Friday, February 21, 2014

Tangerine Puer

This is a puer from Menghai Yunnan, China.
It is an aged puer - approximately 8 years old. 
It is about 35 grams - filled with tea.
The tea is stuffed fresh into the hollowed out Tangerine and allowed to dry in the sun.
It is then left to age within the Tangerine shell.
The tea is steeped with pieces of the Tangerine peel.

This puer is from Yunnan ecological tea garden Xishuanbanna.
Purchased in Singapore.
The puer steeps to a beautiful red liquor with a smooth and slightly citrus.

It is clear and and reflects the light.
It is an excellent tea as a digestive.
The puer does not leave a dusty residue.
Steep about 7-8 grams in about 100 deg F water.
Steep for 5 to 10 seconds - tea wash, discard.
Then add more water for a second immersion for 10 to 20 seconds.
The third immersion at 30 to 40 seconds.
Preference is of course to the tea drinker as to how the strength of the tea is preferred.

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

‘Cha Dao’ (茶道) - Tea Appreciation

Tea appreciation is more than just tasting the tea.
It is an experience of the entire process.
In Cha Dao (茶道), there are 4 commonly described experiences.
They are 

i. 3 Observations 三看
- dry leaves, liquor and wet leaves

a. Dry leaves
- deals with the aesthetic of the leaves - the way it looks
- the idea is not to judge the book by its cover 
- sometimes the best looking leaves do not yield the best tasting tea
- the holistic approach is the ideal when looking at dry leaves - wait until you experience it in its entirety

b. Liquor
- the tea liquid must not be dull and cloudy
- the tea liquor should and has the ability to prepare the drinkers state of mind
- the appearance of the the tea must be clear, shiny and has the ability to let light through
- the Chinese describe the ideal liquor for green tea to be soothing, lightly oxidized oolongs to be elegant, whites tea as pure, heavily oxidized oolongs as aristocratic and dark teas as calming

c. Wet leaves
- will reveal the character of the tea
- are they tender, shoots with 1 bud or 1 bud 2 leaves
- does it have a fresh color
- it will reveal the level of oxidization through the patches of black or red
- the wet leaves will reveal the brew

ii. 3 Fragrances 三闻
- dry fragrance, hot fragrance and cold fragrance

a. Dry fragrance
- this is experienced at the initial stage of the steeping process
- here we examine the actual leave - whole, pieces, curled, twisted
- the scent of the dry leaves will reveal the freshness, musty or stale
- was it over oxidized - burnt
- more often than not this stage will indicate to the drinker as the whether this tea will go through the steeping stage 
- also the dry leave stage will also be the stage for saleability

b. Hot fragrance
- this is the initial fragrance of the tea upon contact with hot water
- the scent of the tea will be most apparent at this stage
- the scent will reveal if the tea is floral, spicy, fruity

c. Cold fragrance
- there will be lingering scents after the tea is cooled
- these scents are usually overwhelmed during the wet stage but are after notes
- the best way to experience this is when the vessel is empty and cool
- many times the more subtle floral notes will reveal themselves at this stage.

iii. 3 Critiques 三品
- first, second and third critique
- this is more of an assessment than an actual critique
- the harmony- ‘pin yun’ (品韵)of the tea will be revealed at this stage as well

a. First critique
 - will reveal the mastery of the roasting process
- it reveals the 'firing' skill applied to the tea - roasted, baking or sin-drying
- was it overly baked or roasted, how much of rawness or greenness is still preserved
- did it go through  second firing

b. Second critique
-  the assessment here is to allow the tea to be aerated in the drinking process
- how was the texture of the liquid when it flowed over the tongue
- here flavors will be revealed

c. Third critique
 - here we are looking at the harmony of the tea with all the other components that have been uncovered
- it is an amalgamation and culmination of tea components along with visual, flavor, scent, texture and the after taste

iv. 3 Aftertastes 三回味
- first, second and third aftertaste

a. First aftertaste
 - we are looking for the feel of the tea upon the tongue
- the lingering sweetness 
- is there a recurring sweetness that the Chinese call ‘hui gan’ (回甘), this is usually tasted after the initial bitterness and tannins, leaving a soothing and comforting sense

b. Second aftertaste
 - this is a little tricky as it requires the drinker to suck the tea between the teeth
- here what we re seeking is how does it feel on the teeth

c. Third aftertaste
 - this stage is seeking the feeling it gives on the throat and beneath it
- good tea will open the heart and not just the palate
it should have an invigorating feeling that affects the entire body

Monday, February 17, 2014

Why Chinese teacups are small

Gong Fu Cha Dao is about savoring tea.
 It is not merely drinking a hot beverage.
Gong Fu Cha Dao style of steeping tea involves several infusions of the tea.
This is about savoring different types of tea in one sitting - tea tasting/testing.
Ti be able to do this the required cups have to be small.
About the size of half a ping pong ball to be exact 1/2 oz serving capacity.
The idea is to taste multiple teas without having an excessive amount of caffeine and tannins that may effect the body.

These little tea cups are very small when compared with Western standards.
Western cups measure in the amounts of 4 oz up to 18 oz.
The chinese call the larger cups that are used as “fully grown” cups.
Their capacity measures between 1 oz to 4 oz.
Essentially, the cup is never filled up the brim but about 1/2 or 3/4.
So, a cup with capacity for 2 oz will usually be serve the amount of one to one and a half ounces.

The art of tea appreciation in Chinese is termed as ‘pin cha’ (品茶).
The word ‘pin’ (品)  has a complimentary meaning.
It often denotes a person having good taste.
This person is described as ‘pin wei’ (品味) and a person with ‘pin ge’ (品格).
Chinese characters or 'hanzi' are not words but they correspond to the spoken syllable that has a distinct meaning.
The words usually have 2 or more characters.
The word ‘pin’ is written with 3 ‘kou’(口) ( chinese character for 3 mouthfuls) - 品.

In the southern region of China, the tea culture practices what is termed as
a small ‘pin ming bei’ (品茗杯), meaning tea appreciation cup.
 The drinker is expected to be consume the tea within 3 sips or mouthfuls.
The logic behind this is as follows:

The First Sip
- to clear the palate of any lingering tastes or sensation, while preparing the mouth for the next 2 sips.
The Second Sip
- to appreciate the flavor and taste of the tea

The Third Sip
- to appreciate the body and fullness of the tea, its liquor, texture, harmony of nuance in flavors, in its entirety

Saturday, February 15, 2014

Scented Cups (wenxiangbei 聞香杯)

Scented cups are among one of the many unique tea implements in the Gong Fu Cha Dao practice.
The cup itself is not for drinking out of but used in the tea tasting/testing aspect of the Gong Fu Cha Dao practice.
The design of the cup is tall and narrow when compared to the tasting or drinking cups. 
The call for a tall cup is purely to capture the scent of the tea as well as to aerate the tea when it is poured out of the scented cup into the actual teacup. 
Aerating the tea the steeped tea awakens the favors and scent of the tea further.

Scented cups are sometimes also known as aroma cups, snifter cups or fragrance cups.
The first infusion of tea steeped is called the "infusion of the good smell."
The scented cup or snifter cup always goes along with the 1/2 oz drinking cup.

 The tea is initially poured into the scented cup.
Then from here into the drinking cup.
The empty scented cup is then lifted between the palms of hands and gently rolled, to stimulate and activate  the residual scent of the tea.
It is then held under one’s nose while gently inhaling the escaping fragrance.
 More often than not to intensify the scent emitted by the snifter cup, it is pre-scented.
This is done by pouring the first wash of tea into the scented cups.
The tea is often poured to the brim almost overflowing into the scented cup.

 Drinking cups and scented cups are usually available as complementary sets.
However, the scented cups are often sold singularly and comes in porcelain white.
This is for the viewing of the the color of the tea in as much as to experience the fragrance of the tea.

During the Chinese Cultural Revolution - fall of 1966, the PRC went through a culture purge.
The core of the idea was to have a utopic society rise like a Phoenix from the ashes of the old society.
Old habits, manners, customs and culture of the past was to be fully eradicated - the PRC wanted to wipe out the history of old China.
Much of ancient China's relics, traditional objects, books and intellectual property were sacrificed to the Red Guards.
Taiwan became the guardian of Chinese Culture in this carnage.
She became a great cultural influence to the PRC who were looking at restoration of their culture.
Taiwan also played a major development in the restoration of Chinese tea culture in the 1970's.

The introduction of the of the aroma cup was purely a Taiwanese modification to the Gong Fu Cha Dao.
Introduced in the 1980's as part of a traditional tea set up.
It was coined as wenxiangbei 聞香杯 - the aroma cup.
Elongated and intended purely to accentuate the fragrance of the tea being served and then used to transfer the served liquid into the drinker's own teacup.
The entire idea was to create an experience for the drinker - the intense fragrance emitted from the residual liquor that clung to the inner surface of the cup.
It became the an important implement as part of the Gong Fu Cha Dao setup - a classic tea ware for the tea connoisseur.


A Quintessential Invention : Genesis of a Cultural Orthodoxy in East Asian Tea Appreciation 

By Loretta Kim 金由美, Hong Kong Baptist University and Lawrence Zhang 張樂翔, City University of Hong Kong 

ISSN 1833-8461
No. 29, March 2012

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