Monday, August 1, 2022

Afternoon Tea At Fort Sanctuary

 











I had afternoon tea at Tea Sanctuary.   Tea Sanctuary is a tea shop in Singapore located in an upmarket mall at Esplanade (where indoor concerts are held).   Esplanade is our equivalent of Sydney Opera House, except that our building closely resembled a local thorny fruit called the durian. 

Tea Sanctuary only sells Wuyi oolong tea. There is no pu erh, no liu bao and no white tea. Only Wuyi rock tea.  Oolong grown in the mountainous region of Wuyi mountains are called rock tea due the terrain of the mountain there.  Tea Sanctuary labelled their tea as numbers instead of specific oolong names, like Shui Hsien or Rougui.  A 3 digit number is assigned to a tea. 

My wife and I visited the shop yesterday afternoon and had a session of one of their tea namely 528. One of the directors who was manning the shop, Miss Lau Hui Zin, did the brewing the tea for us. She poured out 8g of 528 into a gaiwan and proceeded to brew the tea for us. She had quick hands in brewing the tea.  She used a fairness cup (gong dao bei) pouring 2 infusions in the fairness cup before serving the tea to us. This meant a round of tea would comprised of 2 infusions.  She explained the shop used only distilled water, porcelain gaiwan and cups so as the tea presented was simple and a customer can replicate this brewing method easily at home as well. Happy to say she used close-to boiling water as well. Before I forget, we were served a cup of chilled oolong before the actual tea to 'clean our palate'.  Miss Lau was very meticulous in her service, brewing up the next infusion only after we had only finished our cup of tea. 

The tea 528 was described by the shop as 'This fragrant tea expresses the prestigious terroir of Wuyishan with a powerful demonstration of intensity, rich and deep flavours, luxuriously smooth and soft, seemingly everlasting and deliciously rich aftertaste, mouth watering and sweet'.  Miss Lau continued to explained to me that the company brought in the Wuyi tea from China and final roastings of the tea are done in Singapore before the tea is ready for sale. One interesting fact was that the company is continuously tweaking their tea (in terms of roasting and resting) so that when you do a repeat purchase of a tea say the 528,  the tea may be slightly different as the company is trying to improve the tea itself. 

How did I find the tea? The early infusions of the tea was very good. This high roasted tea was aromatic. Quite a long pleasant aftertaste. The taste was robust with good minerals in the tea. I felt the tea did weakened after the 6th infusion. There was a slight sourness (later infusions) in the tea and it was more evident when the tea was cooler. This 528 tea was not the shop's top shelf tea and there were more expensive tea in their offerings.  The 528 tea is being sold in an box of 6 packets, 8g per pack, for $63 per box.   Miss Lau told me the shop will be offering some aged oolong nearer the end of the year.  I will be looking forward to have a session of that aged tea. 

Having a tea session (12 infusions) cost me $31 (US$22). This tea session was more suited for 2 people so I recommend you bring a friend with you when you have your tea there.  

 

Wednesday, July 20, 2022

2006 Langhe 8539 Raw Pu erh

 




This 2006 Langhe raw pu erh cake has been stored in Singapore for almost 16 years.   

I had a tea session of this tea last weekend. There was strong Chinese herbal soup flavours in the tea. It was like having a bowl of Chinese herbal chicken soup. Lots of Chinese herb taste and aroma with every sip. I thought I tasted some ginseng as well. There was also a strong woody profile in the tea. The wood is like aromatic wood that gave the sensation of a smoky flavour. The oaky finish resembled old Scottish whisky where the oak barrels had 'infused' the drink with a wood scent. Somehow this 'marriage' of wood and herbs worked very nicely in this tea. With a mouth watering aftertaste, this tea made for a nice tea session. 

When brewing pu erh tea, the flavours of the tea would be more vibrant if one use boiling water for every infusion. I had been to a few tea shops and even watch some tea reviews online where hot water was used to brew tea (that the heat was off for more than 1-2 minutes). There is a clear difference in taste and aroma when 'cooler' water was used. Don't waste your tea. Use boiling water for every infusion.   


Monday, July 11, 2022

Kamjove Art Tea Cup - Stainless Steel Version

 





I had bought another Kamjove tea infuser kit.  The last one was bought many years ago and I remembered it was a fun experience using it. 

This is the stainless steel version. Model no - TO650. 650ml capacity. The plastic tea infuser is twisted onto the steel mug. Everthing else work the same way. Drop some tea leaves into the infuser and add hot water.  Wait.  Press the top button to release the valve and the tea flows down into the bottom of the steel mug. Pour out to enjoy the tea and you are ready for your 2nd infusion. 

Compared to using a gaiwan or teapot, cleaning out the tea leaves after a tea session takes a bit more water and time to clean out the tea infuser.  I had comments from readers the last time, that the built in filter will stain over time. A reader buddy told me a simple solution is to soak the infuser in a bowl of water and throw in a denture cleaning tablet into the bowl overnight.....and the stains would be removed. It is a safe method though it sounded a bit yucky.  

Overall, this Kamjove tea infuser kit is still fun to use,  If you are a serious pu erh and oolong tea drinker, you will be surprised and pleased with the infused tea made by Kamjove tea infusers. It also make a nice conversation piece when you use it in a tea session with your friends. 

I had purchased with the intention of bringing this tea infuser for long overseas trip next year.  I am still of 2 minds and I may take a teapot with me instead. 

Wednesday, June 29, 2022

Some feedback on pu erh tea storage

 



I received a feedback on my tea storage. 

He is coincidentally a fellow local.   He claimed and believed that my tea storage is considered wet storage. Singapore has a climate which is hot and humid throughout a year.  As I did not take special steps to reduce the exposure of my tea to this hot and humid climate, my tea is not 'dry stored'.  This reader stored his tea this way - plastic cling wrapped his paper wrapped tea, then placed in a zip lock bag and a pack of drying agent is inserted to this bag and the tea is kept away in a cardboard box.  This seem to suggest that the reader is 'minimising' his tea to humidity and airflow.  

Here are my 2 cents of thoughts:

1.  I do not expose my pu erh tea directly to the Singapore climate. I do not bring out my tea to my yard and expose them directly to the weather of Singapore.

2.  I keep my tea in their original tongs (whether bamboo or paper) in a pu erh box. I keep all my tea in 2 empty bedrooms just for tea storage.  Windows are closed and curtains drawn. I do nothing else.  I let time do its work. The rooms are clean and dry. I considered my storage as dry stored but in a climate outside that is hot and humid. My tea had been stored under these conditions for more than 10 years.  

3.  Traditional Hong Kong tea shops used to store their tea within the shops (pre war shop houses) in the past. They might have a basement where the tea is kept. The storage conditions there would be slightly more humid and a seasoned tea drinker can actually discern the humidity within the tea when the tea is brewed. Today, such tea storage are non existent in Hong Kong and the pu erh tea are now kept in clean dry rooms. I happened to have a few older pu erh tea that was slightly exposed to the old style humidity but was later stored in drier conditions during the later part of the tea storage. I enjoyed such tea and they have a pleasant distinct aroma and taste in the tea. 

4.  Taiwan tea shops sells old pu erh. Most of these old tea were purchased from Singapore, Malaysia and Hong Kong and were resold in Taiwan. It is not surprising that the older pu er found in Taiwan has taste and aroma characteristics of Malaysia and Hong Kong. 

Pu erh tea stored in Malaysia, Hong Kong, Guangzhou, Kunming will have its own storage's taste and aroma. I bring my tea tea every time to these places and have tea with my tea buddies from these countries. Yes, I have loyal tea drinkers that believe their country's storage is best and would regard other countries' storage as less than ideal. However,  they would have a different opinion when they do a blind taste taste. 

I am not saying a particular country has a better or best storage. Every country storage is unique.  Tea drinkers should enjoy and appreciate the various storage conditions of pu erh from different regions. It is an adventure in every cup. 

Tuesday, June 14, 2022

Malaysia Tea Expo June 2022

 











I had just returned from Kuala Lumpur and had the opportunity to attend the Malaysia tea expo last week. The expo this time was held in a large new shopping mall; Tropicana Gardens mall. I like this new mall. Lots to see and lots of unique eats.  Very convenient as the train has a stop at the mall.   

This tea expo was a small scale affair.  There were no foreign exhibitors and some local ones were not represented in this expo.  I counted less than 30 booths and they were all local tea dealers.  Yes, big local players like Taetea, Xiaguan and China Tea were all present. There were numerous Liu Bao booths and I managed to snagged 1 kg of old Liu Bao.

This tea expo was a chance for tea dealers, collectors and tea drinkers to meet up.  I sensed a bit of 'revenge buying' - everyone was walking and holding a bagful of tea. I suppose after 2.5 years of 'no tea fair events', there was an 'urge' to buy some tea.  Overall, it was a well managed and successful event to those dealers that had booths during this event.

What did I buy besides the Liu Bao?  I had a good time sampling many new pu erh.  Many of the new pu erh tea are now processed differently.  The tea tasted lighter and greener. I managed to buy some traditional old Xiaguan tea that were strong, aromatic and has a smoky characteristic. Such old tea, if new was difficult to drink and had to be stored away for some time.  I suppose I am old fashioned.  I like my tea strong and aromatic with some age in the tea. Some of these tea I had bought, are about 15 years or older, stored in Malaysia and in my opinion is now only ready to drink. I am happy. 

  



Monday, May 30, 2022

The Price Of Tea

 



I thought we would emerged into a better place after more than 2 years of covid pandemic.   However, as of today, I do not think we are in a better or happier place.  There is a war in Europe and there are people worldwide who are still waiting to be vaccinated.  

Things are getting expensive and may be even more expensive for the rest of the year.  Call it whatever you want; inflation, stagflation or recession. If you are spending $2000 a month, you will continue to spend $2000 a month except that this money now will get you less things.  You  have to provide  a bigger allocation to essentials like food and gas. I was told by my American tea buddy that gas is now 5 bucks a gallon. I am not laughing, it is expensive over here in Singapore as well. Everything is expensive. 

How about Chinese tea?  Yes, Chinese tea is getting expensive too. Labour and production costs have gone up. My tea distributor friends in Guangzhou had confirmed that new tea this year will be more expensive than tea last year.  Not surprising.  Yes, a 1-2 year old pu erh tea cake may be cheaper than a current year tea cake.  Older pu erh tea is more desirable to many tea drinker and collectors. Now it is technically cheaper. But......the costs of freight is getting astronomically high due to the high cost of fuel. So. Chinese tea overall will be expensive.  Time to drink more from our tea stash. This is the 'rainy day' for us. 

Pray for peace.     

Sunday, May 8, 2022

2003 Langhe Raw Pu erh Tuo

 





This is an almost 20 year year old raw pu erh tuo.  This tea is a Singapore stored tea. 

In spite of the hot and humid climate this tea has only shown only some mellowness.  This tea is an extremely strong tea. I had thoughts that this tea would be mellow and smooth after almost 20 years of storage but No!.  This tea still has bitterness with an astringent bite in the aftertaste.  I have drank many old pu erh of this age.  Most of the tea would had demonstrated a nice mellowness; reduced smokiness like a wisp of smoke, less harshness and quite easy to drink......but this tea is strong and bold after 20 years.  Hair curling experience. I like.

But I digress.....I had blogged about newer pu erh tea.  Many of these tea are ready to drink or 'can drink now'. I suspect this is due to a change of pu erh tea processing that made the new pu erh tea less harsh or less astringent. The newer tea now almost taste like a fresh green tea.  Yes, even with a sweet and pleasant aftertaste. It is quite enjoyable. Like the famous saying 'same same but different'. I had stated that I am unsure how this new tea will age but I dare say that it cannot be stronger in taste and aroma than it it is now. A tea cannot be stronger taste after storage. There will be some mellowing out of flavours after storage. I can Imagine that the 2003 Langhe was very difficult to drink when new.  Just my 2 cents of thoughts. 

Back to my hair curling 2003 Langhe tea. 


Tuesday, April 19, 2022

Pink Dayi

 




I had blogged about this tea in 2016 (link).   This tea was sold by Taetea (aka Dayi) without wrappers to Taiwan but was accidentally shipped to the Malaysian distributor instead. This tea is estimated to be produced in 2003.

I liked this tea and had bought quite a fair bit of this tea before it was sold out. 

Already abut 20 years old, the tea remained very bold and strong.  Taste and aroma from the initial infusions are peppery, camphor, peaty with a long sweet aftertaste. This taste profile is quite pronounced and the tea can brew up to more than a dozen strong brews. 

Old well stored dayi tea are highly sought after by Chinese tea drinkers around the world. Such tea also commands a high price and are really hard to come by.

I will be starting by tea travels in June and I look forward to share my tea adventures with my readers.  

Monday, April 4, 2022

The Chi In Tea

 




There are many tea articles on Chi.  What is 'chi'?  Some writers call it the life force of tea or the energy of tea. Before you rushed to change to your Star Wars costume, let me give you my take on this 'chi' thingy.

Chi is the effect that you experience after having a tea session of Chinese tea.  Besides tea being a thirst quencher, there are many effects that tea drinkers may experience and here are some of the effects (not in any order) that I have felt or witnessed when I am drinking with a group of friends. 

1.  Sweaty or heat sensations. I have seen a few friends sweating profusely after a tea session. Whether drinking pu erh or oolong, my friends would be sweating.  The back of their shirts would be damp with sweat. On occasions, I do feel very warm or hot, like I did a workout. These sensations will pass within 5-15 minutes. 

2.  Feeling energised or feeling subdued.  There are instances where a friends in a tea group becomes quite active; like being more perky. They seemed more energised, more chatty or in the another session, the group seemed more quiet and subdued. Again the sensation take a short time to pass. We do have some sweet snacks available when we feel we need a sugar-rush.

3.  Burping or slightly intoxicated. I had seen these effects and had experienced them myself.  The intoxicating feeling is quite mild like I had a few glasses of wine. Again such sensations are temporary that passes in a few minutes. 

I suppose these effects are the 'chi' of Chinese tea. There are many tea drinker friends I know that enjoy such sensations and would buy the tea after experiencing this chi. 

Have you ever felt the energy of the tea?  May the force be with you. 


Sunday, March 20, 2022

An Old Yinhao tuo



 


This raw puerh tuo was produced in 2000.   I broke up this 22 year old tuo and stored the pieces in a tea caddy.  The compression is still quite hard and I had to used a pick to carefully fry the tuo apart. 

This tea is strong.  Lighty smoky with an interesting Chinese tonic soup qualities in both taste and aroma.  Mild camphor aroma with a slight intoxicating sensation after drinking the tea.  I enjoy drinking this tea hot.  Smooth and mellow.   

But I digress.  The difference in drinking an old tea, in this case a 22 year old tuo against a newer pu erh would be that the older tea would have some age in taste and aroma.  In this case, this tea was less smokey since I drank a similar tuo 10 years ago.  This tea has mellowed but remain a strong tea.  I actually reduced the tea leaves used for a tea session. My thoughts are that if you are aging your pu erh tea, please expect your tea after aging for 12-15-20 years to be more mellow than it was after time in storage. The tea cannot be stronger in taste and aroma after time in storage. What I am trying to say that if you have a pu erh tea that is smoky or fruity or floral and you store it away..... that tea will not become more smoky, more fruity or more floral.  Some pu erh tea may not age to one's expectation. It is not that the tea is good or bad but this was the result of the tea, the processing of the tea and the storage conditions while the tea were being kept away.  Storing a pu erh tea is an adventure in itself. I have a number of teas that is coming to 20 years of storage. I look forward to drinking them. 

Tuesday, March 8, 2022

A Tea Set For A Road Trip





 


I am sure for many tea drinkers, you had wished you had a tea set with you when are out of the house for a few hours or a few days.......  something like a short stay with friends or relatives, an urgent business trip or a weekend getaway.  Yes, a teapot or gaiwan and a few cups are all we need to brew a tea but I am sure that a little extra or fancy stuff like a tea tray or fairness cup can make the tea session a little more enjoyable.

I had initially bought this 'portable' tea set as a gift to a new Chinese tea buddy who is starting his Chinese tea adventures.  However, he had excitedly told me, even before I wanted to present him this set, that he had went out and got a tea set himself.  I am now 'stuck' with this set. However. I am quite happy with this purchase.  

This set is inexpensive.  It comes with a 'rubber like' case with strap (23cm square).  Inside you get a gorgeous tea tray (20cm square); bamboo top on plastic. a glass fairness cup (230ml), a porcelain gaiwan (160ml), 6 porcelain teacups (50ml), a porcelain filter and holder, a pair of bamboo tongs and a tea towel.  Quality and finish is good.  Cost - $20.  

My thoughts - cheap and good. Practical and useful. I might keep it for myself. 


Tuesday, February 22, 2022

2008 Zhongcha Wild Yiwu Cake

 




This 2008 Zhongcha brand, aka CNNP is composed of wild Yiwu material. Already 14 years old, this raw pu erh cake is a fun tea to brew. This tea had been stored locally and there is a good aged taste and aroma in the tea. The tea brews strong and I like the long aftertaste in the mouth after drinking a cup of this tea. There is a nice oil mouthfeel and this tea in my opinion can be quite addictive. I find myself finishing a session of brewing and drinking this tea very quickly. Happy days.

But I digress. I have increased the flat rate shipping from $10 to $12, for my online store. This increase will help mitigate the dramatic rise (past 2 years) in postage cost.


Sunday, February 6, 2022

Chinese New Year

 



Happy Chinese New Year.   Its the year of the tiger and I wish all my friends, readers and tea buddies a roaring year ahead.  It is already the 5th day of the Chinese New Year and I am have brewed up some Chinese tea and poured them into a few cups, settling down on my work table to write this blog entry.

I looked forward to the year of the tiger. Singapore had started vaccinated air travel late last year and the response was very good.  The Omicron dealt a set back these 2 months but I foresee this as a temporary disruption before air travel starts to pick up again in summer this year.  I may need to travel to Europe end of this year and I hope to visit Mona (her 2nd name is Lisa) during a free day there.  

Talking about tea, here are some news:

1.  Price of Chinese tea is not getting cheaper.  Chinese tea is getting expensive.    Older tea (10 years or more) like pu erh and oolong are seeing a dramatic price increase (within China and outside China as well).  This is due, from what I gathered, not due to an increase in tea drinkers but instead due a reduction of tea being produced or made available for sale.  My tea distributor friends told me they noticed the new tea produced are much less in terms of quantity.  Limited edition teas were also hard to get.  For older tea, collectors are now only willing to sell the tea for much higher prices.  

2.  Physical tea shops are not doing well. Due to restrictions, many tea shops see a drop in customers to their shops.  Many are now operating online and may even reduce their shop size or closing down the physical shop entirely and opting to sell and buy tea online.

3.  Tea buyers now get their tea online.  Yes, we buyers are spoilt for choice with many online shops offering a big variety of tea and tea ware at comparable prices.  Most of these tea are new tea.  Buying the older and more expensive tea is a little more tricky, unless you are familiar with the seller.  I myself have bought a gorgeous travel tea set and I will be writing on it soon.  However, I am starting to see many online shops that sell tea.....that tea is just one of the many products in their store.  This meant that the shop may be selling handphone accessories, toys, bags and other stuff and tea is just one item within the store.  The shop may have a carton of pu erh and a carton of tinned oolong and only replenish the tea carton once the tea has been sold out.  Is this good or bad?  You decide.

Happy New Year.  Live long and prosper.    

Sunday, January 23, 2022

Tinned Wuyi Shuixian - Butterfly Brand





 

It was about 7 years ago where there was a shortage of the Sea Dyke yellow tinned shui hsien oolong.  It was either (I cannot recall) a shipment delay issue or a production disruption.  This shortage caused many local oolong tea drinkers some consternation and many of them had to go hunting for the tinned tea in either Chinese grocery shops or Chinese medical halls. 

I was recommended at a teashop, during that time of shortage, to try out Butterfly brand of Wuyi Shuixian. A slightly cheaper alternative....and I ended up with a couple of tins. 

I had kept this butterfly tin for a few years before I opened it recently.  This tea is produced under the auspices of Zhong Cha tea company.  There is good aromatic notes to the tea. Taste and aroma is very good for a tinned Shui Hsien. I found the tea comparable to the Sea Dyke's version. This tea can brew up to 5 good infusions and the mouthfeel is good. The aroma does stay in the mouth for about a minute after you had a cup of this tea.  Roast levels are traditionally high roast, just the way I like it. 

I would recommend this tea to any Shui Hsien tea drinker and I will look out to buy a few Butterfly tins in my next tea shopping day. 

Saturday, January 1, 2022

Cooling Tea - Tan Ngan Lo cooling tea bag

 






Happy New Year 2022.

Cooling tea?  No, not iced tea.  Many Chinese communities all over the world drink cooling tea. Known as Liang Cha in Mandarin or Leong Cha in Cantonese, this tea is actually a herbal concoction that many Chinese drink when they feel 'out or sorts' or heaty sensation in the body.  Many Chinese medical halls will have their own cooling tea concoction. You can buy an inexpensive pack of herbs, add water and put it to a boil and its ready to drink in minutes.  Some medical halls have a brewing service where there would brew up a bowl of this tea for consumption. 

This Tan Ngan Lo's cooling tea is a convenient tea bag version. Simply dunk a tea bag into a mug of hot water and its ready to drink after a minute. The aroma is pleasantly herbal.  Taste is not too bitter with a light orange/ lemon peel in the aftertaste. This teabag is very popular in Malaysia and Singapore and I know a few friends who are ardent supporters of this tea.  

I would most probably be putting this tea up in my online store for my tea readers and friends (if you are interested) to try a mug of cooling tea.