Sunday, December 28, 2008

Happy New Year 2009

Hope Unsurpassed

As the mists of Emei fly
Across the endless Sichuan sky
And we approach this year’s end
With all the things we had to contend
I hope the new year brings you
Joy under brilliant skies of blue
Wealth beyond belief
Health for your relief

As the cold of the region settles in
And winter bites your reddened skin
I hope you have a warm and joyful place
To celebrate the New Year to embrace
Those you love as well as those you like
Forgetting those you hate and want to strike
It is my desire in hope unsurpassed
That I am one of the first and not the last

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

A Merry "Mao Feng" Christmas

It's Christmas Eve and we are set for at least three different parties. My sophomore class number three will be having a Christmas party at 1550. I have been having Christmas parties in my classes all week. A great way to do Western culture! So far I have attended four parties with yesterday's two classes combining to have one party. It was great fun.

Today after the class party at 1550, we have been invited to celebrate with the Dean and other faculty members with a dinner at 1800. Finally, at 1930 the students of the Foreign Language Department will have their party. So little time, so many parties.

My good friend Bogdan (an American here who has a computer software company) had his wife drop by to give us a huge tin of Huangshan Mao Feng. Another of those "top ten classical teas of China." I could not wait so we opened it and tried it.

Weiyan, Bogdan's wife, brought the tea in this bag. Obviously it came from a Huangshan place.

The actual tea was housed in this huge beautiful tin. We are talking a lot of Mao Feng here!

The Mao Feng tea leaves were a lot bigger than the Emei Mao Feng. One of these days, we will sit down and do some serious comparison of the Mao Feng and other teas.

Close up, the leaves are various shape with some having hair and others just folded nicely. This Mao Feng also has a lot more green to it than the stuff we buy from Emei.

I used my new pot and Induction Tea Cooker to make this Huangshan Mao Feng. The results were excellent. This tea lives up to its reputation easily. It is a bit heavier than that coming form Emei but also sweeter with more delicate undertones. Once again, who would not like such a fine tea as this? It is truly a great tea.

I did five infusions with these leaves but really only got two good cups of tea. After the third steeping, the tea was pretty weak and lost any meaningful sensations. Green tea is only good for two and, at the most, three infusions.

Saturday, December 20, 2008

Menghai County Raw Puerh Tea

On Saturday, we made the trip down to Focus Market after dropping a watercolor painting off to our friends who have the Chinese medicine store. We had the painting framed to give as a Christmas gift. At focus, we bought several more packages of tea to give away in Thailand and I bought this tea to try it out. It only cost around 9 yuan for 60 grams. That comes to about one dollar and thirty cents. We had tried a "raw" puerh in Chengdu and love it. Even bought a bing cake of it we liked it so much. I hoped this puerh would be a choice that would bring us joy. The price certainly was right.

This is the packaging of this puerh. Attractive and convenient, it stood next to all the green teas that one sees everywhere.

The leaves look like puerh, smell like puerh and are, indeed, puerh. Nothing fantastic to see, just plain puerh processed tea leaves.

Up close the puerh leaves look and feel like smoking tobacco. The wrinkles are the same and the color is identifical. I sure wish I understood puerh better than I do now. I get confused whenever I try to read an article about its history and processing. Makes me want to go visit some puerh factories in Yunnan.

The actual liquid from the leaves was disappointing. The puerh tea we had in Chengdu was much lighter. This tea is OK but it is what one would expect from a decent puerh tea. Nothing outstanding, just a good drinkable tea. Sunee does not like it because it reminds her of the Tea she sees in Thailand. I, however, really enjoy a good cup of puerh, especially when it puts my cheeks to sleep as it often does.

As one can see, the leaves are mature, dark and heavily textured. Guess that is what makes them puerh, right?

Liu An Gua Pian Green Tea

Liu An Gua Pian or Melon Seed/Pieces green tea is considered to be in the top ten (maybe even top five) great Chinese classical teas. I had been reading about this tea for several months so when we went to Chengdu this past week, we bought some.

The Melon Seed/Pieces tea is the result of a labor intensive picking style in which the farmers cut the pointy tip end and woody stem of each leaf creating indentically sized "melon pieces". Lu An Gua Pian is made only using the tea leaves and no buds at all (similar to Japanese green tea). The emerald-green dried tea leaves are long and narrow, each measuring between 1.5cm to 2cm in length. The long leaves are thin and soft creating a rich flavor without bitterness. Only the first, second and third tea leaves are used to produce this tea. The leaves are withered to reduce leaf moisture and then baked and simultaneously rolled to stop oxidation while frequently turned to impart a delicate hint of smokiness. This also gives the tea its unique melon seed shape.  The tea then goes through several drying processes requiring the skill of an experienced tea master. After drying, the tea is sorted, winnowed to remove broken tea and then graded.  This tea originated in Anhui province in 1776 during the Ching dynasty.

The dried leaves are easily identified from other greens. The leaves are dark to grayish green, long and tightly closed. They have by far the longest tea leaves of any green tea we have tried thus far.

Up close, one can see the darkened texture and the folded dried leaves. Once again, the leaves are easily identifiable.

The liquid is a beautiful golden yellow, light and transparent. The taste is fantastic. Sweet, mild and not a hint of bitterness. It has a unique floral taste and a long aftertaste much like that of Tie Guan Yin. The pleasant floral sweetness, if that is what it is, fills the whole mouth with a very refreshing and smooth sensation. These really good teas always remind me of drinking the pure water from the artesian well not far from where I grew up in Oklahoma. There is a purity in the taste that one feels more than tastes. Wow! One can see why this tea is in the top ten famous teas list. It is wonderful beyond belief!

Here you can see the Gua Pian leaves after being infused four times. One cannot really get much more than four steepings from these leaves and I think this is probably true of most green teas. The fourth infusion was rather weak and lost the beautiful golden yellow color.

Quick Trip To Chengdu Tea Culture Town

Since we were planning to return to Thailand in January, we decided to take a quick trip to Chengdu to buy some tea for Thailand. We left on the 0800 school bus and arrived at SW Jiaotong University in Chengdu at around 1040. We immediately caught a taxi to the Tea Culture Town and found the area shops we had done business with before.

The trip into Chengdu was foggy and cool, almost cold. As usual, Emei Mountain was putting out her usual misty morning skies.

One of the first things we did was to check out the Liu An Gua Pian. I had been reading up on this famous tea and definitely wanted to give it a try. Here we are buying the tea after successfully negotiating for a discount on bulk.

The leaves of the Gua Pian are the most unusual we have ever seen. Guess this must be way they have their name - Melon Seed or Melon Pieces.

How about a little sample to wake you up in the morning. Nice flavor and nice aftertaste. One can see why this is in the top five teas of China.

Sunee and I are both very happy with our purchases from this shop.

Our next stop was to find the tea accessories shop from our last visit. The lady we bought the last batch of tea from walked us over to the area where the store was. The store is on the second floor so we returned, bought our Induction Tea Maker, two big Giawans, my new better teapot and some other items.

This is one of the two huge Gaiwans we bought to use daily. It cost 6 Yuan (less than $1 USD) and is really big, bigger after we bought it and got it home than even we realized.

This is the first "expensive" teapot I have purchased. The one in the previous posts cost a whopping 2 Yuan at one of those Two Yuan stores that have popped up in Emei City. This was several times more expensive and if one compares just the pictures of the two teapots, the difference is obvious. I will have to wait for my REALLY expensive teapots until later.

We originally wanted to buy four cup mats (is that what they are called) to match our tea tray. Sunee said she want four (si4) of them. When we got home and checked over our receipt, we realize we had been charged for ten of these mats. Instead of 3.5 Yuan times four, we found we had 3.5 Yuan times ten. Speakers of the Sichuan dialect and virtually all southern Chinese speakers have trouble with the reflexive sounds in Chinese. Four thus sounds to them like ten if a none native Chinese mandarin speaker says these two sounds. Ten is the pinyin shi2 but actually sounds like si2. At least it does to me and obviously to Sichuan speakers as one sees them clarifying the four and ten with the fingers crossed for ten. Sunee obviously did not cross her fingers. As it turns out, we are now both happy to have bought ten of these cute little mats to use around the house.

We are also the proud owners of an Induction Tea Cooker. This keeps the cups and such warm while rapidly heating the water via induction in a nice teapot. It works really great. I have it setting next to my computer and am looking at it as I type this. The cost was 180 Yuan or about $26 USD. Well worth the money!

On the way back to the main road to catch a taxi to the Walmart closest to Southwest Jiaotong University, we met this lady when I stopped to look at her collection of Yixing Teapots. She specialized in Puerh from Yunnan so we talked with her about buying some more cakes. She suggested a young puerh cake she had just received. We decided to give it a taste.

In addition to the young puerh cake, we found two different kinds of puerh in these two smaller cakes and decided to buy them for 15 Yuan each (around $2 USD). One was cooked while the other was not cooked.

This is the puerh cake that the lady showed us and told us about. Sunee bargained until she got it down to 75 Yuan (about $11 USD).

We were very impressed with the tea from the above tea cake. It was not as dark as what we expected and the taste was just marvelous. Now Sunee thinks we should have bought several of them. We bought one plus to two small cakes to take back to Thailand with us.

All together we bought the following teas on this trip:

One Puerh cake
Two small Puerh cakes
Liu An Gua Pian tea
Xihu Longjing tea
Dian Hong tea
Qi Men Hong tea
Xin Yang Mao Jian tea
Jun Shan Yin Zhen tea
Bi Luo Chun tea

After our tea culture town journey we got a taxi to Walmart where we bought a CD/cassette player for the Buddhist Nun we have been teaching English. She works and lives a FuHu Temple about a fifteen minute car ride from Jiaoda. This should assist her learning English. To learn more about this nun and the FuHu Temple please go to:

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Emei Mountain Que She (Sparrow's Tongue) Green Tea

According to various sources on the internet, “Bird’s Tongue” Tea occupies an honourable second place in ranking the green teas of China (Longjing being number one). The top buds and the first or second leaves of the branches of the tea plant, and only those which show no signs of mechanical or other damage (the heavy rains often cause considerable damage to plants) are gathered for this tea. The tea is gathered and processed exclusively by hand, which is very laborious. The tea has to be transported from the mountains to the place of processing, rolled manually in order to soften the leaves and subsequently pressed by hand in woks in order to attain glossy, flat leaves. Bird’s tongue is a very delicate tea, but supposedly a sensitive nose can smell the chestnut aroma typical of this type of tea.

This particular tea is produced in Sichuan province on Emei Mountain. Some tea connoisseurs claim that this tea is one of the finest green teas available. According to these connoisseurs, this prized tea is a true treat, with a unique and delicate appearance and flavor.

Quite frankly there is not much to be found as far as information goes on this particular type of green tea. It is very expensive, so I doubt if we buy a lot of it.

As I stated in an earlier blog, we bought our Que She with three other types of Emei Mountain greens. It has taken me this long to get around to finding out about it.

As seen earlier in one of my blog reviews, this is the package the Que She came in. It weighed in at 50 grams and was not cheap.

The leaves are about half the size of Zhu Ye Qing and thinner. They are delicate and multicolored with a deep pastel green being the predominant color. The leaves are solid and relatively heavy for a tea.

Up close, one can get a good idea of the shapes and colors as well as the delicate hairs on each leaf.

The leaves made a light pale amber liquid similar to all the other teas of this type, such as Zhu Ye Qing and Xue Ya. The taste is very pleasant although I could not smell any chestnuts or anything like this. I do not know if I could really tell the difference between the green teas mentioned above. The Zhu Ye Qing is certainly the stronger of the three with a much heavier taste and aftertaste. Que She is closer to Xue Ya in its mildness. It has a bitter-sweet aftertaste but it does not last very long. This is most definitely a very pleasant and wonderful tea. It, along with the Zhu Ye Qing and Xue Ya, are all very close in taste and aroma and feeling. All are great teas worth drinking and enjoying.

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Tibetan Tea

We bought this tea in a Brother Friendship store in Ya'an, Sichuan. It looked interesting and, of course, we had often heard of Tibetan tea and butter tea. Thought this might be the tea they added butter to.

From their website at

Old Horse Road Of Tea

  Old Horse road of Tea is another new tourism site in the world. It is the road which is on the highest height, the most dangerous and the most magic. It is named for the exchanging marketing between Tibet and Han. The road starts separately from Sichuan and Yunnan, crosses mountains, Jinsha river, Lanchang river, Nu river and Yalong river, and go on to the west and meet at Changdu. It is a main way of cultural and economic exchanges between Tibet, Han and other nationalities. It is also the guide of the Yuman-Tibet road and Sichuan-Tibet road.

  Old Horse Road of Tea are two roads in fact, Sichuan-Tibet horse road and Yunnan-Tibet Horse Road. The Sichuan-Tibet Horse Road is more famous. Our company is located at the first stop of this old road. The road is famous for large quantity of tea transportation and dangerous ways, which Yunnan-Tibet Horse Road is far less. This can be proved by the TV play See of national TV.
Frontier tea is hardly pressed, which is a drinking necessity of Tibet people. Frontier tea produced by Ya'an has a very long history. Long time ago, Frontier tea from Ya'an is sold to Tibetan in Tibet, Ganzi and Qinghai. Ya'an also becomes the exchanging marketing between Tibet and Han. Jinjian tea and Kong brick tea is the most preferred by Tibetan. "Tibetan would rather eat no food in 3 days than drink no tea in one day." Then you can see how importan tea is in the life of Tibetan.

Poem, book and picture can mold a person's temperament, piano, chess and tea can cultivate the heart and nature culture.
Let's love tea, teste tea, chat tea and make tea.

The website is in both Chinese and English and has a bunch of pictures of the Old Horse Tea Road. It does not have a lot about the actual tea we bought but lists all the health benefits of this tea and others.

This is the can of Tibetan Tea from our Ya'an trip before the school started. I put off tasting it simply because it was in the can. Thought maybe we would be taking it back to Thailand with us and did not want to break the seal.

It seems now that we will not have enough room in our luggage for it so figured it was time for a taste test. Always love to give a new tea a taste.

When I opened the can, I found the tea was loose inside without an inner package. There was also a name card stuck in among the leaves which gave the name of the company Brother Friendship and the address in Yaan to include the website above. Not sure if this tea would have lasted long in Thailand without a sealed bag inside the can. The leaves are really dark, almost a solid black and look to be of different sizes. The smell was fresh and strong and a bit earthy. Kinda reminded me of a puerh smell.

Up close one can see the texture and the different sizes among the leaves. Pretty black looking tea, huh?

I put about a table spoon or so of the tea in my little pot and let it steep for about a minute. The liquid was dark and orange and looked a lot like puerh. The aroma was stong and earthy with hints of floral. I thought it would smell like tobacco because that is exactly what the leaves reminded me of, good strong tobacco for a pipe.

I liked this tea because it was full-bodied and strong. I can imagine that this is the tea the Tibetans put their butter in to drink. It is as strong a tea as I have tasted yet not as shallow as most of the tea bag teas I used to drink before we discovered what tea was all about.

The tea was fairly relaxing but nothing like the puerhs that I have tasted. There was no numbness in my cheeks that had come with the puerhs. I simply felt relaxed and alert at a casual rate.

If one likes black teas, I would think that this would be a solid tea to be drinking in the morning to wake up with. It is robust and firm with a smoothness that seems to be with all the other black teas I have tasted. No initial bite and no serious lingering aftertaste. Just a sold tea with an earthy and no nonsense floral taste, smooth from front to back. It is not a tea bag taste but one that has real substance and "meaning."

I can see why the blacks are us Westerners favorite tea. They do not play games with the taste buds and are not delicate and whiney (how about that for a tea tasting word!). This black tea is very pleasant and I definitely will be drinking some more of it later on. Glad we bought it and welcome to the family, Mr. Tibetan Tea.

This is the expended leaves after eight infusions. It was still going strong but I needed to drink some Yunnan black tea to get ready for bed. Seems I have fallen in love with the Yunnan Golden Needle tea.

Pi Lo Chun (Green Snail Spring) Green Tea

Pi Lo Chun or Bi Luo Chun is considered to be the number two tea after Longjing in all of China. The original Pi Lo Chun tea came from two mountains in the west part of Dongting in Jiangsu Province. The best still comes from there but now it is grown in several other provinces and Taiwan. For top quality Pi Lo Chun tea, peach, plum, and apricot trees are planted between the tea bushes. The tea leaves absorb some of the fragrance from these fruit trees which helps gives Pi Lo Chun its special aroma and flavor. The tea leaves for Pi Lo Chun are only picked once a year during mid-March to mid-April when the leaves are at their peak. The tea is hand picked for just the leaf and its bud. It takes 60,000 to 80,000 leaf-bud sets to produce one pound of finished Pi Lo Chun tea. Due to the stringent selection process for high quality leaves, this tea is not widely available.

We bought a pound of this tea from the same vendor who sold us the Longjing tea. She assured us that it came from Jiangsu Province. Once again, I question whether this tea actually came from Dongting because of its price. It is expensive but not as expensive as I found on the internet.

We had the pound split into two separate bags, one for us and one to take back to Thailand. Today I finally opened "our" bag to give it a try..

The leaves are very light and are, indeed, curled up like little snails. The leaves appear to be very young. One gets a lot of tea for the weight.

This is a hairy tea. The color is about the same color and look about he same weight as that of Mao Fengs and Yun Wus. Light, delicate with hair. This tea, however, had more green than the others.

The liquid is light and golden hued. The taste is magnificent and reminded me of peach blossoms. No doubt about it, this tea grew up around peach trees.

Both this tea and the Longjing tea reminded me of spring water with a refreshing aftertaste of sweetness and purity. Both these teas are well worth what we paid for them. They are totally different than any of the green teas we have been drinking from Emei Mountain. Sweet, delicate and floral without a hint of bitterness to them. We will definitely buy more of these two teas next week when we return to the Tea Culture Town in Chengdu.

I was able to get a good solid five infusions out of the leaves. I do think, however, that I started with too fews leaves as I had to wait an addition minute or so to get a good taste of the tea. This is simply as good as it gets in tea drinking. If this means I have become a snob, then so be it. I love this tea.

West Lake Longjing (Dragon Well) Green Tea

This is the Longjing tea we bought last month at the Tea Culture Town in Sichuan. Since we are getting ready to return to Thailand for a visit, thought I should get caught up on the tasting of all that tea we bought from Chengdu. We want to know what to take to Thailand for Christmas gifts.

Of course, this tea is the most famous and considered the best in all of China. The question will always be asked - is this real West Lake Dragon Well tea? From what I have been able to find on the Internet, the answer is probably yes. But . . . one might ask if this is the exact same tea that has proven itself over and over to be the best? The answer to that question is a resounding no.

The original Dragon Well tea comes from the Lion Peak Mountain in West Lake (Xi Hu) and has many classifications. Is this tea from that particular tea plantation? I am pretty sure it is not. In fact, this tea could probably come from just about any place as far as the Internet says. The lady we bought it from insisted it came from Hangzhou. What we paid for the tea probably puts it in the Hangzhou area but certainly not from the Lion Peak Mountain plantation. There seems to be a lot of Longjing tea named this because of the method used to process it. Guess this means we need to take a trip to Hangzhou to check out all the tea being grown there and get a lesson in the production of this tea.

This green tea is totally different looking than all the other green teas we have tried. The leaves are flat and long with evidence of frying if one looks close enough. The leaves are light and hairy to some extent.

Up close, we can see the effects of the frying process with the dark burned areas visible. The tea leaves are a nice jade green and, once again, extremely light in weight.

The light amber liquid is very beautiful and remained consistently the same color through five infusion with the time of each increased.

The taste of the tea is really fantastic. No bitterness but a honey-like sweetness up front. This tea reminded me of the artesian well we used to go visit as a child in Oklahoma growing up. The water has a distinct freshness to it and a sweet refreshing aftertaste that lasts a long time. It is like drinking well water that has been pulled up from great depths. Sweet, clean, cooling sensation and refreshing.

I do believe that I can drink this tea all the time. Even though I think this is just a Hangzhou green tea processed in the Dragaon Well method, it tastes great. When we return to Chengdu this week, we will definitely buy some more of it.

The leaves are a bright green and, as you can see, very young. This may not be the real deal, but it is a real tea!

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Mabian Qiaoba Hei Lu Cha (Black Green Tea)

We just bought this tea at the new Focus Market in downtown Emei City. I am always on the lookout for interesting teas, much to my wife's chagrin. On the second floor of the market, there is a new tea house which sells mostly green teas but has some other interesting teas from Sichuan.

As soon as I saw the Black Green Tea (in Chinese), I became very interested. Here is the write up on the back of the 250 gram package:

The product is made from Mabian Qiaoba area which has predominant natural condition as has flaky exuberant thousand year old tea tree up to now, , tea mountain is over 800m altitude, mountain green water beautiful, cloud and mist wreathe. The nutrient tea has water endurance to infuse, fragrant and mellow taste, sweet long aftertaste. It was ranked as Tribute from Ming and Qing Dynasty. It was offered to Zhongnanhai of Beijing in 1959. Now Qiaoba has been cognizance as green food producing base for national green food manage center. "Qiaoba Tribute Tea" is recognized "famous excellent produce" by Sichuan China West produce fair in 2002, evaluated "high quality famous tea" by Sichuan province AGriculture office in 2003, and assessed Leshan city well-known brand at January 2007.

Little bit difficult to grasp the exact meanings in the above label but I think we can all get the idea that this tea came from mountains where there are a lot of mist and clouds and it is pretty high. According to the back label the ingredients consist of "one sprout two or three leaves to make high fragrant bake-fry type green tea."

In addition, the shelf life is supposed to be 18 months. The date of its production was 2008/05/6 or June 5, 2008.

Ok, so what did it taste like?

The tea looks a lot like Mao Feng Green tea but looks to be much more substantial. The leaves are dark green with light green mixed in a little.

Check out the tight curl of the leaves. Nothing special in their dried appears, similar to a Mao Feng or even a Mao Jian tea. Probably came from about the same altitude if the back panel can be believed.

The tea produces a liquor that is similar to all the other green teas from Emei. Light bodied with hints of green and slightly amber in color. The tea is light and refreshing with a slight bitterness at the front followed by a semi-sweet aftertaste that lingers a bit longer than the normal Mao Feng or Mao Jian. This tea is OK but it is not a great tasting tea like my two favorites from Emei: Zhu Ye Qing and Xue Ya. The tea costs 18 Yuan for 250 grams so it is about the same price as the common Emei Mountain Mao Feng we bought at different stores in Emei City.

Here you can see the expended leaves. These made seven infusions before I decided to take the pictures and blog it. The first infusion, I admit, was astringent due mostly to the fact that I put too many leaves in the pot. After the third time, the tea was quite pleasant and it is this third infusion that I am basing my opinions on concerning the tea. The tea is OK. The name is interesting and the write up on the back was cute. Overall, a pretty interesting tea to get to know.