Feb 28, 2009

"WuYi Star" brand wu yi tea cake bing (武夷岩茶饼)

I don't understand why Wu Yi tea cake should be on the trend, and somewhat suspect it has to do with the "hot" market of puerh cake.

Ok, the first ever tea cake was an oolong tea cake. But oolong tea cake disappeared in history, I believe, because it was out competed by other teas. Well, even in recent history, oolong sometimes was sold in cake (bing) form to southeastern Asia. But obviously it was for the convenience of international transportation and preservation. So the redemption of oolong tea cake, in my eyes is a bit odd.

But anway, oolong tea cakes are generally inexpensive. Well they do cost a lot less in transportation and warehousing and that should be reflected in price. But if I were the manufacturer, I wouldn't use the best leaves to make tea cakes, because they will be broken into pieces any way and most leaves wouldn't stay as whole leaves by the time of brewing.

So I tried this tea cake, just for the sake of trying it. The package is fancy and convenient. Price is friendly. It could be an inexpensive choice for Wu Yi lovers. I tried it only once so far, and goofed by mis-estimating the amount of tea leaves. It was actually not the amount of tea leaves, but that most tea leaves were broken (it took some hard work to break off a piece from the cake), and therefore the tea got much stronger than I had expected. So next time I will rememer to use less leaves. In the last several infusions, when the tea was not that strong, and most debries and dusts were removed, the tea was not bad - not great but not bad at all.

But I still don't understand, if not for the low cost reason, why would someone prefer the tea cake to some loose leaf Wu Yi oolong. It's inevitable to have leaves broken into pieces when breaking a tea cake for brewing. And for most dark oolong, broken leaves will cause more bitter and astringent flavor.

Another Wu Yi tea cake from another manufacturer is coming to me. It's featured by grid, so that you can easily break off a piece like breaking off a square of chocolate bar. And I heard it's much easier to handle than the "Wu Yi Star" tea cake. I will see if it tastes better.

Package box:

Package box the other side

I really like this package. After all, it makes transportation easier and less expensive.

The engraved pattern on the tea cake is quite touristic, but kind of lovely

It was not easy to break of a piece and I got a lot of broken leaves (maybe somewhat due to my poor cutting skill)

1st infusion. I made it too dark.

2nd infusion

3rd infusion

This is an later infusion when the tea got less strong and more "normal"

Feb 27, 2009

Mt. Wu Dong Old Bush Shui Xian

A nice dark oolong that lasts forever. It's not the floral fragrant kind, but very rich and warm.

It has great hui gan (sweet aftertaste). Talking about sweet aftertaste, I don't really like the kind of tea that leaves obvious sweet taste in the mouth. This tea has the kind of sweet aftertaste that I like. You won't feel much sweetness afterwards, but just feel soothed. Then if you drink some plain water after having this tea, the water tastes pleasantly sweet.

Even though many people recommend longer infusion time for darker roast dan cong, I've found for people like me, who can't handle too strong tea, shorter infusion time (less than 8 seconds for the first seveal infusions) and smaller amount of tea (1/4 teapot or gaiwan) would work perfectly.

Dry leaves:

1st infusion

2nd infusion

3rd infusion

5th infusion and leaves

Xi Qiu (戏球)Xiao Hong Pao (Small Red Robe, 小红袍)

Xi Qiu (戏球)Da Hong Pao

Feb 10, 2009

Tea Calendar - Teas to look foward to all year around

Just for fun. I sorted out some notes and summarized tea time around the 24 annual solar terms. It's only possible to include a small number of teas, mostly those I am interested in :D The summary table definitely needs to be polished and more information needs to be added in.

Chinese calendar is a lunar calendar with indications of sun motion. There are 24 days in Chinese calendar marking the 24 solar terms throughout a year. Their dates stay *almost* the same year by year on western calendar, which is a solar calendar. The 24 solar term marks directed a lot of agricultural activities in traditional society of China, including tea cultivation.

A lot of good information about the 24 solar terms can be found at wikipedia:

Most solar term names in following table are consistent with above wiki information, with a few different.

Some additional notes:

* Date may vary by 1 day.

** There are variations due to climate changes and early growth new varietals.

*** The notes focus on climatic changes and agricultural events (with large variations existing across the country).

**** Start of Spring, Start of Summer, Start of Autumn, and Start of Winter are 4 of the Solar Term days that mark the start of seasons. However, when each of them comes, most part of the country is still in the previous season.

Please click to see the full image.

Feb 6, 2009

High Mountain Zhi Lan (Iris and Orchid?) Flavor Dan Cong (高山芝蘭單欉)

I am not sure what "Zhi Lan" is in English. Google translate says (iris and orchid). The flower is something like this:

As many other Dan Cong, this is named after a plant, with its fragrance mimicking that plant.

I like it very much. It has non-aggressive yet long-lasting fragrance.

First infusion:

Second infusion:

Third infusion, with leaves still tight:
I guess I did a dozen infusions or more. There was still subtle flavor left, but it got late and I ran out of time. For this tea, I think 8 or more infusions should be done in order not to be wasteful. I used 5 seconds for the first 7 infusions, then 10 seconds for the following a few. But I was being conservative. I somewhat felt slightly longer infusion time should be fine as well.

The end. As a high mountain varietal, it has leaves nice and tight till the end.

Charcoal Roast Lao Cong (Old Bush) Shui Xian (碳焙老欉水仙)

I like it very much! I normally am very cautious about anything "charcoal roasted", because while it's supposed to be rich, warm throat feeling, sometimes it could bear hot, smokey flavor. I guess some people even like the smokey flavor and some tea is featured by it, but I would rather not have much of it.

This charcoal roast shui xian is very nice, not smokey at all, but very warm and soothing. It almost feels like a "throat massage" - well this isn't really accurate description... :-p

First infusion (haha, got shadows of my orchid and chestnut wall decor...)

Second infusion: