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Chinese tea -- 中国茶


abcdefg
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Brewed some Oolong this morning. It''s a delicious high mountain Oolong from Taiwan. (But someone gave it to me and I don't have the full information on where exactly it's from, how it was processed, etc.)

 

Wanted to enclose a snapshot mainly to illustrate the issue of getting enough leaf volume to produce good taste. I've made this tea enough times that by now I can pretty much tell how much dry leaf to use. It should be enough so that after brewing, the wet, "relaxed" leaves almost fill the gaiwan.

 

post-20301-0-26312300-1436163269_thumb.jpg post-20301-0-86553600-1436163293_thumb.jpg

 

At the beginning, the dry leaves completely cover the bottom of the gaiwan, forming a gentle mound.

 

post-20301-0-24814600-1436163315_thumb.jpg

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Not busy this afternoon so I'll add the back story on that Oolong.

 

Last winter I was in Guangzhou, shopping for Fujian Tieguanyin at the main wholesale tea market. Bought some fine floral Anxi 安溪 tea, from a mountainous county just north of Xiamen. Wanted some for myself, but also wanted to send some to a couple of friends back home in the US.

 

I had spent most of the morning buying a 市斤 of bulk tea, about a pound, just divided into in several plastic bags. Afterwards I wandered around in search of attractive gift boxes. Knew there had to be some for sale, since this was a huge wholesale market, one which takes up nearly two city blocks. 房村茶叶批发市场。

 

Kept asking here and there, and finally was directed up to the fourth floor. Rent was probably lower there because of less foot traffic. Discovered a store way back in a corner that only sold boxes and tins for packaging; they didn't deal in tea.

 

They mainly sold those items wholesale, but they were kind enough to help me out anyhow. I showed them my big bag of freshly-bought tea and they helped me select some appropriate tins. They were actually enthusiastic about it, as though it were a big and special project.

 

Most of the staff had been sitting around a large carved tea table at the back of the store drinking tea as I walked in. After I bought my tins, they invited me to join them. They were drinking something delicious that I couldn't identify. We enjoyed some of it, and then I offered them some of my new Anxi Tieguanyin. Wanted to see what they would think of it. The consensus was "pretty good, but not sublime." A sensible assessment.

 

We returned to sipping the original tea, which turned out to be an Oolong from Taiwan. One of the men explained, "Oh that's my tea." He was the grower and had brought a whole lot of it from his tea farm in Taiwan.

 

He was there making arrangements for packaging with the intent of marketing it in Guangzhou through a middle man. This store was going to vacuum seal it in 100 Gram foil-lined pouches and then put those inside nice looking, tight-lidded tins. It was premium high-mountain Oolong, only lightly roasted.

 

Eventually I had to go. He said, "Wait a minute" and walked into a back room. Came back with a couple of vacuum-sealed bags and insisted I take them as a gift. Told me to send one to my American tea friends and take the other back to Kunming.

 

What friendly and generous people! It was my lucky day. I've been enjoying that Taiwan high mountain Oolong regularly ever since.

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@abcdefg

 

Regarding Puer "drunkenness", it's not really easy to talk about at all. Is it what's commonly referred to as "qi"? (If that's the case it hardly makes things easier...) Is it all placebo? Is it an effect of chemical traces in the tea?

 

In my (very limited) experience there are several types of body effects from teas, and puer often has more noticable ones than other teas. There are teas that can be really uplifting, or just makes you jittery, or have a very calming effect. Of course the same tea can have a number of effects on you depending on the mood you are in when you're drinking it, the atmosphere of the session, and your health condition more genereally. But beyond this, teas from certain areas often have similar effects on the body. For instance, I often find Lao Man'e teas energizing in a very interesting and different kind of way than say your typical Yiwu tea.

 

In my experience, young puer teas are usually more intense (this can be good and a bad). Shu puer can have a both calming and energizing effect, but never (again, my experience) the same kind of intensity that can be found in raw puer. In winter I am rarely able to enjoy young raw puer, preferring the wholesome feeling of shu puer or a well-aged sheng puer. In summer I really like young raw puer...

 

I'm afraid I don't have much to contribute with in this department. But I don't think I've ever experienced anything from puer that I'd be worried about if I was going to drive after a session. Perhaps with the exception of stomach trouble after a heavy session of very young raw teas.. If anyone is worried about the effects, I suggest having a few sessions on days when you don't have anything important that needs to be done and see how your body reacts.

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@Balthazar  Thanks for your thoughts on Pu'er and it effects, I don't mind a little uplifting of the spirits and/or a calming effect, as long as I don't find myself feeling like I have drunk a couple of beers or similar.

 

I will try mine weak and a small amount to start with and see how it goes :)

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Balthazar -- Agree.

 

Quote
In my experience, young puer teas are usually more intense (this can be good and a bad).

 

The early spring tasting sessions in Menghai to which I referred were all this year's brand new Sheng Pu'er. Some were strong and rough. Difficult for me to enjoy. I was sitting in with a group of professionals who were doing "diagnostic tasting" or "predictive tasting." They were trying to decide which teas had the most potential for 5, 10 or 15 years down the road.

 

It was all still 毛茶 at that point in time (loose leaf -- barely processed 散茶。My friends, factory managers and tea merchants, would save the best ones to make into Raw/Sheng 生 cakes 饼茶。 Lesser teas they would designate to be aged more rapidly, turning them into Ripe/Shu 熟 cakes or bricks。饼茶/砖茶。  

 

We always drank these strong young teas with a little food or after eating. They were hard to handle on an empty stomach. They would cause something akin to intense hunger pangs; not at all pleasant.

 

And some of the mood change we noticed around the table could well have been placebo effect. We were all jolly and having fun; we welcomed the slight dis-inhibition that came with sharing this tea that was still on the trees only 24 or 48 hours before.

 

One problem I had with late-in-the-day tasting sessions was the caffeine. If I drink much coffee or tea in late afternoon and evening I don't sleep well. So I would try to just sip small amounts, enough to get a sense of that particular tea without actually consuming much of it.

 

Usually there was a discard bowl on the table for emptying half-drunk cups. But other times there wasn't. I remember asking someone to pass that bowl down my way. In the casual and friendly spirit of the session, the guy I asked said, "Oh you don't need it, watch." And he dumped half his small cup of tea out onto the cement floor.

 

He went on to explain jokingly, "This is what we tea buyers call 养地”。He had borrowed the term used for "raising, nurturing, maintaining" a good Yixing teapot, 养壶 at the same time employing a phrase that more commonly was used to mean maintaining the land through proper fertilization, irrigation, crop rotation, and such as that.

 

Everyone got a laugh. It was that kind of group dynamics and that kind of experience. A mild and friendly relaxed humor was pervasive; but nobody was knee-walking drunk or dancing around with a lamp shade on their head singing ribald songs. At best a very gentle high.

 

---------------

 

And Shelley, the photos in # 81, above, were mainly to guide you in brewing your new Oolong. Wanted to give an idea of how much to use.

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  • 1 month later...

We had some colder days recently in my home country, and even though it is 35 Celsius again by now, I started to long for autumn teas. I drank a lot of Japanese shinchas and fresh gyokuros during the summer, as well as a solid 200g of Taiping Houkui and Xihu Longjing, so maybe my body would like to have a change. I'm planning to buy some good 凤凰单丛, as these are my all-time favorites among wulongs.

I also tasted a very nice sheng puerh at the Chinese teashop here, which is quite odd, because I don't really drink shengs. Quality is reflected in the price, of course, as 50 grams of such a great tea is 30$... :( Compared to my local currency, RMB is getting more expensive, and this affected tea prices, unfortunately. Six years ago, when I was a student with a low budget I started to drink Chinese green teas because good quality ones were much cheaper (30 to 40 percent cheaper!) than the Japanese teas from the same grade. Now, in terms of price, I can't feel the difference between the two.

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#86 -- ZhangKaiRong --

 

I'm planning to buy some good 凤凰单丛, as these are my all-time favorites among wulongs.

 

That sounds good. I like those too, even though I have not drunk many of them.

 

Maybe we should do a thread on Oolong. I'm planning a trip to Taiwan in the middle of next month (September) and hope to explore the places where Taiwan's best Oolongs are made. Maybe when I return, I can put something up to kick off a discussion of Oolong. If you'd rather go ahead now and start a thread, I'll join in with what little I know (mostly Tieguanyin.)

 

-----------------------

 

I'm back in tea school, a more advanced session this time. Small class of 4 or 5 people; plenty of time for one-to-one correction. Lots of the emphasis is on brewing technique 泡法, not as much on the history and production of the various teas. The teacher here is one of the old hands who left the large school where I studied before. She decided to open her own operation and is starting it slow. 

 

Every session I say to myself, "I can't really believe I'm doing something this silly" and then shift gears and proceed to spend the next 3 hours carefully pouring hot water. Seems insane. Sitting on the front third of the bench, kettle no higher than the tip of the nose; elbow no higher than the lobe of the ear, and many more such minute stipulations. Practice with this tea today a hundred times; practice that tea tomorrow a hundred times more.

 

We mostly use water; straight from the tap at first, then hot, followed with boiling. The boiling water is dangerous if you don't do things right. After we can do the routine without flaws, cold water or hot, we proceed to make one cup of real tea, which we sit back and enjoy.

 

My teacher below (making yellow tea.)

 

post-20301-0-28031400-1440989500_thumb.jpg

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Every session I say to myself, "I can't really believe I'm doing something this silly

 

All I can say is I am delicate shade of green :mrgreen:  with envy at you being able to spend time just pouring different temperature water.

 

I have 3 big projects on the go at the moment and then I will have more time to myself, if all goes to plan I will finished the end of Sept. or very beginning of Oct.

 

I think I will spend 3 hours pouring water as a celebration :)

 

Yes a thread about wulong tea would be great.

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Quote
I think I will spend 3 hours pouring water as a celebration.

 

Haha, Shelley, that's funny! Not sure I could stick with it, were it not for my teacher or her assistant watching like a hawk and pointing out each tiny flaw.

 

My class has two ladies and two men, in addition to myself. One of the ladies is a wholesale mushroom merchant who wants to learn tea so that her small family company can branch out and better use the time during off-season months. The other is an older lady whose daughter just recently became a middle-grade tea master in another city (Guangzhou.) Daughter has urged her to give it a try. Now she has taken to it like a duck to water.

 

One of the guys is about 40, from Yixing Town 宜兴 in Jiangxu by Lake Tai. He owns a small purple clay teapot 紫砂茶壶 distributorship. Has been brewing tea for years and secretly thinks he already knows enough. Gets bored easily and often steps outside for a smoke. The other guy is a university student on summer break. His mom told him to try it and she pops in off and on to check on his progress. Kind of hovers for a few minutes, then disappears.

 

Even though we are at most 5 or 6 students, the main teacher has an assistant. This provides close monitoring; sometimes too close. I already halfway know how to do these things, but the aim of this course is fluid, unhesitating perfection. We even practice how to handle it if something goes wrong. How do you recover with grace if you drop something or fumble a step?

 

Every small movement has meaning. I've now discovered that when you pour water into the cup in a counter clockwise direction, it's like welcoming a guest to come in. Teacher says it's like the movement you would make with your hand as you draw a visitor in; it says "欢迎,欢迎"。When you rinse a tall glass with hot water, you rotate the body of it towards yourself. This motion is the equivalent of saying to a guest "please come back, please return another day." 回来,再来回来。

 

Begins to sort of make sense when you see it with your own eyes; though the verbal description leaves a lot to be desired.

 

post-20301-0-10253800-1440989636_thumb.jpg

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  • 7 months later...

Well I have finally tried all my teas. I liked the mug with the tea strainer in it but for a more authentic feel I used my improvised gaiwan.

 

I didn't like the pu'er at all, not because of the effect on my mood but because of the strange tingly, numb feeling in my mouth, so I won't be having any more of that :shock:

 

I liked the Wuyi Yancha olong tea and the green gunpowder tea but my favourite was the fujian olong.

 

i also liked the premium green tea but not as much as the gunpowder.

 

I think I would drink the Wuyi Yancha olong or the fujian during the day and either of the green ones in the evenings.

 

I am still learning how to make these teas consistently so sometimes it is a complete waste of time :shock:  and gets put on the garden, but when its good it is very enjoyable.

 

I find I have more success when I add the tea leaves to the water and not the other way round.

 

I am going to go and make myself a refreshing green tea now.

 

Thanks for all your help and advice, I will come back and post more as I discover more teas, which I intend to do.

 

 

 

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Well, Shelley, I'm impressed and pleased that you had a try with these teas. Had been wondering.

 

I liked the Wuyi Yancha olong tea and the green gunpowder tea but my favourite was the fujian olong.

 

Fujian Oolongs can be really grand. I like them too.

 

I didn't like the pu'er at all, not because of the effect on my mood but because of the strange tingly, numb feeling in my mouth, so I won't be having any more of that

 

I've always thought of Pu'er tea as more of an acquired taste than as "love at first sight." (Not everyone agrees.)

 

I think I would drink the Wuyi Yancha olong or the fujian during the day and either of the green ones in the evenings.

 

Most Chinese will drink green in the early and middle of the day if they have eaten. Red tea 红茶 or ripe Pu'er 熟普洱 after meals and in the evening. Those are said to promote digestion 养胃。

 

Thanks for the feedback. 加油!

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Thanks ZhangKaiRong, I will have a look for some of the Taiwanese green oolong and give it a try.

 

I do agree with you abcdefg about pu'er being an acquired taste, but as I wasn't keen on it for a couple of reasons, I won't be persevering with it.

 

Looking forward to this continuing tea adventure :)

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That's a shame, Shelley! I've had limited experience with pu'er, but I would say it's one of my favorites thus far. I had it a few times and found it mediocre, but then had it one day while sitting in Chengdu's 人民公园 and it made a lasting impression. I promptly went to a tea seller (who I'm now quite sure scammed this silly 老外!) to purchase some.

 

When returning from China, I managed to load up on quite a few teas that I had grown to like. Pu'er was definitely my favorite. While I adored the Sichuanese green teas in Sichuan (where they put flowers into the tea), I found myself gravitating towards pu'er once I returned to my coffee addict habits. Perhaps because it's a stronger taste?

 

My partner is from Hangzhou and her family care packages regularly include tieguanyin, which sadly put the green teas I brought home to shame. Yet the pu'er still remains my favorite! Looking forward to dropping by abcd's haunts to hunt down some higher quality stuff!

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Found some excellent Pu'er yesterday at the North Wholesale Tea Market. (金买小区) It was loose leaf instead of having been formed into cakes 饼茶 or bricks 砖茶。It was a ripe Pu'er 熟普洱茶 from 2006, making it 10 years old now. Brews up very rich and mellow.

 

post-20301-0-62765900-1459928063_thumb.jpg  post-20301-0-39140900-1459928071_thumb.jpg

 

Loose leaf Pu'er doesn't get as much respect as attractively-wrapped cakes of tea. Wrapper design is an art form in Yunnan. They can be displayed on a shelf as a sophisticated item of decor.

 

One reason I like loose leaf is that it releases its goodness easier than tea which has been compressed in a tight cake or brick. Some older cake Pu'er can be very difficult to brew well. But this tea can be made well in a gaiwan or even in a "grandpa mug" such as the one pictured here. Doesn't necessarily demand an Yixing clay teapot 宜兴紫砂壶。

 

It's also a very "patient" tea, which is the term Chinese tea people use for how much life it has during use. This can be brewed 9 or 10 times without losing its flavor. 耐泡 is the Chinese term.

 

As to Shelley's tea, perhaps she got some very aggressive raw Pu'er 生普洱茶。Chinese tea people refer to this as lie4 烈, which means fierce, violent, intense. It can be too much if you aren't used to drinking Pu'er. Or it's also possible she just got a bad batch. Goodness knows that happens, especially when you can't taste the wares in the shop.

 

Pu'er tea is quite varied; many kinds of it. Brewing technique also can greatly affect its taste and enjoyability.

 

One of my tea teachers last year, Professor Wang 王老师,told me confidentially that the thing he hated about Pu'er was that "After Pu'er, it's hard to go back. Every other tea is insipid compared with a great Pu'er." He smiled as he made his mock confession. (He has written two books about the subject.)

 

post-20301-0-47629800-1459929783_thumb.jpg

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It was a ripe Pu'er 熟普洱茶 from 2016, making it 10 years old now.

 

Do you maybe mean 2006? Or have I travelled in time? :)

 

As to why I might not have liked the Pu'er is possibly because I don't like strong tea. Even when I just drink standard English tea in teabags I have it very weak with no milk. My friends describe it as " if you are making Shelley a tea, just wave the bag over the cup" :) obviously its actually hits the water but not for long and I prefer to add the tea to water and not the other way round.

 

I am not worried about leaving Pu'er out of my tea experience, there are lots of others to try.

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Oops! I meant 2006. Will go back and correct it.

 

And you are definitely right, Shelley. If you don't like strong tea, there are lots of other kinds that might be more appealing.

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Agree with realmayo - you should not go for cheap pu'erh from unknown tea manufacturers, because there is a risk that pesticides are in the tea. And in case of puerh, it is really important to flush the first brew - you should also do this for oolongs and reds, but due to the microorganisms and storage conditions, it is vital in case of puerh to dispose the first blew.

 

I recommend you to taste another good puerh from 布朗山 or 思茅, as they are quite on the organic side of tea making.

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