Friday, December 12, 2008

How to Test a Real Zhu Ni?

Use it in the Winter time and do not pre-heat the pot. Pour hot water in and MONEY!

Down the drain! Never use a zhuni pot in a cold environment! It will be worst then our economy : P

Even Michael at the tea gallery learn it the hard way.... Click! Holly!! and all our hearts broken.
You MUST warm up the pot slowly no matter what.

So I started painting a tea pot and smoke away, hoping the smoke will claim this intense atmosphere. We all learn....

Monday, December 08, 2008

Eat, Smoke, Drink, Family.....

The Sum of a short trip to Singapore.

But nothing compare to a breakfast with my folks on a local roadside eatery. Bak Kut Teh! "Meat, Bone, tea". The best part was making Traditional Kung Fu tea on the spot! Free water with live charcoal stove at your leisure. Heaven!

Friday, November 21, 2008

Faith to follow, or to Shepherd?

In a not-so-ancient time (Ming - Qing Dynasty), when mandarins gathered for tea, the focus was most often not on the tea itself but on the free association of minds. Delicate and graceful moments in time and space were created over pots of tea—vast enough to glimpse the past, present, and future, and perhaps also affect and alter one's reflection of oneself.

I spent three days in San Francisco this past week. Brian Kirbis (, was kindly introduced to me (online, of course) by Jason Fasi, aka bearbearbear ( Brian the Shepherd was kind enough to take his precious time, a day before leaving for Yunnan on an important research trip, to meet with me over a cup of tea.

He arrived at my place just shy of 3 o' clock. The spiritual journey began once the doorbell rang... the door opened and upon greeting, I felt somehow that I had known this gentleman before. I unconsciously burst out with a hearty laugh: presented to me was a solid wooden chest, about 20 inches by 20 inches, with Japanese-crafted hardware and a Ginko engraved lock. "How did you manage to get through security with that?" I exclaimed, "That would be a pretty tough feat to handle if we were meeting in NYC". The positive energy from this chest and its master was radiant and immediately warmed the room.

Faith had brought us together to this moment; and once again, tea was the vehicle that had caused the connection. (I do think this friendship would be a good raw puerh).

Brian had a mission, a positive aim to help the world understand the importance of humanity through tea (in this case, puerh). Cooked (human needs) and Uncooked (nature)—abstract words, perhaps, but they are in every drop of tea. A craving for the cognitive? A medicine for the mind or body?

I was enlightened only a week ago, and concluded that there is only Good tea and Bad tea: Good tea is the concept of how the tea benefits one at the moment or in the future, and how it makes one feel and contemplate. Bad tea is known only through experience; and once one has built this memory, one builds an immediate response when drinking a Bad tea from having had enough of it in the past—perhaps like an inner alarm or firewall.

The Chest opened—cosmos or tea capsule? Antique cups, teaware, fine tea, and experience all fit neatly into ths 20 by 20 space. "I can only contribute water..." I offered. We drank three teas in this short time: 1. Lao Ban Zhang, 2. Nannou, and 3. 80's Chang Ning. I won't detail the nuances or complexities of these teas; it would be too insignificant. All that must be said is that they were Good teas.

Brian will be in Yunnan for the next two months, living with his new family (tea farmers) in the mountains and furthering his studies for the Yunnan University regarding the Essentialism of Modern Tea Society. Maya Angelou once said: "When you get, give. When you learn, teach." Brian and I understood this idea through tea; it is another wonderful gift of nature conveyed through a single leaf.

Two days before this trip, I found my newly designed project in the mail: "Footprints In The Snow: The Autobiography of a Chinese Buddhist Monk." I do think that all things are connected through karma—and this is yet another of them. The book fit nicely into the small space left empty in Brian's chest. "I always want to fit an old man into this chest," Brian said, accepting this small token. "I will be faithfully following your chest in its development," I replied.

Best of luck, and have some good tea, my friend.

A gift from Brian: A Malaysia stored 7542 from the 90s. Aging inside my silver box, until we both meet again.

Sunday, November 02, 2008

Hong So Sul, making Good Korean tea for 50 yrs.

An interesting article From Segye Korean Newspaper. Regarding modern Korean tea, roughly translated for your viewing pleasure:

Hong So Sul, master of Korean green tea, has been spending more than 49 years to make good tea in Korea. He devoted himself at Hwagae market and Hadong where most of Korean green tea is cultivated. When he first started tea cultivation in 1960, there were many tea farms in Hwagae but no one understood its true value. Hong was the one who realized the value of the tea and helped the farmers earn high income from tea farming.

Hwagae Jae Da, the tea that Hong is producing in Hwagae, was selected as the best tea in 1995 and 2001 by Korea Tea Association and won silver medal at the World Tea Competition held in China in 2001. Besides these, he was awarded with more than 10 times for his green tea. Now more than 70 years old, he still insists on steaming nine times and rubbing nines times all by hands. Korean persimmon leaf tea is what he first developed. He became a Bamboo dew tea production master and was awarded in recognition for his distinguished work.

Born in KyungBook, he went to Japan with his father at 2 years old. He came in contact with Japanese tea culture until he turned 17 and came back to Korea. He was 27 when his garment business failed and lost everything within 3 years. One woman who was supposed to pay him back for some garment gave him some green tea instead of the money she owned. He realized there's green tea in Korea as well.

He went to SaChun to produce green tea as knowing the value of green tea in Japan, but soon he was disappointed by the small size of the wild tea farms. He went to HwaGae immediately when He heard there are many large tea farms. He recalls when he found an old man from China, who makes fermented green tea for his own family, he was so glad. He started running his own tea factory in HwaGae and producing and selling wild green tea. He also educated people trying to spread his knowledge about Korean tea. As a result, after 46 years right now, 1940 farmhouses are producing 2134 tons of wild tea leaves in 931ha, making 431mil(korean won) income per year.

In the "book of tea" by Luk Yu (Tang Dynasty), it says the best tea trees are from between cliff rocks. The wild tea trees in HwaGae grow up between cliff rocks that goes around Jiri Mountains and SumJin River. They are beloved by tea drinkers because of its color and deep taste. He is recognized by his best quality green tea produced with his traditional skill by hands. He and his son's family cultivate 33000m(2) tea farms and produce 150 tons of green tea and other Korean traditional teas. Now his achievement became the province's specialty product, the town supports a Green tea Development Organization. They organize the national annual green tea festival. As a president of the organization, Hong says, many farmers are having hard time due to WTO, but we have no worries about tea because Korean tea is high quality tea with good taste and fragrance. He says Japanese & Chinese teas are large markets so it's more difficult to produce organic teas but it is possible for Korean tea because it has smaller scale market and it will raise the value of the tea. That makes it possible to compete with others teas.

Now he concentrates on handing on tea cultures to visitors at tea school next to his own tea factory. He advised that we should produce and value (中雀) & (大雀) medium/large bird's tongue more, not just high quality tea like (雨前茶) pre-rain so they can all have competition to each other and it will make all teas as universal drinks.

Thursday, October 09, 2008

Kizeamon Ido Chawan.... Impermanence.

flux, but it is as truthful as I can feel....

A Joseon (1392 - 1910) Lee Dynasty edo style? tea bowl.

Enjoy a moment of birth and rebirth from this vessel.


Monday, October 06, 2008

Parker's Wine Buyer's Guide, 7th Edition. My Idol...

Besides tea, wine is a good part of my life also. Having the greatest honor to design Parker's latest edition is a dream come true! I've been a humble follower of Mr. Parker's for over a decade now.... Hope one day we will have a moment to appreciate fine tea together. (Dream on)

This Gigantic 7th edition Hardcover and Paperback were in my mail today. What an Amazing Surprise! Thanks Jackie ; )

Thursday, October 02, 2008

A thought on Lao Ni

Lao Ni means Old Clay, or clay that had been aged before going into the kiln. I've learned from old yixing masters and most of them have recipe clay passed on by their masters and to their students, some have been aged more than a Century.

Gu Jing Zhou once said before his master passed away, they together made some pots using the master Lao Ni. The result are Masterpieces, with the finest recipe clay and tradition which will pass on for generations.

Good Recipe Lao Ni is like Jade, said master He Dao Hong... both are minerals at the end of the day. Yixing shares a lot of characters that jade has. The more you use, the more luster it will show. It will glow like Jade with human touch and get lighter by time.

These two pots in the front are from the same master, same clay and made at the same time (I guess). You can tell by these pics that there is luster shine to them, even after so many years. The funny thing is, if you cradle it inside your hands, it will suck up all the oil from your palm, glowing like a gem. Almost like when a puppy has been waiting for her master to come home all day, once you stepped inside the house, the puppy lit-up. Fun....

Wednesday, October 01, 2008

Qing's Yixing lovers

These Qing's Dynasty (1644-1911) Yixing came in pairs. Lovers or perhaps partners for over a Century. Some have been repaired, and some will remain wabi.

These are all made by the same factory: Mansheng, of course not the real person Mansheng himself. Just imitation of the master's shape. I encountered a real ManSheng pot in Hong Kong Flagstaff museum once, and was a learning experience.

This one at the center is the only one came alone.... Over the weekend, I'd transformed him to a brand new person. Here are the before and after pics. Cleaning up patina of over a 100 year-old is also a learning and humble experience.

Monday, September 22, 2008

Sharing a thought....

The Qing Brick finally ended one month after.... Still, the tea water from the steep tasted like a Edith Piaf's song.

Courtesy of the New York Times Sunday Metro sec.

Sunday, September 14, 2008


Inspired by Yumcha's Gaiwan post: Remnants of a past I decided to document some of my inventory, collected over a period of short tea time. I hope this could serve as a visual history for my future reference. Never know when will be the next victim of my floor....

I have recently stop collecting random Gaiwans, but my interests in collecting Korean pottery have grown... specially the edo style tea bowls. Thanks to MattCHa from his passion and dedication to this rare and emerging art form.

Friday, September 12, 2008

The Morning After....

My Wuyi SX finally gave after 11 days and a long last night session... or shall I say, I gave up? This morning, I tasted the last overnight steep. The fragrance still attracts my craving, it will go on and on like rose/sweet corn water if I continue.... But I guess Phyll and Sal had enough of this experience : ) Should we try a vintage puerh next... for a full month : P

anyone up for it?

Monday, September 08, 2008

Korean Style Storage

This is a gift from my lovely wife. We found a very nice tea/pottery shop in Seoul this year and this is the result of our visit, plus fond memories of course.

What's in it? Korean tea from Matt's kindness gift. What else will be more suitable? I think I will age this ddok cha at least for a year before consuming. I'll be patient and it should be rewarded by more great memories ; )

Friday, September 05, 2008

What is detail Tasting?

Per Eileen's request, I am explaining step-by-step method of "Detail Tasting". This is by no means a traditional method, practiced by tea master. It's simply a method I and Michael developed, based on our try with success and errors.

First of all, you need 3 vessels. A brewing pot/gaiwan and 2 tall cups which hold the same volume of the pot. Why two cups? The 1st is to pour the brew in, then transfer the brew into the 2nd cup for drinking. After the transfer, 1st cup becomes the smelling cup which one can appreciate dry cup smell of the fresh brew. The second one is for slow drinking, after consumption, you can then compare the dry cup smell from the 1st cup to the 2nd cup.

Always smell and look at the tea after a overnight or 2 days brew. Smell the lid first and look for signs of oil or mold developing at the surface of the filled pot. Instinct and intuition play a big part in tea drinking, at least for me. If your gut feeling tells you not to drink, then just try a tiny slurp and discard.....

A step-by-step pic. for a flush steep after a overnight session. From Left to Right:
1. Pour out the overnight brew to the first cup and drink slowly. Enjoy the smell of the dry cup afterwards.
2. Refill the pot with boiling water.
3. Close lid and seal the pot with another pour.
4. Observe the surface of the pot, until all the surface water is sucked up dry. (You kinda have to feel it for timing)
5. Pour and drink the flush brew. (Traditional Cantonese Kung Fu will always dry up the previous pot by hanging it vertically (as shown on the far right pic. This is to drain out all the remaining water from the pot before the next steep.)

PeekABoo! What's in the tub?

After the first flush steep, probably after the 3rd day of "detail tasting". I will then do a double vessel brewing for the overnight or 24 hr. steep. This double heating technique can extend the high temp. inside the pot for a longer period of time. Tea addicts will apply this technique to vintage puerh. Also works with good quality Long Jin, instead of boiling water and a yixing pot, I will use luke warm water for the brew and a gaiwan. Then fill half way up with boiling water for the outer vessel. (That will be another pots next May : )

This is the 7th weeks brew at the tea gallery. Michael used 18 grams of this 04 SX tea in this large Gaiwan for the test. The back is the 2008 harvest, on its 2nd weeks.

Tuesday, September 02, 2008

Second day of Kung Fu tasting....

The spark of the idea to search for the perfect Kung Fu oolong dated back to this post:

After a long journey to find the origin of Kung Fu tea, from Chaozhou to Anxi and Wuyi mountain in China, the frustration of a deeper understanding of what Real Kung fu means still lingers.... Until 2 years of testing and tasting with Michael at the tea gallery, the result is this SX from Wuyi San....

Second day of tasting. The tea made a turn from masculine to scholastic this morning. Cigar to floral, acacia flower fragrance to be exact. First thing I did is to taste the overnight brew: lychee and floral notes, hint of tobacco sweetness around my mouth. Following with a rush of sandalwood coating my throat, creamy apricot aftertaste. I then pour boiling water into the pot, awakening the leaves again. The distinctive aroma of this refine fired SX covered my tea room, what a talent this tea master processes.... The man who is responsible for this addiction is under 40 yrs of age!

Wuyi or Anxi (high fired) is "crafted tea", or perhaps "Real" Kung Fu tea.

Why? From picking trees to aging such tea involved skills and experience every steps of the way. The reason why this tea outlasts every others is that, the master firing had penetrated to the core of the leaves, without changing the nature of its character. Almost "preserved" it. It tastes very normal for the 08, but if aged properly (btw. Storing/aging this kind of oolong is 10 times more work than puerh.) The tea will develop like fine wine.

This is the link to the finding of this tea:

After enjoying this quick steep, (Hot water in, hot water over the pot until the pot suck up the surface dry.) I refilled it again with boiling water and sealed it for tonight.

Related Posts:

Monday, September 01, 2008

A Marathon Relay Continues....

Traditional Kung Fu tea drinkers might brew only 3 steeps, ending the session in less than 30 mins. For my experience, if you can find a tea which can outlast more than a month, does that mean I have been wasting all the precious ones for my entire tea drinking life? Or is it only a mere 1 % of the tea I did crossed path with deserving this kind of treatment?

How could a tea keep on going after days of days of abuse, without fading or molding-up, but continuing to develop? Will find out how this marathon ends. The subject is more than 200 yrs old SX bush from Wuyi, refine fired 4 times from May to September 2004. The Kung Fu of this firing had penetrated into the core of the leaves without distorting the character of the tea.

3/4 filled, 1 sec. brew until the 5th brewing. Tastes like Summer mountain spring water stream, passing along the hot sun soaked moss growing next to rock. Clear, fragrant, and full of energy. What will be better to pair with an 1990 vintage Cohiba Robustos.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

My view on Paring 101....

Thanks to Ms. J introduction, a tea friend from The Tea Gallery. David Oller ( and Rosanne Tartaro ( hosted a Kodo gathering this weekend. David was kind enough to bring over 1940's set of Aloewood samples, prepared and produced by a famous Master of Kodo. David then produced a perfect Ko from each of them. Heaven!

I have long been obsessed about pairing aroma to tea. The last time I smelled the waterless pot of the Qing Brick, there was a hint of aloewood in it. The fragrance is so noble and refined that it really opens up one’s mind. At the Kodo gathering, after sampling 5 different kinds of aloewood, David finally pulled out the best one. The molecule of the smoke coated my throat and the windpipe, and slowly developed out to the back of my tongue. Sweet and "Kim" the smoke turns to candy delicious. I can truly relate to a fine vintage pureh with that experience. But, what more is, I long for a cup of tea to pair with the moment....

I usually take at least 3 sessions to be convinced for one tea, then accept it as a "family member". Afterwards, I will pair it with a cigar. This "test" will certainly put it to a statics or if not, fail miserable.... So the question everyone is asking is "Why"?

Pairing fine cheese with choice wine brings out the hidden character of a bottle, which normally details one cannot detach. Some wine connoisseurs pair them with cigar, the smoke molecule that lingers inside the throat can add as a binding to the wine body. Spicy or woody, sweet or astringent, all these will be amplified by the smoke. If the British and the French have been doing this for more than 100 years, why can't we apply the same theory to tea with cigar?

With this question in mind, I enjoyed a beautifully aged 1998 Partagas D4 pairing with 1980's Silver Needle Golden lotus loose puerh. The Lotus flower aroma from the tea was enhanced by the creamy cedar of the smoke, then the spicy, crisp peppier from the body of the cigar was overlayered by the intense moist sweetness of the tea. Sweet and Sour Crispy fried pork loin, who would not appreciate?

Thursday, August 21, 2008

7542 '88 Qingbing ended, Vintage Qing Dynasty Brick began.

During 2 weeks of babysitting a pot, what I was brewing in it was 16 grams of 88 green bing. Of course, I wouldn't have let each moment pass without having something special in it. The tea ended last night with detail tasting everyday for 2 weeks.... And new tasting began. I transfered 11 grams of the Qing Dynasty puerh in it and passed it on to Michael from tea gallery, the rightful owner of the pot. He will now refine brew it everyday, producing cold and hot pots of this rarest vintage puerh. Lets see if this session will break the record of 5 weeks of tasting.

Paring with it, a choice of OpusX Churchill 2007.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Vincerò! Vincerò! Vincerò!

She won my heart by her sacrifice. Everyone of them, shall win.... Even I don't know her name. She did whisper to us at this amazing night.

The group stayed after the session for dessert. My wife made green tea and coffee macaroons. Two aunties brought homemade mango ice-cream and angel food cake. What a feast!
We chatted and reviewed about our experiences, and our hearts were filled with content and thanks. Even though I could not pull a date and name or even origin of this puerh at the end, she did pull this "tea Moment" together.

"We must do this more often!" Betty said, "I have so much more at home, which I do not know what they are...."

As Chinese business tradition, at the end of every year, merchants among merchants give each other some of their best goods of the year, as a 'Mutual Allies Gifts'. Fortunately, Betty's family has been receiving teas as gifts. My request to her: "Bring them over, I insist." One of the Uncle then suggested, "How much do you think this one is worth?" Ahhh... the Big Chinese Question sprung. If a 50's Red Label cost around 35000 per 370 gram, and a real 100 yrs old Song Ping Ho will fetch roughly round 75000, is it safe to say this might cost around 150 per gram? Their jaws dropped and started laughing.... "I like that," betty said "Here son, this is for your retirement! And I will keep the rest of the collection for mine."

If we really think a bout it, a 1982 Chateau Petrus roughly cost around 6000, which equals to 6 glasses. 1 pot of high priced tea might produce 60+ brews and cost 1650. That's cheaper than starbucks! So, there it is everyone... another gathering will soon come? We ended around 11ish. For me, the story of this tea has just begun.

Quick boiling water fine pouring*, from chest height around the rim and lower to the center, completed a full circle pour filled up the pot. A quick immediate pour out. And again a 2nd fine pouring sealed the teapot. A ritual I learned from a good friend. This initiated the long journey to find out her true character. I shared this quick rinse with my wife before we went to bed. Act II ended.

Tea moment only happens rarely in ones life time. It's not something you can force to have: 'By faith, Not by quest.' I am truly blessed, with more than a couple of these moments had occur in my short tea life. Asking one deeply inside his passion, and to be gentle and patient is the only way to walk on the path of tea, and of course, good friendship and sincerity will lead to faith. The essence of Vintage tea is the feeling of her aging path, the history, her birth place and her true spirit. All reviewed by the chi and effect she gives to ones body and mind. How she makes you feel. A love affair perhaps....

Sunday afternoon. The sleep was as calm and satisfying as one could ask. The cha chi opens up all the knots and relaxed / refreshed the mind. Beautiful day!

She had won, Victory!

Her story has passed on to 9 of us. Her love spreads, like every good teas that sacrificed themselves before.

The teapot also win : ) This had happened before: First time Michael used this pot is for a 50's Red Label. The aggressive chi had gave the pot and immediate shine, almost oily and alive. As for my pot: This was taken in 2006 (no photoshop magic) the pot used to carry a greener hue. Once after the 1st rinse of this tea, it changed to oily reddish... with a youthful glow! Nothing to do with the heat, even the next morning, the reddish hue remains.

My method of 'Detail Tasting' is simple: 'Patient and No Rush.'
1. Pour out tea from overnight or at least 12 hrs. steep. Tasting the steep slowly. (taste and aroma)
2**. Pour rolling boil water for a instant brew. Tasting the steep slowly. (cha chi)
3. Refine pour* and store in cool place without sunlight.

Some strange things happens within this 12 hrs. (Not for cooked puerh, green, yellow, light oolong and low grade tea.) The tea will only gives as much to saturate the amount of water inside the pot, but will not exhaust itself. The more strange thing is, the color and taste of the brew will be much lighter but filled with elements. 2** much darker color and fuller body, even though it is one second brew.

My wife and I were sitting on our opium bed, with toki as our carpet, of course. It is around 1ish. We poured out the 1st steep into her Korean gimhae teabowl, and started our tasting.

Her notes:
Very clear color, golden reddish.
Fragrance of flower, mineral, rock and early morning mist from mountain.
Taste of floral, sweet, mountain water, smooth throat, clean and refreshing, gramma powder.
Aftertaste of sweet tongue and back of tongue, soothing, relaxing, calm and sleepy.

His notes:
Crystal clear reddish gold of Yellow Rosewood.
Chan Hong aroma, dry pale pink rose, rock and citrus.
Smooth slide down throat to stomach, sweet to the whole mouth with minty throat, mature talcum.
Aftertaste of gramma face powder, relaxing, cooling from the chest up and refreshing, numbing to lips, clearing nasal.
Cooling, relax and happy chi. Feels like after a massage.

Toki notes:
boring parents...

Smelling the pot:
Early high mountain mist in fall. Smell of morning dew on flower. Moisturizing the nose.

Even on the one-second pour, the color is pale yellowish amber gold. Hot bowl of tea, but when slurp, the rush of a cooling chi travels thru the body.
Very Calming, and refreshing like drinking cold mint tea (without the sugar!)

I lit my favorite smoke paring with the tea character. My choice was 2000 epicure No.2. Then sealed the pot with another refine pour for 24 hrs. brew.
Listening to Turandot: Act III "Diecimile anni al nostro Imperatore":

Ma il mio mistero è chiuso in me; il nome mio nessun saprà! No, No! Sulla tua bocca lo dirò quando la luce splenderà!....

Monday, August 18, 2008

Vincerò! Vincerò!

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Sunday, August 17, 2008


Coincidence or just faith playing out in an interesting sequel? After more than 3 months of learning water quality and a life long of being patient with brewing tea. An interesting learning experience unfold last night. One of my mother's dear friends stopped by yesterday, accompanying a group of entourage, who all have exquisite taste in wine and culinary skills. Brought over a tea which is unknown to them in what tea varietal it is.

The brief history of this tea is from her husband's prestigious family. Uncle Conran is in his early 60s, and this was a gift from his grandmother. His family was originated from Quangdong, nine rivers province. This puerh brick had been handed down to his generations as a "guidance" to the house. In total weight of 600 gram, highly compressed and solid as a rock.

I had heard of many stories about generations-old tea before, the sudden appearance of lost storage and it fetches for astronomical price. Most of them are unfortunately stunt from tea vendors or tea masters who have no idea what they're talking about.... I was quite surprised in this cast.

Close examination reveals looser layers of tea leaves on the surface, but well compacted interior. The whole brick carries a grey blue hue, with a brown grayish core. It was not stored in a good condition at first impression. The last time consumed was about 15 yrs ago, as mentioned by auntie Betty: "It is so hard, so we used a hammer and a saw to saw off a corner..." The mark of the cut had aged in a redish brown tone with clay like quality.

We had 9 people, so I decided to use 11 grams to satisfy our curiosity. I brought over my qing dynasty puerh pot (350 ml) to match the date of this tea. It took me more than 15 mins to ply out 2 whole layers and half dust mix.

Water from a Republic Period water pot, storaged for 3 days using Poland Spring. This water will provide a perfect neutral foundation for the brew... act of 3, to be continue....

Friday, August 15, 2008

A Proud Retirement....

Not for me, of course. But my faithful office puerh pot.

No Thunder or Lightening, it just simply thru across the studio.

Now it found its final resting place. Salute!
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