Thursday, July 30, 2009
I'll be on LA Times!
It's the best birthday present ever! This turns out to be the most eventful birthday I have ever had. Having one of the best teas in the world Da Wu Zi Dan Cong (I thought that was all I will have for this year's birthday), going away for a weekend at one of the best resorts (Two Bunch Palms - adults only resort) in Palm Spring for 1/2 the price (can't get any better than that eh?), now my tea shop will be featured on LA Times! Wow, that tops it all.
Tuesday, July 28, 2009
Why do I like Phoenix Dan Cong Oolong Tea?
Aside of Dan Cong teas are great in flavor with a wide varieties of aroma, having the right mentor is probably the greatest force that guide me through the learning process, which opens the Pandora box of Dan Congs, hence allows me to explore and discover Dan Cong teas in great magnitude.
At this point, I realize my love for Dan Cong is beyond knowledge, flavor or aroma. It's how they make me feel beyond my palate. Dan Cong has the perfect balance of Yin and Yang energy to me. Using Steven's terms, it's aromatic, illusive, seductive and beautiful. These are qualities that representing femininity. It also has a wild side in Qi, long durable steeping sustainability and prolonged after taste. These are qualities representing masculinity. When both parts are equally powerful yet harmoniously married, it's the most desirable pairing one can hope for. These qualities are ever evolving from infusion to infusion. Each infusion is a live Chinese painting on a silk scroll, be it an old man drinking tea under a pine tree with a tea boy fanning the stove, or an elegant young maiden holding a gaiwan of tea amongst blooming cherry trees with a bamboo forest back ground. Each tea session is a mini old movie, frame by frame slowly unfolds itself and keeps moving forward, each infusion is a still of moment just long enough, then lead toward the next. Its eternal beauty has captured my soul....
Thursday, July 23, 2009
An afternoon at my favorite tea spot
to the left
Looking to the right
Looking downLooking up
I brought tea, snacks and a book with me to my tea spot. End up not reading more than 2 lines, most of the time it seemed as I was unloading my brain. Didn't come up with any brilliant business strategies or the newest inventions that bound to make me rich quickly. Just zoned out with an empty mind for a whole day. I'm truly grateful and am very fortunate to be able to drink tea in PV as part of my regular life, the serenity, the beauty makes one wonder what more does one need in life, unrealistically. Let it be is my new motto.. :P
Wednesday, July 22, 2009
That's something to brag about
I carry 13 out of 20 from this list of trees. I think my tea master is very partial to this student of his.. :D He has accepted only 4 students that call him Shi Fu - Master, I am the last of 4 and the only one not in China. Everyone else can only call him Lao Shi - teacher. I am soooo honored!
First time on blog radio with Steven
Steven is a tea enthusiast who reviews various teas on a regular basis. You can find him at 39steeps.blogspot.com.
I apologized for being nervous with public shyness. Hopefully I'll get over it and perform better the next time. :D
Thank you again Steven!
Friday, July 17, 2009
Feng Huang, a boy and a girl
Thursday, July 16, 2009
My goof ball
She made a remark yesterday as she's packing the Ni Wei Yi - passionate tail ant Dan Cong tea: this tea is twisted and tangled up like Jewish hair, gonna take me a long time to pack them. I am so going to miss her!
Wednesday, July 15, 2009
Slope direction can change the taste of your tea
Slope direction: climate and soil contents vary greatly for slopes facing different directions.
Monday, July 13, 2009
Translate a tea book vs write a tea book
I suggested to her the book of Fenghuang Dancong Oolong Tea. I told her I am translating the book and I am not anywhere near qualified to write a book about Dan Cong myself. Even I learned every thing of my teacher's, still does not make me qualified to write a book myself.
Many tea books written outside of tea regions are mostly by passionate drinkers/sellers whom spent a quantity of time learning it without any growing or processing practice. Witnessing the process makes great entertainment material, in a book form it's also what it is.
For this reason, professionally I am not qualified to write a book about tea, any tea. My profession is to sell tea, not to grow and process tea. I chose to translate a tea book, because translation dose not include my own opinion, contents of the book are as they intended by the original author whom is well qualified with decades of experience in the field, also educated formally in the field (Master degree in tea cultivation, professors/researchers teaching the subject.). It's unfortunate that most of these books are not written in English. I feel these valuable information should be made available to the rest of the world without any personal interpretation. No misleading information, no guessing, no misinterpretation, no misrepresentation. Straight from the source written by those whom farm those lands, pluck those leaves with their own hands for many many years. That's what makes them qualified to write books of their beloved teas.
Saturday, July 11, 2009
A couple came in to my store and whipped out this tea bag (without a cover), and said to me this is the best tea in the world (he runs a tea business). It's the best because the company is owned by a Chinese, Lipton buys from them, McDonals also buy from them. He then asked me to make him a cup with boiling water, and asked for milk and sugar. I am shocked and speechless. So I asked to have one, not sure if I want to drink it, because it has no cover and he just whipped it out from his pant pocket. I am so darn curious to see what "best tea in the world" taste like. Curiosity usually kills them cats. I don't think I have many lifes left after being killed a few times. Any volunteers? ;P
Tragedy if best tea in the world comes in this form.
Friday, July 10, 2009
Letter from Jenny C, UCLA Tea Event
We had a bigger turnout than we expected with over 80 people attending! And everyone loved the presentation and the tea tasting.
Thank you so much for making this event possible by donating not only your teas, teaware, talent (the kung-fu tea demonstration was awesome and we got a lot of good feedback about it), and knowledge, but most importantly your time in coming out to our event, preparing the presentation and tea tasting, as well as keeping in regular correspondence with me.
We're hoping to make this an annual event for our club and with such a successful first event, we should be able to get a bigger budget to work with next time. We hope to continue working with you in the future.
Nutrition, Complementary and Alternative Medicine at UCLA
Shuffling my feathers
Internet is a media flood gate that's open to every one in every corner on earth or above. While it's easy for information research, it's also flooded with speculations and misleading information. This is not just in the tea world. Readers expect useful information, some just expect useful information for them at that moment, despite the basic back ground to absorb such information. In a world like this, while there is freedom of speech which everyone is entitled to, it's also personal disciplinary to take responsibility of what you put out there for others to read. I take my tea seriously, so I also expect other to say something factual if you feel my business practice does not meet their demand. Putting out a comment something like a Chao Zhou Clay stove would cost $10 in China is not considered factual. I'll buy out any quantity of Clay stoves you can find in China for $10 USD provided it's the exact same thing as what I have in offer. I'll pay the shipping too. Shipping cost is more than $10 USD to ship on a boat in itself. Who's paying for the breakage? Who is paying for the packing materials? The time to unwrap then check them one by one after arrival is about 10 minutes per set, another 5 to wrap them back in the box or put them on the shelf for display, another 30 minutes to take pictures, 30 minutes to photoshop it and post it on the web with descriptions and manage inventories on zencart. Packing for shipping takes at least 30 minutes, another 15 minutes to get the paper work and postage done, another 10 minutes to take it to the post office. On average, from an item arriving my door step to the time it is shipped at the post office, it takes at least 2 hours. On top of paying rent, utilities, labor, cost of materials, health department fee, city fee, federal license fee/tax, state board fee/tax there is paypal fee, thanks to W, webhosting fee is minimal to none, accountant fee, I get lost track of how much fee a business has to pay through out the year. No business owner will ever bill you for these things or inform you what they had to do to get a product out to you. If you think you can get something in China for $10, a business can only make $10 out of it, that's why you can't find $20 set stove in the US. We all should move to China and bargain down to $8, then live happily ever after! Coffee drinkers in the US do not realize they pay $10/lb of beans which the distributors bought for $1 or even 50 cents. That's a markup no one ever question, because it only cost $10/lb when they take it home. Do I think it's a reasonable markup? To a degree, yes. Because it cost $5 to sell the coffee, then another $1 to pack it. What the retail seller pockets is a barely $1 or $2. The advertising campaign of Coca Cola spends double digit % of their over all operation fund per year to reach consumers. While this is widely accepted method of "selling' their product, why is it that a small Dan Cong seller can't market tea via teapots? Even though it wasn't my intend to seize the business opportunity of tea pots and advertising DC by soaking your pot with it everyday, I DO drink old bush DC EVERY day! Therefore I do soak my pots with old bush DCs EVERY day! Walk with me on a math equation here, 10 pots for $40 each in a week, that's $400 big smackaroos, wow, it barely pay 3 days of my rent. If I try to seize business opportunity this way, would that be a little far from self made millionaire to be? Not to mention the time I put in answering questions and researching for answers, finding resources to meet customer needs. Don't get me wrong, I love doing it, it's ways for me to review what I know, and learn what I don't know. But all of those effort is not financially rewarding at this point is what I am pointing out. If I didn't believe in DC and the Chao Zhou tea culture with this deep level of obsession, my store would had been closed a long time ago. MANY friends and family members pleated me to shut down the store a year ago when recession hit the shore. For 3 long years, I did not have one vacation, didn't and still don't get paid and carry a 6 figure debt, if you think I am ripping my customers off, I have nothing to be sorry about, but immensely insulted. You can say I am not business savvy, yes, I can agree with you on that. I am not bitching for my own learning tuition, to me it's what it is, suck it up and make things better in the future. Perhaps one day, I can tell myself it's all worth while. Because my goal is not to make money through a business, regardless of what type. My goal is to reclaim the glory of Chinese Tea more than 300 years ago.
The fundamental law of economic is supply and demand, there is a demand for CZ pots, so I provide it. If that's considered seizing a business opportunity in a negative way, so is ipod, cell phones, crocs shoes and pretty much every commercial product in this world. If commercialization does not take part in the tea industry, no one outside of China will ever have tea today. The European would never learn of tea and smuggle seeds to India for cheap labor farming till today. None of us out side of China, or Chinese don't have a tree in their back yard will ever get to know what tea is! Tea is one of the biggest and prized commodities of the world beside salt, grain and cattle. Why it has been controlled by the government for thousands years? Why do you think it will ever change? It won't, financially too lucrative to let loose out of control. China was a monopoly player in tea, so was the East Indian Company who had its own army. Why do think tea is worth fighting for for many years in war fares? Why do you think the American politic is so bitter about tea and turned the country into a coffee drinking country. It's unrealistic to expect free flow of tea without much business influence, any product for that mater. As a consumer, the effect of tea is what you want, so it should be, and let it be. As a seller, the job is to cater to that effect and getting paid to do so. There shouldn't be any conflicts. What's the difference between buying and selling tea than buying and selling an apple fundamentally? Why such negative perception on tea sellers but not the monopolized fruit distributor in the US?
Many tea drinkers complain about why US based tea companies do not provide good tea practice, there are so many reasons to this. First of all, difference in tea culture. There isn't even a British tea culture here, let alone a proper Chinese tea practice. If so it exist, how many are supporting it as a local business? I see most of the forum people talk about tea they acquire from China 90% of the time. The believe is all the good teas are in China, US sellers only sell crap for high price. Doesn't that make a seller who genuinely want to bring in good tea from China a suicidal mission, at least a retirement fund draining business. When I looked for a location for my store 3 years ago, many Realtors turned me down because tea business don't last based on their experience, it's considered a high risk tenant. Every one is buying Chinese made goods in the US, how come no one complains about buying a pack of wooden laundry clips that's sold for $0.99 at a 99 cents store, where it costs about 1 RMB in China? We can support all the Chinese products but tea sold here in the US?! This is a mind set that will take many many years to change.
Look at our economy, we produce very little, but we sell a lot of bonds - a piece paper that worth nothing that cost buyers life time of savings!
Thursday, July 09, 2009
My new found tea spot
I should arrange a tea tasting and picnic here one day.
Wednesday, July 08, 2009
A day started low, then climaxed and still going
A couple of tea heads showed up unannounced, I thought what a perfect timing yet what a bad timing. Juggling between the water outage, running to strange restroom multiple times, and trying to make tea with limited water reserve, what a mess I told myself. This was when tea magically turned my day down side up.
Looking back at my tea journey, I recognize some more obvious periods, began as naive, subjective, then technical and more subjective. Then the next was trying to be "Zen" stage, yes, trying as in a artificially way to repress other aspects of life with tea, condensing all of that to emphasize on "peace" and "zen". While there is nothing wrong with peace in mind and zen to itself, I was not entirely "full" during that stage. I also hate it when Zen had to be staged intentionally, artificially. I notice the dullness in my writing, in my tea description to the point where I some what gave up. My mind was dull, clogged by techniques, methods and tea science.
We human live in herds, we feed off each other's intelligence with the right minded. Thanks to tea, it brought those sheep into my life. My dullness melted away, a surge of flood came rushing through my mind and emotions. As this new batch of teas are the high light of my tea career so far, my senses and being also reached a new realm today accompanied by these teas and a philosopher plus an artist. Ever since I began getting to know the Chinese Classic Zhou Yi (I-Ching), I see things a little differently than I used to. I am having difficulty pin pointing what it is, but it just is.
Here I'll show you a few tea descriptions and it shall give you an idea. We had total of 8 teas all new to me.
Ni Wei Yi, Affectionate Tail Ant. The name is endearing not to mention intriguing. Ni has no direct translatable term in English actually. Picture a girl leaning against her lover quietly, none of the public affection gestures that we considered as affectionate in the western world. Simple as that, something pure and innocent about it. As the tea unfolded its personality, we were in awe where it was leading us toward. The aroma seemed so near yet away, a forest full of flowers opened up a corridor for Snow White, excitement, curiosity and a lost soul in this beautiful surrounding. That was the first infusion. By the second infusion, my mind had Snow White picking Spring flowers right after the very last snow fall. The freshness, the preciousness came with singing and bird chirping all in my cup. 3rd infusion described by IR as cracked chestnuts wrapped in spinach buried in a chicken under the ground, then a flower grow on it, I added a colorful mushroom next to it. Some of you might think we were on mushrooms. :P
Da Wu Zi, Big Dark Purple, a special present to myself. The tea has a powerful female presence, started with a softer image, Elizabeth Taylor at 30 in black and white (mine) on the beach in a bikini (IR's), next infustion is a CEO of a fortune 500 company (mine) in a dark chocolate bikini (IR's). The flower aroma is strangely beautiful yet powerful in a dark and a little kinky way. It consumed my upper respiratory system, flooded me with Qi. By 3rd infusion, it was Venus in a red devil outfit with flaming fire burning from my back. It was powerful. By the 4th infusion, cloud has lifted me up from the neck up. The texture of the tea was melted black pearl (IR's). If you get a chance to go to Japan, fish up a wild oyster with a giant black pearl, please lick it and tell me what it feels like. I imagine this tea feels like that. The amazing thing is the linkage of black pearl and Dark Purple in the name. After the black pearl imagination, I realized the name also is dark, while the black pearl has an array of pearl glow ends with dark purple. These tea farmers are no dummies I said, they don't name something randomly, just like the other weird names.
I am laughing as I write this disclaimer: If you purchased these teas and did not have the same effect, there is no refund. :P
Saturday, July 04, 2009
Dan Cong, more Dan Cong and a Dan Cong Book
This batch is very special, I don't mean the other batches are not. But this batch contains 1/2 a pound of Da Wu Zi - Big Dark Purple 2004, a reward for myself after 3 years of hard work. This tea should be better than Chuan Du Lao Ming Cong (top 10 famous tree out of over 7000 on the hill), that's something to look forward to! Came with a surprise is a small sample of Tian Yi Xiang - Heavenly Leisurely Fragrance, the other name for it is Hai Di Lao Zhen-Hunting for a needle under the sea. Just the name itself insinuates its rarity. The price is 2 times of Chuan Du Lao Ming Cong and more than Da Wu Zi. :I I think I'll be satisfied to have just a sample. I call these samples the teas-me (tease me) teas. A carrot dangling in front of a rabbit, taking you to higher, and even higher grounds every time. Neither of these 2 teas will be for sale, the prices are too intimidating. If you can come visit the store, I'll be glad to share some with you. :)
Included in this batch of teas are 7 whole trees of 2009 production, 3 of them are barely a pound each, 4 of them are 2 lbs and less. If anyone interested in acquiring the entire tree production, please email me for details. tea at teahabitat dot com
Ni Wei Yi - Affectionate Tail Ant, 2 lbs (Don't ask me where the name comes from. :P)
Li Jai Ping Lao Cong, 2 lbs
Zhong Ping Lao Cong Zhi Lan #4, 1.2 lb
Zhong Ping Lao Cong #1, 1.5 lb
Zhong Ping Lao Cong #2, 0.8 lb
Zhong Ping Xiong Di Jai - Little Brothers from Zhong Ping Village, 1.9 lb
An Jiao Lao Cong Zhi Lan - Temple(Convent) Corner Old Bush Cattleya Orchid, 1 lb
Da Wu Ye is back, also raided more Mo Li - Jasmine Dan Congs. I love my teacher! My all time favorite is Zhi Lan Xiang, so I got a couple more Zhi Lan Xiangs from different villages.
The book of "Phoenix Dan Cong Oolong" will arrive with the teas as well. It's published by Shang Hai Publishing Company in June, months after the original schedule. It's a semi-professional book with lots technical information relating to cultivation, processing, selection, tasting technique and more in depth information with 200 pages of photos. Shamefully, I am only at chapter 2 of translation. :P
All of these made this batch an exciting one to long for. Worthy of 2 or more nights of sleep? :\
Friday, July 03, 2009
Kid in the candy land
I started learning Kung Fu tea almost 10 years ago. Many of those years were stagnant until the last 3 years or so when I open a tea store. Having feed backs is perhaps the most motivating force of mine to absorb knowledge as much and as fast as I could. I feel like Sponge Bob some times.
Tea is in liquid form, as water melted from glaciers from every mountains on this planet, runs down the plateaus, travels through terrains, valleys, down the streams, gathers in lakes, rushes through rivers, then mixes in oceans.
Tea has taken me through better health both physical and spiritual, opened my eyes to Chinese tea culture, then Chinese culture as a broad horizon. I am now a kid running through the prairies discovering fascinating maters one after another.
Customers with health issues send me looking for alternative remedies which lead me to Chinese Medicine. Huang Di Nei Jing is the bible of Chinese Medicine which is not about healing, but a philosophy book about human should live cohesively and compliant with nature for better health, therefore not prone to sickness. This Chinese classic has lead me down to my next fascination, Zhou Yi (I-Ching). Zhou Yi is crowned the Emperor of all Chinese classics, written more than 3000 years ago. It was then explained by Confucius and his dispels 1000 years later as another text Yi Zhuan. Yi Zhuan is a combined interpretation of Lao Zi (Daoism), Meng Zi, Mo Zi, Budhhadism and Confuciusm. For the following 2000 years, studies of Zhou Yi has never stopped. There are new theories, new interpretations based on current society conditions. No mater where what and how, as water flows, we all end up in one place only spiritually, the ocean, ocean of truth. The truth of what one should be while we are here on earth. Seek and live the truth consciously. Of course this is easier said than done. :I
Reading ancient Chinese classics is exciting. I can read Chinese as well as a 3rd grader, ancient Chinese was Russian to me at one point. With new editions of ancient classics written in today's Chinese, I am able to understand the surface of these texts little by little. The more I read, the more I find them exhilarating, each word has meanings deep and broad as the great lakes. I'll be busy for the rest of my life. :D
Thursday, July 02, 2009
4 seasons and tea - Fall
Humans also follow this collective step, subconsciously to most. This is reflected in eating and drinking habits, such as we crave for comfort foods, darker more oxidized teas (including aged teas) in Fall. Teas with these characteristics have mellowed out the strong Yang energy, hence does not conflict with the Yin energy that our body stage is in.
Our brain can command us to do anything we want regardless of our body needs, but our body will give you signs of disagreement. If ignored or not understood, it can cause harm to our health for long period of time without knowing. Most of us does not realize living against nature can cut your life short 5 to 10 years. We have the potential to live 140+ years, average is only 80+. Compare to 40ish a century years ago, our scientist and doctors proudly claim we have extended life span in the last 40 years. We truly underestimated the wisdom, power of our body and its coordination with nature.
I will say this again, find a tea that your stomach agrees with at any time of the day, month, season and mood. Listen to your body, it will tell you. Do not drink a tea just because the media says it's good for this and that, how much weight you'll loose in 30 days.
You may not know when does your body like what type of tea initially. Well, we all go through a learning period of a chosen project including learning our own body. Make a cup of tea and see how well your body likes it, if not, try another type and discard the previous one. It can do you more harm than you'll realize if you force yourself to ingest it. Because the body will have to gather much more energy to digest something it does not agree with and even more energy to eliminate it from your body. Some times it can be trapped in your body as toxins which can cause long term problems. It will take you more time and nutrient to replenish the wasted energy as well. What you gain is not worthy of what you lost as the old Chinese phrase say.
Sunset from PV
2nd picture later:
Lovers watching Sunset:
Within a minute of my arrival, the sun is down completely:
A red orange haze across the horizon:
Wednesday, July 01, 2009
4 seasons and tea - Summer
Summer, after the stored away energy of Winter sprang life out in Spring, it's time to grow, fully utilizing the stored away energy. Hot summer temperature and long day light accelerates the growth of leaves, branches, flowers and fruits/grains/seeds. At this rapid rate of growth, nutrients can not keep up, especially after harvests in the Spring which is where most of the nutrients are captured. Summer teas are in general more fibery, astringent and bitter, hence require higher oxidation to break down the contents. Black tea and dark oolongs are mostly made with summer harvest tea leaves.
Human body in the Summer are also in the Yang Qi growth period. Yang Qi grows so that Yin Qi can accumulate in Fall. Therefore, many of us have craving for Spring teas or young current year teas during summer. The nutrient and energy of Spring and new crop fuels the Yang Qi growth.
Yang in Chinese medicine term is energy that comes from outside of our body, certain food, sun ray, and heat that enter our body. Yin on the other hand is energy reserve, excess Yang put away for later use. When we use more Yang energy than we can generate in a day, our body will release Yin energy as reserve to keep our body going.
Winter stored energy is a Yin energy, Spring energy is the initiation of of Yang energy funded by Yin Winter energy. Summer energy is the growing Yang energy for conversion of Yin energy collected in Fall. That collection of Yin energy is frozen/rested and stored away during Winter, preparing for Spring sprouting. The cycle repeats itself over and over for billions years and will not change unless stopped as the earth disappeared. As cocky as modern scientists think they can do anything they want to the universe, this is one fact that no human can ever interrupt/change eternally.
If a plant does not grow well in Summer, there will not be fruit and fruitful yin energy to collect in Fall, then there will not be energy to store in Winter, in turn, there will not be energy to sprout in the Spring.
Summer hot temperature and long day sun light are Yang energy being absorbed by leaves, since they are external heated energy. We human behave similar ways as plants as we are just a small part of this nature.
High mountain grown ancient Phoenix Dan Cong trees produce only 1 harvest each year, Spring harvest. The rest of the year is for the tree to accumulate nutrients and energy for next year, following the seasonal cycle of Summer growth, Fall collection and Winter storage. This natural growth preserves and guarantees the highest contents in Spring for best quality tea production. If harvest beyond Spring, quality will drop in next Spring, the tree's vitality is also lowered in coming years. It will take years of rest and feeding to revitalize an aging tree. So are human.