Sunday, June 29, 2014

Ramadan Kareem - in this generous month of Ramadan

Copyright © 2014 Miss Tea Delight 茶悦人生

Wishing all my Muslim friends a blessed month of Ramadan.

The chaxi of earthly hues :)

In this month of generosity and gratitude, let us not forget to also share our special teas with our loved ones and family ;-)

Mixiang red tea with lively honeyed notes!

Friday, June 20, 2014

Inventive ways to combat the summer heat

Copyright © 2014 Miss Tea Delight 茶悦人生
An ice-cold beer sounds like the obvious choice of drink for a warm summer day. Hot tea may sound almost counter-intuitive, but in the Middle East, a cup of black tea is very often the most popular beverage ordered from the menu even during sweltering summer months.

Copyright © 2014 Miss Tea Delight 茶悦人生
While kids prefer to cool themselves in the shallow water pools on the marbled mosque compounds, adults prefer their hot cups of tea in the tree shades, very often with cubes of sugar. In our glasses, not, which is why you spot an unopened sugar jar to the left. According to the locals, hot tea cools them down more effectively than an iced drink. The heat from the tea helps them perspire, detox and feel refreshed for longer periods of time.

Copyright © 2014 Miss Tea Delight 茶悦人生
When in the comforts of my personal tea space, I would go for a high mountain oolong that refreshes my palates and overheated surroundings! A Ming dynasty painting of  wild orchids and bamboos adds to the 'cooling effect' of today's chaxi :-) Decorating one's tea table is a rather personal affair. However, the principles remain pretty much similar - a chaxi that offers a visual representation of what you are about to experience and taste! In our case, an Alishan high mountain green oolong tea..

Soft-stemmed oolong from last spring...mmm.. much of the light green and floral scents can still be experienced in this high mountain tea. A porcelain tea pot, warming the teaware beforehand and a strong pour of boiled water will help bring out the best flavours and taste this promising Alishan 2013 Spring Oolong.

My sensory evalutation comprises of the following: colour of brew, scents, taste. 1) Colour of brew is a of a bright, strong yellow and green hue paired with a high level of transparency.

2) A highly complex floral scent that you cannot get enough of and a hint of green apple as I exhale after a few sips of tea. 3) This tea presents itself with a rather high resolution on the tongue, coating it very evenly. It is fruity and has a sugarcane sweetness with no unpleasant roughness especially towards the back of the mouth cavity.

On this day when the thermometer reads above 30 degree celsius temperatures, this oolong quenches my parched throat very well. The aftertaste is long and comfortable as I type, words can flow thanks to the inspiration I get from my already eighth cup of tea. The mind is cool and the soul comforted ;-)

茶悦人生 Cha2 Yue4 Ren2 Sheng1 - Tea as one of life's (affordable) pleasures!

Monday, June 16, 2014

Saying goodbye - a tang classic

Hongni red clay yixing teapot, 1970s
The teapot that tells a story about departure. To one side, we see engravings of a chinese landscape. It depicts a scene where famous Tang poet bade his friend farewell. The following is the English translation courtesy of Mr. Andrew W.F. Wong:

Wang Changling (698-757): At the Lotus Inn to Bid Adieu to Xin Jian

1 Tonight, into Wu, o’er the River, it rains of sleet so keen;
2 Come dawn alone you’ll depart, by the hills of Chu in between.
3 If my kin and kith in Louyang, should after me they ask, well
4 My heart is ice immaculate, abiding in a vessel pristine.

Translated by Andrew W.F. Wong (Huang Hongfa)     譯者: 黄宏發
11th January 2009 (revised 13.1.09; 14.1.09; 15.1.09; 19.1.09; 18.2.09)
Translated from the original - 王昌齡: 芙蓉樓送辛漸

1 寒雨連江(天)夜入吳
2 平明送客楚山孤
3 洛陽親友如相問
4 一片冰心在玉壺

Tang poem, by Wang Changling

Saturday, June 14, 2014

Teaware giveaways with a Southeast Asian flair

For every 55 USD spending and above on teas or teaware items, I will be giving away selected teaware pieces that define Southeast Asian pottery style.

You would have probably seen some of these pieces in my blog entries & videos from time to time. This blue and white Lingzhi mushroom (another favourite symbol for longevity) bowl  for instance, is a common everyday rice bowl. Just as wine cups are sometimes 'misused' as tea cups, such is the tolerant environment in the Asian context.

For me, I very often use these bowls to brew large quenching bowls of green tea on a hot summer day. Alternatively, it can also serve as a waste water bowl. We sometimes also use this as a soup or dessert bowl! The free-style strokes remain elegantly relaxed without overpowering the rest of the picture.

Friday, June 13, 2014

Teas I drink and recommend

2014 Spring Alishan Jinxuan, fresh oolong

Year Harvest Origin Process Leaf type Sampler USD

2014 Spring Shan Lin Xi  Mixiang oolong Soft-stemmed 30 g  19
2014 Spring Pingdong Red water oolong Soft-stemmed 30 g 17

2013 Spring Dongding (FH) Gui Fei oolong Soft-stemmed 30 g 18

2013 Spring Dongding (LG) Red water oolong Soft-stemmed 30 g 23
2013 Spring Alishan  Gui Fei oolong Soft-stemmed 30 g 22
2013 Summer Sun Moon Lake Mixiang red tea Taiwan No. 18 20 g  16
2013 Summer Xin Zhu (EM) Oriental Beauty QX DP oolong 20 g 16
2013 Winter Pinglin Red water oolong Fuo Shou 30 g  16
2012 Summer Xin Zhu  Oriental Beauty DP oolong 20 g 20
2012 Spring Yunnan Red Red tea Jinxuan 20 g  16
2011 Spring Dian Hong (MJ) Red tea Wild Pu'er buds 20 g  14
2011 Spring Shan Lin Xi Red water oolong Soft-stemmed 30 g 19

My tea videos and reviews:
- 2013 Spring Alishan (ZSH) fresh soft-stemmed oolong (blog review) (brew video)
- 2013 Spring Shan Lin Xi (YK) fresh soft-stemmed oolong
- 2013 Spring Qi Lai Shan fresh soft-stemmed oolong
- 2013 Spring Dongding (FH) Gui Fei soft-stemmed oolong
- 2013 Spring Dongding (LG) red water soft-stemmed oolong (blogreview) (brew video)
- 2013 Summer Sun Moon Lake Mixiang red tea Taiwan No. 18
- 2013 Summer Xin Zhu (EM) Oriental Beauty
- 2012 Summer Xin Zhu Oriental Beauty
- 2012 Yunnan Red Jinxuan
- 2011 Dian Hong (MJ) red tea
- 2011 Shan Lin Xi red water oolong

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Boiling vs. boiling - the devil is in the detail

Lately I've been weaning myself off the ever so convenient electric kettle in favour of this sweet little thing - the Teochew long-handled pot and stove set. Why? In theory, water that is brought to a slow boil from the heat of glowing hot coal tastes uniformly hotter, softer and more refined. Time to 'test the waters'!

This being a very delicate set of pottery, boiling is not easy to detect - no obvious crab or fish eye bubbles, little sound and only a trace of steam quietly emanating from the spout. Once boiling takes place, I poured water into the teapot and prepared some mixiang red tea.

The result was a beautiful bond between tea and water. Quoting from one of my most important lessons in tea, a tea that scores only 8/10 will result in a perfect score infusion when brewed using good water. Conversely, a perfect tea score of 10/10 will result in a brew that scores only 8/10 when subpar water is used. This highlights the importance of water quality and the way it is prepared.

Traditional nonya sweets and a red tea pairing
Starting at close to sunset, the whole process took a little more time than usual but the results were pleasing and very encouraging. I will do this more often (hopefully).

Further reading: Palina Chan's article in Chinese (

Saturday, June 7, 2014

How do you peel your pu'er tea?

Personally, I do this with my bare clean hands because the sensitivity in our fingers would allow us to properly pry apart any pu'er cake breaking as few leaves as possible.
The trick lies in:
 1) keeping the leaves as intact as possible while you peel away. What was the problem with the leaves I peeled below (bottom right)? Yes it seems intact but not separated finely enough. Leaves that are not peeled sufficiently often result in a bitter, sappy brew.
2) Investing a little bit more effort into making sure that your leaves look as evenly peeled as those in the top photo. Shake it apart if you have to try to obtain finer bits, but be gentle in your ways. Ensure that no lumpy parts are left behind and your plate of precious tea leaves will seem more plentiful and harmonious.

Try this at home and notice how much sweeter your pu'er tea actually is.

Wednesday, June 4, 2014

Chinese Tea Renaissance (Tea-naissance)

Banana-leaf shaped fan, late Qing
 ..or rather, the gongfu cha revival. Chaozhou ren, or rather the Teochews as I know them were the first people who devised the most refined methods of appreciating tea during the Qing Dynasty.

A few items on the gongfu cha checklist include charcoal for firing, stove, chopsticks for handling the burning hot coal, a fan for keeping the coal's burning momentum, teacups (preferably three of them as they constitute the chinese word  '品', to appreciate),  a teapot or gaiwan, plates for your pot and cups, and saucers for the cups. Last, but not least, a serving tray for distributing tea to your guests.

Chaozhou gongfu cha demands a high standards of decorum in keeping with good taste and achieving the best brew and in the words of my favourite philosopher:

"One must shed the bad taste of wanting to agree with many. "Good" is no longer good when one's neighbor mouths it. And how should there be a "common good"! The term contradicts itself: whatever can be common always has little value. In the end it must be as it is and always has been: great things remain for the great, abysses for the profound, nuances and shudders for the refined, and, in brief, all that is rare for the rare."

The same could probably be said of gongfu tea practitioners and their lifelong goals!

Tuesday, June 3, 2014

Pot cleaning day

Mixiang (naturally honey scented) red tea
A little bit on teapot grooming - While I have mostly enjoyed many infusions of red tea from my big zhuni teapot, I rarely cleaned it on the outside. As a result, quite a bit of dirt has built up on the outside and despite my frequent use of this pot, it did not glow as radiantly as it should.

With a cotton cloth and a few light dabs of warm water, I gave this pot a thorough wipe on the outside. The process took a little longer than usual because of accumulated stains over two years. My advice to readers is to wipe your pot after every use. This way, your yixing pot will surely gain that extra sheen with age and polishing.

The moon and mountains are my travel companions - Mansheng
By cleaning our pots and teaware on a regular basis, we come closely into contact with the design, potter's mark, feel of the material and glaze. This way we develop a more intimate understanding of the pieces we own and become well-acquainted with how best to use them for our next gongfu brew!