Thanks to the great team at The New York Asia Society, Michael, Yoshie and Fran, my deep bow to you. The Tea Event at the New York Asia Society was a huge success, with over 260 guests attended. After the screening of Tea and the World: The Meaning of Tea by Scott Chamberlin Hoyt. There was a book signing for Mr. Hoyt's tea book and a tea tasting reception. We celebrated the soft launch for The Mandarin's Tea Room. Michael and Dae from the Tea Gallery helped me to present a Kung-Fu tea tasting ceremony using a light Anxi Tikwanyi and a traditional roasted version, both harvested from Fall 2009. Although our guests had a split decision between my light TKY and Michael's heavy TKY. We did have a positive demonstration to our new tea lovers how diverse a same kind of oolong could be, with different processing and brewing methods.
Very nice meeting all of you who came by to have a sip, and thank you to everyone who I know for your support. I am looking forward to introducing more fine tea to my new and season tea friends.
5g of a 50 years old, aged Yancha. The tea master who roasted it 50 years ago brewed it up using a gaiwan, just to show me the tea foundation. But I prefer using a yixing to further enjoy the rich yet subtle moment.
Preheating the teapot with heated water in this brewing method is very important. All vessels should be cleaned and preheated. Here is the Step-by-Step how-tos:
1. Fill the yixing pot with fully boiled water, replace the lid. 2. Pour out the water into the fairness cup (serving vessel). After any remaining moisture has evaporated off the pot surface, pour the water from the fairness cup back over the lid and the exterior of the pot. 3. Fill the teapot up to 1/3 of it's volume with the tea leaves. Softly tap the body of the pot with the palm of your hand to settle the tea leaves to create an even surface. Please remember the teapot will be hot and this step requires quick but gentle movements. 4. The heated leaves are ready to be rinsed. Slowly pour more water (fully boiled and left to cool) into one corner of the pot until it overflows.
5. Replace the lid and immediately pour the rinse into a fairness cup. 6. Fill the drinking cup with the rinse. Pour the remaining rinse back over the pot, avoiding the air hole in the lid. 7. Once the pot has dried, slowly pour more water into the pot for your first brew. 8. Fill until the water level rises above the teapot opening and use your lid to skim off any foam.
9. Replace the lid. Pour water over the pot to seal in the heat. Discard the rinse from the drinking cup at the same time. 10. Steep the first infusion for about 10 seconds. Pouring into a fairness cup from a little height to help oxygenate the liquor. 11. Serve the infusion from the fairness cup into the teacup. 12. If there is any remaining liquor, pour it over the pot to build up the patina.
7g of top grade Anxi Xiping TikwanYin harvested in OCT 2009. How do tea masters brew it in Xiping? They mostly use a Gaiwan.
Here is the step-by-step how-tos:
1. Use a Standard (3 oz) / 4 serving Gaiwan set. Bring water to a boil until the bubbles are no larger then fish-eyes. 2. Fill the gaiwan with the heated water. 3. Pour the water from the gaiwan into the drinking cups. Once the cups have been heated, empty them and discard the remaining water in the gaiwan. 4. Place 5g of tea leaves into the heated gaiwan. 5. For the rinse; use fish-eye boiled water that has been slightly cooled. Pour a fine stream of water into one corner of the vessel, letting the leaves get rolled and tumbled by the water.
6. Pour out the rinse from the gaiwan immediately into all cups and then empty the cups. 7. For the first brew; pour slightly cooled down water in a fine stream (around 6 inches height) aimed at one spot below the rim until the leaves are just covered. 8. Cover with the lid and pour out after 5 seconds. 9. For the second brew; pour in a fine stream at a lower height then the 1st brew. 10. Use the lid to gently turn and loosen up tangled leaves.
11. Use the edge of the lid to skim off any foam 12. Cover the gaiwan with the lid at a slight angle creating a 0.25 inch gap. 13. Use your thumb and middle finger to hold the very tip of the gaiwan's rim, and index finger to hold onto the lid. 14. Pour out in a continuous stream. The 2nd brew should be steeped no longer than 20 seconds. 15. After the brewing session, display the spent leaves for their visual appreciation.
To me, tea is the fabric of Culture and Traditions. It's woven with different times, places and minds together as a whole, through a tiny cup. Although it was a disposable plastic cup, Indeed it was a very good cup that we shared. Thank you, Mr. and Mrs. Pratt, it was such a pleasure for me.
Drawing wisdom from a recent tequila tasting in Mexico.... I am surprised how difficult for us to unlearn or undo our own experience in taste and senses. Expectation is one of the darkest enemy, and raw perception could end a good tasting session prematurely. The fact that most people are unable to understand new information, without the inherent bias of previous experience, a sort of made-believe knowledge to which ones have been exposed. Not only I saw the frustration on the tequila master, when he passed around a 7 years aged 100% blue agave to us and half of the group down the whole thing in record time: "It's only tequila, we drink the finest Patrón without all this fuzz in the States...." The cold reply from the Master was: "Patrón is a blend made in the US. It's the same as drinking a bottle of Vintage Champagne from Mexico."
We often embrace ourselves based on the raw perception we inherent, and it is very amusing to see how it carries in a group tasting. Seeing people changing from an arrogant attitude to disbelief and finally to humble. Of course, only a small percentage of people in the right mind could taste the humble but enlightening result. For me, it took many years to even step into the disbelieve stage. Luckily tea is one of the most forgiving gifts from the nature, along with the tea lovers who continue to rediscover and understand it.
Tasting this Pouchong from the 80's is one of those experiences that I had to completely reset my expectation. It has nothing to do with the aroma nor the taste, even the structure is not important. Notes of floral dry hibiscus with hint of orchid and plum seem out of context. I sometimes question myself as if I was involved in a perfume judging competition? Naming the right combination of a male Moschus moschiferus or a Female Biziura musk could win you a free spa vacation.
This tea sits on my palate for a good 30 sec. letting the whole mouth getting used to the taste and it's temperature, then rolled around for another 5 sec., so the saliva is reacting with the brew to create sweetness. Slurping exhibits more character and lets enough oxygen to let it blossom. Finally after a min, not drinking but letting the less than 20 ml of liquid dissolved downwards. It took 3 mins before the clearing of the mind and the minty refreshing wave that kept coming over and over again from within. Meanwhile, looking at the water to come to a full boil for my forth serving.... it helps to create a state of mind, without judgment and anticipation from the tea, the vessel, the water, or my brewing skill. A total surrender to the tea and its spirit.
Most of the aged tea that I come across including puerh and oolong share the same kind of quality, like a novel or a good play. Nothing matters from what the surface might bring but the result after an hour or even half a day. I missed out a lot of this fine Cha Qi moment in my early tea days, now I have the time to reflect on them. Often judging on some old treasure in less than 3 mins and giving conclusion to the host how this tea should be such and such.... I wish someone back then could have asked me about how good Mexican Champagne might be....
Giving an extra hour for a fine aged tea to speak for itself is the least we can offer, letting the expectation of those shallow perception go is one of the truly humbling experience.
Vendor: Hong Kong Yixing Collector
Brewing Parameter: 40ml '80s Yixing / 3 grams of tea / full boiled 2 weeks aged spring water. Flush rinse / sit 60 s. /1st - flush/ 2nd - 5s / 3rd - 5s / sit 1 mins / 4th - 20s / 5th - 30s. All boiling crab-eye temp.
Liquor Color and Aroma: Clear and oily burnt amber with golden rim. Earthy dried shitak, flower, aged plum, sea salt, citrus peel. Clear refreshing minty character of clean, chewy and sticky mouth feel followed with long lasting sweet sandalwood on the palate.
Ending Notes: Calming Cha Qi, complex and relaxing. Similar to an 20 years aged raw Yiwu. The cooling effect on the throat lasted for an hour plus. Warming effects on the forehead, palm, cheek and numbing the lips.