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.    


Sunday, March 4, 2018

Xin Cha - Tea Awakening




Hooray!
 Your tea mail has arrived.  It is looking good.  Smells good too.  Time to try out the tea.  Wait!  I suggest humbly that your new arrivals need time to be awake.  The tea needs awakening.  The Chinese call this procedure as xin cha.

Xin Cha literally means tea awakening.

There are a few reasons why you should adopt 'xin cha' as part of your Chinese tea routine.

- your tea which you had ordered overseas would likely had been air-flown to your doorstep.  I had found out, on the internet, that checked- in luggage and goods like postal boxes or other goods are placed in the cargo compartment of the airplane.  The cargo hold, if we assume a commercial airline, would be less insulated than the passenger cabins. I read that the temperatures in the cargo hold, during flight, would be around 7-10 degrees celcius. It is pretty cold and understandable as there is less insulation than the passenger cabins.  This would meant that your 'tea' would had experienced a cold moment while it is in the air.  Did my tea hibernate? I do not know. But internet chat forums seem to suggest that tea buyers/drinkers find their purchased tea tasted better after 2-3 weeks after arrival, than if it was drank immediately when they had received their box.  This may imply or suggest that the tea needed time to 'acclimatise' itself (I think you understand what I am trying to say).

-  I had mentioned that breaking up a tea cake, brick or tuo, storing the tea pieces in a tea caddy and drinking the tea 2-3 weeks  after the 'breakup' seem to make the tea more aromatic and tasty.  I had suggested to my tea readers to try breaking up half a cake, storing the pieces in a tea caddy......and do a comparison by brewing up tea from the caddy and brewing tea by chipping off some tea from the unbroken tea cake.  The difference is clear in that the broken up tea pieces taste better. 

These 2 points I had highlighted seem to suggest that pu erh tea needs a stable temperature and any drastic change in temperature may 'upset' your tea and the tea may need time to acclimatise/ stabilise itself.  Breaking up a tea cake may also imply that the tea have the opportunity to be fully exposed to the air and to 'stretch out' which seem to make the tea better In taste and aroma after the breakup. Yes, it seems like mambo jumbo.  But .....there is a clear difference if you employ these methods.  It might be a great idea when your overseas tea mail arrives at your door, you break open your pu erh cake/ brick (at least a quarter of it) into a tea caddy and brew the tea after 2 weeks.  

I strongly encourage my pu erh tea readers to 'xin cha' their pu erh.  This is not a tedious or expensive exercise.  It does make a better brew.  













Thursday, February 15, 2018

Happy New Year





Happy New Year.

Today is Chinese New Year's eve.  You will know that many Chinese would be trying to make their way home, these past few days, to attend the new year eve dinner with their family. It is like a Thanksgiving occasion where  families get to eat dinner together.  It is a yearly milestone which I look forward to every year.

To all my readers, Happy Chinese New Year.  Live long and prosper.

Sunday, February 11, 2018

2007 Xiaguan T8613 Iron Cake And The Puerh Pliers








2007 Xiaguan iron cake.....I get that. But puerh pliers?

Yes, Valentine's Day is only a few days away and a pair of puerh pliers would be an ideal gift to get for your tea drinking partner. You can almost imagine and hear your partner squealing in delight when he/she used this tool to open up an iron cake.

Pu erh tea drinkers would agree that prying open an iron cake or tuo can be a challenging and sometimes a dangerous task. You would normally use a tool like a small metal letter open or a mini ice pick to open the cake. The very high compression of the tea will normally cause much tea dust when the cake is being pried open. Tea dust are not good for brewing as they clogged up your teapot and may upset the brewing parameters of your infusion times. Moreover, the amount of tea dust from opening up an entire iron cake can be quite substantial....easily more than 20 grams. The element of danger is present as a tiny slip can cause an accident if the puerh knife or pick accidentally poke your hands.

That is where the puerh pliers comes in. Simply grip the side of the tea cake with the pliers, hold down the tea cake, then lift the pliers as if you opening a cap of a soda/beer bottle. As you can see from the pictures, I could get nice small chunks of tea from just a quarter 2007 Xiaguan iron cake within 1 minute. This meant that an iron cake would be broken up easily within 5 minutes....and with minimum tea dust.  I shall name this tea opening method as the 'heartbreaker'.

Sadly, there is no such thing as puerh pliers.  A normal plier would suffice. But use your hard earned money to get your partner an old iron cake. This 2007 Xiaguan iron cake has a very good complication of flavours and aroma. It is like a time capsule as the high compression of the tea seem to make this tea a very vivid tea session where every infusion varies delightfully from each other. Good and strong 12+ infusions.   The broken up smaller chunks of tea are still highly compressed and you will get the 'tea get stronger with subsequent infusions' phenomena.  This is not that the tea was made from gushu, as you may be led to believe, but this is due to the highly compressed tea chunks 'loosening up' with later infusions.

Happy Valentine's Day.

Sunday, February 4, 2018

Japan Tea Souvenirs














I bought some tea ware while I was in Japan last December.   It was a little tough for me, in the sense that I had purchased the 1st two pieces during my first day in Japan and I had to hand carry them for the next 2 weeks during my trip.  It was a good and cold holiday experiencing my first Japanese winter.

This new tetsubin is a Nambu Tekki production.  A 800ml capacity, I was drawn to this kettle while I was at the Nambu shop along kitchen street in Asakusa, Tokyo.  The tetsubin was made to look old and rusty.  The embossed dragon motifs on the side of the kettle were very pretty and I made a quick decision to buy it.  I have a soft spot for Japanese tetsubin.  I think this will be the fourth kettle in my collection.  

I bought 2 shiboridashi teapots while in Japan.  The insides of the spout have raised grooves which acts as a filter to allow tea to dispensed when you serve the tea from these teapots.  Unlike regular gaiwans where you had to tilt the cover to dispense tea, shiboridashi allowed me to position the cover properly without any side tilt.  I find the pour out of tea to be more elegant.  You would had noticed that my 2nd shiboridashi is a side handle model which is actually fun to use.  

I would strongly recommend that whenever you are in Japan, getting a Japanese tea ware will be the best souvenir for yourself.  And.....  do not forget the matcha and hojicha tea. 

Sunday, January 21, 2018

2004 Sea Dyke Tie Kuan Yin Teabag







Chinese teabags??

Yes...and these are good.  Produced in 2004 by Sea Dyke, these teabags brewed up a very aged and mellow oolong.  This tea as you can see had French descriptions on the box, and it would indicate that these tea may have been primarily produced for the European markets.  

I will usually include a couple of teabags in my tea box whenever I travel.  These teabags act as a 'quickie' when I want to have tea, and hot water is available while I am on the road.  

For this aged teabags, I used 2 teabags and brewed them a 100ml teapot. Teabags work best, in my opinion, with hot boiling water.    Good for 4 infusions, the tea was strong, aromatic and old tasting.  It was interesting that such teabags are able to produce such a pleasant tea session....almost as good as a regular old oolong tea leaf brewing session.  I can only guessed that either Sea Dyke used good tea in the teabags in early 2000s and the tea had aged nicely in my part of the world.  I had tried newly produced  Sea Dyke teabags but the taste was a little bland (in my opinion).  

An unusual find.  I recommend if you do come across older Sea Dyke teabags, to buy them.  They should be inexpensive but good.   

Sunday, January 14, 2018

2008 Taetea Dayi Qiu Xiang Raw Puerh Cake












I am pleasantly surprised with this 2008 Taetea (aka Dayi) raw pu erh cake.  This is the special edition 'Qiu Xiang' (aka autumn aroma) cake.  It was interesting  that this cake came in 500g size.  This is a lot of tea.  This upsized tea cake is unusual in that many tea factories usually now produce a standard 357g cake size or smaller and many newer tea cakes you see in the tea markets now even come in smaller sized 150-200g cakes.  

This tea is strong and I found that using lesser leaves and a slightly longer infusion times gave me a cup of tea that has pleasant complications of both herb and Chinese medicinal aroma and taste.  Even though this tea had been stored in hot and humid Malaysia for almost 10 years,   I felt this tea would also be a candidate for further aging.  I believed the tea would be more mellow if stored few more years.  I can already detect a aged medicinal taste and smoothness in the tea.  It would be a shortcut, in that I had already a 10 year head start in the storage of this tea.  

This tea cake comes packed in 5 cakes a tong.  I will keep an eye for these cakes in my next tea buying trip.  


Monday, January 1, 2018

Reminiscing







When I looked at my older pu erh last week, I tried to recall what I was doing during that year the pu erh cake was made.  

The top pix shows a Haiwan raw cake made in 2003.  That was some time ago.  My youngest daughter was still walking in her diapers. The bottom pix show the Xiaguan 'happy tuo'.  Produced in 2008, these tuos were made under the Fei Tai (FT) label which was made primarly for the Taiwanese tea markets.  I recalled at 2008, I started to drink Chinese tea and started buying tea, which included this 2003 Haiwan cake.  I remembered  started buying tea online in 2009 before venturing to Taiwan and China the following year  visiting the tea farms and wholesale tea markets to learn more about tea. 

What were your favourite memories or milestones in 2003 or 2008?  I am sure you can recall the many memorable and happy occasions then.  

Drinking pu erh tea when it is new compared to drinking it when it is 10 years old or more is a totally different experience.  There is a clear difference in mellowness, sweetness and smoothness in the tea.  Storing your tea especially pu erh tea for 10/15 years is quite a challenge.  Humidity and temperature are important factors to consider especially when you are storing pu erh tea.  You need space, cupboards or unused refrigerators as tea storage facilities.  And you need to let time do its work.  When you move house, you literally move your tea storage facility as well.  Storing and waiting 10 years for your tea to age is a long time but many milestones will happen.....You might have changed cars, homes and jobs or see your kids through school while your pu erh tea is aging away.  

I recommend whenever you have a milestone in you life, like graduation, having kids or even buying your new house.....buy a couple of cakes and label the respective milestones.  Years later....drink that tea while we reminisce, thankfully of these occasions.  I remembered an old Chinese tea drinking friend that buys a tong (7cakes) of tea every  Chinese New Year and gives away 3-4 cakes to his children and keeping the rest for himself.  I found this gesture meaningful.    

As I opened the 2003 Haiwan cake, I recalled vaguely I looked pretty good in my speedo back then.

To my readers, Happy New Year 2018.