Friday, August 28, 2009

New teas arrived and arriving

Tian Yi Xiang - Heavenly Leisure Fragrance
83 Wild Hong Yin
88 Wild Hong Yin
93 Wild Hong Yin
78 Wild Hong Yin (restock)
78 vintage Dan Cong (Very good, tastes and acts like 40 yrs old pu-erh)
09 Da Wu Ye - Commercial special grade (very good for the money) - Big Dark Leaf
09 Yu Lan Xiang - Commercial special grade - Magnolia Fragrance
09 Ba Xian - Commercial special grade - Eight Immortals
09 Mi Lan Xiang - Commercial special grade - Honey Orchid
08 Honey Orchid Gold Medalist #1 (restock) -- 09 stock is not as good
07 Ba Xian (restock)
08 Song Zhong #5
20 Wu's CZ red clay tea pots
Sha Diao (water kettle) made of 20 years old clay - ugly as hell, but cool as hell too...
Chen's goose feather fan (5) - Awesome! I almost set off a fire in 1 minute. Gotta get one if you have a CZ stove, guarantee to make your life easier.

My happiness was at a level you can't imagine today when I use the fan to start a fire and tried out the 20 yrs old clay kettle together, brewed tea in a Wu's pot. My new tea boy described the tea made in a Wu's pot as velvet laminated with silk, same tea made in a gaiwan as toilet paper of the Soviet. Tea we used for this experiment was 09 Da Wu Ye special grade. Some how I always end up with drama queens working with me! :P

Gui Hua Xiang
98 Hai Mei Zhan
Books of traditional Chinese architecture
20 Wu's Chao Zhou Sandy Red Clay Pots

Meanings of photo

Before the article came out, I was uncertain of what would be published. I then saw the online version prior to the hard copy. It was a nice mugshot, but doesn't mean much other than people have a face to link to a store. But I was immersed in joy when I saw this photo on a hard copy. It's such a beautiful photo without any flashiness. Jay the photographer had no idea what these items mean which mean a whole world to me. I want to thank Jay again for taking such a beautiful picture and picked this one out of a LOT of pictures.
Due to the fame of my tea master, he dose not accept dispels easily although he'd teach everyone with interest. I learn everything I know about Dan Cong from him, so he's my Shi Fu, not teacher. But he did not officially recognize me as his dispel for more than a year. Until a little over a year ago, he sent me 4 of the Guang Xu (late 1700's) cups as presents along with 2 CZ tea pots from the 70's which are in this photo. The tradition is a Shi Fu would give his dispel personal gifts as a guesture of taking the person under his wings. This beautiful photo showed up at the front page of LA Times Food section, there is no better way to show my gratitude for his generosity to share his knowledge. It's better than any words I can say to thank him.
Everything came out perfectly! Well, the PV people did not like the run of the mill south bay mall description. HAHAHA...



I have not gone to a movie at a theater for gosh 5 years? Today I have a compelling urge to watch Julie and Julia. My friend was reading the book and told me about the movie coming out in Aug about a month ago. Some how that stuck to my mind for no apparent reason.

It's been a few intense weeks for me, first was preparing for the LA Times article to come out, planning and packing the heck out of everything in the store. I was then worried about how it will come out, of course it was so wonderful beyond my imagination of this life time. Next thing has been keeping up with the flood of tea drinkers, that also came with the worry that I might some how neglect a few and end up pissing people off, worry about disappointing people and such.

So I decided to watch a movie to take my mind off it tonight before another big weekend arrives. Oh god, it was like watching my own life 3 years ago to today.

The movie was about Julie of NY was inspired to cook 524 recipes from Julia Child's French cook book and blogged about it, her blog was so popular, NY Times wrote a story about her, then she wrote a book about it and Hollywood made a film from the book.

I started learning Dan Cong from my tea master and inspired to learn every thing about it and at the mean time carry the product as specialty items of my tea store. 3 years later, Dan Cong made its name on the LA Times. And I am working on translating the book of Dan Cong.

Strangely, I was the only one in the theater at 10:30 pm and thoroughly enjoyed this lengthy movie. I wouldn't call this my type of movie, but it's strikingly aligned with what's happening to me minus the movie part. Is this a sign?! Oh, I don't mean the movie part. God no! Julia Child's cook book was and still is a great success, it has changed ways American eat and cook. I shall contribute my share in the tea world, change the way Americans sip their tea.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Chao Zhou Clay Pots by the Wu's

Ah, the pots are here! Click on picture to see the small grains of sandy texture on surface. I used this pot very briefly today. Will post the effects it has on tea later. They are thicker and heavier, less refined, but gives off a sturdy feel. I did shock this pot with hot water without rinsing. It is much more tolerant of temperature fluctuation. These pots need not to break in before use. There is no clay smell at all even with the first infusion. Pretty amazing!

Yuan Xing Hao is established in 1847 in Feng Xi (Chao Zhou area), Guang Dong Province, known to be the best local pot maker. This batch of pots (20) are made of sandy Zhu Ni (local Chao Zhou red clay) by Wu Pei Liang.

Wu's family has its own secret recipe for clay. What's known to outsiders is the basic process. Raw clay materials are ground into dust, sifted and soak in water for 2 years, then drained and made into blocks of damp clay put away for 10 years before use. Small grains of sand are added for texture and also to increase porosity. There are 2 standard types of sandy grains used by the Wu's family.
1, raw clay materials ground into small grains then added directly into ready for use cured for 12 years clay. After firing, both clays shrink at similar rate, approximately 12%.
2, defected/broken pots are ground into small grains then added into ready for use cured for 12 years clay. After firing, clay shrinks at 12%, sands at 0%, therefore creates more pores.
Chao Zhou pots range from 2% to 5% porosity depending on the clay mix, each maker/family tradition have different recipes not shared with others. I do not have the answers to them, but all clays are pure, just different composition of texture and curing process.

Pots I currently have in stocks are mixed with the later type of grains therefore with higher porosity of up to 5%. Zhang's family pots are approximately 2% due to the fine clays are used.
These pots are fired at 1160 C to 1180 C.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

I apologize for any delayed response in emails and other media. We are doing our best to keep up with the volume. Please forgive us for any delay, we are not ignoring anybody! :)

I am ignoring my plants tho, they are screaming for tea now probably.. :P

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Article in LA Times

The article is out finally! Oh my! It's more than I ever expected. I have quite a few people to thank for giving my store a whole new life. Thi the writer, RS, Jay the photographer, the editors of LA Times, and everyone that have been supporting Tea Habitat! This is absolutely fabulous and I am speechless with joy! I woke up at 7:40 am this morning and WY already sent out emails with the online version link.

It's nerve wracking to read through the story and my eyes swelled up at the end of the article. When I said I'd bury my ashes under a tea tree couple of weeks ago, it was a joke but an endearing one at the time. Reading it on a national paper like this has such a profound impact and unexpectedly. I am speechless....

Myself and people of the Phoenix oolong tea industry are over joyed by the article and grateful for tea drinkers from all over the world enjoying such great teas with enthusiasm. The people who nurture those tea trees deserve more credit than myself. I am just a messenger promised myself, my tea master and the tea farmers of Chao Zhou, do the best I can to promote this fabutastic genre of oolong teas that come from my birth land.

Friday, August 14, 2009

LA Times

The editor of LA Times called and informed me the article should be out on Wednesday the 19th, in the food section! Yay!!!!

Friday, August 07, 2009

Liu Fang Yuan - Garden of Flowing Fragrance

I visited the Chinese Garden in Huntington Library yesterday with my older niece. We haven't been there since 2007 after I opened the store. It was under construction at the time. Watching it happen in LA is absolutely sentimental for me, a subject close to heart and close to home.
I took almost 350 photos yesterday before we got escorted out at 4:30. Its beauty is astonishing, every step you take, every degree you turn is a new picture in sight. Looking up, looking down, everywhere you look is a picture. I don't think I have ever taken so many picture at one place.
Look at the details of the floor! Amazing.My niece watching the fishies at a bridge called Fish Joy Bridge, the only bridge she's tall enough to sit on.
Each circle is a picture frame in every direction, creating a picture within a picture effect. Brilliant ideas by our ancestors centuries ago. Sometimes I wonder if we have digressed as human race by making everything happen fast via short cuts.

Left column: Beautiful mountains must be seen as pictures.
Right column: Flowing water can be heard as music.
Ai Lian Xie - Lotus love Pavilion, only if I could make tea here! I'd do almost anything for that. :P

Entrance to Liu Fang Yuan.
When I visited China the first time in the 90's, I was amazed how beautiful traditional architectures are, but had no idea what the details meant. After reading a few books in recent years, I began to understand and appreciate the culture and meaning behind it. One of the books was written 1960's by a scholar at age of 90+ studied Chinese gardens all his life, the title is You Yuan - Wander the gardens. It's a guide of centuries Chinese work of gardens, entailing why the see through windows and where they should be placed, why not the straight bridges and corridors, what material and color to use for season's changes, southern and northern styles, structure location, function of structures, theme, naming, mountain back ground, stones, plants for all seasons, water flow of ponds, air flow in the compound, sun direction at each hours that affects the view, etc.
This garden is a typical Southern China style, water feature is a must for this region, due to the abundance of water ways and canals, fair weather allows 4 season ever green and blooming plants, fishes can also survive outdoor. Although this pond/lake is man made, it's a job well done. Liu Fang Yuan is finely made as a modern creation, and it continues to build out. It makes me want to move to China sooner than later. I think I'll call my tea master to find me a few more books on Chinese architecture tonight.

I have been staring at these pictures all day today. Stunning! Stunningly Beautiful!

Photo shoot

Today is photo shoot day with LA Times, we also took the opportunity to take a traditional family photo of our own, since Sarah is leaving soon for college in Chicago.
Something like this might show up on LA Times. Not sure when tho.

Monday, August 03, 2009

Chao Zhou clay pots, why, what & how

What is Chao Zhou Clay Pot?
Chao Zhou red clay pots are made of clay from Feng Xi located on the Feng Huang (Phoenix) Mountain. They are hand thrown on wheels with fine grains of red clay imitating YiXing style. Walls are made very thin. The locals also call it Zhuni although not the same clay as Yixing Zhuni. 2 most famous makers are the Wu's and Zhang's families, generations of pot makers followed traditional techniques, also innovated new styles and techniques. After more than 100 years of making Chao Zhou clay pots, the outstanding current generation makers are now hired by YiXing factories as consultants. What a turn around!

Why use a Chao Zhou clay pot?
For Dan Cong teas, Chao Zhou is preferred over Yixing, because it's made to enhance Dan Cong for number of reasons:
1, clay has the same composition of minerals as the tea trees are grown
2, the wall is thin so it doesn't simmer the leaves
3, shape is also made to accommodate the leaf shape of dan cong
4, spout is medium to big that is easy to control pouring speed since dan cong is extremely sensitive to timing and temperature.
5, size of pots are small, makes 3 to 4 little cups of tea, just enough to drink it fast while it's hot.
6, it's also a timer, after pouring hot water over the exterior, when dried, the tea is also ready for the first 2-3 brews.

How to break in a Chao Zhou clay pot.
Rinse under room temp running water, scrub off the dust inside of the pot. Then soak in room temperature water for 20 minutes. You can now add off boil water to rinse. Then add teas you don't like and hot water into the pot, soak for a few hours. Change tea and make another pot to soak over night. The pot is now ready to be used. In case there is still clay smell, soak another pot of tea over night or until you are satisfied. Do NOT boil them like the YiXings!

For normal usage, soak the pot in room temperature water for 20 minutes before adding hot water. Else it can crack. (It's not always the case for every pot, but I don't think you want to take the chance.) They are very thin, so more prone to easy breaking. I cracked half a dozen pots myself, it took me that many times to figure out what to do. For speedy raising the pot, take out tea leaves and empty all the tea after brewing, leave the lid off and let it dry without rinsing. With some old bush Dan Cong daily brewing, you'll have a very nice pot in a couple of weeks.

Recommend use of Chao Zhou clay pots
1 for old bush DCs (any aroma)
1 for light roasted commercial DCs (any aroma),
1 for heavy roasted commercial DCs,
1 for aged DCs

For current year Dan Cong, gaiwan is better for maximizing the aroma, while Chao Zhou clay pot can smooth and deepen the flavor and texture of tea.

You should also try brewing young green Sheng Pu-erh with a Chao Zhou clay pot, you might find surprising outcome.

Eventful Weekend July 09

Ah! The aliens are coming!!! :P On my way to Palm Spring. Wind mills are everywhere along the free way.
This is an alien looking bird escaped from the jurassic park movie.. Lots of these creatures running around the resort compound. Cute butts!
Duckies and turtles in the pond, fishies too...
Aaawh... this is what I come to the hot desert for in a 112 degrees hot summer day, hot spring spa among trees and flowers.....
There was a giant tall tree in front of my kinder garden school back in the days that is the same specie as this fiery orange flower. During summer time, the flowers crowned the tree top covering a large area can be seen a couple blocks away. I remember it's called Huo Feng Huang-Fire Phoenix in Chinese. These are gorgeous looking flowers. Some how Phoenix keeps popping in my life (or has always been in my life?). I also own a company named 7 Phoenix Tea before I decided to dive into Phoenix Dan Cong. My dearest friend and I sitting on tree trunk table and stumps, perfect place for tea, but I didn't take my gears with me. Perhaps next time.
Nice little treat, was upgraded to a private one bedroom with a front yard and a court yard by the bedroom. Many thanks to the Two Bunch Palms staffs.
My birthday cake.. :D
My birthday egg! When I was little, my mother made me an boiled egg on my birthday every year. My girl friend does the same thing for me now. My life would be drastically different in LA without her.
This year's birthday keeps going and going. Today HL showed up with a giant cake and flowers! She's such a sweetie with the most genuine generous heart. Tea has brought me good luck and good people. I can't express my gratitude enough to all those whom care for me!