Thursday, January 30, 2014

Happy New Year

Tomorrow is Chinese New Year.  Yes, it will also be the year of the horse.  Tonight is the reunion dinner night that is celebrated by many Chinese around the world.  Where possible, family members will get together, even making long trips home to have this family dinner.  I like this practice.  Well, this year our family have decided to eat out and we will be having a buffet dinner at a restaurant. 

I will focus a bit on teaware this year.  I found that certain teaware does affect my tea and I will share my findings with you.  Yes, maybe I am getting older and imagining things but really!, the tea seem different.  Certain teapots and teacups seem to affect the taste of the tea.  

I had just returned from Guangzhou and prices of tea seem to be galloping upwards.  I had mentioned the presence of a strong speculative element especially with the popular pu erh brands.  I hope that prices of tea remain affordable and tea must not be seen as some luxury drink.  

To all my readers,  Happy Chinese New Year.  I wish you happiness and good health. 

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Does ripe pu erh improves much with age?

In my previous blog entry, one of my blog reader friend, Hektor asked me this question; "Wilson, do you think shu puerh improves much with age?"

In my opinion, yes.  Here is what I think :

1.  Price.  Older ripe tea are more expensive than newer ripe teas.  A new Dayi 7572 if you browse the online tea shop would cost you about $18-20 per cake.  You will realized that the older 7572 cakes would cost more.  As I had mentioned in my previous blog, the 2004 7572 cake is about 500rmb, thats about $82.  Maybe more now.  Tea wholesalers in Guangzhou, dealing with green teas like longjing will usually quickly sell off these green teas within 6 months.  Yes, you can prolong the shelf life of green tea leaves by freezing them, but these tea dealers will usually reduce the price of the green teas if they are not sold within 6 months.  Pu erh tea, ripe and raw as well as heavy roasted oolongs will be more expensive with age.  Ripe tea drinkers are willing to pay more for older ripe pu as the tea taste better with age.  

2. Ripe pu erh will develop an aged taste and becomes mellow to drink.  In an earlier blog which I had written on ripe tea (link), Cloud, aka Mr Chan Kam Pong, a Hong Kong pu erh expert gave his take on aging of ripe tea.  I reproduce his review below:

Pu erh teamaster, Chan Kam Pong from Hong Kong in his tea blog (, gave a tea review (9 nov 2008) of a 1990s purple sky ripe tea cake.  Here is a short excerpt:
 “The Purple Sky Ripe Tea Cake had a thick, mellow and sweet tea broth. It had extra smooth texture and finish. It was really a solid tea broth as one could feel it easily. Since it has been aging for more than 15 years, there was not much obvious earthy ripe tea smell left. During appreciation, one might not feel that it was actually a ripe tea cake. To a certain extent, the taste was somehow close to the "aged raw tea". Certainly, there was still differences in the tea broth between the aged raw Puerh and the aged ripe Puerh. Even though the aged ripe tea was so mellow that it was close to the aged raw Puerh, the ripe tea broth was too smooth without much vividness and aftertaste ("Huigan") when comparing with the aged raw tea cakes………All in all, if The Purple Ripe Tea Cake was judged by ripe tea criteria, its performance was extra-ordinary and fantastic as it had extra fine mellowness, sweetness, smoothness and texture.”

3.  My opinion is that ripe tea will improve with age.  I am no tea expert.  Many of my readers of my blog know that I enjoy ripe pu erh tea and have consumed many ripe cakes these past 5 years.   I am privileged to drink ripe pu from one to fifteen years old tea.  Yes, new ripe pu erh may be unpleasant to drink but I had noticed most tea factories have now mixed in older ripe pu in the tea so making new ripe pu easy to drink.  For older ripes, I sensed the tea is more mellow and the taste and aroma as more pronounced than new ripes.  I could detect dry fruit berries, or strong herbal aroma and taste, or even a old book leather scent or old wood in older ripe pu erh.   

Many tea drinkers tend to compare ripe pu with raw pu, since ripe pu was invented to resemble aged raw.  However, I would humbly suggest that you do not compare ripe and raw pu erh together.  Both age differently and have different taste and aroma profile.  Sounds confusing?  I apologize.  Just try out the teas for yourself and make your own conclusion.  Older ripe pu erh does improve with age.  

I would like to add that you should break open a ripe tea cake or brick into smaller pieces, placing the tea in a tea caddy and leave it to 'breathe' for a week before you start brewing your ripe tea.  The taste and aroma of the tea will be much improved than if you break a piece of tea from a cake and brew your tea.  

1st pix shows a bundle of 90s CNNP ripe bricks.  2nd is the Dayi high mountain ripe.  3rd pix is a lao cha tou Dayi brick, considered a ripe puerh but made up of ripe tea leaves that had lumped together during the tea processing.  Last pix is a Xinghai tea factory ripe pu that has a unique dry sandal wood scent in the tea.  

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

2004 Dayi Taetea 7572

I opened a 2004 Menghai Tea Industry 7572 cake 2 weeks ago.  Menghai Tea Industry is commonly known as Dayi or Taetea, and this tea factory has become one of the biggest producer of Yunnan pu erh tea.  In recent years, Dayi tea has launched a major marketing campaign that saw the brand being advertised all over China through TV media, magazines and even the recent Olympics games held not too long ago in Beijing.

Unlike wine which has names to describe a blend or a place where the wine was made (examples - Cabernet Sauvignon, Pinot Noir, Merlot), pu erh tea is commonly identified by a 4 digit number as in this case 7572.  I have noticed that tea factories today sometimes sell their tea by the region the tea were harvest.  If the pu erh tea is harvested in Bulang mountain in Yunnan, the tea may simply indicate Bulang pu erh tea instead.  

Sound confusing?  Do not worry.  Simply sample a tea you want to purchase while at the teashop.  If you like the tea, it is a good tea.  

Back to this 7572.  I like this tea.  Strong aromatic wood and herb scent combine with a hint of sweetness in the aftertaste makes this tea, to me a good tea.  The 10 year 'storage' had also make this tea very mellow making it a wonderful tea to have especially after dinner.  I like to brew this tea extra strong as I enjoy the strong taste and aroma of this tea.  A wee bit expensive with prices for this 2004 cake around 500rmb when I post this blog entry.  I would still recommend a 'buy' at this price levels if you do like the older 7572.

Wednesday, January 1, 2014

Teaset Memories

Not too many years ago when my daughters were toddlers, one of their favorite activities was playing with their cooking/tea set.  They will make me join them in the play area, and start pretending to have a 'high tea session' with them.  They would 'brew' up a teapot of tea, then drinking from teacups and eat 'pretend cakes'.  It was a happy recollection for me.

Wind forward.  I have my own tea set.  It is a real set.  Made from porcelain and I brew real Chinese tea with it.  I served the tea in the dainty cups and call for my daughters to join me for tea.  No one interested.  Ungrateful lot!

I had recently acquired this tea set.  The porcelain as you will observed from the pix is called rice pattern porcelain.  This porcelain is characterized by having translucent 'rice' patterns  on the porcelain.  It looked quite pretty.  Dinnerware made from these porcelain are easily found and be easily purchased in this part of the world.  Inexpensive too, with bowls and cups costing a few dollars each.  There are new and old 'rice pattern' porcelain and one difference, in my opinion, was the older porcelain is heavier and thicker than the newer ones.  

Happy New Year 2014.  I am grateful and thankful that 2013 was a good year for my family.  My tea is 1 year older and I discovered I have tea that are already 10 years old in 2014.  I look forward to drinking them and sharing my thoughts on these tea.  I hope to travel next year and share more tea stories with my readers.  

Time to play with my tea set.  Do you have a tea set too?