Dec 22, 2012

Slowing down, but won't stop

Can you guess what tea this is? :-D
(Many apologies for not "showing up" for a long time! I started writing this piece before the summer, and left it unfinished. Now I don't remember what else I had planned to write :-p But it seems what I wrote earlier already includes most of what I wanted to say. I've had a bitter-sweet, busy, dizzy time in the past several months. I'm proud to say, I made a lot of "useful" achievements and I enjoyed it. But meantime, I have to say, I've always equally enjoy "useless" things such as tea drinking and tea writing!)

For a long time, I have been thinking what "tea" should be in my life. Obviously, it's a beverage. It has also been adopted as the central subject of my free writing (I mean blog haha...). It's a source of explorations in history, culture and science. It's a hub to connect with friends. It's a subject of business (I'm not only buying, but also selling it). It could also be a subject of academic work (by the way, my partner and I are looking for an interested publisher to work together on an English translation of a great tea book, full of information and pictures, written by Dr. Wan Xiaochun, a leading tea scientist in China. I've planned to write something to introduce the book.).

To me, the question is, how should "tea" be ranked in the priority list of my life, and how should different aspect of "tea" be prioritized? And here are some of my thoughts.

1. Tea is not the most important thing in my life. I am crazy about tea. That's bad enough already, and I'm kind of glad that I'm not dependent on tea. I don't feel every day of my life has to include tea. Whenever I can have tea, I'm happy. But there were many times that I had to give up tea for days, or many consecutive days, for family, for work, or for back country camping - I naturally don't think much of tea when I don't even have a proper toilet :-p

2. Tea is fairly important in my life. Tea study is one of the major entertainments in my life (I hope this doesn't sound too nerdy...). Tea blogging and a series of activities affiliated to it are a lot of fun that I don't want to give up easily.

3. Tea business could be a little more complicated. But as long as I control it instead of letting it control me, I believe I can maintain a tea business in an enjoyable way.

4. A puerh producer I like very much often says his philosophy is, "Action comes prior to perfection." I like it very much. There are a lot things that we want to do but keep postponing, partially because "we are not ready yet", "it's not the best time yet", or "it's not good enough yet." But "doing" itself is an approach to get closer to good, better and perfect. A Tang dynasty art collector once said, "If we don't do fruitless things, how could we fill our life anyway?" So, although I feel I wouldn't have as much free time to do my tea stuff, and wouldn't be able to get closer to perfection in foreseeable time, I would keep going anyway. I will have to slow it down a bit, and have yet to figure out some practical solutions for my tea life, but it's not time to stop, yet!

Nov 24, 2012


This is not about tea. But, happy Thanksgiving to everyone!

Here are some things that I'm thankful for...

It's so blissful to know that baby Easton is getting out of the hospital and going home for the first time in his life on this Friday!
Baby Easton is my friend's friend's nephew. He was born in August of this year with a rare disease called Epidermolysis Bullosa (EB). It's a dangerous and painful diseases and the treatment is very expensive. A couple of months ago, I made a small donation and have been getting updates of the baby from a kind cousin of his. Today I'm so happy to learn that the baby was ready to go home on Friday. Here is the photo of the baby having a test drive on his car seat! His little face was covered by small scars. But he looks so much better than a few months ago, and he looks cute and strong!

I'm thankful for baby Easton getting so much better. And I'm thankful for being included in the campaign to help baby Easton. It feels great to get involved in a good battle, and win it!

Besides, learning about this painful condition of EB makes me think that everyone of us should be thankful for being born with complete skin on us! There are so many things that we take for granted, yet each of them is a precious blessing!

Baby Easton's family still needs more support for his future treatment. If you are interested in learning more about baby Easton, here is the facebook page of Support Baby Easton (this is the information page with text only, and I have to warn you that the main page has some heart-wrenching photos as the EB disease is very dreadful).

Here is the donation page on facebook if you have a few dollars to spare for baby Easton.


Besides this, I have a lot to be thankful for this year. There have been a lot of good teas, a lot of people giving me unique teas, and a lot of people making me feel my tea work is fun and worthy.

I'm also very lucky to have a few great mentors who gave me enormous help in my study and career. This is a year of numerous changes in my life. Most of these days I'm too occupied to think about tea (and guilty of slow responses to correspondence from tea friends...) But as always, tea is what I have in my hands when I try to slow down for a few moments, when I day dream, when I contemplate on my past and future, and when I have deep gratitude for what life has to offer.

I do enjoy my fully-occupied life at this moment, and I've got to savor every moment of it.   Meantime, I expect to have more free time after these a few months, and would then spend more time with tea and tea friends :-)

Nov 4, 2012

Sea Dyke "yellow can" Shui Xian

I have been interested in the "Sea Dyke Phenomenon" for a while, and have written about two Sea Dyke oolongs here and here. The interest is partially from the good deals that I've got from Sea Dyke, and partially from conversations with older tea drinkers. Many of these older people are not as much of expensive tea drinkers as me, although I'm not the typical expensive tea drinker compared with many other tea drinkers I know.

These older tea drinkers drank inexpensive tea throughout their lives. However, I feel their "tea life" is not shallow at all. They have their own "tea theories" and tea passions. Like what the Chinese proverb says, "...(older people) have had more salt than all the rice we've had; the bridges they've walked across sum up to many more miles than all the roads we've ever traveled; they've had more tea than all the water we've ever had..." - the last section is my addition, and the first two sections are from the original proverb :-p

These stingy older people have their own tea wisdom. After all, tea is never a single-dimensional experience. There are many tea factors to pursue, highest grade, best harvest date, highest prices... but none of them is the single most important pursuit.

Sea Dyke oolong, although very inexpensive, was once the "upscale tea" in the old days in many older tea drinkers' eyes. In today's tea market, it's not really an upscale tea, but a lot of older people are life-long fans of this tea. This brand is part of the history. Some of its products, in my eyes, are surprisingly good for their prices. In today's tea market, there are a lot of products better than Sea Dykes. But there are also a lot of people paying much higher prices for tea that's not even as good as Sea Dyke's tea - this happens a lot in China, and I guess it happens in the States and other countries as well.

Usually the "yellow can" Shui Xian all look the same. But this one produced in 2011 has an extra stamp on the box saying it's sort of "collection edition". I guess this is because Sea Dyke finally picked up with commercial promotion and realized they should make full use of their historical fame. The contents are supposed to be same between regular edition and collection edition.

The tea is a typical machine roasted tea. It's not super outstanding, but is never as weird as some light roast yan cha in the new trend of early 2000s, nor as pretentious as some other heavy roast yan cha that has nothing but fire taste. This is a mass production tea, but is mass produced by people with decades of experience, and is somewhat quality-controlled by tea drinkers of as much experience.

The spent leaves also show that this is a machine roasted tea.  It's relatively high fire, even for a yan cha. And I think, that has to do with that the leave are not top grades. But that's what Sea Dyke is, mediocre but passable leaf grade, machine roast, plain price.

I think Sea Dyke products are also good for a beginner tea drinker to compare machine roast and manual roast (such as this one) without having to suffer from a poorly made machine roast.

The tea liquor doesn't feel as sticky as some top grade yan cha, but usually it has no problem giving 7 good infusions, or a little more. This tea does require at least a few months (or more) to rest and have the "fire taste" faded. Otherwise it would feel too "hot and dry" in your mouth and nose. In contrast, some of the top grade yan cha I've tried in recent years, would taste already good upon the time of being released by the producers, which can be as soon as about 3 months after roasting. These top grade teas would still improve with further resting, but since they are roasted to exactly a suitable degree, and rested by the producer throughout a right amount of time, they would be good to go by the time they are on the shelf.

Sea Dyke is a very interesting tea brand, and is probably one of the very few tea brands that are worth buying in a Chinatown grocery store (if available). There are quite a few things about Sea Dyke that I think are very interesting. And one of the most interesting is its price.

1. The price is generally low. In recent years, they've started several "fancy" lines of products. But overall the prices are low. And in southern China, many older tea drinkers trust the inexpensive "traditional product lines" more than the fancy, expensive (still cheaper than a lot of other brands) new product lines. It's not just out of habit or monetary considerations. Some people would say, the traditional product lines are the factory's major export products and their most representative products. And some people believe the older product lines result from years of experience and some new product lines were created to just follow the most recent market trend.

2. The price is lower abroad than in China, and this always amazes me. Both this tea and the other yan cha of Sea Dyke I blogged about have significantly lower price abroad than in China. The regular edition (not this "collection edition") "yellow can" Shui Xian's manufacturer's suggested retail price in China is about 100 rmb (1US$ = approx. 6.2 rmb). But if you see it in a Chinatown grocery, chances are the price would be lower than $8. The last time I checked with friends in South Eastern Asia, the price of this tea, as well as prices of other Sea Dyke teas, are even lower than prices in US! I guess the main reason is quite a few Sea Dyke teas have been export products for the past several decades, when China was desperately in need of US dollars. So after the domestic market prices of teas increased, to keep their competition edges, their prices in international market didn't increase much.

According to a friend knowing more about international trade (and this is somewhat beyond my understanding and has yet to be verified), another reason that a lot of Chinese products are cheaper in the international market is because the trade chain is stable, and the producers (especially those state-owned businesses) wouldn't have to do much more than shipping their products abroad and taking money. In contrast, there have been too many changes in Chinese market all the time in the past decades in terms of wholesalers, distributors, province rules, etc. Then it ended up costs more selling within China than out of China. This sounds a little ironic!

3. And here is an even bigger irony... around 2009, this "yellow can" caused some market hype. Suddenly, a lot of newer tea drinkers realized this tea was too good for its price. And therefore for some time, this tea was completely sold out in most places. Some dealers stocked up this tea and sold it for twice the official price in Northern Chinese cities like Beijing. This tea has 125g in a can. For 100 rmb per can, I would say, few producers can beat the price. After all, the state-owned larger factories can manage to have low operational costs that can hardly be matched by regular producers. But for 200 rmb per can, I don't think it's a good deal anymore. Yet this tea was still sold out fast at the high price. What does it mean? I guess, this tells us before "yellow can" was (re-)discovered, a lot of people in Northern China paid even higher prices for crappy yan cha. 

Oct 27, 2012

dry-stored 1989 Yiwu loose sheng

{Off the topic for a second... here is something nice that I saw from a Russian tea forum! (with translation tool, of course...) -
We look for the taste, not the "absolute truth." A taste, as you know, everyone has their own. Those who love Puerh, understand what "diversity" means.

I like it and think it's true for a lot of teas and a lot of things... 

And, oh my! There seem to be lots of puerh enthusiasts over there in Russia! Maybe it has to do wit culture, climate as well as diet?}

This is something I liked a lot. I think it tastes quite similar to another Yiwu loose tea that's also labeled 1989, from a different dealer. I wonder if they share the same source. But I was too occupied by other things to compare the two. And so far, both of them are buried somewhere in one of the numerous unopened moving boxes which resulted from my moving 3 months ago... So you know, I'm still recovering from my moving event, and really miss the rural New England (I'm now in urban New England...)

The leaves are clean! I don't have enough experience to tell harvest season of every puerh. But from the leaf shape and the taste characteristics, I'm guessing it's an autumn harvest. The price is also consistent with autumn harvest, which often has lower price than spring harvest for aged tea.

The liquor is smooth and has a nice rice-soup kind of stickiness. That's one of my favorite characteristics from all kinds of tea. Green tea, oolong, puerh... they are so different, yet the best of each type often gives you this "rice-soup" mouth-feel.

The aftertaste has a floral and honey flavor, exactly what I would like to see in a dry-stored sheng.

The taste is rich and deep enough, but not the most powerful that I've seen from aged sheng. I guess it's because this is an autumn harvest. In both puerh field and Tie Guan Yin field, I've heard people say this again and again, "Drink spring harvest for its liquor texture, and drink autumn harvest for its aroma." (春水,秋香。) My understanding is, this is largely why autumn harvest aged puerh is often less expensive. In aged puerh, the liquor texture and the long-lasting aftertaste is valued a lot more than the aroma immediately rising up at the first sip. Autumn harvest tea usually doesn't have as rich texture as spring harvest, which accumulated nutrients throughout a whole winter. But on the other hand, I have an impression that good autumn harvest tea loses bitterness faster in aging - that's the other side of the coin!

I usually drink this tea for 8-10 infusions. That's not a lot of infusions for a puerh. So that may count as a limitation of this tea. But overall, I'm happy enough with several nice infusions.

And, I always have this obsession at the outlook of leaves! The leaves of this tea are not of particularly high grade. But it looks so leathery, succulent, and lively! The outlook of leaves is also something that often amazes me across tea categories. Some aged puerh, aged oolong, and roasted oolong, after going through all the years and/or all the fire, the spent leaves look surprisingly young and alive.

Now I don't know why I'm here writing a blog. I have deadlines to meet in few days and feel quite guilty for spending time on blog instead... But somehow blogging may serve as my ventilation and "mental massage" - that's my excuse :-)

Oct 20, 2012

tea kharma - a "high mountain orchid green tea"

In Buddhism, kharma means "cause" or "effect" or "chain of cause and effect" or pre-destined relationship... It's hard to summarize the exact meaning of it, I guess. Generally speaking, it's very hard to trace the cause of a thing or to track the outcome of a thing. But it's generally believed by Buddhists that good causes would lead to good outcomes, sooner or later. So doing good deeds or create good kharma is sort of like putting away money in your saving account, I guess ;-)

Sometimes "kharma" can serve as a simple explanation of things that are beyond our understanding. For example, why isn't life fair? Why is her boss a jerk? Why this accident just happened to me? Why did he win the lottery? You can't always find a logical answer to every question. But "it's all kharma!"

To me, tea kharma is about how we sometimes want a tea without getting it, and how sometimes a tea come to our way unexpectedly. All of these have their causes but we can't always know or predict. For example, last year I got some really nice Tai Ping Hou Kui but this year I didn't get any. There are many reasons: prices, timing, my own reasons... But all in all, I guess it's just "tea kharma". Maybe I will get some next year. If not (nowadays it's much harder to get good Tai Ping Hou Kui than Long Jing), then probably the year after next year...

It's also "tea kharma" that this year I got a few teas that I didn't even expect. Such as this green tea casually labeled as "high mountain orchid aroma", from one of my favorite green tea supplier. If I get Yong Xi Huo Qing in a year, usually it's from her. Besides business interaction and regular chatting, we didn't talk very much. But from her small tea gifts like this one, I think she likes me a lot :-D She gave me two small packs of green teas last year and two small packs this year. None of them was ever in her tea sale list and I guess it's because the amount is too small to be listed for sale.

The monkey well illustrates my reactions to this tea :-)

The name of the tea doesn't tell much. It's a green tea from Anhui. A lot of green teas from Anhui are from "high mountain" regions and have sort of "orchid aroma". So this one is almost like nameless. However, it's one of the best Anhui green teas that I've had. I guess this is partially because it's really outstanding, and partially because it's not something that I can get whenever I want. It came to me unexpectedly and I don't know if I will encounter it again in future. So the name is not important, and I will just enjoy it while it lasts!

Oct 12, 2012

2011 "Collecting Aroma" Korean export

(Recently I have been very much occupied by other work and didn't have much time doing "useless" things such as blogging... But it feels good to finally find some time and write about tea again, haha ~ ) 

I've had a few Korean export puerh and enjoyed everyone of them. (Here is another Korean export puerh that I like very much.) So when I saw this one, I thought I would take home some no matter what. Besides my optimistic expectation on the tea itself, I'm always drawn by the packaging of the tea. The Korean export puerh packagings I've seen, including the simple, plain ones, are all very neat.

This tea is said to be custom order by some national TV station of Korea. The bamboo tong is very elegant. I thought usually this type of corporation orders are to be gifted cake by cake, and the recipients won't get whole tongs. But this one makes me feel guilty to break the bamboo shell package. So maybe this is a very generous TV station and they were going to give each guest a whole tong of this tea. Oh them lucky guests!

In my impression, Korean export tea typically has these characteristics:
1. Nice packaging.
2. Ancient tree or at least big arbor tree.
3. Nice leaf shape. Good looking compressed tea.
4. Very clean. Some people in puerh industry told me that Korean puerh import inspection is very strict. The tea must be very clean (free of straws, stones, hairs or any other commonly seen gwp of puerh...) to pass the inspection.
5. The taste and aroma is more of the elegant style rather than the powerful style. I don't know if the tea would feel not powerful enough to people with heavier taste. But to me, it's just great. I don't believe a tea has to give you a harsh kick to be great.

Overall this tea has all above characteristics.

Besides the above mentioned characteristics, what's interesting about this tea is, it's a spring tea that was compressed in autumn. Quite a few puerh producers I've talked with believe it's good to wait for a few to several months and let the tea "sweat out" before compressing new sheng, much better than compressing the tea shortly after harvest. It's what people did in the traditional society too. But most of those who said so still compress their tea in spring, because, that's when the tea sells and a tea compressed in autumn would cause numerous questions about whether the tea is "really harvested in spring". In modern society, many people believe in quick cash, and they just wouldn't believe you would hold a spring tea till autumn while you could sell it fast in spring. In recent years, there are more and more producers who venture to compress some of their spring tea later in the year. Usually these are producers who have established reputation and a stable group of returning buyers. For new producers, I guess autumn compressing is not quite practical with the current market mentality, and with the commonly seen cash flow problem in modern puerh industry. I don't know how the patron of this tea decided they would like the tea compressed in autumn instead of spring. But I guess that's a good decision.

Comparing a few 2011 spring-compressed sheng and a few 2011 autumn-compressed sheng I had (both types are made of spring tea), I have a general impression that the "grassy taste" of new tea faded much faster in the autumn compressed tea. I generally wouldn't drink a lot of new sheng and usually would like to wait till the grassy taste fades from a new tea before drinking more of it. In this sense, I feel autumn-compressed tea has some short-term benefit too. A caveat (if I may call it a caveat) is that I also have the impression that autumn compressed tea tend to lose the uprising aroma of new tea sooner. I'm not sure this is really a drawback though, because for puerh, people generally expect for long-term outcome, and the new tea uprising aroma would evaporate sooner or later within few years, even for the spring-compressed tea.

I haven't tasted a lot of this tea yet as it's still too young for me. But overall my impression is, it's didn't blow me away in either good way or bad way (I mean it's not overwhelming or too harsh either), but it's very pleasant as a new tea and has a depth of flavor that may indicate good future development.

The production date on the wrapper is October 2011. The seller of this tea was a little regretful about it and told everybody 100 times that "it is a spring harvest, spring harvest, spring... spring..." It's the national regulation that the production date of a puerh must be the date of compression - which is actually reasonable, but then there is not enough "hard proof" about the tea being a spring harvest, which worries producers and sellers a lot. It's not hard to tell a spring harvest from a non-spring harvest, and "hard proof" of a printed date on the wrapper is theoretically not necessary at all. But that's exactly what the market is after, especially in China. Unfortunately a lot of people buy tea entirely based on "selling points" (spring harvest, arbor tree, xxx village product...) and a lot of sellers sell tea completely based on these selling points (or they would create some selling points). But then, is it really that unfortunate? Maybe not... Good deals belong to people who don't follow the selling points and discover tea that are under-priced due to lacking hard proof of "the selling points" :-p

Oct 5, 2012

some personal view about tea business

In the past a few months, I was pondering on a blog called "slow down but won't stop" talking about my plan of slowing down the tea business of Life in Teacup (but won't stop...) Then I remember this unfinished blog that I started writing long time ago (seen from the date of the relevant steepster thread, it was really a long time ago...) So I thought probably I should finish this piece about business first.

I was also sort of reminded of it by the recent business discussion with a few friends and some thoughtful business discussions initiated by Pete on I always feel Pete's view of business makes more business sense than mine but he also has a lot more "tea sense" than many tea business articles I've read written by the "tea industry people".

This was first inspired by a discussion on Steepster about "how did you get into the tea business?" It was not the first time I saw this kind of question, but this time I happened to have some time to type up what I thought :-D

I always have this hobby of collecting and trying different tea varieties. Some of them I fall in love with. Some of them I don’t like that much after trying once or twice. But just the process of trying new types of tea itself excites me a lot. At certain point I started to feel the current market offers too limited variation and probably I can bring more diversity to the market. Even Chinese mainstream market doesn't offer all varieties that I want. I guess it's because any mainstream market can't afford investing too much on rather unknown products that are destined for only an extremely small group of consumers without extremely high medium charges. So before I started selling tea, to get my personal tea, I often had to dig up and down for information of new tea source and then run up and down to get the tea. At certain point, I both enjoyed my tea adventure and felt terribly guilty that I had wasted so much time on just finding 100g new green tea for myself. In this sense, I feel my time for similar activities is much better used when the time is spent looking for various of teas and not just for my personal use.

In addition, I was very much encouraged by the growth of tea drinking trend in America. As an enthusiastic tea lover living in US, I was invited by a few Chinese tea magazines to research and wrote about American tea market. The research confirmed my gut feelings about growing tea market and further encouraged me. I am destined to deal with small varieties of tea and varieties that are not (yet) known by a lot of people. Without the thriving tea culture in America, I wouldn’t have thought I could possibly put together a tea business based on my own taste preferences.

Besides, something else that makes me excited about this business opportunity is, it’s an opportunity for me to try out a series of ideas. I always believe the subject is more important than the wrapper. I still hope I can further improve many aspects of our business. But I hope that a tea lover interested in tea business doesn’t have to invest tens of thousands of dollars as cash advance to open a business. Also I hope the budget of the business is focused on the subject (tea). Everything else (outlook, marketing, packaging…) can be minimized - probably from this, you can already tell I don't really know much about business in academic sense, and you will probably hear completely different things from real business experts. But I think what's wonderful about a small business with financial freedom is, you can do it in whatever way you like. Otherwise, why bother?

Long time ago, I read a book about a very old tea business. An owner of that tea business said, To run a tea business, you've got to keep a leisure mind. Well she talked about tea business in the old days which may not make much modern sense. But I am somewhat fascinated with the mindset of tea professionals in the old days. I think I currently have pretty much a leisure mind for my tea business. But in fact, I am a weak soul. I know I wouldn't have been able to maintain any leisure mind if I had to put myself in debts for the business. I guess I'm not alone on this. In recent years, I have seen more and more tea businesses that started small on ebay or their own websites, and slowly built up themselves into a larger online business or opening a bricks and mortar teashop. I think this is quite difference from the business mode of investing big cash to open a big store from the beginning. And I can imagine the financial freedom would allow the owners to run the business the way they want, instead of the way the market demands.

In recent years, I've also seen more and more "amateur tea sellers" both in and out of China. Most of my best green teas in recent years are either from tea farmers directly or from "amateur tea sellers" who are children, grandchildren, cousins, nephews, friends... of tea farmers. They sell tea that can't be found elsewhere and they can afford doing so because they don't financially rely on tea business. I started writing a blog about them long time ago but have yet to finish it sometime in future.

These are pretty much my own wishes based on my own shopping habits. I know my business philosophy is not consistent with many other people’s, and may not be the best way to do business. But I am curious to find out if my way will work. Besides, it just feels good when a big part of work is drinking tea.


Recently a few single friends of my husband's called him up one after one to discuss with him their relationship problems with wives, girlfriends, dates...(mid-life crises?)  I just couldn't help laughing upon it and I would tell my husband that this is entirely "blind leading blind". As much of a great person as he is, my husband is really a blunt guy who has no great idea about things like "where to go for the third date" or "what to do when my girlfriend doesn't return my calls"... But when I talk about business, it's his turn to laugh at me for "blind leading blind"... But whatever, if he can run his relationship clinic phone line, I can write about my business :-p

Sep 30, 2012

2005 Changtai Bulang Daughter's Tea & Gossips!

I wonder how many people are drawn in this post by "Gossips!" :-p

Tea first... unless you want to fast forward to the page bottom for gossips...

Cute package! I got this tea for around $16 (don't remember exactly) from back before the international shopping age. At that time, actually international shopping was already possible and started to be more convenient, and I remember seeing this tea cheaper on taobao (not a lot cheaper than $16 though... how much lower can it get anyway...). But I remember I was very much attracted by the package of Puerh Shop's offer, which is a Taiwan market version, with individual package for each mushroom! The mainland market offer has traditional bamboo shell package for each 4 mushrooms. On this one, I choose individual package over traditional package. The wrappers of the tea are two separate ones for the mushroom head and for the handle. It's not only cute, but also convenient.

Talking about western vendor mark-up, even without the wrapper difference, this is a typical case that even if I could buy for less from China, I would rather enjoy the convenience and buy from a trusted American vendor.

The tea is nicely made and clean. Well we know puerh is sort of a rough tea and we allow it to be a little dirty. But being clean and having nice leaf shape is always a bonus!

The taste is a little lighter than most Bulang tea, which is not a bad thing for me.

This tea is in the "Mr. Chen's Tea" series of Changtai, which is supposed to be a series that are taken pride of by Changtai's owner. 

This is a tea that I wish I've got more (the Taiwan market nice wrapper version!), as it disappeared from Puerh Shop website some time ago. While it was on the webpage, I remember there was a photo of this product of somewhat special shape (since each mushroom is hand made, the shape varies a little), which is absolutely cute, and I wish I had saved a photo of it...

I haven't shopped at Puerh Shop for a while, as I'm barely buying any tea from within the States. But I enjoyed my shopping experience there very much and think the prices are very reasonable - even as a savvy shopper who knows all tea prices in China :-)

After I started selling puerh, I would take a look at other web stores from time to time, just make sure my stuff doesn't have much overlap with theirs, because, you know, there are countless teas in this world, and there is no point selling the same stuff as others. Puerh Shop is one that I would take as a reference because they do have a broad range of unique offerings, and they are one of the not so many puerh sellers that give clear wrapper photos and manufacture information.

Now... Gossips!

About Changtai, many people know that Changtai has experienced some ups and downs in the past several years. Besides all problems common to many puerh companies around 2007 (over-optimistic, over-exploitation, over-investment, spreading too thin...), Changtai got extra problems that almost took it to bankruptcy.

In 2007, Changtai ran a whole page advertisement on Puerh and Teapot, a Taiwan magazine, with a big warship. I guess they meant to indicate Changtai's business strength. But soon it was recognized by many Chinese WWII fans that the warship on Changtai's advertisement is exactly the same a famous Japanese warship in WWII. The comparison photos and discussions were posted by numerous tea blogs and online tea forums and the wrath was built up very fast.

Just to be cynical, maybe some of Changtai's competitors helped promote the nationwide rage against Changtai. You never know... But in China (and I guess in Korea and some other Asian countries too), WWII is a painful historical period, and a company is not supposed to put a Japanese WWII warship into the face of their customers.

I personally don't think Changtai has any political intention in their advertisement. Why would they anyway? I believe many tea drinkers would soon forgive their advertisement error if they just admitted it and apologized to tea drinkers. After all, back then, not many tea manufactures made serious and clean products of big tree puerh. But somehow Changtai's response was rather lame. In my eyes, it's not anything political, but rather a public relation disaster. Changtai announced that they didn't have any intention to use Japanese warship to symbolize their company (that I guess most people would believe), but they refused to give sincere apology. Changtai's attitude was pretty much interpreted by many Chinese tea drinkers as its arrogance toward tea drinkers. Hence started a multiple year movement of boycotting Changtai. Up till today, not all vendors who have pre-2008 Changtai products in inventory dare to put them in the market. Some sold them out for lower prices, and some hold the tea in hope that one day the boycott would fade and the tea would be more valuable. The recovery of Changtai's reputation, I think, is totally possible, especially after some early 2000s Changtai Yiwu started to turn out very good in recent years.

I personally never boycotted Changtai (I don't go into any sort of boycott easily...), but I do think their public relation problem as well as some other tea-related problems affect my enthusiasm on them.  If million's of people are angry about a company for its own fault, and if the company still tries to stay cool and don't show people some tears (even alligator's tears would be better than nothing!), then I would interpret it as arrogance too.

In recent years, when Changtai came back to the market, their tea has been very expensive anyway, so I didn't spend much time considering them. On the other hand, I do believe they have relatively sincere attitude in tea making, compared with many other large companies.

So how did Changtai manage to survive the 2007-2008 puerh crisis? A friend in tea industry told me that Changtai went to invest in Maotai (an expensive Chinese liquor) business and manage to maintain the cash flow. You know, eating and drinking are the most important business in China. One won't go bankruptcy if hanging on within the loop of eating and drinking :-)

Sep 20, 2012

don't let the rim of our cup dry...

The Jar With The Dry Rim

The mind is an ocean… I and so many worlds
are rolling there, mysterious, dimly seen!
and our bodies? Our body is a cup, floating
on the ocean; soon it will fill, and sink…

Not even one bubble will show where it went down.

The spirit is so near that you can’t see it!
But reach for it…don’t be a jar
full of water, whose rim is always dry.
Don’t be the rider who gallops all night
and never sees the horse that is beneath him.

The picture is from Rumi Quotes on facebook, whom I've been following. Rumi always touches your soul!

Those of you who frequent teachat probably have heard of the sad news that a long-time beloved teachatter, Ian, recently passed away. 

In the past, besides enjoying some thoughtful posts from Ian on teachat, I had a few exchanges of emails with Ian and some short and pleasant online conversations. Overall I only know a little about Ian, but in my mind, he represents the good experience from an online tea community.

My online tea store had a summer break and some orders were collected in late August. I fulfilled an order from Ian just at the end of August. There was no message exchange upon the order. But Ian's tea selection made me smile. I knew he was restocking some of his old favorites. Sometimes when you know a person's tea tastes, you would feel you are acquainted with him in some sense. 

In these a few days, when I think of Ian, I always experience a moment of disbelief about the fact that he has left this world. It is hard to believe that few weeks earlier, few days earlier, everything looked normal. Then, somebody would suddenly leave! But that is life, isn't it? In fact, the sadness I have is a little more than I myself had expected. Probably because I'm getting older and easier to feel sad. Also to a large degree I feel sad for Ian's family. With time being, I've understood more that when death happens, usually the family of the deceased would suffer much more than the one who passed away. Death is usually a lot more unbearable for those survived.

But, as Chip of teachat said, Ian enriched our lives. Ian was a good tea friend, and he was a good rider of life. We shall carry the inspiration from him. And we shall remember, life goes by fast. Life is not just about having the cup full. We shall remember not to let the rim of our cup dry.  

Sep 5, 2012

a (relatively) complete list of fungi in puerh

If you ever wonder about the microbes in puerh, let's take a quick look at a paper from Journal of Tea Science (by Zhao et al., Journal of Tea Science, 2009, 29(6): 436-442) about fungi identified in 60 puerh samples. The journal is in Chinese language. But nowadays most of the best peer-reviewed Chinese science journals have an English abstract and English contents of data tables and/or graphs available for each paper. This makes it quite convenient for English speaking readers to browse the key contents.

I call this paper "a (relatively) complete list of fungi in puerh" because it's a complete fungi survey on a broad range of puerh samples, sheng and shu both included, using the most thorough and reliable DNA analysis. It's only "relatively" complete because I guess it's just impossible to find all puerh colonizing fungi in one group of samples. However, as showed in some of the data, the fungi found here are quite representative.

Before going over the contents, one thing to emphasize is, this journal article is about fungi found in normal, healthy puerh products, and NOT rotten or moldy puerh. So none of the fungi discussed here is a "mold". But it also depends on what the definition of "mold" is. Since "mold" is more of a daily-life word rather than a scientific word, there is no clear definition of it and people just use it rather randomly. I've found it's quite common that when people discuss on "mold" in puerh, they don't have the same idea of "mold" in their minds (Here is a recent example of such discussion from teachat). Sometimes, discrepancies are simply from that people are not talking about the same thing while they think they are talking about the same thing. Roughly, my definition of "mold" is the spore producing stage of fungi featured with hairy structures visible to naked eyes and sometimes spores visible to naked eyes. For puerh products, sometimes people would also call large visible clumps of fungal colonies (even when they are not actively producing spores) "mold". The fungi discussed in this journal paper doesn't include this situation either. So by the above definition of "mold", this paper is not about mold in puerh, but about "normal" fungi in puerh.   

Here is a snapshot of the abstract. (All following pictures can be clicked to enlarge.)

To make it short, a survey on 60 puerh (sheng and shu) samples led to identification of fungi of 40 species of 19 genera; half of the species are from Aspergillus and Penicillium (these are genera names that must sound familiar to many of you). By amount of growth, yeasts and Aspergillus fungi are most commonly found.

Below is Table 1 of the paper, with a complete list of fungi identified. Take a look before reading on... Found anything interesting?

To me, what's interesting from the above table is:

1. You can spot a few species that are commonly deemed as "bad guys". For example, the notorious Aspergillus niger. This guy is commonly found in normal healthy puerh, as reported by many puerh studies. But it's rather unclear if it has a significant impact on the health outcome of puerh. But when we talk about this guy in normal healthy puerh, it's NOT in its "mold" form. In most other discussions on various human diseases caused by A. niger, we usually see images like this, which is NOT what A. niger appears like in normal puerh:

Many fungi produce their toxins during sporulation (active spore-producing stage), which is really a reasonable stage for them to produce toxins as special protection mechanisms for their reproduction. So A. niger identified in normal puerh product is not likely to be very toxic. However, more research is needed to see if it's harmful or not, or if it's like the nitrite in kimchee or sauerkraut, something you don't want to have too much, but some price you would like to pay in order to enjoy kimchee and sauerkraut.

2. More thoughts about toxins. Potato buds are toxic to human body, but potato is perfectly palatable. Certain types of string beans are slightly toxic when not fully cooked, but when fully cooked, they are nutritious. Many edible mushrooms are only edible and non-toxic before their sporulation stage (for example, the puff balls). Very often, it's not a clear cut what's toxic, and what's not. Fungi are some of the most complicated species. It probably requires a lot of research to find out the health outcomes of puerh colonizing fungi. But obviously many people wouldn't wait for all research results to drink puerh :-)

3.  Despite some bad guys seen in the above table, we don't see Aspergillus flavus, may I call it the devil king of fungi? Aspergillus flavus is a fungus found in a lot of rotten crops, and typically in rotten peanuts. It produces a series of toxins that are among the worst of fungal toxins, causing diseases ranging from instant toxic shock to cancers. That's pretty much why many experienced puerh drinkers would tell people to stay extremely cautious about any yellow molds on puerh, which are indeed very dangerous. (However I would like to mention here that the Aspergillus flavus yellow molds are quite different from "golden flowers" in Fu brick, and it's not hard to distinguish them by naked eyes.)

Next is table 2 of the article, showing the amount of growth of various fungi. It shows that yeasts and Aspergillus fungi are abundant in both sheng and shu, with Aspergillus sightly more abundant in shu, and yeasts slightly more abundant in sheng. The other genera also have quite different abundances in shu and sheng. To a large degree, our puerh preferences depend on which fungi we would like to taste. 

Overall, I thought this is an interesting reading for both scientists and puerh drinkers. This also makes me think that it would be interesting to explore on the following:

1. Co-existence and co-exclusion of fungal species. But I can imagine it will take a lot more sample analyses and cost a lot of money. So unless it can reveal some "useful" information (such as whether puerh made in certain way is less likely to develop mold during storage), probably nobody would sponsor the study just to satisfy curiosity.

2. Species in sheng stored in different conditions. This research was done by Southwestern University in Chongqing, China. Those guys, I assume, deal with dry stored puerh primarily. It would be interesting to compare dry stored and wet stored sheng, and/or compare sheng of various ages, for their fungal colonization.

If you are interested in fungi in puerh, you may also want to read this article on chadao, a blog with not only many beautifully written articles but also a lot of evidence-based scientific discussions on tea. (But who knows exactly what happened to this blog site, as it has been inactive for over a year?)

The chadao article linked to another research about fungi in puerh. The link in the blog has expired, and I've found a new link to it:
(The link is long because of Chinese codes.)

This 2008 article doesn't seem as rigorous research as the Zhao eta al. article in Journal of Tea Science, but it provides some very nice photos of fungi. It also confirms that Aspergillus niger is commonly found in normal puerh products. The study has the potential to answer my above-mentioned 2nd question, but the authors didn't seem to give much discussion on it. But the link I've got for this article is short of the last page of the article, so I don't know if I've missed some important discussion there.

At the end, I also want to mention that, the last author of this Zhao et al. Journal of Tea Science paper (and supposedly the correspondence author and Principle Investigator of the study), Liu Qinjin, is one of the leading puerh scientists and a tea scientist overall. His book about puerh, Appreciation and Brewing of Puerh, is my favorite puerh book.

In China, there have been many puerh books published in recent years. But the world of puerh is always full of myths and urban legends. This book, as small and plain-looking as it is, is closely based on facts and gives a nice review of basics of puerh including history, culture, cultivation and production.

Sep 1, 2012

2012 Wild Oolong

(It feels great to write tea blog again!)

2010 Wild Oolong and its origin were documented here.

2011 Wild Oolong was documented here.

So this wild oolong from my favorite Tie Guan Yin producer has become an annual event for some tea friends and me. Back to this past May, we hadn't heard anything from the producer yet about the wild oolong, and asked them for it. The producer said, the wild oolong was made and was still being "rested". Then our question was, why would you need so much time to rest it (the wild oolong is usually produced in early April) and it's not even a heavily roasted tea? And the producer told us that they hoped the astringency in the tea would be reduced through resting.

Finally in June, I participated into a tea tasting event of this producer and got some samples of 2012 wild oolong. To me, tasting the wild oolong is one interesting thing. Something else that's equally interesting is seeing the "evolution" of this tea. Obviously, the producer has been experimenting the best way to process this tea. For most other oolongs, usually there are some "gold standards" and a producer would strives to get closer to the "gold standards". But for wild oolong, a tea with long-term informal processing among local people but without "industrial standards" for commercial processing, one could actually visualize many different ways of making it.

My past two months were in crazy transitions and till now I feel as if I've suffered from severe memory loss. For this tea, I actually had to track my correspondence with the producer 2 months ago to locate the pictures and verify my tasting memory was correct. So I would keep the verbal description short :-p

Overall impression:

1. The dry tea is completely different from its 2011 version, which was completely different from its 2012 version. I understand that this is the producer's favorite dry tea shape so far, so probably it will stay in this style in the future. The resemblance to current Tie Guan Yin is also convenient in market sense if this tea enters the mainstream market someday.

2. The taste is smoother than what I remembered for the past two years. Probably this is due to higher oxidation level than the past two years (somewhat revealed by the second picture below). I didn't taste much of astringency, but some other people in the some tasting mentioned astringency. This is probably because I do have higher tolerance of bitterness and astringency. Or probably because I brew my tea in a relatively milder way.

3. The dry leaves look quite dry and not shiny at all. But the expand leaves look surprisingly silky. This is what this tea has been like throughout these years. Generally speaking, I think silkiness of the leaves sometimes reflect how "organic" they are (depending on what "organic" means, but I mainly talk about how well the leaves were nurtured with organic nutrients by the soil or organic fertilization or both).

4. A close look at the expand leaves (the last picture below) shows that the leave are more "fibery" than most other oolongs from plantations. In this sense, the leaves look sort of "short of nutrients".

5. The above 3 and 4 seem to me interestingly paradoxical.   

6. Last year, I mentioned 2011 wild oolong tasted somewhat dancong-like. This 2012 tea tastes even more dancong-like to me, with prominent honey aroma in the aftertaste. But it doesn't have as much uprising fragrance as dancong or some other oolongs. I think the strength of this tea is not at its aroma, but mainly at its unique taste and long sweet aftertaste. 

Jun 27, 2012

some random thoughts about "shoulds"

This post was inspired by Alex Zorach's blog post There is no Should. I started writing this right after reading Alex's blog post, but somehow didn't manage to finish it earlier :-)

This is not exactly about tea, but I've thought of it in the context of tea.

If we leave moral questions aside and just focus on technical questions in tea drinking, What does a "should" mean in tea drinking? (Here by "Should", I mean "Shall" or "Ought to" meaning of the word "Should".) I guess there are different answers depending on what the specific tea topic is. But generally I feel most "shoulds" are more or less meaningless. Tea appreciation is a very personal activity. If we believe there aren't that many "shoulds" in water drinking, rice steaming and apple eating, then why would there be more "shoulds" in tea drinking? Of course one can always improve techniques even on apple eating, and he may receive friendly suggestions on a better way to peel his apple, but that's not something somebody else tells him he "should" do, right?

I can understand that when we love tea so much, sometimes it's heart breaking to see other people "mess up" with good tea leaves. But when somebody else drinks his tea, it's about him, not about us. Besides, suggestions can always be given in a gentle, subtle way instead of with an arbitrary "should". After all, tea is only one aspect of life, and we have to admit, everybody messes up with something, and sometimes, one person's messing up is another person's celestial enjoyment. I not only mess up with tea occasionally, I think I constantly mess up with other things such as wine. In fact, I'm afraid I've been butchering wine and liquor culture :-p

I know nearly nothing about wine, and mainly drink red wine for its warming effect (health benefits?). I know if I drink good wine, I will be wasting it. So usually I just buy cheap wine. My typical conversation with a local liquor store owner was like this:

(I was wondering around examining the wine bottles...)
Owner: How can I help you? What kind of wine are you looking for?
Me: Some kind of Merlot or Cabernet with screw-on lid, so that I won't need a cork tool...

Then the store owner quickly recommended an Australian Cabernet around $10, which turned out pretty good for me. And I appreciated his help. After reading some conversations on tea forums, I suspect my wine choice would drive some wine lovers crazy :-p But that was really all I wanted and all I needed from a red wine.

I also consume about 1 bottle of vodka every year, drinking it with grapefruit juice and using it for homemade fragrance, like the one mentioned in #5 of this post. By the way, my aromatherapy book says vodka and tequila are perfect as base fluid for homemade fragrance because they have the right amount of alcohol content and they don't have strong odors themselves :-D

Last time when I went to a local liquor store to buy vodka, I saw more than a dozen varieties. Learning that I was looking for a vodka, the store owner asked, "How do you drink your vodka?" I told him I'd drink it with grapefruit juice (and holding back from telling him about my homemade vodka fragrance). He thought for a moment, and picked up for me a big bottle for less than $10. I appreciated his quick and non-intrusive help. He didn't tell me "no self-respecting vodka drinker would mix juice with vodka" (but I heard comments of this style from tea drinkers...), and he didn't try to talk me into "improving" my vodka appreciation by stepping up to more expensive products (you know this kind of sales pitch happens in all kinds of stores, including some tea stores).

I also keep a bottle of ginger brandy per my good neighbor's recommendation. He swears it's the best flu medicine, and I believe him :-) I don't even enjoy drinking brandy. This bottle is totally for its health benefits :-) And I wonder if there are among brandy connoisseurs the counterpart of anti-flavored-products people among tea connoisseur :-p

Besides buying cheap alcohol and mess up with them, I also occasionally mix alcohol and tea. Remember seeing some tea drinker saying this in horror? "What?? They mixed tea with that stuff?!"

I wonder if there are some rum enthusiast out there saying this in horror - "What?? She mixed rum with tea?!" But so far I haven't got anybody saying it to me yet :-p

Even though I have poor tastes on alcohols, sometimes small suggestions help. For example, when our local liquor seller handed me my wine in the screw-on lid, he also told me that airing it for 15 minutes upon opening the bottle would improve the taste. I appreciate the advice, not only because it's something effective and easy to do, but also because I appreciate the liquor seller cared to give me some tips on a bottle of rather cheap wine.

Who knows? Although there is no sign of it yet, maybe someday I will want to become more intelligent on wine drinking, especially when I meet with wine drinkers who are cool, friendly and not snobbish. And if I decide to stay where I am now and drink alcohols mainly for their "health benefits" and as alcoholic juice, I would appreciate it if serious alcohol connoisseurs would allow me to do whatever I want with my drink, and I would appreciate friendly suggestions and simple tips.

When it comes to tea, I have to admit that there are teas and tea brewing methods that just strike my nerve and don't appeal to me. And there are times when my mind is dominated by all kinds of "shoulds". But I would try to remember how I would like to be treated as an alcohol drinker, and what I would like or dislike to hear from other drinkers about wines and liquors :-D

Jun 17, 2012

three major styles of Tie Guan Yin (1)

I once wrote about the three styles very briefly here. At this moment I realized it was 2.5 years ago (OMG!). I had always thought of further elaborating the topic and didn't realize my procrastination was so bad :-p

It would take many pages to thoroughly explain the styles of Tie Guan Yin, so I tend to get lazy and over-simplify them :-p

I made a few pictures and a chart about the styles a few years ago and somehow didn't feel like to get into the geeky details. So I will try to make this short and brief :-)

The picture can be clicked to enlarge.

Here, only the 3 major styles are listed. However, the styles of Tie Guan Yin spans through a spectrum instead of being a few distinct categories. For example, the modern green style could be made closer to traditional green style and is hence called Zheng Wei (orthodox green style, 正味). The modern green style could also be made very "green" (Xiao Qing, 消青) or made into a fresh sour style (Xiao Suan, 消酸). And there could be many smaller categories in between the above mentioned styles.

Here I would like to emphasize the three major styles because each has its own significance. They are different in quite a few ways. But I would try to summarize their differences very briefly as following:

* Traditional Charcoal Roast: medium oxidation, significant roasting that ranges from medium light to medium high. (The heavy roasting of Tie Guan Yin is generally lighter than the heavy roasting of Wuyi Yan Cha.)

*  Traditional Light Roast (or I would also call it Traditional Greener Style): medium oxidation, relatively brief roasting to induce aromas.

* Modern Green Style: light oxidation, roasting to dry, and no more roasting once the tea leaves are dry.

Next I will explain why I think each of them is significant in Tie Guan Yin family.

1. Modern Green Style.
Many people love it. Many people dislike it. Many people blame it for the shrinking market of traditional style TGY.

a. Why many people love it?
I think this has to do with the cultural context of tea drinking. Modern Green Style of TGY was developed under great influence of Taiwan High Mountain Oolong. Many TGY factories in Anxi and other counties of Fujian have invited Taiwan tea professionals to direct their production, and the modern TGY techniques are largely from techniques of High Mountain Oolong.

The development of Taiwan High Mountain Oolong deserves a separate full discussion. But in short, with modern green technique (in contrast to traditional Taiwan oolong technique), people found the superior fresh taste of tea leaves from high mountain ranges could be expressed to the greatest degree. Such fresh floral, vegetal, buttery (and much more...) tastes were rarely found in either green tea or other oolongs. The heavenly tastes of High Mountain Oolong also helped Taiwan Oolong win its international fame. The international acknowledgement started from Japan. This was not surprising, because Japan is a big tea country, and a big green tea country. I believe their appreciation of Taiwan High Mountain Oolong had a lot to do with the context of green tea culture.

Then, both the wonderful tastes and its market success made Taiwan High Mountain Oolong very influential to tea farmers in Fujian. In my impression, among all Chinese sub-cultural groups, Fujian people (or Hokkinese, as sometimes referred to in English) are some of the most creative, adventurous and business-savvy. They are good at riding the trends of the era and grab opportunities to create their own trends. It took Fujian farmers just several years to create Modern Green Style TGY based on learning from Taiwan tea professionals.

The reasons why people like Modern Green Style TGY are somewhat similar to the reasons why people love Taiwan High Mountain Oolong (but there might be a bunch of other reasons too... green TGY lovers please feel free to share your reasons...) And the reason why green TGY succeeded in China was somewhat similar to why Taiwan High Mountain Oolong succeeded in Japan - it faced a market dominated by green tea lovers.

The success of Modern Green Style TGY in China was quite amazing. The business talents of Fujian people were also fully embodied in this process. Besides, Fujian government (which I think is one of the most efficient local governments in China) was actively involved in commercial promotion of TGY, with all its lobbying power and political network.

b. Why many people dislike it?
I personally like traditional style of TGY much more than the modern green style - but I'm an omnivore :-)

I can somewhat understand why traditional style lovers dislike the modern green style. Some of them would feel green style tastes like putting perfume in your mouth - however fragrant, it's not pleasant.

Besides, many people, traditional style lovers and modern green style lovers all included, feel modern green style is less friendly to the stomach than the traditional style.

It might be a little too subjective to say traditional style TGY potentially has more complex and soul-touching flavors than modern green style TGY. But an interesting phenomenon I've observed over years (not backed up by true data analysis though) is, many modern style TGY lovers would gradually move toward a preference of traditional style TGY, but the opposite rarely happens.

One thing to clarify is, both people disliking traditional style TGY and people disliking modern green style TGY may consider the possibility that they happened to have tasted the poor representatives of the disliked style.

A common critique on modern green style TGY is that sometimes it could taste "stinky grassy" (臭青味). This unpleasant grassy flavor is not the same as the pleasant type of grassy flavor found in some green teas and greener style oolongs. This "stinky grassiness" is more likely a problem of improper tea processing rather than a problem of modern green style TGY. It could be caused by improper oxidation or not enough drying in tea production which is very similar to a problem in green tea that was discussed in another post. But this shouldn't be a problem in a well made modern green style TGY. On the other hand, indeed, modern green style TGY, with its low oxidation level, is more prone to this problem than other oolongs.

c. Why many people blame it?
With the national success (and later on, international success) of modern green TGY, market selection causes more and more farmers to produce modern green style. Therefore, there has been less and less traditional style seen in the market, and good traditional TGY has been in rarity. Many people believe it's the uprising of modern green style TGY that directly causes the shrinking production of traditional style TGY.

I don't think modern green TGY is the one to blame though. It's a choice of many buyers to favor modern green style TGY. And it's a choice of many producers to focus on the style most favored by the market. It's all people's choice. Modern green style TGY adds to the diversity of TGY family. It doesn't hurt to have one more style with distinctive characteristics.

I don't think either, that TGY farmers should be blamed for making a lot more modern green style TGY than traditional style. They follow the market trends, which are affected by tea drinkers, including you and me. If you and I are not buying tons of traditional style TGY while other people are buying tons of modern green style TGY, why blame the farmers for catering to stronger purchase powers?

d. Why I think Modern Green Style TGY is important?
I think Modern Green Style TGY is significant in tea history, because it created a trend that had never happened before - national popularity of a oolong. I believe this has not only converted more people into oolong fans, but somehow changed people's way of thinking.

In the past thousands of years, in China, green tea was the love of the nation. Even today, it's probably still the favorite tea in general. But it's no longer the sole dominant tea category in China. In the past, in most provinces in China (with exceptions of a few southern provinces such as Fujian and Guangdong), it was almost a common belief that "green tea is the best tea." People almost took it for granted without challenging the thought. But indeed it was the typical subjective, hierarchical way of thinking. Many people thought so only because they were drinking green tea all the time and weren't exposed to a lot of other types of teas. Only since 1990s, TGY, more specifically, Modern Green Style TGY has grabbed large portions of Chinese tea markets, and virtually changed people's way of thinking. If TGY hadn't done it, probably sooner or later, Wuyi Yan Cha, puerh, or some other tea, would challenge the green tea dominance. But TGY did it the first and the fastest.

Many people far away from oolong production regions, my mom included, thought they had experienced the finest teas (aka Long Jing, Bi Luo Chun, etc.) in their lives, but were suddenly wakened by TGY (at that point, Modern Green TGY) and realized there is actually a whole new world out of what their previous tea world. My family clan is mainly located in Beijing. My mom started drinking oolong in her 50s, so are many of my aunts and uncles, so are families of many of my friends from provinces across China. Once getting started by Modern Green TGY, these old new drinkers would soon fall in love with some or many other oolongs, reds and other teas they didn't think of exploring before.

Whether or not one likes this specific tea, Modern Green Style TGY just did it!

Oh well, I guess I just can't keep it short :-p  So I will take a break here and write more about traditional greener style and traditional charcoal roast later!

Jun 11, 2012

How about the slimming effect of tea?

"Why the slimming power of tea doesn't work on me? Why??"
Does tea have slimming effect? What kind of tea has slimming effect?

First, let me tell a story. It's a popular story in China. I have a vague impression that it's from an ancient story book whose name I can't recall.

------------Here is the story.--------------

Once upon a time, there was a wizard who was selling magic seals with a supernatural power to repel mosquitoes. You know, sometimes you just need something like that because mosquitoes can drive people crazy!

A man heard from his fellow villagers that the magic seal indeed worked well. So he came to the wizard to buy the magic seal. He saw the magic seal was just a thin piece of paper filled with strange characters and drawings. He asked, "Will such a piece of paper really keep mosquitoes away?"

The wizard said, "Of course. 100% guaranteed."

Hence the man bought the magic seal and posted it on his bedroom wall. The following night, he suffered no less from mosquito attack throughout the night. The man was outraged, "This damn magic seal has no magic at all!"

The next day, the man saw the wizard in the village and asked him angrily, "How come your magic seal didn't work at all?!"

The wizard said, "Impossible! It worked for everyone!"

At the moment, two villagers were passing by. The wizard stopped them and asked, "How is my magic seal working?"
"It works perfectly." The villagers said.
The wizard turned to the angry man, "See, it works! You must have misused it. Where did you post it?"
The man said, "I posted it on my bedroom wall."
The wizard and the two villagers all laughed. "That's why it didn't work for you. You didn't use it correctly! You are supposed to obtain a new mosquito net first. Then, you should sleep inside the mosquito net at night, and post the magic seal right on the mosquito net. It will work perfectly, as long as you follow the instructions." The wizard said, and the two villagers nodded along.

--------------------The End--------------------

Now back to our original topic. Does tea have slimming effect? What kind of tea has slimming effect? Well, I guess, the answer is, any kind of tea has perfect slimming effect, as long as you follow the instructions. Then what are the instructions? They are simple: Before and after drinking your tea, eat as little as possible, and work out as much as possible.

Did tea help me, a big tea lover lose weight? Unfortunately, no! (As much as I really need to lose weight!) Why? Because I didn't follow the instructions. I always have more than excellent appetite after drinking tea. I never "eat as little as possible". So I fully understand that it was because I didn't follow the instruction, not because the "magic" didn't work!

Now let me tell you a secret, a secret to be kept among readers of this blog only! Guess what! Bacon has slimming effect too! But to make it work for you, instructions must be followed: 1 piece of bacon every day at noon; Then eat as little as possible, and work out as much as possible every day.

If you use bacon in the right way (as described above), you will see its slimming effect very, very soon!

Ok, I guess you could tell I'm not being serious today :-D

"Well, I know why tea doesn't have a slimming effect on me..."

Jun 5, 2012

Blog Sale - green tea samples, and others

Similar to the one last year -

The teas for this blog sale are not sold at (most of them are not sold else where either). Some of them I've obtained small amounts for personal tasting. With all of them piling up, the small amount of each tea is probably still too much for me to drink myself :-p

Some of the green teas are from the same group purchase mentioned in the blog sale of last year.

All prices are lower than market prices and not correlated with our web store prices. 

If interested, please contact me at gingkoheight @ g m ail . com before June 15, 2012. 

Shipping is $4 flat for US and Canada, $8 flat for Europe. 

Warning!! Most teas included in this blog sale are for tasting purposes only, and I don't have large supplies of them. If you fall in love with any of them, it's up to yourself to find more :-p Sometimes it's not hard to find them, and sometimes it could be quite a challenge.

1. Anhui Green Tea Sample Set. $7. Sold

There are 3 sets available. The sample set includes 4 teas, 6g of each, totally 24g. 

A. Huo Shan Huang Ya - a historical yellow tea made into green tea. Similar to this one

B. Zen Patriarch Tea - similar to this one.

C. Mountain West Green Orchid - a tea that shares similarity with Huang Shan Mao Feng and White Plum Flower Peak.

D. Yong Xi Green Pearl - a later harvest from the same tea bushes for Yong Xi Huo Qing

There are a few free samples coming with this sample set, including White Plum Flower Peak (4g), Yong Xi Huo Qing (4g, similar to this one, to compare with Yong Xi Green Pearl), Tong Cheng Small Orchid (4g, similar to this one) and Mother's Tea (6g, as described here, to compare with Zen Patriarch Tea).

2. Hubei Green Tea Sample Set. $4. Sold
There are 3 sets available. Each sample set has 6g of each of the three teas described here. Totally 18g.

3. Zhejiang Green Tea Sample Set. $8. Sold

There are 3 sets available. Each sample set has 3 teas, 6g each, totally 18g.

A. Jing Shan Tea - this is a grade lower than the Jing Shan Tea in last year's blog sale. But I've found it of more prominent flavor. Generally I feel the price of Jing Shan Tea is too steep compared with many other options. So probably I won't get it in large scale in near future. But I like this tea and it's nice to taste it from time to time.

This is 2012 Jing Shan Tea.

The tea won't get bitter at this level of leaf/water ratio. But still I would recommend lower leaf/water ratio. I just lost my mind and throw in to many leaves :-p

B. Bodhi Silver Tips - This is a newly developed variety. The processing is similar to the heavier pan-frying method used in Zhejiang for late season harvest green teas. But this tea uses early season harvest to combine the freshness from the tea and aroma induced by the pan-frying method.

C. White Da Fo Long Jing - This is a green tea from Xinchang, the hometown of Da Fo Long Jing. The tea cultivar is from Anji, hometown of An Ji Bai Cha. The tea is processed with Long Jing method. The flavor is closer to An Ji Bai Cha than Long Jing. I will write more later about a comparison of Anji Bai Cha and Anji White Long Jing. For a long time, I wasn't excited about the idea of using Long Jing method to process Anji white tea. But this year, I sort of fell in love with white Long Jing, and consider getting a lot of it next year. So I would love to hear from more people about their thoughts of white Long Jing.

There are two free samples coming with this sample set, including An Ji Bai Cha (4g, to compare with white Long Jing) and Meng Shan Cloud (4g). Meng Shan Cloud is actually from Sichuan and can serve as a "fuzzy" tea to compare with Bodhi Silver Tips.

These are photos taken on the Anji White Long Jing I got. It's from our Anji Bai Cha producer, not from Xinchang. But the Xinchang white Long Jing looks similar.

(4-6. Assorted Long Jing. These are all from the same group purchase mentioned in the blog sale of last year. And yes that's the group purchase that was sold out immediately after opening, as described in the April madness blog post. I've got quite a few Long Jing already, so would let these go if some people would like them. Each will be accompanied by a Long Jing sample from Life in Teacup or my own collection.)

4. Da Fo Long Jing (the blue can on the left of the folowing photo), $10 Sold.
This is from a different source than the Da Fo Long Jing carried by It has received excellent evaluation from the organizer of the group purchase.

If someone would like to take the whole can, then I won't break the seal. I estimate there is 25-30g Long Jing in it (or a little more). I heard, but can't see, that there is also a wild chrysanthemum sample in it. I bought some wild chrysanthemum from this seller and love it (I will write a blog post about these tiny little flowers).

Seller's web store address (on taobao) is at the bottom of the can. But they've probably sold out this version for this year.

The whole can will be $10. But please let me know if two people would like to split it.

5. Xi Hu Long Jing 10g sample in a can (the middle one in the above photo), $3. Sold.

This is not a very high grade Long Jing. But it's from the tea field of Hangzhou Tea Museum. It was harvested around Guyu (around April 19). This date is considered very late in Long Jing harvest and near the end of the harvest season. Late harvest Long Jing does have more prominent flavors than the earlier harvest.

6. Shi Feng Long Jing 4g sample, $5 each. Sold.
2-3 samples are available.
Considering there is only 4g, $5 is quite expensive. So this tea is mainly for people who are crazy about Long Jing. The price of this tea in China is a lot more than this and more than I would like to pay. But it's a very good tea and can generally be seen as a "benchmark" of authentic Shi Feng Long Jing. It's made of Long Jing Group cultivar and was harvested on April 6. Due to the weather conditions this year, April 6 of this year is comparable to April 2-3 in most other years, and is the best time for Long Jing harvest. (Our Long Jing Village tea from April 7 is a perfect harvest too. This is not advertising, as the Long Jing Village tea is already sold out. But just can't help mentioning it haha!) Perfect old tea bushes, perfect timing and perfect processing. Besides, this tea is from the small piece of tea field reserved for supplying to Diao Yu Tai (the Chinese version of White House).

The free sample coming with this tea will be another Shi Feng Long Jing. I do think the Shi Feng Long Jing I got from Long Jing Village is as good as this one. But this tea, due to its "royal blood", went through very strict sorting and has perfect leaf shapes. The Long Jing Village tea didn't go through as strict sorting as this one, and may contain some larger leaves. I'm interested in learning what others think of them. My personal stock of Long Jing Village tea is already at its very bottom. But I will try to include 4g sample with the purchase of this sample. If there isn't enough Long Jing Village tea, a sample of Weng Jia Shan Long Jing will be given instead.

7. White tea sample set, $8. Sold.

There are 3 sample sets available. Each sample set includes 4g 2011 Silver Needle, 8g 2012 Silver Needle, 8g 2011 Bai Mu Dan and 8g 2009 Shou Mei. Total of 28g. The silver needles were recently discussed here.

8. Red tea sample set, $5.
Each sample set include 5g of each of 4 red teas. Totally 20g.
The 4 teas are:
A. Superior grade lapsang souchong - charcoal roasted but no typical smokey flavor.

B. Traditional style lapsang souchong - Smokey and slightly sour. The leaves were intentionally chopped, which was a common practice in the traditional processing. This tea might not be smokey enough for people who love typical smokey lapsang souchong, and could be too smokey for people who love non-smokey lapsang souchong. But for people who just want something in between, this tea is good. And this is probably the closest to traditional style that one can get.

C. Red tea Tie Guan Yin - a red tea made from Tie Guan Yin cultivar.

D. Keemun Mao Feng - it was described in this post, and is so far my favorite style of Keemun red tea.

Buyers please feel free to claim some free stuff here:

1. Some Taiwan High Mountain Oolong samples I've got here and there. I didn't taste them and I'm not sure of the quality. There might be some very nice ones and some mediocre ones. Good for people who haven't try much of Taiwan oolong yet but would like to try.

2. Some modern greener style Tie Guan Yin samples I've got here and there.

3. Ba Ba Cha - similar to this one. It's not anything precious, just if you would like to try it.

4. Saki bottles - I used to use them as vases. But the house is so stuffed and I know I can't keep everything :-p

5. Long Jing debris as described here. It's not anything precious and mainly for people who are curious about it. I don't have much and will put it in 15g samples. 

6. If you wonder whether there is good mini sheng, I can send you a couple of mini's that I think are good. I think there are plenty of good mini sheng's out there, but not everybody can find them or care to look for them ;-) And of course, "good" is all relative :-) This is for tasting purposes only. I don't have large supplies of them.