Sunday, July 26, 2009

Pu erh Humour

My friend who had returned from Beijing, gave me a gift of tea.  It was pu erh.  It was  loose raw pu erh which came packed in a modern airtight foil packaging.  It was the English translations that provided the humour.  (click 2nd pix for enlarged view)

The storage instructions for the tea was "Defend the tide and defend the strange smell".  

Wow, we puerh tea drinkers should be knighted as we have the additional tasks of being soldiers to defend the tide and smell.......well actually, the actual translations should be store the tea away from moisture and odours.  

Many Chinese in China do not yet have a good grasp of the English language (but the standard of English is improving).  As a result,  some direct translations may caused confusion and humour to the reader.  Likewise, we may be the subject of ridicule when we attempt to directly translate English to chinese.  You don't believe me....try translating "joystick" to chinese.  

To the Puerh tea drinker, please defend the tide and smell, but seriously.....all tea leaves must be properly stored, especially from moisture and odours. (more on storage of tea in my later blogs)

Saturday, July 18, 2009

Longjing Tea

Longjing tea, a green tea, is a very famous tea and is primarily grown in Hangzhou/ suzhou districts.  These leaves are handpicked and then pan fried by hand.  Longjing translates to "dragon well" is considered a high premium tea in China and is highly regarded by green tea drinkers throughout the world.

Good quality longjing tea is very expensive.  I had just purchased  a Hangzhou tea factory 600g pack for US$160 (april 2009 harvest).  This I was told was about 2nd/3rd grade  as higher grades were not allowed for sale.  A pinchful of tea (about 15-20 leaves) can make  a 200ml cup of tea.  Good for 3 infusions, 2nd infusion tastes the best. (do not use boiling water, let boiling water cool for a minute before pouring).  I find the taste refreshing and light with a hint of flowers, with a sweet aftertaste.   The tea does put a smile on my face after I had finished a cup.  I was told the leaves after brewing are edible and some locals in China even use these leaves when making an egg omelette. 

 In the book “Chinese Tea” by Liu Tong, the author retells a story about longjing tea : “When Emperor Qianlong went to the south, he went to the West Lake district to have a drink of the longjing tea.  Seeing the skillfulness of the tea picking girls, he couldn’t help getting interested and started learning to pick.  Just then, some attendants hurried along to announce that the Queen mother was ill.  Carelessly putting the newly picked leaves in his sleeves, Qianlong returned to Beijing.  The Queen mother had nothing serious, just a little indigestion, plus missing her son.  She noticed that gusts of fragrance came out of Qianlong and asked why.  Only then did the emperor remember the leaves in his sleeve.  He took them out and made tea with them.  The tea was sweet, strong and tasteful, curing the mother’s ailment at once.  Qianlong was so pleased he gave orders that the 18 tea trees in front of longjing temple be named “royal tea”……because the leaves that Qianlong took back to Beijing was pressed flat in his sleeve, the later leaves were all made into that shape.”

 The author suggested using a clear tall glass to make this tea.  When pouring the water into the glass he suggest, while pouring to raise and lower the pot three times (this method is called Phoenix nods 3 times).  This is to ensure the leaves have thorough contact with the water and at the same time shows the respect for both the guest and tea ceremony. 

 Overall conclusion I have on this tea is that even though the tea sounds expensive for a 600g bag…. the number of brews may make it actually quite reasonable in terms of price per brew.  This is a high quality green tea which I have enjoyed.  The taste is uniquely refreshing and making the tea also gives me visual enjoyment; watching the leaves float and then sink. The aftertaste is very pleasant with a lingering fresh floral scent.   For the new tea drinker to this tea…..please try out the tea (to make sure you like the tea) or purchase tea samples before you commit to a high price tea purchase.  

Sunday, July 12, 2009

2007 Haiwan Lao Cha Tou

This is  2007 Haiwan production.  Weighs 500g and comes  packaged in a paper box.

Lao cha tou is considered a ripe pu erh tea.  Ripe pu erh tea that has completed fermentation are put in a blower to sort out the sizes and grade of the tea.  The remaining tea found after the "blower' process are those tea leaves that have clumped up to be to heavy to be sorted.  This clumps of tea are fermented ripe tea on the outside with some tea leaves inside the lumps having different states of fermentation.

Yunnan Sourcing describes this tea as "Cha Tou is a type of compressed nugget that is the by product of fermenting Pu-erh tea. At the end of the 40+ day fermentation process (where the Pu-erh tea is fermented unto itself), the tea is fed into a wind-blowing sorter that sorts the tea according to its size (grade). The cha tou is found near the bottom of the pile of Pu-erh and is formed as a result of heat and relatively high compression.  "Lao Cha Tou" translates roughly to: old tea nugget. Haiwan tea factory used 1, 2 and 3 year old "cha tou" and compressed them into a brick. ."

I have found the  500gm brick to be large 25 x 12.5 cm (8 x 5 inches).  The compression is medium and the entire brick can be broken  down by hand into pieces for storage.  The tea leaves are fragrant and the aroma from brewing the tea is very pleasant (hint of cereal and nut), no bitterness with a creamy sweet aftertaste.  I found that I could, after discarding the 1st two infusions for washing the tea, make more than 12 infusions  (I use about 8-10 gm in a 200 ml pot).  I make 6 cups in the morning and another 6 (discarding the 7th infusion) in the evening.    I usually give up by the 12th infusion as it is too much tea for me.  I would recommend this tea to a pu erh beginner or those who have a preference for ripe pu erh tea.  I would rate this tea as excellent and provides good value for money (if you count the number of cups of tea you get from this brick).  

joke of the day;
How long does it take to ship tea from China by slow boat?
Oolong Time!

Monday, July 6, 2009

Green Tea Oil

This green tea oil (Camellia Sinensis) is made in Japan (marketed by Unicity, an American company).  This 80 ml oil is housed in a green bottle. The information I gleaned from the box -  Made from "green tea base powder through a globally patented manufacturing process, combining jojoba oil, squalene from olive oil and natural vitamin E".  Catechin  is a type of tannin found in tea leaves.  It is known for its anti oxidant, anti bacteria, fat burning and odour eliminating properties……Green tea oil can be used head to toe and is suitable for the entire family".


Anyone reading this…..I am developing my pu-erh oil.  You will have a choice of ripe or raw.  Drinkable.  

Saturday, July 4, 2009

Ethnic Minority Tea in China

“The Art of Tea in China” is written by Guo Danying and Wang Jianrong.  This book examines the importance and tradition of tea in China.  Lavishly illustrated with pictures and photos, this interesting book deals with the various Chinese tea, brewing techniques, teaware and tea customs.  The second pix shows the pan frying process of longjing tea by hand.  The 3rd pix show photos related to making Tujia pounded tea and Dai bamboo tea.  I found the chapter on ethnic minorities’ tea making fascinating and have highlighted the different tea customs below as follows.

Tibetan Buttered tea

Boil crushed brick / tuo tea in kettle.  Pour the boiled tea in pot and mix it with butter, sesame powder, peanut kernels, melon seed kernels, pine nut kernels and salt.   Keep stirring with a wooden stick till completely blended.  Pour the brew in the kettle and heat for a few minutes. Taste is slightly salty, oily and robust flavored.


Mongolian Milk Tea

Boil crushed brick tea in pot or kettle.  After the liquid turn reddish brown (about 10 min), add sheep or cow milk and some salt and boil for a few minutes.  Stir brew well and the result is a hot hearty flavored drink.  The Mongolians usually prepare milk tea early in the morning and keep warming it up over a small fire all day.


Tujia pounded tea (lei cha)

The beverage is made by boiling raw tea leaves, raw ginger and raw rice together in water, it is also called san sheng cha (literally three raw tea).  To make pounded tea, first put tealeaves into mortar along with seasonings such as soybeans, green beans, peanuts, sugar and sesame.  Pound  to paste and add cold water and mix it.  ( the author did not mention to boil this tea but I suspect boiling is required for this tea).


Dai Bamboo tube tea

Called Naduo in dai language, bamboo tube tea is offered to guests of the Dai people living in Yunnan province, south west China.  Fresh tender tea leaves are placed in xiang zhu bamboo (fragrant bamboo) and roasted over a charcoal fire.  When the leaves shrink, a wooden stick is poked into the tube to press the leaves tight and new leaves are put in.  This process is repeated till bamboo tube is full.  When roasting is finished, the tube is split open and the tea leaves are retrieved.


Bai Three-course tea

1st course of tea offered are made from green tea leaves that have been roasted in an earthen pot.  This tea, with robust flavour, taste a bit bitter.  2nd course of tea offered is tea brewed with sugar and milk, a sweet tea. 3rd course of tea offered honey, walnut kernels,, sliced ginger and Chinese prickly ash seeds are added (I think like cinnamon), giving the tea a complicated and pungent aftertaste.  The carefully arranged sequence of teas offered (from bitter to sweet to meaningful aftertaste) is a symbolic meaning of respect to their guest of the Bai people.


Jino cold tea

The Jino people use their puerh tea produce by making cold tea using fresh tender leaves and also eat the tea leaves as food.  1st, rub the newly picked tea leaves between the hands and put the crushed tea leaves in a bowl.  Add pulverized orange tea leaves (I suggest orange peel as alternative), pepper, salt and garlic.  Add water, stir and wait for 15 min before tasting.  The brew is cool, salty and spicy. ( we can put our tea in our fridge for a really cold tea though)


Lahu Baked tea

Called “la zha duo”, bake newly picked tea leaves over a fire until they turn brown. Then, placed in teapot and pour boiling water.  Lahu people also used this baked tea as medicine.  (stimulate appetite)