Tuesday, December 11, 2018

2011 Teahouse Hong Kong Puerh Tea Cake

This is a Lau Yu Fat house cake.   This is their 1st ever 'house cake'.   Produced in 2011, this cake is a blend of Bulang and Bada tea leaves.  

I had been their customer for more than 7 years and I will always pay a visit to the shop whenever I am in Hong Kong.  I would also use this opportunity to 'practice' my Chinese Teochew dialect with Senior Lau, who had on many occasions explained to me the history of the Hong Kong tea scene for the past 50 years.  This teashop had been around since the 60s and is now managed by the 3rd generation of the Lau family.  

Back to this tea cake.  This cake is strong in both taste a aroma.  There is no fresh floral notes or hardly any sweetness.......maybe very very faint sweet hints in the aftertaste.  There is good herbal bitterness but the tea is very smooth.  I am angry with myself for opening his tea cake.  This tea is still 'newish' as evidenced by the harshness of the tea.  This tea would be very impressive if stored for another 5 years or more.  I had already stored this tea for more than 6 years in Singapore.  Sigh.    I will break the cake in a tea caddy and will open this canister again after a few years.   

Sunday, December 2, 2018

An Old Ni Xing Tea Set

I managed to buy a Ni Xing tea set.  No typo.  It is Ni Xing clay.  This Chinese clay is from the Guangxi region and this clay a popular clay for making ceramics pottery.  This clay comes in a spectrum of colours from dark brown to light red.  This clay is not so popular or as pricey as the famed Yixing Clay.  I guess is that Ni Xing clay looks more muddy in colour so perhaps less appealing to the eye.  

I do not own any Ni Xing tea ware till now.  It was my good friend Su from Ipoh that told me to get a Ni Xing tea pot.  In her words; "Once you use, you will fall in love.  Especially if you brew a lot of old tea.  New sheng don't brew up so well but old teas are fantastic, steeped in good well seasoned teapot".

I had been looking for a ni xing  teapot for a few months and was over the moon when I saw this unused set.  I was told this set was made in the late 90s.   Notice the set came with 4 cups and a covered pot / container.  This container could act as a tea tray for tea waste bowl as well.  This workmanship appears rough to me but I am not complaining.

Time to season the teapot and cups.  I am using an old traditional seasoning style
a) Wash teapot and cups under running water.  Place teapot and cups in a large pot of water and low boil for 30 min.  When water has cooled, rinse teapot and cups well.
b) brew tea in teapot.  5-6 infusions.  Do not drink and discard the tea.  Wash and air dry the teapot.
c). The teapot is ready

I look forward to my 1st tea session with this Ni Xing teapot this Christmas holidays.    

Friday, November 23, 2018

2005 Changtai Bulang Raw Puerh Cake

2005 Changtai Bulang Raw Pu erh cake.  400g cake at $74.  18.5 cents/gram.

The above 'information' are used by tea reviewers to give the readers a summary overview of the cake that is being discussed.  

This information is good and is important to the reader.  You get to know the age of the tea and the tea factory that made the cake.  You can see that this cake is a 400g size.  And.... finally you get the price of the cake including a technical price per gram basis.  You can 'calculate' the costs per brew if you buying this cake.  If you are using 7g our session, you are looking at about $1.30 per brewing session.  

I think we can do more.  

When you buy pu erh tea, you are not only buying the tea, you are buying the storage.  

This 2005 Changtai is 13 years old.  This tea had been Malaysian stored for more than a dozen years.  This 13 years of storage should be an important feature in a assessment of this tea.  13 years of storage, in my opinion, is a pretty long time.  The tea would have some age in taste and aroma.  I would expect that the storage would comprise at least 40-50% in an overall assessment of the tea.  

And this 'assessment' is not easy.  There is the issue of different storage consideration.  This tea would taste and smell different under different storage conditions.  Such conditions would include different climate / countries where the tea is stored or even whether the tea cake is broken up and stored in a tea caddy or if the drinker chipped off a piece of tea to brew.  I myself find assessing a tea difficult.  When I sample a tea stored in Hong Kong, Kunming, Taiwan, Guangzhou, a same year Xiaguan tuo has considerable differences in taste and aroma.  It is not better or worse, but it is the result of the storage....and I would present the tea to the reader as it is.  I learnt / try to appreciate the tea and the respective storage.  It Is this uniqueness that should be appreciated and enjoyed.  The storage of pu erh tea should be / must be highlighted.  

Yes, my perceptions of the tea with regard to sweetness or bitterness or feel of the tea is subjective.  As a reader, you will also realise that your taste preferences are different and may change with time.  So I can only suggest - when you like a tea, it is a good tea.  And....a cheap tea can be a good tea.    A $1/g tea does not mean that it is 5 times more aromatic and tasty than a 20 cents/g tea.  For me, giving the reader the price per gram is just telling the reader how much a tea brew would cost to brew.  It does not indicate a bargain or quality.   Never use price to judge a tea.

But I digress. I would not mail out tea for about 2 weeks before Christmas.  No Haiwan spa for me this time as I will helping out in a poorer community in Vietnam.   If you are getting tea or exchanging tea with me during this time, please exercise some patience.  Thank you. 

Wednesday, November 14, 2018

Things to improve a puerh tea session - Part 2

Continued from Part 1 - link

3.  'Xin' Cha -  this is the Chinese term for awakening your tea.  I believe that  pu erh tea needs awakening at certain times.  Let me explain.

a). you would have read from the tea forums that many pu erh tea drinkers that had bought tea online found that  their tea tasted better after letting the tea rest for 1-2 weeks. 
When your tea had travelled for many miles and spent some time flying by air before your order reached your doorstep, it might be possible that your tea went into a moment of 'hibernation' and needed time to stabilise. I cannot provide a scientific explanation for this phenomena, but many of my tea friends 'swore' that tea was better after some time of rest.

b) I also propose that you break up your cake, too or brick into small pieces and store your tea in a tea caddy for 2 weeks before you start on the tea.  
You can do simple inexpensive experiment where you break up half a cake of your tea and place the tea pieces in a tea caddy.  Do a comparison testing after 2 weeks.  I am also unable to provide a scientific explanation, but tea stored in a tea caddy is more aromatic and tasty compared if you break off a piece of tea and brew up the tea.  

4.  Attend or have a small group pu erh tea session.  Many of us are 'home alone' tea drinkers.  We tend to brew and drink tea at home.  It easy and comfortable to drink tea alone at home.  You choose your time and brew whatever tea you like, whatever way you like; gaiwan or teapot and no one will say anything.  You buy your tea on the internet from round the world and may even participate in tea forums giving your thoughts on the tea.  

But I recommend that you join or conduct small pu erh tea drinking groups.  It is fun to share your knowledge on tea and at the same time, actually get to 'socialise' literally.  You get to see the different interpretations of tea in terms of tea brewing, tasting and other stuff like storage.  Do a tea exchange.  Yes, tea can be appreciated alone but as a group it is just as fun.  It is sad that many of us are 'busy' in this present 4G society.  We have more friends and followers on the internet, but to have friends that sit right across a table is more meaningful, in my opinion. Yes, there will be many things you may be uncomfortable or disagree when you have a tea session with fellow tea friends.  It is all in good fun.  
Invite me to one of your tea sessions. Who knows I will really appear.  By the way. I intend to / hope to visit my Czech And Scottish tea friends real soon.  They do not know it yet.  

Sunday, November 4, 2018

Ipoh Leong Swee Sang (Bliss) Liu Bao Tea

A collector had put this bag of Liu Bao tea up for sale last month in Malaysia and I had an opportunity to sample this tea. 

This tea is the Ipoh Leong Swee Sang Liu Bao.  It came packed, all 40kg, in a thick white bag.  The available literature was that this tea was exported through Hong Kong to Malaysia in the 80s.  Such Liu Bao tea in the 80s was a popular tea among the Chinese tin mining community in Ipoh from the 30s to the early 80s when the tin mines was depleted.  Note the big pink neifei with the Chinese 'fu' character.

This tea has a nice medicinal aroma and taste in the initial infusions.  Good for more than a dozen infusions, this tea now is expensive and highly sought after.  

Pix 2 shows the tea in its 5 or 6th infusion.  

Sunday, October 21, 2018

A Letter To James of Teadb

James Schergen is one of the most famous celebrity on the internet when it comes to Chinese Tea.  He appears on his own videos and his articles appear frequently  on teadb.org (link).  He had recently written to me giving his insight on my previous blog post about Chinese teapots (read my 2 latest posts).  I had given much thought and I decided to reply to him in a 'letter'.

Hello James,

Thank you so much for your thoughts about my Chinese teapot blog entry.  I am a big fan of your work and I tune in regularly to watch your tea videos.  I imagined myself literally sitting across the table while you are brewing and sampling the tea.  Sometimes, I shout out loud at the video to call you to reheat the water for your later infusions as cooler water might affect the interpretation of the tea.  It was in good fun.   I did hear on the grapevine that there is a possibility that you may coming to our shores.  I am so happy and I hope to see you and get you to sign autographs.....so I can sell them later to the many tea auntie fans that simply adore you and may even camp overnight at the airport to welcome you if you are really coming.

In your comment on Chinese teapots, you posed a question which literally caught me off guard 

"Can a serious tea drinking person be into tea without owning teapots? This is a harder question, but I do think it is possible."

I actually was dumbfounded for several days.  In my tea drinking groups which I join in Singapore, Malaysia, Hong Kong and Guangzhou, we often discuss many things about tea and tea ware.  We would also debate on tea issues like storage but never whether a serious tea drinker can do without teapots. You had suggested that owning a teapot is a luxury than a 100% requirement.  

An old Chinese idiom - those who understand do not speak while those who speak do not understand.  Indulge me, James, for speaking as I really do not understand.  Here are my thoughts:

1.  Marshaln (aka Lawrence) the author of the the famous A Tea Addict's Journal (link) is the most respected and his articles in English and has a strong and steady following of readers worldwide. From reading his entries, I felt he was inclined to use a teapot than a gaiwan to brew his tea.  One of his entry on 25 Feb 2008 :

"I realized today I haven’t touched any of my gaiwans since I returned from Taiwan.

I remember I used to use the gaiwan for everything…. from greens to blacks. Gaiwan was my weapon of choice. Gaiwan was the only thing I’d use, pretty much.

Then slowly, I started using more yixing pots. I gradually bought a few more, and found them, somehow, easier to use. Maybe it’s because I will no longer burn my fingers, as I do once in a while with a gaiwan. Maybe they provide more aesthetic variety. Maybe they do make better tea?

On the better tea question, I am now quite certain that some yixing pots will make softer tea (whether that’s better or not is up to individual taste). I’m still not sure exactly what goes on in a yixing pot that actually changes the tea. There are many theories out there, from temperature retention (sort of true…) to pores in the clay (really depends) to seasoning (maybe true, maybe magic…. and also depends, greatly). Gaiwans, though, still give you an “honest” tea, without really messing with the tea in any particular way. "

Is Marshaln a serious tea drinker?  Yes!  He is the master sifu of tea.  He had invited me once to his palace and his collection of teapots he use for brewing tea is pretty impressive. 

2.  During one of my tea drinking sessions in Guangzhou a few years ago.  A retired manager of CNNP who was in this tea drinking group had remarked that the invention of the Yixing teapot was one of the best things for Chinese tea.  I find that his thoughts are appropriate in this discussion.  

3.  I spent last Tuesday morning at a local teashop in Chinatown and I posed this teapot question to the manager there.  Instead of answering my question, the manager asked me to sample an old shui hsien with her. The manager used a gaiwan and a teapot to brew the oolong (see bottom pix) and we proceeded to sample the tea.  Tea brewed from the gaiwan seems more aromatic while the tea from the teapot was very smooth in the taste and finish.  

Personally, I use teapots to brew my tea at home.  I have a few gaiwans and hardly use them.  Many serious tea drinkers I know use a teapot than a gaiwan.  I do not see a teapot as a luxury.  

I had also noticed that the gaiwans used for tea sampling at teashops tend to be better quality gaiwans.  Many believed that the older gaiwans made in the 90s or earlier are very suitable for sampling tea.  Maybe it is the glaze or the quality of the raw material.  These gaiwans can be expensive and asking prices for these old gaiwans can be a few hundred dollars each.  

You mentioned that 'good Yixing can improve' a tea session.  However, I interpret your argument that you find that this improvement or difference as not significant or dramatic enough to warrant that; using a Yixing teapot is 100% necessary.  I respect your view even though I disagree with it.  

Do look out for me at the airport, if you are coming to our shores, as I will be standing with your hoard of screaming auntie fans to welcome your arrival.  It will be a dream meet for me.

Your fan, 



Wednesday, October 10, 2018

Can a serious tea drinking person be into tea without owning teapots?

Tea celebrity James of TeaDB commented on my previous blog entry and his comments are reproduced in full below. I shall give my reply in another blog. Thank you, James for your thought provoking comments.

Hi Wilson,

I think you referenced one of my recent posts. I think we mainly agree about most of this. But in regards to the importance of teapots, I'd respectfully share a few of my thoughts and push back a little bit.

In my opinion, good Yixing can improve a session. I also use Yixing for a significant majority of my own sessions so I'm certainly not a total skeptic. I also do believe that it's importance can be overly inflated.

My post was written towards people newish to Chinese tea and/or pu'erh. The cost of good clay pots can be quite high and getting a $200 teapot is often seen as a significant barrier towards trying Chinese tea, when I think it'd be better if it wasn't.

From what I've seen, a fair number of people just starting will end up with cheap pots that they'll stop using at some point. You could argue this is necessary just as tuition tea is.. But.. I'd argue newer people would be better off focusing more on tea rather than concerning themselves with the intricacies of the teaware market.

Can a serious tea drinking person be into tea without owning teapots? This is a harder question, but I do think it is possible. I have a good tea friend that's been into tea for several years.. They have a couple pots, but when resources are limited he just about always ends up buying tea. Having old, nice pots is a nice thing to have but I also don't think it is a 100% requirement to be considered a serious tea person. I'd argue it is a luxury more than a 100% requirement.


Sunday, October 7, 2018

Believe It Or Not ! Things To Improve A Puerh Tea Session - Part 1

I have mentioned on many occasions that there are inexpensive ways (or things I did) that had improved my puerh tea brewing sessions while I was brewing tea at home.  The following ideas or methods are not expensive to do and I would like to share (repeat) these ideas again in this blog entry.  The improvements might be very very tiny, hardly noticeable but can be discerned by a pu erh tea drinker.  

1.  Water.  I use tap water for my tea.  Chlorine was added to the water (during purification) to make it germ free.  The chlorine scent is quite pronounced especially when you fill a jar, cover it and returning to it 15-20 min later.  I use a filter (simple gravity type) to remove this smell.  Another way to remove chlorine is to fill a jar of water and leave it overnight.  Drinking chlorine free water does improve the taste and aroma of the pu erh tea.  I know a few tea friends that went the extra 'mile' by placing mineral stones or charcoal pieces in the water jar.  

Another inexpensive method is to use boiling water for brewing all your pu erh infusions -  raw or ripe.  Even for later infusions, start up your stove again or let the kettle reboil before brewing your tea.  I feel that I could get a wider aroma profile from just using boiling water.  Ideally, if you can get a kettle of water and get it to slowly simmer (low boil) throughout the tea session...is best.  I am sure you had noticed some friends, teashops or even video where the water is never reboiled after the 1st infusion and the water gets 'cooler' with subsequent brews.....the tea taste and aroma is affected by the lower temperatures and the interpretation of the tea in my opinion is compromised. Reboiling a hot kettle of water only take a few seconds and your tea would taste better with this extra effort.  

2.  Use a Yixing teapot to brew your tea.  There is a big difference between using a gaiwan and a Yixing teapot when it comes to brewing pu erh tea.  A Yixing clay teapot will enhance the taste and aroma of your pu erh tea.  Perhaps it is the tea patina from constant using of a teapot, that had improved the taste of the tea.  Maybe, the teapot holds the temperature well (preventing the tea from cooling too fast)...or maybe it is the interaction of the clay with the tea.  (Incidentally, I also found that purion teapots made by Lin Ceramics seem to make my pu erh tea more amplified in the aroma and taste.)  Buying a Yixing teapot may be an expensive proposition.  You would be looking at prices from $50-200 for a Yixing teapot.  But....if you are careful with it, the teapot can give you many happy brews of your tea.  I have a few teapots that I have used and brewed tea for more than a thousand times.   I had personally found, I could use a Yixing teapot to brew either ripe or raw tea and I could not discern any inconsistency in the tea when I used such a teapot.  I recently read an article that using a teapot is not 100% necessary and that using a gaiwan is good enough.  You can brew a tea anyway you want even throwing some leaves in a cup, adding hot water and drinking the tea later, but to enhance the atmosphere of drinking and appreciating Chinese tea, a teapot is an important utensil that serious tea drinkers cannot do without.

To be continued.

Sunday, September 16, 2018

An Old Taetea Dayi Raw Tuo

This is a 2005 Taetea Dayi raw pu erh tuo.  Yes, many Chinese pu erh tea drinkers would normally associate the compressed 'tuo' (or bird nest) shape with Xiaguan tea factory.  You are absolutely right that Xiaguan produces a very wide assortment of pu erh tuos every year while other pu erh tea factories often mainly produces and compressed their pu erh tea into cake or disc shapes than tuos.  

Taetea (aka Dayi) do compressed their pu erh tea into tuos on a smaller scale.  This 100g 2005 raw tuo had been stored in Malaysia for about 13 years.  Composed of mainly Menghai material, this tea when brewed coat the mouth easily; an almost oily mouthfeel.  This tea is floral in aroma and has a pleasant mild sweet finish and aftertaste. Good for 10 infusions.

But I digress.  Tuos compared to cakes are more difficult to dismantle.  I find that I get more tea dust after I break open a tuo.  The compression of a tuo tend to be 'looser' after about more than 12 years of storage in this part of the world and the tuo becomes easier to pry open.  Pu erh pressed into tuos are less popular with collectors than pu erh cakes.  My guess cakes are visually more appealing, bigger and feels more value for money due to its size and weight.  However, the tuo shape pu erh is a hallmark of the pu erh tea industry.  There is no discernible difference in the taste and aroma of the pu erh tea.  I have yet to meet a drinker, that can tell from drinking a cup of puerh, that the tea was compressed as a tuo or not. 

Let me know and share your 'tuo' experiences with me.  

Sunday, September 9, 2018

LIu An Tea - Novelty Brewing

I was looking to refill my Liu An stash and had started to sample this tea whenever I see them in the tea shops.  I looked for the traditional packed ones that are wrapped with bamboo leaves ( it actually looked more like lotus leaves like those used to wrap rice dumplings) and packed in a bamboo basket.  These baskets are normally packed with 500g of Liu An tea.  Many tea drinkers and collectors store them away in its actual unopened packaging and would normally start drinking them after 10 years.  Older ones are even expensive now.

Liu An tea is a very pleasant tea to drink.  At about 10 years old, the tea takes on a herbal and medicinal finish. Many Chinese medical halls used Liu An tea as a herbal soup base adding the herbs used to treat various ailments of their customers.  Many of my tea drinker friends brew up a few sessions of this tea when they are coming down with a cold or flu.  I have tried this tea when I was sick with some success.....but it could be seen as 'drinking lots of liquid' that had help eased my discomfort.

A few tea shops where I had recently sampled Liu An tea cut off a few strips of the bamboo leaves and adding these pieces to the tea brewing process (see pix 3).  The result - there is a additional aroma, slightly sweet smelling.  This could be directly from the bamboo leaves  or it could be from interacting with the Liu An tea.  It is to me, quite pleasant.

However, this style of brewing, in my opinion is a novelty brew.  Adding rose or chrysanthemum flower petals to ripe pu erh tea are also novelty brews.  They are interesting and enjoyable.  However,  a good tea can and should be appreciated on its own.

Sunday, September 2, 2018

2011 Haiwan Lao Tong Zhi Ziyun Raw Pu erh Brick

This Is a 2011 Haiwan Lao Tong Zhi Ziyun Brick. This a special production made for a Guangzhou tea dealer. Composed of Yiwu and purple pu erh tea lea leaves, this tea is moderately compressed into a 250g brick and packed in a pretty gift box.

This tea is one of my favourites. Break open the brick and place it in a tea caddy for at least 3 weeks before you start brewing this tea. There is a nice bouquet of complicated aroma and flavours in this tea. For a 7 year old tea, this tea is very smooth and mellow. Initial infusions open with a strong bitter and woody taste and aroma.  Middle infusions open into a floral, dried and fresh fruit aroma. Faint imaginary hint of salt. Later infusions becoming sweet, fruity and herbal. The taste is complicated varying with every infusion. I get woody notes, fresh and dried fruit, berries and even a hint of saltiness. There is no salt in the tea but the aroma seems to carry a 'remembrance of salt'. It is a nice play of flavours in the mouth. Good for 10 infusions.

But I digress. A reader emailed me asking me about buying older pu erh tea in Guangzhou wholesale tea markets. Basically, these tea wholesalers (those I know and are my friends) would try to sell off their yearly new tea to their own customers like tea shop retailers, collectors and tea drinkers all over China. Say 2018 tea - most tea are sold and those unsold are kept in the warehouse which are eventually sold within 2-3 years. Most of these wholesalers I know do not hoard the tea for a higher price. This meant that any older tea are actually unsold tea and to a certain extent..... that no one wants that tea. Many do not have the spare cash or capital to risk such a venture. There may be that odd carton that remain unsold but such tea are usually quickly sold if such boxes are discovered in the warehouses. Buying of older tea is possible as these dealers might know which of their customers are holding the tea and may help the buyer obtain the older tea for the right price. I do not recommend that you buy old tea in the wholesale markets......unless you know the tea dealers and you are very familiar with the tea and prices of that tea.

Sunday, August 26, 2018

Looking At Puerh Tea Through My Crystal Ball

I was in Guangzhou in early August and I had an enjoyable time having tea with my tea drinking groups as well as with my tea wholesaler friends during the week there. 

I witnessed a carton of 2008 ChenShengHao 'year of the rat' edition changed hands at slightly more than 10k RMB per cake.  I remarked that this tea was already 10 years old and the buyer would enjoy the taste and aroma of a 10 year old banzhang pu erh.  My wholesaler friend laughed at me.  He told me most of the Banzhang sold by him are unlikely to be brewed and drunk.  Most of these expensive tea are kept and resold, never drunk.  He explained that there were good returns for such tea especially before 2012 production.  One could see very good returns if the buyer stored his/her cartons of tea well over this period.  My wholesaler friend says that prices of new tea are high now and there are many 'investors' of tea in China.  The returns of newer tea are now much lower than if one has invested in tea 10 years ago. 

I was disturbed.  I told a Chinese tea drinker group about this finding when I had tea with them the next day.  This tea drinking group of 6 were mainly tea collectors / drinkers.  They would open a cake, cheap or expensive to drink, without hesitation.  My friends would normally drink their pu erh after more than 10 years of storage.  These friends also believed that the many expensive 'branded' pu erh tea are purchased and stored away and not drank at all.  Examples would be the Dayi tea special edition pu erh cakes.  One collector felt that even old Yixing factory teapots are also now bought and stored away as investment pieces and they are never used for brewing tea.  interestingly, this group of tea drinkers rarely buy new tea now, citing the very high prices as one of the reasons for the non purchase. 

I believed that about 50-60% pu erh production are purchased purely for investment purposes.  Small retailers and tea drinkers/ collectors would make up for the rest of the tea.  

My readers would know that this news are not 'earth shattering'.  Tea forums and tea blogs have already highlighted this pu erh trend.  As I gazed at my dusty crystal ball, I believed that these 'stored away' tea will appear in the tea markets again only in one scenario - in very bad economic times.  When business environment turns sour, investors may have to liquidate their assets for cash, a force selling situation.  In very good economic times, these tea will also be sold for a profit but this tea simply changed hands to another buyer who will store them away hoping for a higher profit. 

The pu erh tea industry now is highly dependent on speculators and investors to support the higher prices of the pu erh tea markets.  Yes, most of the expensive 'branded' pu erh tea are never drunk.  How is the quality of this tea? Has the tea aged well?  For now, the only important question in the tea markets is "How much is the tea?".

Sunday, August 19, 2018

2018 Hong Kong International Tea Fair

I was invited to attend the 2018 Hong Kong International Tea Fair which was held from 15-18 Aug 2018.  This tea fair was also held in conjunction to the Food Fair at the Convention Centre in Wan Chai. 

As usual. the fair was very well organised.  The organisers even had shuttle buses to ferry foreign visitors to and from their hotels at regular intervals.  There were special booths set up to assist with packaging and freight that makes the buying experience very easy especially for 1st time buyers to the fair.  Wifi was free and reliable within the fair grounds.  

The tea fair had a 'tea saloon' where talks and tea sampling sessions was scheduled at hourly intervals through the day.  Vendors and tea experts would share their knowledge and products with visitors.  I enjoyed these events very much.

There was a Hong Kong milk tea competition that is unique to the tea fair and it was a serious affair with contestants young and old competing with each other on who could brew the best cup of tea. It was in good fun with celebrity guest judges having a hard time determining the winner.  Maybe I should be a contestant next year.  

Sunday, August 5, 2018

Hong Kong Fukien Teashop High Roast Tie Guan Yin

I do not consider this blog entry to a a revisit of this Tie Guan Yin.  This oolong tea is one of my favourite tea on my tea shelf for many years and I would brew this tea at least once a week.

This TGY is produced and sold by Fukien Tea shop in Hong Kong.  Hand-wrapped in 125g packs, this is the shop's flagship tea.  There are many followers of this tea (me included) and the shop has faithful customers from as far as Japan and South Korea.  Last year, a South Korean TV company made a documentary on the teashop and this tea.  

This tea is a very high roasted oolong.  The Yeo (Yang) family which had run this teashop for more than 3 generations told me that this tea was slowly roasted up to 40 hours.  This tea when brewed produces a dark but sweet finish.  There is a unique caramel sweetness in the finish that is mouthwatering.  This tea is very aromatic and the scent stays in the mouth for a few minutes after a tea session.  

I recommend this tea to the oolong tea drinker.  This tea, in my opinion, is something special.  Inexpensive as well.

Sunday, July 22, 2018

H2O And Tea

One nice thing about Singapore is that I can drink water straight from the tap.  I have been to a few countries where I have to buy bottled water for my drinks as the tap water is not safe for consumption

But I am fussy.  I bought a standing filter for my tap water.  I simply fill up about 4-5 litres of water into a container and let gravity do its work.  The water will flow down slowly through a few sets of filters clearing out the chlorine and other stuff.  Water pipes are old in my housing estate and the ceramic filter turns slightly brown after 1-2 months of use and thats when I have to give the ceramic filter a good brushing.  

I used the filtered water for my tea brewing.  It is pretty good.  At least....its a cheap option.

We can also buy bottled water and experiment the taste and aroma when using these bottled water.  In Singapore, I can buy water which is bottled in Europe, Canada, USA and even Himalaya water.  They cost about $1-4 for a large bottle.  

Water makes up a large component in your tea and using such water may give a different taste or aroma in the tea.  There are also some bottled water which I could not discern any difference when I used them for my tea.  

Pix shows a bottle of water from Canada. When I used it on a raw puerh tea session, the tea seem to taste more smooth.  Maybe it is my imagination.  Fun though.  

Sunday, July 15, 2018

Rougui Shui Hsien - A Lau Yu Fat Premium Oolong

This is a premium range of oolong tea offered by Hong Kong's Lau Yu Fat Tea shop.  This tea came from the famed Fujian Wuyi mountains where oolong tea grown there are considered the 'quality stuff'.

You will notice that the leaves are plump and dark.  Being an expensive tea and the leaves looking pretty clean, I dispensed with washing the tea and starting drinking from the 1st infusion.  The aroma from the 1st infusion is very impressive.  There is a nice complicated bouquet of flowers (fresh and dried) which gave me a nice mouth watering sensation.  

Such oolong tea or yancha would  surprise a new oolong drinker in the sense that the tea is good only for about 4 infusions before the tea aroma and flavours fade away.  Many oolong tea drinker friends would also add more tea leaves in a brewing session to maximise the 'oomph' in the tea.  Swirling the tea in my mouth while breathing in air through the mouth and exhaling through the nose at the same time would enhance or encapsulate the aroma in my mouth and throat.  This tea is very good.

However, this is a new tea.  The 'newness' is evident in the later infusions where the aftertaste seem to 'cut short'.  This tea would be better if kept for 10 years for further aging.  An expensive proposition.

Sunday, July 8, 2018

Tea Appreciation - An Alcoholic Perspective

I have been exchanging emails with Wilson.  No I am not going bonkers.  Since my alcoholic post last month, many readers now know that I enjoy drinking many other liquids besides Chinese tea.  I grind my Ethiopia coffee beans on weekends for morning coffee and I do drink a dram of whisky 2-3 times a month.

A Scotsman named Wilson (its really weird writing to myself) wrote to me last month.  He enjoys his pu erh tea and his scotch drinks and wanted to compare tea notes with me.  At the same time, he explained to me the proper way to drink and appreciate scotch whisky.

Here are some notes that will interest the Chinese tea drinker:

1.  Scotch Whisky does not age in the bottle.  You buy a 12 yr old scotch, the taste and aroma of the liquor will (should) remain unchanged in the bottle after say 10 years.  Pu erh tea will continue to age after you bring it home.  A 10 yr old pu erh cake will be aged to a 20 year old tea if you keep it for another 10 years.  

2.  A tea session is cheaper than a session (call a dram) of whisky.  A tea cake can be broken up to 50 tea sessions (assume we use 7g from a 357g cake).  A bottle of whisky can get you 28 pours (one 25ml pour from a 700ml bottle).  If you work out the math, a $100 cake will give you a bigger bang for your money compared to a $100 bottle.  

3.  You can have a tea session daily.  Or twice daily.  But having a double whisky session daily may not be good and may cause an unhealthy addiction.  

But Wilson (the Scottish One) pointed out other differences

1.  Tea set up can be expensive.  Tea kettle, tea tray, teapot and teacups can be a little expensive.  You need to boil water and you have to prepare and later wash up the utensils.  However, all you need is a good nosing glass for your whisky and a few drops of water to bring up the flavours in the glass.  It takes less effort.

2.  You can walk into a whisky bar and have a choice of 50-200 varieties of different age and character.  I answered him by saying I can walk into a teashop and sample (for free) a tea as well.  

Looks like Chinese tea is the better deal.  

Scottish Wilson explained that nosing of the whisky is very important.  He pointed out that a good nosing glass like the Glencairn glass in the pix, is tulip shaped that will encapsulate the aroma of the liquor.  He says nosing of whisky normally takes 5-15 min as one try to identify the scents and aroma of the whisky.....floral, sweet honey notes, wooden oak or sherry scents.  Yes...even smoky or scent of the sea are seen in some whiskies.  Then sipping a whisky and 'chewing' the sip to cover the whole mouth before swallowing is also carried to to maximise the aroma and flavour.  

As a Chinese tea drinker, you will notice some of the similarities in whisky and tea appreciation.  Nosing for Chinese tea take up only a few seconds as the teacup we normally use does not hold the tea aroma well.  There was a significant improvement when I used a deeper Lin Ceramics teacup, filling half the cup with tea and nosing the tea for about 30 seconds before drinking the tea.  I feel that Chinese tea appreciation could be made more interesting if we a proper nosing cup of the tea.  Yes, we have scenting Chinese tea cups but I feel a bigger and deeper cup where you can 'put your nose in' makes a significant difference.  And I am not drunk stating this....whisky taste aroma and taste seem enhanced if drank from a Lin purion cup.

That is my 2 cents worth of thoughts.  I have been invited to Scotland where Wilson will bring me to a few distilleries and bars.  He proposed we do an tea-whisky exchange.  Sounds good...... but I have to put the bottle In my checked-in luggage and hope it will not break during the return journey.   My wife is excited when I told her we may be visiting Scotland.  I left out the distillery and bar visit bits though.