Friday, April 28, 2023

2021 Xiaguan Raw Tuo


A new local tea buddy recently contacted me telling me that he wanted to buy some tea to age at home.  He was thinking about buying Xiaguan and wanted to buy a carton of tuo to store at home.  He asked me what I thought about the new Xiaguan raw tuos

It so happened I had bought a pack of 2021 tuo. This is the 'te tuo'. The name, I conclude is a shortened name version of their popular 'te ji' tuo. 

As you can see.  the packaging had changed. The 'palace and lake' illustration was gone......all words now.  The tuo wrapper is a white wrapper. These visual changes are not important to me. The tea itself is more important. 

Here are my observations and thoughts

1.  The smoke level of this tea is low.  Really low. I could detect a very faint smoke in the 1st two infusions before the smoke fades away.  The early versions I own (pre 2007) was more smoky.  I remembered when I had opened my first te ji tuo (2007 version), the strong smoke caught me by surprise. 

2. The floral aroma and lightly sweet aftertaste is pleasant.  The tea brews reasonably strong. 

3. This tea will age but the results of aging will be very much different from that of the earlier productions of te ji tuo due the very light smokiness in the production. 

4.  I would advise my new tea buddy that there is no need to buy a carton of this tea to store away......but instead buy a variety of Xiaguan tea or even other brands (4-5 choices) to fill a carton instead.  In 10-15 years time, your box will have a good variety of aged tea to drink and enjoy. That's my 2 cents worth.  

Saturday, April 15, 2023

Brewing Tea Overseas

I had just returned from a long overseas trip from Europe.  Here are some of my observations and adjustments I did for my tea brewing sessions while I was abroad.    

1.  Water

I could drink water straight from the tap in those countries while I was in Europe.  Tap water would taste different from different states or countries but it is an economic and convenient option than bottled water. 

The main issue is boiling water. Many hotels 'upgrade' their room hot water by providing coffee machines (with coffee capsules).  These fancy equipment is nice and the coffee actually tasted good. However, if you use the hot water to brew tea, there is a faint coffee aroma in the hot water and  this makes Chinese tea brewing unsuitable.  And....there were 2 European hotels during my trip where there were no kettles or coffee machines in the rooms and I had to go to a common pantry to get hot water. 

Anyway, I think an ideal solution is to bring along a travel kettle. There are many inexpensive travel kettles; smaller than 1 litre and with dual voltage selection where you can bring this kettle to different countries with different voltage requirements. Don't forget a multipurpose wall plug as well. 

2.  Tea

The tea I took for my travel had hibernating issues. Some of the tea tasted flat or subdued before the tea recovered again (about 1-2 weeks).  I cannot explain but serious overseas tea drinkers had advised to drink their tea, ordered from overseas, one week after arrival, to allow the tea to rest. I had brought along raw, ripe pu erh and some oolong for this trip and found my raw pu erh 'hibernated' during the air flight but woke up 1 week later.  

3. Tea Ware

I had used a small porcelain teapot and 2 teacups during my tea. It was adequate for my use. The teapot was about 150ml and I normally had 4 infusions of tea at one tea session. As I did not bring along a tea tray or tea waste bowl, I, on most occasions, do not rinse out the tea but drank from the very 1st brew.   It was more a matter of convenience.  Most Chinese tea we buy now are generally clean and there is no health risk not to rinse the tea. I was told by a tea buddy friend that unrinsed tea had the most caffeine but I cannot verify this fact. 

Anyway, these are my 2 cents of how to brew better Chinese  tea overseas. I believed there are better ways and would appreciate if my tea readers would share how they brew their tea when on a trip.

I will be visiting the USA (Seattle, Portland and Chicago in June) for about 3 weeks and look forward to more tea adventures again.