Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Sex or Sexless tea

Does tea trees have sex? By sex, it refers to whether a tea tree blooms and produces seeds. Get your mind out of the gutter!

Some trees produce flowers and seeds and some don't, especially the older trees (century years old) that live in ideal environment. This phenomenon also exist in human race. The more educated people are less likely to have more kids if any at all. Theoretically, these are the people with the right genes and means to carry on human race. Ironic, isn't it!

Among ranges of phoenix mountain, high altitude century old trees survived for hundreds years without producing any seeds. Hence unique with its own flavors as single bushes, different from the tree next to it. For this very reason, it's a significant lost once a tree dies. The natural habitat of these century old trees are shielded from decease, the climate is ideal for their longevity. Cause of death of old trees are usually man made, chopped down by human. Ever since cloning method was used to plant small trees from branches, these unique old trees can be "preserved" with their legacy flavors.

One may ask, how come clones from the same tree can bloom and produce seeds? It's nothing more than the law of nature - specie survival. When the livelihood of the tree is threaten by nature, such as lack of nutrition/water/nourishment, harsh weather, the survival mechanism kicks in, it will start blooming, massively producing seeds, ensuring the birth of next generations in case the mother tree can not survive. Trees that blooms are usually abandoned hill side farms in lower altitudes facing west. Well, perhaps in a couple of hundred years, any trees still alive at that time will become the most sought after flavors.

Smokeless charcoal

I burn some olive pit charcoal to compliment my new Dan Congs arrived today. Flash light was used when taking the top picture. These charcoals are still black in whole, and a few with small area of white ashes. Not a trace of smoke is coming out of these charcoals, however smell of the charcoal are apparent and pleasant. The second picture shows the actual flame, still no smoke. It's been burning for less than 5 minutes in these pictures.

There are speculations of smoke from burning charcoals. Wood burning smoke are common food preps to enhance flavor of meat, dairy products in both the west and east. It's also used to add flavors to tea, ie Lapsang Souchong. In some instances, it can be accidental, ie Russian Caravan. Traditionally, all tea were heat dried by wood/charcoal fire before electricity was born, or sun/air dried. Wood fired teas could very well absorb flavor of the wood and smoke from wood. However charcoal on the other hand is much less smoky than wood. Traditional Anxi charcoal roasted TGY does not have a signature smoky flavor, neither does Taiwan Tan Pei Cha (charcoal roasted tea). Smoke comes from burning off moisture, oil, jelly and other chemicals between wood fiber.

Modern day bamboo charcoal making is not just putting a log of bamboo on fire and letting it turn black. Logs of bamboo are placed in large kiln like ovens, then heat up to 800°C, while carbonizing fibers, chemicals are extracted into bamboo vinegar. The finishing products are carbons with very little chemical residues. Hence very little to no smoke when burning. If charcoals were not stored properly, ie moisture got in the charcoal for a period of time, bacteria and other organic live forms develop over these charcoal. When burning such charcoal will release smoke and funky taste.

Olive pit charcoal are made with similar high heat "baking" method.

Like tea, fresh carbonized charcoal is the key to smokeless and odorless charcoal burning, hence does not smoke our teas.

Monday, November 26, 2007

More Dan Cong

My mail man came in to drop off a couple of letters as usual, then he said "I got a box for you, be right back." I replied, a box??? Where did it come from???? I am expecting a few boxes, which one I want the most???? Before I figure out which one I want more, the mail man came back. I saw Chinese on the box, quickly I saw where this box was originated. My heart started pounding!

My friend Mary looked at me: Is that tea?
Me: It is weed!
Mary: I stopped smoking at 19.
Me: I am hooked for life.
Mary: You look high.
Me: Wanna get high now?
We both laughed...

My new order of Dan Cong arrived after a slight delay. Inside this box are some of the oddest Dan Cong you can imagine and some unusual grade but famous DC, of course aged DCs from 90's and 80's that made my heart beats escalate at very rapid rate.

Zei Shi (Thief Stool) 2006 - hmmmm how appetizing!
Ao Fu Hou (Concave Prosperity Queen) 2007 - Huang Zhi Xiang (orange flower) BEAUTIFUL flavor!
Bor Tou (Ginger flower) 2006
86 vintage DC, smooth as red wine
94 vintage DC
96 Wu Dong Da Ping DC, smooth, "experienced" at "prime"

2 more boxes are on the way, including some 97 vintage DC...

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Cute boys

My boys reading under a willow tree! They are so cute, I had to get them. Books they are reading are "Dao De Jing" - The Classic of Moral.

Celadon jar

My latest find, a beautiful celadon jar. I don't know what to use it for yet. It's just lovely to have it around.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Kung Fu Tea the real style

Nowadays, Tea presentation/ceremony are popular due to revival of Chinese tea culture. Pretty girls dress in traditional clothing, sitting up and straight, shoulders leveled and balanced, making tea in fixed procedures, showing off tea with "orchid" hands - stick out pinkies. It's a performance to entertain.

Real life tea drinking, on the other hand, I feel it does not have to be so pretentious. Tea is secondary when a group of friends get together for tea, as the conversations carry on and in between, "wow, this tea is wonderful, I love the flavor". That's the kind of tea drinking is all about in real life.

Chao Zhou Kung Fu Tea dates more than 800 years back, the most comprehensive of all in every way. At the same time, it's so simple, inelaborate, cultural in the most common way. The more I learn about it, the more I want to spend a good part of my life there when time permits.

Tea culture at level as presented in above photo struck me to the core, I'd so shamelessly invite myself to sit down on the floor with these old men for a cup of tea if I happened to walk by one day!

Monday, November 12, 2007

Tea party in Camellia blooming season

You just never know who's going to show up to start a tea party that would go on beyond closing time. My friend Ming brought her friend along this afternoon, a friend she'd consider as Cha Xian (tea fairy), who's quite elaborate with her utensils, especially for what she brought over to have tea at a "tea shop".

Camilia flowers are blooming brilliantly and vibrantly in the misty air. Pink petals are so delicate, seems as the pink would drip off the petal any second, soft as lover's kisses....

Tuesday, November 06, 2007

Da Hong Pao

WuYi tea is rather confusing to many tea drinkers. 2 main types of Wuyi tea by physical location of the trees: Rock teas and Zhou (Water side) teas. Rock teas are trees grown on cliffs of Wuyi mountain, Zhou teas are grown next to streams - lower altitude.

Here I talk about Rock teas briefly. Rock teas can be roughly divided into the following categories: Ming Cong (famous bush), varietals (produce large crops in tea farms), and Cai Cha (over all grouping of original local tea trees). Both Ming Cong and varietals are selections of good quality trees from Cai Cha. Before cloning was widely used to reproduce young trees, growing from seeds could not stabilize genetic, therefore Ming Congs are single bushes harvested, processed and sold uniquely. Other more stable varietals such as Shui Xian and Rou Gui can be widely sow and grown to produce large quantities.

Notorious names of Rock teas come to mind are: Da Hong Pao, Shui Jin Gui, Bai Ji Guan and so on. More than 800 varieties by name as currently known and documented by WuYi tea research institution. The name of the 800+ varieties can be separated according to myth (DHP), location (Zheng Huang Long), leaf shape (Bai Ji Guan), harvest time (Bu Zhi Chun), fragrance (Yue Gui), leaf color (Xiao Hong Mei), varietal (Shui Xian).

Da Hong Pao, despite its name which is widely known to many tea drinkers, the name is used for different concepts.

1) Ming Cong name - name for the group of 6 bushes. There are 6 single bushes (mother trees) still alive on the cliff of Tian Xin Cliff. These 6 bushes were sow from seeds, surviving centuries with its own individual genetic and flavor, even harvest time is different for each bush. Each bush is harvest individual and gone through a preliminary process, then combined all 6 together for final refined process (roasting), final product is about 1 kg each year. This is a blending technically speaking. 20g of DHP of these leave can be sold for $25k at auctions. The entire process is done by Wuyi tea research institute, we common tea drinkers will not have a chance laying our eyes on these precious leaves. They go straight to Zhong Nan Hai where the big shots are. Part of it is used for political purpose, such as the anual 20g DHP auction. Mao gifted half of his DHP to Nixon during his first visit to China in 1972, Nixon told his men that Mao was petty with such small quantity of tea. Little did he know, that's half of the "country" in Mao's words.

2) Varietal name - clones of the 6 DHP bushes now striving and producing in large quantity. In this case, DHP can be as pure as it can be or blended as well. Clones of one bush can be processed and sold on its own taking on the name DHP, or it can be blended with 2, 3, 4, 5 or all 6 of the clones to produce the end product also taking on the name DHP. In this case, varietal name and commercial product names are the same and legit.

3) Commercial product name - name of the end product on the market containing other than DHP varietal. Due to its famous mothers, demand for DHP increases substantially, to meet the market demand, some merchants blend DHP with other rock tea leaves and sold as DHP, or even without any DHP leaves.

Clones of "mother" trees are not exactly children where genetics can be evolved as sowing from seeds. Therefore, not considered as "generations". Clones contain the exact genetics, same flavor, same shape and same aroma. Ages of these clones are not to be mistaken as generations as well. i.e. clones done in the 80's are not "mothers" of the clones done in the 90's. However the age difference does make a significant contribution to Cha Qi. When shopping for DHP, some one tells you it's the second generation, therefore price is high is misleading.

Saturday, November 03, 2007

PV brats embracing tea culture

This ought to turn some of us long time tea drinkers to shame! Through out the years of drinking non-commercially, I accumulate tea wares and a lot of teas, just like most of you do. However, not to the extend as some of these new drinkers.

Within a couple of months, began with drinking in a glass infuser cup, to drinking kung fu tea with some of the best teas on the planet, and now owning a whole set of tea wares (tray, gaiwan set, clay pot, named personal cup, caddies, coasters that match) all fit in a portable leather box. On top of all that, a new rug, new tea table, pillows to create a tea corner in private home. That's over the top!

It's very touching and significant for me. Since spreading Chinese tea culture is my ultimate goal, I feel as my intend is achievable. The result encourages me to pursuit my goal with light ahead. While it's fulfilling for myself, it also helps others to live healthy and stylish at young, and most of all, stay away from drug!