Thursday, September 18, 2014

Buying Puerh With A $30 Budget

Buying Pu erh with 30 bucks?  Having US$30 and making a purchase with online tea shops would be a challenge.  Many new pu erh tea are very expensive and $30 seem a bit insufficient especially if you are looking to purchase some raw pu erh tea.  

My recommendation is subjective as I am looking at the teas that are available online and that I had recently only tried some of these teas.  This would imply that I have not tried all the $30 teas out there but my intentions in this exercise is to show to my readers that one can buy reasonably good raw pu erh tea with this budget. 

The 1st 3 pix shows a Mengku 'Mu Ye Chun' raw pu erh tea that debuted in 2007.  Yes, this is the first Mu Ye Chun produced by Mengku tea factory.  A popular tea that saw this blend being produced on a yearly basis by Mengku.  This Mu Ye Chun blend is primarily tea leaves harvested from the Lincang region in Yunnan.  This tea is showing mild hints of aging in both taste and aroma.  This tea is non smoky and exhibit a nice bouquet of fruitiness in the tea.  And...this whole 400g tea cake has an asking price of less than $30 at online teashops.  Keep it for another 3 years and will be a 10 year old cake in your collection.  

If you are looking for pu erh tea with a smoky character. The 2013 Xiaguan Fangcha 100g brick makes a strong contender for your $30 budget.  Going for about $10 per brick, you can easily add 3 of these bricks to your collection.  I had talked about this tea in my earlier blog (link).  This tea has that nice smoky aroma and drinking this blend of 3-7 year old raw tea makes a pleasant tea session.  

But I digress.  My tea blogger friend Marshaln wrote an article entitled "Relativism In Tea" (link).  He explained that tea reviews are less relevant as they are subjective.  He gave the example of the different kinds of water used by tea drinkers round the world and brewing results would be different for these tea drinkers.  In his own words:

"There’s a reason I pretty much stopped writing tea reviews on this blog – they’re not useful and they don’t serve any real purpose, not even really for myself anymore at this point. So, I don’t do them."

I have a different point of view.  Most written works in the world today are subjective.  Reviews on food and drink, electronic gadgets, books or even hotel rooms are subjective in nature.  I rely on reviews when I want to find out more about a product.  Take hotel rooms for example.  The same hotel room can be described as too small or spacious, beds are hard or comfy, rude or friendly staff and quiet or noisy rooms are some reviews by users of these hotel rooms within a 3 month period.  When I am looking for a hotel in a new place, room costs, free wifi and close to food and transport amenities are important to me.  I will read such reviews and try to get a feel on the hotel.  Most of the time, it was a pleasant hotel room experience for me.  

Back to tea.  There is a huge assortment of tea out there for sale. Every teashop will say their tea are good if not the best.  Reading reviews or write ups on specific tea will help the reader discern and glean more information on the tea.  Facts like weight, price and age of the tea are indisputable.  But other things like whether a raw pu erh tea is smoky or not, fruity or not and stuff like mouthfeel of the tea may be very useful. Another advantage of writing your thoughts on tea is that  if another reader has the same tea, it would be fun to compare notes and may help in a future tea purchase.  There are teashops that consider 2010 raw pu erh as aged tea.....well that's the subjective part and its up to the reader to decide.  

Drinking Chinese tea is not a science.  For is a 2 minute getaway from the hustle and bustle of city living.

Thursday, September 11, 2014

Tea Waste Bowl

A tea waste bowl is simply a container where you discard water/tea used to wash the tea leaves or utensils.  It is also used to contain used tea leaves when you have many teas to brew.  In Japan, tea waste bowls are called kensui.  

Tea waste bowls may seem like a fancy unnecessary item but it has its uses in a tea brewing session.  If you are brewing more than 1 tea, like trying a few teas in a session, tea bowls may be very useful if you do not use a tea tray or in some cases, the tea tray may be too small to hold so much waste.  Yes, any container would suffice as a tea waste bowl but having a proper utensil does show we take our tea seriously (a little show off too as well).    

The 1st 2 pix show a Chinese made celadon waste bowl.  I bought it for its nice crackled look.  The 3rd/4th pix is an old Japan copper kensui.  The top lid can be removed for throwing spent tea and also for easy washing.   On a side note, I have noticed some owners lined their tea waste bowls with a plastic bag as they do not want these utensils to be badly stained with tea.  I am one step better...I don't use them...they are too pretty.  

The last pix is a sort of tea waste bowl.  It is used to stand your teapot and any excess water or tea that flows out from the teapot is collected into the base of the bowl.  This keep the base of the teapot dry and reduce excessive tea stains at the base of a teapot.

Friday, September 5, 2014

Pu erh Tea Bag

For ripe pu erh tea drinkers, I recommend that you buy a box of these tea bags.

"China Pu-erh Tea" is produced by Shantou Yi Hua Import & Export Corp Ltd, Guangdong China.  This tea comes in teabags and are packed in a 20 teabag or 100 teabag boxes.  

I had tried many pu erh tea bags and had been disappointed with the aroma and taste of the tea bags. There are ripe, raw and even pu erh tea bags that has either chrysanthemum or rose flowers added into the tea.  However, I found these tea bags to be lacking in that robustness that I enjoy in pu erh.....until now.

Filling a mug with boiling water and dunking this teabag in the mug for about 2 minutes together with a few jiggling movements of the teabag will yield a very dark aromatic, tasty cup of pu erh tea.  The color will be very dark, almost like red wine.  As this tea is produced in Guangdong, there is a hint of the storage flavor and aroma that closely resemble Hong Kong traditional pu erh storage.  I could detect and enjoy that slight old musty wood aroma. 

And.....this is no typo error.  It cost less than US$5 for an box of 100 teabags.  It is really value for money.  I have decided to buy a few boxes to give away as presents to my non tea drinking friends.  Yes, a cheapo gift but it is a good way to introduce pu erh tea to my friends.  

I carry these teabags with me whenever I am on the move.  I can easily have a quick nice cup of pu erh on the plane or during a meeting.  Have tea will travel.