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Chinese tea -- 中国茶


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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?

We went to the dragon well tea plantation and she enjoyed there's. But there prices were crazy. While walking down a street there was a guy roasting outside with a bin next to him. For about 40 yuen we got half a kilo.

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There is not really anymore info on the packet.


It also says CAP on the top and 榮文 I couldn't really make sense of this - thriving, flourishing - culture, language, writing.


It smells good.


I will try soaking some of this  as you described and see what it looks like.


I don't have a gaiwan but I do have a few chinese mugs with lids and I am hoping to buy a gaiwan when I go to the china town shop.


I have just rummaged around in my cupboard and come up with this combination.


First picture the Gunpowder tea, picture 2,3 & 4 my improvised gaiwan and the last 2 are pictures of mugs I have.


I have about 6 of the rice pattern ones but only a couple of the others ( would like to know what this pattern is called). I also have lots of tea bowls and teapots in rice pattern, in fact i have loads of rice pattern crockery, plates, bowls, spoons, serving bowls and platters and so on, i have collected it for years. Just started with the other pattern, some in green, pink, yellow and looking for blue that I believe it also comes in.


So I am going to attempt my tea adventure this Sunday when it is peaceful here and I will go the new store on Monday, so lookout for my results on Monday or Tuesday :)








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Oh, Shelley, you're all set! That's a gaiwan 盖碗, literally a covered 盖 bowl 碗。Is it of such a size that you can hold it in one hand? If so, it should serve just fine. If it's too large for one hand, you can use both hands.


That tea looks tightly-rolled, with some loose stems and cut leaves. The color suggests that it is partly oxidized, maybe not really a green tea after all despite what the package says. It will probably be stout/strong and full bodied. May have a "roasted" taste, but a tendency to come out overly tannic and even bitter. What a friend of mine calls "Rickshaw Puller tea." Might be tricky to make it come out mellow. (Not sure; only a guess.)


Since it appears "dense," I would suggest using only a small amount of it at first, less than would be required to cover the bottom of the gaiwan in a single layer. (Have a look at a further discussion in the "How to brew green tea with a gaiwan" thread.) I would also use relatively hotter water, 80 to 85C/176F to 185 at first. Start with short brewing times, only about 30 seconds.  


See how it goes, and we can make adjustments from that point onwards.


(Sorry, I don't know the name of the ceramic pattern. Maybe someone else will know.)




Link to the gaiwan thread: http://www.chinese-forums.com/index.php?/topic/48546-how-to-brew-green-tea-with-a-gaiwan-%E7%9B%96%E7%A2%97/#comment-369680

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Thanks for your help and guidance, I will follow the method in the gaiwan link with the modifications you suggest here.


I can hold it in one hand, not a problem ( I have big hands :D )


Looking forward to it :)

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Well the best laid plans......


Had a very busy weekend and have not had a chance to go to the new shop yet. Complicated story about an ongoing wound on my leg and doctors appointments.


i am hoping all being well I will go to this shop on Tuesday as this Monday is a bank holiday, they may not be open.


Haven't forgotten or given up, just busy :)

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没问题, Shelley. I was wondering but didn't want to push. Thanks for letting me know. Hope next week works out better.


On Monday I'm leaving for a trip to Borobudur, Prambanan, and Ratu Boku, Central Java. Will stay in Yogyakarta and Surakarta. Will stop in Kuala Lumpur on the way down and in Ipoh on the way back. Not sure about internet connections in my hotels down there, so I may respond a little slower than usual.


Wrote a short introductory piece on red tea this morning. Posted it here if you want to have a look. Might come in handy in case you run into some red tea on your shopping quest next week.




Best regards,


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I'm on a study leave today, preparing for my ACCA exams. And studying can't be complete without a good, energizing shu puerh, that helps me be conscious and alert the whole day (sometimes even at night...)

Personally, I'm not a big fan of puerh, I only drink occasionally. The 生普洱 upsets my stomach, and the 熟 one is just too 浓 for my taste. I prefer greens and oolongs to reds and puerhs, but there are sometimes when I feel the urge for puerhs, especially when I'm under studying pressure and when I miss some days of work out - I found out nothings works better against accumulating additional belly fat than three small cups of shu an hour after a meal.

Today I'm drinking a 2007 shu puerh from 临沧 (云南). The nickname for this tea at the local teashop is "chocolate puerh", due to its flavor resembling good quality (70%+ cocoa content) dark chocolate. As I'm not a regular drinker of puerh, I haven't bought a yixing pot yet (but I'm planning to do so), so I prepared it in a gaiwan.







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ZKR -- That sounds real interesting, and it sure does look dark. 2007 and 2008 were supposed to be excellent years in Lincang. I'll bet it's good.


I'm on holiday just now (in Yogyakarta,) but when I get back to Kunming I'll post more about Pu'er and show off some that are in my cabinet. Like you, I personally prefer 熟普洱 to 生。


Odd business, that. All my Kunming tea afficionado friends, without exception, prefer the raw Pu'er. When they learn I prefer the ripe, they give me a sympathetic look. Over the years it has become apparent that they view my taste in Pu'er as just have not having "evolved" enough yet, and that some day I may embrace what they all know to be best.


They aren't snooty or condescending about it. Most admit that it's a phase they passed through some years ago. I've also gotten the impression that they view raw Pu'er as being "natural" and ripe Pu'er as "artificial.


They talk about 生 as being "bright" and "clean" and complain that the ripe Pu'er I still prefer is "muddy." I have had the privilege of drinking some 13 to 15 year old raw Pu'er that had been allowed to age naturally under good conditions. It lost it's sharp edge over time and mellowed into something pretty fine. But, it's quite expensive and hard to find. Lots has been snapped up by collectors and speculators.


As you know, the main advantage of a small teapot over a gaiwan is that it allows brewing Pu'er at a higher temperature. A little easier to turn out a good cup of Pu'er with a small teapot than with a gaiwan. I have some from Yixing and some from Jianshui. Photos later when I get back home.

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@ZhangKaiRong: Yixing pots can be great for shu puer, especially young shu where some of the "piling smell" remains. Here the gaiwan will be brutally honest, whereas the yixing will take away some of the "dankness" (how much depends on clay and firing). For certain other teas (like dancong or gaoshan oolongs) many prefer gaiwans (or, if they opt for an unglazed clay pot, something high-fired). Like you, I'm a big fan of shu puer after meals.


@abcdefg: Regarding sheng/shu and your friends in Kunming, there is an interesting discussion in Zhang Jinhong's "Puer Tea: Ancient Caravans and Urban Chic" about how sheng (and often very young) puer is usually preferred in Yunnan, whereas in Guangdong/Hong Kong most people prefer their sheng puer significantly aged (and mellow), and shu is also quite popular there. For those interested in puer tea more generally, I'd recommend her book. She made

which are loosely connected to the book, they're well worth the watch for anyone interested in this.



Personally, I find sheng puer more interesting. It has such an amzing range of qualities and delivers all sorts of mouth/body sensations. But I am priced out of the market for aged stuff (or high quality young stuff), and very young teas are too hard for my stomach. Shu puer, on the other hand, is a very pleasant, if usually quite predictable, companion. I am very rarely wowed by it, but it's consistent, energizing and very pleasing after a meal.

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Fascinating video! (I just watched the first one tonight, since I'm on the road away from home.) Many thanks for the link!


I traveled with half a dozen tea pros this Spring before Qing Ming Jie 清明节。We went to a couple of the tea mountains near Menghai 勐海县城 on a buying trip. We visited lots of small factories back in the hills so that the main people in our group could buy some of this years crop to take back and process into cakes.


I asked one of the fellows how he decided which tea to press young into Sheng cakes 生并茶 and which ones to pile up to allow time for it to become ripe before pressing. He said, "Oh that's easy. The best stuff we make into Sheng/raw cakes right away. It it's not so great, we turn it into Shu/ripe tea before compressing it."


We were having supper at the time of the discussion. He pointed to the crispy and delicious cucumber spears we were eating raw with a spicy dip. "If these cucumbers were of lower quality or were a little old, we could still eat them for supper, but we would stir fry them with garlic and some ground meat." A parable.


This endeavor involved several days of heavy-duty tasting, all of it brand-new Sheng Pu'er 生普洱。 At one point I asked one of the senior guys why he never used a little teapot and instead always used a gaiwan when deciding whether or not to buy.


He paused a minute and thought. "I can make anything taste good with my Yixing teapot. I can make toilet paper or sawdust taste good. (He laughed because this was obviously an exaggeration.) It's more honest to taste these teas with a gaiwan. If they are good, the quality survives this method of brewing and still shines through. If they are of lower quality, the flaws become obvious."


I thought it was an interesting answer.


We always carried some small nibbling food, such as nuts or dried fruit or even hard candy. When we drank lots of 生普洱 on an empty stomach, we had to eat, even if not a lot. Just could not handle it otherwise. Often our host at these small family factories had a bag of small Mandarin oranges, and we nibbled those as we sipped.


Some of the people in our group could do things I would not have believed possible. They could taste 6 teas in a row and keep them straight. Come back to them a few minutes later blind and tell you which was which. Real pros. And oddly enough, most of these guys smoked. I found that really odd and troubling.


...about how sheng (and often very young) puer is usually preferred in Yunnan, whereas in Guangdong/Hong Kong most people prefer their sheng puer significantly aged (and mellow), and shu is also quite popular there.


I didn't know that, Balthazar. Interesting that it's a regional difference.




Here's a link to a brief trip report from the Yunnan Tea Mountains: http://www.chinese-forums.com/index.php?/topic/48134-south-yunnan-tea-mountains/

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@Balthzar  I enjoyed that video enormously, Thanks for sharing, I will definitely watch the other ones.


@abcdefg  My tea shopping expedition has been thwarted again this time by a broken car, it needs to have the starter motor replaced/fixed tomorrow (Monday) so as soon as its fixed I am off to the shops, that video has inspired me.


I am going to go now and have some of the green tea I bought the other day.

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@abcdefg: Thanks for the link, sounds like an amazing trip.


@ Shelley: Glad it was of interest!


Here's the section of Zhang Jinhong's book (pages 181-84) I was thinking about. It's anecdotal, of course, but I think it has a lot of truth to it:





Cold and Warm


The first friend Zongming met in Kunming was Hongtu (webname), who Zongming understood through web communications to be a defender of Yunnanese culture. For instance, on the Sanzui website there was a post by a participant from Guangdong titled “Puer tea doesn't need the Yunnanese.” This post said that Yunnan was simply the area producing the basic material of Puer tea but that the people of Yunnan didn't contribute to Puer tea's trade and consumption as much as the Cantonese. The post was fiercely attacked by Hongtu, who enumerated many facts about the Yunnanese contribution to tea. To him, these great contributions had long been masked because Yunnan was remote from the political and economic center of China. Hongtu's strong identification as a Yunnanese could also be seen from his full web name, Hongtu Lantian, which means “red earth and blue sky,” a popular description of Yunnan's natural landscape.


To entertain his honored guest, Hongtu brewed his favorite tea, a ten-year-old raw Puer tea originating in the tea mountain of Mengku. Mengku is located in Lincang, a southwestern subdistrict of Yunnan bordering Burma. In recent years it had emerged along with Yiwu, Menghai, and several other places as a famous production site for Puer tea. According to Hongtu, Yiwu tea tasted too weak and Menghai tea was barely acceptable; only Mengku tea was enjoyable, full-bodied and lingered long enough on the palate.


This particular tea had been aged in Kunming. In addition to Hongtu, Zongming and myself, there were three other guests, all frequent visitors to Hongtu's tea shop and supporters of Mengku tea. Having gotten used to the taste of Yiwu tea during my fieldwork, I found the Mengku tea scarcely palatable, with a less subtle combination of sweetness and bitterness than Yiwu tea. I found that the Mengku fans at this tasting used the same language of praise as Yiwu supporters did: “The tea of Mengku/Yiwu is the remarkable flag of Puer tea,” or “If you want to learn about Puer tea, you must first practice drinking and understanding the authentic tea of Mengku/Yiwu.”


Zongming also declared his fondness for Mengku tea, but he didn't give it the same praise as the others. To him, the more problematic issue at that moment lay in the difference in flavor of teas not between production areas, but between different storage places. The Mengku tea brewed by Hongtu was said to have been stored in Kunming for ten years, but in Zongming's opinion it had not been sufficiently aged. He thought it was still too raw and far from smooth. To tea drinkers from the Pearl River Delta, smoothness was an important property, and they thought it resulted from storage in a relatively humid place, such as Hong Kong or Guangdong. For them, good Puer tea needed to be smooth in the throat when it was swallowed – as smooth as the slowly stewed soup (lou fo tong for Cantonese pronounciation; lao huo tang for standard Chinese Pinyin) commonly eaten as part of their daily meal. Drawing on ideas from traditional Chinese medicine, they argued that smooth Puer tea was warm for the body. By contrast, raw Puer tea was too irritating; it was intrinsically cold and hence harmful to one's health (see Anderson 1980).


Zongming's response to this Mengku tea reminded me of a scene I had witnessed in Yiwu. In April 2007, I met a group of travelers from Guangdong who were visiting a Yiwu family who produced Puer tea. The family master brewed some recently made raw tea, a superior type according to him, to entertain his guests. The guests, however, felt nervous about this fresh tea. They sipped only a tiny bit from each run. At the third run they asked the master to stop and suggested that he brew the aged tea they had brought from Guangdong. One guest told me that he felt his heart pounding when he tasted the raw tea. Nevertheless, in the end, all the travelers bought a large quantity of raw Puer tea from the local family. Perhaps the “adventurous” raw tasting had made them foresee a good prospect for the fresh tea, hopefully via storage back in Guangdong.


Zongming, who had tasted various kinds of Puert ea, was not nervous in the face of the Mengku raw Puer tea. But like the Guangdong travelers in Yiwu, after tasting the Mengku brew, Zongming asked if he could infuse a Puer tea he had brought from Hong Kong, in order to show his preference. It was a twenty-five-year old tea packed in a bamboo pipe that had been stored in Hong Kong. Its brew was darker than that of the Mengku tea. According to Zongming, it had reached a good degree of smoothness, had the medicinal smell that results from good Hong Kong storage, and was warm and beneficial to one's health. Now Hongtu found it hard to comment. After a long silence he said that the Hong Kong tea's smell was indeed special, but it faded once the tea was swallowed and couldn't be recalled until the next sip. He also remarked that the tea didn't have a long aftertaste, a property of that [sic] was very important to him. The other guests also commented on this tea's strange taste. They were trying to appreciate this twenty-five-year-old tea, and although they did not dislike it, they obviously didn't think it rivaled the Mengku tea.


In my experience, most Yunnanese, especially frequent tea drinkers, prefer raw and naturally fermented Puer tea, and they often have a preference for tea produced on a particular mountain – for instance, Yiwu or Mengku. Furthermore, they prefer tea that has been aged in Yunnan rather than elsewhere. Like Hongtu, they appreciate the lingering aftertaste of raw Puer tea. People from the Pearl River Delta, however, prefer Puer tea that has been stored in Guangdong or Hong Kong for at least five years. The aging, they think, creates warmth in the stomach as well as smoothness in the mouth. Such “standard taste” or “collective taste preferences” are shared by groups of people living in the same natural and cultural environment (Ozeki 2008: 144-145) and become the standard against which people judge other tastes.


Popular writers have increasingly argued that Puer tea could not be properly fermented until it was exposed to sufficient humidity and heat (Bu Jing An 2007). Hong Kong and Guangdong are close to the sea and are more humid than Kunming, which is located on a plateau. Accordingly, some people, mainly Cantonese, argued that Puer tea should be stored in the Pearl River Delta after production in Yunnan. Some even said that five years of storage in Guangdong or Hong Kong was equivalent to more than ten years of storage in Kunming. They believed that Yunnan had excellent tea resources but was unsuitable for tea storage or that the Yunnanese also hadn't known enough about storage, even though Yunnan also had humid areas, such as Jinghong in Xishuangbanna.


After staying in Kunming for only one week, Zongming became sick, despite the warm and sunny weather. He began to cough and even vomited one day after eating spicy Dai food with Hongtu and several other friends. At that meal, he witnessed the Yunnanese capacity for eating spicy food. It seemed that the more pungent the food was, the more Hongtu enjoyed it, although he was sweating and his face was turning red. Another Yunnanese participant, Puzi, ate chilies quietly without his face changing color at all. At the start of the meal, Zongming tasted everything out of politeness, but soon he selected only the less spicy dishes. He didn't eat much, but he still suffered from the pungent food and had to use a lot of tissues.


A few days later, in Hongtu's teashop, Zongming attributed his sickness to “water and earth not fitting” (shuitu bu fu). The dry climate of Kunming compared with the humidity of Hong Kong was one factor. Zongming also confessed that he persisted in the Hong Kong habit of taking a cold shower every evening. This was contrary to local custom and strongly criticized by his Kunming friends.


Puzi made this point in another way. He had recently stayed in Guangdong for several months and said he could not bear the Cantonese food at first. It was too oily, and it had no flavor. He could not get used to the Puer tea stored in Guangdong, either. He described it as “like having Chinese medicine rather than tea.” However, he soon found that he wanted more of this kind of Puer tea after a meal, as its medicinal flavor did, in fact, help him digest the oily food. In turn, after his digestion improved, he ate more, which then caused him to drink even more Puer tea. In the end, Puzi realized that he had grown to like Cantonese food and also the Puer tea stored in Guangdong, which he found complimentary.


Zongming nodded his head as he listened, hearing in Puzi's story the counterpart to his own. Both of them agreed that the only way to get used to the local environment was to eat the local food and drink the local drink. Considering each other's position, they found that neither Puer tea was uniquely authentic, and they realized that one's preference between raw/cold Puer tea and aged/warm Puer tea was a matter of local culture. As Zongming moved from Hong Kong to Yunnan, he discovered that the authenticity of Puer tea was mobile, too. But he later found out that the authenticity of Puer tea not only diverged from place to place but also varied in the same place over different periods. Once it was tested on the historical timeline, the authenticity of Puer tea would become even more mobile.

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Interesting! Not only are tea preferences regional, but they seem to be divided according to climate differences. And it does make sense. Kunming is definitely dry; not at all like humid Hong Kong.


I had naively thought that storing Pu'er in dry conditions would be better, but it seems I was wrong. Can understand how the lack of moisture would not allow it to develop.


For sure the fiery hot Dai food is very different from the 清淡 Guangdong taste. I had not been aware of the TCM implications, regarding inner heat and inner cold.


Thanks for posting this, Balthazar.

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Well, there's dry and there's dry. I've had Kunming aged teas (around 10 years or so) that I liked very much. No idea if I'd like their "traditionally" stored counterparts better or not, but I know that some people (not only Yunnanese) prefer a more moderately humid storage condition (say with a relative humidity of 55-65% rather than 70-85).


The "Norway dry" that surrounds me definitely isn't good for the tea, though (both in terms of taste and how my body reacts to it).

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I have an old friend who lives in West Norway -- Aalesund. It sure seems to rain a lot there. I sent him some Dian Hong tea last year, but haven't heard any tasting feedback. Seems to be the way it often is. Friends just put it in the back of a kitchen cupboard and forget about it if they weren't tea drinkers to start with. Oh well, 没办法。


Here (in Kunming) my friends and I use heavy pottery jars to store Pu'er tea. Each one will hold 7 or 8 cakes of Pu'er. A "七子饼" plus one. They told me it keeps temperature and humidity more constant than just putting the tea in a cabinet. One can buy such 茶筒 made with Yixing clay, but mine is from Jianshui, where they have a very good, but less famous, clay.


By the way -- Interesting article about storage methods. Thanks for the link.

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Well my Chinese tea adventure has been severely interrupted. First last weekend my car broke down :( , turns out it was only a flat battery but it took 3 days to work that out, so now we are back on the road about to go and buy tea, when my desktop PC fails :(  so I am now in the middle of fixing/replacing it and have dug out good old lappy to just about manage to keep things afloat on line.


But I am going to go tea shopping this week whatever happens, I really want to try some good green tea and something new I haven't tried before.


You mention clay jars to store tea in, this reminds me I was going to ask what is the best way to keep tea? In a tin container, or plastic maybe, I have some bamboo containers, may have had tea in before, don't know.

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Hello Shelley.


>>"You mention clay jars to store tea in, this reminds me I was going to ask what is the best way to keep tea?"


Put it in a container with a fairly tight lid. A tin is fine. A glass or ceramic container with a "stopper" type top is often used. Plastic is not as good in general since some plastic can impart flavor to the tea. Not sure about the bamboo. Should be OK if the lid is fairly tight. Does not need to be a screw-top jar. A little air doesn't really matter.


Usually it's OK to keep the tea in whatever packaging it arrives with; no need for a separate investment in a purpose-built container. The exception would be tea that comes in just a flimsy cardboard box or paper bag.


All that being said, most of the loose-leaf tea I buy here in Kunming is just scooped out of a large open bin and sold by weight in a plastic baggie with "ziploc" top. Half the time I just leave it like that. Toss it in a cabinet where my tea stuff stays. (It's only Pu'er I put in the large clay jars.)


Apologies for being so imprecise and unscientific. Someone else may have a better structured answer. I'm just pretty causal in general with things like this; part of a non-fussy, easy-going bachelor lifestyle. But for sure don't put it in the refrigerator or freezer. Just in a cupboard that does not get terribly hot.


Sorry about your computer and automotive woes. Life often intrudes on our best laid plans.

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