten scent almost like cotton candy. It's one of my daughter's favorite tea right now.

But I digress. I have a few tea drinking friends who are always lurking in the tea section forum of Badger and Blade. It's primarily a shaving forum but has a few members there who drink Chinese tea. Well......yes guys, I bought the Old Spice aftershave. Remember the slogan? - "If your grandfather hadn't worn it, you wouldn't exist."  Mustafa also carry some older popular brands like 4711, English Leather, Tabac and Brut.  I  was literally grinning when I saw these products at Mustafa.  For my readers who do not recognize

these brands .........Gee, I must be an antique.

Monday, January 21, 2013

Powerful UK tea drinkers

I was tickled pink when I read this article by Mark Raby (

"Tea time in Britain causes predictable, massive surge in electricity demand

Oh, the British… If you needed another reason to point at them and say they truly are one-of-a-kind, then look no further than the British National Grid electricity transmission network. Only in the UK is the daily regimen so ingrained in society that you can literally set your watch by surges in electrical activity.

Unlike in the US, where the choice of what to watch on TV is vast and almost intimidating, those across the pond are not quite as free-spirited. Even thought the choice of TV channels and streaming options is growing, their love of soaps means millions of people watch the same shows at the same time on a daily basis. As a result, a phenomenon called “TV pickup” has spawned.

Described as an electricity nuance completely unique to Great Britain, it refers to the fact that massive swaths of the nation’s population will all get up at the same time — at the end of a popular TV show — and cause a surge in electricity usage simply by boiling a kettle full of water to make a cup of tea.

So how big is this surge? Well, when the popular soap Eastenders comes to an end five times a week, the grid has to deal with around 1.75 million kettles requiring power at the same time. That’s an additional 3 gigawatts of power for the roughly 3-5 minutes it takes each kettle to boil. So big is the surge that backup power stations have to go on standby across the country, and there’s even additional power made available in France just in case the UK grid can’t cope.

So yes, believe it or not, the engineers manning the British National Grid have to keep an eye on what’s playing on TV so they can brace themselves for the highly predictable surges and make sure the grid remains stable."

Sunday, January 13, 2013

2003 Xing Hai Bulang Gushu

One of my tea purchase during my short family vacation in Guangzhou last Christmas was his 2003 Xing Hai raw pu erh cake.  This 357g cake is composed with Bulang region tea.  It has a red chop on the wrapper "Gushu tea".

The term 'Gushu' means old tree.  There are many interpretations to defining what 'gushu' imply and till today this 'gushu' definition is often discussed among Chinese tea drinkers when they gather for a cup of tea.   One thought is that gushu refers to non plantation tea trees that are more than 50-100 years old.  Some tea drinkers are more strict by not including abandoned plantation trees in this definition.  And 'gushu' pu erh tea are more expensive.   I learnt from experienced tea drinker friends that most gushu tea cakes are a good mix of old tree pu erh tea.  My good friend from Ipoh Malaysia, Su defined gushu as more than 200 year old.   However, it takes lots of drinking experience to be able to distinguish a gushu tea.  Sadly, there are now plantation pu erh tea being sold as gushu, with wrappers loudly declaring its vintage and it would only take drinking experience to be able to distinguish a gushu pu erh.  

Gushu tea was difficult to find in Guangzhou.  My tea master friend there mentioned that such teas were hardly available in the tea markets and when available, would be pricy as well.  He had managed to keep 3 of these cakes aside for me and told me that this tea would be a good representation of what a cup of gushu would taste like.

Well, I did not stand up on my chair and sing after a couple sessions of this tea.  The differences are subtle, to me at least.  It was easier, for me, to brew this tea at home and drink alone (I felt it was difficult to assess this tea when drinking as a group) so that I could appreciate the characteristics of this gushu tea.  This amber colored tea tasted good when drank hot or warm.  The taste tasted slightly aged, very hard to hold in the mouth as its slided down my throat easily. Unlike most of the raw pu erh tea that I had drank, this tea does not give that dry throat sensation after downing a cup but instead I felt a nice salivating sensation (less than a minute).  The light floral and herbal scent did linger pleasantly in the mouth after the tea session.  No intoxicating sensations but overall I enjoyed this brew very much.

This Xinghai gushu (which I believe has a good mix of gushu) did contrast significantly against the 2007 Xiaguan tuo (14 Dec 2011 blog) which I also enjoyed. This tuo (I believe is plantation pu) was smoky, slightly bitter and strong tasting.  The Xinghai was more subtle, a much lighter floral herbal touch and a nice longer, much smoother salivating finish.  The xiaguan, on the other end of the spectrum was a tad dry in its aftertaste.  Its a nice contrast and I look forward in opening a few more gushu cakes in the next few months.  

Thursday, January 3, 2013

2008 Haiwan 9988 Ripe Brick 250g

Happy New Year 2013.  I had not posted in my tea blog for the past 3 weeks.  I had a good reason - really - I was moving house in Dec, packing all 120+ cartons of stuff and completed the move on Christmas Day morning.  And.....our family went to the airport in the afternoon for a short holiday in Guangzhou.  

I have unpacked most of my stuff and I will show you my tea cupboard and tea brewing space in my later blogs.  At least, it's a relief that I now have my tea sessions back on a regular basis.

I managed to get some tea stuff in Guangzhou during this trip.  While I dropped off my family at the famous 'Wan Ling' mall where my family can buy their goodies, I sneaked away for 2 hours to my fav Guangzhou tea shops to buy my own stuff.  I had called ahead a month earlier to enquire on teas I was interested and had reserved them for pickup when I was in China.  Yes, you can see I had bought another tea tray as well.  (.....also the teapot, an induction kettle set,  a few gaiwans and over 20kg of tea).  The wood grain pattern of the tea tray caught my eye.  Resistance was futile at this point.

The 1st pu I opened in my new place was this 2008 Haiwan 9988 ripe brick.  This Haiwan 9988 ripe pu brick was first introduced in 2008 and have become a mainstay of the Haiwan ripe tea factory, and is produced every year since.  For my new readers, '9988' here refers to a recipe code. So if you liked this tea and want more of it, just asked for Haiwan 9988.  You will usually get the latest version and might have to pay a bit more for the older versions.

This tea makes a nice cup of ripe pu erh tea.  Nothing fancy.  This tea exudes a nice characteristic Haiwan ripe tea scent and a very mild sweet finish.  An inexpensive - cheap and good -  tea.