Monday, October 31, 2011

Happy Halloween: 2002 Yunnan cooked Pu'er cake

Dear readers, I hope you have enjoyed my tea blog as much as I try to share some of my beautiful tea moments here. Feeling inspired, I have decided to throw in a few more colours to spice up my tea space in today's Halloween's special.

 I picked this 2002 Yunnan cooked Pu'er today as my tea of choice for its distinct woody scents, rich and dark colours. Perfect for the occasion! More tasting notes to come in my next blog entry.

For now, I prefer to relax and enjoy this Halloween evening. Have a spook-tacular night everyone!

Saturday, October 29, 2011

Iron Goddess Tea (Tie Guan Yin, TGY)

Asian designs inspire me a lot nowadays. So with a good camera in hand, I would always take some pictures of things, people, sights that I come across which I think will go very nicely with my tea-inspired blog. Here are some of them which I have put together in a collection under TGY, a premium variety of Chinese oolong tea that originated in the 19th century in Anxi in Fujian province.

In case you were wondering, "Guan Yin" also is the name of a goddess mostly associated with chinese myths and legends.

The infused leaves of this tea are big. In their dried form, the leaves are more closely knitted. Being a more avid green tea drinker, I opt for a lightly roasted variety. The brew is light in colour and has a shade of light green with a tinge of yellow. Apologies for the lack of photos on this one as I had enjoyed this tea in a gaiwan with the leaves in my cup.  Filtering the tea is not necessary as the open leaves are rather big and the lid keeps them from falling out.

The tea smells and tastes of fresh green leaves with a twist of maturity, accentuated by hints of soya bean and notes of coconut flesh.

Lu Xun's thoughts about tea

"Lu Xun (鲁迅) was the name that Zhou Shuren (周树人) wrote under in as a major force in early 20th Century Chinese culture. Born in 1881, he is often considered the founder of modern Chinese literature as a writer of fiction, poetry, criticism and essays."

What I like here is his down-to-earth attitude towards tea as a beverage and a part of his daily routine. Tea to him is a pursuit of respect for nature and simplicity. In this poem, he briefly concluded one of his tea brewing experiences and found the gaiwan to be the most suitable vessel for brewing quality tea leaves. "The infusion is clear and sweet, lightly fragrant with a hint of bitter sweetness."

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

The many facets of water

It may seem commonplace at first to fill your kettle with water and bring it to the boil before infusing your tea leaves.

Upon closer observation, the boiling vessel's material largely affects the taste of the resulting boiled water. Our taste buds are tingled by the silkiness of boiled water and once it comes into contact with the tea leaves, yet another dimension of the tea-licious brew unfolds. The same water source when boiled in different vessels, under different heating conditions, results in the law of interaction between tea and water. A sort of hidden order behind the rhythm of the tea. Weak at times, overpowering the next minute.

Starting at a common water source, one should experiment with different boiling vessels. Making use of the concept of relative objectivity in one's experiences, water should be allowed to interact freely with those different materials that make up boiling vessels. The essence of a seemingly ordinary activity such as boiling water resides in the diverse experiences inherent to the combination of water, fire and earth.

Adapted from TeaParker

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Revisiting my first lesson in tea - Water

Water is the main pillar of preparing tea. When using a good water source in combination with quality tea leaves, one is almost always guaranteed a better tea tasting experience. In other words, good water should be a highly dynamic entity, overflowing with vitality. Water of this nature never disappoints in terms of the qualities of the final tea infusion: clarity of brew, fragrance, sweetness. A multidimensional experience for our senses of smell and taste.
Being in between solids and gases, the largely dynamic nature of water as a liquid extends into a blinding myriad of varying tastes and flavours which certainly add to the fun of tea appreciation keeping it uniquely charming, and by no means lesser than a class of its own in the field of taste exploration.
 A long term observation of tea aficionados is this: Consistently, the same water source and vessels for boiling water are used. A wealth of tea tasting notes and experiences are accumulated through the passing of time and more importantly by recognising the hallmarks of suitable vessels used for boiling water.

Adapted from TeaParker

Friday, October 7, 2011

Enjoying the finer things in life

Drinking tea certainly has its merits to health but enjoying tea is another story altogether. I have drunk tea for over ten years now and am glad to report a very sturdy immune system with rare bouts of cold. But when it comes to enjoying tea, it takes into consideration a few more factors than just gulping down hot liquid.

1. Your surroundings - Choose a quiet and peaceful spot. An uncluttered space brings about a freer mind. You are priming yourself here for a little quality me-time
2. Your teaware - Pick out some teacups and a pot for brewing tea. No hard and fast rules apply as long as the combination feels right and harmonises with you.
3. Love - Brew your tea with lots of love. Stay focussed on your infusion and savour this brew with a presence of mind leaving your worries far behind.

Blogeintrag auf Deutsch: Die schönen Dinge im Leben genießen

Thursday, October 6, 2011

The world of red teas - F.O.P Red Tea 银芽红茶

The last few days of warmth and sunshine are quickly diminishing. To cope with this seasonal change, I prepared a fresh brew of Sri Lankan red tea for my enjoyment. This should warm me up very nicely!

Check out the golden tips of these dried leaves. They are bound to produce a highly flavorsome cup of tea.
The brew is a dark golden orange liquor with a distinctive roasted aroma. A medium bodied tea with a very rich and rounded taste. These flavours are reminiscent of flowery honey and caramel with a hint of walnut. Given its high quality, milk and sugar are no-nos in enjoying this aromatic brew.

Enter the realm of tea with Lu Tong

This is one of my favourite tea poems written during the Tang Dynasty by Lu Tong. In these few short lines, he carefully described his physical encounters with tea drinking and his mental movement in and out of different realms.

Lu Tong's Seven Bowls of Tea

The first bowl moistens my lips and throat
The second bowl overcomes my loneliness
The third bowl searches my barren entrails, but to find therein some five thousand scrolls
The fourth bowl breaks me out into a slight perspiration, and all of life's unhappiness evaporates through my pores
The fifth bowl purifies my flesh and bones
The sixth bowl calls me to the gods
The seventh bowl could not be drunk, only feel the breath of the cool wind in my sleeves
Where is Mount Penglai? For I, Yu Chuan Zi would like to ride on this cool breeze that will take me home.

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

A tea friend in Suwon

In one of my random walking trails around Suwon, a beautiful city in South Korea, I was delighted to have spotted this cosy little tea spot in one corner of a potter's workshop. Language was a barrier, so I shall just call her Ms Potter. As it turned out, Ms Potter is also tea lover. Most of her pottery pieces are influenced by her interest in tea and traditional Korean designs.

Despite the difficulty in communication, we quickly bonded over tea. The sweet fragrant smells of the green tea infused with lotus seeds said enough and continue to linger on my palate for some time. Qualities of an excellent tea indeed. Thank you my dear friend. Next time, I'll bring an interpreter along with me.

Tea ambience

As a long time fan of tea, I always find it a pleasure to decorate my tea space before I sit back, relax and take in the sight of beautiful things while I enjoy a fresh cuppa.

Now, "to decorate" may seem a very big word and a tall order for some. Do not get me wrong. Tea is meant to be enjoyed in a peaceful and uncluttered setting, in the company of things that you enjoy and decorating your tea space does not have to be overly complex or eleborate. Think music, beautiful flowers you find at the market, or even your favorite art piece. Try it!

Monday, October 3, 2011

One drink, different meanings

I came across this short piece of text today as I was going through a catalogue from Germany:

"Tea, one of the world's oldest beverages, has many different meanings for people. In China and Japan, drinking tea provides inner cleansing - in England, drinking tea is an expression of a certain quality of life, as well as an indispensable part of everyday life. .."

Immediately, I thought, "inner cleansing", bull's eye! An aptly put expression that described my initial perception towards tea. I started drinking Japanese green tea on a regular basis some ten years ago. Affordable, great for quenching my thirst and certainly kept me awake during lectures in school as a more beneficial alternative to coffee, Sencha always gives me a sensation of physical inner cleansing each time I took a sip from my cup. I feel healthier, stronger, and better.

Today, tea isn't just a health beverage for me. The cleansing process that comes to mind has transcended the limits of the body and entered my mind, soul and most importantly my heart. My perception of tea has certainly evolved over time.What began as a simple thought of "tea for health" has come a long way.

Longjing Tea 龙井

It has been too long since I visited Hangzhou, China. Whenever I miss this place, I would help myself to a warm and comforting brew of  Longjing tea "龙井". This chestnutty, fragrant, green tea is Hangzhou's gift to the world. I bet the gods must be thirsty now!
In their dried form, Longjing tea leaves are flat and broad, almost like sabre blades . They have a fresh and slightly nutty and seductive waft to them. It's absolute pleasure to own a "piece" of Hang Zhou in this way. 
To begin, I brought water to a boil and warmed my three-piece cup set also known as a Gaibei. Next, I discard the water and my warm cup is ready for the first infusion. Add just enough tea leaves to cover the base of the cup and steadily add boiling water to the leaves. Replace the lid and let the infusion do its magic as the leaves unfold and release warm and strong scents reminiscent of the lush tea plantations on the hillsides of scenic Hangzhou. For a brief second, my camera lens was slightly fogged up as a result. The sight and smell of this mini tea ceremony are simply divine.
Good tea serves also as a very effective thirst quencher. I have no doubts about this one. Nutty, fresh and long lasting fragrant notes sum it up for me!