Sunday, April 6, 2014

Morrocan black tea and a puff

This is one of those days I needed a little something extra to go with tea.

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Shan Lin Xi high mountain oolong

The light yet persistent aftertaste of this high mountain oolong from Shan Lin Xi brings to mind the light, fluttery movements of a butterfly. This morning, I brewed this tea in a porcelain pot for five. The large volume ensures sufficient room for leaf unfurling. To highlight the fresh and jade green qualities of high mountain oolongs, I chose a celadon dish to impart an aspect of green vitality that connects us to mother nature.

Like a chameleon, subtle notes of grass, fleshy fruits and flowers greet my nose. It is not possible to describe the taste profile precisely. The jade-coloured liquid was pleasant on the tongue and throat. A slight warmth in my stomach presents itself. These are little signs - easily overlooked - that bear testament to the high quality of this tea.

Preparing a two-part video for this tea seems a nice way of introducing this tea to my audience. In the vidoe links above are my proposed steps for brewing this tea, and as you will later notice in the second video, a cloth coaster was introduced to the setting to reduce the dripping effect from my teapot. Teaware arrangement from my intepretation can be very fluid but must not interfere with my hand movements. Keeping the process harmonious and calm is also one of the many things I aim for when refining my gong-fu cha techniques.

The opened leaves after the first infusion were soft and very supple. I prepared four satisfying infusions from the amount of leaves you see in the first photo.

Tuesday, March 4, 2014

Oolong preparation two-part video

"I feel clean" was what my Japanese friend commented after tasting Taiwanese high mountain oolong for the first time. She was also surprised that the taste profile overlaps with Japanese green tea brewed at lower temperatures of 70 - 80 degree Celsius resulting in an umami note. Later, I told her that this was not green tea, rather semi-fermented oolong that adds the extra touches of flowers and fruits.

You will find answers to good questions like how much oolong tea to use, at which temperatures to brew and for how long in this this video.

I always use freshly boiled water and start with the first infusion where 40 - 50% of the total soluble materials are released. This is why it makes very little economical sense to rinse teas especially when you are certain of their high quality.

In this second video, I show how the opened leaves look like and this is something that we can aim for when improving the technique of brewing ball-shaped oolong. Doing so will ensure full flavour release.

With this winter high mountain oolong from Ali Shan, I was able to brew it at least four times.  I enjoy starting the day with a sip of light oolong teas. My breath is cleansed, stomach nicely primed with no hunger pangs. The aftertaste can stretch beyond half an hour with the more powerful oolongs from Da Yu Ling or Li Shan. I am quite happy with my 'liquid breakfast' and do not want to spoil the taste in my mouth. Give it another few hours and I should be ready for lunch!

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Ageing gracefully - 2012 Oriental Beauty

2012 Oriental Beauty
Many consider stashing aside pu'er teas because of their high investment potential. Of course with time, storing tea under proper conditions can also transform what used to be pure and fresh tea into something that isn't just very pure in taste, but has mellowed while its flavours have become richer. And I am not discussing pu'er teas alone. Well-made teas such as red or roasted teas can mature equally well over time and are easy to store as long as humidity levels are low and conditions are dark and cool.

For reasons above, I have placed my bet on this two-year old OB which has been deep  roasted. Its dry scents and fragrances after infusing are not as heavy or full-blown when compared to standard Oriental Beauties. Rather, they have more complexity with an overall pleasant bouquet and a depth to match.

To see if this tea is well-made, the brew should display a high level of transparency regardless of its colour.  Porcelain teaware is my favourite material of choice thanks to its non-porous nature that hardly influences the taste and flavour of tea.

It may come as a surprise to some as to why a light-tasting tea like this could evolve well with the passage of time. I will have another go at clarifying this part better. When tasting this tea, the notes felt very light yet pronounced, but not bland. In combination with the complexity and depth of this tea, the elements for a successful recipe of a tea that can age well all seem to be present. Undeniably, intuition also has a role to play in this case, and my goal as a tea drinker is to sharpen my instincts through learning and experience.

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

When it gets cold and wet outside..

turning to red, roasted or raw pu'er teas feels almost intuitive. If time allows, I would slowly bring water to a boil in my tetsubin and brew red tea in a zhu ni pot to enhance the lively, fruity notes, or turn to a zi sha (purple clay) teapot to help smoothen the sharp edge in young roasted teas that I cannot wait to try! As for raw pu'ers, a thermos on the go seems the quickest way of getting the most out of this relatively expensive tea type. Occasionally, a zhuan tai teapot comes into play. The use of various clays with different intentions in mind is what is most perplexing, and I dare say fun. Also, by comparing teas brewed in a thermos as opposed to the traditional gong fu style, one grows to appreciate the harmonious, enhancing effects of clay. 

Thursday, January 2, 2014

Resolutions on the tea side of things

Shan Lin Xi red water oolong
Conventional wisdom has it that what you spent time doing on New Year's Eve is pretty much what you will be doing for a good part of the coming year. I was of course brewing teas that I enjoy and mentally listing some areas where I could have done better when it comes to appreciating teas.

1. Reading - Over the last three years, my pile of tea readings went from zero to roughly 10 books, none of which I have completed. This year, it is about time to take them on!

2. Tea stash - Good teas are your best teachers. Looking back on 2013, I probably only brewed tea once every day. In 2014, I will endeavour to increase this frequency to a modest three times daily and consequently more blog entries of course.

3. Theory and practise - Combining the two requires feeding one's circle of learning with reading, tasting, experimenting and a stronger presence of mind. 

Thursday, December 26, 2013

Flowers after the rain - Xin Zhu, Oriental Beauty 2013

Sweet at first then a savoury aftertaste with scents of flowers after the rain. Something about this oriental beauty (OB) tells me that it is quite unlike the OB (reserved for tourists) that overwhelms the nose but underwhelms our taste buds. I very much enjoyed its dry subtle scent and the overall balance that I experienced in the 1st infusion.

The dry leaves have a very light, transient and almost mysterious waft that encourages me to want to find out more. The presentation of the leaves is your typical 5-coloured appearance in OBs.

Instead of the usual floral fragrance of an OB, this tea exudes a unique twist. Its' sweet, honey scents are less direct, but very pleasant and leave you wanting for more. The colour of the brew is closer to amber than red. More floral fragrances were released in the 2nd infusion alongside a nutty taste. The tea remains flowery yet mild and contains of a hint of pineapple in the 3rd infusion and we can see that this is a tea made from very young buds and leaves that contribute to its overall sweetness.