Sunday, March 30, 2014

Tea News - Wales

The following article is well written by Laura Conner entitled "We won't serve you hot water without a tea bag in it" -Bizarre stance of train staff".  This article appeared in on Feb 21, 2014.

A commuter says she was refused a cup of hot water 'on health and safety grounds' and that the water would have to have a tea bag in it

Commuting can be stressful at the best of times – but one worker claims she was refused a morning cup of tea on her train due to “health and safety reasons”.

Kelly Davies, 35, of Penarth, asked the First Great Western catering assistant from Cardiff to Bournemouth on Tuesday morning if she could have a cup of hot water – but she says she was told she would have to drink it with a tea bag for “health and safety reasons”.

“The woman at the trolley said I would have to pay the full price of a cup of tea for the hot water – £1.90 – and said I would have to drink it with a tea bag,” said Kelly, a PR manager.

“I refused to believe it because it was just so ridiculous. I said, ‘No it can’t be?’ And then she refused to serve me completely.”

Kelly wanted the hot water to have with her own decaf tea bag that she had brought with her. The train did not have decaf tea bags for sale.

“I was even willing to pay the £1.90 for the water,” she said.

But Kelly’s main concern now isn’t that she was deprived of her morning cuppa.

“What has bothered me more is how head office have dealt with it and how they weren’t willing to answer my questions properly,” said Kelly, who got into a Twitter row with the train company about the incident she jokingly dubbed “hot water-gate”.

Staff manning the First Great Western Twitter account said the issue was “just an unfortunate reality of our wider auditing requirements” and told Kelly she would have to email the company with her complaint.

But Kelly responded by tweeting: “No, I want you to take responsibility. Why make me do more stuff? You can feed this back. It’s your company.”

A spokesperson at First Great Western said: “Health and safety has nothing to do with it and we should have been more honest with the customer.

“While we are more than happy to provide free hot water for medicinal purposes or to warm baby food, we don’t provide hot water for customers to make their own tea on board our trains.”

Saturday, March 22, 2014

Fang Yuan Brand Tea Ware

"Fang Yuan Pai",  which literally means square circle brand is considered a milestone period for Chinese tea ware.  This brand of tea ware was produced during the communist period, primarily around the 1960s through to the early 90s.

China during these 30 odd years, did export many its products overseas.  In my part of the world, it was common to purchase, inexpensively, China-made products.  Stationary, kitchenware, garments, canned and dried foods, medicine and even tea and tea ware were available for purchase. In fact, department stores called emporiums selling only China made products were opened for business.  Yue Hwa Department stores in Hong Kong and Singapore are still operating today.  For Singapore readers, there is also an old Chinese emporium (called Overseas Emporium) on the 1st floor of People's Park Complex in Chinatown.  The China made products were not considered expensive and were very popular with the locals.  

Tea and tea ware were one of the products exported by China.  "Sea Dyke" brand of oolong teas was one example. Their lao chong shui hsien was in high demand and is very popular even today (see link).  Porcelain and clay tea ware were also easily available.  These tea ware were actually used and there was no real value (no one thinks that they will be become collectibles and be expensive) in keeping such tea ware as an investment.  

Fang Yuan brand tea ware today are now famous and sought after by Chinese tea ware collectors.  As mentioned, this was a milestone period as it serves as a reference point of Chinese Yixing clay that was used during these 30 years.  This meant that when collectors are talking about yixing clay teapots made during these times, they will usually talk about Fang Yuan brand Yixing clay teapots.  These teapots when new came in its own paper box and a brand sticker is usually affixed to the side of the tea ware  I had purchased a couple of such teapots and I will talk about them in a later blog.

The 1st pix above shows a  European-styled teacup and plate and 2 tea caddies.  Note the white porcelain encased in the interior of the teacup and caddies.  The 3rd pix shows a 'trophy' shaped tea caddy while the 5th pix shows a peach-shape tea caddy with a bat perched on the top of the peach.  

I believed these tea ware I had purchased were made in the late 80s/early 90s.  The quality of the workmanship was a bit 'rough on the edges' but my collector friends told me they were made of pure yixing clay.  I am a proud owner of these tea ware.   

Saturday, March 15, 2014

2004 Xiaguan Gold Ribbon Tuo

Xiaguan introduced the gold ribbon 100g tuo in 2004.  The box that came with the 1st production in 2004  was a light brown in color, but subsequent productions post 2004 saw the boxes packaged in bright yellow colors.  

Xiaguan gold ribbon tuo (yes, note the gold ribbon that comes with each tuo) was a success with pu erh tea drinkers throughout the world.  This raw pu erh, compressed to a bird nest shaped cake (called tuo) has been produced on a yearly basis ever since.  Today, older versions command higher prices and are a little hard to find.  

Yunnan Sourcing, a popular online Chinese tea store describe this tea as

"The "Gold Ribbon" blend was first introduced in 2004, when it was a special order production for a large Guangzhou Xiaguan wholesaler. Using superior material from Wu Liang, Yun Xian, and Yun Long mountains, and carefully blended to be full of aroma and cha qi. This has now becomea classic premium blend from Xiaguan! The boxes protect the tea from fluctuations in temperature and humidity giving the tea a stable environment perfect for aging!"

I find the gold ribbon tuo very pleasant to drink.  It's aroma is like a bouquet of flowers which makes this tea a very refreshing beverage. This tea is non smoky, quite a surprise that Xiaguan is renowned for their smoky pu erh.   This 10 year old tuo now has a hint of sandalwood scent in the tea which adds complexity to the taste and aroma to this tuo.  Nice.  I note that this 10 year old tea brews  fast and strong and I would suggest using lesser tea leaves when you brew this Xiaguan tea.  

Sunday, March 9, 2014

2004 Ripe Puerh Brick - revisit

I had bought 4 of these bricks during my trip to Hong Kong in Dec 2010.  I had purchased from Lau Yu Fat teashop for about HK$150.   Yes, the price seemed so inexpensive when you compare with tea prices today.  Pu erh tea prices are more expensive now.

I had opened in cake in 2011 (link). My thoughts on this tea were :

"The aroma had a combination of chinese herbs with a good earthly and toasty sensation. It was like drinking a chinese herbal soup that underwent long hours of cooking. Nice color. This tea makes a smooth drink and the aftertaste was very pleasant."

My views remain unchanged after opening the 2nd brick. Yes, I do add more tea leaves to a brew as I enjoy this tea on the stronger side.

But I digress. I would recommend my readers, that if you like a partcular tea, whether its a high roasted oolong or pu erh (teas that can be stored away for long periods), to buy a small quantity of this tea to keep away for future drinking. Not too many/much. I would recommend for pu erh tea, to buy 3 cakes/bricks and over time you would have a good selection of tea in your tea stash. You can also do a tea exchange with your tea friends (especially from different countries) to compare storage and aging conditions.

Anyone wants to do a tea exchange with 2-3 teas of about 30g each?