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.  





Sunday, September 3, 2017

2006 Fu Hai 7536 Menghai Pu erh Cake









This is a 7536 recipe produced by Fu Hai Tea Factory.  This 2006 raw pu erh, is already 11 years old and this tea had been stored in Singapore for about 10 years.  The information slip in the tea stated that the pu erh is harvested from the Menghai region.  Pu erh tea drinkers would be familiar with the Menghai region as many vintage and classical old cakes were traditionally made from this region.  

This tea had aged well over the 10 years in Singapore.  The tea when brewed is mellow and sweet.  Notice the pleasant dark gold color of the tea.  Surprisingly, I found the tea paired nicely with fresh fruits (apples, pear and peaches).  I felt, that sipping the tea after having these fruits, the tea tasted sweeter.   Overall the tea has a nice pleasant sweet aftertaste and a nice floral-herbal  complexity In the tea.  I recommend that this tea should be brewed on the stronger side....by adding an extra gram of tea to your standard brew.

But I digress.  Making your tea on the stronger side......adding more tea leaves or a longer infusion?  Don't you get a strong tea from both methods?  Yes, but there are 2 main differences.  
a) using more leaves can get you more infusions in your tea session.  If you let your tea infuse for a longer time after every pour, you would get lesser rounds of tea.
b) there is a difference in taste and aroma.  The chi or energy from the tea is more pronounced with adding more leaves.  

I would try to get an ideal brew when I opened a pu er tea cake.  Yes, its a personal preference in terms of strength.  It would normally take a few brews for me to determine whether I should use more/less leaves and the infusion times for the brew.  It may take 3-4 tea sessions before I settle down and conclude the brewing parameters for the tea.  How do you, my reader, determine your brewing parameters for your tea, please share with me your methods.  Thank you.




Saturday, August 26, 2017

Tsen Chi Cha






Tsen Chi Cha is a oolong tea produced in Amoy China.  This version is the Sea Dyke brand.  This tea is packed in a metal foil bag and packaged in a paper box.  This tea had been produced for many years by Sea Dyke and is available in many South East Asian countries.  They are commonly found in Chinese tea shops or Chinese emporiums.  I remembered I saw this tea at a Chinese tea shop in San Francisco and Toronto as well. 

I was in at Yue Hwa Emporium, Hong Kong last  year browsing at the Sea Dyke tea section when an elderly man came to the same aisle and picked up 2 boxes of this tea.  I asked him why he had chosen this tea.  He replied that he drank lots of tea (oolong, puerh, longqing), but because he lived in a very small apartment, he only had a small shelf for his tea.  When he had finished his stash, say oolong, he would replace them.  He mentioned he does not buy to store his tea long term but buy to drink.  He smiled and went off to pay, not before telling me that this tea was good.  I bought a box of this tea.

This tea brews up 5 good infusions.  It is high roasted and has a taste and aroma like a hybrid shui hsien and a tie kuan yin.  Nothing sophisticated or extraordinary but the traditional roast and comforting aroma made this tea a value for money purchase.   I can understand, when I sipped this tea at home, why the Hong Kong gentleman liked this oolong.