Saturday, March 31, 2012

The legend of Liu'an Guapian Cha

In around 1905, a tea taster from a tea store in Liu'an introduced a new product, which was made by picking young leaves among the bought choice green tea while rejecting the old leaves and stalks, and sold it for a good price. 
His innovation was then copied by other tea stores that began to hire local women to do the same thing. What's more, that inspired another local tea shop into an idea to directly remove the stalks of the fresh leaves and separate the young and old leaves in processing. Finally they got twice the result with half the effort, since the finished tea was excellent in all aspects, the color, scent and shape, whatever. Therefore, the tea growers around all came to learn from it and copy the method, especially those in the neighborhood. Since the tea resembles melon seeds in shape, it was named "Guazi Pian", or "Guapian" as it's called today.

By Explore Cultural China

Friday, March 30, 2012

Liu'an Guapian Cha

Liu'an Guapian, also called Tea Pieces, is a special type of green tea and the only green tea in China that requires no stalks or buds to be used in its production. After breaking off the leaves, rejecting the buds and stalks, a tea resembling the melon seeds in shape is made out of a unique traditional processing technology. The tea is produced in Liu'an, Jinzhai and Huoshan counties in Anhui Province. Since the three counties were under the governance of Liu'an Government Office in the past, the tea is thus named Liu'an Guapian, which was made a tribute tea.
Liu'an Guapian has a long history and rich cultural connotation. It was recorded in the Tea Classics as early as in Tang Dynasty; in Ming Dynasty, the famous scientist Xu Guangqi praised highly of the tea in his work Nongzheng Quanshu (Complete Collection of Writings on Agriculture) as "the Liu'an Tea Pieces is the masterwork among all teas"; in early Qing Dynasty, it was listed among the tributes to the emperor, while in modern times it was specified as a special tribute tea for the Central Military Commission, which was loved by our first premier of PRC Zhou Enlai until the end of his life; in 1971 during the first visit of the former U.S. Secretary of State to China, the tea was presented as a national gift to our foreign friends.
Liu'an Guapian is smooth, straight and regular in shape, with the leaf side rolling down in a smooth manner. Without buds or stalks, the leaves are similar to melon seeds in shape and assume the emerald green color, which are bright and sleek despite of a layer of white hair on the surface. The tea features clear liquid and a lingering scent, as well as a fresh, mellow and sweet aftertaste.

By Explore Cultural China

Thursday, March 29, 2012

Steeping time

After being steeped in boiling water, tea leaves first give out substances like caffeine, vitamins and amino acids. The content of these substances in the tea will reach the peak value in three minutes, and as a result bring forth the tea's best flavor around that time. Three minutes later, as the content of solubles like tea polyphenols increases in the water, a somewhat astringent quality will be accumulated in the tea.

By Explore Cultural China

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

The Temperature of water

High-grade green tea should be steeped in water at a temperature of about 80 degrees Celsius, which will guarantee a liquid with a bright green color and a lively refreshing flavor. Water at too high a tempera?ture will spoil the tender leaves by making them over?done and turning them yellowish. Ordinary green tea, red tea and scented tea, are better steeped at a water temperature just below boiling. Oolong tea and Pu'er tea, which have relatively large and coarse leaves, should be steeped in 100-degree-Celsius boiling water.
Generally speaking, tea is best served with not more than three infusions. This is because usually the first infusion releases 50 percent of the soluble com?pounds from inside the leaves, and the second one re?leases about 30 percent. Therefore, when it goes on to the third infusion, there is less than 20 percent of soluble substance left to be retrieved.

By Explore Cultural China

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

The porportion of leaves to water

Generally speaking, water should be added to dried leaves of red tea or green tea in a proportion of about 1:50, namely, for three grams of dried leaves, about 150 grams of water should be added. Brewing oolong tea requires more leaves, with the proportion of dried leaves to water at about 1:25. Of course, the proportion is adjustable so that a stronger or weaker liquid will be made according to one's desire.

by Explore Cultural China

Monday, March 26, 2012

The science of brewing tea

The Chinese attach great importance to water for a good brew. Since ancient times, "The tea of Longjing (Dragon Well) and the water of Hupao (Tiger Running Spring)," and "The water from the midstream of the Yangtze River and the tea from the top of Mount Mengshan" have been regarded as the best pairs for making tea. It is generally believed that "water is the mother of tea," and that it takes the incorporation of the right leaves and the right water to fully bring out the potential flavor of tea.
The second rule is that tea wares are also of great importance to the quality of tea. Different teas should go with different types of tea wares. People generally tend to steep green tea in glasses, oolong tea in kungfu tea in kungfu tea vessels, and red tea in purple clay pots. The utensil called gaiwan, literally "lidded bowl," is what the northern Chinese prefer when it comes to steeping scented tea.
One must first be equipped with an understanding of the characteristics of all types of tea. The inherent character of tea will be able to be fully released if scientific methods are applied. In general, the three most important things one should bear in mind are the proportion of leaves to water, the water temperature and the period of steeping.

By Explore Cultural China

Sunday, March 25, 2012


The ancient Chinese regarded Tao as a complete system which is the rule and law of universe and life. Therefore, the ancients  did not speak of Tao easily, which is different from Japanese who have tea ceremony for tea, ikebana for flower, incense lore for scent, kendo for sword, even judo and taekwondo for wrestling and striking. Among Chinese food culture, entertainment and other activities, it is tea ceremony that can only be qualified to Tao.
What is tea ceremony
Tea ceremony belongs to the oriental culture. What oriental culture is different from western culture is that there is no scientific and exact definition for it. Instead, people need to be close to it and understand it through their own existence. The word “Tea Ceremony” can be dated back to the Tang Dynasty in China, e.g. “as for theory of Hong Jian which was refined extensively, tea ceremony was popularized” in The Record of What Mr. Feng Sees and Hears. Liu Zhenliang in the Tang Dynasty had put forward explicitly in Ten Virtues in Drinking Tea, “Tea brings Tao and Elegance.” The word “Tea Ceremony” has been used for over 1,000 years since the Tang Dynasty, but this entry still can not be found in reference books such as Xinhua Dictionary, Word-Ocean Dictionary and Etymology till now. So, what is the tea ceremony?
Mr. Wu Juenong thought, tea ceremony is “To regard tea as precious and gracious drink while drinking tea is a spiritual enjoyment, an art or a means of cultivating the moral character and nourishing the nature.”
Mr. Zhuang Wanfang thought, tea ceremony is a kind of ceremony to teach people about the law and discipline of rite as well as moral cultivation by means of drinking tea. Mr. Zhuang Wanfang also summarized the basic spirit of Chinese tea ceremony as, “honor, beauty, harmony and respect” and explained, “cultivating morality, being honest and money saving, in order to conduct oneself in society harmoniously and honestly, and to respect and love people.”
Mr. Chen Xiangbai thought, the Chinese tea ceremony includes seven philosophical connotations listing as
tea art, tea morality, tea rite, tea principle, tea feeling, tea science and tera ceremony guidance.
 The essence of Chinese tea ceremony spirit is harmony. Chinese tea ceremony is to regard tea as a process that guides individuals to move towards and finish moral cultivation, thus to realize harmonious and peace between human beings. Tea ceremony theory of Mr. Chen Xiangbai can be simplified as, “seven arts in one heart.”
While Mr. Zhou Zuoren explained tea ceremony leisurely as, “To put it simply, the meaning of tea ceremony is to take a break from a busy life and seek joy amidst sorrow. It is to enjoy a little beauty and harmony in an imperfect reality and taste eternity in a blink.”
Mr. Liu Hanjie, a scholar in Taiwan propose, “Tea ceremony is a method and artistic conception of drinking tea.” As a matter of fact, to define tea ceremony is a waste of time. If a definition must be determined for tea ceremony and regard it as a fixed and rigid concept, the mystique of tea ceremony will be lost. Meanwhile, it limits the imagination of tea drinkers and the mysterious feeling which comes from discovering the philosophic theory with heart will be faded away. To understand the mysterious feeling of tea ceremony with heart is just like that “The moon is reflected in thousand rivers but the reflections are different from each other.” “Tea ceremony” resembles the moon while people’s heart are the rivers. Everyone who drinks tea enjoys the wonderful feeling for tea ceremony which are different from others’ in their own hearts.
By Explore Cultural China

Friday, March 23, 2012

The Art of Brewing Tea

The Chinese are finicky when it comes to preparing tea, regarding it as nothing short of an art to brew a cup of tea with a fine color. aroma and flavor. After thousands of years of experience with tea. They have turned the activity of serving and enjoying their everyday cup of tea into an art of daily life.
The environment in which the tea is served is another aspect the ancient Chinese, expecially the classic and elegant types. attached great importance to. Tea appreciation used to be held in a carefully selected environment, preferably a place surrounded by natural scenery to lend people a poetic mood.

By Explore Cultural China

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Old Man's Tea - Lao Ren Cha 老人茶 (Gong Fu Cha - 工夫茶 )

GongFu Cha is a more modern name to the commonly called Lao Ren Cha - Old Man's Tea. This is so because it was only the older generation that met and savoured tea by brewing it in purple clay teapots and drank from small cups - they sipped the tea rather than gulped it down. This was also common in the Teochew, South-East-Asia and Taiwan communities. Due to the elaborate procedure and the time consuming practice, the name of this type of brewing began to be called Gong Fu Tea. 

Gong Fu - 功夫 -  is a compound of two words. Combining 功 (gōng) meaning "work", "achievement", or "merit", and 夫 (fū) which translates into "man". The literal rendering would be "achievement of man".  The connotation of the word Gong Fu is that of an accomplishment arrived at by great effort of time and energy. The original meaning, gong fu can refer to any skill achieved through hard work and practice. It refers to a person's excellence achieved through long practice in any endeavor - e.g cooking, calligraphy, martial arts, tea, gardening, medicine. It emphasizes effort through education. Such a person is said to possess gong fu. The person with gong fu is someone who has put time, effort, has motivation to develop the  chosen skill that they continue to pursue with diligence, discipline and contemplative education. Gong Fu is not attained perfection, but rather the continued effort, learning, practice, contemplation and development of the skill.
A Gong Fu Cha Master is not someone who has perfected the skill but is rather the person who has chosen to walk the disciplined Path of Tea through practice and learning. 
Lao Ren Cha - The Old Man's Tea practiced by the aged probably because aging has a way of bringing us back to the fundamentals of life and living. The Path of Tea takes us back to nature. All the fundamentals in brewing tea is about the connection to nature - everything that civilization has moved away from. The nature of water - the mother of tea, the effects of clay, the processes of fire, the importance of air and various other subtleties. Gong Fu Cha is interdisciplinary. It brings back the responsibility to the individual as to what is consumed. Life is gong fu.

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Wuyi Rock essence Tea

Wuyi rock-essence tea, a famous kind of oolong in China, grows in the Wuyi Mountain of Fujian Province. The tea gets its name for that the tea plants grow on the rocks of the Wuyi Mountain. Since the Tang Dynasty, tea leaves of Wuyi Mountain became a precious kind of tea offered to the upper class; and an imperial tea garden was set in the Wuyi Mountain to specially gather and produce tea for the imperial family. Since the Ming Dynasty, people began to develop oolong, to which Wuyi rock-essence tea belongs.
There are many kinds of Wuyi rock-essence tea, with famous teas of several dozens. Among these kinds, the “famous plants (Mingcong)” called “the king of rock-essence tea” is the most famous and rarest. The “four most famous plants” refer to bright red gown (Da-hong-pao), ferric arhat (Tie-luo-han), white cock (Bei-gong-ji) and watery goldfish (Shui-jin-yu). The bright red gown tea, the best kind among oolong and which grows on the crag of the Tianxin Rock, is clear and smells sweet after being brewed in boiled water. Besides the mellow, faint scent, the ferric arhat tea, the earliest tea in the Wuyi Mountain, has the function of fever cure. There is some other famous tea like Wuyi cinnamon.
Tea leaves from the heartland of Wuyi Mountain, called “Zhengyan Tea”, are the most excellent among all kinds of Wuyi rock-essence tea. As these tea leaves are brewed in the water, they smell sweet and mellow for a long time and taste without bitter or acerbity. This unique sweet smell is called “Yanyun (Lasting Appeal of Rock)”.

By Explore Cultural China

Sunday, March 18, 2012

Phoenix Tea

The phoenix tea comes from the Mount Phoenix region in Chaozhou. The tea water assumes brownish color, with tealeaves thick and compact in strips. It generally offers around 20 times of infusion with great taste. Among it, the phoenix single-cluster tea is the most famous with multiple flavors of sweet-scented osmanthus, jasmine and honey for you to choose from, which once topped the national famous tea contest held in Fuzhou.
By Explore Cultural China

Saturday, March 17, 2012

Anxi Tikuanyin

Tikuanyin” is a famous species of tea trees, with the leaves being common raw material for Oolong. As a place of origin of Tikuanyin, Anxi region in China is also the main production region of Tikuanyin. The leaves are low-yield owning to delicate nature of this species, yet are of extremely excellent quality.
Anxi Tikuanyin is a kind of semifermented tea, the fabrication of which is featured by both fermentation of black tea and non-fermentation of green tea. The processing technique is highly exquisite, comprising over ten working procedures. The finished tea is featured by sturdiness and heaviness, with red spots scattering on the green leaves and hoarfrosts attaching to the surface. It is, after being brewed in hot water, characterized by intense fragrance, golden liquor, sweet aftertaste, and faint scent of orchid, peanut kernel or coconut. Tikuanyin is brewing-tolerant and can retain faint aroma after being brewed for seven times.
Being a natural and tasty drink, Tikuanyin is endowed with comparatively high healthcare value. Other than having healthcare functions similar to those of general species of tea, it provides efficacies of antiaging, anticancer, anti-arteriosclerosis, diabetes prevention and cure, weight loss, body building, decayed tooth prevention and cure, clearing heat, purging evil fire, reliefing smoking-induced detriment and removing or dispelling the effects of alcohol, etc.

By Explore Cultural China

Friday, March 16, 2012

Benefits of Oolong tea

According to modern studies conducted in China and other countries, Wulong tea has special functions of cancer prevention, blood lipid reduction and anti aging etc, in addition to the usual tea functions such as mind refreshing, fatigue elimination, body fluid regenerating, urination boosting, heat removing, virus killing, inflammation reducing, detoxicating, disease preventing, digestion promoting and weight reducing, and so on and so forth. Wulong tea is called "beauty tea" and "health tea" in Japan.

By Explore Cultural China

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Brewing Oolong Tea

Oolong tea is usually prepared with kungfu tea ware originating in the Fujian area, where people daily practice the traditional art of "kungfu tea." A set of kungfu tea ware includes several articles each with a classical name: "Yushu wei" is a pottery kettle; "Mengchen guan" is a purple clay pot believed to have been invented by Hui Mengchen, a famous purple clay craftsman, hence the name; "Ruochen oif indicates a set of four white porcelain teacups; and "Chaoshan lu" refers to a small stove.
The brewing process starts with the rinsing of the tea¬cups with hot water. They are then placed on a tray. A generous amount of leaves is put into the teapot until they fill more than half of the pot. Boiling water is then poured over the leaves from a kettle that is raised high above the teapot, until the water overflows the mouth of the teapot. The foam floating on the liquid is scraped away by the lid of the teapot before the lid is replaced. After that, hot wa¬ter is sprinkled onto the lid so as to help the brewing, which is finished in a short while, and the tea is ready to be served. The host then fills the teacups in a fashion that manages to let the tea in each cup be of the same strength, and com-pletely empties the teapot. In Hong Kong and Taiwan, kungfu tea ware even includes a "scent-smelling cup," with which a tea taster will first smell the scent of the tea before going on to take the first sip. At that point, a delicate fra¬grance will permeate both the nose and mouth, and saliva will naturally arise. Indeed, kungfu tea is a sensuous plea¬sure that should be relished very carefully.

By Explore Cultural China

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Product Review: Capresso Glass Water Kettle

We have tested numerous water kettles and have decidedly come to love the Capresso H2O Glass Cordless Safety Water Kettle  Model 259. We have used this water kettle for over 5 years and would not use any other water kettle unless it is a Bofura over a Ryoro. 

Product Specifications
  • 1 1/2 quart capacity - 48 oz
  • Heat resistant German SCHOTT Glass
  • Concealed heating element covered in stainless-steel
  • Cordless design 
  • Polarized plug
  • 360 degrees swivel for ambidextrous use 
  • Automatic turn off upon boil
  • Illuminated power switch
  • Measurement markings of ounces and cup, with minimum and maximum capacity
  • Cool to the Touch handle
  • Drip-free pouring
  • Fast and quiet boil
Since water is the mother of tea, the kettle must be worthy of her. The SCHOTT glass technology is  German technology and the item are sold under the brand name DURAN.
The glass is called borosilicate,

This particular design has gone through its variations and problems in manufacturing. The end product is perfected and the problems resolved. We have gone through a couple of these and the only reason we replaced it with a new one is because of the following:

1. We broke the first one and warranty does not cover breaking of the glass. Moreover, before it was sacrificed to the realm of broken things, we outwore the warranty of a year and at that point we were using the kettle for 2 years, with no problems or wear and tear from use.

2. The second time was because, the housekeeper was overzealous with cleaning the item, that the kettle lid snapped from the hinges and needless to say was never the same again. The cover stayed on but we felt that it was too hazardous and was a potential accident waiting to happen - what with hot water and burns and all! At this point the kettle was 3 years old and the only wear and tear that was visible was the broken hinge and the slight scratches that again was from overzealous cleaning!

The beauty about this kettle is the visual effects that are afforded during the boiling process. You are able to stop the boiling process manually by flipping the switch at the precise boiling stage that the water is needed. 
The design is very streamlined and does not look out of place with the traditional Cha Dao setup.
The cordless aspects of the kettle is priceless as it does not inhibit the process of Gong Fu Tea brewing, when every movement is calculated and precise so as to not over brew the tea.

The switch on the handle has a blue light that comes on and indicates that the kettle is on and when the light is off the water is done. It needs only a gentle touch to turn in on and off with minimal sound coming from it. It is also automatic and will tun off when she has done her job.

Accumulation of residue like calcium or iron is unavoidable unless you use filtration. The residue can be removed with vinegar, or a mild commercial descaling agent.
We, however prefer to use a lemon. Cut a lemon in half and rub the the kettle with it - inside and out. Then fill it with water and put the lemon in and bring it to boil. Once it has been brought to boil, leave it overnight or a few hours minimally.Next day, discard and rinse well and fill with water and bring it to boil and discard the water. Now your kettle is ready for use, again.

Do read your instruction manual thoroughly before handling your kettle and follow them, it is meant for your safety as well as for the longevity of the product.


Tuesday, March 13, 2012

China's Oolong Cha

Oolong tea, also known as green tea or semi-fermented tea, is a unique Chinese tea variety with distinctive characteristics. It is said that the inventor the tea was named "Oolong", hence the name of the tea.
Oolong tea was evolved from the Dragon Group tea and Phoenix Cake tea dedicated to the royal family in the Song Dynasty around 1725 AD. According to historical research, tea houses of Oolong tea had been established in Fuzhou as early as 1862. Taiwan began to export Oolong tea in 1866.
The luxurious varieties of Oolong tea include Wuyi Rock Tea, Taiwan Oolong and Tieguanyin tea, etc. Tieguanyin produced in Fujian tastes rich in flavor and smells aromatic and fragrant. 
The Taiwan oolong tea tastes pure and natural with a fragrance of fruit. The tea leaves are red at edge and green in the center after brewed. The Oolong tea produced in Nantou, Taiwan is the supreme one. Tieguanyin tea is a local produce of Anxi in southern Fujian. Tieguanyin refers not only to the tea, but also to the tea shrub variety. The tea leaves are in tightly curled like scale hooks or dragonfly heads. After brewing, the tea smells extremely fragrant. Tasting the tea when it is hot, you will find aromas in your mouth. It is worthy of the reputation of "remain fragrant after seven rounds of brewing".

By Explore Cultural China

Sunday, March 11, 2012

Yunnan Black Tea

"Yunan Black Tea" is a general name for black tea produced in Yunan. There are two types of Yunan Black Tea: “Yunnan Kungfu Black Tea” and "Yunnan Broken Black Tea". First produced in 1939, "Yunnan Black Congou" is characterized by stout and strong sprouts, golden sharp ends, red infusion color and strong flavor. 
When it was produced in 1939, 15 tons of Yunnan Black Congou were sold to the UK. As the output increasingly grows, the tea has been exported to over 30 countries and regions in the world, such as Russia and Poland in Eastern Europe, Western Europe and North America.
Yunnan has a long history of tea planting and is home to big tea trees of over 1000 years and those as tall as dozens of meters. The big-leaf trees selected from these big tea trees are ideal breeds for black tea making, thanks to their high content of tea polyphenols, active polyphenol oxidases and strong sprouts. The black tea made of these breeds is golden in color and has lots of visible sharp ends. Moreover, the tea’s taste is strong and refreshing. 
It's one of China's best black tea types for export.
Yunnan Black Tea is best taken with sugar and milk. The tea’s taste remains strong after milk is added. A cup of infused Yunnan Black Tea is red and shiny. And the top-class tea usually leaves a golden ring on the cup at the point of contact and the tea turns turbid like cream when it cools. These are indications of good quality.

By Explore Cultural China

Saturday, March 10, 2012

White Tea Valley - China

Located in the valley of Hengkeng, Daxi Village, Tianhuangping Town, Anji County with an altitude of about 800 meters, the White Tea Valley is so named after a thousand-year-old ancient white tea plant, the only one extant in the valley. Beneath the tree are the Jiulongxia Scenic Area and the renowned "Anji Bamboo Forest" that is known as a major scene in the movie Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon.

By Explore Cultural China

Friday, March 9, 2012

Anji White Tea versus "White Tea"

The Anji white tea is completely different from the silver tip pekoe and White Peony (Bai Mudan) in the "White Tea" category, one of the six Chinese tea categories. The latter refers to white tea made of green hairy young leaves in artificial white color, while the former is a special and famous green tea with white leaves made according to green tea processing techniques, with its color being naturally cultivated. The Anji white tea is a rare tea breed as well as the rare tea plant.

By Explore Cultural China

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Characteristics of Anji White Tea

It's a genetic variation as a result of chlorophyll loss under low temperature condition and a special breed among tea plants. Because of its specificity in metabolism function, the synthesis of chlorophyll is restrained under low temperature environment, while the generation of free amino acids (FAAs) is greatly improved. Therefore, the content of FAAs in early spring white tea is generally above 6%, or even as high as 9%, while the percentage for other green tea products is 2% to 4%. The FAAs in tealeaves consists of over 20 amino acids, among which theanine occupies 50% to 60% of the total amount. Theanine is a characteristic component in tea, which is discovered in small amount in only one type of plants and animals apart from the tea.

By Explore Cultural China

Saturday, March 3, 2012

Anji Cha - White Tea

The white tea is one of the six major tea categories in China, and Anji white tea is a new breed among famous teas in Zhejiang Province. However, as a product of green tea processing technology, Anji white tea is actually green tea in white color, with its raw materials being white young leaves of a certain tea plant.

Located in northern Zhejiang Province, the Anji County is a famous hometown of bamboos in China embraced by mountains and streams. Ever since 1982, when the local people accidentally found an ancient white tea plant in a valley, the Anji white tea has gradually been known and developed by people. It is a rare variety among tea plants, and the color of its leaf buds can change with the seasons: grey before the Tomb-sweeping Day, which will turn green at the Grain Rain Day (Apr.19, 20 or 21) until totally green. The Anji white tea has a short harvest time lasting about one month, which makes it even rarer.

We have mentioned that it is actually a kind of green tea since it’s the white tea leaves made out of the green tea processing techniques. Upon spreading the new leaves out for four or five hours and de-enzyming according to a certain temperature and time, then comes the trimming and drying processes. 
When new Anji white tea is steeped, it features green stem and white leaves, as well as light yellow tea liquid giving out a fresh and strongly fragrant aroma.

By Explore Cultural China

Thursday, March 1, 2012

New Arrivals at TeaFirst!

Aroma Cups
Coconut Shell Ladles
Kohiki Glaze Teaware
Kohiki Glaze Chawan
Pandanau Fans
Porcelain Tool Rest
Tenmoku Glaze Chawan

Winter is Coming - Ginger Tisane

 The warmth of summer is slowly fleeing as the September nights and mornings hint at the coming of winter. Ginger tisanes are perfect to pr...