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.

Yet another tasting

A few friends and I had tea a week or 2 ago. Aged teas were the theme. Thanks to Paul of Sacret Tea for his generous gift of many pu-erh samples. Paul is a generous soul whom is passionate about tea and love to share his passion with the likes.


Do you ever wonder why bubbles form when you make tea?

Tea is alkaline based, think of it as mild soap. Back in the day, tea was used to clean greasy pots before dish detergent was introduced in China. Bar soap, liquid soap ladder up bubbles in water because they are alkaline based. The bubbles are not an issue when making tea. Bubbles form not just in the first brew, they appear in every brew, but less in later brews as less alkalinity as it gets. We usually scrape the bubbles off, especially the first brew not because of the bubbles, it's the dust and other undesirable small particles cling on to the bubbles that we want to scrape off.

Give your intestines a bubble bath(s) every day! Grease free, toxin free, easy breeze beauteaful!

I am digging this catch phrase.. :D

Monday, March 17, 2008

Oolong wiki

Contributors wanted! Writers, vendors, researchers, tea drinkers with knowledge and the like, please help create a new Wiki page for Oolong! I have very limited time to organize the contents, let alone my writing skill is as good as a 3rd grader. Please contribute if you can.

Check this out:
It's shameful how crappy this is!!! About 20% of the info is actually useful there. I tried correcting a couple things, and then realize it's a much bigger project than I have time for.

A couple of days ago I was looking for the origin of the term oolong (Fujianese, Taiwaness, or just some random spelling such as Cantonese words were translated phonetically in the US which mandarin speakers have no clue of, not to mention none Chinese speakers). Mandarin spelling is Wu1 Long2. I have used oolong since day one I encounter Taiwanese oolong in the US. Things like this you just get used to it, like orange is orange, you don't give much thought to whether it's a Latin or French word. Now I am curious whether I should continue using oolong or switch to Wu Long.

Tea is derived from Fujianese, Cha is the official pronunciation in Mandarin. However Tea is a widely used term more so than Cha. This creates a dilemma, whether I want to be correct in the Chinese term risking of confusing reader/consumers, or should I just continue using what's more recognizable world wide. KungFu tea or Gong Fu Cha?!

Sunday, March 16, 2008

Victory day!

For the last 9 months, I met a lot of beginning tea drinkers, curious coffee drinkers, regular tea drinkers and a handful of connoisseurs here at the shop. When the price tag $120/lb pops up, majority just say "wow" or "WOOOOW". The handful of connoisseurs would say, hmm, can I try the nice teas? Either they end up taking a small pack or wipe out the stock. And some of them laugh hysterically out loud when they saw $120 a pound of tea. As a shop keeper, I just suck it all up with a nice smile and offer a taste. Whipping out the $1200/lb Dan Cong would be unprofessional now. :P

On Saturday, a customer came in with my list of tea in hand, and told me he wants to get a few things from the list. I gladly helped him, and we started chatting about tea. He told me his wife and him start drinking tea a few months ago by discovering the tea section in Whole Food. Whole Food is an up scale chain of organic hippie food stores. It's a notch up from regular grocery stores in case you wonder what Whole Food is all about. Until a couple of weeks ago, they both wandered into my shop unintentionally and took home some teas. They found out loose leaf teas truly is more fresh and flavorful than grocery store teas. Then he continued with what else he has uncovered, the price of tea. Some of the tea bags in a box cost $12 for 1.2 oz. If you do the math, that's almost $200 a pound of unknown vintage unknown grade of tea. My few dollars per ounce of tea (2 oz size pack) has lasted a while for him.

These words if were come out of my mouth, it'd sound like a sales pitch, but coming from a consumer, makes me excited. It sounds almost like bell rings of Notre Dame.

I feel my 2 years of work is starting to see the light at the end of the tunnel. This understanding of tea, both quality and value of tea being recognized by a new group of tea drinkers validates the value of specialty teas. It's not just for the honor my shop and teas I carry, it's rather for the entire specialty tea industry, everyone that has contributed to promote quality teas.

There should be a tea dance for moments like this. :P

Saturday, March 15, 2008


When I first used clay pots for brewing tea, I liked the ball filters over the flat hole type. Because the leaves can not clog the holes and interrupt the flow. Soon enough, I found that the flat hole pots make better oolong teas, specially Dan Cong. Reason being that flat hole pots can empty almost all droplets of water when you shake long and hard enough, while ball filter pots can't and will keep on steeping tea continuously at the bottom. This might benefit pu-erh, but not for oolong. Dan Cong can become bitter/harsh if steeped for long, even just a few drops of water can make a difference.

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

18 levels of tea drinkers

Found this article somewhat interesting. A couple of them don't make much sense even before translating due to lack of explanation. I am sure one can be at more than one place in your tea life. High lighted ones are where I feel I belong to currently.

1. no tea, do not drink tea

2. do not like tea, can drink tea but do not like tea, usually are soft drink drinkers.

3. too lazy to drink tea, can drink tea, does not detest the flavor, but to lazy to make a cup of tea

4. lonely drinker, likes tea but too cheap to share tea with others.

5. business tea, loves tea and know what's good tea, but only share when there is something to gain.

6. beautiful tea, drink tea for reason of pretty girls whom performs the art of tea

7. wake up tea, drink tea for caffeine effect.

8. meal tea, drink tea to aid digestion after meals.

9. learn tea, always a student when it comes to tea, learn not only tea, but the spirituality that tea brings, some what Zen.

10. love tea, tea nerds, enjoy the fun of smelling aroma, observing tea color, tasting flavor, where it's from, what year is it, the physical being of tea.

11. addicted tea, only the flavor is important, what where and how are not their concern.

12. indulge tea, ones who would travel far to meet the tea.

13. Crazy tea, focus on Cha Tao intensely, narrow tracked mind.

14. above and beyond tea, mind without skill or skill without mind is just tea, without mind and skill is true tea.

15. treasure tea, treasure life and friendship. In life, you gain some and loose some, treasure friendship and treasure the moment, treasure tea that brings friendship, treasure the moments together.

16. happy tea, having tea is good, not having tea is also fine, love tea, but not controlled by tea.

17. watch tea, be happy just watching tea.

18. abandon tea, transcend to an other realm from tea.

What's blooming

Cymbidiums are easy to care for compare to other Orchid species, although none of them are easy. Every year I have quite a few of Cymbidiums blooming in the spring. This year some of them are left outside. One thing I notice is a couple of them attract snails and some others don't, which brings up a point, plants posses self defence mechanism by producing chemicals to fan off insects. Some varietals are better than the other.

This also apply to tea trees. Low elevation farms are more vulnerable to insects, especially during hot weather months. Warm temperature speeds up growing rate of leaves which contribute to premature chemical composition and too much fiber, hence lack of flavor. That's also why lower elevation teas are woodier then high mountain teas. Also trees produce bitter chemicals to keep insects from chewing them up, which is why summer harvest is bitter. Even organic grown teas are less of quality than Spring harvest.

Following 2 flowers are severely bitten by ants and snails.

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Clay stove burner

New stock of Chao Zhou clay stove set with 1kg of olive pit charcoal. A while back, I posted about Chao Zhou stove set.

The stove is more decorative than the previous one. Taller with a bigger chamber for charcoal. Beautiful little set!

Top 4 characters from right to left: Tea Art Happy Garden
Right 7 characters from top to bottom: Best Tea Floating Aroma Enjoying Tea Art
Left 7 characters from top to bottom: Zi Sha Pot Inside Drunken Happy Garden

HAHA... you just can't translate Chinese literally and expect it'd make any sense. BTW the clay used are not Zi Sha (purple clay), these are Chao Zhou local red clay.

Why isn't oolong tea a main stream tea like green tea?

There are many reasons to why oolong tea is so much better, but not popular.

1. Small production, only 3 regions in 2 provinces produce oolong tea in China. Taiwanese oolong teas are not widely available in China. Majority of the country of China produce green tea.

2. Complicated process also limit oolong production.

3. Transportation in the old days took much longer, shelf life was a big concern, light fermented teas could not make it else where and maintain its freshness simultaneously. In recent days, Tie Guan Yin gained popularity after a face lift and benefiting from refrigerated shipping and storage.

4. Local teacoholics consume most of the oolong teas before the tea had a chance to get out of town. City of Guang Zhou population consume an average of 2.5 kg annually, Chao Zhou population consume an average of 4.5 kg of tea annually, the entire China consume only 1/4 of a kilo of tea annually.

5. Complicated brewing method. Kung fu tea is a tradition in the southern states, west to Yunnan, east to Fujian, but not for the rest of the country. Si Chuan mainly used gaiwan as drinking vessel, later adopted by the rest of the country.

Oolong teas - who are they?

Oolong tea is one of the six main types of Chinese teas. Many of us tea drinkers heard of and had some oolong tea, most of my customers had never heard of it. Well, if you ask a random person on the street, most likely they have only heard of black tea and green tea, and nothing else.

Oolong tea is my love, and because of that very reason, I try my best to introduce oolong tea to any body, newbies, experienced drinkers and tea virgins.

If you were Chinese and think you know a lot about oolong tea because you drink tons of it, well there is always more to learn.

The birth of oolong tea was relatively recent compare to other types of tea, around the end of Ming dynasty 1600's. Early 1700's documented process of Wuyi oolong tea involved wilting fresh leaves under sun layered thinly in bamboo container, then fried and roasted to dry. Green portion is the effect of frying, the red portion is the effect of roasting. I'll explain this in an other article regarding processing and the chemical change during the process in detail.

In recent days, the process of oolong tea is the most complicated (procedures and chemical change), time consuming, labor intensive method, traditionally done by human hands. Picking, wilting, fermenting, tossing, repeat fermenting and tossing for 8 hours or more, kill green, rolling, frying, rolling, repeat frying and rolling, roasting, re-roasting multiple times. It's a sleepless 2 day continuous hard labor result.

What exactly is oolong tea? Is it a varietal or is it a process? Well, it's a combination of the 2. It takes suitable tea trees combine with the above method to produce oolong tea as a finishing product. There are 4 regions in the world produce oolong tea. Other regions produce so call oolong teas by using similar method, or some call semi-fermented teas as oolong tea. All oolong teas are semi-fermented, but not all semi-fermented teas are oolong teas.

Northern Fujian province, Wuyi mountain is the birth place of oolong tea. The processing method were then adopted by other regions, and modified to better suit local varietals for its unique flavors. Wuyi rock tea is macho by Yun, an experienced middle age man.

Southern Fujian province, Anxi Tie Guan Yin is the signature local flavor. Traditional heavy roast is like an old man, even tempered with lots flavor. Light roast TGY is like a young girl, likable with not much complication.

Taiwan oolong is every where, there's high mountain, baozhong, Tie Guan Yin, high fire, light roast, fisted, stranded, you name it. It's an united province of northern and southern Fujian. Women working in the city, in every level of the corporate ladder, administrative girls (jade oolong or Light roasted BaoZhong), middle management of the 30's (Dong Ding or High Mountain), the executive super women (Oriental Beauty).

Guang Dong Phoenix Dan Cong, the young married wife from a rich family in the old days. Beautiful hair with gem decorated gold/silver/jade pins, and a Yu Lan flower behind the ear, hand embroidered dress and shoes, slowly wondering among blooming azalea bushes, one hand holding a gaiwan, the other hand playing with the lid, occasionally taking a sniff through the lid, then a sip of Dan Cong. A young maid follows behind gently fanning her, birds chirping, water stream slowly running besides them, perfect harmony! Of course high maintenance too.

Monday, March 03, 2008

Hidden Treasure

One thing about having a tea shop is you will attract endless option of tea! Yesterday was one of those days.

A lady came in with a chunk of brick, seeking for identity of this little black rock solid like tea, which her nephew obtained from an Indian man at a Dakota Indian summer fair about 2 years ago. The little paper bag says "China Black Tea Brick". She did not know what to do with it, how to break it off, how to brew.

At my bar counter was a couple that frequent my shop, we were having a Ban Zhang Pu run. Like a good host that I am, I share any strange teas to any one. :P

The 4 of us were anxious to try this mysterious tea. I treat any tea the same at the beginning, with slight variation by type. So as the label says black tea, I took a small chunk out with quite a bit of elbow grease. This brick is rock solid, nothing like a hard compressed Pu-erh. It's at least 10 times more compressed, even more so than iron cakes. It was all dust fanning pieces within the cake. They were so compact that I left the small nuggets as is, placed in a Cha Hai, pour hot boiling water over it. The first steep took about a good 2 to 3 minutes. The color came out beautiful, crystal clear with a sheen of oily shine on the surface. The taste was awww! Very smooth, nourishing, sweet red dates flavor. The sensation while the tea slipping down the throat was like a spa treatment. The second infusion took even longer, about 5 minutes, the red dates flavor was even more pronounced, the sweetness was so obvious that it seems like sugar was added which was not the case at all. We had 4 to 5 infusions of it. Each one of them were delicious. I couldn't get many steeping out of it, but the taste is really special!

First infusion, large nuggets are still stuck together.

6 or 7th infusion.

At first, it seems to be about 7 yrs old, but by the 3rd round, I know this tea is gotta be very old, 30 upwards. Then I looked closely to the design, it tells me this must be an export tea. My first guess is Russia or Europe. Not likely to be Arab or Tibet. Comparing the design of the brick, the type of tea leaves to modern day Black (true China Black, not Red) tea such as Hu Nan Fu Zuan Hei Cha, this tea definitely stamped with a historic chronicle time stamp. Looking back at the export history of China Black tea bricks, Russia and China's relationship came to a haul in the 70's. However, China did not produce anything with this type of design mode in the 70's. I am hoping this is before the 50's. But I can't be sure. The flavor does give me a before 50's feel.

This brick reminds me a lot of historical facts of China tea culture, most of them I have only heard of, but didn't make sense when applied to modern loose leaves. It's now making sense to why certain technique or tools were used then, but no longer part of modern day tea drinking.

One of them is the grinding tool existed in Tang dynasty. Tea were made as bricks then, I guess some what similar to this one here, rock solid hard. Tea was grounded into powders (I guess not fine powder like Matcha), then roasted over fire and then boiled in water. Given that this brick is extremely compact, the grinder might work better than my ice pick (for pu), I skipped the roasting step this time, and steeped instead of boiled which I guess why it took minutes to steep the flavor out even though it's fanning and dust, large clumps took 4 steepings to open, with a spoon to force open.

I am inviting the LATA gang for a tasting. Jason's tongue I will have to borrow for the occasion! :P We should roast it a bit to see the difference as well.

A tea fanatic and good friend of mine came for tea with 2 other lady friends later of the day, I made this brick tea again, and much more. Including the Ban Zhang run earlier in the morning, I must had over 15 teas in one day. Well, drunk as before and up till 4. Ban Zhang pu kicked my behind each and every time.

After some digging on the internet, I found out this tea is manufactured by Zhao Li Qiao tea factory of Hu Bei province. The factory is located in the town named Zhao Li Qiao (bridge). Zhao and Li are last names. They produce 3 types of tea bricks: Hei (black), Qing (green/blue) and Mi (rice) bricks. The one I have is a Mi (rice) brick, containing black tea fanning, stems and such. Basically the left overs. Before the communist party took over China (1945), Zhao Li Qiao tea factory was a private company producing tea for tea merchants exporting such bricks to the northern, west and northwestern neighboring countries, such as Russia, Mongolia, Tibet, west ward all the way to Europe. These are also called Bian Xiao Cha (Out side the border tea). This type of brick has been a stable diet for the Tibetans and Mongolians, meat eating nomadic tribes, served as digestive aid, vitamin and mineral supplements. Between 1950s and 1970s, the company changed its name to Zhao Li Qiao China Tea Company. Then it's named Zhao Li Qiao Hu Bei Province Tea Company. Today, the company produces Mi (rice) brick with 2 design molds:

Front of a Train by ZLQ Hu Bei Province Tea Company, aim for internal sale, meaning within China.

The Memorial Arch by ZLQ China Tea Company, aim for external sale, to foreign countries.

The brick I have on hand belong to the second type by design. Although the company name exited only between 1950 and 1970s (supposedly), however it's still used today (I don't know since when it was reused). It's hard to say how old my brick is. The taste has a certain old pu (nicely aged decomposed) quality to it, if it was old,I might have a nice little chunk of history here.

There are only 2 known 100+ years old Mi Bricks exist today, except the undiscovered ones. Each are worth $1+ million RMB, weight over 1kg each, one of them is at Hu Bei Museum. both have the memorial arch design, company titles are different than ZLQ __ Tea Company. The arch design has a European flavor to it, and a traditional design for Bian Xiao Cha (out side of the border tea). Back in the days, they were packed for individual trade companies, most of them owned by the Jun Merchants. A group of extremely successful merchants trading in Mongolia, Russia and Tibet.