Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Yunnan Trip - My Ripe Tea Purchase

I only purchased 1 kg of ripe pu erh tea during my trip to Yunnan.  This is it.  4 bricks of 2008 Fuhai ripe tea.  I was told that this tea was made with similar materials from the 2007 Fuhai large leaf pu erh cake (link) which I had liked very much.

This brick was stored in Kunming and the climate there was less humid than Singapore.  As a result, this Kunming storage brick tasted somewhat suppressed and lack the punch of ripe pu erh tea that I am used too.  However, breaking up this brick, putting the tea in my tea caddy and only started brewing this tea after a couple of weeks did made drinking this tea a very pleasant experience.  Yes, it did taste similar to the 2007 Fuhai cake which I liked.  Nice woody aroma with a hint of floral notes.  I must remember to get more of this tea in my next visit.

But I digressed.  In my last blog, I mentioned the phenomenal prices of raw pu erh while I was in Yunnan.  Yes, I had noticed that certain new pu erh tea was gaining popularity and the higher prices that accompanied these tea.  Right now, raw pu erh teas from Lao Ban Zhang and Bing Dao are 'pu erh of the day'.  Prices of these tea are pretty phenomenal, to me anyway.  Prices of these tea are now commanding a few thousand RMB per kilo...which means a regular size cake made from these areas may cost close to US$200 retail.  

Let me share my thoughts on why these tea cost so much.  I believe there is a new group of tea drinkers/collectors that has came steadily into the Chinese Tea market.  This group is made up of local Chinese, but they are financially affluent and enjoys 'conspicuous' consumption.  They buy branded products and usually associate price with quality.  When they drink or want to buy Chinese tea, they would usually demand the 'best' or the most expensive to demonstrate their purchasing power.  As a result, Lao Ban Zhang and Bingdao pu erh teas have seen their prices rise because of this new demand.  Yiwu pu erh is starting to jump up in prices as well.  Tea dealers in China, who had taken advantage of this demand had benefitted as well.  While I was in Kunming, I noticed many tea dealers now drive expensive European cars and had even able to open more shops and upgrade their standard of living.  However, I would like to warn serious Chinese tea drinkers that you must know your tea if you want to buy these high end tea.....meaning....that its impossible that every tea shop has pure Banzhang or Bingdao tea - it could be a blend of teas inside your cake.  Caveat Emptor.  Buy your Chinese tea from a reputable teashop.

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Yunnan Trip - My 16kg Souvenir

My Silkair flight to Kunming, Yunnan had allowed me up to 30kg of check-in luggage allowance.  While in Yunnan, I gave serious thoughts of what stuff I wanted to buy and carry back to Singapore.  Prices of pu erh tea especially for the new raw pu erh was astoundingly high (I will talk about tea prices  in a later blog), so I settled for this tea serving set and some tea. 

This 'stone on wood' set weighed a hefty 16 kg (35 lbs) when I placed the box at the airport check-in counters.  You will observe from the pictures that this tea table came in its original wooden box which helped protect the tea set on its flight home. The 2 main items were the stone slab  and the wooden board.  A plastic tube and pump (like those mini hand pump you used to blow off dust on a camera lens) was also included in the box.  Setting up this set was easy.

I was 'wowed' by this set.  It looked elegant.  I felt this set had incorporated the 'stone on wood' concept but was made to look simple and appealing to the eye.  

And...my family actually liked it.

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Yunnan Trip - Xiaguan Tea Factory

I was in Yunnan last month and I was at the Xiaguan Tea Factory in Dali, Yunnan. 

Xiaguan Tea Factory is one the oldest pu erh tea factories in China.  It continues to produce quality pu erh and is today one of the biggest producers of pu erh tea in China.

I arrived at the factory late in the evening and had the opportunity to visit their showroom.  This 'showroom' is actually a beautifully refurbished Chinese 3 storey house that came with a huge courtyard.  There were many rooms that highlighted the various milestones of Xiaguan Tea factory.  There was the trophy and awards room, scroll room, tea room, history and even a tea tasting room.  Simply fascinating.

Saturday, May 10, 2014

"Tea For Everyone" Seminar

I could not believe it.  Our local newspaper carried out an ad informing that there would be a Chinese tea seminar on 29 March 2014 and it was open to the public and it was free of charge.  Registration was easy; just scan the QR code on the ad, and you are brought to the web link to reserve a seat for the seminar.  

This "Tea For Everyone" seminar was organized by Wee Kim Wee Centre, Singapore Management University and they invited 3 speakers to speak at this 1.5 hr seminar.  This seminar was in Mandarin and I was surprised that the lecture theatre was 'full house' for this talk.

There were 3 speakers in this tea talk.  Mr Wang Jianrong, the 1st speaker, is the vice president of Hangzhou Longjing Tea Culture Research Association and a member of China museum management special committee.  Mr Wang, in his presentation, dealt with Chinese tea history.  He also mentioned in passing that yixing clay teapots were not suitable for green teas and these teapots were more suited for roasted ones instead. 

The 2nd speaker, Mr Ho Chien hailed from Taiwan and operates the Taiwan Tea Culture Institute.  His presentation deals with the tea drinking in everyday life. He believed that drinking Chinese tea not only has health benefits but allows the drinker to 'de-stress' while enjoying a cup of tea.  

The last speaker, Mr Lee Chee Keong, operates LiuXiang Teacraft in Singapore.  He spoke on Chinese tea in Singapore and he hoped to continue to share his knowledge and passion on Chinese tea in Singapore and abroad.