Tuesday, March 22, 2016

A pair of mirror tea caddies

Chinese porcelain collectors would know that the larger Chinese porcelain pieces are sometimes made in pairs and have 'mirror' characteristics.  No, I am not talking here about mirror reflections where you asked the porcelain on the fairness of your appearance.  Rather, the pictures or illustrations on these paired pieces are a 'mirror' or each other.  This means you will, as an example, notice a bird or phoenix looking or flying towards the right, while the other porcelain piece will have the phoenix  looking or flying towards the left.  Other common 'mirror' images would include a person or a group of people moving or looking right with the other porcelain piece having moving/ looking left characteristics.  

Mirror pair porcelain are often found in vases, jars, stools and even tea caddies.  This unusual pair of tea caddies made in the 80s, is 8 sided with illustrations of the 8 immortals legend.  These tea caddies are decorated in a bluish green background with auspicious bats as a border around the caddy.  Interior of the tea caddy is not decorated.   The finish and illustrations are a bit on the rough side but nevertheless do make for a very pretty pair of tea caddies.  Height of tea caddy is 10 inches which will comfortably store a complete broken-up pu erh tea cake.  

Sunday, March 13, 2016

Hario V60 Drip Kettle

I went online and bought a Japanese steel kettle. This is the Hario V60 drip kettle. This kettle was designed for making drip coffee where one needs hot water to be poured slowly in small and controlled amounts over the coffee powder.

You will have noticed from the pix, that the spout is much smaller than the conventional kettles and when you pour out water from this kettle, the water stream is smaller. I purchased this kettle as I thought I would have better control in pouring out hot water from the kettle, cause less 'splash', maybe not wasting too much water and more importantly, the kettle looked pretty and more fanciful to use than my regular kettle.

I had a pleasant surprise when I got my kettle. There were clear English instructions enclosed in the box but more importantly was that the kettle could be used on many heating devices, namely induction cookers, gas and electric stoves as well as radiant, halogen and sheathed cookers.

Size of the kettle is good with the base of the kettle at 5.5 inches (13.5cm) which is ideal for smaller stoves and heaters. Though stated on the box that this kettle is a 1.2 l capacity, it recommends a water capacity of 0.8 l in the event the water over-boil and spill out. The enclosed leaflet also recommends washing the kettle with detergent a few times before use.

I like this kettle. I could use it on my gas stove, hot plate and my induction cooker. I enjoy the better control in the pouring out of hot water from this kettle. It gives a sense of precision and it is fun to use. This kettle is a little small and when you have guests over for tea, you may need a regular 'back up' kettle to boil water and later transfer the boiling water to the Hario so you can use it for brewing your tea.

But I digress. While looking at the reviews and videos of this Hario kettle before plonking down my money to buy one, I was piqued with the Hario coffee drippers used to make coffee. Yes, I do drink coffee ("hello from the other side"), about 3-4 times a month. I included a Hario coffee drip set when I ordered this kettle. Making drip coffee is interesting, as the coffee grounds are only in contact with hot water about 20-30 seconds max. This brewing style, makes the coffee more aromatic and not bitter as the grounds are not over-infused. I can understand why my friends need their morning coffee. I felt a perky buzz for a few hours after drinking a cup of coffee. Singapore readers, would know of Daiso department store here that sells products for $2 each. This store, being Japanese, sells many Japan made products as well ( I faithfully get my Japanese udon noodles from here). Well, Daiso sells their version of coffee drippers and unbleached filters as well. For $4, one can get a dripper and 100 paper filters to make drip coffee at home. This coffee drip brewing method does seem like 'kungfu tea brewing' - pour hot water, quick drip out. Would this drip method work for tea?…..stay tuned!

Back to the Hario drip kettle. I had purchased this kettle from Japan online and it cost less than US$50 for the kettle and air freight to Singapore. I had also recently found out that Hario now has a thermometer attachment, that you can buy and attached to a Hario kettle, which read the temperature of the water in the kettle. This would help and inform the user on his/her preferred water temperature when brewing a hot beverage. I would recommend my readers, if you are looking to buy a kettle for brewing tea, to consider this Hario kettle as one of your choices.

Wednesday, March 2, 2016

2010 Haiwan LaoTongZhi 5 Year Brick

I purchased this pu erh brick when I was in Guangzhou in 2011.  This tea brick is a 2010 ripe pu erh tea produced by Annin Haiwan Tea Factory.  I enjoy Haiwan's pu erh tea and readers would know that I am a fan of their ripe pu erh.  I make it a point to visit the main Haiwan showrooms every time I visit Guangzhou, to update myself on the company's new tea offerings and to sample their tea as well.

This tea brick is interesting in that this pu erh tea uses 2005 ripe tea to press the bricks.  Information on the box indicated this brick is composed entirely of 2005 ripe tea.   Producing pu erh tea using older material do suggest that the bigger pu erh tea factories have a substantial stockpile of tea leaves and may even afford to age some of the pu erh tea in their warehouses.  

I had also noticed that for the past few years, during my sampling tea sessions in China, some newer ripe pu erh teas were easier to drink.  These ripe tea had been 'blended' with older ripe pu erh.  Generally, ripe pu erh tea taste better if they were drank, in my opinion, about 3 years from production date.  The 3 year storage would made the tea more mellow and any 'fermentation scent' would have dissipated.  Adding older ripe pu erh tea in a blend would add an aged dimension to the tea and may make a new ripe tea more 'drinkable' now than waiting for 3 years.  

I could easily brew up to 10 good infusions when I brew this tea.  This tea is pleasant with nice toast bread aroma with a hint of a sweet aftertaste.  Though this tea uses 2005 ripe tea, I felt that the tea leaves used were of average grade.   No wow factor but its a good and simple ripe tea. 

I better use a larger teapot to brew this tea today.  Time to tune in to CNN - Super Tuesday results.  "The wall just got 10 feet higher."