Friday, March 22, 2013

In anticipation

Yang Ming mountain
As snow and ice melt away, all life forms renew themselves. Farmers work the fields while tea drinkers patiently await the harvest of spring.

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Share your best tea moments

The top 5 winning entries will receive a high quality instrumental sound track in WAV format, CD quality, featuring the traditional Chinese flute and zither - perfect companions over a cup of tea.

Enjoy with our compliments :)

Sunday, March 17, 2013

Spring beginnings - Muzha TGY

Be it in Europe or the Far East, it is very popular in many cultures to welcome the change of seasons. At the flower market, I got myself a palma stalk made from dried plants. The warm colours on my palma stalk are a reminder of the sunnier days to come.

I am brewing a heavily roasted Tie Guan Yin from Muzha, Taiwan. The tea leaves have certainly mellowed in the last 12 months and fruitier notes start to surface. They were originally there before but were felt less significantly due to the roasting.

Besides time, other ways of reducing the intensity of a tea's roasting is by shaking the tea leaves a few times in a preheated pot before adding freshly boiled water. This method is by far the most effective with immediate results.

Instant gratification aside, it is also interesting to note what a year's storage can do to my tea leaves. The roast fades away progressively with the passing of time, but not entirely so. There is just enough of it left behind. This blends into the overall flavour and taste which complements the tea's sweetness.

Heavily fruity and lightly sweet in light concentration
I had tea in two stages: from the top of the pot where the infusion is diluted and then mix in more concentrated portions of tea. The experience felt like brewing two teas in one pot. The lighter version of this Tie Guan Yin felt very much like a fruity oolong. The tea hits the nose with scents of fleshy fruits but also leaves very quickly like a palate cleanser. It did not taste like a heavy roasted Tie Guan Yin at all. Significant fruity notes took me by surprise but the aftertaste was not very obviously felt.

Full-bodied tea with a balance of fruity scents and roasted sweetness
Tipping the concentration level to the heavier end of the scale, I obtained both fruity and sweet notes at once. The tea tasted less brisk and fruity. Instead, a nicely intense cup of tea took over followed by a very soothing aftertaste. When brewing the same tea repeatedly over time, we cannot expect to replicate the same taste or flavour profile because tea leaves are dynamic and can evolve either for the worse or better depending on storage conditions and brewing techniques. So, regard every brewing session as a new beginning that may surprise your palates!

Handmade craquelure blush chawan

Saturday, March 16, 2013

This post is all about teaware

With the widespread availability of tea knowledge and frequent information exchanges online, tea drinkers' demands on teaware have not only increased but diversified. Gradually we are witnessing a revival/ reinventions of  teaware item. 

Crafted glazed Korean ceramic cups, pair of two, 38 USD
Blanc de Chine 'White from China' tea cups, 19 USD each
 The items that you find in my shop have been almost exclusively sought out from various locations. Along the way, I have also met people and professionals who share my love for teaware and the creation of unique pottery pieces. They continue to inspire me to write about anything to do with the vast and deep topic of tea.

Ivory white tea display plate - leaf design, 13 USD each

Hongni (red clay) Yixing teapot 1970s, 380 USD

As our bodies renew themselves with the coming of spring, I thought this to be an opportune blog entry to  include select pieces of teaware items (as requested) that add to your pleasure of designing and drinking from Cha Xis (茶席).

Floral & fauna pewter saucers, set of five, 280 USD
Japanese dark green teaboat with painted scene, 38 USD each
Tropical colours absorbent tea cloth - 23 USD each
To order, please email:

A piece of the Mediterranean Sea

The colours I picked are mostly muted to emphasise the luscious blue glaze on my water bowl and the sunlight that graced my chaxi today.

Tea session on a gorgeous day like this transported me to the port city of Jaffa, a traditionally Arab seaside town commanding a view of the coastline. This is also where I made my purchase of this glazed ceramic bowl that adds a vivid punch of blue to the overall setting. It feels a bit like having a tea picnic by the sea on a pristine white beach.

Brewing in my teacup is a solid infusion of Ali Shan oolong. The tea feels refreshingly strong yet mild on my stomahc walls. My eyes wander from the porcelain cups to the black bamboo saucers and the sand coloured tea cloth then back to the asymmetrical lines of the handmade water bowl. Every aspect of the chaxi feels very much in harmony for me as precious sunshine time ticks away on a lazy Saturday afternoon.

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Back to basics - holding a teapot

Handling a teapot with ease
 One of my earlier lessons in tea was a session on holding the teapot. Admittedly, dexterity is lacking at first when handling a hot tea pot. Add to that the price tag attached to this hong ni pot, there was undeniably some pressure building up when I started practising my grip on this pot. Some sweat and struggle are not to be avoided.

The principles of holding a small teapot are rather straightforward: gently pinch the pot handle between the thumb and middle finger while resting the index finger on the edge of the know, making sure not to block air flow at the apex. Then locate the centre of gravity and begin to tilt the spout forward, going with the flow of tea at all times.

Air flows through the centre of the knob
Surely, this all sounds simple enough, but to really accomplish a seemingly small act of handling the teapot with ease, do take some time to practise!

A tip for the ladies: Should the above suggestion be of little help to you, try adding your right ring finger right under the handle for added support and stability. The index finger continues to rest on the knob's edge so that it can slightly tilt the lid open as we approach the end of our pour and the last few concentrated drops of tea can easily flow out with the larger flow of air entering the pot.

Monday, March 11, 2013

Learn Chinese on a Chaxi (Part 2)

Let's resume our lesson from Part 1, shall we?

Two weeks ago, some of the most common teaware items were introduced on my blog. They include: 1. 废水碗 Fei4 shui3 wan3, 2. 茶杯 Cha2 bei1, 3. 盘子 Pan2 zi3, 4. 茶布 cha2 bu4 ..... 7. 茶海 cha2 hai3.

I will continue this posting with 8. 茶叶罐 cha2 ye4 guan4, also known as a tea caddy. In a cha xi, tea masters seek out balance where different aspects come together harmoniously. Branding on tea packaging affects one's judgement as fancily packaged tea leaves could be perceived more favourably than a rather plainly packed tea leaves. By introducing a tea caddy into our cha xi, we can do away this problem and depending on the type of tea and the material of your tea caddy, tea can actually improve using a suitable storage jar under the right conditions. So far, I have no complaints about this pewter storage jar that I have available in two sizes: tea for everyday use at 50g in capacity, tea prepared for longer term storage at 100 g storage capacity.

9. 茶荷 cha2 he2 This is a tea leaves display plate that I use for apportioning a suitable amount of tea before brewing. By preparing the right amount of tea beforehand, you can immediately add tea into your teapot after preheating. Doing so, minimises heat loss (yes, a few seconds lost in tea makes quite a difference in taste) and the tea master's movements can appear swifter.

10. 水壶 shui3 hu2, water vessel. This is a Japanese pewter pot turned water vessel that I keep ready on the side when my boiling kettle needs a refill. The pewter further refines the water before pouring into the kettle.

Brewing with a Gaiwan 盖碗

11. 煮水壶 zhu3 shui3 hu2, boiling kettle. Water is an important component in preparing tea. Between using an electric kettle and a hot plate, I prefer heating water slowly on a hot plate to yield better tasting results. An electric kettle boils water in a much shorter timespan than a hotplate. However, the high speed of boiling water electrically means very little room for controlling the boiling process. In the end, there is always a tendency that water overboils in an electric kettle that explains for the harsher taste of water boiled in this manner.

Personally, I have heard a lot about boiling water over a charcoal stove. From the little bit that I understand, this is a very ideal method of bringing water the boil. The water as I experienced it was very soft, palatable and well worth the hassle! For the serious tea learners who would really like to give this a try, please make sure to keep your surroundings well-ventilated at all times to eliminate any risk of carbon monoxide posioning.

Friday, March 8, 2013

How I enjoy my matcha bowl

Japanese ceramics have always had a special place in my heart. The misconstrued imperfections such as a random patch of red in the glaze actually make the tea bowl more perfect in its display of beauty. Instead of trying to hide or manipulate features to look as symmetrical (and likely artificial in the process) as possible, the asymmetry form can be as flattering.

Consider women blessed without facial abnormalities who bear the heavier burden of looking even better and more often than not subscribe to cosmetic procedures and associated promises of the ideal size, shape, etc. Why not celebrate beauty at its natural best? After all, like this gorgeous green frothy matcha, no two bubbles are alike: some larger, others smaller.

Happy international women's day!