Friday, September 29, 2006
An other cherry blossom teapot
I went back to "Old brand" a few days ago, bought a couple different Dong Ding ooglongs, and I couldn't resist getting this little zhuni teapot. The pot's appearance is lovely, however it is not as well made as some of the other ones I have. I hesitated the previous time I was there. Then I say why not for $15. The cherry blossoms are beautifully made. I seasoned it the other day as seen in here , soaked in ooglong for a day. It's used for wild raw pu-erh, to my surprise, it makes very fragrant raw pu-erh. It enhances the aroma the best among a few vessels I tried. There are some sparkling particles in the clay as well, I guess I will no long have to avoid that from now on. There is one little imperfection tho, when pouring, water leaks from the lid causes dripping during the first half pot being emptied.
While I was talking to the owner, I was dumbfound by a seasoning method he told me. When seasoning a lower quality teapot and you can't seem to get rid of the mud smell after all other methods failed, boil the pot with pork sparerib, leaving all the fat out, the bone is the catalyst in this method. I would not connect meat and clay pot in a million years, but I heard from an other source, it works like magic. It will take a very very bad pot for me to try this method. Nevertheless, it is a method practice by mostly Taiwanese. I would not write it out, but it will take me some time and guts to try.
Thursday, September 28, 2006
Mad as hell
My neighbor came and hung out last night. I passed out after taking a Benadryl for my allergy, he cleaned my mess in the kitchen VOLUNTEERLY. He washed my yixing teapots and cups with DETERGENT! Not only that, he chipped one of the 6 cups of my first tea set. It took me 6 years to raise those pots and it f***king smells like Palmolive!!!!!! AND, he dumped 2 of my ooglongs from the little jars into the trash, mistaken them for TRASH!!!! OUUUUUUUUUCH!!!!! My heart muscles are cringing leaving me short of breath. The thought of it makes my stomach turn.
There is a reason why I am still by myself. I LIKE doing things my way!!!! In my own SYSTEMATIC way!!!!!! OH gosh, I am just sooooo fucking mad right now! If you don't know tea, you would think I am a fucking bitch bitching about a good deed.
Wednesday, September 27, 2006
This is an interesting discovery unintended. I put all the new pots in a big stainless steel cooking pot and boil with tap water, medium high on an electric stove. After 20 minutes or so, I check on the pots and discover how much it differs from clay to clay.
It's quite visible that both of the zisha pots have more bubbles, particularly the 5 o'clock cherry blossom zisha pot , many large bubbles. The center zhisha pot has large number of smaller bubbles, meaning clay is more compact. 2 o'clock Zhuni pot also has quite a few bubbles in medium size, most likely due to the grainy mixture of clay. The rest of the zhuni pots have few bubbles cling to the side, that shows the clay is less porous, less breathing through. 3 zhuni pots from 7 to 10 o'clock are made of the same clay, same person, very thin wall, extremely light weight, good craftsmanship, but clay quality is not good. I seasoned 2 of them previously and the tea still tasted alkaline, detergent, tea soup feels too smooth, soapy, not pleasant. Maybe I am not seasoning it right. Any suggestions?
Tuesday, September 26, 2006
Things to avoid when drinking tea
While this reflected the writer's preference of an ideal setting for tea drinking, how practical is this for modern day people, or even common people back in the days. Some suggested copper wares enhance water taste and quality, in turn makes better tea? Some people prefer drinking tea when raining, I love drinking tea when snowing! The young crowd likes little munchies when drinking tea. Japanese light up incense before tea ceremonies, although I concur that is a bad practice. If I had a servant, would I let him brew my tea? Making tea is a big part of the fun which I prefer not done by others.
Well, one man's ideal is an other man's impracticality?!
Sunday, September 24, 2006
High mountain kuding yen cha
Kuding cha, also known as "bitter tea" is a unique Chinese tea. Kuding Tea is made from the leaves the holly category of ilex, t ilex or ligustrum.In Chinese, "ku" means bitter, describing the taste, and "ding" means nail indicating the shape of the dry leaves. The bitterness of the tea is an acquired taste to most. While the first impression is strong bitterness, sweet taste immediately follows leaving a bitter sweet after taste, resembling fresh bitter melon.
Quote: "Kuding tea has reputation of "health tea", "longevity tea" and "slim tea". It has been proven that kuding tea can diminish inflammation and ease pain, enhance salubrity and clean out toxins, reduce fat and blood pressure, and keep the body fit. Kuding tea is widely used to cure cold, rhinitis, itching eyes, red eyes, soar throat and headache. Kuding tea is very effective in weight loss. Kuding tea is mostly produced in the provinces of Yunnan, Hainan, and Fujian. " This sounds a little over the top, but there might be a good portion of truth to it.
I find this to be a wonderful tea while I was recovering from the ordeal, which was a period of time my taste buds were numb. It's also psychological that the bitter sweet taste also reflect human life, it can be bitter, however the sweetness is what you look forward to ultimately. This will be my comfort tea from now on.
3 to 5 "nails", gaiwan, boiling water - Glacier vending, Tony suggested hotter the better.
1st brew: 45 sec, light green tea soup, roasty, bitterness that stings your tongue, as soon as you swallow, sweetness follow and lingers for a while, not much aroma, leaves began to unfurl
2nd brew: 60 sec, a true green tea soup, intense bitterness with sweet under tone, mostly sweet after taste. The bitter taste shocks you like jumping in a frozen lake, shocking but kinda feels good too. Okay, I am exaggerating, maybe like iced cold water in your face.
3rd brew: 90 sec, green again, mellow bitterness, sweet after taste
Open leaves: large tender leaves, tender as green vegetable, 2 leaves on stems
This tea can take HOT water, 5 brews is not a problem. After drinking this tea, my body feels the need to rest, I can sleep better as well. I wonder if it contains caffeine, most likely not, if it does, my body would react differently. $39 per lb, it can last a long time.
I also tried making this tea with New Zealand Artesian water, it didn't bring out the bitter flavor like the vending machine water did. It's smoother and lighter in taste, both the bitter and sweet taste were lighter.
Water test - Once again the topic of water. I selected 10 types of water to test which water is suitable for tea brewing.
Same amount of water was used and heated with microwave, some reached boiling sooner than others, mineral content plays the key role in this effect. Same amount of tea leaves was added quickly, so they were all infused at the same temperature relatively speaking. Tea leaves used is Jasmine Bi Luo Chun Green Tea .
I did not taste the tea, they were left out in the air over night, I just don't feel like tasting them. This might be the most important step left out of the test. Oh well...
Deposits are visible along the water line as a ring of residues after chemical reactions. Rating: 1 = most deposits, 10 = least deposits
Crystal Geyser - natural alpine spring water
Source: California Sierra Nevada Mountain
Water taste: not sweet, heavy, hint of mineral taste, alkaline
Result: sign of reaction, slight deposit on side of cup
Aquafina - purified drinking water
Hydro-7 purification, reverse Osmosis
Water taste: crisp texture, lack of flavor
Result: no deposit, as pure as it can get
Fuji - natural artesian water from islands of Fiji
Silica 85 mg/litter
Calcium 17 mg/litter
Magnesium 13 mg/litter
Bicarbonates 140 mg/litter
Total Dissolved Solids 210 mg/litter
This claim sounds like a hype to me.
Water taste: too smooth, mineral taste, alkaline
Result: a lot of deposit, reached boiling first among all samples, darker color tea soup
Refresh - spring water, safeway brand
Source: Baxter natural springs, California
Water taste: smooth, mineral, heavy in iron taste, slightly alkaline, hint of bitterness, slight sourness after taste
Result: medium amount of deposit
Trader Joe's natural mountain spring water
Source: Olancha, California
Water taste: smooth, no significant taste
Result: very little deposit
Arrowhead - mountain spring water
Source: natural mountain sources in the US and Canada, unspecified location
Water taste: between smooth and crisp, alkaline, sour tone
Result: a lot of deposits, darker tea soup
Glaceau smart water - vapor distilled water + electrolytes (calcium chloride, magnesium chloride and potassium bicarbonate)
http://glaceau.com/ Pure as the first drop of rain? Rain = pure???? Boy, marketing = you can say what ever you want???
Water taste: crisp, clean tongue feeling, no significant taste
Result: very little deposit, clean tea soup
Trader Joe's Pure New Zealand artesian water
Source: an ancient aquifer nearly 300 feet beneath the surface of the earth, rich in minerals, added nothing and taken nothing away.
Water taste: smooth, hint of sweetness, clean taste, sweet after taste as well
Result: very little deposit, clean tea soup
Glacier vending machine reverse osmosis purified water
http://www.glacierwater.com/quality.htm 6 filtering steps
Water taste: clean refreshing, between smooth and crisp, hint of sweetness
Result: very little deposit
Lovely Southern California tap water
Water taste: crisp, chlorine, lime, chemical *YUCK*
Result: the most deposits, darkest tea soup, signs of lotsa reaction of chemical in water and tea
I find the best tasting water are Trader Joe's New Zealand artesian and Glacier vending machine water, also most suitable for tea brewing. New Zealand water is the winner in taste and being all natural, however expensive. Glacier is still my #1 choice for taste, availability and economical reason. Aquafina is the purest out of all, but lack of taste. I'd avoid Fiji, arrowhead and of course tap water for both drinking and making tea. The rest can be ignored.
Water tested are only a few that I can get out of one trip to 2 stores. Anything else that are left out, I'd encourage you to do the same test and share your results.
Saturday, September 23, 2006
Dong Ding oolong spring 2006
Dong Ding ooglong spring 2006
Medium to high fired, $60 per pound, negotiable price, single estate crop from Li Shan, unknown producer. Seller is Lao Zi Hau (Old Brand), small snack shop vendor in every Shun Fat grocery store. This turns out to be a good find at a relatively low price.
3 oz, gaiwan, lobster eye to boiling water
Dry leaves: large pellets, even color and size, long stems are visible, aroma is more like Tie Guan Yin, sweet ripen fruity fragrance
1st brew: 10 sec, I did not wash this tea, turns out it was a wise choice. Very fragrant, lovely floral, liquid is light greenish yellow, no obvious taste, just a lot of aroma
2nd brew: 10 sec, more yellow than previous brew, less fragrant but still a very good smell, sweet and roasty taste, smooth and refreshing, no sign of any astringency or bitterness, nothing unpleasant
3rd brew: 10 sec, similar to 2nd brew, sweeter and roastier
4th brew: 15 sec, still a lot of flavor, less fragrant
5th brew: 30 sec, shrimp eye water, blend, just very blend
6th brew: 30 sec, lobster eye water, sweetness and roasty flavor came out again, fragrance is also detectable
Open leaves: smaller than usual ooglong, might be a small leave varietal, some leaves show red brownish rim, and most of them don't, a sign of uneven fermentation and light fermentation, young and tender leaves, hand picked, stems are too long.
Over all, this is a good tea, especially for the price. It's about the same quality of the $100+ ooglong/tie guan yin from Ten Ren. It can take high boiling temperature, unlike usual ooglong. This kicks it up a notch. My impression is, good tree varietal, if leaves were more carefully picked, evenly fermented, it could have a better result. I made 10 brews out of it.
Thursday, September 21, 2006
Cricket fight container
Cricket fight container - hand painted, 6 little breathing holes, early 1900's. It's perfect for aging small pu-erh.
Ji Xiang Ru Yi zisha hu
A tea enthusiast I met at YHF recommended this vendor to me. It's a Taiwanese snack shop also carry loose tea leaves - Taiwan tea exclusively. I bought a Zisha teapot from him along with a Dong Ding Ooglong. He gave me a free sample of the Taiwan Lung Jing as well. He's a hard selling sales person, over informative as well. I was a little annoyed.
Medium minus quality tea pot. I have seen many teapot made with mixed clay with sparkling particles, usually it's a bad sign. The mineral cause tea to taste alkine resembling soap.
This pot also has the sparkling particles. I am not sure whether I'd use it, maybe I'll try a sample.
Wednesday, September 13, 2006
Mood and tea
Monday, September 11, 2006
Re-roasting old tea leaves
I put half of what's left, about 5 grams in a little bowl and set aside. Preheat an enamel glazed cast iron pot at medium on an electric stove for about 2 minutes. I use my bare hand to test the temperature, it's about 140 degrees or lower approximated. I then put in the Lung Jing, swirl the dry leave by holding up the pot, then set it back on the stove for 10 seconds, then swirl again, repeat for about 5 times. By the 3rd time, I can smell the fragrance already, it gets stronger, sweeter and woodier. I then pour the leaves out of the still warm iron pot immediately. The aroma was a bit like cooked pu-erh, still strong while it's warm. The cast iron pot can hold the temperature relatively steady and evenly, the reasons why I chose it.
I made 2 cups of tea using the un-roasted and the re-roasted leaves, side by side, using same cups, same amount of hot boiling water, same amount of leaves in each - about 30 leaves (approximated Phyll). The re-roasted leaves are slightly orange compare to the unroasted, smells woody and a hint of caramel, tea soup is smoother as well, no significant color change in liquid.
It might not be roasted long enough, for the aroma subsided quickly as the leaves cooled down. There is still a small difference in aroma when smelling side by side.
Fun experiment! I will try roasting with other teas that I don't like, perhaps I'll mix and match! Curiosity kills a cat? Oh well, curiosity is in my blood. Sorry, no pictures... It will be at least a week for my credit cards to be mailed here and then more mailing time for the camera.
What camera to buy?
Change of must haves: vari-angle LCD, 5 MP and up, rechargable battery, under $400.
Canon if possible, compact preferred.
I think I have made my decision, Nikon coolpix S10 as is. Things I like about it:
1. swivel lens, even better than canon swivel because the lens itself can be tilted not only the LCD as in Canon or other brands.
2. Lens, 10x Zoom-Nikkor, impressive for a pocket camera. Not an upgrade from S4 though.
3. Macro shooting enables shooting from as close as 4cm (1.6 in.), great for taking close up pictures of tea and orchids.
4. 5 movie modes with sound plus Time-Lapse movie mode; Electronic VR available Choice of White Balance
5. LCD monitor: 2.5-inch type, 230,000-dot TFT LCD monitor with brightness adjustment, more than doubled the dots of S4.
6. Movie: w/Electronic VR, With sound: TV movie (640) at 30fps, Small size (320) at 30fps, Smaller size (160) at 15fps, Pictmotion (320) at 15fps; Without sound: Time-lapse movie at 15fps. 30fps is much better than my s500.
7. Power requirements: EN-EL5 Lithium-ion rechargeable battery (included), MH-61 battery charger (included). Big step up from S4 which uses 2 AA.
All these things justified the $100 extra dollars. Oh, it's better looking than S4 too. I am settling for this one. Just have to wait for my credit cards to come in. Should have been here already!
S10 at Nikon site
S10 at Photographyblog
S10 at dpreview
Thanks a million Phyll!
Thursday, September 07, 2006
Cheating with coffee
I had an affair today. Yes, I cheated with coffee. A break from tea tasting is needed before I develop a better way to document my tasting notes.
I stop drinking coffee for a few years since I discovered a strange allergic reaction to my health. However I still drink coffee a few times a year. Strange enough I managed to learn to make an exceptional cuppa coffee that's 100 times better than Starbucks or Coffee Beans or Peet's. Peet's would be my choice when I meet with friends.
Ethiopian Harar Horse Lot 30- 03/06
Tom at Sweet Maria puts it this way: Harar is intense. A really good Harar is a coffee that is fruited (blueberry to apricot), has flowery enzymatic aromas, jasmine tea, maple woodiness, exotic hide or fresh leather, mulling spice and chocolate... in other words, good Harar is like the fragrance of an open-air Arabic market! Harars have pungent rustic chocolate roast flavors and a range of winy to fermented fruitiness.
The crop I have is an excellent Harar with blueberry flavor. Dry processed green beans, city roast - about 10 minutes on my i-roast 2 electric roaster for half a cup of beans, 4 minutes air cooling time. Roasted beans are uneven in color, which is the characteristic of dry processed beans. It gives multi-layers of flavor, add a touch of earthy tone to the cup. Using Cuisinart burr grinder, fine espresso grind, Bodum syphon vacuum coffee maker, Glacier filtered water. Whaola, a cup of fresh roasted fine coffee! A table spoon of condense milk made it silky smooth. Since the process is long and involved many steps, I roasted 1/2 cup of green beans which I won't be able to finish within 7 days, I made iced coffee with the rest of the beans. The exact richness I crave once in a long while. Tea is my love but I can use a cup of coffee every now and then.
Wednesday, September 06, 2006
The red clay burner can be found at Wing Hop Fung, comes with a glass bottle and a wick. It's compact, portable and heat efficient, the enclosed small space with a little air hole keeps the heat at bottom of the pot to the maximum. Flame size is adjustable by lifting up the wick or lower it. It can boil 750ml of water in less than 10 minutes with large flame.
The other set up is inspired by Japanese burners. Using a flower pot as the base, a bottle with small neck, a metal pin to stabilize the wick, a metal rack that elevates above the flame for setting the teapot on. I use the big globs of cotton that fill up medicine bottles as wicks, they are lengthy enough to dip into the bottom of the bottle and very absorbent, which means large flame. I use this set up when I use a larger pot for more people. All parts together cost under $10. Not heat efficient due to large open space.
Since I wasn't sure whether I should use the top part of this tetsubin burner previously, I had to improvise by simply placing a rack inside the base to hold a kettle. I am also on the out look for a large enough pot that can sit on top of the rim without the rack, glass preferred. It's $120 plus tax for this tetsubin at Marukai. It does not come with the lamp, I made my own with an apple juice bottle. Not heat efficient either.
Burning fuel I use is Denatured Alcohol, available in hardware stores with a paint section next to the thinner. Home depot has the gallon size for $15. I buy stove fuel from Boater's World here by the marina, $14 per gallon. Soot free and odor free, well, it leaves a brown/black spot where the flame burns, but nothing is flying in the air like rubbing alcohol. Rubbing alcohol will burn with 70% or more alcohol content, but the soot it releases can ruin your carpet and furniture. You can see the black stains on my clay burner, those were from my early days of using rubbing alcohol before I discovered denatured alcohol. 200ml can last for hours to half a day of burning depending on the flame size.
Russian Caravan from Coffee beans and tea leaves
After lunch on Monday, I walked across the street to Coffee beans and tea leaves with my friend to check out their loose tea leaves. The thought of buying tea from them have never across my mind. As we sniffed along the little jars, my friend pointed out this Russian Caravan black tea. I was curious enough to ask the server Justin at the counter whether they sell them in small quantity, he gave me a sample about 3 grams. Free tea! Hooray!!!
Russian Caravan has a distinctive smoky aroma, hundreds years ago large caravans carried tea from China traveled a very long way back north, usually upwards of months of traveling on foot. Along the journey, fire smokes from campfires used for cooking and warming left its marks on teas they traveled with. Hence the name and the heavy smoky flavor.
In mid Ching dynasty - 1700's, Russia consumed as much as 40% of its imported goods in tea alone, 80% from China's famous Jun Shang - a group of very successful business men from Shan Xi province - Jun for short. They dominated China's economy and made up most of the military funds by late Ching. But they went bankrupt due to an outdated non collateral banking system invented by themselves, economy slump during war, also exhausted by the never ending drain for military funds. Some of these business men's housing consisted of 1500+ individual units within a compound, resided over 3000 residents, including 800+ family members by the same last name and maids, workers, gardeners, horse keepers etc., there were stores of everything you can imagine within the compound as well, from tea to gold. There are more than 1000 of these large living compounds preserved as museums in the region today. After watching a documentary film on Jun Shang, I had much respect for the integrity of Chinese business men in the old days, unlike the modern days which I find extremely difficult to deal with and in most cases, not trust worthy. Well, this is a whole different topic.
1.5 gram in a gaiwan, boiling water, using Kung Fu Cha method
Dry leaves: dark brown, a few silvery leaves mixed in, sign of machine cut, very strong dry roasted prune aroma, caramelly, smoky
1st brew: pour immediately, red brown color, prune juice without sugar taste, fermented fruity aroma, sour tone, leaves a dry sensation in the back of my throat, unpleasant
2nd brew: 5 sec, deep red brown color, I think this is how dried prune steep in hot water might taste like, fermented fruity aroma, very sour, very dry, using Phyll's words, donut hole feeling in the back of the throat.
3rd and 4th: 5 sec each, similar taste
5th: fermented and smoky aroma and taste is lighter, a hint of sweetness, sour taste is almost gone, still a donut hole sensation
6th and 7th is much better in taste, I am surprised by the long lasting flavor.
After taste: sour, fruity, prunie, dry in the back of mouth and throat
This confirms my tea instinct is correct for not buying tea from such vendors.
Tuesday, September 05, 2006
Unknown high mountain oolong
Unknown ooglong, a friend gave it to me as a present after her trip to Taiwan.
3 grams in zhisa pot, crab to lobster eyes hot water, quick wash
Dry leaves: Dark green/brown, sign of a darker roasting ooglong, heavy bamboo smoky aroma, even size, look and smell are both pleasant
1st brew: leaves are half way open, color is amber as in picture, clear, aroma is sweet smoky English tea like, caramel and a bit milky in taste, texture of soup is somewhat smooth, kinda fresh yet mellow
2nd brew: darker amber, stronger smoky English caramel flavor, the greenness of ooglong is coming out, a slight hint of sourness
3rd brew: still a lot of caramel flavor, texture is more crisp than before
After taste: milky caramel smoky, no sweetness
Open leaves: large leaves with stems, 2 leaves and a stem mostly, no obvious signs of fermentation, hand picked
This looks and tastes like Jin xuan ooglong of Taiwan, it has the same degree of fire roasting, similar characteristic in smell and flavor. It looks better than its taste, it could be the aroma escaped through the box over time. Over all quality is not bad, not on top of my list though. I made 5 brews, it's very weak by then.
Tea at the beach
A tea crazed friend I met at the Vegas tea expo, having tea at the beach last night. We stayed from 6pm till 11:15pm, ordered pizza delivered to the beach. It was nice to watch the 3/4 moon oscillating and its silhouette changed its contour on the water. It went from a line to a spot light to elliptical then disappeared then an endless runway of shimmer to the end of earth.
We had Huang Jin Gui Ooglong at the beginning and Tea tree flowers when it was late.
Saturday, September 02, 2006
Dried cherry stuffed poussin
Friday, September 01, 2006
Preheating a vessel with water
A vendor at the Vegas Tea Expo was selling these commercial filtration units, they claim the process will first remove all the chemicals of tap water, then remove ALL the minerals, ultra violet light for killing germs and bacterias, then more filtering, then ADD a combination of essential minerals back into the water as a final process. The system cost $2500 each and a maintenance fee of $400 every 3 months for changing filters. Pretty steep eh! Home units start within a couple of hundreds, around $50 for changing filters every 3 months.
Well, my point being carrying large jugs of water is problematic for me. It's how I broke my finger a few weeks ago! A 3 gallon (I dare not to use a 5 gallon jug) jug full of water fell off the back of my hatch back, I was convinced my hand can withhold the weight of 25+ lbs flying off at a speed multiplied by gravity. What a girl would do for a cuppa good tea!
I am a bit of a Jew when it comes to preheating a vessel, the constant reminder of my still painful swollen finger. Filling up a vessel only half way is as generous as I could be, I know it's not sufficient, BUT.... I'll be generous when I install a unit in my future home.