Friday, June 14, 2024

Tips To A New Pu erh Tea Drinker


I am heartened to received questions from a few new pu erh tea drinkers from Europe and USA this year.  Many had asked about pu erh tea and how I brew my tea. Below are some 'tips' which I had discovered during my tea journey and adventures. Many of my readers would know these techniques I used for pu erh I apologise to the older readers if these 'tips' are familiar to you. 

1.  Breaking up your tea cake. When you have a new pu erh cake whether you got it from a shop or delivered by mail,  I would recommend (if you want to drink this tea) to break up the tea and place the broken pieces in a tea caddy.  Leave it for at least 2 weeks before you consume the tea. This aroma and taste would be much better if you open the tea cake directly when you had got the tea. This is call 'Xin cha', aka waking up the tea. I cannot explain why this works but breaking up a tea is practised by many serious tea drinkers. 

2.  Brewing the tea. You would normally need about 5-8g of tea when you have a tea brewing session. You can use a porcelain gaiwan or a teapot (approx 100-180ml).  When you use say 7g of pu erh tea. Do not put a 7g chunk of pu erh tea in your tea brewing vessel.  Some of these tea chunks are quite hard and you may still end up with a chunk of tea in your teapot after 5 infusions. Use a small tea pick or your fingers to pry the tea chunk to 6-8 pieces. This would allow the tea to infuse well throughout the tea session.   I recommend you to have about 6-8 infusions of tea from one sitting. If you want to 'rinse' the tea before you start your tea session, fill your gaiwan or teapot with the tea, add hot water to half the gaiwan and quickly discard the tea. 

3. Use boiling water for all your tea infusions. This simple trick will make sure the taste and aroma of tea is fully displayed during your tea session. There are some drinkers I know that only use boiling water for the initial infusions and continued the later infusions with the hot water in the kettle. The hot water will cool quickly and it gets cooled faster during winter. 

4.  I do not recommend you stretch a tea session for an extended time. Let me explain. If you have a tea session say in the morning, you can have 4 infusions in the morning and a few more in the afternoon. I do not recommend you 'continue' your tea session into the next day. It is my opinion that your tea leaves are damp and it may not be optimal or healthy that you overstretch a tea session. One tea drinker friend who drank a lightly roasted high mountain oolong and had accidentally left his tea in a gaiwan for 2 days, was shocked to discover a yellow/orange fungal growth on the leaves. Yes, this may not happen to pu erh tea but we are only examining the tea with our naked eyes. There may be something nasty on the tea leaves.   

Saturday, June 1, 2024

2011 Haiwan Zi Yun Raw Pu erh

When I sampled this tea more than 10 years ago, I liked it so much that I purchased a carton of this tea and followed up with another carton one year later.  

This is the 2011 Haiwan Ziyun raw pu erh brick.  I had also found out that this was a special order by a Guangzhou tea dealer.  This 250g tea brick came packed in a presentation cardboard box. This tea was made from the purple varietal leaves of the pu erh tree and blended with pu erh from the Yiwu region. 

I do not recommend this tea to a new pu erh drinker. There is hardly any sweetness from this tea.   This tea is strong.  Bitter notes dominate this tea with a very complex woody, herbal and floral profile in the tea. I enjoyed the salivating sensation after drinking a cup.   A nice warm kick emerged after a session of this tea.  I like.  

Wednesday, May 15, 2024

2008 Awazon ManJin Raw Pu erh Cake


I had visited Awazon tea shop in Kunming in 2009 and had purchased some tea from them. This is their ManJin raw cake. This tea is harvested near the Jingmai region and has many nice characteristics of Jingmai pu erh.  

The tea when brewed has a very nice snd long aftertaste. Very mouth watering and the tea has a nice complexity in terms of taste and aroma.  Awazon described the tea as "a very good sweet aftertaste in deep throat and full mouth with lingering orchid aroma".  

Though this producer is relatively unknown, this tea is surprisingly good. Smooth, mellow and sweet and easily brews up to 10 good infusions. 

Tuesday, May 7, 2024

Liu An Tea


Liu an tea are normally sold in small baskets with the tea wrapped in bamboo leaves.  These baskets normally come in 100g, 250g and 500g. Liu an tea are actually fermented tea that are produced in Qimen in Anhui China. 

Liu An tea is considered a medicinal tea and many Chinese medical halls in South East Asia would incorporate this tea with Chinese herbs. A customer would buy a pack of these pre mixed concoction and bring home to brew up a bowl of tea to brink.  

Today, liu an tea are now drank on its own. Some of my friends even added a small piece of the bamboo leaf to the tea for added flavour.  Sun Yi Shun tea factory is one of the biggest factory that produces Liu An tea.   Old tea from this factory are very expensive and can be very hard to find. 

I had been looking and sampling Liu An tea these past two years. Newer Liu An (about 10 years old) has a light herbal and dried fruit aroma in the tea. Very enjoyable. Older Liu An tend to be more medicinal and herbal. I had also came across a heavier fermented liu an (may be for a specific market). This tea has the characteristics of a shou pu erh tea but it has an extremely long and faintly sweet aftertaste.  I will put up study packs of Liu An tea in my store so you can further explore this tea yourself.        

Tuesday, April 2, 2024

Porcelain Gaiwan vs Porcelain Teapot


Many Chinese teashops use porcelain gaiwans to brew their tea when a customer wants to sample their products.   Porcelain are a neutral material and using porcelain to brew tea will not affect the tea in terms of taste and aroma. Using clay teapots may affect the tea as seasoned clay teapots can  change or amplify the taste of the tea. 

I had noticed when teashops use a gaiwan to brew tea, the tea 'brewer' would sometimes use fancy moves when he or she brews the tea. He would open the gaiwan and used the cover to stir the surface of the tea or even perform some visual moves like using the lid to go round the rim of the tea bowl. All these moves would not improve the sampling of the tea. In fact, the tea would cool down much faster and would not infuse well. I believed that pu erh or  high roast oolongs should use boiling water (as hot as possible) to bring out the full flavours of the tea.  

Many tea drinkers I know are using gaiwans to brew their tea.  A gaiwan is inexpensive. Likewise, a porcelain teapot is also inexpensive. I prefer using a porcelain teapot when I am trying out tea samples at home.  I would also use porcelain when brewing tea like white tea or liu an.  There is a higher chance of an accidental slip when I use a gaiwan (yes, I had a few accidents) than using a teapot.  I believed teapots keep the heat better than gaiwans (especially more so in winter). 

One last tip; continue to put your kettle on a boil before you pour the water into your teapot or gaiwan at each infusion. It will make your tea session better.    

Friday, March 22, 2024

Kai Hu - Seasoning A New Teapot


Kai Hu is seasoning a teapot in Chinese.  There are many methods used to season a new Chinese teapot. I am using one method that is commonly used in China and my part of the world.  I had recently purchased a Jian Shui teapot(right of pix) and decided to season it together with a large Hei Ni teapot (from my 12 dragon collection). 

The seasoning method is simple. Rinse the teapot under a running tap to clean out the teapot. Immerse the teapot in a pot of water.  Bring the water to a low simmering boil for about 15-20 minutes. When water has cooled down, rinse the teapot under a tap again. Make a tea with your teapot. Many of us do not drink the tea and we discard this tea. The teapot is considered seasoned. 

However, in my opinion (after seasoning a teapot), there may be some lingering clay scent inside the teapot. This smell should disappear after a few tea sessions from using this teapot. Be patient, you will have a nice teapot to brew your tea. 

Saturday, March 2, 2024

Flavoured Chinese Tea


There are Chinese tea with extra flavours added to the tea.  I am sure you had heard or drank jasmine tea. This is Chinese tea, that during processing had layers of jasmine flowers piled between the tea for a few weeks. The result is the tea would have absorbed the jasmine floral aroma and you have this popular tea to enjoy.  

Another example would be tangerine tea where tea was packed into the dried tangerine husk (flesh had been taken out). As a result, the tea would smell and taste lightly citrusy. Some tea drinkers would increase this citrus level by adding a small piece of the tangerine peel into the tea as well.

The tea used in tangerine tea are normally ripe (shou) pu erh.  The one in the pix has black tea stuffed into the dried tangerine. Delicious. 

Masala tea has spices like pepper, cloves and cinnamon added to the tea.  Milk is included into the brew before the tea is served.   

Flavoured tea are actually quite common all over the world. Fruit tea are sold in many convenience stores and supermarkets. Lemon tea and peach tea are commonly seen on the shelves of many stores and eateries that sell drinks.

There are 2 points I would like to highlight about flavoured tea 

- tea absorbs smells easily. Jasmine tea is such an example. If you are storing your pu erh tea for aging, keep the tea away from strong smells. Incense, cigarette smoke and cooking smells from the kitchen are also not desirable as tea are able to absorb these scents.  Keep your tea safe. 

- some commercial tea sold in the marketplace may have artificial flavours and fragrance in the tea. Look at the labels before you buy.

And....if you are in my part of the world.  We should meet up. I will treat you to a cup of coffee and tea concoction.    

Friday, February 9, 2024

Happy Chinese New Year


Tomorrow is Chinese New Year.  It will be the year of the dragon. 

I will be making a trip or two to Hong Kong, China to visit the tea markets there. I will keep everyone updated on all the happenings about Chinese tea there. Lots of pictures as well. 

I would like to wish all my tea buddies and friends a Happy Chinese New Year. Live long and prosper. 

Sunday, February 4, 2024

2003 Xiaguan Baoyan Tibetan Flame Tea Brick


Chinese new year is next week.  I had been busy working to get my new online store up by the end of the month. 

Time to shop for Chinese New Year.  I must buy the pastries and goodies to feed the guests who visit me. I think the goodies may be eaten by me within a day or two after I buy them. 

I had selected a 20 year old tea for this festive occasion. This is a 2003 Xiaguan baoyan brick 250g.  Such tea were originally produced for export.  They were made for the places like Mongolia and as far as Tibet. The people there have little access to green vegetables and drinking the tea helped in their digestion. The tea is often boiled with salt, pepper and even adding spices like cinnamon or cardamon. Milk is also added to the tea to make it a delicious beverage. 

Xiaguan Banyan tea was regarded by tea collectors as being a lower grade tea. This tea brick has more broken tea leaves than regular pu erh tea sold in mainland China.  

Lower grade and broken me does not mean that this tea is an inferior tea.  I am sure a blind taste test of this tea will fool many serious tea drinkers. I am going to have fun with this tea when I visit China in the later part of this year.  

I am impressed with this tea. It has all the hall marks of a good traditional pu erh.  This tea is spicy  (think pepper and ginger), a little smoky with nice hints of camphor wood. Being 20 years old and aged in my part of the world, this tea is smooth, mellow and sweet.  A nice tea for the Chinese New Year.  

Friday, January 19, 2024

Yi Yuan Long 60

If you are a tea drinker, you would have drank black tea on many occasions.  Really. Those regular tea bags you buy from the supermarkets and as well as the ones you drink at the office pantry are made with black tea.  The tea would most probably come from Sri Lanka, India, Kenya or from China. 

These black tea bags has comforted many tea drinkers round the world and many drinkers add milk and sugar to their tea to make it a tasty beverage. 

Black tea from Anhua, China has a long traditional history. Many serious Chinese tea drinkers would know that such tea are famous and the tea were normally compressed into long tea 'logs' which weigh more than 30kg. Such logs are bought by the public and proudly displayed in their homes for many years before they are cut up and drunk. The taste and aroma of old tea 'logs' are renowned for their sweet herbal taste, like a herbal soup that black tea connoisseurs enjoy.

Anhua Liyuanlong Tea Co Ltd (LYL) was founded by Mr Wu Jian Li.  Mr Wu, in my opinion, was very passionate in the production of black tea. Not only does the tea factory produced tea logs, My Wu was forward looking in introducing black tea with a more scientific and scientific processing standard. He converted many tea farms in his region to go organic and had obtained organic certification for these farms.   Most of his teas are now very popular with the Chinese black tea drinkers.

My Wu celebrated his 60th birthday in 2018 and produced a limited edition tea log for this auspicious occasion. This LYL 60 tea log is a smaller 2.175kg.   Compression is moderate and the tea can be easily broken up for container storage. 

I like this tea. The taste and aroma is unique. There is smoke, a tasty spicy mouthfeel (pepper and ginger) and a long sweet aftertaste.  If you are a pu erh tea drinker, you might mistake it for an old aged pu erh.  There is actually some resemblence to an old camphor-like raw pu erh cake. This tea is a very nice find and I will put it in my online store next month and share this special tea adventure with you.        

Monday, January 1, 2024

2007 Jing Mei Tang Lan Tie Pu erh

This is a Jing Mei Tang pu erh cake.  Produced in 2007, this tea cake is based on an old pu erh tea blend recipe call Lan Tie.  If I am not wrong, this is an interpretation of the blue mark pu erh that was sold in the late 90s. 

Jing Mei Tang had engaged Changtai tea factory to produced this tea. Moreover Jing Mei Tang had also arranged to have a bulk of this tea stored in Malaysia. This Lan Tie cake is from this Malaysian storage. 

With almost 17 years of Malaysia storage, this tea has mellowed well. This tea is strong with a complexity of bitterness, oak wood and a tinge of fresh bread crust. I liked the high oiliness in the tea. Here, I refer to the mouthwatering and smooth finish. Hardly any sweetness but the tea was pleasantly slightly intoxicating. I would not recommend this tea to a pu erh newbie. This tea is strong.

But I digress, many readers and tea friends had been asking what happened to my online store. Well.....I am redoing a new store front. Apparently, many of the 'widgets' used in my present online store had became obsolete. I have to redo the store. It should be operationally ready in a month's time. 

Happy New Year 2024.