Sunday, May 27, 2018

Pek Sin Choon Unknown Fragrance Oolong












I had introduced to my readers on Singapore's Pek Sin Choon teashop in my previous blog entry.

This is their flagship and famous tea. They called it "Unknown Fragrance". The shop described the tea as follows:
"Renowned Unknown Fragrance is a locally blended traditional tea. When the founder, Bai Jin Ou, was naming the tea, he found that he just can’t describe the fragrance in words and thus the renowned unknown fragrance became the rightful name for the tea. Because of its uniqueness in taste, this tea has been unsurpassed in the Bak Kut Teh (pork rib soup) segment. The tea soup is dark red in colour which is luscious at first sip and produce great aftertaste. Due to its unique mix of tea species, the tea is good for slimming, reducing blood pressure, reducing blood sugar, reducing cholesterol, anti-aging."


This tea comes packed in a tin of 50 packets.  Each packet is individually hand-wrapped at the shop. Each packet weights about 16g.  Notice 2 pieces of paper (pink paper inside) used to wrap the tea.  

I was told that this was a blend of Wuyi and Anxi oolong. This would explained the appearance of the tea leaves; rolled Anxi leaves and straight Wuyi leaves.  I was told that this blend used premium tea leaves and it was about 2-3 times the price of regular oolong tea even when this tea was introduced in to the tea market about 60 years ago.   

This 'Unknown Fragrance' (also known in the hokkien dialect as 'Put Tee Hiong Tea') is very aromatic.  I enjoy the bouquet of floral notes and the lightly sweet finish.     An interesting and refreshing tea.  

Sunday, May 13, 2018

Pek Sin Choon Tea Shop












You will think that you are in a time capsule when you enter Pek Sin Choon tea shop.  Chinese tea are still hand wrapped in small paper packets and sold in aluminium 'biscuit' tins.  This Singapore tea shop, established in 1925, with their famous 'shepherd boy on buffalo' logo has been selling tea to tea drinkers and eating establishments for more than 90 years.  Now managed by the 4th generation, Kenry Pek runs this tea business  faithfully keeping to the traditional methods of blending and packaging the tea.  

Pek Sin Choon has recently produced a commemorative tea box to showcase the company's history of producing Chinese tea.  This metal tea box come with 5 of their famous hand wrapped teas and a specially made gaiwan with 2 cups.  Notice the 'shepherd boy on buffalo' on the cover of the gaiwan.  The box has an incision on the cover that allow the tea box to be used as a mini tea tray or small saving coin bank.    

Information on the box detailed the history of their teas.  The table tennis, aka ping pong tie guan yin wrapper was designed in 1959 to congratulate China winning the World Champion Men's Table Tennis for the 1st time.  Kenry told me that his family was pretty patriotic at that time.  

For the tea drinker and collector, make a point to visit Pek Sin Choon tea shop.  Located in Chinatown - 36 Mosque Street.  Own a piece of Singapore tea history by getting the metal gift box.  I got mine signed by Kenry.  Do remember to purchase a tin of tea and savour every drop of nostalgia when you brew up a cup of tea. 

And....Happy Mother's Day to all Chinese Tea drinking mums.     



Sunday, May 6, 2018

Tea Stains on Wrapper








Remember this Ba Jiao Ting I had blogged in Nov last year (link).   I had noticed that there was significant tea staining on the tea wrapper.  I examined the wrapper and found that these tea stains were dry. The surface of the tea cake was normal. There was nothing extraordinary that I observed about appearance of the the tea cake.

I had initially thought that these tea stains was due to water damage.  This might be due to the production process, that the cakes were not fully dried out and wrapped causing the stains.  I had also thought that storage of the tea could be another factor, that the storage facility was damp.  Checking with my supplier of this Ba Jiao Ting, it seems that this was the only tea that had these tea stains.

I was in Guangzhou last March, and I asked out this 'tea stain on wrapper' with my tea dealer friends. A Chen Zhen Hao (famous for Banzhang) told me that there were many teas, across many brands, that has this 'tea stain on wrapper' phenomena for 2010 batches. Even the zodiac series of the Chen Zhen Hao had this tea stain issue. This tea dealer told me that it was possible there was a change in weather just prior to the pu erh tea harvest. It could have been very cold or hot, causing the pu erh tree to retain more 'tea oil' in the leaves. The stains on the tea wrapper were actually tea oil and will not affect the pu erh tea in any way, except for the slight ugly appearance on the wrapper.  A retired tea production manger in a tea drinking group in Guangzhou told me that some old pu erh tea, that had this phenomena..... the wrappers are now full with holes.  He said there was nothing wrong with the tea. He also reminded that this was not an issue and reminded to sample any tea before I make a purchase regardless of the wrapper condition.

I like this tea.  The medicinal herbs taste is very pronounced. Quite addictive.  Did the tea stains affected the tea in any way?  I do not know.   This was a tea cake that I finished in 2 months and I am already on my second cake.

Sunday, April 22, 2018

Teapot Maintenance






If you are using a Yixing teapot for brewing your Chinese tea, I am sure you felt that your tea tasted better brewing with a Yixing teapot than a porcelain gaiwan or teapot.

There are a few reasons why the tea seem to taste better
- frequent using of a clay teapot will have a coating of tea patina inside the pot.  It is like a layer of tea being brushed on the inside of the teapot every time the teapot is used in a tea session.  Somehow, the patina will affect and improve the taste of your tea.
-  it is possible that Yixing clay retains heat better than other material (like porcelain or glass) and the difference in taste and aroma of the tea could be due to the warmer or hotter tea.
- there are many other possible reasons and it could be even a combination of  factors that could explain the improvement of your tea.

But.....you have to maintain your teapot to continue having similar good tasting tea.  Another important  reason is that your teapot would look nice and shiny and 'seasoned' over time.  Some of the factors listed below may be already practised by you.  Others may be unheard of and even eye opening.  I had collated and listed below a few of these 'practices' from observing how my teapot friends maintain their teapots.

1.  Dedicate a teapot to a type of tea.  Use a teapot for pu erh and and another for oolong.  Some teapots might have retained the aroma or flavour for the tea from a previous tea session.  Chinese tea drinking purists think that the appreciation of a tea, say oolong, would be more accurate and precise.  Many of my Chinese teapot user friends even dedicate teapots exclusively for raw or shou pu erh, heavy and light roast oolong, floral Taiwanese oolong, Liu Bao and Liu An tea.  For me, my pu erh teapots are used for both raw or ripe pu erh and my oolong teapots are for types of oolongs (light or heavy roast).  

2.  Wiping down  your teapot after use. Do this method only to the exterior of the teapot.  The teapot on the right of pix.....I wipe down the teapot after every tea session.  I would wash the teapot for a minute under a running tap and take a cloth to wipe and dry the exterior of a teapot for another minute.  I would than place the teapot (upside down) and on dish drainer and keeping away the teapot the next day.  Teapot users believe that wiping down a teapot would give an even sheen to the exterior of the teapot. The teapot on the left of pix, was not wipe down at all after the teapot was washed.  This teapot was originally more 'light yellow' in colour but has now, as you had noticed, changed to a more dark amber look to the teapot. I have used the teapot on the right for more than 500 tea sessions while the teapot on the left of pix went through about 250 tea sessions. 

3.   I believe that your teapot must be dry and clean before using it for a tea session.  If the teapot is still damp and not dried out completely from a previous tea session, the tea may taste and smell different.  One Malaysian tea friend dries his teapot using the following method; he washed the teapot after use, but then filled the teapot with hot boiling water and leaving it for 1 minute before emptying out the hot water.  I do noticed that the 'heated' teapot will help dry out the inside of the teapot much faster. 

4.  A Guangzhou teapot user, utilised a toothbrush to lightly brush the exterior of the teapot after use.  He claimed there are certain areas of a teapot that will be more 'stained'  and brushing these areas would even out the staining and make the teapot more pretty.

5.  Another common practice I observed was using the 1st or 2nd rinse of the tea and pouring this rinse over the teapot.  Many users believed this 'help' make the exterior of the teapot more seasoned in its appearance.  

There are many methods teapot users employ to maintain their teapot or to seasoned their teapot.  Do you use any interesting technique on your teapots?  Do share.  Thank you.  

Sunday, April 15, 2018

2008 Taetea Dayi 8582








Taetea's (aka Dayi) 8582 raw pu erh is one of Dayi's flagship tea that is produced almost every year.  Not as well known as the famous 7542 cake, this 8582 is a quiet favourite among Dayi's tea drinkers and collectors.

For those newer tea drinkers of pu erh tea, there are famous pu erh cakes that are named as numbers rather than a 'proper name'.  A 4 digit number is named for the various cakes. You will actually asked for the cake by this '4 digits' when you are at the tea shop.  The teashop will also then tell you which vintage year of that tea they have.  Sound complicated.  It is not.  You can even sample the tea (at tea shops in China, Hong Kong and Malaysia) before you make your purchase.

As mentioned, 8582 is actually a popular pu erh tea.  The tea when brewed has a very good herbal taste and aroma in the tea.  There is a nice faint sweet finish and a nice warming sensation after a tea session.  A few of my Malaysian tea drinker friends actually prefer the 8582 to the famous Dayi's 7542 as the 8582 has a stronger emphasis on dry medicinal herb aroma and taste. 

It is my opinion that if you intend to drink a 8582, look for the older cakes (its not that expensive) as the mellowness after a few years of storage does make this tea more smooth and delicious.  



Sunday, April 1, 2018

A Visit To Lin Ceramics











I was in Taipei, Taiwan last week and I spent an afternoon at Lin Ceramics Studio.  

For readers who are unfamiliar with Lin Ceramics - this ceramic company was started in 1983 in Taiwan.  They mainly produce mainly tea ware and are famous for their purion ceramics.  Today, Lin Ceramics have more than 10 showroom / outlets throughout Taiwan.  

I had good impressions of Lin's purion tea ware and own a few purion teapots and teacups.  I was introduced many years ago to Lin's purion  by Mr Lau of Lau Yu Fat teashop in Hong Kong.  I found that pu erh and high roasted oolongs seem to taste more amplified.  I cannot explain the reason for this 'change' and a few tea buddies who owns these tea ware found similar results in their tea as well.  

Purion is a mixture of natural mineral ore and pottery clay.  Lin's brochures stated that the mixture "combined both Porphyries Andesite, infrared ray and bamboo charcoal".  I googled this and found andesite was mainly volcanic rock.  The brochures further elaborated that "we partnered with a Taiwanese ceramic artist Gu Chuan Zi, to develop the purion collection.  Purion is a mixture of natural mineral ore and pottery clay.  This formula is able to improve water quality, elevating the taste and texture of tea, liquor and coffee".  

But I digress.  I cannot explain why using purion tea ware seem to make the tea taste different.  There are other tea ware I had encountered that makes the tea taste different as well.  Japanese tetsubins, Yixing clay and certain porcelain seem to have different effects on tea as well.  The difference is subtle but serious or hardcore Chinese tea drinkers can discern this difference.  I will devote a blog entry on this topic.


Back to Lin.  I visited the concept store in Yongkang area.  The 2nd pix showed an artistic tea set.  The 5th pix shows a Lin Celadon set which is popular with tea drinkers that drink lighter roasted oolongs and green teas like the famous Taiwan's high mountain oolongs.  I had the opportunity to compare and taste tea using various Lin teapots (see last pix).

Lin Ceramics are also located in the famous Taipei 101 building / mall.  They also operate 2 branches at the Yingge old street in Yingge district, which is less than an hour's train ride.  Yingge old street is renowned for the many ceramics shops and is a wonderland for the tea ware enthusiast.  

I managed to purchase and hand-carry home a few purion tea ware, including the rare triple fired purion teacups.  I will list a couple of these soon.


Sunday, March 18, 2018

Hong Kong Cheung Hing Da Hong Pao






This is Cheung Hing tea shop's premium version of Da Hong Pao (DHP) oolong. Cheung Hing tea shop in Hong Kong is one of the oldest tea dealers in Hong Kong since they opened for business in 1932. They are more famous for their Tie Lo Han oolong that has similar packaging but the packaging color is in yellow instead.

This Da Hong Pao is twice as expensive as the Tie Lo Han but I had observed that this tea is gaining popularity worldwide as well. I know a group of Ipoh tea drinkers that simply adore this tea and they regularly purchased this tea from Hong Kong.

This DHP is very high roasted.  If you are familiar with the flowery light roast DHP, you will be in for a surprise.  It is totally different.  This is an acquired taste.  I was caught off guard many years ago when I tried high roasted Hong Kong oolong.  Drinking such tea emphasized on aroma and mouthfeel.   I learnt that to appreciate this tea you have sip this tea, holding the tea in your mouth, then try to breathe in through your mouth before breathing out through your nose. This action will fill your nose and mouth with a satisfying aroma that will last for a minute or two. There will then be an extremely faint sweetness that you will later enjoy in the back of your throat.  Such high roasted oolong normally makes 5-6 strong brews and you would need time to sit down and fully appreciate and enjoy these infusions fully. 


I am normally very 'tea satisfied' for a few hours after drinking such high roasted oolong.