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Chinese tea -- 中国茶


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The first one is a Jasmine tea, also from Fujian. If you kept it in your cupboard for some years, it certainly expired as jasmine tea is a mixture of jasmine and green tea or green oolong, which are both affected by time.

The other one is a Wuyi oolong, as realmayo mentioned. Wuyi oolongs are roasted oolongs, and they much more similar to 红茶 than to 绿茶. Roasted oolongs are OK to drink even after 3 or 4 years simply because they don't lose too much flavor thsnks to the dual fermenting and roasting process.

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Sure, Shelley. That's not a problem. The vacuum sealed 武夷岩茶 Wuyi Yancha is an excellent oolong, so you've got that department covered.

 

Next time you the opportunity, visit that good Chinese market and pick up some green tea. See if they have Huangshan Maofeng 黄山毛峰。If not, they are sure to have either a biluochun 碧螺春 or some Longjing 龙井。We can work with any of those three greens.

 

At the same time see if they have Dian hong 滇红。That would be my first choice for a red/black tea and it's been popular in England since Queen Elizabeth came to visit Yunnan in 1986. If they don't have that, they probably have Keemun 祁门 (qímén) and that's an excellent alternative.

 

Just buy those two teas (green and red/black) at this time and let's talk about Pu'er tea a little later. Forget about the jasmine in your cupboard; I doubt if it's still good.

 

PS: I looked at the website for the Chinese grocery to see if they might have a list of tea, but they didn't. I wonder if it might be worth a phone call to ask them what they stock. Admittedly it could be a strange and unusual conversation. But I suppose it's possible that you could wind up with the name of someone who knows their teas. Could turn out to be a useful contact. You could meet that person when you go to the store, etc.

 

Once in Yixing 宜兴 on a teapot expedition, I asked the friendly people at the front desk of my hotel about where to pick up some local tea. Turned out one of the clerks remembered that the assistant manager was a tea nut, so she went and fetched him. Resulted in guided shopping trip under his care when the shift ended.

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I think that as my Chinese and their English kind of meet in the middle as it were, :)  I will be better off going in person with names written down and Pleco in pocket :)

 

Will let you know how it goes.

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I understand what you mean. Several years ago I took a Chinese friend to a big Chinese grocery market in Austin. Got all upset when I couldn't talk with anyone there. Got my friend involved and she explained that the staff were mostly Vietnamese. Duuh!

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It is interesting that people think the one in the plain box is a jasmine tea, it doesn't appear to have any flowers in it,  it just small black leaves and smells just like a lap sang souchong but a bit fainter than the fresh teabags of it I have here to compare.

post-31145-0-11592100-1431273464_thumb.jpg

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Shelley, I agree that doesn't look at all like jasmine tea. All the jasmine tea with which I am familiar includes some flower petals and smells like jasmine. Tea leaves and the flowers are mixed together during processing. I've never known them to be separated again afterwards. And as ZhangKaiRong said above, jasmine tea usually employs green tea or oolong for the blend.

 

Why not try brewing a cup of it and see how it smells and tastes. Just do it directly in a glass or mug with water less than boiling, 85 or 90 as described earlier. Strain it into another glass or cup or mug after a minute or so. Might be something good; might be one of those brilliant "back of the cupboard" discoveries.

 

If it turns out to be a hearty red/black tea, which is what it looks like, even if it's not delicious any more all by itself, I can show you how to make tea eggs with it 茶叶蛋 if you'd like.

 

post-20301-0-68947200-1431302257_thumb.jpg

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#22 -- @889 --

 

That does look like an interesting forum. Thanks for mentioning it.

 

I've bought tea from the sponsor (Adagio) back when I was living in the US. I remember that they offered small "taster packs" of several related teas that were convenient. 

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with water less than boiling, 85 or 90

 

I notice this sort of temperatures are mentioned for many of the brews, is this after it has boiled and you let it cool down?

 

One thing about tea is that it was considered healthy because the water being boiled was not full of horrible bugs :shock:

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From what I understand, boiled or reboiled or rereboiled water won't make any difference to the taste.

It's possible that in the past people boiled it first, let it cool, and then re-heated it to the right temperature, I've no idea.

 

But typically the water is taken off the heat once it reaches the desired temperature.

 

As the water heats the bubbles that are created get bigger: they start out small looking like shrimp eyes, which means the water's the right temperature for very delicate tea. Then up through crab eyes to fish eyes and so on: http://www.goldenmoontea.com/library/the-5-different-stages-of-boiling-water-and-how-the-chinese-use-them-for-tea/

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That's a great reference @Realmayo. Thanks. I've seen allusions to the different stages but never saw them collected and illustrated so well.

 

Oh ok, i understand, but for me I will boil then let cool down to the correct temperature.

 

You've got it, Shelley. As a practical matter that's how it's usually done these days.

 

There's a memorable scene in the second part of Chi Bi 赤壁 the John Woo movie, in which Zhou Yu's wife, Xiaoqiao, makes tea for General Cao Cao as a delaying tactic, trying to buy time until the wind direction changes. She talks about the tea water temperature and the importance of assessing bubble size poetically and in detail. He has long admired her and how she brews tea so he falls for her strategic ruse. Pretty fine.

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Well I had an interesting but fruitless visit to Yao brothers, I bought some nice little Chinese lanterns suitable to use as xmas decorations, some toothpicks, some joss money oh and some not very inspiring tea.

 

They had a pretty poor selection of loose tea leaves most of what they had was in teabags. I bought 2 types of loose tea recommended by the very nice lady who worked there, she was very open to helping me choose but seemed a bit embarrassed that the choice was so limited. Interestingly enough when i mentioned white tea she said " Until I came to UK I had never heard of white tea I don't know what it is" as far as she was concerned there is green tea, flower tea and black tea. She wasn't an expert by any means but seemed she did like tea herself so it was her opinion only.

 

Mentioning my tea quest to a friend they said have you not been to China town supermarket? I was amazed China town, here, where I live? Turns out it is a small chain of shops in the city (4 that I am aware of) and I discover one of them is quite close. So I intend on visiting there over the next few days and we will see what happens, I am feeling more hopeful as it seems to be a shop for local Chinese people to shop from, and as we have a large Chinese student community from the university here and it is a stones throw from the uni, I am hoping it will have a good choice of tea and other things.

 

So onward with the tea quest :)

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#22 -- @889 --

 

Yup, I also use that forum.

 

I'm a big fan of Chinese teas, but when it comes to greens I rarely drink Chinese ones anymore. The market is just too crazy these days, it's getting increasingly difficult to find anything decent at an affordable price, and the pesticide situation seems to have gotten out of control. Of course there is still top quality stuff to be had, but I have neither the money nor the connections required. (I did go for a 50g Long Jing sample from Jing Tea Shop recently, my first for a very long time, interested to see how that turns out.)

 

Japanese greens, on the other hand, generally give me much more for the money, and while some worry about radiation post-Fukushima, as I understand it this only applies to a limited area, and testing is generally quite reliable. I could be wrong, though.

 

The above about Chinese greens also applies to many oolong varietals and dancongs. It's getting next to impossible to get a decent TGY these days, with the radiation-green, stomach-churning "freshness" being favored by many consumers. (I have been giftes some truly awful and probably downright dangerous TGY from Chinese. Appreciate the gesture, but those are teas I do not feel bad about throwing out.) There is still good, traditionally roasted TGYs to be had (often, but not always, from Taiwan), but there's a shortage of western vendors that has any for sale.

 

The puer-situation remains crazy, and I really wish I had discovered puer earlier than I did, when prices were 1/10 of what they are now. At that time they were probably too low, but now... People keep waiting for another crash, like in 2007, but so far that has yet to materialize. Norway is a terrible place to store puer anyways, unless one invests in a pumidor. I'm not quite there yet, so buying pre-aged stuff is the only way to go (most of the time my stomach can't handle too young puer, at least not on a daily basis). I have started to store some in crocks, using tobacco pouches to keep the relative humidity at an acceptable level, just to keep my puer from going completely sour.

 

These days I'm mostly drinking sencha at home, black teas at work, and shu puer or lapsang souchong as an after-dinner treat. The latter is great together with a single malt whisky, by the way.

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Shelley -- #33 -- Too bad that store didn't turn out to be a gold mine. But maybe one of the two you bought will turn out to be a winner. And there is always the internet if your newly-discovered "Chinatown" does not pan out.

 

Maybe someone here can recommend a British on-line tea store for Shelley that they have used and found to be reliable. I only know a couple on-line tea stores, and they are in the US, making shipping more expensive.

 

Balthazar -- #34 -- I envy you the Longjing. Hope it is excellent. I bought some last year in Longjing Village, outside Hangzhou West Lake. It's one tea I always drink using the "brew-in-the-glass" method described in another thread. The Japanese green tea sounds like something I need to explore some day.

 

Wish I could send you both some decent green from here. Good stuff is abundant and cheap, especially just now (Spring.) I sent some to my US family and friends last week. The shipping (air mail) cost more than the tea itself. (Ground would have been cheaper, but they were impatient.)

 

One was a Biluochun 碧螺春 and the other was a Maofeng 毛峰。Both were from Youle Mountain 攸乐山 in Xishuangbanna Prefecture, South Yunnan. Both are "minor" teas, not famous ones, but have turned out to be delicious.

 

post-20301-0-76674900-1431609118_thumb.jpg post-20301-0-88172700-1431609152_thumb.jpg

 

Am spoiled for choice here. Usually go to one store for their green teas, to another for their red/black. Two special stores for their Pu'er. After giving them several years of business, they seldom steer me wrong. Occasionally I browse the two Kunming wholesale markets, preferably with Chinese friends who know a lot and are part of the local "tea fraternity."

 

Most of the Tieguanyin I've bought has been in Guangzhou. Two big tea markets there with a fine selection. One of them seemed to specialize in it. (Fangcun 芳村茶叶批发市场。)

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I made the mistake of buying some young puerh a few years ago -- keeping it indoors in a centrally heated house does it no favours at all, I ought to chuck it all out now. The old cakes I've bought hopefully aren't suffering too much but there's no way to get young ones to go all fermented/mouldy.

 

If I'm sat at my desk for a couple of hours puerh works much better for me than coffee does -- keeps me alert but calm too, never jittery.

 

I'm also quite fond of SHU puerh, especially with a few years on it. 

 

I used Essence of Tea www.essenceoftea.com quite a lot (too much) when they were based in the UK, but now they're out in Malaysia. They had nice oolongs but looking at them now they seem quite a bit pricier than I remember.

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This is one of the teas I bought it looks exactly like the picture  http://steepster.com/teas/kwong-sang/13317-tit-koon-yum

 

Turns out it is Tieguanyin as mentioned by abcdefg  in #35

 

Is this one any good?

 

The other one is China Green Tea special gunpowder made in china like this one here http://orientalpantry.ie/index.php?route=product/product&product_id=719

 

What can i do with these?

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OK, Shelley. Let's get stared. Could we first consider the second one you mentioned, the Gunpowder Green?

 

post-20301-0-86899900-1431645321_thumb.jpg

 

Is there any more information written on the box of the one you bought, beyond what is what's shown on the web-site illustration. If there is, it might  be handy for us to see. Your illustration box just says 特级珠茶,which as you know means "special grade pearl tea."

 

Despite the 特级 "top quality" designation, it seems very inexpensive at 4.5 Euros (about 32 Chinese Yuan) for a box of 500 Grams. Does not mean it's bad, but I would definitely approach the tasting with modest expectations. It isn't likely to blow your socks off.

 

The most popular Gunpowder green tea comes from Zhejiang Province and it is rolled into little balls, or pearls, which I suppose reminded someone of gunpowder back in the days when muzzle-charged cannons were in use.

 

Here's what one of them looks like (a Zhejiang specmen.) The size of the "pearls" can be smaller or larger, and the roll can be tighter or looser. The color of the leaves can be lighter or darker. These will all be clues as to how best to handle it in order to enjoy a tasty cup. The other one below (on the right) is a Dongting Biluochun from Jiangsu, near Lake Tai. It's not rolled quite as tight.

 

post-20301-0-78997800-1431646192_thumb.jpg  post-20301-0-34060700-1431672349_thumb.jpg

 

What I would suggest that you do is pour some of this tea out onto a plain white saucer and take a closer look. In fact, a close-up snapshot would be great. Please allow me to illustrate with the Yunnan Biluochun 碧螺春 tea that I've been drinking every day. It also is rolled into small pearls.

 

post-20301-0-88357700-1431646605_thumb.jpg  post-20301-0-69691400-1431647544_thumb.jpg post-20301-0-86710300-1431647345_thumb.jpg

 

Far left above are the pearls when dry. Middle snapshot is after steeping about 30 seconds. On the right, here they are again after opening up more fully following the third longer steep, close to a minute. Tea from the first steep is usually not very full of flavor. The water mainly serves to "wake the tea up."

 

Please do the same steps with your Gunpowder tea. Dry, first short steep, second steep. Spread the leaves out carefully in the third saucer after their third steep to examine leaf structure. What you hope to find is:

 

1. Not a lot of stems.

2. Not a lot of broken leaves.

3. Small, fairly-uniform leaf size.

4. Mostly one terminal bud or sprout plus two young, tender leaves. 一芽两叶。

 

These factors will clue you as to how best to proceed. Let me stop here and ask whether you have a gaiwan? If so, the rest is simple. If not, no worries, because there are good alternatives and workarounds.

 

Please excuse the pedantic nature of this post. "Diagnosing" an unknown tea requires care and user feedback. It's a collaborative process. Since I come from a medical background, I liken it to a patient saying "My tummy hurts." The careful physician doesn't just say, "Oh, well, then take these pills." He tries to first determine what he's dealing with via taking a history and doing a physical examination. He asks questions, presses here and there, etc.

 

Same with your new tea. We need to first determine what we're dealing with. I will work with you on it and help as best I can. Thanks for your patience!

 

Other members will probably have additional insights and suggestions. Lots of savvy readers here.

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Bigdumogre -- #39 -- I've had Anji Baicha, an excellent green tea, grown a little SW of there. It has become one of my favorite "mild" green teas. What kind of green tea did your wife find and buy?

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