May 11, 2014

spring time tea

Perfect green tea season now!

I had a tea gathering with my friend Bin and his wife. Obviously my friends are of the Facebook generation. Bin took photos during our tea drinking and post them on WeChat (which is used more than Facebook by a lot of Chinese). All the photos below were taken by Bin.

I asked Bin to select tea to drink and the order of drinking. It was a challenge because we could just drink so much tea no matter how much more are available. We ended up tasting 5 new green teas, which turned out a good amount. The types of tea and order of drinking were casually determined by Bin on the spot, and they turned out excellent choices.

In our drinking, we used a very small teapot to share the tea, in attempt to save our tummy space for more types of tea. But this is not a typical Chinese way of drinking green tea. If it were not for the purpose of multiple tastings, I would serve people tea in a glass or a tea bowl, or a personal gaiwan for each person, for them to drink directly from the gaiwan. I would use one of these method.

We had Shi Feng Long Jing first. I sort of pushed for it, as a way to show my hospitality :-D Although I believe each tea has its unique strength, in China, treating guests with Long Jing is a way to express that the guests are taken very seriously.

We then had Tai Ping Hou Kui, which is another showy tea that a host would be happy to serve the guests. We didn't have my favorite vessel of brewing Hou Kui on the spot. But we managed to brew the tea nicely.

The third tea was An Ji Bai Cha. It turned out we used more tea leaves than the most desirable level. But luckily for An Ji Bai Cha, it's usually ok. This tea is featured with high nitrogen contents and low carbon contents, compared with many other green teas. Therefore this tea doesn't usually get bitter even when over brewed.

The next tea we had was Orchid Fairy Twig. We brewed it in a yixing teapot that's not very absorptive. And I figured that next time I would rather brew it in a shibo, or glass. This tea has very floral aroma, and it could get lost in a teapot with certain height.

The last tea we had was Lu Shan Yun Wu, this one made by Uncle "si shu" again. This time again, we used more than usual amount of tea leaves. But for Lu Shan Yun Wu, I often intentionally make it stronger, first because the tea wouldn't be harsh on stomach even when brewed strong, and secondly because the tea has very nice liquor texture, which is more prominent when the tea is made strong.

Overall, we had a good time, enjoyed the tea, and exchanged quite a bit gossips :-D I'm glad that we started with Long Jing and ended with Lu Shan Yun Wu. Among all 5, these two both have very long lasting sweet aftertaste, and their flavor is of lower tone compared with the others. In Chinese tea aesthetics for green tea, the lower tone types of aromas (such as the so called "chestnut aroma" of Long Jing) are often valued more than uprising aroma (such as floral aroma). Drinking several teas in a row somewhat helped me understand such traditional aesthetic. Somehow, among the 5 teas, Long Jing and Lu Shan Yun Wu became more impressive than others. They are both very good statement teas. But maybe it would also be a nice idea to put Long Jing later in the sequence. When we had Tai Ping Hou Kui after Long Jing, we felt that the aftertaste of Long Jing was reaching into our Hou Kui tasting, and could be a bit distracting.

Tea always tastes better when you share it with friends!

May 8, 2014

RIP, Lu Yun, father of modern puerh

Last week, a very important figure in puerh history, Lu Yun, passed away, at the age of 57. The name of Lu Yun is less mentioned in recent years, although he was one of the most recent and one of the youngest "godfather" of puerh.

To a lot of younger tea drinkers, Lu Yun may not sound a familiar name. However, many people are very familiar with his lifetime work, without even realizing it. He was the head of Menghai Factory, and then CEO of Dayi. He was the leader of the developing team of Dayi 7262. He was involved in research and development of some of Dayi's most popular products including 7542, 8582, 7572, etc. He was the founder of Dayi trademark. He was a co-author of Puerh Yunnan Province Standards, which were the bases of the current Puerh National Standards. He was respected as "father of puerh" by many puerh gurus. 

Unfortunately, in the last stage of his career, Lu Yun became a controversial figure. He was involved in some big financial scandal (mixed with personal life scandals) in 2008. Many of his friends see him as an "innocent offender", and many believe the incidence was a tragedy outcome of the 2007-2008 puerh crisis. He was also condemned by many people. He disappeared from the social scenes, and his name was rarely mentioned since then.

But at the end of his life, when the news of his death spread, it turned out he is still very well known and well remembered. With good wishes, many tea drinkers choose to remember the best part of his life and let go the dark side. Personally I feel a lot of sympathy towards him. His career was not perfect, and most of the rest of us aren't perfect either. Thinking of all the tea he created, I just can't get mad at him. Sometimes I say, we are in an era of too many masters. In today's tea world, there are many tea masters and tea celebrities. Most of them will be forgotten by history. This one will be remembered as part of puerh history, as he created a big chunk of puerh history.