Friday, December 12, 2008

broken pieces of stoves

What a sight! Boxes of broken pieces of my latest shipment of Chao Zhou stoves.
I am going to find a way to patch them to a point where it's functional, cosmetic is not part of my concern at this point. Does any one know how to repair terra cotta? Glue might not be an option, since glue may not endure the heat from burning charcoal. Any type of clay or concrete? I was told raw egg white might work. Sweet rice (sticky rice) has long been used in building as a form of ancient concrete adhering bricks together. Some of the structure are still standing after over 800 years in parts of China. Perhaps I'll try mixing cooked sweet rice with raw egg white, blend them into a paste to glue the pieces together.

A cracked stove with a broken leg, middle portion is also loose although functional. It does not wabble even 80% of one leg is chipped off. I am very much disappointed after I clean it out.

Although this stove is standing and functional, expansion and contraction from heating then cooling off will eventually break it apart. I placed 2 wires around the top and bottom to secure it from falling apart in case the cracks got worse.
It's heart breaking to wait many many days, weeks and months, everything shattered as they arrive. I am determent to put them back on their feet again.

Terra Cotta is made of soft clay fired at low temperature. Life expectancy of such clay ware is temporally. They are extremely easy to break. What contributed to this disastrous shipment is mainly poor wrapping, long period of sailing is also a culprit, boxing everything into one heavy load spells trouble. One would drop a heavy package fast and hard, right?! Aish, Oy, Aiya!

Sunday, December 07, 2008

Cute Pot - 70's by Lao An Shun

Hand thrown Chao Zhou pot from the 70's, made of local Zhu Ni (not Yixing Zhu Ni) with Fen Cai decor. The dark purple color comes from high fire. It's very heavy with thick wall, unlike the usual light weight thin walled red color Chao Zhou pots. It's made by Lao An Shun, one of the 2 most famous hand thrown Chao Zhou pot makers. This style of tea pot is made similar to Yixing pots for export purpose. Exterior is glazed with finely ground Zhu Ni to give a smoother and darker color to look even more like an Yixing pot. Single hole spout, no visible flaws or damage.

Fen Cai(Soft Color or Pastel Color) was transcended from the Chinese 5 color Ying Cai (Hard color) with influence of French Enamel. Ying Cai was the main coloring agent for pottery painting in Ming dynasty originating from Song and Yuan dynasties, mainly done under glaze. French Enamel was introduced to China in early Ching during Kang Xi years. Fen Cai began in Yong Zheng (son of Kang Xi) years. Adding a white glass glaze mixture to Ying Cai gives a softer look and it's applied on top of glazed potteries. The colors are more vivid, brush strokes are cleaner as a result. The finished art work also appears 3 dimensional.

This pot brews VERY good pu-erh (green or cooked) and anything old (Dan Cong/Liu Bao). However less good for young Dan Cong because the thickness of wall conceal too much heat for too long. Probably not good idea to brew the greener/lighter types of oolong such as High Mountain or TGY. I should try a heavy fired Yan Cha with it. $360, free shipping and insurance in 48 states. tea at teahabitat dot com

HOT Pot - 70's Chao Zhou Pot

Currently, I'm obsessed with this style of tea pot! The flatter the shape the better I like it. I didn't like decorated pots since I started drinking tea seriously. Hua Huo - decorated vs . Guang Huo - plain, my preference is still Guang Huo. However this pot makes my other similar shaped Chao Zhou pot look kinda "bare", less "sparkling" in terms of "royalness", not in terms of physical shininess. I have grown to love its attractiveness more day by day, even though it has a couple of flaws. Hand thrown Chao Zhou pot made with local Zhu Ni, dark color is the result of high temperature fire. Looks like an Yixing pot, doesn't it? I feel like a teenage girl when I look at this pot, it makes me gitty! :P I am keeping this pot! :D

Same color inside and out.
A crack at the bottom of the handle, result of shrinkage from firing.
Crack lines on sides of the spout, visible on one side, a tiny line on the other side, also results of shrinkage from firing. Does not leak.

Clay stove set

I am dumbfounded! The shipment came in today, I was excited with reservation for a while until I opened the big box. Then I saw a LOT of dust everywhere out side of the small boxes, my heart sank a little more each time I pick up a box and hear noises of broken pieces. Out of 6 sets, only TWO, only TWO survived! Aaaaaaaaaah! This is absurd!

The shipment of Stove sets are still not here, I am getting frustrated at the uncertainty of its arrival. Few tea heads made reservations and I can't promise them the stock. It's not very good business practice. I apologize for the inconvenience.

Out of the 6 sets coming to the US, 5 are being reserved, and there might be breakage. Base on first come first serve, I will take one more reservation. Crossing my fingers, they will arrive well without breakage, then everyone's happy including myself. If not, we will have to start the waiting game again. :(

30+ years old hay

This is a gift from my tea master, a basket of 70's Liu Bao. I asked for a small sample and he gave me a generous basket in whole. He's the best!

It's been a while since I lost a memory chip of my camera. On top of that, my card reader was missing. It's nice to be able to take pictures at will again. :D

Cups from Guang Xu era, 1800's

Along with teas came over a week ago, there are a few surprises in the box. 4 Ching Guang Xu year cups. It's brown glazed outside, blue hand paintings inside. Yes, it does make tea taste better, smoother and sweeter. Not sure why, thought some say the initial firing (Huo Qi) is cured after such long period of time, thus capable of rounding off the edge of tea.

Tuesday, December 02, 2008

Happy Holidays!

Hello all,

Hope every one had a nice and warm Thanks Giving weekend! It's busy time of the year for everyone. Well, tea can help us all in times of stress. :)

I have not been able to keep up with the blog lately since 24 hours a day is simply not enough for modern day working people, maybe just for a tea shop owner. :P

Things I have done in the past month:

1) Designed new packages, meeting with manufacturers for production issues. Sample box arrived today and looking good. Also designed a bunch of fliers, post cards and business related documents.

2) YWCA Boutique sale for charity fund raising.

3) Of course Thanks Giving dinner with family.

4) Preparing holiday sales with gift packaging.

5) New teas arrived last week, a 13 teas tasting over the weekend was a nice break from work while at work. Still waiting for my stove sets after 2 months.

I am extremely delighted that a professor from my University came across the country to join the tea tasting with his family while visiting local family. I am very proud and touched, it reminded me of my college years and I felt the reconnection of youth and worry free life after years of
hussle and bussel in LA.

6) Supposed to work on translating the Book of Phoenix Dan Cong, so far I only finished the introduction. Not very productive on this matter.

7) Spent a night on a PhotoShop Book, then ended up spending MANY nights on playing with PhotoShop. This software intimidated me 3 years, and I finally can say it's ALMOST like Excel (in terms of comfort level, not skill level). :P


8) My next big task is to conquer E-commerce web design!!! While waiting for 12,000 boxes to arrive. I'll be buried again once they arrive.

9) Added a new line of product to the store "Bee's Family" Honey, Raw unprocessed honey from Hong Kong, including some of the unusual flavors: Lichi(lychee) flower honey, Longan(Long Yan) flower honey<--- my favorite, Winter honey - multiple wild flowers.

Well, that's enough to keep my head spinning even when I sleep.

Friday, October 03, 2008

Tea By the Sea - Speech at Asia America Symphony Association

It's was a privilege to be a guest speaker for the Asia America Symphony Association, here at a local PV residence generously provided by one of the members. The association promotes young musicians in Southern California, music directed by renowned pianist and composer David Benoit. The event was beautifully decorated with attendants of over 50 members and local public journalists.

Asian culture is often set behind the scene for many Asian Americans whom were born or grown up in the states or anywhere outside of Asia for that mater. The lack of exposure blind folded us from knowing more about our roots. As part of this event, I feel honored to share a small but significant part of it, Tea! My intend has long been to promote tea culture and life style impacted by tea.

Monday, September 22, 2008

Class schedule and topics

Please click on pictures to see details.

September 28th: How to brew tea

Friday, September 05, 2008

Sleepless in PV

There are times, the conflict of running a business and tea troubles me. As an end user, the purity of tea should not be tempered by commercialism. Passion for any thing is more superior than any physical representation especially when a price tag is attached. No doubt this passion is a drive for many business entrepreneurs to share such passion. As one commercializes a product which is also your passion, do you compromise passion?

I think yes, to a degree. Passion is time consuming, let's not forget. From my own experience of running a tea shop, many hours are spent on the daily operation of business, which takes the focus off enjoying tea itself. In turn, you do gain more knowledge of tea, the industry, marketing, and improve people skill. I said to myself, if I didn't have to run a tea business, being here at the shop is ideal. From an other point of view, my work is to fuel other's passion instead of my own. And I still get to indulge from time to time. I drink tons tea daily, just not able to enjoy it with a calm mindset every time.

Pu-erh, stockade by the bay and the people live in

Pu erh is a category of tea to tea drinkers whom are familiar with it or even obsess over it. What does it mean? Is it Chinese?

Pu erh is also the name of a town which functioned as a tea hub for pu erh tea trading since Ming dynasty. The center of the Tea Horse Ancient Road, collecting tea from other regions of Yunnan and distributing them outside of the Chinese border, and then some inside of China. Pu Erh region also produce tea despite its fame as a giant tea trading post. During Qing dynasty, Si Mao, Yiwu, Xi Shuang Ban Na and 6 famous mountains were part of Pu Erh county, employing over 20 thousand workers in the tea industry. The main reason for its location importance other than tea trading was salt mining in the town of Mo Hei in Pu Erh county. Salt and tea are 2 out of 7 essentials of Chinese everyday life. Wood, rice, oil, salt, soy sauce, vinegar, tea. The name Pu Erh has been used continuously for thousands years for the same general region with the boundaries changed numerous times in numerous ways.

Pu erh is a tribal language of the Ha Ni tribe. Pu meaning stockade, Erh meaning bay, Pu erh together meaning stockade by the bay. In ancient times, it's referred to the people of Pu Erh, including Bu Lang tribe, Yi tribe, De Ang tribe and others, most of which were our earliest tea cultivating ancestors.

Thursday, August 21, 2008

New arrival

Due to my crazy busy schedule, I haven't been able to post new stocks of Dan Cong teas until now. Out of a handful of selected trees, 3 of them stood out from the crowd, althought all of them are great teas to begin with. Here is where you'll find them. :)

Tea eating pigs

Some times I wonder why Japan has the wierdest inventions in the world?! This one is not so bad, and the least wierd?

A farmer thought tea is good for human, it must be good for pigs too, isn't it? He started a test in 1997, mixing tea in food for his pigs. When the pigs were matured for consumption, scientific examinations were done to these fleshes. The result reflected 3 times more vitamin C compare to pigs did not have tea. Amino Acid is also 3 times more, pig "smell" is significantly less, therefore taste better.

In 1999, Japan produced 40,000 of these "Tea Beauty Dolphin" pigs, catering to major cities like Tokyo in Japan.

Postal Ban

While we (at least I do) enjoy watching the Olymic games, the massive amount of tourists has created hassels which can be frustrating to importers small to large. My thought, Beijing is thousands miles away from Chao Zhou, business should be as usual without any interuption. Oh NOOO!

A shipment of tea and tea wares were scheduled to arrive a couple of weeks ago, which contained Chao Zhou stove sets with Olive Pitt Charcoal. I then was informed the order was returned to China, due to fire hazard materials are now unacceptable due to the Olympic games.

My first thought was FIREWORKS! Americans are infatuated with fireworks, what do you think a kid would do in a candy land?! :P There must be tons fireworks smuggled via postal service.

Sunday, July 20, 2008

Tea picker shortage in China

In the past few months of Spring production period, there was a shortage for tea pickers. Many crops were delayed and reduced in quality for that matter, some were abandoned during picking season. The consequences are less high quality teas made it to the market and prices went up as well.

Reasons for the labor shortage can be sum up by a few:
1) Labor cost went up, many farms can not afford to hire sufficient number of tea pickers
2) There are more jobs available due to the Olympic game
3) Bad weather prevented farms from securing labor schedules

Monday, July 14, 2008

Book of Phoenix Tea

My greatest teacher/mentor/tea-master who has enlighten me everything about Phoenix Dan Cong plus much much more other tea related knowledge will have his book of Phoenix Tea published in Chinese some time in October. Being his oversea disciple, I will be involved in translating the book to English. The translated version will be available online at no cost by the end of the year (wishful thinking), printed version will be available afterwards (not sure how much later).

He is the greatest in my eyes, may not be to others which isn't important to me. Encouraging, patient, knowledgeable, great writer in Chinese, humble (looks like a farmer in the boonie), a man with an old soul! National certified tea judge. Professor at a local University teaching tea agriculture. Owner of 450 acres of tea farm, speaker and member of national tea association, appeared in multiple media documentary films promoting Phoenix Oolong tea, born in a tea family and married his wife whose also born in a tea family 20+ years ago. The cutest dowry one can offer: 30 years old Hong Yin tea from the wife's family! I'd marry her if she offered me 30 years old Hong Yin. :D I believe these teas are still in possession today.

He has profound impact on my life other than tea, many philosophies derive from tea and vice versa. We human are part of nature, it is natural to find inspiration from a simple tea leaf. Tea culture is a large significant part of Chinese culture, ones aura can be mirrored through tea in life. This is how profound and deep tea (culture) can be! I am grateful my mentor has introduced me to this realm of tea sphere. Without him, my emphasize could not transcend from how to brew a cup of tea to a better person happens to know how to brew a cup of tea.

This is one of the reasons I have disappeared from the net for a while. It's wild and crazy with everything going on.

Yahoo is acting up, I don't seem to receive comment notification any more. I apologize for the lack of respond. Please forgive me!

I'll get back to my crazy work load. I'll still report tea related news when I get a chance. Until next time, you all have wonderful teas!

Monday, June 23, 2008


As the weather gets warmer, our world gets crazier! China took a beating by a prolonged winter storm, then a deadly earthquake, now flooding in the south, most of the tea growing regions are affected during this spring. As we all know or suspect, price of tea will go up, Dan Cong prices are already up 25 to 35% before the flood, I'm afraid to make that phone call after the flood.

I think we vendors are most interested in is buyer's preference, especially with the spiralling down turn of US economy, are consumers willing to

1, spend the same amount of money as previous year for lesser quantity of same quality?
2, spend the same amount of money as previous year for same quantity of less quality?
3, spend more money for same quantity and same quality of tea?
4, spend more money for better quality regardless of quantity?
5, spend less money for less quantity of same quality?
6, spend less money for same quantity of less quality tea?

Wish I knew the answers to be more business savvy. I'd appreciate it greatly if you would share your thoughts on this. :)

1992 Golden needle white lotus pu-erh (ripen)

Found a batch of 1992 Golden Needle White Lotus pu-erh which has fairly strong Qi, I was up and running for 1.5 hours, using 4 g of leaves. I am having another tasting using barely 2 g of leaves (Will have pictures of this session up soon).

Dry leaves are small and uniform, obvious white frost, strong mulch/bark smell.

Liquid is clear and glowing, beautiful amber color, can turn very dark with more leaves and longer steeping, up wards of 10s infusions.

2 oz pack for $20
8 oz pack for $70
16 oz pack for $120

Shipping is $5 within 48 states for under 2 lbs, $3 for each additional pound. Europe $9 for under one lb, $4 for each additional pound.

Please email "tea at teahabitat dot com" to place an order or for more information. Thanks.

Saturday, June 21, 2008

Jars Jars Jars

If you want Jars, we got jars for you!

Green celodon jar (J002), medium size, fits 300 g of fist oolong (high mountain), 1/3 of a broken up pu cake. $12

Yellow Chrysanthemum jar (J003) (actual color is much more vibrant), hand painted, medium size, fits 300 g of fist oolong (high mountain), 1/3 of a broken up pu cake. $12 (Available in white color-J004)

Celadon cup and jar set (S005), small travel size jar, fits 100 g of fist oolong. $18

Yellow chrysanthemum cup and jar set (S006) (actual color is much more vibrant), hand painted, small travel size jar, fits 100 g of fist oolong. $18 (Available in white color-S007)

Shipping rate varies by weight, combined shipping is more cost effective, please email me for shipping charges with items you are interested in. "tea at teahabitat dot com" Thanks!

Monday, June 09, 2008

1997 Wild Hong Yin

***Sold Out***
I haven't written a tea review for a long time, longer than I can remember. The Hong Yin deserves a review of its own. I took out a few things for tasting with RS yesterday, some which we didn't get to try. After I rearranged the furnitures, the tea table is calling out to me for tea drinking at that table side with detail utensils as soon as I arrive to work everyday. I gave in and have tea myself, thinking maybe for just an hour. Tea jars from the day before are still out, so I picked the 1997 Hong Yin from the bunch.

The first time I had it, it wasn't impressive after drinking many signature aromatic and honey water like Dan Congs in one seating. The second time I tried it, it was nice and I didn't pay too much attention to it again. Both tastings were a few months ago from today.

Today's tasting turned out wonderful and impressive. Using Chao Zhou Stove to boil water in a Chao Zhou red clay pot, it sure made a big difference. As I also noticed from last tasting session, the color is a beautiful salmon rosie pink with a touch of peach color. It's the most beautiful and unusual color I have ever seen from tea. Pictured is 4th infusion, it still looks like this at 15th infusion. After a quick steaming in a steamy hot gaiwan, the leaves smell like pu-erh, and looks like seaweed. Tea soup is thick and sweet, somewhat reminded me of plum wine, both the taste and color. This sweet after taste is long lasting, I am still drinking it and still feeling it at 15th infusion for 3 hours. Strong qi from the first 5 infusions, I'm now feeling so relaxed, it's time for a nap. :)

Wild Hong Yin is one of the Phoenix Tea varietals, believed to be the original varietal which the rest are mutated from during the past 900 years or more. Due to the coarse texture/flavor and lack of aroma, the locals do not domestically cultivate them, however there are plenty of trees grow in the wild which are collected by the locals for medicinal use. Only aged Hong Yin is drinkable, similar to green pu-erh. Yong harvest can be too astringent for many stomaches. Aged Hong Yin are used to treat cold, sore throat, sinus problem, cough, fever, upset stomach, infections, bug bites, and allergies. It's a miracle cure for minor health issues.

The long lasting sweetness of this 11 years old tea is winning me over. Something that took a few times to uncover it's greatness will hold its place on my list of preferred teas.
RS came over for some tea drinking yesterday, we had a quite a few teas and many pots of water. For only the 2 of us, we went through 7 teas if I didn't miss any:
Honey orchid gold medalist #5 Dan Cong
Qi Lan Wuyi rock,
Long Jing Green
Rou Gui Wuyi Rock
Lao cong Shui xian wuyi Rock
Dong Fang Hong Dan Cong
Da Yu Qi Dan Cong

Spent leaves fill the big bowl all the way to top, not bad for 2 people eh?!

I want to thank RS for helping me with my website, creator of the current page, created from scratch! :)

Tuesday, June 03, 2008

Lots on my plate

It's been a while since the last post, I do want to apologize for the absence.

The world tea expo just wrapped up on the past Sunday, one of the biggest tea emphasized event, or shall I say the one and only commercial tea emphasized event in the US. My friend and I walked up and down the isles for 2 days meeting vendors and learning new products. Met a few familiar faces and a lot of new ones. It's a small world indeed, a couple of exhibitors turned out to be seniors of my tea master 20 years ago.

An other project's occupying my time is working on the new website, which I take very little part in. Majority of the work is done by my friend a computer guru FW. If I had to do all the work on my own, it would take another 2 years and the quality would only measure to half of what it will be. Designing a website is no easy task, the details required to make a functional and user friendly site with clarity is enormous. At times I feel lost in a giant sea of information. The new e-commerce site is still under construction at this time, will announce the completion date as soon as possible.

The shop is constantly transforming as well. Rearranging displays, packaging design, gift ideas, promotional ideas, working with local school community are taking a lot of my time. As a new business, I like to regenerate the cosmetics of the business continuously base on a solid foundation.

Well, of course there are tons of bills to pay which takes away a big chunk of my time as well. :P

Work hard and play hard, my play time is drinking good tea with good company. Cheers to you all!

Wednesday, May 07, 2008

When to drink your teas light and strong?

My observation is females drink their teas light while males drink them strong.

Other than the fact that men want to be perceived as macho men, less of a wimp, it has a lot to do with life style.

Strong tea can clear excessive body heat, detox, nourish lung, clears mucus, induce urination, help digestion of fatty food. These are not the only health benefits of tea, but the part that many males need to counteract the effect on their bodies due to living habits. Males tend to drink more alcohol, smoke more, eat more meat than females. Strong tea can sober up a drunk fast, caffeine also signals kidneys to eliminate urine and toxin.

However, the old saying is moderation and moderation in everything you do. Light tea is more beneficial than strong tea in terms of health prevention, and prolong life. Light amount/strength can do only good to your body with little to none of the bad. Over drinking tea, especially strong tea can cause yellow skin complexion. No it's not because I am Asian! :P

Monday, May 05, 2008

Iced Phoenix oolong tea

Iced tea season is here. As temperature arises, Americans are drinking more iced teas. Bottled tea sale is surging as the temperature. Some discriminated drinkers prefer fresh made iced tea. For those whom are used to drinking high quality tea hot mostly, iced tea on the market or even fresh made from tea bags in a big iced tea maker just won't cut it.

I made iced Phoenix oolong tea from commercial grade Dan Cong leaves, the result turned out quite nice.

To make a 1.5 liter pitcher-ful of iced tea,
10 to 15 g of leaves, I used Huang Zhi Xiang first grade;
soak in room temperature water, put in fridge after an hour for over night steeping;
add ice, then ready to drink;
You can add cold water if too strong.

The aroma is long lingering in mouth, a little bitter at first, then turn into sweet after taste quickly. The fragrance is amazingly long lasting in mouth. Every breathe you take is aromatic from the first gulp and on.

Phoenix tea is difficult to brew hot, especially commercial grade. However cold brew seems to be bullet proof. You can brew it strong, with a little extra cold water, it'll taste wonderful again.

If you were a sun tea drinker, this may not be your cup of iced tea. For those whom with a palate for hot tea (not the cream and sugar type), this is a refreshing tea in a hot day next to a barbecue.

Sunday, May 04, 2008

Get to know Phoenix Dan Cong (6) - Kung Fu tea and Chao Zhou

Eastern Guang Dong province, China contains a terrain of mountains connecting one and other, among them are rivers and valleys. Phoenix Mountain has long been the home of tea plants before 0 AD. A tribal group named Lei Zu lived among Phoenix Mountain for centuries, their primary economy resource was cultivation, tea was a major part of their lives. During Sui dynasty (589 - 618 AD), a massive earthquake cause major wild fire which burnt down most of the plantations including tea trees in the area, only a couple of mountain tops escaped such tragedy, one of them is the now famous Wu Dong Mountain. Part of the Lei population migrated east into Fujian province due to lack of food source since the wild fire. Some local tea varietals followed the migration into Fujian province.

During Tang dynasty, 780 AD, Cha Jing (Tea Classic) already documented tea from Chao Zhou Phoenix mountain. Teas from this region became tribune tea to royal families since for many dynasties to come. Deng Siao Ping favored Phoenix teas during his reign.

Today, the term Song (dynasty) is often seen associated with Phoenix tea, why does it seem like Song dynasty was the beginning of Phoenix tea, when in fact tea history went much further back in time? We can say Song dynasty was the corner stone for future development and spread of Phoenix tea. The beginning of Southern Song dynasty, the entire central government migrated to the south, expanded to Hang Zhou, Wen Zhou and Fu Zhou (now Fujian). With such large populated migration, came with the central China culture, art, science and skills fueling the economy expansion in the south. Southern Song was one of the most prosperous time in Chinese history. Export business began uprising at this important time, which brought in more silver and gold that required to develop extravagant hobbies. Good tea and scholars don't stay far from each other. Tea during this time reached its high point in history. The style, tea ware, daily contest and craziness were at its max. Migration didn't stop there, many Hans moved from Fu Zhou (Fujian) into Guang Dong Chou Zhou, brought oolong tea culture into the area, including the preliminary Kung Fu tea. Kung fu refers to 2 concepts, the processing of oolong tea which takes kung fu (skills) and time, and brewing oolong tea also requires kung fu and time. Given the natural resource of Chao Zhou, kung fu tea culture was refined here for the next few centuries. Chao Zhou local dialect and Min Nan (Southern Fujian) dialect belong to the same Chinese language branch, not the Cantonese language branch even though Chao Zhou is part of Guang Dong, which proves the historical fact of such migration.

Toward late Ming dynasty, China was opened to western countries for the first time, missionaries and trading posts could be found along the southern coast, Fujian and Guang Dong sea ports. Chao Zhou was economically advance at the time, foreign money fueled the extravagant tea habit even further, it's a fashionable status. Everything entailed in Kung fu tea were then fully developed. The artistic value of kung fu tea presentation were the chase of the town. Olive Pitt charcoal was only used by the rich, famous and government officials at the time and today. Others couldn't afford it, use wood charcoal. The kung fu tea culture was widely adopted by the higher up clans and the normal civilians.

Ching dynasty, Dan Cong was developed with special skills. The quality of tea making reached new high, which became the foundation of today's DC. Single bush processing became the signature of Phoenix tea and highly sought after. With a few hundred years of plant and skill development, the maturity of such bushes were destined to be made uniquely.

Song left major foot prints all over Chao Zhou which can be seen today, bridges, temples, stone pavements, schools, particularly central China culture reflecting Song period. Chao Zhou dialect contains some of the ancient Chinese words from the central plain which modern mandarin no longer uses in such context. Cantonese women call their husbands Lao Gong (old male) regardless of age, Chao Zhou women called their husbands 安 An (safe/peaceful), what makes a husband is having a woman under his roof, which is what the Chinese character depicted.

Chao Zhou since then became birth place to many poets, (Zuang Yuen) scholars, generals, successful business men - locally and internationally. Chao Zhou business men are also called the Chinese Jews. Chao Zhou successful business men can be found in Hong Kong, Thailand, Singapore, Malaysia, Vietnam, Indonesia for centuries, and US/Europe in recent history. Some of the Forbe's 500 richest men of the world are Chao Zhou men.

Kung Fu tea used to be more famous in South East Asian than in Beijing because of this world wide business expansion. Since the 90's, Kung fu tea is spreading fast and furious north ward in China, tapping into the traditional green tea regions. This momentum is slowly spreading outside of Asia in the last few years as well. Kung Fu tea has never been this recognizable in its history for the last 9 hundred years. It is a proud moment!

Ideal tea habitat

What is the ideal habitat for tea trees? Camellia Sinensis are sub-tropical plants prefer hot and humid conditions. Tea trees start to spring out those lusious flavorful buds around 10c, slow growing under this temperature. Between 10c to 15c, leaves begin to open, around 15c to 20c, growth is fast and reaches the maximum growth when temperature is between 20c to 35c. Tea trees actually stop growing when temperature is beyond 35c. During winter, tea trees hibernate when temperature drops below 10c. As plants mutate to adopt local climates (takes up to hundreds years), different varietals has different tolerance of cold temperature. Some trees can survive in temperatures as low as -12c.

Tea plants love humidity and lots of rain. An average annual rainfall of 1.5 meters or 60 inches is ideal for replenishing water content after each picking.

Up to 95% of the organic materials in a tea leaf require the conversion by light. Infra red light can be easily absorbed by tea leaves, especially at elevation of 500 meters to 800 meters, clouds are dense, indirect infra red lights are best for tea plants. Leaves are tender, meaty, and highly aromatic. Direct sunlight with high temperature speeds up growth, leaves matures fast, polyphenol level increases, hence summer teas are more bitter then other seasons.

Thursday, May 01, 2008

Pimp daddy

Some times I feel like a pimp, some times I don't...

Heidi came back from a seminar and gave me this little chain as a gift along with a couple of teas. I thought it'd give my OLD fashion tea pot a modern touch. :P Thank you Heidi!

I can't get over the image that a 70 years old skinny Chinese man holding a cup of tea with a big ole chain on his neck looking like Snoop Dogg, smiling with a roll of heavily tea stained teeth and 1 sparkling gold tooth. Now that's a bill board ad for Lipton iced tea at time square, New York !

The pot is a temporary gift from WY until I find something like this during my next trip to China. I am currently raising it with high fire WuYi rock tea.

2008 World Tea Expo at Mandalay Bay, Las Vegas

Every year, the World Tea Expo host a spectacular event at the east or west coast alternatively. This year is the west coast event at Las Vegas. We west coasters are happy to have such venue close to home. I will be visiting the Expo on Saturday and Sunday, 5/31-6/1. A few friends of mine are also going to attend the event, however the highlight will be getting together with tea nerds from all over the country or even all over the world to share some extraordinary teas. If you are anticipating to attend the event, we'd love to meet you there. You may email me at tea at teahabitat dot com for contact details.

Monday, April 14, 2008


China is the birth place of tea, it's also one of the largest producers of tea, however China does not have a strong solid brand.

Brand is an image, a recognition of quality, a culture, also a champion of competition. What's said here is what a commercial entity projects its product image and build up a solid position in the market. The most successful cases are in the western world, IE Coca Cola, Nike, Starbucks, and Lipton of course. The sad thing is Lipton is recognized, but not so much of its quality to some discriminating tea drinkers. You know who you are. :P I supposed it's even more sad that most people do perceive Lipton as an image of quality. One day I'll get killed by a Lipton assassin.

Lipton is a British company, however given the history of colonization, we can pretend Britain did produce tea on its soil. If we compare China and Britain, Lipton is far better in branding itself with few competitors. China on the other hand have many private labels, but not one dominating brand which I can think of. Tian Fu perhaps?! Tian Fu is arguable. I can visualize many fingers pointing at me already.

There are 70+ thousand tea factories in China as of today. Each one is competing for market share locally. When it comes to global market, there is not a contender can measure up to Lipton. 75% of green tea are from China, why are they labeled as Lipton green tea or Tazo green tea instead of say EGCG green tea -"East Green Camellia Garden"? Just a fake thought. :P

Will we run out of tea?

In 2006, world tea production is 3.6 million tons, however consumption in 2006 is 3.64 million tons world wide, assuming the extra 40k tons of teas were reserves from previous years. If the trend continues, will we run out of teas to buy? Nooooo!

In 2007, world wide tea production increased by 3%, however consumption increased only 1%. Supply and demand will correct itself.

Black tea brick 2

A while ago, I got a small piece of black tea brick from a customer. It twigged my interest, and I bought a whole brick which looks similar enough for a taste comparison. The flavor turned out night and day in difference, which confirms the little brick from Dakota is indeed much older and now fine tuned by precious time.

This brick is nothing more than a simple black tea, sort of a fresh version of lipton black tea. I am sure this brick will be tucked away for a while, perhaps it will too turn out to be a silky smooth nectar of nature in 20 years.

Monday, April 07, 2008


Many customers of mine give me suggestions on how to improve my business. I appreciate their inputs and endless new information from every corner of the world. I learn quite a bit and stumble upon valuable information every now and then.

Today, a very dear lady customer of mine stopped by told me about a "brewing" product she tried. A bottled tea tastes like wine. It cost $10 a bottle and it's still in testing stage. She suggested I carry something like that when it's in the market.

The idea urks me. It sounds like one of those Monster drinks that the marketers tell you how good it is for your health and what can it do for your "brain", except it will turn you into a dummy slowly.

It's sickening that some people try to ride the wave of "tea" and make bank. I refuse to get suck into the RTD market. Do we not learn anything from the fast food/beverage diet that American health are suffering now?! Call me stubborn, I'll not carry RTD tea no matter how much money I might make.

Nan Tian 8582 20th aniversary cake

A friend of mine acquired a Jian (10 tongs), of this cake a while back. This cake is made of pure Ban Zhang wild arbor leaves, using 8582 formula to compose this cake commemorating the 20th anniversary of the 8582 recipe, produced by Zhou Yong. Total of 100 Jian was made.

8582 recipe was created by Zhou Zong, brother of Zhou Yong. Zhou Zong was the founder of Nan Tian Company, one of the biggest tea traders in Hong Kong. Zhou's father was a political activist since the 40s and a jewelry trader, he also contributed to the invention of Wo Dui method to produce cooked pu-erh. 8582 was specially made for the Hongkong market and solely distributed by Nan Tian Co..

Nei Fei is a big leaf hot branded with Nan Tian (South Sky). I have seen fake ones stamped with red ink. Beware!

Taste is lovely Ban Zhang floral, sweet teas lasted many infusions, open leaves are strong and big. Compare to Ban Zhangs I have in stock, it's definitely a notch up.

Sunday, April 06, 2008


I apologize that I have not been posting much lately. It's one of those mind clogging week where there are so much else away from tea occupies my mind and time.

Lilacs for you and me.. :)

Monday, March 31, 2008

Presents from UK

Thank you for the generous gifts Norpel! I'm enjoying the Ban Zhang immensely right at this moment, will try the others later. Hope you are drinking tons of great tea in China!

Sunday, March 23, 2008

Saturday tea class

Yesterday was a riot at the class! One of the attendee's exact words were "It's so fun, I can't stand it!" A bundle of joy! Even my neighbor came to find out what's all the noise about. "Were you guys having a party and taking shots?" Yes, in deed, tea shots!

A group of Kaiser hospital/medical group professionals, Long Beach memorial hospital professionals, yoga teacher and a few tea fanatics came for the class of "How to brew tea". The scheduled class was intended for 1.5 hours, it turned out to be 4.5 hours of fun. Because of the extended hours, a few participants had to leave "early" for other engagements. The rest of us were drinking tons of tea, each person took time to brew the exact same tea, by 5:30 pm, they were all floating on tea.

It was a very engaging group of learners, many questions were asked. Although mostly novice tea drinkers, the display of quest for knowledge of tea was quite touching, definitely encouraging for my own quest of knowledge and spreading it. They are the water floats my boat.

Gaiwan's got a nick name now every one: Guywand! I told you this group are riots!

Special thanks to Will and Louise, members of LATA and my dear friends for coming to lend a helping hand which made this event smooth sailing.

How much do you understand the teas you like?

Tea is territorial. Tea drinkers are territorial to be exact. Each region is proud of their local flavor as they should be. However the tea war starts when one region claims better than others. It's not just the producers and vendors are at war, most of the fighters are consumers. What's the point of comparing an apple and an orange. Does any one truly know every tea or even had tasted every tea? Tasting a tea does not mean it's understood by the drinker, even if you liked it. One maybe married, but do they truly understand the spouse?! When you get used to a taste whether you grow up with it or adopt it later in your life, it becomes a habit that one may resist to accept others. As well as one gets used to a relationship, good or bad, you are reluctant to walk away, hopefully good and don't walk away. Some American hamburger eaters find French cuisine repulsive, others might travel to Paris just to indulge a $500 bloody meal literally and a $3000 bottle of wine. Is there a value to the price tag? hmm both meals can fill you up right? There has to be a value to it. Can I afford it? Not once a week. Am I willing to try it once in a long while? Absolutely, maybe with tea instead of wine.

Green teas are not my favorite because I don't understand it as much as I understand oolong. Green tea is an alien while oolong is part of me, I know how it feels in my body, I know when it will make me happy, I know when it can be temperamental, if it throws a tantrum, I can fix it easily. Of course I am fortunate enough to have ranges of oolong teas to play with, and the quantity which allows me to mess up and learn. I do love the challenge of a temperamental tea. What's all the fuss about tea? Well, the fuss improves skill, only if that's what you strive for. Other wise, no fuss, no muss.

I like to think I understand my Phoenix Dan Cong oolong, it's a diamond that sparkles in my eyes. Is it better than other teas? The question should be do you prefer DC over other teas? Well, only to those whom built up a palate for it. IE my sister in law, she's been drinking old bush DCs consistently for more than half a year now, everyday for the last 3 months. I asked her what'd she like to refill her stash with this morning, she replied DC. She asked how come your DC makes other teas bland? It didn't used to be like that before. Oh well, I gladly take the blame for programming her palate. :D She even quit her 15 yrs old coffee drinking habit.


When it comes to taste a cup of tea, what's obvious is the aroma, second is the flavor, the most invisible to our palate is the texture.

A good tea is anything has nice aroma and pleasant flavor or even the later 2. Superior teas is all 3 to the max.

The Kung Fu way is not the way to judge a tea in the tea industry, not even gaiwan kung fu. Using professional tasting method to judge a tea has its merits. When you steep a tea in boiling water for 5 minutes, everything unveils, the flaws and the strengths at a substantial strength for evaluation. Flavor and aroma aside, the texture is concentrated enough to reveal how much of a leaf is now in the water. Good quality spring tea from old trees will have a thicker consistency. This thick or lack of thickness consistency dictates the intensity of tea flavor. Each tea has its flavor/aroma profile naturally as it grows, then comes the work of process which transforms the nutrients/chemicals in a fresh leaf. Nutrient content is the base of good tea, skilled workmanship is the next important element of good tea, when climate permits, you have an outstanding tea.

Let say you have a meatloaf with 50% bread crumb, and an other one with 30% bread crumb. A good chef can spice them both up nicely with equal amount of flavorings, baked at the same temperature at the same time. It's easy to tell the second meatloaf have more flavor. Even though taste is a mater of personal preference, some might actually prefer the first loaf. But as a measure of flavors and quality, most people would agree the 2nd loaf exceed the 1st. Now, a chef can also alter the process of preparing and baking the 2 loafs, right amount of spice on the first, over cook the second. The out come would be drastically different. The first loaf would be tastier than the 2nd regardless of the substantial beef content. Skill masking the lack of content.

A lot of this is also applied in making tea. Roasted teas gives more flavor, but is it necessary made of rich leaves? The transformation of sugar and oxidation of chemical does mellow out a tea and increase flavor/sweetness. However the thickness of tea can not be altered through processing. Roundness, smoothness, flavor and aroma can be altered, but not thickness. Thickness dictates how durable a tea can be as well.

To detect the texture takes much more refined taste training. In order to taste many different teas, mental profiling the aroma and taste for comparison is already a daunting task, when it comes to profiling the texture of tea, it takes not only drinking and experiencing different types of tea, one must learn the hairline difference of sensitivity in your tongue. Sweetness in the back of the throat just won't do it. Tingling sensation is not a good way to measure texture. Full body, but how full. A Chao Zhou adjective to describe the thickness of tea is bony. This tea's got bones.

Why kung fu method will not fully reveal the true nature of the leaf quality, one may ask? When you compare tea with variations of parameters, is like comparing apples, apple sauce and apple juice. That's why I'm reluctant to write tasting notes nowadays. Commercial grading is base on exact same parameters for extended steeping time. Not an easy job to be a professional tea taster I tell you. You'll have to taste over steeped teas all the time. On the other hand, it might be fun to be a pretty girl demonstrating Kung Fu tea I imagine. :P

How do you develop a sensitive tongue if you don't want to drink lotsa over steeped teas and waste your precious leaves? HA there is a way. Drink only one types of tea for an extended period of time, build up a set standard for each type before moving on to another type. Say for the next 2 weeks, drink only Dan Congs, then Wuyi for 2 weeks, then pu-erh 2 weeks and so on. During each 2 weeks session, narrow down to the age of tree/tea or roast type consecutively instead of hopping from a young to an old, light to heavy. I found the best way to program your palate is start with young trees for a couple of days, then old trees, come back to a young for comparison. You may not notice the subtle difference going from young to old, but much more obvious when you go from old to young. When you can taste the difference between a 100 years old tree and a 200 years old tree regardless of the aroma or flavor, then mission is accomplished. After a while, your palate will tell you what type of tea you prefer when you crave for something or reject something.

Thursday, March 20, 2008

More tea classes on How to brew tea

I taught quite a few tea classes since I open the store, topics ranging from Introduction of Chinese Tea, How to brew tea Gong Fu style, The world of oolong (Wu Long) tea, and Jason taught The world of Pu-erh tea.

The following class on this Saturday is "How to brew Tea" which generated a lot of interest. Due to large demand on learn how to brew a cup of tea, 2 more sessions are added to accommodate the demand. Same time, same location, same topic on different dates.

April 12th - Open

My initial focus is on teaching the art of Chinese tea when I open the shop, which ultimately I want my students to embrace and fully benefit from it both mentally and physically. However through my 9 months of observation, most people are not used to drinking loose leaf teas in any way, big cups, big pots, microwaved water with tea bags, timing, temperature, etc., you name it. It's important to help beginners to find the way to make a DECENT cup of tea, when GOOD takes up too much time. It's a process of discovery in the big world of tea. Also when using a mug which is a familiar item, beginners are more prone to adopt. You can definitely improve the taste of tea even in a mug when it's done right. Hence I created a series of classes from beginning level to advance level.

"How to brew tea" is aimed to improve the flavor by using what most people already have (mugs and pots), and introduce the Gong Fu Cha (Kung Fu tea) method. Compare the out comes side by side to show how tea can be enhanced by different methods of brewing.

How organic is organic?

One of the best things of owning a tea shop is you get to meet all kinds people, each but not every one is an inspiration in some way. Today I met one whom brought up the organic subject which you may not see it through his scope, nevertheless it's alarming and true to the core.

The old saying you can run but you can't hide is very much true when it comes to organic agriculture. The concept of organic is that no intended fertilizer and pesticide are used on the soil which a plant is growing in. Sounds simple enough right? But what about air pollution, rain that's polluted, the soil near by which is polluted, and the polluted water source which forms rain as the water vaporize, in turn we human and animals inhale, plants absorb.

How many people know that prescription drugs or even over the counter drugs are toxins? Toxins that relieve symptoms, prolong lives, and cause MANY more problems. One of the problems most of us don't think of is when toxins were eliminated from a person, where did they go? It went though the sewage, got treated with more chemicals which are also toxins, then went into the ocean and soil. Then as the water evaporates, we suck it in through our lungs, plants suck it in through roots, then we eat them. This cycle goes on and on. Yes, even if you don't have heart disease, you are realistically inhaling small trace of drugs for heart disease consistently, also combined with a million other drugs.

There are times I thought I could live in a remote mountain with good tea like Phoenix mountain, eat local grown veggies, local free range chickens and drink old bush Dan Congs, life would be PERFECT! I might live till 120 even though I don't want to live that long. But can one really hide from all the prescription drug highly concentrated pee evaporated water fed food and tea?!

Please do share your thoughts on this.

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Visitors from far

Coming from Boston for tea is a bit of a travel I'd say, even when tea is not the priority of the trip. Dave spilled his love for tea to his college friend Mark (on left), which is how Mark learned about my shop and stopped for some tea during this business trip in LA. I was shocked and joyous at the same time. It's rather personal that a tea blog can link and reach out to other tea drinkers outside of LA. There is a certain close friendly comfort level when meeting blogers and readers as opposed to anyone walks in to the store.