Sunday, September 12, 2010

DuJun Mao Jian Tea

Since I did the Henan Xinyang Mao Jian, I figured to break out a little of the Dujun Mao Jian (都均毛尖) that three of my students bought for me in their home town of Guiyang in Guizhou Province where this tea originates. It is a bit different looking than the Xinyang Mao Jian with more silver, yellow and lighter green leaves. Weight wise they seem to be about the same.

Here you can see the silver very clearly and the green does not appear to be as dark as that of the other Mao Jians.

In this close up, one can see why this is called Mao Jian or Hairy Tips. If you look close enough you can see the tiny down-looking hair on many of the lighter leaves. There is a lot of tea in a pound of Mao Jian tea.

I followed pretty much what I did with the Xinyang Mao Jian, letting the boiled water cool for about two or three minutes before I steeped the tea. This Mao Jian does not seem to be as delicate and contrary as that of the Xinyang tea. No matter how much I used or how long it steeped (of course I did not let it steep too long), I tasted no bitterness at all. The liquor is not as sweet and interesting tasting as that of Xinyang Mao Jian but it is very, very good. The color is a bit more yellow and just as light. I still have a lot of this tea in the freezer and have taken some out to drink regularly. It is considered to be one of the top ten classic teas of China. This tea is in most of the top ten lists but in some, if it is not listed it probably would be number eleven. Xinyang Mao Jian is listed in all the top ten teas I have seen.

Here is a nice view of the little cup of Duhun Mao Jian resting peaceably on my tea tray along with the other things brought from China. This tea is supposed to be one of the three treasures of Guizhou. The other two are the Maotai (powerful alcoholic rocket fuel) liquor and Dafang lacquered ware.

My three treasures from Guizhou were Katherine, Craig and Grace. All were from Guiyang and they were some of the finest English students I have ever had. Craig, in particular, was a scholar beyond belief while Grace was the most sophisticated speaker of English in all of China. Katherine was just a sweetheart with excellent English skills and a quiet personality. We visited all three in their home town two years ago and had a fabulous time.

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Emei Mountain Yin Zhen Yellow Tea (last drop)

Today I am working on preparing the pictures of my wife's silk scrolls that she is making out of all the watercolor painting she did while in China. So far she has finished 46 and is working on about two or three a day. While getting the pictures ready for publication, I thought I would use up the last of my Mount Emei Yin Zhen yellow tea. I bought this in early 2009 and only have a small amount left. It was very expensive and I bought it along with the Jun Shan Yin Zhen to see if there was any difference. The Jun Shan tea was probably fake but the Mount Emei tea is not as I have seen it for sale in reputable dealers in Chengdu. The tea is probably about a year old and has been stored in the freezer so let's see what we have.

As you can see the leaves still have a nice color to them thanks probably to the freezing. They remind me a lot of the Emei Sparrow Tongue that is so expensive and popular in the region.

This is a good close up view to show the light green, golden color of the individual buds and leaves. Still pretty good shape for being around a year old.

The first steeping and that is really all I could get out of this tea. It was a little sweet, a little this and a little that. It had lost a lot of its marvel but it was refreshing. I do not think it was ever a top grade tea since I bought it at the local department store. Hey, it was drinkable and quenched my thirst a little.

Here you can see the cup of Yin Zhen between my two pee boys and the glass tea decanter with the rest of the tea liquor. I had to get rid of it so drinking it and blogging about it was very pleasurable. When we go back to visit China (probably in October), I plan to get some more yellow tea as well as others. I just got a copy of The Harney & Sons Guide To Tea and plan on trying all the tea they talk about in it that I have not yet tried. The Tea Travelers are not yet done with China.

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Xin Yang Mao Jian

Last year in July, we decided to travel to northern China and look specifically for classic Chinese courtyard buildings. Beijing, of course, has the most famous and the most renovated. Shaanxi, however, has several times more than anywhere else in China. During the Ming and Qing Dynasties, Shaanxi was pretty much the financial center with Pingyao being the most famous. In fact, if one travels in eastern China, one can see the evidence of this success as many of the Shaanxi business people moved to other locations and became equally successful. So why am I writing about this trip in a tea blog?

Our trip began in Yuncheng, Shaanxi and then we traveled to Henan Province so my wife could visit the famous Shao Lin Temple not far from Luoyang. Since Henan is home to one of the top ten teas in classic Chinse tea history, I figured to find some so I could say I bought it in Henan. Thus, for my first tea tasting in Thailand, I dug out the Xin Yang Mao Jian we bought in Luoyang. Chinese Tea Travelers we are!

Here is the sample of Mao Jian bought in Luoyang. I do not recall the exact price for this, but it was not cheap. I do remember my wife not wanting to buy it because it was too expensive. We bought a half pound from the tea merchant's freezer. It has the characteristics of what I have read about Mao Jians - dark green and tightly dried with points at each end.

Before actually preparing this tea, I did some search (again) on the internet to find out if it had some interesting features for which I should be aware. At the Half Dipper tea site (my favorite tea site), I read the article on Xin Yang Mao Jian that saved me a lot of pain. Basically, this tea is very delicate and the water temperature has to be just right for the better Mao Jian from Henan. So I followed his advice for the first steep and used cooled boiling water. Was I rewarded?

This tea matched the Half Dippers comments about an expensive tea. It was refreshing, delicate and kind of reminded me a bit of lemons. I immediately shared it with my wife and she was delighted. Only problem was I did not empty the tea out of the teapot (my only expensive teapot) and when I went for more after about six or seven minutes of continued steeping, the tea was flat out bitter. Wew, it was as bitter as any tea I had ever tasted.

More experiments proved that the tea we had bought in Luoyang was probably the real deal. Too hot of water and it becomes common. Steep too long or use too many leaves and it gets really bitter. Do it right and one has truly one of the best teas in China. Amazing stuff this Xin Yang Mao Jian.

When China Tea Travelers travel they not only look for tea but for tea stuff as well. Here we negotiate for some really fine tea cups. All nice but what I was looking for was the Luoyang Jun pottery made famous during the Ming Dynasty with its three colors. Believe those on the left are the Jun style pottery. Not cheap but we did get a few as well as some of the other ones. Fun to be Tea Travelers indeed.

After our tea shopping trip, we stopped at a nice small restaurant and had some of the local dishes. This one is the most famous vegetarian dish. We broke out our Mao Jian tea and enjoyed it with our meal.

This is not a famous pork dish from Luoyang as we have eaten this all over Sichuan. This dish, however, was especially good with our nice Xin Yang Mao Jian.

I will have more on our trip to Shaanxi and Henan at my Emei blog later on.

Monday, August 30, 2010

2010. Finally A New Beginning

In China, got busted just before Tiananmen Square anniversary and it never got unbusted. What can one do?

I tried to set up another tea blog on wordpress but my heart was not in it as I was at the end of a semester and getting ready for our summer vacation. We were heading north to look at Chinese courtyard houses to get an idea of our planned Chinese house in Hua Hin, south of Bangkok.

In September, just after returning from our exciting trip to the north (I also snuck in a trip to Huangshan tea country as well), I experienced a right eye collapse. Actually, I was not sure what it was but it was not right. Internet research convinced me it was a detached retina but Chinese doctors said it was not. I believed because I wanted to believe. Went ahead and did the semester.

We returned to Bangkok in January 2010 and found out the eye definitely had a detached retina. I was in deep trouble because the longer they are detached the harder they are to fixed. To make it short, I underwent three operations from January to March. The last one worked and we returned to China to finish out my contract. History is history and this is a tea blog so enough.

Here is the plan for the next few months. I will be tasting most of the tea I picked up between June and our permanent return to Bangkok. With each tea, I will tell you the story of where and how we got it along with pictures and explanations.

I am back in business! Welcome aboard once more.