Friday, October 30, 2009



Thought of a man 9 hundred years old... his love, poems, eternal romance....

Lu You is one of the greatest poets in Chinese history, born during the end of Northern Song dynasty, having lived through the down fall of one dynasty and the weak new formed Southern Song, his patriotism for the Song, his ups and downs in his political career, his heart beak were inspirations. Essenes of his love life, his view of current political climate, his despairing hopes for China's unity, expressed through poems. He wrote more than 10 thousand poems, more than 9 thousand of which are preserved today.

At age of 20, he married his cousin Tang Yuan, the 2 were greatly in love with shared poetic ideas. Females were seldom educated in those days. Lu You wrote a poem about them collecting yellow chrysanthemum flowers to make a pair of pillows, expressing his love for his wife and the happiness they shared (This poem was not recorded). Later Lu's mother demanded him divorcing Tang Yuan (later found that she wasn't able to have children). The 2 were heart broken and helpless. Both of them were remarried under pressure.

10 years later, Lu You accidentally ran into Tang Yuan and her current husband in the Shen's garden (Shao Qing, Zhe Jiang Province). Lu wrote a poem on the garden wall (littering :P ) expressing his anger, helplessness, and sadden lasting love for her. Tang Yuan later wrote an other poem pairing with her sorrows, and died soon after. The combined poem is the famous Chai Tou Feng - Phoenix on a Hair Pin.

Lu You spend the next 40 years fighting the Mongols and was dispatched in various provinces and cities during his political career. At age of 63, he saw some one making a chrysanthemum pillow, his broken heart struck him once again, and wrote a poem about his memories of young loving marriage with Tang Yuan. In this poem, can we only know about the existence of his previous chrysanthemum pillow poem written at age 20.

At age of 67, Lu You revisited the Shen's garden, Chai Tou Feng was a spear stabbing his bleeding heart again. An other poem was written in Tang Yuan's memory.

He moved close to Shen's garden at age of 75, every time he's in town, he'd look into the garden from a hill top afar in silence. He wrote one last poem for Tang Yuan a year before he died.

What does it take to receive such life long immense love from a man....

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Fall with a day dream

Fall is a dreamy season in its own style, a little sad, a little lost, a bit anxious. Golden leaves drift in between wind, red leaves dance in autumn sun. I thought of driving up north aiming Montreal on a New Jersey turn pike, diving into an oil painting of fall forest in high speed, days when I was young(er) with impulsive excitement. California has more ever green vegetation, palm trees lost its lush green in fall, leaving a sight of dull green and layered with heavy smog on top sliding off the dried edges. A shower would be heavenly, but a luxury in LA.

A friend invited me for a day of tea on a rainy day a couple of week ago. It was too early for rain in LA, but much welcomed. I didn't go to tea, rather enjoyed a day of rain and tea at my store, tranquility, quiet music, warm fire an arm away, a cup of flower warmed my fingers. My mind had crossed the ocean, rain drops smelled as soil of Phoenix Mountain, spring water swam through my bare toes tickling my senses, wild flowers immersed in water fall of rain shower in the forest, tender, vibrant and proud as a child.

I have longed to smell the soil of Phoenix mountain again, each time I sip a cup of Dan Cong, the more I needed to be near. Once I am there, my will may be captured and surrendered, I may no longer wish to return. Every time I walk at the edge of Pacific ocean, looking far into the other edge, there lays the culture of my blood, soil that once nurtured my bones and flesh, soil that nurtures tea trees that nurtures my soul today. My feet are standing on soil of LA, my spirit is already in Chao Zhou. Wish I could make an impulse decision as I was young(er), pack up and go as wish. Impulse or not, the excitement is still within, going to China next month is the plan. One might wonder why Winter instead of Spring. This trip is a personal trip, business on the side. The purpose is not to watch how teas are made. I am there to cultivate my root and connection. Also, my battery is running low, hence recharging is necessary. I need to soak up the rains on Phoenix mountain, I need to wander the ancient streets of Hang Zhou city, submerge in the romance and pain of ancient poets. Not one person in time could be exempted from pain, and every one in any time are included in seeking happiness. Pain is a magnifier of happiness, a guide to our eternal longing for happiness. Indulge it and be happy!

Friday, October 23, 2009


This is an off topic yet closely connected to tea, especially to Dan Cong teas for its renown fragrances.

Thi the writer of the LA Times article about my tea shop and Dan Cong teas is extremely well versed in many subjects. So naturally his friends are similar contributing even wider versed interests. I had the honer and privilege to become part of his group, expanding rapidly in my own horizon and every one else's in the group.

The US is an allergy swamp! I never heard of the term allergy during my childhood years in China. We had regular seasonal rains in the south, defined seasons, a lot less pollution than today. I was happy as a bug on a bamboo tree after a Spring shower. Soon after we moved to the states, 2 years was all that it took for my allergy to develop in full swing, the serious kind that crippled my social ability for many years. Living with such sensitivity, I avoid scent, wash my hands every 30 minutes, would not touch my own skin after 5 minutes of washing them or after touching anything else. A few perfumes I had purchased out of curiosity and impulse shopping, a few were gifts, most of them are still in the bottles aging like brandies with sealed packages. Mint condition antiques you can refer to one day. I hate strong scents worn by others, they put me out like chloroform I swear. Strong perfume and tea don't mix of course. So to sum it up, I did not like perfume, I did not wear perfume for over 20 years, and I refuse to date anyone showers with cologne.

SP introduced me to hundreds of her perfume collections, most of which are not over the counter perfumes. You can find them at :
Definitely not an average joe perfume collection. Those who lives in Brooklyn New York, lucky fools! CB has a gallery in Brooklyn.

It has been a few months since I first met SP and sniffed her perfumes. I did not attempt to put any on until a few weeks ago fear of my allergic natured being. Under some fine liquor influence, I tried a few on at various spots of my arms. Next day woke up with my nose next to my arm, good morning I said in a happy liquefied mood. I then sniffed both my arms in an outward reach order, it started with sweet water with an innocent love affair for 4 inches, musky smoked Russian Caravan without milk and sugar for the next 3 inches, wet stone of the north east forest extended toward my lower arm, fresh snow and fir was where I lost before a mushroomy aroma stopped me before my palm. The memories, imaginations, sensuality are all part of these scents, alarming in a gentle but profound way. ALL of these perfumes are so light and airy, one can not smell you from a distance. They can only be smelled about 1/2 inch away or less, so delicate you want to chase your nose down beneath the skin. This is the quality of some Dan Cong teas, fragrance is in the golden liquid sipping down your throat, scenting your entire breathing system, tracing all the way deep into your lungs.

These scents combined with my own scent and had modified itself from what they were in the bottle. Upon reading more about CB I hate Perfume's website, my mind was blown away, a part of life I blocked off due to my health condition. During many tea drinking sessions with Thi, SP and his (mine too now) friends, I kept mentioning if there was a natural perfume smells exactly like any of my Dan Cong teas, I'd wear them everyday! How sensual and divine that might be! I might be able to market that in Chao Zhou. :P

I'll get a ginger flower scent for Christmas! It's a present for myself... I'm currently in love with the water #5 accord - gift from SP, it works very nice with my skin and chemistry. Accord means single scent. Go get lost in these scents! Male, female, natural, floral, dirt, smoke, leather, dried leaves and mushrooms, scents of the 60's and 70's, the possibilities are endless, and they smell very nice despite the names. Let there illusive scents illuminate your senses!

Most human have expression complication, some are introverted, some are verbal, some through music, writing, etc. Scent is another catalyst to open one's mind, imagination, express in ways one finds comfort. Tea has been a great catalyst for many as a social medium, chit chatting amongst friends, even strangers through a cup of tea. Some teas are more expressive than others. I found my expressive tea, Dan Cong. Perfumes from CB are the new addition, opening channels I intentionally shut off. It makes me feel whole, or more whole than previous.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Large Leaf - Small Leaf Varietals

Many of us know of Large Leaf varietals, Small Leaf varietals, wild varietals and such. What are the difference?

Large Leaf:
Arbor tea trees grown in the Southwest part of China and other bordering southeast Asian Countries. These are considered wild varietals or wild to domesticated varietals. The term wild does not only mean grown wildly. Wild species contain stone cells in leaf structure. Wild to domestic varietals also contain stone cells but fewer. Such genetic cell formation is for survival in wild with a hearty structure. Pu-erh teas and Feng Huang Hong Yin are both arbor large leaf wild varietals, Feng Huang Shui Xian/Dan Cong are mutated wild to domesticated varietals. These species can be found and live happily in warm and moist climates.

Small Leaf:
Shrubs with smaller tree size and leaf size. As tea trees migrate from warmer to cooler climates, the genetic changes to adopt to local condition, soil, temperature, moisture, altitude, etc. Small leaf varietals are found in mid to east and mid to north areas of China. Long Jing, Bi Lo Chun, Yan Cha, Tie Guan Yin are all small leaf varietals, also domesticated varietals. These varietals no longer contain stone cells. They can endure cooler temperature than large leaf varietals.

Too see leaf difference:
Wild Hong Yin - Wild varietal
Feng Huang Dan Cong - Wild to Domesticated varietal
Bi Lo Chun - Domesticated varietal

I'm often asked: can one tea tree be made into every kinds of tea, green, black, and such. Leaf varietal is the determine factor of its suitability for type of tea to be made. Wild, wild to domesticated varietals are too strong for green tea. Domesticated varietals are too fragile for oolong tea process. These are factors aside of how young the shoots/buds to pick. Large leaf varietals are more flavorful than domesticate varietals, the hearty nature of the leaf can also endure longer and detailed process that intended for more complicated chemistry reaction.

Thursday, October 08, 2009

How to time a good brew without a timer

I have been pondering how to write this article for a while, with my limited choice of words, precisely explain something imprecise has its own challenge.

Many years of brewing tea without a thermometer and a timer is the path took me to where I am with tea today. Reading others brewing reviews with precise time and temperature written down, I always wonder if anyone actually follows with again modern gadgets of thermometer and timer. The bigger question is with all these tools involved, is outcome of tea really at its best? After all, the Chinese or other parts of the world have been drinking tea for centuries if not millenniums without a thermometer and a timer beside them. How did Gong Fu Cha refine its technique by nothing but skilled hands, observing minds and sensitive palates?

While training my new employee Peter, I realized learning to brew tea with borrowed data can not improve ones skill. Peter can now brew DCs really well after some side by side boot camp style training which he learned the initial technique, then later learned to observe color and consistency. This experience has improved my skill in teaching how to brew tea. My brewing has been some what subconscious, kinda like driving. My consciousness does not aware of the subtle difference in technique. Here I propose a simple way to start then transcend your skill level in leaps and bounds.

For oolong and pu-erh teas in general, as a starter brew, use 3 g of leaves, 100 to 120 ml cup or pot

1, preheat utensils (cup or pot)with boiling water
2, add dry leaves in to utensil IMMEDIATELY upon emptying and cover lid
3, shake utensil in circular motion (not up and down) occasionally for 1 minute
4, pour hot water (boiling or off boiled) on side of utensil at one spot (do not go all over the utensil), avoid hitting leaves directly, with force and from high up (6 inches above)for oolong teas, low for pu-erh teas.
5*, cover lid for 15 seconds for 1st brew, empty to pitcher

***For step 5, use 15 seconds as a standard for every NEW tea comes to hand as a reference point. You can change it as you get to know the teas in future sessions.

The most important part begins here, how ever the first brew comes out is your reference, observe color and consistency of liquid. After tasting this brew, you'll find out whether it's 1)just right, 2)too weak, 3)too strong for your own taste. Base on your own preference of strength, when making the 2nd brew, adjust the color and consistency in comparison to the first brew. Current brew will become the reference of the follow brew.

Out come 1, just right: brew subsequent brews with same or "similar" color and consistency as 1st brew.

Out come 2, too weak: make 2nd brew into darker color and thicker consistency. Timing is irrelevant since each tea is different, but the color and thickness of liquid are your most tell tail signs of what's being extracted and at what ratio, which is the influential factors in how strong your tea will become.

Out come 3, too strong: make 2nd brew into lighter and thinner consistency. Same as out come 2, timing is not relevant but the color and thickness of liquid are the indicators of how strong your tea is.

Each brew should be a reference of the following brew as for how long to brew and how strong you prefer your tea. Timer is soulless, it does not recognize your palate preference, it can not smell the aroma of tea, most importantly, a timer does not understand each tea individually. Only you the tea drinker can recognize those desirable attributes of a tea through tasting and more tastings. Practice makes perfection perfect!

The key to this is reproduce the same color and consistency of the brew that you like. It can be achieved for the first 4 to 6 brews depending on the quality of tea. Later brews will have lighter color, consistency can keep up or thinning depending on the quality of tea again.

This is the only way to perfect your skills in making a good cup of tea. A timer and thermometer are not going to get you there.

For other variables (temperature, utensil, leave quantity, type of tea, water, etc.), you can experiment with them in future sessions, after you get familiarize with the tea. No mater what parameters you change at one given session, the fundamental remains reproducing the same color and consistency of liquid that best suited for your own taste, without a timer and a thermometer.

You might wonder how does one know if the potential of the tea has been reached. This will come with experience, and become consistent. No one can tell you how you prefer a tea. No one can formulate a mechanical brewing process for a tea using tools.



Chinese poems can express so much more in a few simple lines than I can explain in a full page article.