Thursday, December 31, 2009
Before the year ends, I wish to do a brief tea tasting. People who follow the Mandarin's blog know that tea review from vendors are rare, except a couple of trusted ones. So, why a change? Perhaps it's to encourage more younger people to learn and understand this life changing experience.
A generous sample for holidays from Carnie and Sina from Red Circle Tea, two young tea enthusiasts who started a new online tea shop. After reading their blogs, I could feel and share the joy of being up in Taiwan tea mountains in search of fine tea.
The package included 1. Organic Red Jade #18, Ping Xi, Taiwan. Machine process and 2. Organic Tribute Red Jade #18, Ping Xi, Taiwan. Hand process. I am just going to write up the latter, hoping readers could test out the first one themselves.
Interestingly, this tea shows the positive energy and youthfulness from the ladies who found it and the people who made them. I am looking forward to seeing how this tea and the company will bring tea awareness to younger audience in the States.
Thank you again Carnie & Sina for such lively and warm gift in this Winter Holidays.
Posted by toki at 10:52 AM
Sunday, December 20, 2009
Photographing using snow light or in rainy daylight is always a blessing. The unusual natural lighting always create such romance and mystery to the shot. I am enjoying the first white out before christmas with my Wuyi Oolong tea setting. Wishing you all a warm, cosy Christmas. T
Posted by toki at 4:59 PM
Thursday, December 17, 2009
Wednesday, December 16, 2009
After 2 weeks of resting from jet lag, most of my tea and myself are almost recovered from bottle shock. The best way to cure the distress was to drink, drink and drink more. Safe to say, we went through almost 2 pounds of fine tea within this couple of weeks.
The choicest so far are aged Shui Xian, and a late 80's 8582. Also got some samples of a fine grade Yixing Kung-Fu Red. I've found 5 kinds of Shui Xian from this trip, 50's to 2008. The most amazing is the 2007 Wuyi SX Special Select, which tastes like a fine bordeaux wine! Shui Xian characters still continue to amaze me. Wide range of bouquets from Peony, to Habanos; Aloeswood to Fine Cognac; Aged Moutai to Château Margaux... hitting all the right spots.
This Menghai 8582 from the late 80's is somewhat 'Mandarins' too. Before 1990's 8582 is my favorite recipe from Menghai factory. A very challenging puerh imo, like a wild horse. The stages are rugged and awarding, powerful and challenging for the mind.... sadly the productions after 1990's are flat and uninteresting (compared to the former). Not to mention the current productions from 2000 and onwards, after Dayi took over... 'Commercial' is the only comment this graphic designer could kindly come up with.
This is a traditional Hong Kong Storage, which means 'wet stored'. After the 4th infusion, the 'storage' smell is mostly washed off and rounded, leaving the 80's Menghai unique characters of: Rose talc perfume, aged plum and camphor. I am aging this in my baby onggi at the moment, to further soften the storage taste. Will see how my aging technique might enhance this 80's treasure.
Of course, nothing will be complete without my daily choice of a Hoyo de Monterrey Epicure No. 2.
Posted by toki at 3:40 PM
Monday, December 14, 2009
My Second design for Mr. Parker arrived at the studio today. Since then, I've sent 2 packages of choicest tea select for a cuppa invitation to Mr. Parker. Patience will be awarded somedays, hopefully a tea session with my wine idol....
Posted by toki at 2:44 PM
Friday, December 11, 2009
A thought on Burning incense: "....The fungus and decomposition process continue to generate a very rich and dark resin to form within its heartwood. This is the preferred resin used in making fine Japanese incense. The resin created as an immune response makes the most sacred oil on the planet . As you can see the wood is extremely rare and often very difficult to obtain, as well as being quite expensive. The best quality is Kyara. Kyara comes in four types: Green, Iron, Purple, and Black.
There are many stories about aloeswood being buried under the ground for hundreds of years. This legend comes from an old Chinese book on incense, but today most aloeswood comes from infected trees that, although in the process of decaying and dying, are indeed still standing. However, sometimes the roots become infected with the fungus and these can be found underground....."
Posted by toki at 2:57 PM
Thursday, December 10, 2009
Finding a decent traditional high fired oolong is hard these days. Looking for a properly aged Wuyi Shui Xian is harder, so stumbling over a 50 years + high fired aged Wuyi is by fate not by quest.
It took me a life long dedication on a single tea shop to finally convince the owner whose tea I am worthy of. Not just any tea, but his own self roasted Main Cliff Shui Xian made more than 50 years ago.
The oldest high grade water fairy I had was a 26 year old vintage Heaven's Heart Cliff Wuyi. It tasted like aged Moutai wine as I recorded. This one, when drinking with the owner it tasted like XO Brandy.
Smooth, Chinese medicine, brandy, aged balsamic on front. Orchid, floral, rose and clean for the finish. Wonderful structure, not a bad way to get drunk. Sweet!
I also tried it with my new 70s buffalo Shui Xian pot. I was not sure about the buffalo at first... but after I used it, it totally made sense. The head of the buffalo acts like a nob for me to open and close the lid easily. Brilliant!
Posted by toki at 10:06 AM
Wednesday, December 09, 2009
We started with 2 new puerh cakes from Yi Dao. A High Mountain Wild Tree, and a High Mountain Before Ming. We had 3 rounds on each one and that was it... this factory is still at a very young stage searching for it's identity. We wasted no time and cleansed our palate with a late 80's 8582. A Hong Kong storage cake, but good enough to bring us back on the train.
Brian Kirbis needs no introduction to the Mandarin's tea although this was his first appearance inside the red room. Being the first timer here at the Big Apple, I played as a proper host to have dinner at the Katz's Delicatessen with their Pastrami on rye extra juice, Reuben, Knoblewurst and fries. Until our tummies were filled with grease and beer, great preparation for a long tea night.
My lovely wife passed on the occasion, since heavy tea and habanos will be our surroundings. She retired early and let us monkeys run the place.
We revisited the 8582 on its 4th steeping and then jumped into the hard items. Brian introduced one of the most amazing yiwu I've ever seen: 可以兴茶砖 brick from 1995, the original family recipe. The brick was beaming with energy, glossy surface and warm glow, the construction and the amount of pressure to press it is optimum. He brewed it with heart and concentration, making the Cha Qi welcoming, rather than aggressively imposing. 'It took me a couple of years to do this...' he said. 'More like winning the heart of a Dragon Lady', I kept the reply to myself.
Around 5g in a 150 ml pot, full boiled water, flash rinse and 5 sec. of 1st steep. Fresh Orchid, warm dry wool, bamboo forest, and dense liquor. The Qi surrounded us, instead of exploding inside us. 2nd cup, I was in a trend.... bright and focused, light and warm. Speechless on the 3rd..... amazing.
Feeling lost, but understood we can not do another young puerh after this yiwu. I pulled out a '83 DHP from the 2nd generation bushes, hoping the Yan Qi will cut the Yiwu, but it faded into thin air. So, a 80's high fired aged Anxi Xiping TGY, Kung-Fu style in a 40 ml blue pot. Crushed powder lining half the pot and filled with whole leaves on top. 'Bring It On!' Brian's '01 Cohiba Siglo II was kicking into it's 2nd stage. My 2nd 2007 Hoyo de Monterrey Epicure No. 2 of the night was burning rapidly on it's 1st stage....
'How do you feel, Brian?' 'Good, good, good.' trying to keep the flame going. The smell of aged Habanos and high fired TGY filled up the room. The place felt alive again, after my 2 weeks of absence working in China. An excellent way to warm the house.
11:15 pm. We have to part.... my 3 days of insomnia and jet lag had taken its toll. A couple of amazing gift from Brian, tea for me and a Moscato d'Asti for my wife. Charming! Just Charming.
I was too drunk to clean up and the Qi from the yiwu put me to sleep right away. Thanks again for a wonderful event Mr. Kirbis, and best of luck to become a East Coaster again next fall. Till then, you have to pursuit your happiness, so that we could have more mandarin's (boy's) time once you move to upstate!
Previous Meetings: MarshlN, The Tea Gallery
Posted by toki at 1:28 PM
Sunday, December 06, 2009
The Reunion is sweet, and the longing is finally over.... After 3 years of her disappearance, Juliet returned with beauty and grace. A Shakespearian drama with a happy ending.
Companying her voyage are an army of 70s-80s yixings, ranging from 40ml to 180ml. All cleaned up and documented here in this post.
I hope all yixing fans could learn one or two things from my previous post Flagstaff Yixing Teapot Museum, Hong Kong, using museum pieces as reference to guide yourself when purchasing older pots. Most of those museum pots' market value is from US $10K and up to almost a million, ranging from early 17c to 90's. So price (collector's select) could be the first indication of its authenticity. Buying a Rong Jiang's pot for under 10K will surely be a tuition.
*This is a craftsman grade 40 ml SP, the smallest functional SP i've ever seen. Made in the 80's using 'Factory stored' early (after ROC) Ben Shan muo luni, with more coarse and sparkle gold sand. You can see the clay difference from a later replica.
Posted by toki at 1:40 PM