Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Time travel - from mid air to museum

Fancy the idea of having high tea 1600 feet up in the air? This is the spacious interior of a Dornier-X flying boat in use by Lufthansa during the 1930s which remained an exhibit until it was destroyed in WW2. Today fragments of the torn-off tail section are on display at the Dornier Museum in Friedrichshafen.

Perhaps there is a company out there that wants to revive this antiquated form of luxury travel sometime soon. 

Saturday, June 23, 2012

Colours of freedom

Friday afternoon flew by so quickly over a pot of red tea, delicious pita bread, falafel and hummus, courtesy of my Palestinian friends who hosted us at their cozy abode. We discussed food recipes, traditional music from a string instrument called Oud, history and culture. What I particularly like are their flag colours of green, white, red and black, every colour tells a different story of its people and their collective hope for the future.

On this basis, I have designed a cha xi that I named  "The colours of freedom": a green cha bu to represent the occupied territory, white porcelain cups to signify peace, Dian Hong, the best red tea in my collection is brewed in a zhuni ('zhu' stands for ruby red) pot in recognition of the sacrifices made by these people in their pursuit of liberty, and dark wood tea saucers that symbolise the lives of people coping under an oppressive occupation and the slabs of concrete walls that have been put up around them.

The little pebbles that I used for my cha xi add a nice touch from the outdoors. They represent more or less the only line of defense that children have to guard themselves against bulldozers and tanks. This cha xi paints a heavier side of reality and is a vivid reminder for us to always stand up for the right beliefs and reject political lies.

I let the water come to a quick boil and proceeded to preheat my pot and cups. The young and slender leaves rest nicely in the warm pot and already started to emit their honey-like fragrance. Wait and watch the pot do its magic.

Golden red tea fills the cups to complete the picture. Sweet and flowery notes greet my nose and lift my spirits. The clean, crisp and fruity taste of this tea refreshes me like a high mountain oolong and brightly marks the finale of today's tea session. To quote a friend "One ray of light wipes away the gloomiest jet black nights. All the darkness in this world cannot wipe away the faintest of flickers in a beam of light."

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Sun-kissed cha xi

Back from a weekend getaway in the countryside, I wonder if my teaware was getting a tan from all that wonderful sunshine we experienced after so much rain and cold the previous week. The idea of an outdoor cha xi has been on my mind for over a year now but did not materialise for many reasons. So after the clouds cleared and temperatures went up, it was a good opportunity to leave the comforts of home behind and spend some quality time with nature, in nature.

While on the lookout for an ideal spot for preparing tea, many possibilites present themselves. Sometimes a shaded bench, a cosy corner in the attic that smells beautifully of wood, or a quiet area by the lake surrounded by pine forest and its chirpy occupants. It is really up to the tea master to improvise and weave rustic elements that he or she comes across into the rich tapestry of cha xi. Known as 就地取材 (jiu3 di4 qu3 cai), the concept of a cha xi is understandably very dynamic and never boring.

I have with me two types of oolongs, Si Ji Chun and a more oxidised Qing Xin oolong from Ali Shan. Both teas are rather green oolongs with a fresh taste. They differ in fragrance intensity and strength of aftertaste. Being exposed to the elements such as strong winds and bugs, it is hard to focus on the subtle differences between infusions, but it was possible for us to tell that the Qing Xin oolong has a more prominent aftertaste that continued to linger on our taste buds for a longer time. The Si Ji Chun fared weakly in comparison to the Qing Xin variety because of its fast disappearing fragrance in an outdoor environment. Probably a tea best set aside for consumption at home where the brewing conditions are more controlled.

A thin-walled gaiwan, porcelain cups, pewter saucers and tea caddy all come together with the perfect backdrop for a sun-kissed experience!

Notice the slight semblance between this photo and the painting on my tea boat? I was nicely surprised myself.

Blogeintrag auf Deutsch: Cha Xi in der Sonne

Thursday, June 14, 2012

On roasted teas

Lousy weather and cold feet prompted me to prepare some Tie Guan Yin from Anxi in China - another alternative is Muzha in Taiwan which also has rather decent quality in my opinion. Roasted teas may be an acquired taste for some because of its inherent qualities: smoky, heavy taste. My preference is for light green teas and minimally roasted oolongs, but find I them ineffective in keeping me warm. My body is craving for something stronger.

When brewing this tea, I packed three times more than the usual amount of tea leaves I would use for green oolongs because they do not unfurl as much due to the heavy roasting process. The tea smelled very smoky and heavy in my pre-heated hongni pot. To reduce the intensity, my preference is to give the pot a good shake and then remove the lid to allow excessive roasted scents to escape before heating my pot again and infusing the tea with hot water.

To test this tea, I decided to prolong the brewing time. The infusion was a deep amber colour and smelled like dark chocolate with hints of roasted mixed nuts and tasted very complex. The aftertaste however left me with a sour note on the root of my tongue and probably has to do with the extended infusion period I used.

In the subsequent brews, I did away with long infusion times and the resulting taste was the same but missing the sour note. To fully convince myself that this was indeed the result of a shorter brewing time, I did not drain all the tea from the pot and instead chose to leave some behind to monitor what happens if I once again soak this tea. Puzzling enough, the last few concentrated drops from the bottom of this pot were not as deeply coloured as I would have expected. More crucially,  the aftertaste was very enriched and not at all acidic. I am now enjoying the soothing circulatory effects of this tea in my stomach and am certain that its quality is decent.

Still, the mystery behind this tea's performance is unresolved.

Friday, June 8, 2012

Kombinieren von Speisen und Tee – Win-win?

(Teil 2 von 2) In meinem ersten Blogeintrag zu diesem Thema habe ich roten Tee und Datteln vorgestellt, aber hier ist mit den Möglichkeiten noch nicht Schluß. Roter Tee ist voll-fermentiert und läßt sich somit mit vielen Speisen kombinieren, darunter Schokolade, Käsekuchen, Buttergebäck, Donuts, Apfelkuchen, Mungbohnenkuchen, usw. Da verwundert es nicht, daß die Engländer seit Jahrhunderten ihren Nachmittagstee genießen. Diese Kuchen- und Gebäckarten entfalten ihren vollen Geschmack mit rotem Tee.

Post-fermentierte Tees weisen einen höheren Oxydationsgrad auf. Chinesische Restaurants servieren oft große Kannen gekochten Pu’er-Tees, da dieser Tee den Fettgeschmack sehr gut unterdrückt und den Geschmack der Speisen hervorhebt. Bestellen Sie doch nächstes Mal im chinesischen Restaurant eine Kanne Pu’er-Tee mit Dim Sum (chinesischen Tapas), geröstetem Schweinefleisch in Teig und Hühnerfleisch in Reiswein.

Falls Sie gerne Süßigkeiten naschen und eine Alternative zu rotem Tee suchen, wäre ein stark gerösteter, halboxydierter Tee mit Tiramisu zu empfehlen. Beispiele solcher Tees sind Hong Shui Oolong, Tie Guan Yin, Phoenix Dancong. Walnußgebäck und Waffeln passen auch sehr gut zu diesen Tees.

Auf Ihre Gesundheit!

Article in English: Food and tea pairing - A win-win? (Part 2 of 2)

Thursday, June 7, 2012

Small things, hidden meanings

This is a two-piece double fish celadon tea boat that I have added to my collection. It is decorated with a pair of swimming fish in a lotus-shaped bowl. As fish are reputed to swim in pairs and are known for their reproductive power, the double fish stand for the joys of union, hence symbolising freedom from restraint as well as the wish for marital bliss.

The origin of this double fish motif can be traced back to the Song dynasty in China around 1000 AD and has since spread to regions outside of China. In Thailand, children are often given ornaments bearing the double fish symbol to wear around their necks for blessings and good luck. Interesting bits of history and facts that add another dimension to our appreciation for teaware. 

Monday, June 4, 2012

Food and tea pairing - A win-win? (Part 2 of 2)

In my earlier entry about food and tea pairing, I discussed red teas and dates but it does not just end there. As a fully fermented tea, the pairing possibilities with red tea are plentiful: Chocolate, cheesecakes, danish butter cookies, donuts, apple pies, sweet bean pastries, etc. No wonder the English have been enjoying their afternoon tea time for centuries. One will notice that those buttery and pastry notes stand out particularly well when consumed with red tea. 

Moving down the oxidation spectrum, we come to the post-fermented teas. For instance, cooked pu'er tea is what Chinese restaurants often serve in  big pots because it is extremely effective at cutting back the taste of grease and enhancing food flavours. Next time you dine at a Chinese restaurant, order a pot of pu'er tea along with dim sum (Chinese tapas), roast pork pastry and drunken chicken. 

If you have an insatiable sweet tooth and want to find alternatives to red tea, consider high roasted, half-oxidised teas for your next slice of tiramisu. Such teas include hong shui oolong, tie guan yin, phoenix dancong. Walnut pastries and waffles also pair nicely with these teas. 

A votre san Thé!