Saturday, June 22, 2013

Malaysia KL Tea Expo 2013 Part 2

You would have observed from the pictures that much tea for sale at the tea expo.  The 1st pix shows some Xiaguan tuo tea being sold, attracting buyers with "buy 2 get an additional one free".  I would like to add that 'knowing your tea and relative prices' would help you determine which deals are best for you.  

One of my Malaysian tea friend, Allan Woon, placed a cake in my hand when I met him at the tea expo (pix 5).  He beamed with pride, telling me he had pressed his own cakes.  Allan is an avid tea drinker and collector, and had pressed some Yiwu old tree pu erh.  This is real passion for chinese tea!

The next Malaysia tea fair is from 12-16 Oct at Viva Shopping Mall, in Kuala Lumpur as well.  Its a tea and coffee expo.  Exhibitors for this Oct expo have also send in their tea for an informal contest.  For sale at 20RM, you get 40 samples and you get to assess the tea.  You will assess the tea in 4 areas; tea leaf, tea soup, taste/aftertaste and aroma. You can see from the last pix, that you are only given the age and type of tea but you will not know the name or the tea dealer of that tea. Winners will be announced on opening day of the tea expo.  Quite a fun exercise.

Having a tea expo at a shopping mall is ideal for me.  I had a Japanese dinner and even watched a late night movie to end a nice day.  Superman did not wear his red undies outside, in this movie.  

Friday, June 21, 2013

Malaysia KL Tea Expo 2013 Part 1

This year, the Malaysia Tea Expo 2013 was held at Tropicana Mall, Kuala Lumpur (KL) from 15 -23 June 2013.  Being slightly more familiar with Kuala Lumpur and having attended this tea expo for the past 2 years, I left Singapore early at 6am on 15 Jun on an early flight reaching KL by 7am.  Getting to town took another half hour by the KLIA express train and by 9am, I had deposited my luggage at my hotel.  I then made my way to the tea expo reaching Tropicana Mall (via train and bus) by 10am.  That was wild!

The tea expo was not opened till 11am and I had time for brunch before setting out exploring the expo at a leisurely pace.  I say 'leisurely' as there were less than 50 booths there.  Mainly represented by Malaysian teashops, there were a few China based booths seen at the fair this year.  Though its a small expo, I felt that the gathering of the main Malaysian Chinese tea players in one area allows buyers (old and newbies) to be aware of the Chinese tea shops in Malaysia and the range and variety of Chinese tea available in this region.  The atmosphere of the tea expo was very relaxed but it is serious business as well as the cost of renting a booth is high - I was told 3-4 thousand dollars.  

A couple of observations:
- you can get good prices for new tea, whether its pu erh, oolong or liu bao. You can get the new Xiaguans, Dayi and Haiwans at good prices.

- Many of the Malaysian tea merchants are now having their own house brand of pu erh. These merchants actually pressed their own cakes.  I find this trend to be a positive one as it allows these teashops or dealers a level of differentiation, and such tea expos allow people like me to sample these house brands teas under one roof.  

-  I believe Malaysia's tea expos are a good place to purchase older liu bao (about 10 years old).  They are priced quite nicely and you have a few sellers to choose from. 

The 1st 3 pix are those from the brochure by the tea expo organizers.  Visitors can purchase an item daily from 3 groups in the brochure.  Group 1 are teapots, while group 2 and 3 are tea.  I bought a year 2000 Langhe raw cake for 125RM (US$39). 

Monday, June 10, 2013

2007 7542 701

Walk into a Chinese tea shop, wear your shades and whisper into the ears of a pretty tea lady '2007 7542 701'.  She looks at you, smiles at you and will say "Its your lucky day".  She opens a drawer, takes out a cylindrical disc-like shape thing with a paper wrapper and then says "$40 please".

You laugh.  But that's how we tea drinkers buy a specific tea in a tea shop.  If you a looking for a 2007 (the year of production), 7542 (name of the tea), 701 (1st production of the year), you can ask for the tea with this set of numbers.

Unlike wines where names like merlot or syrah are used, pu erh tea are named with numbers instead.  7542 happen to be one of the most famous pu erh blend in the tea market today.

This 7542 blend is supposedly concocted by the Dayi (Taetea) factory.   In the Dayi 2010 tea catalog, this tea was described as " This is Menghai Tea Factory's largest production quantity raw tea product, and is made from fat tender leaves and young tips blended to perfection.  The surface tea yields a mild color with tip hairs, while the center tea consists of fat mature leaves.  The pure aroma of this tea is long lasting and laced with floral scents.  It yields a strong flavor with a touch of sweet aftertaste and a bright yellow broth.  When brewed, the tea leaves appear uniform and symmetrical.  When aged, the flavor undergoes rich and complex changes.  This tea is considered as the market standard for raw pu erh tea product."  I would like to add that Dayi makes many production batches of the tea every year.  I remember seeing a 908 - 8th batch for 2009.  

But I digress.  I know 2 Malaysian friends (no, they do not know each other) who have polarizing views on the newer Dayi tea.  Friend no.1 believes that Dayi tea is the gold standard of pu erh.  He believes that Dayi tea are very good teas and would make a good investment.  He had bought a few tongs and cartons of Dayi tea and on paper, he has good positive returns on his tea investment.  Yes, teashops will buy back his Dayi tea.  Friend no.2 who had been drinking tea for 20 years thinks that Dayi tea, ever since the company went on a full commercialized profit orientation 7-8 years ago, developed and mastered the plantation pu erh tea production successfully.  This meant that the tea trees are pruned and harvested for tea frequently, thus may require the use of fertilizers and pesticides to ensure maximum production.  Friend no. 2 feels that the standard of tea does not compare favorably to pre 2004 levels.  I have many other the friends that supports these 2 views.  

What are my thoughts? Well..... 7542 tea blend is a very tasty tea.  I like this blend very much. I would describe it as very refreshing yet with a light floral and herbal scent  in the tea.  I found it tasted better with more tea leaves (9-10 g for a 200ml teapot).  This 2007 tea is better when drank warm or hot but I do not get any tea buzz when I finished my tea session. Maybe I am not sensitive to feel the tea buzz from this tea.  I get 7 good infusions from this tea.

Through my numerous oversea tea travels, I had observed that there is a speculative element when it comes to pu erh tea.  Generally, the 1st Dayi tea productions of every year are much sought after by tea drinkers, collectors and speculators.  I suppose its like the 1st printing of a book.  The demand for such tea is high enough that there are fake Dayi being sold in the tea markets.  Many of these Dayi raw tea (1st yearly productions) - my guess- are purchased and hoarded away by drinkers, collectors and speculators.  These tea do not appear in the market again unless the prices are high.  Yes, there are serious collectors and speculators that store their tea in rooms and warehouses (yes you read correctly) but that is another story. Subsequent productions like 3rd production onwards are much cheaper but without any compromise in the tea.   

So if you like 7542 and would like to try a older 7542 and would like to buy for drinking.....perhaps you should whisper to the ears of a tea lady : "2008 7542 803"

Tuesday, June 4, 2013

Burdock Root Tea

Nowadays, kung fu tea brewing techniques can be used to brew non tea beverages like floral and even root infusions.  Floral 'tea' infusions would include rose bud tea, chrysanthemum flowers, lemon grass and even dried lemon or orange skin peels.  Root infusions would include ginseng and burdock root teas.

And to my newer tea readers, 'kung fu tea brewing' is just a fanciful name to a tea brewing technique.  Its basically using 5-10g of tea leaves into a 150-250ml clay teapot or gaiwan and brewing your tea.  Quick pour outs of the infusions are necessary so a seasoned tea drinker will look quite skillful; movement of hands and water without spilling or making a some martial art in action.  Why do Chinese tea drinkers prefer kung fu tea brewing than say teabags?  Teabags usually contain about 2g of tea that you infuse in your teacup.  Kung fu tea is more concentrated in a sense that you may use up to 10g of tea leaves to make a cup of tea, though the infusion time for kung fu tea is only a couple of seconds for an infusion of tea.  

Dried burdock root slices are used primarily in traditional chinese medicine (TCM) as a blood purifier (detox).  Chinese families, I know, use burdock root in meat soups.  They may add a piece of pork or chicken, add some burdock root slices, some salt and then boiling the soup for a couple of hours under a small fire.  Its a real tasty soup to make.  Burdock is called 'niu pang' in Mandarin.   

A Burdock tea brewing session basically uses a spoonful of burdock slices.  Do remember to use boiling water to brew this tea and you can easily get 10 good cups of burdock root tea.  The scent is very pronounced, a earthy smell like ginseng but lower notes.  The taste is herbal, pleasant with a nice mild sweetish taste.  I enjoy this tea very much.  I would recommend the Japanese dried burdock slices as the tea is more aromatic and tasty.  Dried burdock slices are usually available  in Chinese traditional medical shops, which will be happy to sell you in small amounts.