Monday, March 12, 2018

Why do high end teas have less flavor?

Every once in a while I get a polite question: why do teas taste so light but so pricey?   Teas cost less have more flavor than these.  Or something like: can you brew it stronger, it's flavorless, I can hardly taste anything.

I did not know how to explain that with lack of scientific understanding for a very long time.  The only reasoning I can console myself with is each person is different, our sensitivity vary a great deal due to our diet,  body chemistry and exposure to tea.  But it is much more than that.

In Chinese term Yun is an intangible sensation.  The Chinese translation is "containing compound", I suppose it means it contains substance of richness that can be sensed rather than measured.  The term Yun often describes a musical piece of texture, density, thickness, range, width, layers with richness.  The concept can be borrowed to describe tea as well.

Yun and flavor are two entirely different concepts in tea.  More often than enough that high mountain old tree teas have thick rich Yun, subtle flavors that linger a very long time.  While low altitude young crop teas have more obvious, detectable flavors.  My advice to tea drinkers is emphasize less on the flavors, flavor is manipulative artificially by human hand, on the other hand the "contained compound" leaves are born nobly by older trees living in the environment that protect and nourish before they sprout.  You can only feel them!

In scientific studies, three key substances influence the taste of a tea, here taste does not equate to flavor.  Taste including flavor and texture, while flavor is only flavor.

1, Polyphenol = stringency
2, caffeine = bitterness
3, amino acids = sweetness and refreshing taste

Polyphenol ratio and amino acids ratio play teeter totter with each other, one goes up, the other goes down.  Summer harvest, mature leaves contain more poly phenol, hence more astringent.  Spring harvest, high altitude, younger leaves contain more amino acids, hence sweeter and less astringent, also less stimulating to the taste buds as astringency and bitterness.  To less experience drinkers, there is less flavor due the the absence of those two flavors.  High mountain and shade grown teas contain more amino acids than low altitude teas due to sun exposure.  Polyphenol are substances released by plants to protect itself from the sun, insect bites and other environmental impacts, therefore the ratio goes up in Summer harvest.

Polyphenol by nature is a protective substance, therefore it also protects human as an anti-oxidant.  Amino acids are in forms of proteins, amino acid residues form the second-largest component next to water of human muscles and other tissues.   Hence it's a replenishment to nourish our body, and is the "essential" for humans.  *quote from Wikipedia*

Teas that contain more polyphenol are processed in ways to emphasize on flavor, cover up or mute the enstringency and bitterness, enhance aroma by manipulating with roasting or oxidation in the case of oolong teas.   While the best tea materials are usually less tempered with to preserve its natural greatness.  Same concept as in food preperation, the best ingredients are less spiced in the the cooking process, Cantonese and French food are the finer examples of that.  However a Szechwan person with a life long palate of hot spicy diet would not have the same appreciation for Cantonese cuisine, and vise versa.

My point being, you can't expect every tea drinkers have the same sensitivity to feel teas the same way.  Otherwise, what are the tea growers going to do with the summer teas, and the alike.  Or those who are lucky enough to discover the secrets of Yun would not have enough good teas to go around.

A flavorful tea stimulates your taste buds, a great tea stimulates you internally, energizes you.

Friday, April 21, 2017

Writing a novel of tea stories

For a long time, I've wanted to write a tea book.  At first tried translating a Chinese book, it didn't float my boat due to technical issues, lost in translation the least.  The second time I want to write something about what I know of tea, then I felt I don't know well enough to make it a reference book.  The third time I want to write a fun read tea book with tell tails of my travel to tea mountains and markets, but not sure how to link them all together.  Finally inspired by a novel my best friend introduced me to recently, I finally know what I want to do, not just tea, more than tea, a romance novel that links tea, travel and self integrating experience.   As tea started me on the horizon of self discovery journal, it has been self realization, revelation, toward self liberation.  Tea has been the loyal guard at the entrance of a palace whom took my hand then lead me into the grandeur of  spiritual world, enrich and deepens my understanding of human nature, relationships amongst human and with nature.  When to challenge and when submitting to nature's courses is absolutely necessary.   Running through the rose bushes can be painful, yet one can find beauty and comfort in the colored petals and sweet fragrance as we must go through life the same way. 

The skeleton of the story is about an American young man lands in China for a work project in Hang Zhou, meets the girl in his dream and learn a great deal about law of nature from her grandfather whom went through a turmoil period of China and still stand still quietly in his tea mountain, great wisdom to be told, counteracting this overbearing society with a simple cup of tea!

Wednesday, November 30, 2016

When is the best time to start drinking a tea

Here are a few questions from a dear customer recently, I thought I had written related topic since it is some of the more frequent asked questions, but I couldn't find it in my blog,  it must be in the emails.  I should have this written down for good. Here we go.

***How do single tree dancongs like your private stash develop with time? 
More specifically, is it preferable to let them rest for some time after the harvest and processing to harmonize and develop? If so, how long after the harvest are they usually at the peak, and when do they start to fade and lose aromas you want to keep?
There are several elements determines the taste of tea in time: tea substance, fire, storage. What this means is when is the best time to start drinking a tea, any tea that is.  Most of us like to buy fresh teas in general, what's left over the year is considered expired psychologically,  even though aged tea drinkers would consider buy a selected few type such as puerh and a few aged oolongs.  While taste is a personal preference, I am here to talk about my own preference of when is my preferred time to drink a tea. 

1, Substance of tea is the fundamental, fiber and chemical substance ratio determines how long it will take a tea to break down, more fiber the longer it will take, more matured old leaves the longer it will take. 
2, In general, all teas are processed through fire more or less.  Green tea, white tea, yellow teas endure less firing process than oolong, lower temperature and lesser time on fire.  Higher temperature fire takes longer to subside.  
3,Storage condition of tea is crucial at the final step, aside of sealed, keep away from light, odor and moisture, storing temperature should be considered in storing the type of tea.    

Nothing is absolute especially in tea, all parameters are forever changing along time, a combination of situation presents here:

Green tea, despite the common belief it should be drunk within 3 month from harvest, unless you are a young man with stomach of steel, go ahead.  The freshness also contains fresh fire, the fresh polyphenols can be harsh on the stomach, it is much better to drink it 9 months to a year later stored in freezer or refrigerated, minimum 6 months in the fridge.   This also applies to green oolongs, particularly Tie Guan Yin and Taiwan high mountain teas.  Freezing is necessary for teas with high moisture contents.  

For medium and up roasted oolong long teas, white tea, black teas, also takes 9 months to a year for the fire to subside, especially the high fired teas such as dark roasted dan cong and wuyi rock teas, some heavy fired teas takes up to 2 years for the fire taste to subside.  while the fire disapates, the substance of the tea goes through a break down, enzymatic oxidation, blending with each other process, polyphenols turn in to Cha Huang Su theaflavin which benefit out health in many ways.  Due to the long time and or high fire process of these teas, moisture content is less in general, hence cool dark seal is all it takes to preserve them, even for a long period of time.  How long can this be kept depends on the aroma, if you prefer fragrance aroma, the preservation under the best condition should withhold 3 years, at most 5.  5 years late, the aroma will subside as the substance changes into Cha He Su- theabrownine.  
Dan cong tea, old tree teas in specific, due to the rich amount of substance, after a year of post development, the taste and texture is much fuller, dan cong teas are known for the floral fruity aroma, recommended to finish drinking within 3 years, however if sealed, it can be put away then forgotten 20, 30 or more years, it will become another amazing tea.  

To sum it all, all teas come from a plant, they all share similar properties,  fire does the exact same thing to teas, the result differentiates by the content of the tea, which in turn determines how long it takes to oxidize and break down.  Depending on the fermentation, lighter greener teas needs refrigeration, high moisture contents requires freezing.  
Puerh tea is a different animal, but similar, we will skip it this time.  

Sunday, November 13, 2016

Exploring tea horizontally or and vertically

Tea horizon is broad, visible, reachable.  Vertical tea is how deep one can reach. 
My perception of exploring tea horizontally can be number of types, regions, varietals, processing, basically as many different teas as one can.  Vertically can be substance within the leaves which is the essential to the quality, grades, climate influence, age, cultivation practise influence, one way to vertical vertical depth is try everything in a region or even one tea of many versions. 

Most of us explore horizontally at the beginning, which can be a lengthy process, some may never get to the vertical stage.  In the vertical stage, one can learn the criteria of tea in depth, with this understanding then explore tea horizontally in depth.

Thursday, November 03, 2016

Describing tea!

How to describe a tea has been a difficult troublesome subject for me!

Tasting note is supposed to be factual within reason, but for the most part, it is personal and objective.

China has slowing established a set of tasting notes as a standard for tea grading since the 50's, matured by the 70's, refined in the 80's.  This standard is still in use in academic research institutions and large factories.  Since privatization of state own tea factories across the country in late 90's, the practise of this grading standard is no longer practiced strictly.

When describing tea using this set of vocabularies, quality is measured by a scaled variation 1-10, it's mechanical and boring.  My brain is trained to measure tea in this set boring way, hence my tea review notes are unattractive, colorless.

I love to read wine or whiskey reviews because I love the life and movement the writers put into them, it's the experience that captivate the buyer, some times it's factual, some times not, but no matter what, the writings promoted the product, attracted buyers, like it or not, that's another story.

I wish I could combine both the Chinese rating elements and the fantasy selling scheme to promote my teas, they deserve the recognition, and the readers deserve the opportunity to get to know them.  Live is too precious, behold the luxury of out standing teas, it's important to have best friends and great lover, so is having great teas!   Trying out many teas is like dating many people when you are young, do you wish to keep dating for the rest of your life?  At one point, you might want to stick with the good one right?  Looks like the topic got side tracked, time to close it off.

Have a good night all! 

Friday, October 28, 2016

Up coming events in November 2016

10 Precious greens teas from China, hand selected micro batches (less than 5 lbs each) made by hands of the most discriminating tea makers.  Teas of this quality are rarely seen in the market.  We are fortunate to obtain small quantities for a taste!  We go beyond the miles to find the creme de la creme teas, good is just not good enough in our dictionary of tea!

11/19/16 Saturday afternoon Santa Monica Library Tea Talk - Free

We are honored to be invited by Ashley K, manager of Santa Monica Public Library Ocean Park branch to talk about tea on Saturday 11/19/16 afternoon.  We will post the agenda of the talk soon.  We like to introduce tea in general to the audience, the romance and philosophy of tea drinking.  The event is free the the public, come join us!

2016 Single Old Tree Phoenix Dan Cong oolong sample kits

Single Tree Dan Cong Sampler (6) - 2016 All 

Single Tree Dan Cong Sampler (5) - 2015 All 1501

 Free teas and free shipping with purchase of $100 or more

2015 was a great year for Phoenix oolong, the best year since 2010 (the frosty year that wiped out almost the entire crop on the higher elevation).  The last best harvest year was 2009!  That's also the year we had MANY trees in varieties, some are still very memorable by myself and many of our patrons.  Even today they still bring names of the tea only offered in that year!  I remember a lady cried in tears drinking the Li Jai Ping. 

2016 we have some great selections in offer, quality wise some are better than 2015 and a couple may take some time to refine itself, time is the magic cure even for some phoenix dan cong oolongs. 

Some of the notable ones are Song Zhong(sold out the first batch), Yin Hua, Gui Hua, Dao Hua, Tong Tian, Xiong Di, imo better than previous years. 

I personally love Dao Hua, both 15 and 16 crops, the 16 is more fresh floral, the 15 is more chicken stock.  Xiong Di is masculine!  I love the sandalwood undertone flavor, it's so rich and lingering!   Gui Hua is complex and multi faceted, a new characteristic can surface in each steeping, quite fascinating with rich ripen fruit honey jam.  Yin Hua is a new tree we have this year, fresh floral in a rainy spring day, just lovely! 

Monday, October 17, 2016

Tea and beyond

Tea and beyond, in specific tea drinking and beyond

Getting to know tea and tea drinking is a journey of spiritual endeavor for many although not all of us.  If just to drink a cup of tea and finding good tea a train stop for the time being, it is a good beginning, if you are willing, the track will take you much further. 

We often wonder what can tea do for us, physically and mentally.  We all started with drinking tea that makes us feel good, comforting, energizing, uplifting etc.  The tradition of afternoon tea, the practise of gong fu tea are some of the social interaction mechanism that brings people together for spiritual replenishment.  I would consider this to be physically conscious with subconscious mind while anticipating tea drinking. 

Learning about tea can be a large subject, the basics are types of teas, varietals of teas, location, climate, elevation, growing practise, seasons, age, process, storage, brewing methods.   Next stage is body sensation of tea, taste, smell, effect of tea.  Then the next set of questions is why teas have different effects to human body, what's in tea that have such effects, what's in the soil, the region of the soil that induce such effects, what are the regional characteristics shared by the soil, the food, the people, the everyday ware, art and such, then what does the history of this region tell you about the previous question.  As you can see, a cup of tea is extended to human physics, agriculture, physics, chemistry, history, geography, philosophy, and eventually law of nature.  Law of nature is the ultimate way of life and bigger then life, it is the planet earth, it is the whole universal law.  Once one understands nature, tea becomes easy and it becomes part of you as you are part of the nature.  When you try to study a subject as an external mater, it is foreign to you mind, when it became part of you, it helps you expand your mind to other territories.  It is a relationship between a tree branch and a tree root, if you only stand on a branch, you can see only the view from that branch, when you can root yourself, you can see every view of every branch.