Sunday, November 19, 2017

2015 Xiaguan Ripe Tuo










I was in Hong Kong last year and I wanted to brew a late night tea in my hotel room.  The Xiaguan sales manager recommended me to buy this ripe tuo, telling me that this 2015 pu erh tea was actually much older and that Xiaguan had produced this tea 2 years earlier and had stored the tea away before releasing this tea in 2015.

I had noticed that the bigger pu erh tea factories like Xiaguan, Taetea and even Haiwan are actually 'storing away' pu erh tea (the finished product) and releasing this tea after a few years of storage.  This applies to both raw and ripe pu erh tea.  This makes a lot of sense.  As a pu erh tea drinker, you will attest that newly produced pu erh tea is a bit rough and astringent especially for raw pu erh.  You can also detect a fermentation smell in newly made ripe pu erh tea as well.  If you had stored away these new pu erh tea away for 3-5 years, you will discover that the tea is much easier to drink.  The aroma and taste is more smooth and mellow.  

I think in this age, people demand 'instant gratification' when they buy and consume goods and services. It will be tough to sell/buy a product  knowing the product is better 3-5 years down the road.  I suppose these pu erh tea factories are making their new pu erh products a ready to brew/drink tea.  In a way it is like buying older pu erh tea.  

Back to this 2015 Xiaguan tea.  I actually did not brew this tea when I had returned to my Hong Kong hotel room.  I had went for late supper instead.  I only opened this tea last week.  This tea, to me, is still young, but I enjoyed the strong aroma and taste of this ripe tea.   This tea would be a good candidate for aging for another 8-10 years.     





Sunday, November 5, 2017

Qi Pottery

















These tea ware in the pictures are made in Singapore. They are not only made in Singapore but the clay also comes from Singapore.   The potter is Kim Whye Kee.


Kim was involved in bad company during his younger days and was incarcerated when he was 18 years old.  He picked up pottery making while in prison and his passion for this craft intensified when he was released.  He took up a full time course in pottery, graduated with a degree in fine arts in 2013, and now is a proprietor of Qi Pottery.  He owns a small electric klin in his apartment to create his own works and hold small classes for the public to learn pottery.

The local newspaper, The Straits Times, on 10 Jan 2016 published an article about him. Written by Ng Hui Wen, I attached an excerpt from the article:


"One collaborative work on display was a mixed-media installation titled Family Dinner.

It was created by the exhibition's artist-in-residence and potter Kim Whye Kee and 10 inmates from the Visual Arts Hub at the Changi Prison Complex.

The piece was inspired by an inmate's experience behind bars, and depicts his longing for a simple family dinner.

"Every inmate hopes to go home to his family. It was usually the first thought I would have when the handcuffs were around my hands," said the 36-year-old Kim, who went in and out of jail for about a decade after getting involved in gangs and drugs from the age of 18.

"I dreamt of going home for a simple meal with my father. But six months before I was released, he passed away from cancer. It was too late," he said.

After his father's death in 2007, Mr Kim picked up pottery in prison, which gave him the peace and motivation he needed following his father's death.

In the installation, which he has dedicated to his parents and sister, he placed a lone chair facing three cracked rice bowls on a dining table. Each bowl was carved with messages that could be seen only through their reflections on the table.

"It's like a person sitting there, thinking about what to say to his family during dinner," he said.

"Sometimes, we feel pai seh (Hokkien for embarrassed) and the words just don't come out."

Also featured were 14 other ceramic bowls which were smashed and mended back together.

"I put the pieces back together using clay and gold paint. I wanted to show the inmates that even though they've made mistakes, their family and the community will always offer them a second chance," he said.

Three years ago, Mr Kim, who was released in 2008, graduated with a degree in fine arts from Lasalle College of the Arts with the support of his mother, who worked as a cleaner, as well as his sister and the Yellow Ribbon Project. Mr Kim now runs pottery workshops in his own studio."




I had visited Kim at his workshop/studio and I could tell that he was passionate about his craft.  He took time to me to explain the various clays he had used and tested for his works.  He had even bought clays from Australia and UK to experiment making tea ware with these clay.  He had, a couple of months ago, wanted to used local clay to make tea ware and I had requested him to sell me one of these "Singapore teapots" when it was ready.  Kim completed making the Singapore teapots in September.  As you can see from the 2nd/3rd pix, Kim had created a series of gaiwans and kyusu-styled teapots.  Kim explained that this clay was dug up in Tampines (an area in Singapore) 30 years ago and was stored away by his local pottery teacher.  Kim managed to get a few clay packets.  In Kim's own words:

"This clay is quite rough to work and instead of burnishing it, I decided to keep the characteristics of this clay, staying true to its look and feel.  No glaze for this ware but if you look carefully, the body is slightly flushed and each pot will be unique"

I purchased one of the kyusu teapot and the 4th pix showed the teapot photographed under yellow lighting while the other 2 pix below were taken under natural lighting.  

If any reader is interested to know more about Kim and and his works, you may visit his website (link) to get more details.  

I wish Mr Kim the very best in his pottery business.






Sunday, October 22, 2017

A Bizen Mizusashi







My readers would know my fascination with Bizen tea ware. I had purchased a few Bizen pieces that included a tea set and a teapot (link).    Bizen tea ware are made in Japan. The uniqueness are that some of these bizen potters, when they are firing, or baking the clay, allowed the ashes and burning cinders to fly within the kiln and the results were that these pieces may have scorched or burnt marks on the surface of the clay. To the purist of ceramic clay, this may seem like a defect or imperfection, but I simply adore these pieces. They seem to give a character to the pieces. I feel happy handling the bizen pieces in my collection.

I recently purchased a Bizen mizusashi. It is actually a container to store water for a tea ceremony. When there is little water left in a kettle, it is refilled from the mizusashi. I guessed it is convenient, that you need not leave the tea table with your kettle to refill water in the kitchen. One of my friends claimed that water stored overnight in a bizen container makes the water sweeter. I shall test his claim and report back to my readers. I had initially wanted to used this piece as an improvised tea caddy.  
This bizen piece stands at 6.1 inches and 5.3 inches in diameter. 


I will be In Tokyo/Kyoto for about 10 days during the Christmas period.  If any Japanese readers want to have tea with me, I would be happy to meet you. I will bring some old tea for our tea sessions.






Sunday, October 8, 2017

2014 Xiaguan Yuan Ye Raw Pu erh








I had been following this tea when I came across this tea 3 years ago in the tea markets.  This is the 2014 Xiaguan special edition of the Yuan Ye.  Based on the description slip enclosed with the cake, Xiaguan tea factory had harvested the tea from old gushu tea trees in high altitudes of above 2200 ft in Yunnan.  In addition,  Xiaguan had stored away this tea for 7 years and only releasing this tea for sale in 2014.  

The tea leaves are unique.  The leaves, when I broke up the tea cake, looked glossy and shiny.  I thought the leaves were damp.  It was not.  The leaves felt oily and closer examination of the leaves showed that they are quite big and (believe it or not) furry.....like little shiny hairs on the leaves. '

When I brewed the tea, the tea was clean and clear.  Nothing oily in the tea and taste.  Some smokiness but the tea was smooth with hints of smoky pine wood. There were some nice fruity aroma like plums and dried berries.  A tea session of this tea can get me 10 strong,   slightly intoxicating infusions.   

An interesting and strong tea.  I think this tea will even be more impressive after a few more years of storage in Singapore.  I will try to add more of this tea to my collection.  









Sunday, October 1, 2017

Tea With An Englishman











I had tea with an Englishman last Friday.

Russell Alderton, had through the Steepster forum, asked about Chinese tea in Singapore. He was in Singapore for a week and had wanted to visit the Chinese tea scene in Singapore. He contacted me and I arranged to meet Russell last Friday.

I guessed that he wanted to sample Chinese tea in Singapore. I met Russell in Chinatown and brought him to the famous Maxwell Food Market for a large plate of Hainanese chicken rice. You will noticed In the pix that I bought him a coconut drink as well. I wanted to make sure he had a good meal as the tea sampling session later that afternoon was going to be wild and intense.

Russell initially looked pretty stern but after sampling 3 old pu erh (5 infusions each), I got him tea drunk and you can see him grinning in the following pix. He appreciates his tea and took his time to describe the taste and aroma of each tea to me. He reminded me of Andrew Zimmern, the famed TV food host of Bizarre Food series. Let me explain.....when Andrew tried a food he liked, he would close his eyes and go into a 'bliss-like' state for a few seconds. Russell did that 'bliss-like' action (exactly) when he sampled the Feng Huang Danchong (we tried 2 old Danchong as well). He really liked that tea.

I learnt, during our conversation at the teashop, that Russell kept his tea in a refrigerator. The refrigerator was not turned on at all. He used his fridge somewhat like a pumidor or a mini cave to store his tea. He even used water pillows to maintain the humidity in the fridge.

It was an enjoyable tea session. I believed he was impressed with the puerh storage while sampling the tea cakes in Singapore.

I would like to thank Miss Chong of D'art Station for spending considerable time and patience for hosting us to a wonderful sampling session of old Pu erh and oolongs. Thank you.






Sunday, September 24, 2017

Mooncakes and Tea Caddies








This is the time of the year where mooncakes are available for sale In Chinese confectionary and grocery shops.  These cakes are made and eaten to celebrate the Chinese mid autumn festival (next week).  If you had not tried mooncakes, they are actually baked pastries filled with sweetened lotus or bean paste.  Some of these cakes may include a salted duck yolk inside.  Somehow, this unusual combination makes eating a mooncake a pleasure to eat.  I love mooncakes.  My daughter managed to snagged a box for me at the Hong Kong Airport while she was there last week.  Yummy.

Mooncakes and Chinese tea makes a great pairing.  The sweetness of the mooncake and sipping Chinese tea makes for an addictive exercise.  I can gobble half a mooncake in one sitting.  I feel pu erh tea and high roasted oolong are good with mooncakes.  

I had received a couple of questions on how I would store my pu erh when I had broken up a cake or tuo.  I would break up the tea cake into small pieces and store them in one of the tea caddies you see the in pix.  The rice porcelain piece is actually a double-boil soup vessel where traditional Chinese soups were prepared in the container and the whole container is half immersed in a large pot of boiling water and cooked for a few hours.  You will notice that this rice porcelain container is double lidded and I am using it as a pu erh tea caddy.  These porcelain containers are easily available in Chinatown in your neighbourhood.  They were inexpensive when I saw them in San Francisco and Toronto Chinese shops during my last visit.    

I would placed the broken pu erh pieces inside and fold the erh wrapper on top of the tea (so I can identify the tea if I had forgotten about the contents).   I will put this tea caddy inside my tea cupboard and only taking it out when I want to brew the tea.  Yes, this container is not airtight, which  allows to tea pieces inside to breathe (Chinese call this Xin Cha).  This allows the pu erh to 'awake' and I personally find that the tea tasted better if  allowed to breathe for at least 2 weeks after breaking up your pu erh.  

In addition, the paper boxed tea caddy and the used oolong tin, in the above pix, are also equally good, in my opinion to store your pu erh tea.  I am using 8 tea caddies for my pu erh (5 raw and 3 ripe).   

How do you store your pu erh tea for daily drinking? 

Sunday, September 10, 2017

Plates And Dishes











Give your old plates and dishes a new lease of life by using them in your tea sessions.

I am sure there are small plates and dishes in  your kitchen cupboard (or even at your mom's place).  These porcelain pieces could be the remnants of a complete set of dinnerware that got accidentally broken over time leaving you with the odd surviving piece.  You could had bought such pieces at a garage sale or from a flea market.  

Some of these porcelain can be used in a tea session.  You would have noticed from the pictures I had used them as teacup or teapot plate stands.  I had collected these plates during my tea travels.  A few of these plates were inexpensive as they were found in flea markets or in the odd and ends shelf of a shop.  The last pix shows an old plate, which I believed was made about 40-50 years ago. There were Chinese villagers that may own similar designed porcelain and the families would carve their surname on the porcelain pieces for easy identification in the event that there was a village gathering or party where villagers 'lend' their plates for the occasion.  You can make out the surname 'Lu' on the plate.  

I feel using such plates and dishes makes a tea session more interesting.  It does add a little whimsical nostalgia when you sipped your tea.  Wouldn't it be nice if you later discover that you owned a rare porcelain piece that can sell for a million dollars.  Dream on.