Saturday, December 27, 2008

Chao-Shan Gongfu Cha

I translated an essay on Chaozhou gongfucha from Chinese, finished today and posted it on The style is a bit chatty, and sometimes too verbose, but I did learn a couple of interesting things from it, the most prominent in my mind being the explaination of the distance between the stove and the tea service. Traditionally, the small stove is kept seven steps away for both aesthetic -- the sound of water heating can be heard, but the device is not seen -- and practical reasons.

The four treasures are also expounded upon, which ought to prove fruitful search terms for further research, and we even learn one term in the local dialect - 冇炭 - which means "extinguishing the charcoal." Anything with Cantonese characters gets me excited.

If anyone is interested, the translation can be read here. The link to the original article is posted at the top of the thread.

Friday, December 26, 2008

In celebration of my new seal. Nothing goes better with tea than calligraphy.

My new love is matcha. I bought a Chinese chawan for 8 USD, but didn't like Chinese matcha, and had to get some from Japan. The dried tea leaves in the photo were collected in Wenzhou, Zhenghe and Wuyi.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Organic Tea Garden

This past weekend I visited an organic tea garden near Yantou town, Yongjia County, Wenzhou prefecture. The elevation was around 600 meters, which is high for the area. I like an organic farm at the top of a mountain because there's no chance of pesticide runoff from other farms. The second picture is of a newly planted area, therefore it is not so nice looking. The grow the wuniuzao varietal which is made into green tea.

Sunday, November 9, 2008

Guangyun Gong Is No Longer Pu'er

I translated an article about new regulations on using the name Pu'er. As the title of the article states, the famous Guangyun Gong recipe of the Guangdong Import Export Company can no longer be called pu'er under these regulations. To read the full translation of the article please visit this link

Saturday, November 8, 2008

Interesting Tea Forum

I found a defunct tea forum in the course of my Inter-web surfing. Many of the posts are of limited interest, but the owner of the forum seems to have posted numerous translations of tea poems and other tea literature from various periods.

Translations of this type of work in English are very rare, and I was quite pleased to find this resource.

Speaking of tea poetry, I have decided to post my translations on my other blog instead of on this one. My other blog is also accesible through my profile.

Friday, November 7, 2008

More TGY

The God Of Tea was not pleased when I mouthed off last week and slandered TGY, so he punished me in a cruel way. I had to taste samples sent from vendors with my friend for about 3 days last week. This top picture is what the tea tray looked like when I arrived, the picture at the end is what it looked like about half an hour later (with a clean up in between).

My tea friend sent me a bunch of samples of heavily roasted TGY, which I don't really have the experience to enjoy yet. Some of the roasts were very strong, I haven't had a moderate TGY yet. On the other hand, I haven't tried them all. There were some really exceptional examples of other teas, though.

I would like to recant some of what I said last week about not liking green TGY. It can be very nice, especially when its fresh and high quality. I guess what I take exception to about TGY is more the people around here who drink it than the tea itself. When I walk into a shop they always ask if I'd like some TGY. It's always going to be cheap tea, and they don't really have anything else to offer. When I ask for something else they keep pushing TGY.

Last Sunday a man from Anxi came to my friend's shop to sell us TGY. We were alone, and to make conversation I asked if he drank any other teas. He told me that not only his whole family, but everyone in China who knows anything about tea prefers TGY, especially in Beijing, Shanghai and Guangdong province. I just didn't say anything because I tend to react to such tea chauvinism a bit too strongly.

Song of Seven Cups

This is one of the most well know tea poems which I use to practice calligraphy.  I translate the poem below. 

"Song of Seven Cups" from the poem: "Taking Up the Pen to Thank Mèng Jiànyì for Sending New Tea"

by Lú Tóng of the Táng Dynasty

One bowl moistens the lips and throat;
Two bowls shatters loneliness and melancholy;
Three bowls, thinking hard, one produces five thousand volumes;
Four bowls, lightly sweating, the troubles of a lifetime disperse towards the pores.
Five bowls cleanses muscles and tendons;
Six bowls opens the realm of spirit;
One cannot finish the seventh bowl, but feels only a light breeze spring up under the arms.

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Menghai Pu'er Factory Celebrates 68th Anniversary

Today I translated part of a Chinese language news article about the 68th Anniversary of Yunnan's Menghai Pu'er factory and posted it to The translation can be viewed here.

Sunday, November 2, 2008

Teadrunk Forum

A tea friend has just started a new online forum for online chatting about Japanese and Chinese teas and teaware.

There are not many users or posts yet, but this blogger supports wholeheartedly.


Monday, October 20, 2008

Tieguanyin Fall Tea

A friend just got back from Anxi where he was purchased TGY for his shop.  In tea shops around the country you will see simiilar scenes; not so much the disorder as the stripping the TGY off the twigs and sorting out the huangpian.  This process is not very difficult as far as I can tell, but there are a couple of things which must be kept in mind. Discard the leaves with heavy insect damage (sometimes you can find leaves that look like they are only veins) so the leaf will look better in the gaiwan.  Some of the huangpian should be discarded. Huangpian are leaves which have not oxidized properly, usually the older leaves. Some huangpian in a TGY will make it more fragrant, but too many will make the tea astringent. Special care should be taken to make sure the white buds sometimes visible at the top of twigs are discarded. These young buds will make TGY very astrigent.

Although this process is not extremely specialized and can be learned quite quickly, it is quite time consuming.  The largest advantage experience gives is speed, and the beginner should take care not to break up the leaves. When seperating the maocha, a lot of weight is lost. About four tenths of each kilo are discarded. When labour is figured in a retailer must sell a tea for more than twice the wholesale price in order to break even.

I have also decided I don't like TGY very much. My favorite type of tea right now if I had to chose one would certainly be oolong. Almost every oolong tea is pleasing, and the variety makes for new suprises all the time. As many tea blog readers know, many drinkers in Guangdong/Hongkong and Taiwan as well as older people in Anxi may like a more traditional TGY which may be heavily roasted, more fully oxidized or both. Outside of these areas, it is not usually possible to find a more traditional TGY. Living in Zhejiang, Wenzhou all tea is as green as possible, and therefore TGY is very popular. This is more evident now than ever: Autumn TGY is said to be more fragrant than Spring tea, and is therefore preferred by some.  Spring tea is more full bodied and has a better mouthfeel.

Forunately my friend made some friends from Taiwan while he was in Anxi, and therefore was able to bring back some decent tea. This past weekend I got to try an Oriental Beauty sample and an Imperial Consort Oolong. When I infused the Imperial Consort I was quite pleased. It had a nice light roast and was oxydized about halfway. It had many Oolong characteristics which I love. The mouthfeel was full and oily, and the fragrance was sometimes reminicent of Yancha. It also had the 'milk' aftertaste which can be often found in Spring TGY. When brewed strong it had a pleasent and light astringency which I don't mind. The responses to this tea was quite varied.  My friend Xiaoguang loved this tea as well, but he said I made it too strong. His wife said not only was it too strong, but that there was nothing special about this tea. She had never heard the name and said it was low quality oolong made of leaves which were too old. She said someone just made up a fancy name so they could sell their tea for a higher price. Teamasters blog posted about this tea (贵妃茶 - guifeicha) a couple of days ago. It is probably not the same batch... just the same varietal or comes from the same area. Stephane called it Concubine tea.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

CCTV 7 - Dancong Wulong

Today I want to share a link for a video.  It is all in Chinese, but I will summarize the audio below so people who can't speak Chinese will be able to tell whats going on.  I think some of the video would be enjoyable even if you can't understand the audio.

This video is from CCTV (China Central Television, not closed circuit TV) Channel 7, one of my favorite TV channels.  By watching CCTV 7 you can learn how to grow crops, how to raise pigs, chickens etc.  They have shows on everything having to do with agriculture or the Chinese military.

This video explores the tea of Chaozhou: Fenghuang Dancong.

I have published my translation of the audio as a Google document here, it is too long to put into the blog. You shouldn't need an account to view it.  It might be a good idea to print out the translation and read along as you watch the video on full screen.  I couldn't see the time elapsed when not in full screen mode.

For best results open the video with Internet Explorer.  It does not work with Firefox, or Google Chrome.  It seems to work with Opera and Safari. The streaming video might not be so good outside of China.

The video can also be found at:

However, the commercials have been cut out, so my elapsed time notations would have to be modified.

Sunday, October 12, 2008

Monkey Served Tea

I have read many posts on various blogs about how not only is there no such thing as true monkey picked tea, but that there never was.  In principle I agree.  How could monkeys be trained to pick only the new leaves, and the proper number? How would you train the monkey to collect the tea in a bag and not just throw it around?  Wouldn't the monkey bruise the leaf and damage the trees?

Now we have startling new scientific evidence that monkeys can be trained to pick tea!  Well not really, but I saw an article in the Daily Mail about monkeys who work as waiters in a restaurant; and although it is not explicitly mentioned, they probably serve tea as one of their duties.

I leave you, the gentle reader, to be the judge of my outrageous extrapolation.  Does a monkey serving tea in a restaurant suggest his ancestors or at least cousins in China might have been capable of picking tea?  The scientific community awaits our verdict with communal bated breath.

Monday, October 6, 2008

Wuyi Shan Oct 2

On the third day in Wuyishan I got up early determined to drink good tea no matter what the cost.  I had made a date to drink tea at the Jinpao(金袍 - Golden Robe)Tea factory in the afternoon, as old customers had reservations with them for the morning.  My friend and I decided to go to Xingcun(星村) and ride the bamboo rafts down the river.

 We tried taking a cab, but the cab couldn't go down the road because traffic is restricted during the tourist season.  We decided to walk to Xingcun instead.  We made a detour through some villages with lots of tea gardens and also walked down a path to the Nine Bends Stream where I took a nice picture of an iridescent dragon fly perched on a rock.  Eventually we got on a public bus and rode all the way to the end of the line.  Conventional wisdom says not to buy tea from Xingcun.  The farmers there sell all of their tea leaf to large factories and then buy cheap chaqing (茶青, unprocessed tea leaves) from other areas to make their Yancha.  Therefore it is not real Zhengyan tea, and therefore not so good.  My friend and I wandered around Xingcun to get a sense of direction, and happened upon a little shop selling firecrackers, cigarettes, incense, paper money, and of course tea.  We went in and had some of the tea the wife was sorting, it wasn't so good, but the husband invited us back to his home and tea factory to have some better tea.

He led us through the winding alleys and backstreets of Xingcun to his house, up on a small rise.  In the first picture of the backstreets of Xingcun the reader will see Mr. Li's back in the foreground as he leads us along the backstreets of Xingcun.  The buildings in this area of town were traditional construction made from packed earth.  As the earth in Wuyi shan is red, it adds a pleasing natural color to the walls.  In addition to the beautiful red earth, crushed ceramic and gravel is added for texture. In the detail photo you can see where tea ware goes when it dies.

Bowl bottoms make an interesting detail in the earth walls.  The earth is pounded into place, and in the center of the walls are boards and grass to add structural support. The foundations are more substantial stone or brick construction, and most earth walls are no more than one story high. A second story is constructed with hollow brick walls.  Sometimes wooden garrets are made under the eaves perfect for imprisoning orphans, if you have been reading too much Dickens.

In the third photo the reader can see the various layers of construction materials.  The foundation is brick, then a layer of round, medium sized stones on the right.  Above the earth layer, one can see the hollow brick construction which makes up the stepped square facade.  Also of note is the beautiful old well surrounded with stones.  

Mr. Li, our host had a nice two story concrete house with his tea processing equipment taking up most of the substantial courtyard.  As we entered on the left there was a bank of about 40 pots of orchids, all of which he had dug up and taken home, unfortunately few were in bloom.  He also had a potted Baijiguan (白鸡冠 white cock's comb) which I snapped a picture of.

If you look closely you can see it is fertilized with spent tea leaves.

At Mr. Li's house we drank about 4 different teas.  He was a much more down to earth guy than a lot of the tea sellers.   Mr. Li strikes me as a farmer who is a good tea processor and businessman, but who is not involved with the tourist trade very much. Most tourists come to Xingcun just to get on the bamboo rafts and float back towards the resort area.  He also had very down to earth prices.  I didn't ask him if his tea was 'Zhengyan' or not, mostly because his prices were 120-180 RMB per jin(500 grams)  He told us that most of his tea was for blending and later sale as Dahongpao.  We drank some Laocong Shuixian, Rougui, Beidou #1, and some 105.  Mr. Li says his customers blend the 105 and Rougui to make Dahongpao, and also they sometimes use the Beidou #1.  Mr. Li's teas were all pretty high fire, and well oxidized which is how I like it.  When he made Gongfucha, he made it like a local.  To make Yancha like a local, you fill up the gaiwan with as much leaf as possible, even pushing the leaves down a little bit if necessary.  Instead of instant pours, you let it sit for as much as 30 or more seconds even on the first infusion.  This is how I like to drink Yancha. 

I bought some of the Laocong Shuixian and some of the Beidou #1, which he said still needed to rest (or tuihuo 退火) and then be roasted again.  He said Tea should rest at least 20 days between roastings.  I bought the Beidou anyway, because it was already pretty roasted, and I liked it.

After leaving Mr. Li's house we found a great little restaurant run by Chinese who had come back from living in Vietnam. They made wonderful Vietnamese noodles with no meat or vegetables, just sauce, and my friend and I ate lunch for 7RMB or one dollar US between the two of us.

At the Bamboo raft area the lines were long, and some people told us that we wouldn't be able to buy tickets.  We walked out of Xingcun to the main road to wait for the bus. On the way to the main road there were tea bushes on either side of the road, click on the picture below to see a larger version, three men and a tea bush trimming machine can almost be made out.

In the afternoon we went to the Jinpao tea factory to try some better teas.  The Jinpao tea factory is inside the scenic area, almost just over the bridge to the resort area.  The Jinpao factory is run by a large family, and is a fairly large affair.  There are three tasting rooms at the front of the compound.  Two cousins brewed teas and fetched more from the back.  We drank 3 rouguis, 3 Laocong Shuixian, Jin Suoshi, Qilan, Gold Medal Dahongpao, and maybe one or two more I can't recall.  Most of the teas were brewed two or three at a time, so they could be prepared together.  The people who run this place are pretty knowledgeable about tea, and have a professional setup.  The tea is brewed in Gaiwans, and then poured off into a bowl with a ceramic spoon to smell the tea.  Each person can serve their own tea with the spoon. Each infusion is poured into a separate bowl, or the previous infusion is dumped out.  It always annoyed me when tea sellers would mix different infusions together.

I asked the Jin Pao people for more traditional teas - more oxidized, higher fire, and handmade if possible.  It is my opinion that a lot of the Qingxiang or light and fragrant tea in Wuyi suffers a lot in the realm of mouth feel.  Most of the qingxiang teas I drank in Wuyi had thin and insipid liquor, and little taste.  Sometimes, a tea will suffer from being over oxidized or over roasted, but I had many well made teas in Wuyi that did not sacrifice fragrance for mouth feel.  I also like  a fragrant, flowery tea; but with Yancha I feel that qingxiang teas are often an excuse for poor processing.  Because of a lack of skill, the processor will end oxidization early because for fear of overdoing it.

Jin Pao had a lot of good middle range teas, which I enjoyed.  However they seem to have a lot of qingxiang teas which lack mouth feel.  I bought a 'hundred year old bush shuixian' a 'gold medal dahongpao' and a 'golden key.'

I remember liking the golden key varietal quite a lot when I first had it.  I got the Qilan and the Gold medal Dahongpao a little bit mixed up at the very end of our tea session.  I was trying to organize my thoughts on all the teas and decide on what to purchase when I should have been paying attention.  I may have bought the golden medal dahongpao because I thought it was the Qilan.

After dinner, still toting my previous purchase, my friend and I made a stop in a store where a friendly woman worked.  She had helped introduce us to a couple of places to buy carvings, and we wanted to say thanks and goodbye.  When she noticed all the tea we were carrying she wanted to know what everything was, where we got it and for how much.  I offered to let her taste it, and she took me up on the offer.  She said her brother was a great tea drinker and would be able to tell us if the tea was real Zhengyan tea or not.  It turned out her 'brother' also owned the shop.

We drank some of the Laocong I had just bought.  I really liked my Laocong because the qingtai (青苔 or moss) flavour was so strong, it almost tasted like puerh tea.  Older brother Xiong said my Laocong was alright, but it was only 'gaocong' (高丛 high bush, not yet true old bush) which means it came from bushes only 30-40 years old.  He brought out some of his own 'real' laocong shuixian, which did in all honesty have a much better mouth feel and a fuller flavour.  He also wanted 1,200 RMB/jin as opposed to 560 RMB/jin that I had bought mine for. However, after the 5th infusion both teas were still going strong and I was hard pressed to tell much difference between the two.

We also drank some of my Gold medal dahongpao, and he brought out some of his Huang guanyin (黄观音 or yellow guanyin as opposed to iron/tie guanyin.)  Again his huang guanyin was better than my tea, but about double the price.  He said my dahongpao hadn't won any sort of gold medal, and that it wasn't even real yancha, but was zhoucha (周茶 or tea from the area around Wuyishan.)  This guy certainly didn't do very much for my confidence, but he kept us company and cheerfully talked tea with me for an hour and a half, and I didn't even buy anything.

He did give me a very good idea, which is pretty obvious, really.  If you are having a lot of trouble getting tea sellers to take out their best teas, bring a bunch of samples of your best tea to the stores and drink it with the proprietor. Say you want something better, and make sure to tell them you bought it for a fraction of the actual price.

Older brother Xiong was a nice guy who has been drinking tea all his life (like everyone from Wuyi) but he has been in the tea business for only two years.  He doesn't produce tea himself, but might be a good contact for people who are going to Wuyi.  He also sells Tieguanyin and told a great story of his friend who buys TGY for a large company to the tune of one million RMB each season.  Older brother Xiong often goes to Anxi with this friend who is teaching him about the TGY business.  This friend buys TGY without drinking it.  He just grabs a handful and smells it, looks at the leaf and starts bargaining.  Perhaps my readers have seen this done, or heard of it, but I had not and thought it interesting.

Shop name 武夷山悦茗香
Contact (older brother) 熊殿标 13860015899
address 武夷山 三菇度假区 天游峰路 A-9-11
悦茗香茶业  圣远酒店对面
Woman in the shop 梁丹 13859322693

I told Mr. Xiong I would put his number and shop address up on the net.  He has not been in the business for very long(2 years), and so is more likely to want to meet new customers or tea friends.  He seems to be in the business because he loves tea.  He also has good tea.  I wouldn't go so far as to reccomend buying his products as I didn't buy anything from him, but all the tea I had in his shop was good if a little expensive.  He is friendly and knowledgeable and willing to talk, but can only speak Chinese. 

I hope others may profit from my experience at Wuyi, just as I profited from those who blogged before me.  Please feel free to email me with any questions. I may not be able to answer them, but can promise to live vicariously through you or anyone who is planning a tea trip.  I can also provide more phone numbers, addresses of places I went to, as well as names of factories with good reputations that I have yet to visit.

Wuyi Shan Oct. 1st

On my second day At Wuyishan, I just felt rotten, had digestive issues and was dizzy and weak.  I think it was the shellfish I ate at the restaurant the night before, but it could have been drinking too much tea.  I got some antibiotics, and some Chinese medicine.  I felt a lot better by the third day, but the second day was not productive.  I did drink some tea, but not much.  Especially in the morning I just swished it around in my mouth and then spit it out.  In the spring, when the new tea is finished, the producers and buyers usually taste the tea this way, rinsing it around in the mouth and then spitting it out.

My friend was trying to find a nice tea for cheap, as Yancha is not very popular in Southern Zhejiang province.  He thought that his customers would not be able to accept a more expensive Yancha, and was looking to get a nice tea for 50-150 RMB/kilo.  I was interested in getting a good tea for myself, and interested in buying small quantities if even if the price was high.  I did traipse around the area with him trying all the garbage teas, looking at carvings, both stone and wood, looking at tea packaging and other tea products.  Since I did not do much tea drinking on the 1st, I will introduce some of Wuyi's other products.  One of the most interesting things I found was the Wuyi bingcha pictured above.  I was really surprised to see these all over the city in tea shops.  I had never heard of Yancha being pressed into a cake, but here they were.  As soon as I got back, Hobbes posted about this on Half-dipper, and people commenting on his post left links on where to buy the stuff as well as links to posts on   The prices were about 11USD for a small bing of about 150 grams.  I thought it was really expensive.  I offered a bunch of store keepers 20RMB, but they didn't sell.  I asked one proprietor when Wuyi started making these tea cakes, and he said they had always made them, but they had been for the farmers personal use in the past.  I also noticed that many of the cakes were covered in plastic wrap.  Wuyi tea is supposed to be kept sealed up pretty tight, while Pu'er is supposed to have access to a certain amount of air.  I wonder if these tea cakes age well, and how they ought to be kept for best results.

Another famous specialty of Wuyi mountain is Shoushan shi(寿山石 - longevity mountain stone)which is a beautiful orange red and white stone, and one of the four most famous stones in China. They sell lots of poor quality carvings in many stores all over Wuyi, and also many beautiful pieces of art.  If you want to buy shoushanshi, look around.  they have lots of decently priced items, as well as overpriced ones.  Most pieces are covered in oil to protect them, which attracts small insects which in turn get stuck in the oil.  Corax got a chop made (see the link to his post on Chadao two posts ago) at 乐宝齐寿山石总店 (tel 0599.525.2542) which I was also able to find, unfortunately it was closed by the time I got there.

Snake products are ubiquitous in Wuyi.  They have a snake garden somewhere nearby, which supposedly hold tens of thousands of snakes.  These snakes are used to make delicacies such as snake meat and snake gall wine and snake wine and snake oil and snake face cream.  Almost every store in Wuyi has a snake product section.  I really meant to get some snake wine, as it is sort of legendary in China.  
I suppose it is silly, but it certainly would impress my male friends back in the states if all I drank from now on was liquor that had snake corpses floating in it.  Snakes are also killed in the thousands for their penises.  I am not just making a crude joke, every store in the resort area has a couple of boxes. 
 They sell for the bargain rate of 20 RMB/box of five.  I never actually saw anyone buy any.  I didn't either, and I probably wouldn't admit it here if I had.  They are supposed to improve sexual prowess in males.  

The last thing I wanted to mention is a set of postcards which I bought.  I went into a painter's shop in a side street.  He was from Chongqing and painted almost exclusively landscape paintings from Wuyi Mountain. He was a good painter, but his style was a little bit round and coarse for me, so I didn't buy any of his paintings. 
 He did have a great set of postcards of scenery from Wuyi mountain, which were a bargain at 12 yuan.  They were issued by the post office, so they are quite a bargain as half the price of the set is postage.

The painter's name is Jiang Guanmin (蒋关民.)He also showed us a great fold out painting of the scenery of all nine bends in the local Jiuqu xi (九曲溪 - nine bends stream) that was several meters long.  

I would suggest these postcards as an interesting alternative to regular postcards, and which also supports a local artist (who moved there from Chongqing.)

I slept most of the afternoon of October first in order to get over my sickness and prepare for another tea drinking marathon.  October first is Chinese National Day for those of you who don't know.  Be sure never to go anywhere in China on national day, especially not tourist destinations such as Wuyi.  I had a vacation during this time, and so I decided to risk it and go anyway.  All of the tourist destinations are packed, there are lines for everything.  All the locals are trying to cheat as many people as they can.  All the restaurants are busy and will ignore you if they have to get a high profit dinner ready for a huge tourist group.  If you do go during the Chinese holiday season, I would suggest you go with a tour group.  

I thought maybe the vacation would not affect the tea people, but it does.  Everyone is busy on the holidays.  Lots of the tea people are in their shops hawking their lowest quality goods to tourists who will pay big bucks for a fancy looking box of tea with the characters Dahongpao written on it.  Also many of their old customers may only have time to come by during the vacation, and they will be keeping these people company.

If you go on the off season it is much easier to convince the tea dealers that you came for the tea and are not just a tourist.  They will have more time to sit down with you and just chat.  When an area is as full of tea shops as this place is, a lot of these people are bored much of the year, and if you go at the right time they are friendly, helpful and happy to have the company of someone who loves tea even if you don't buy anything.  Most importantly, many tea producers don't even keep their best teas in the shops.  If you go during the off season, they have plenty of time to take you to the tea factory and see the tea gardens, and try all the better teas.

It will also help if you do some tea research before you go.  It is good to find respected names on the Internet, find their numbers and just give them a call.  When you do this, they will know you came for tea and it is a much better method than walking into random shops in the resort area and hoping they are tea producers.

Saturday, October 4, 2008

Wuyi Shan Sept. 30

The bus trip to Wuyi Shan was just as long as I had suspected.  China is a place with lots of mountains, so in certain places taking a plane can save a lot of time.  The train was not an option from Wenzhou, so we took the bus which dropped us off at the resort area at about 10pm Monday the 29th.  Looked at the carvings and had a cup of tea at a random shop.  The wooden carvings (雕根) for sale in Wuyi are mostly amazing, but also expensive.  When we stopped for a break on the bus ride home, my friend went in to a workshop where they are produced.  A product that would be marked with a 20,000-30,000 RMB price tag and sell for about 8,000 RMB in Wuyi Resort area was on offer there for 1,000 RMB. Maybe there was something wrong with it I didn't see.

A local hustler got us a hotel room the first night for 130 RMB. The next night the price doubled. Our hustler was still anxious to help in the morning.  At about 8AM we set off to get discount tickets to the resort area.  Our guide/hustler led us past the gate to the 大王峰 and over to the river.  We started up a narrow path around the fence.   The 'discount tickets' were not tickets at all.  The hustler just wanted to charge us half price to sneak us around the ticket collector.  She was angry and said we were very stubborn when we refused to sneak in.  We did not wind up going to any sights in the tourist area of Wuyi Shan.

We took a taxi to the Big Tea Pot (大茶壶茶叶研究所)and arrived before 9AM.  Kids were screaming and everyone was too busy to pay attention to us.  Don't get me wrong, this place is worth checking out, although most people say its a bit on the expensive side. I regret I didn't go back to the Big Tea Pot at a better time.  I will definitely make a stop there next time.  The proprietor is Liu Feng (刘峰)one of the 'Three Lius' who are famous in Wuyi for their tea processing skills.

Our tea drinking marathon began at about 9AM and lasted through Sept. second.  We made a call to the proprietor of Tianzishenyun, mentioned in posts by Corax on Chadao and by Will (see my previous blog post for links.)  Ms. Yu's husband, Mr. Lu came to pick us up in his truck. Their house is great, we got to see all of the tea making equipment, and most importantly, they were re-roasting their tea. 
 For those of you who have never experienced it, Yancha over a roasting pit (beilu - 焙炉) is one of the most wonderful fragrances one can encounter.  I took a couple of pictures of the room, also mentioned in previous posts with the reed baskets over the concrete roasting pits. 

 We drank a bunch of cheaper teas, including their Yanzhonglan(岩中兰)the high fire version is quite good.  We also had his Baijiguan (白鸡冠.)I wasn't very impressed with the baijiguan.  It looks really cool (yellow leaves with red edges) but it doesn't have the Yanyun (岩韵) which Yancha is famous for.  I heard a few tea sellers say Baijiguan is not very good, but that they can get a good price for it and it sells well to certain customers. Mr. Lu took us for lunch to a small restaurant near his home, which in my opinion was excellent.  The moderate spiciness suited my taste, and did not overpower my palate for the afternoon tea session. We had green vegetables, some sort of eel like fish which lives in the mud, bamboo shoots, and Chinese bacon(腊肉), which for some reason I love.

After lunch, my friend and I went back to Mr. Lu's for an afternoon session.  We had a Gushucha (古树茶 ancient tree tea) which was very good.  They have a couple of versions.  The cheaper version I had before lunch was OK, I finally got them to bring out the 900RMB/kilo high fire version which I drank right after lunch and was impressed by the Chaqi. The old bush teas, including Shuixian are said to have a mossy flavour (青苔 qingtai.) I didn't think moss was the best description, but I think I noticed the flavour they were talking about.  I bought some of the high fire Gushucha and high fire Yanzhonglan, and got samples of the Qingxiang Gushucha, Dahongpao, and Shuixian.  After buying tea, Mr. Lu drove us into the Scenic area to show us some of his tea bushes and then dropped us off at the Wenyou Shudian, also mentioned in the Chadao post.

Mr. Lu went into the bookstore first and bought me a copy of the Record of Famous Bushes of Wuyi Mountain (武夷岩茶名丛录.) Since he is a local, he got the book for the local price (60 yuan as opposed to the 100 yuan cover price.) It is a great book with pictures and descriptions of 70 varietals, and a list of names of 280 varietals from the 1943. I plan to do a post with some names and translations as well as descriptions as soon as I have time.

Apart from this book, there was not much other material about tea.  There is a Chadao magazine, but the selection didn't seem as good as when Corax from Chadao was there.

In the afternoon we waded through a bunch of cheap teas which are not worth mentioning. The one exception was the 石乳 or 'stone milk.' It was tasty, and had an interesting beidixiang which really had a milky fragrance. (kind of like that sometimes found in TGY or Taiwan Oolong like Alishan.) I found a 石钟乳 or 'stone clock milk' varietal in my handy book in the list of names from 1943, but this varietal is not described.  I did see it in other shops, so it is not unheard of.

The restaurant we tried to eat at on Monday night was awful.  They had all sorts of vegetables set out to choose from including all sorts of mushrooms, bee (maybe wasp) larvae, deer, some unidentifiable animals.  After a whole hour of waiting they only managed to bring out 1 dish, which was nasty fresh water shellfish.  Most of the shells were empty, and there was a lot more empty shells than shell-less meats. They tried to bring over some expensive dishes which we hadn't ordered, and eventually we left without eating.  

After we finally had a bowl of noodles, I went back to the hotel to rest for awhile.  My friend went back out immediately to drink more tea, and I just lay about making notes.

Laying by myself in the hotel room I had a very strange experience.  Some of the Huigan 回感 of the myriad teas I had had throughout the day came back to haunt me.  It was very hard to attach each huigan to a specific tea, but very lucid tea flashbacks.  It was like remembering part of a very nice dream I had had days earlier... sometimes the whole dream or the context is hard to recall, but the nice feelings or pleasant emotions of the dream come back.

My friend took came back to the hotel room at about 10pm to get a sample of tea to bring out to another tea shop to see if they could match the flavour at a better price.  We went to 探春 tanchun teashop (in the resort area, right opposite the bus station.)

I went to the factory of the family who runs Tanchun teashop on the third day.  I am not sure what to think of their business practices, but the young woman who runs Tanchun is very knowledgeable.  She told us our tea sample was a mix of Rougui and Beidou varietals.  Rougui has a rough feel to the leaves which are more narrow than Beidou. Beidou is smooth, and the leaves are  wider.  She also told me that all Fenghuang Oolong tea was originally from Wuyishan, and that the bushes were transplanted there during the song dynasty.  Evidence can be found in the 崇安县志 chonganxianzhi.  I am not sure who to believe, as I have also read that all Wuyi Yancha originates in Chaozhou.  I have been suspecting some sort of connection for awhile since so many of the names are so similar.  I'm pretty sure the relationship is not as simple as everyone makes it out to be.

Saturday, September 27, 2008

Fujian Wuyi Mountain

Tomorrow I leave for Wuyishan at 10 AM.  I am perhaps a little bit too excited, but that's probably understandable to anyone who would read one of these tea blogs.  Unfortunately another Typhoon - Jangmi - is hitting Taiwan today.  Wenzhou, where I live, is almost right across the strait from Taiwan, fortunately Wuyi is farther inland.  I should be fine, although the weather might be lousy.  I hope they do alright in Taiwan, this one is supposed to be stronger than the last.

I am continuing a long and illustrious tradition of tea bloggers on my journey. In preparation I consulted blogs and received many helpful replies to my inquiries from those who have gone before. Some of the blogs I found useful were these two from Chadao: post one and post two
And also a nice blog (short) describing a trip to Wuyi in Oct, 2007.  Just under one year ago.
There are of course many Chinese resources, blog posts, tea chat type sites, company websites, etc.  

I have had fun planning my trip to Wuyi, and hopefully will have even more fun starting tomorrow, or at least the day after. Although according to my map Wenzhou is only 260 KM from Wuyishan as the bird flies, the Lonely Planet guidebook says the bus ride is 12 hours.  That makes an average of about 22KM per hour.  I'm hoping that either Lonely Planet is wrong or outdated.  I have a sinking feeling that its right and the road is not very direct.  I don't think there are any direct flights.  It would probably take only 20-30 minutes by plane.

Thanks very much to everyone who wrote blog posts about their trips and those who gave advice via email.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Why Drink Tea?

If you have not stopped by the mandarins tea, read this post and followed the link, please do so now.  The link is to a not so obscure newspaper, The New York Times; the story, of course is about tea.
The story is about a very interesting man, his life, and tea.  Later in life he moved to America and taught the Japanese tea ceremony.  Through this article I was introduced to the Urasenke tea ceremony tradition, and found out about their schools in the US. I like the way the article portrayed the man, and the tradition.  It had me thinking about tea all afternoon.
After dinner yesterday, my wife asked me to make her some tea.  I usually don't drink tea after dinner, because I am sensitive to caffeine.  I hadn't had gongfu cha, or tea brewed with a gaiwan in about three days, as I had been sick and busy.  I had things to do last night, and was thinking about work the next day.  After the water had been heated and the tea things set right, I took a deep breath and noticed such a change in my mind and body.  As I opened the bag of tea, I felt peaceful.  Manipulating the gaiwan, I was content and my muscles relaxed.  Just a few minutes preparing tea, and the whole mood and rhythm of the rest of my evening changed.  Especially approaching the tea table without a desire for tea myself, I remembered why I like tea to drink tea.
I have not been making tea with Chinese/Japanese tea sets for my whole life, I am not a master of tea.  I like the flavor of tea, and often take some in an insulated cup with me to work.  I can understand why people think Chinese/Japanese tea preparation is a bother, but last night I remembered why I like it.  As Mr. Yamada is quoted at the end of the NYT article 'As for those who think they are too busy to make time for tea, “You discover that you are not as busy as you think you are.”'

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

The Origin of Fenghuang Oolong Tea (ii)

Red Fungus Tea (红菌茶)
  During the Song Dynasty1, the people of Fenghuang mountain found the 'red fungus' tea teas, made tea and drank it. They thought the the flavour very good, and so began digging up young plants and transplanting them around their houses. From this time, the cultivation of tea by the people of Fenghuang started.
  Even today on the ancient Fenghuang mountains, in areas not yet opened for agricultural productions as well as slopes and cliffs, 'red fungus' tea trees still grow.
'Red fungus' is the wild fore bearer of the cultivated 'bird's beak'2 (also called Fenghuang shuixian.3) It is because the gorgeous light red color which appears on the edges of the tender new leaves that this tea gets its name.
  Over many years through the process of growth and natural propagation, there developed 'hong xin' and 'baixin' varieties of 'red fungus' (These are terms used by the locals, the actual leaves are green, and not white.4)
  This variety grows at 450 Meters or more above sea level in barren hills and wild peaks, or in clifftop or amidst brushwood. Sunlight and mist are beneficial, but shade and rain are harmful. They have high resistance to insects, cold and drought, and are a very hardy variety. This variety exhibits strong growth year after year in places like Fenghuangji Mountain's Weiyan cliffs which are 1,498 Meter above sea level, below the sheer rock face of Wanfeng mountain, or the gravelly soil on the slopes of Daxinkuyundu Mountain.
 The appearance of these bushes are almost exactly the same as the 'bird's mouth' tea bush, but there are some differences between them. The first difference is the new tea shoots, one is dark green, the other light, one has hairs, the other none.5 'Red fungus' young leaves not only have hairs, they have lots of them. The second difference is on the back of the 'red fungus' mature leaf, there is hair. The 'bird's beak' has very little or no hair at all.

1 Northern Song 960-1127 Southern Song 1127-1270
2 鸟嘴 niaozui
3 水仙 The same shuixian characters as one of the 4 famous bushes of Wuyishan.
4 红心, hongxin, red center: refers to the reddish color of the leaves of one variety, 白心, baixin, white center: are the plants with normal green color leaves. It seems like they are called white because of a lack of [unusual] color. The book is not why 'xin' (heart or center) is used. It seemed to suggest that the red coloring was on the edges of new leaves.
5 At this point, the text is not explicit about which has hairs and which none, but it can be inferred from the order which they are referred to and the hair of the mature leaves that the 'red fungus' or hongjun is the hairy one at all stages .

Xiaoguang's Tea Tray

My friend just switched to a new larger tea tray.  His old one was bamboo, and beginning to split apart.  His new one is also bamboo, but it is laminated under high pressure with lots of adhesive and a good topcoat of laminate or something similar.  On the left hand side of the tea tray is found the design pictured here .  I had looked at it a few times until I noticed something wrong.  The legend in the upper right hand corner reads as followed (re transcribed from up-down, right-left to left-right, up-down)

I translated the poem, and have arranged it as the artist has above

On the mountain road, the small hut
is refined, travelers
are few. The er-
hu's song
instead of a RA

The use of one English word strikes me so funny here.  At first I didn't understand that the five English letters were one word.   The free verse is beautiful, but what is the English word doing hanging off the end making it almost impossible for English speakers or Chinese speakers to get a full understanding without help unless they speak at least a little of the other language?  Who came up with this? I like how the author made such a simple legend into a poem and a thing of beauty as much through the wording, simplicity and arrangement as through the scene described.  Then, it seems the author becomes a little bit evil... was he thinking that most people who bought this would never really read the whole thing?  Was it a jibe at the complacency of humans to add this bit of a foreign language just to make the customer work for this little gem?  If so, he certainly provided me with some entertainment. My only answer to the question is that this is a haiku, and it works out to the proper number of syllables in Japanese when the English for radio is added.  Unfortunately I don't speak Japanese, so I have no good way of testing this hypothesis.  It works out to 13 syllables in Chinese(including the English), and looks like free verse, although very short.

The Origin of Fenghuang Oolong Tea (i)

Legend has it that the Fenghuang mountains are the birthplace of the She Nationality1, and therefore it is also the origin of oolong tea.  During the Sui, Tang and Song Dynasties, wherever the She people were to be found there were oolong tea bushes cultivated.  The fate of the She people is one unseprable from oolong tea.  They live and flourish in the same areas.  During the Sui dynasty, an earthquake caused a volcanic eruption, and all of the tea bushes in the whole area of Gouwangliao in the Fengniaoji mountains2, the native home of the ancestors of the She people, were killed by the fire.  The only places where gardens remained was in Wudong mountain and Daizhao mountain.3  Following the movement of some of the She people to the east, oolong cultivars were brought to Fujian.  Today, most of the residents of Shiguping village in Fenghuang Town4 are She, Shiguping village's mostly produces Shiguping oolong tea which is one of the famous cultivars of Fenghuang oolong.
  During the Song dynasty, the people of Fenghuang town found a "red fungus tea bush5" with red leaves which were sharp like a bird's beak.  When this was processed and imbibed, they thought this was even better than oolong tea, so they began to experiment with cultivating it.  At this point in time, the Song emperor Zhao Bing6 was being chased by Mongolian troops, he fled south into Chaozhou.7 From this time the legend amoung the people about the emperor Zhao Bing started.  "Zhao bing was on the road to Wudong mountain, and was unbearably thirsty. The mountainfolk offered him the liqour of the 'red fungus tea.' After drinking it he praised the tea, saying it was good." Because of this the people called this 'Song Variety' tea.  Because of these stories, Fenghuang teas probably originated during the Song Dynasty.  With the already supernatural name of Fenghuang (phoenix), upon hearing the story of the thirsty emperor Zhao Bing and his praise of the tea, the name 'birds beak tea' became slowly more and more popular amongst the people.
  Another story has it that the mountain people of Fenghuang heard that the Song emperor was fleeing towards Fenghuang mountain, and boiled tea to welcome his illustrious imperial highness... This story shows that Fenghuang tea already existed during the Song Dynasty.  Some say that Fenghuang tea has a history of over 900 years, some say more than 1000.  Professor Yan Xuecheng of the South China Agricultural University8 isolated a sample of cells from a Fenghuang tea leaf.  From his tests and analysis of the sample he found that the cuticle was of a primitive type.  From these results it can be infered that the history of Fenghuang tea is much older than 1000 years.
  From the time of the first people of Fenghuang mountain discovering and exploiting 'red fungus' to the time of the Ming dynasty; from wild to cultivated; from digging up and transplanting young shoots to using seeds and finally to artificial propagation techniques the people of Fenghuang are constantly practicing careful propagation, screening,ever aggregating experience in order for constant optimization of the tea, and constant development of tea production.

2 凤鸟髻山狗王寮
3 乌岽山, 待诏山
4 凤凰镇石古坪村  The term fenghuang means phoenix in Chinese.  It is the name of a township, and the name of a mountain range in the prefecture of Chaozhou.  Since the tea comes from this area, it is also called phoenix tea.  I hope my translation is clear enough so that the reader can tell when the text refers to each one, and that it is not cofusing.
5 红菌茶树
6 赵昺
7 潮州 Chaozhou is a prefecture in the far east of Guangdong province near Fujian.  The dialect in Chaozhou is actually more similar to Fujian dialect than to Guangzhou dialect.
8 Yan Xuecheng 严学成 教授(professor) of 华南农业大学(South China Agricultural University

My Notes
This is the first I have heard of the She people being the first cultivators of oolong varieties of tea, although this does not prove anything.  Much of the legendary parts of this are open for debate, but then again, some legends do have basis in fact.  I am not sure of the usefulness of this bit of text, but it should serve to edify the translator and perhaps a curious reader or two as to some of the legends surrounding the origins of this wonderful tea.  It does suggest further research - vis. the work of professor Yan Xuecheng of South China Agricultural University.  I plan to do three more short translations from this book about the development of Fenghuang Tea and historical varieties.

This exerpt is taken from a book called 凤凰但从 of the publisher's series 中国名茶丛书 from the publisher 中国农业出版社.  ISBN 7109108759.  This exerpt is from pages 5-6.  My previous post on this same blog of a list of names was an effort to organize all of the names of bushes I found throughout this book.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Phoenix Single Bush Oolong Names

Phoenix Single Bush Oolong or Fenghuang Dancong Wulong (凤凰单枞乌龙) has many different names for different bushes. As confusing and sometimes frustrating for the new connoisseur, this is inevitable because of the very nature of the tea. The goal is to get a tea from a single bush, so logic follows that types of fragrances and then specific bushes should be named. It is mostly for my own edification that I attempt to organize a list of names and translations. I found a list in a book about Dancong Oolong, which I duplicate below with my own translations of the names.

壹 - 黄枝香(栀子花香)型  Gardenia fragrance type
1. 宋种黄枝香      Song variety gardenia fragrance
2. 宋种黄茶香      Song variety yellow tea fragrance
3. 大白叶              Large White Leaf
4. 黄茶香              Yellow tea fragrance
5. 老仙翁              Old fey gaffer
6. 宋种2号            Song variety No. 2
7. 佳常种              Always fine variety
8. 棕蓑挟              palm frond coir clasped under the arm
9. 特选黄枝香      Special selection gardenia fragrance

贰 - 芝兰香型       herbal fragrance type (literally, the glossy ganoderma and the fragrant thoroughwort fragrance type)
1. 八仙                  Eight immortals
2. 宋种芝兰香      Song variety herbal fragrance
3. 竹叶                  Bamboo leaf
4. 鸡笼刊              Chicken cage
5. 芝兰香              Herbal fragrance

叁 - 蜜兰香型       Honey orchid fragrance type
1. 蜜兰香               Honey Orchid fragrance
2. 白叶单枞          White leaf dancong
3. 香番薯              Fragrant sweet potato

肆 - 桂花香型      Osmanthus flower fragrance type

伍 - 玉兰香型      Jade Orchid fragrance type

陆 - 姜花香型      Ginger flower fragrance type
1. 柚叶                  Pomelo leaf
2. 杨梅叶              Waxberry Leaf
3. 姜母香             Ginger root fragrance
4. 火辣茶              Fiery spice tea

柒 - 夜来香型       Fragrance which comes in the night type

捌 - 茉莉香型      Jasmine fragrance type

玖 - 杏仁香型      Almond fragrance type
1. 锯剁仔             Saw cut seed
2. 杏仁香             Almond fragrance

拾 - 肉桂香型     Cassia fragrance type

The Colonial World Fairs Collection

The Dutch East Indies company put on a Colonial World Fair of objects and photographs collected in its colonies. There is now a website where many of these photographs are available for research.

These photos can be searched at a site called The Memory of the Netherlands here. The keyword 'tea' will bring up 15 photos, one of which is shown here. There is one other photo of a man in a tea field, and 3 photos of tea in processing or packaging. More interesting photos are forthcoming if the Dutch word for tea(thee) is input. There are 275 results for Dutch, I tried French, but I didn't put the diacritical over the 'e', so the results weren't useful.

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

Yuexi Emerald Orchid

Yuexi Emerald Orchid is a new tea from Anhui province (Yuexi Cuilan 岳西翠兰) Yuexi is a county on the border of Hubei province and this tea is a fairly new one. I had never heard of it, but a friend of mine who knows I like tea got his father to buy an extra half kilogram bag of the tea from his hometown to give to me. It was quite a thoughtful present, and great because I had never tried this tea before, and there is nothing I like better than trying a new tea. I was not sure what to expect of the tea from the package. However, It did say that it was organic on the cover, and my friend told me his father likes tea. The bag also proclaims the provincial and national recognition the tea has received. It began receiving awards in 1985, I think it was 1987 when it was declared a 'China Famous Tea' It can be found on babelcarp here

When I opened the bag I smelled the leaves right away. They smelled sweet and little bit like hay.

To brew my first gaiwan I used all leaves that had fallen on the table when I was pouring a portion of the tea out of the bag for use. I used boiling water that had been cooling for a few minutes and used all of the dry leaves pictured in a very small gaiwan. probably about 100ml or less. First poured a bit of water in to smell the fragrance. It smelled like fresh tea leaf -- a little bit like wintergreen.

First Infusion -- I infused this tea for about 45 seconds to a minute because I used few leaves. It was slightly astringent, but not unpleasant. The gaiwan lid smelled vegetal, a little bit like fresh cut grass. The chaqi was light and heady, but easily felt. This tea is certainly a green tea, but unlike the Zhejiang greens that I have been drinking (mostly Longjing and Wuniuzao.) The color of the soup was a bright green, not like the blue-green I was expecting from the description on the package.

Second Infusion -- About 1 minute. Still a little bit astringent, but very refreshing. Strong sweet wintergreen smell on the gaiwan lid. The feeling of the chaqi became more powerful, very heady. I realized during the second infusion that the flavour of this tea was most akin to fresh tea leaves than any other tea I have ever had. During a trek in the mountains last week to collect mountain spring water, my friend and I had been tasting the tea buds of wild tea trees on the path. Vegetal, somewhat evergreen and wintergreen like in flavour. This is what kept coming to mind. There is also a buttery mouthfeel flavour in the background, but the fresh tea leaf dominates.

Third Infusion -- Just over a minute. Weakening, but still refreshing. This tea has a very nice chaqi, which is refreshing, and energizing, but relaxing at the same time. I felt energized, but more mentally than physically. Could definitely feel Chazui coming on sooner than most teas, but in a very pleasant way.

Fourth and Fifth Infusions -- Used boiling water. The tea became much weaker, but was still refreshing and pleasant to drink. Wintergreen on Gaiwan lid still present. The soup in the last picture is from the fourth infusion.

The leaves were very delicate, this tea is very tippy and the leaves are less robust than Zhejiang Greens. I unfolded some of the leaves, but most of the ones that got into the gaiwan were broken, because I had used the fallen pieces. Most of the tea is not so broken up. My first impression is that the flavour of this tea is not very complex, but it is unlike any other green tea I have ever tasted. The only tea that reminds me of the fresh leaf flavour is a cheap Tieguanyin that I bought last November and stored in the freezer for the past 6 months. The Tieguanyin absorbed too much moisture because it was not properly sealed, and became very vegetal, but not in the pleasant way of this tea. It is so tippy, and the chaqi is of such a quality that I feel this tea may have been somewhat expensive. Another indication of quality is the number of infusions. I don't think I have ever gotten this much tea or chaqi out of so little green tea leaf. My friends father bought two bags and kept one. I hope he didn't spend much on me, but am flattered either way. May have to give some of it away in order to finish it before it looses these great attributes. If any of my readers really want to try Yuexi Cuilan, I would consider sending a bit, I don't know if you are allowed to mail the stuff under new Olympic China Post rules, but the regulations should be relaxed by the end of next months.

Monday, September 1, 2008

Wuniuzao Buying Expedition

I went with my friend into the hills of Wuniu village to purchase some of the tea of the same name for sale in his shop. There are small tea gardens all over Wuniu. It is not the same as large tea producing areas in China. Wuniuzao is not a internationally or even nationally famous tea. While it is certainly far from unknown, most of it is sold locally. Because of this, you wont find the same sort of monoculture you would find in places like Anxi(where Tieguanyin is produced) or many places in Yunnan, for example. Even in other parts of Wenzhou, specifically Taishun and parts of western Yueqing where Yandang maofeng has much larger areas of concentrated tea cultivation. The second picture is a Buddhist temple with Wuniuzao in the foreground. This may or may not be grown by the monks, I did not inquire within.

After passing many beautiful sights on the road, we came upon the house of the farmer. Unfortunately the colour of the tea had turned a bit yellow. It was sweet, and still good green tea, but it is harder to sell if the colour is changed, especially when the buyer is giving it as a gift. Colour, leaf shape, entire leaves, as well as short young buds are all important.

Unfortunately, I left the house in a hurry, and neglected to change the camera batteries, so after attempting to take one picture, I had to make do with my cell phone camera.

Saturday, August 2, 2008

New Tea - 午牛早

These photographs are from this past march when my friend was processing his freshly harvested Wuniuzao.

A basket of 茶青, or the green, unprocessed tea buds.

The tea dryers are from Hangzhou. They make 龙井 or Dragonwell tea. The younger one is a welder in the off season. Tea is highly seasonal (obviously) and even if your tea must be harvested four times a year, there is still a significant amount of time off. They are only here because Wuniuzao is harvested at least a month before Dragonwell. They have plenty of time to get back before it starts.

I am learning how to make green tea. I didn't do a very good job, but gave up early so as not to interrupt. My friend, Xiaoguang is convinced that its a great idea to have these guys making the tea by hand outside the shop as a sort of advert.

This is my wife and Xiaoguang's wife Xiaohong outside their larger teashop in Baixiang. Note the tea processors are staring at them.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Khroler's Camellia Thea

This is the picture of Camellia Sinensis from Kohler's Medicinal Plants. It is a high quality JPEG file of a decidedly beautiful piece of chromolithograpy, and one of my favorite plants. You can find it at the Wikipedia tea page.


I bought this handsome 2 volume set while in Guangzhou. I had seen it in Hong Kong, but didn't buy it due to the hefty price: $420 HK, which is more than $60US. When I saw it again on my way back through Guangzhou I knew I was fated to buy the book, so I went ahead and splurged. It is really not terribly expensive for a two volume set of over 1000 pages with notes on all the texts. All texts are in Traditional Graphs, just the way they were written.

I hope to translate and post some texts from this book soon. I have started on the "record of clarifications on water," (大明水记) but no progress recently.

Sunday, January 6, 2008

Tea Pig

This is my new Yixing Teapot. It is sort of a novelty what with the pig theme and all, but the workmanship is pretty nice, the lid fits very well, pours well, and I find it quite attractive in composition. It is made of black zisha clay, and the pig on the top has 'fu' characters on it. I am using it for Shou Pu-erh, and I find it really brings out the flavors in a tea I had previously only brewed in a gaiwan. I can't wait to go to Yixing!