Testing this 16 years old TGY from Anxi. A refine firing every 2 years, a total of 8 times roasting! Taste like a young TGY with all the floral and fruit, plus the aging and smoothest of an old tea. Extra Sweet!
Has been almost a month of testing this tea. Thanks to Michael at the Tea Gallery, I would like to make some personal conclusion....
For 2 years, I have been searching for a aged Kung-Fu tea worthy to conduct this experiment. Which lead me to 2 trips to Quang Dong Province, including Chaozhou (for traditional Chaozhou Kung-fu tea, eg. DC and SX) and finally ending in Anxi and Wuyi in Fujin.
Reason for it was my personal frustration on the blur foundation of Quang Dong style Kung Fu tea and its practice. Personally I do believe is the origin of all Kung-fu tea.
Here are some of my quests divided up in 3 categories:
1. Tea for traditional Kung Fu tea
Most of these are from Anxi, Wuyi high fired oolong:
Back in late 19th C., to had tea harvested, processed then traded to Hong Kong or Canton (which are the main hub in China) will took at least 6 months. So freshest was not the mean focus. Instead, consistence of quality was the key. Tea are usually processed 2 times before ending in the final market (Hong Kong).
First, harvesting and stabilizing the tea by farmer or town. Secondly, the processing (firing/roasting) by the shop. These lengthy transportation, weather risks and processing differences leads to the solution of blending and aging tea, much like early Puerh trading.
Securing a stable group of customers and market, quality consistence is very important. Who will buy Maxwell coffee if every can tasted different? To cut the story short, Most tea are blended. For Anxi TGY which distribute to Canton and HK are usually an end result of blending 2 harvest: 60% Spring and 40% Fall by the final vendor. This proportion will give the blend a more body (spring) and higher aroma (fall). With a good firing, not over firing (due to preserving and older consumers requirement), this blending process usually will suites most people.
2. Practice of the brewing skill and 3. Aging. These 2 point will continue to discuss in the future.... But anyone have any option will be greatly appreciated.
This two pictures showing a pre-roasting/blending of 2 harvest from Anxi. The spring are usually larger with more body, and the fall is weaker, but more aroma.
The about picture showing this 16yrs TGY accurately had leaves added to, which were covered by tea sap. The yellowed leaves were results of tea tree sap dropping onto leaves which grew at the lower part of the plant. Similar to maple saps, which adding sweetest and extra fragrance to the brew.
I am fortunate enough to have a few friends tasting this and giving me feed-backs. My Father was the first test subject, as a birthday gift. A tea friend for his engagement treats. Of course, Michael from the Tea Gallery, which he is still conducting the testing....
Tasting of it included steeping over a 24 hrs period, lasting a week: After the first initial 8 brews, use boiling water and cover over-night. Taste the brew in the morning when taste buds are most sensitive and repeat. Only aged tea can be brew this way, puerh, SX, Lui an, as far as I'd discovered...
As a retrospect, I believe most of the better traditional High fire Kung-fu have to be properly aged and blend. Almost drawing parallel to the famous red-label, 8582 or even older Song Pin. The skill and talent of the tea-master (as blender/roasting/firing) are fully tested and blossom in these creation. A good age TGY should not be overly sour, or heavily charcoaled. The fire should be mellow and the nature of the tea flora and youth should be alive but not masked over. Just some thoughts....
Had this greatest honor to design and package a book about American Chinese in New York City!
After 3 months of soul searching, artistic break-down and intense deadlines, A book by Ann Volkwein was finally released last week! For me, is the Chance of a life time! And of course, what is a book about Chinatown without tea : ) There is a section for tea adventure, which personally made my day!
Ann Volkwein is an amazing writer and food editor. Her spirit and passion inspires and touched every one of us whom are fortunate enough to work with her. With Vegar Abelsnes photographer Genius, this is bound to be a Fruitful Success!
She is currently working on the next book - Austin Texas.
Tasting this 5+ year-old basket Liu An this weekend with my lovely wife. Got confused a little about LA. What I understand was: 1-LA should only be using spring buds to produce. 2-Only produce once a year. 3-From Anhui province. 4-Should be aged 2-3 years prior to sales/release.
So, is this the same species closer to puerh/oolong/green or red?
The floral was very pronounced with this LA, with a good aftertaste of sweetness and beet. Unfortunately, this only lasted for 6-7 infusions before it turns into sweet water. So, was this cooked or half/half? But the tea leaves do not seem to be too dark?
Should I take on adventure into Anhui province next year.....
My passion and love for tea was put into storage for a while, due to family duties.... And now, I am back for a little air. Here is where my passion hibernate during the past few months.
Storage and aging tea is a very time consuming hobby, little less work then habanos. But still, at least twice a month I have to peep at them. Making sure no mold or anything intruding there sleep.
I keep them in 60-75 humidity and around 40-72 F. No sun and no wind. Just basement storage in North America.
For refine aging at least 3 years up (top pic.) 1. Clean tub, aired for a week and line with bamboo for another week covered. 2. Putting moist bamboo in the tub and cover, until meter reads 65-70. Take a week to stabilize. 3. Put Treasure in. Cover and read meter in 3 days. until meter reads 65-70. Sealed and forget about it.
For normal aging, immediate consummation (bottom pic.) Leave in basement with mild and low air current (open window once a week). Control with humidifier.
Love the NY weather. So dry and cool in most basement, except summer time. Will see how these treasure age in 3 years.
The main point in appraising a pot's ornamental value is its combination of artistic and practical values. It is confortable to touch and durable in use. Its handle is perfectly balanced. it is perfectly sturdy, the opening and the lid should be ornamental in themselves, and the tea should flow steadily when poured from the pot. A pot with ornamental value will be pleasing to touch and to see. The pleasure it bring stimulates beauty from the heart and bring forth happiness.
-Master He Daohong was born in 1943 and started his art life with Wang YinChun in 1958.
Meeting with He Daohong, National Craft Master. Part 2 of 3
We can categorize pots according to their design. The shape of the round pot has to be clean and simple, showing the qualities of smoothness, honesty and sincerity. One must never be able to tire of looking at it. The spout and the handle must join on to the body smoothly and with luster. The lid must fit tightly and its motion must not be sluggish. The inner wall of the pot must be smooth and neat. Decorative painting and calligraphy on the pot should have unity with the pot; they should enrich the beauty of the pot without detracting from the pot's simple, natural art. The size of the seal should be proportionate to the pot and the lid, and should be decorative, not just an inscription.
The square pot should be upright, balance and square. It should have distinct edges and outlines. The spout and lid should be in proportion to the body. The inner and outer lines of the pot should be unified, presenting the viewer with a neat and natural effect. The moulded pot should be based on an unusual and not conventional source, combining visual beauty and tactile pleasure. The colour must be suitable, and the spout and handle must be properly combined. The lid and the opening of the pot must be skillfully matched.
In corrugated-surface pots, the pattern of the lines must be graceful and lively, and the lid and the opening must be tight-fitting with the lines on the lid matching those on the body. The curves between the spout and the handle should be flowing and show and orderly beauty.
The final colour of the pot is also important. It will determine the quality of the pot and also the degree of its calmness.
Meeting with He Daohong, National Craft Master. Part 1 of 3
The Art of yixing pottery has a long history in which many artists played a part. They created many types of pots, of varying standards and levels. Teapot-making helps to influence and develop one's character and provides one with spiritual insight. How do we distinguish between the good and the bad and place an artistic value on a work? I would summarize in three points:
1. Visual Beauty - The primary value of the pot is visual beauty. An appropriate design must have suitable proportions which give pleasure to the eye. One must be able to see the solidity and strength imparted by the artist, and an elegance of style offering the viewer melodic beauty and artistic imagination. The theme of the pot must be outstanding offering the viewer assistance in seeking spiritual insight.
Brushing is important only when using a flat top or larger lid pot. Since the water/tea will not evaporate as fast on a leveled surface, spreading the liquid all around with brush will speed up the "drying" action.
Pot craftsman might scarify the function with overall beauty, so we have to learn the behavior of each collectable. Some tricks may apply to the practices, eg.
1. Angling the lid and pouring water onto it: This method of pouring will heat up the lid more and cool the water temp. Meanwhile, extra water will accumulate less on the surface. For puerh or aged oolong brewing, this "delicate pouring" will soften the property of the liquor, since hot water will not hit/attack the leaves directly (it really makes a different). This pouring method is prefer by seasoned tea drinker.
2. Simply pour the liquor out 90 degree, and all liquid inside-out will drip dry.
No matter how good you master the brushing of the top, bottom area will always be troubling. Like this rounded bottom fellow (pic. below), you can see the darken circle tea spot at the center. The only way is to polish after usage and let dry.
I usually use 2 pots when "feeding". One with hot water for brewing, and the other for brewing tea. These "One stone, Two birds" style can speed up the patina action. Specially for large pot.
I just cannot use such large pot without guests. They get store in their little place and look pretty sad.
This is the largest pot I have in the above picture. Pouring the rinse or left over tea over the pot filled with hot water, is the best way to feed/use them. With the steam evaporating from it when feeding, this method can add mood, aroma to the tea space and keep track of brewing time when watching the surface absorb the liquor. Of course if you know them well.
Make sure you polish them after usage with a soft cloth, and while they are still hot.
Yixing are great for planting also, specially for Chinese grass orchids (which have small white flowers and the most majestic fragrance in China). Or for water dropper, brush painting vessels etc. Because the breathing quality of the clay, the liquid which it contains will not go bad easily.
These are a couple of yixing snuff bottles from Qing, which they are great for putting flowers in them and they will last longer.
A Turn-of-the-Century Yixing. Thru good care and usage, the surface of the pot will turn into visual characteristic of Jade. A "Treasure Glow" in Chinese term. But you can always see the original stage of the pot from the interior wall.
Aging DC is almost the same as aging Wuyi SX. The older, the better.... At least for the result of my tasting. Originally, I expect to conclude this in 2 days for 3 samples, but due to overloaded newly marriage duties eg: cleaning house, cleaning pets, and a clean personal cking acc., I have to work overtime to regain my "better life" statues.
Anyhow, I found the 2 years aged DC is the best amount the 1, 2 and 3 years period. I did not vacuum any of these, just jared them and store it in the dark with 50-75% Hum. and around cellar temp.
The 1st year crops still have sign of veg. and hint of fire with all the DC character. The third year developed a smoother condensed honey sweeties, but without the lively oil and did not come back to the youthful, floral character as the 2nd one did. The Second 2 years aging is just right. I bet is related to storage problem. If I vacuum seal them. The 3rd year will have all the youth and smoothness of an old SX character, plus the intoxicated DC aroma, I think. Still have some 5 years vacuum sealed DC. Unfortunately, I can not trace the farm or altitude of this specimen, but will give it a try later for comparison.
Since is the season of Dan Cong harvesting. I am conducting a tasting in 3 stages of aged Dan Cong. One, Two and Three years old differences. All are from the same farmer and same valley in Feng Huang Shan, around 1500m. It will probably take 2 days for the tasting...
Using my own 300ml Dan Cong pot. Cool infusion method.
I got a lot of these semi-glazed earthenware from a trip to Kwangju, Korea last year. After observing traditional way of making KimChi, which they aged kimchi in earthenware around 6 ft deep and 3 feet wide, half buried in the ground. Some of it are aged for 5 years before transfering into smaller jars. I immediately think of puerh storage, when I saw those giant tanks and the kimchi process.
Nowadays, i will take the tea out from storage, and put it into 8g jars at least 2-3 days before consumption. This way, the tea can have a chance to breath and get ready. Cigar connoisseurs will perform the same steps (or not more complicated) to their habañas also.
After the deadly rainstorm a week ago. My garden finally started to blossom. I have been waiting for this perfectly-framed apple blossoms thru the red tea room for the whole year.
Since Juliet: http://themandarinstea.blogspot.com/2006/06/befitting-of-shakespearian-drama.html is still in Yixing teapot hospital, for a golden make-over. I've been looking for a medium size pot for younger green puerh. And here is my new love! A 160ml, medium fired, heavy walled pot. I am absolutely fascinated with her performance, wondering how her color will change, with my continue seasoning and the miracle of patina.
A Divine Taiwanese Traditional High Fired Oolong. Michael (Tea Galley) and I were speechless to each others from the experience. Our heads nodded, satisfaction is on our faces. He generously vacuumed 7g from his less-than-25g-collection, announcing this will be a fine enjoyment at home, alone!
Aged High Fire oolong is my first love. Aged high graded Taiwanese Oolong is "By faith, not by quest." This traditional highly crafted workmanship in Taiwan is fading year by year. http://chadao.blogspot.com/2006/04/yixing-pot-old-and-new.html
Although there is still a large number of older generation in Hong Kong and SE Asia which still praise for this gem. Sadly, the newer tea communities can hardly get their hands on this highly crafted, time consuming products. If we thought puerh is difficult, High fired aged oolong will be overwhelming.... The 4 main keys to the process are: 1. Picking - the right tea, the right place and the right timing. 2. First processing - After processing the tea. The first firing to prepare for the first 6 months aging. 3. Fine roasting - A refining steps of roasting to bring out the best of the tea for storage in Mid-Autumn. 4. Storage - A complete moisture sealing and aging.
To obtain the best effect, the master roaster will refine firing the tea for over 48 hrs or more, in small steps. Not to over roast, but to bring out the tea like an opera. With height and drama, the tea will give you an emotional ride. And this is exactly what this Mystery tea had given me.
A high elevation, high quality Lishan ( I am guessing ) from older bushes. The tea should be at least 2 years aged or older. Strong, large pallets with oily sheen covering each of them. Heated pot aroma of grain, seaweed and clean refreshing high mountain air. With floral of orchid rushing from the back.
Rinse and sit for 30 sec. Rolling water. Set aside for 4th brew after cleanser: The smell of ocean and dried moss, followed by sweet fruits and blossom. 1st brew. 15 sec. Gentle rim pouring: Seaweed, honey and roasted sun dried plums. Chinese medicine at the back. Clean and refreshing. My wife wrote a Chinese calligraphy for it: "Body in Forest, Mind in Ocean." 2nd. 30 sec. I like this stronger: Floral, orchid, dried moss, fresh peaches. Strong on the front and sweet at the back. Long lasting aroma filling my breath, mixing with the first brew. 3rd. 45 sec. Powerful. Chinese medicine with deep floral overall, roasted grain. I am blushing with sweat on my back. 4th. 45 sec. Boiling water. Soft rim. Bitterness turns into wave of sweetness. Ripe honeydew melon, floral. deep mountain creek. Sunshine on moist moss. Summer Afternoon high mountain clear creek cool water. Refreshing. Another calligraphy from her: "Raining day, praising a cup of tea. Cloudy afternoon, flowers blossoming in my garden."
I am very impressed. Both from her reaction and the tea. We looked at each other and nodded in tranquility for a moment. The rinse now. Green melon and spring blossom, light and refreshing. We ended the afternoon quite drunk from the experience. Aroma lasted for a long couple of hours, leaving us with a very deep impression of what a great tea can do to your mind and body. And the timeless tradition of all the right combination to make a tea for the Mandarins.
Remembering the first experience of this finest gem from a trip to Nankang, less then 2 hours drive from Taipei. One of the oldest tea farmer named Yeung Tim and his family in the region introduced this eye opening tea to us. After a full day of drinking (tea and local wine) and eating white baby bamboo shoot, mountain chicken ginger soup and fresh tea leave tempura.
I still remember the moment after dinning outside Yeung's garden overlooking the whole valley. The Grandson (half drank) pulled out a pure silver pot from the family house, to show us what Real Taiwanese tea is! The name, Da yu ling, was new to me at that time, and the concept of pouring rolling-boiled water into a silver pot with light oolong in it was even newer. "Will that be too hot for the little ones?" I insisted. "This silver pot cooking tech. is the only way for this tea! The stronger the better!!" And I will never argue with any locals from that day on....
What an amazing treat! The theory behind the technique is: Since this is one of the highest elevation tea grown in the island, with the harsh weather and lose soil condition, the high heated pressure cooking can then release the essence of this tea. I was so intrigued and convinced of this new method. Next morning, we went down the mountain and visited one of Yeung's good friends who made teapots out of 麥飯石 Maifan stone. "This is the closest thing you can get, besides a custom-made silver pot." said the grandson.
It has since been 7 years. This teapot was setting alone in a corner of my collection until this time, and now I can finally use it! Thanks for Stéphane's most generous gift. I never had a aged DYL before, but the first sip of this amazing tea immediately transformed me back to that moment on the top of Nankang's valley. From then on, it had sprang my love and passion for Taiwanese tea. I remember writing my first Stéphane's DYL experience here: http://chadao.blogspot.com/2006/04/da-yu-ling-2005-fall-harvest.html
I think what the majority Mainland tea farmers are lacking in growing tea, comparing to Taiwanese is the passion and love which these traditional farmers have to their products. Profits and Demands of the market are not the priority to these Taiwanese tea growers, but the tradition and good life style which they have and hold on to.
I guess this is a bigger economic issue, that Chinese Agricultural Industries are facing at this moment. It is the young and aggressive market. Many new farmers are appearing by the day to profit from this rush, without the knowledges and preservations to the environment. You can not talk about pride and tradition without a meal on the table to support it.... Hopefully, in the next 20 years, we can see more concern and technology (like the Taiwan Tea Industry) introduced to protect and improve the tea industry in China.
My wife had made Cha Xiu Bao for the occasion. First CXB from scratch and First DYL from a stone pot!
After 2 months of joy and sorrow we finally found the time to settle down for an afternoon tea. And what is in my pot? A tea from Hong Kong, of course. I am going back to my roots for a traditional cooked puerh. Got this 8 years ago from Fook Ming Tong: http://www.fookmingtong.com. The tea is called Yunnan Age Unknown PU ER for $132 HK / 75g. Back then, the puerh hype was still under control....
I used my favorite 500ml pot for 8g of tea. There are some disc pieces from the badge, and I am not sure if these are originally loose or cake? No smell from dry leaves, but a strong wet storage (earthy and light vinegar) on the rinse. So I washed it twice and let it rest for 30 sec. Wet earthy and grandmom's cosmetic on the nose. Leather, earth, talc, mushroom and numbing on the palate. Clear deep cognac liquor and smooth to the throat. A wholesome hearty brew. It did produced 6 solid brews before going downhill. Large leaves from the pot, some uncooked leaves mixed together. Seems to me a "All mixed-up" recipe from Fook Ming.
Overall a satisfying tea which brings back childhood memories and comfort. Specially those 70's long dim sum family brunches with too many pots of puerh and shoumei, following grandmom's Mahjong games until dinner time.
FAN – Lily, Sau Tai, 81, passed away peacefully at home in Chappaqua on January 27. A devout Christian, her faith had provided her strength and courage to endure with grace a long illness due to cancer. She had survived two major wars in China, and devoted her entire life for her much extended family, friends and churches with unwavering faith, love and compassion. Over the years, she had kept an extensive network of friends both in North America, Hong Kong and Southeast Asia. A true leader with trail blazing personality and a generous soul to all her friends, she will be missed by all.