reunion of twins (3a) – Yi Wu, 10 years later

Other reunions of puerh twins or triplets can be found here.

This pair of twins are different in terms of two factors, one factor is storage location and the other factor is the shape of tea. Brother #1 is a brick and brother #2 is a cake. One of them was stored in Kunming between 2003 and 2013 and one of them was stored in Guangzhou throughout the time (both dry-stored, and the supplier of the teas literally repeated for more than a dozen times that the Guangzhou-stored one is dry-stored, dry-stored, dry-stored…) Their difference in taste, I believe, is mostly due to their storage environment. But it’s unknown to me how much the shape of the teas has affected their aging.

Traditionally bricks were often made with lower grade leaf materials than cakes (and against today’s trend, tuo used to use the highest grade of leaf materials). Up till today, many puerh brands still have both cakes and bricks in the same product series, and higher leaf materials are used for the cake. But these two teas are made of exactly the same leaf materials from the same batch. So they are indeed twins. And I think it’s cute that they even have same clothing.

Both teas have decent leaf materials, but not as pretty leaves and buds as today’s most expensive puerh products. Like many other good teas made in early 2000s and before, the tea doesn’t look as meticulously made as many modern-day products. But it’s easy to tell the leaves are nice and nutritious.

Brother #1 brick

This one has a “gift with purchase” – a cotton string

Brother #2

This one also has a “gift with purchase” – a wheat shell

One small piece off each:

Close up look of the piece from the cake:

Close up look of the piece from the brick:

Since this is not molecular biology, but just casual tea tasting, I didn’t weigh the 2 pieces, and just took two pieces of seemingly suitable sizes and took two teapots (of different shapes and clay textures) of seemingly suitable sizes. And of course, no thermometer for water temperature and no timer for infusion time.  ;-)

It turned out indeed I mistakenly took too large a piece of the brick for the teapot I assigned to it. This kind of things happen rather frequently, I have to admit. One of my favorite tea seller often says, “I don’t know anything about Cha Dao (茶道), I only know something about Dao Cha (倒茶).” While I guess you all know what Cha Dao means, I want to point out that Dao Cha means pouring tea. He is a professional and knows how to pour tea very well. Compared with him, I don’t know either Cha Dao or Dao Cha, and I just lower the standards for myself :-p

And indeed all these discrepancies in a comparative tasting would contribute to the final tastes of the teas. Would it affect a fair comparison? Well, if you think of it in another way – if you have to control all the brewing factors to detect the tiny small difference between two teas, wouldn’t you just conclude that these two teas are *almost* the same and not distinguishably different from each other?

For these twins here, in spite of the discrepancies in brewing, the differences between the two teas are still very obvious and it doesn’t take a trained professional to tell. Besides, it’s also very obvious that the differences are mostly due to the storage environments of the two teas.  

I know I’m rather wordy and I still have a lot to blah-blah about the comparative tasting of the two teas. So I would take a break here and come back to the tasting notes later. And here is a question for you (which is not a tricky question): from the dry tea photos alone, could you tell which one was Guangdong-stored and which was Kunming-stored?

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ordinary teapots and ordinary potters

As you know, my tea motto is, tea drinking is a luxury of time, and not necessarily a luxury of money. We all know that yixing prices are higher and higher nowadays. Not necessarily a luxury of money? Well, it’s all relative what “luxury” means. But overall, I believe yixing purchase just demonstrates that spending time is more important than spending money. I’m sure money could help one have a lot of fun. But having a lot of money isn’t the only way to have a lot of fun.

This little teapot showed above is one of the least expensive yixing teapots I have. I bought it several years ago from Yunnan Sourcing for about $25. I bought it partially because it was a good deal (Yunnan Sourcing has a lot of good deals!) and partially because it was an interesting phenomenon that *many* people from teachat back then bought this same teapot from Yunnan Sourcing. It was pretty much a group effect. I remember seeing numerous tea-show photos from various people on teachat with this teapot. When I bought it, I took a look at the author’s name – Zhou Huaqiang – and didn’t think much of it. There are hundreds of thousand yixing potters in China. It’s not always possible to tell who is better than whom.

I use this teapot very often. It’s probably not one of my top 10 (or top 20) favorite teapots. But it’s just so easy to use and so pleasant. As mentioned before, it’s one of my favorite travel teapots. This is very similar to the phenomenon in shoes (I mean women’s shoes, not necessarily men’s shoes). I have about 60-80 pairs of shoes, but probably fewer than 15 pairs of them are in constant use, and my favorite and prettiest shoes are not all within these 15 pairs. (And there are several pairs that I have never worn yet since purchase.)

Later, a tea friend of mine in China mentioned to me that he got an inexpensive teapot that worked very well. And the name of the potter is Zhou Huaqiang. I was happy that we share teapots from the same rather unknown potter. What a coincidence (because there are hundreds of thousands of yixing potters)! And this helped me remember the name of Zhou Huaqiang better.

In the past a few years, I talked with more yixing professionals and learned from them several key points to aim at if one wants to make shui ping teapot “the Factory No. 1 style”, including the shape of the tip of the spout, the connection lines at various locations, and angles of different sections. Then, I realized that this summarizes very well why some shui ping teapots look nice and are easy to use. At that point, when I looked back to Zhou Huaqiang’s little shui ping teapot, I could see that it indeed hits all the key points. The teapot is made of regular grade of red clay mixed with sands – nothing fancy, but regular and good clay. It’s a semi-manually made pot – hand made facilitated by shaping tools (this method would qualify as completely hand made in most other fields of pottery, but is classified as semi-manual in yixing, in contrast to the fully hand made method). Overall it’s not an upscale teapot. It’s just an ordinary teapot made by an ordinary young potter. But when I gained more understanding about the shui ping style, I’ve come to appreciate this teapot more, and know that it’s a sincerely made piece.

I usually don’t have much idea about how much each specific yixing potter is “worth”. But recently in an occasional market observation, I noticed that these days Zhou Huaqiang mainly focuses on fully hand made teapots (a sign of “doing well” for a yixing potter) and all his teapots are sold for a lot higher prices than $25 (this is also because they are fully hand made, of course). This by no means indicate that the little shui ping I have and my peer tea drinkers have are worth a lot of money now :-p And that’s not my concern anyway. But it’s nice to know that Zhou Huaqiang is doing better and better in merely several years. And I was not surprised. The man who put sincere work into a regular piece of work that didn’t make much money for him, is a sincere artist. And he deserves success. I’m sure it takes much more than hard work and good work ethics to succeed, and there are talented and hardworking artists who don’t make it to the very top of the food chain. But I’m glad to see this guy is doing well, and I believe being sincere to the work is one of the basic and essential quality of an artist. 

Another teapot I used to like very much is this one. And probably you could tell I really enjoyed it from my 2-week report.

Since I bought it myself from China, and since back then USD to CNY was still 1:8.3 (yeah good old days!), this one cost even less than $25. And it’s such a cute pot! I said I *used to* like it very much, because very unfortunately I broke the lid shortly after the 2-week report :-(

I managed to “glue” the shattered pieces with rice soup – not a water-proof glue, of course…

The teapot holds as one piece very well (rice soup is miraculous) as long as it doesn’t touch water.

So I barely ever use this teapot anymore. But I still use it as a sharing pitcher from time to time. And occasionally, I put the lid of the aforementioned Zhou Huaqiang shui ping on top of this teapot and it fits quite well. Funny thing these two made a good match!

This teapot was made by Ji Weicheng – and of course he was only one of the hundreds of thousands of yixing potters and I didn’t have much idea how much he was “worth”. But overall I was impressed how well made it was for its price level. When I saw the name of Ji Weicheng earlier this year, he was listed as a well respected yixing artist and he mainly focuses on fully hand made teapots nowadays. Obviously he is doing well, after merely several years. His teapots aren’t yet among the most expensive ones, but obviously he is at a whole new level now. And I was not surprised. I only regretted that I didn’t wrote to him to beg for a new lid when his teapots were much cheaper :-p

Not all the unknown potters are as good. Around the same time I bought the Ji Weicheng teapot, I bought another inexpensive teapot made by another unknown young potter (whose name shall not be mentioned here…). At the beginning, it had great difficulty just pouring water out of it. After a quick examination, I found that 3 of the 7 strainer holes were clogged by clay, and another few of them were half-way clogged. It was the first time I had ever done something like this. But I found a big pin, straightened it, and used it to dredge the 7 strainer holes. I did it successfully and it took me 10 minutes. I felt both upset and amused. I understood that it was an inexpensive teapot, with regular clay and regular level of craftsmanship. But I did expect a teapot to pour smoothly. Besides, it doesn’t take that much work to do some quick quality control or quick fix (it took me 10 minutes). The potter who made this teapot, as far as I know, is by far not as successful as the above-mentioned two. Probably he could still make a good living in the billion-people market of China. But I believe he is at a completely different level than the other two.

When reading my own 2-week report of the Ji Weicheng teapot, I saw that back then I said I was quite satisfied with these well made inexpensive teapots and wouldn’t plan to buy any expensive teapots anytime soon. The funny thing is, I still feel this way now. In today’s market, maybe $25 yixing teapots aren’t that common, and even twice or triple the price would be seen as inexpensive. But within the relative price ranges, I’ve come to see many more well made inexpensive (well, relatively inexpensive) teapots made by unknown young potters. I didn’t become much richer than several years ago (although I wish for the other way). Besides, I break things rather stupidly (as witnessed by the Ji Weicheng teapot…) and probably I should be banned from using expensive and fragile things :-p That being said, if I had a lot of money, I will surely buy more beautiful yixing teapots and spend more money on them (when I said this, someone in the house is scared…). But meantime, I always believe ordinary and sincerely made teapots deserve our appreciation too.

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some thoughts on puerh storage at home (1)

Can you believe that I have more than 100 blog drafts stored in my system, yet I could never finish them!

This piece I wrote the first part more than a year ago, and only have the first part here. I will need some time to recall what I meant to write for the rest of it :-p

Just casual chat. No technicalities here :-)

Generally speaking, I don’t plan to store a lot of puerh at home (oh well people define “a lot” differently). But with shopping going on and when seeing teas that I really love, storage natural happens. I have friends whose homes dedicate more area to puerh than to people :-p But I don’t think I’m heading there.

Although I’ve been interested in comparing “twins” or “triplets” of puerh for the contrast of different storage effects, my purpose was mainly to satisfy my own curiosity rather than gaining knowledge about actually storing puerh myself – I’m too lazy to do any environment control and New England is great for lazy people to store tea :-D

So I will first talk about why I don’t store a lot of puerh at home, and then some random thoughts on optimal home storage of puerh. 

I don’t plan to store a lot of puerh at home, mainly for following reasons:

1. Many puerh professionals hold the opinion that home storage of puerh can never be as successful as puerh storage in professional warehouses. Generally I think this opinion is plausible. In home-storage, the hardest part might not be control of temperature or humidity (if one cares enough to strictly control them), but the density of tea storage (having as much tea as possible in each cubic meter of storage) and small proportion of edges (the smaller the volume, the larger the edge effects).

2. I believe aged puerh of decent quality and affordable prices would be more and more abundant in the years to come – I gave some explanation about why I think so in this post, but probably I’m more optimistic than many other people.

3. Even though buying old puerh is expensive, home storage is not cheap either, if considering money spent on buying a home (that must count, right?!) and tea ruined in storage (either due to owner’s mistakes or due to factors out of human control). A puerh producer I know once commented that he believes currently nationwide (in China),  tea ruined in storage may amount to 60-80% of total puerh annual production. It’s just a rough estimation, and probably not a pessimistic one. If you think 60%-80% sounds too much, just think of it in terms of decades. For puerh, one accident could end it completely.

Here are some of my thoughts on home storage of puerh.

1. People are more important than tea.
Oh well, I’m not sure if everybody agrees on it. But that’s what I believe ;-) How is this related to puerh storage? I believe we should make our homes comfortable for people to live before considering how to make homes suitable for tea storage. And usually, when we take care of ourselves, a lot of tea storage problems are solved.

For example, for more than a dozen time, on both English language tea forums and Chinese tea forums, I’ve seen questions like this, “My house has a relative humidity of merely 30% during winter. What am I going to do about my tea storage?” Every time I see this question, the first thought in my mind is not about their tea, but – “How do these people live in a relative humidity of 30%?! Forget about the tea for a moment. Raise the humidity for yourself!” Maybe some people are accustom to this kind of humidity level, but not most people, I guess.

“People are more important than tea” is probably just a philosophy that one may or may not cherish. But from the practical point of view, when we maintain a healthy overall environment for our homes, it takes little to no effort to maintain a healthy small environment for the tea stock – this is related to my 2nd point.

2. Most environments that are livable for people are good for tea storage.
Again, I’m not sure if everybody agrees on it. This is just a way of thinking, but not a rule. And this doesn’t include people who prefer extreme environments or people who prefer extreme environments for their tea :-p

I’ve heard this message, “an environment livable for people is good for tea storage”, from various puerh and Hei Cha professionals when they talked about home storage. And I like it. Not only that it makes sense to me, it’s actually the easiest way too – taking care of your tea by taking care of yourself. Besides, in my observation, people’s preference in tea is more or less associated with the environment they are familiar with. For example, coming from northern China (relatively dry), I have little tolerance of damp smell or flavor. On the other hand, Cantonese (in southern China next to the ocean) invented humid storage of puerh.

And of course, on top of the theory of “an environment livable for people is good for tea storage”, common sense should be used – such as, unlike people, tea should stay in a dark place.

To be continued…

3. Generating a comfortable environment for both people and tea.

4. Ziploc-ed or not… Rubbermaid-ed or not…

5. Site and size of storage

6. Box, envelope, jar, wrapper, storage of broken cakes

7. A few role models

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Discussion on Long Jing (8) – Grading of Long Jing (now and then)

Other discussions on Long Jing can be found here.

The grading of Long Jing discussed here focuses on the national standards created by Chinese government and local standards by Long Jing farmers. Names of grades created by other organizations or individuals are not within the scope of this discussion.

The grading of Long Jing has changed a lot in the past a few decades.

In the old days (before 1995), Xi Hu Long Jing was classified into 13 grades, from Superior 1, Superior 2, Superior 3, Grade 1… to Grade 10. From Grade 1 to Grade 10, each grade was divided into 5 levels. So there were totally 13 grades and 53 levels. It was the official and universal way of grading when everything within the tea industry was state-owned. Each year, standard tea samples of all 53 levels were made available as benchmarks to grade Long Jing products collected from tea farmers and to guide the market of Long Jing. It was a nice and strict system. But 53 levels were just too many to be practical for a growing market of luxury tea in China (Long Jing has been the utmost of the luxury tea in China since Qing Dynasty, after being “advertised” by generations of emperors).

Back then, the highest grade Long Jing (higher than Grade 4, or any pre-Qingming tea) was not available in the market for ordinary people to buy. On the other hand, money was not the key to get the best tea. “Connections” were sometimes more important. There were many years when the whole family of us got pre-Qingming Long Jing along with Long Jing of medium grades from my aunt who worked in the Science and Technology Department of Hangzhou. Somehow their office got Long Jing “samples” every year – which basically meant a few kilos for everybody in the office, yet it was called “samples” :-p With our special connection through my aunt, we were lucky to enjoy nice and fresh tea each year. But the amount was small for each person and the tea was seen as very precious. 

In 1980s, once my father went to Hangzhou, and bought some grade 4 long jing – the highest grade then available in market for ordinary people to buy. Up till these days he still says how much better the grade 4 Long Jing was than many so-called superior-grade Long Jing products in market today. I don’t believe it’s all because of his wrecked memory and nostalgia. Back then, everything went by the universal standards, and a grade 4 was a solid grade 4. Nowadays, many things could be called superior grade with a big price tag – I think I sound like a senior citizen now :-p

In 1995, the grading of Long Jing was simplified to 7 grades, including Superior 1-3, and Grade 1-4. This simplification was partially to make the grading less complicated, and partially because many farmers stopped autumn harvest of Long Jing. Autumn tea of Long Jing was of lower grades than spring tea (and this is true for most Chinese green teas). With increasing living standards of Long Jing farmers and higher labor costs, the lowest grades of Long Jing tea were discontinued.

Today the aforementioned two systems of Long Jing grading are still in the textbooks of tea institutes and are still used in tea labs of research institutions. But most tea estates and tea companies are privately owned now. Producers and owners can grade their tea in any way they wish. In Long Jing, as well as in many other types of tea, I’ve seen a lot of grade 2 teas from certain producers that are much better than superior grades of some other producers. So I think nowadays the grading doesn’t tell you much about the tea itself, but tells a lot about the standards of a producer/supplier/vendor.

Without a centralized, consistent grading system, nowadays a lot of farmers of long jing, bi luo chun and other green teas use harvest dates to grade their tea – although it’s not a perfectly scientific standards, it’s probably more objective. For approximate dates of tea harvest, here is a tea calendar. But please keep it in mind that the harvest dates vary from year to year, depending on weather conditions.

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Evolution of Tea Drinking (I)

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2013 Dayi Dan Qing (丹青)

Before this cake, I hadn’t bought any Dayi products in recent years, except for getting several cakes resold by other tea drinkers. And I don’t usually follow Dayi’s news. But I had been wanting to try this one, partially because a tea friend of mine said that if the price drops and gets lower than 200rmb, he would buy this tea in bulk – I thought that’s a very positive evaluation because 200rmb (~$30) is still not cheap for a new shu made of plantation tea.

My overall impression – I think the tea is pretty good. Besides, the tea confused me a bit (will explain below). Is it worth of its price? It’s hard to say. It seems a good tea, but there are too many other options out there. If compared with another high-profile Dayi new product, Early Sping Arbor sheng (早春乔木), this tea seems a much better purchase option to me, at least it’s drinkable now and it’s not a tea called “arbor” that’s obviously not arbor :-p

The tea is largely composed of younger tea leaves, which I like. For shu, I generally favor those made of younger leaves.

The cake smells a little fishy, but not to a level of pushing me away from it. Usually I wouldn’t drink a Dayi new shu but this tea is advertised as immediately drinkable – for good or for bad.

The tea doesn’t taste any fishy. So I guess it could be called immediately drinkable. The taste is pretty good with depth and complexity. But I guess the tea could significantly improve in a few years when it “settle down”.

And here comes the confusing part. The tea has significant “precipitation”, more than what I would expect from even a newly-pressed shu, although most newly-pressed shu would get tea liquor short of clarity. The bottom of the tea bowl looks quite “muddy”. It doesn’t prevent me from enjoying the tea. But still it looks strange. It doesn’t exactly look like the “cream down” effect (冷后浑), but “cream down” could have contributed (only partially) to this “precipitation”.

The spent leaves feel soft and muddy too (color biased due to light at night). I have to admit that I mindlessly left the spent leaves in the empty teapot overnight (very often I forget to clean the teapot on the same day of use), and the leaves might have got even softer during the time. But still, they are surprisingly soft and muddy. I also looked at spent leaves photos taken by several other tea friends (who wouldn’t leave their teapot uncleaned overnight). Their spent leaves look better than mine but still unusually soft. I don’t know what this means.

Rumors (not from official source) were this tea was made of sheng and shu blended. Obviously it’s not.

Some Dayi shu could get really amazing after a few to several years. I don’t know how this one would develop.

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pictures of "most hated" yixing teapots…

This is inspired by a teachat discussion earlier this year at

By strict definition, most, or all of the teapots showed in that discussion are not yixing teapots – they are not made of the authentic yixing clay.

But there are many authentic yixing teapots that are hate-able. And in my eyes, some authentic yixing teapots made by famous yixing artists are also hate-able. This last kind, because of the “halo” on them, I hate them even more than hating straightly bad teapots. And of course me hating them doesn’t mean any final evaluation on them. I’m an art illiterate and hate many contemporary art works – I love many of them too, but some of them really strike my nerves.

Here are a few examples. All from the famous yixing book written by Han Qilou. By the way, this is one of the best yixing books in the least expensive price range. It has pictures of hundreds of yixing teapots, both antique and contemporary, all made by famous artists. Some of the contemporaries are beautiful. Some, I hate.

This is one of the most hated by me. The title of this teapot is “source of life”.

It’s not that I dislike breast shape teapots. I like the traditional xishi style very well.
This is one I like:

This is another one that I like:

This is yet another one that I like:

And I like wendan, a relative of xishi style in the breast-shaped family:

But… “source of life”… really??? It’s a well-made teapot and I have biased taste. I just hate it.

Another two that I hate. The one on top (left) is “cheetah”. I admire the author’s effort to make a yixing teapot that barely looks like of yixing texture. But I just hate it.

The one on bottom (right) is “2008 Olympics”. There is a world map on the lid, Olympic logos all over the teapot, and some traditional cloud pattern on the spout and handle. This is one of the busiest teapots I’ve ever seen, considering how many symbols it has to carry on itself. I admire the author’s effort of trying to be “inclusive”, be timely and be politically correct. But I just hate it.

None of them is “bad” teapot. But they rank high on my “most hated” yixing teapots list.

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blog sale – part 2

Part 1 is here.

If interested, please contact me at gingkoheight @ g m ail . com before August 24, 2013.

Shipping is $4 flat for US, $7 flat for Canada, shipping to be estimated for other countries.

Shipping could be combined with Life in Teacup orders.

I aim at sending out all packages in two weeks.

All prices are lower than market prices and not correlated with our web store prices.

All pictures can be clicked to enlarge.

6. Tian Jian (Heaven Tip) Hei Cha sample set. $5 for each set of 3 samples.

I’ve planned to write more about hei cha, especially my favorite types, Fu brick and Heaven Tip. But before I could write more, here is a blog post from Walker Tea Review with a discussion that I participated in. There is also great contribution from Bill Waddington and Jason Walker himself.

** Something to note here is, this discussion was from more than a year ago, and my tea views have been changing through new experience and conversations with other tea people. When I reviewed this blog discussion, two big changes I’ve noticed about myself is, (1) thanks to a few great tea people, liu bao is no longer “tasteless” to me; (2) I’m currently reshaping my view about whether I believe puerh belongs to hei cha category – previously I thought no, and now I’m leaning toward yes. These are topics irrelevant to Tian Jian, and I will discuss them more in future blog posts.

There are 3 samples included. Each sample is 15g.

Heave Tip tea, especially newer ones, could be more or less smoky. It’s different from the smokiness of some sheng puerh or other teas. But people who like traditional smoky style Lapsang Souchong may find it easier to enjoy Heaven Tip.

With time being, the tea would get milder and less smoky. This could be seen either as an improvement or as degeneration, depending on drinkers’ preferences. Some people drink this tea in gongfu style. Traditionally this tea is brewed in a way very similar to so-called “western style” with a big teapot and mixed with milk. Although many varieties of hei cha are good for boiling in water, this tea is usually brewed in hot water instead of being boiled in water.

Of the 3 samples, (3) is the most smoky and (2) is the least smoky. (1) is closer to the “benchmark” taste for most seasoned drinkers of Heaven Tip.

(1) Bai Sha Xi (this is one of the most famous brands, especially for Fu brick and Heaven Tip) 2012.

(2) Yi Ju Chang (this is a smaller brand) 2008.

(3) Yi Ju Chang wild tea farmer style, 2009. “Farmer style” is in contrast to “factory made”. Hei cha involves complex fermentation process. So generally factory processed tea is regarded as of more reliable quality. Farmer style could be of various quality levels, usually either better than factory style or nearly a failure. Well made farmer style has prettier tea leaves than factory style. As for taste, it will largely depend on personal preference.

End of item #6.

7. Yunnan black tea samples. $2 each sample of 10g. Each 2012 version has 5 samples available. Each 2013 version has 10 samples available.
** Note that these teas are NOT suitable for people who give black tea only one infusion. One infusion would embody probably only 1/7 value of the tea, or less. Even mediocre Yunnan black tea deserves 3 infusions or more. For these teas, I would recommend at least 5 infusions and ideally more infusions (leaf/water ratio, infusion time and number of infusions correlated with each other), and hottest boiling water, as always.

There are 4 types of samples. All are equally priced.
(1) 2013 Fengqing Gold Bud
(2) 2012 Fengqing Gold Bud
(3) 2013 Fengqing “pine needle” black tea (not really pine needle, but pine needle shaped tea leaves)
(4) 2012 Fengqing “pine needle” black tea

(2) and (1) are of the same type from different years. So are (3) and (4).

All these teas are from one of my favorite tea producers, Da Dian (a few of their puerh products are available in Life in Teacup now, and some of the 2013 black tea might be put in the web store depending on the amount available).

Mr. Wu (the owner of Da Dian, and usually I just call him Da Dian) likes to give people surprises. He produced the 2012 versions of black teas, sold them, and didn’t say anything special until this year. Then this year, when 2013 version came out, he made the announcement that his black teas generally taste better after resting for several month to a couple of years (but notice that he didn’t say “the older, the better”), due to his choice of processing method that sacrifice some immediate aroma but benefits future aroma builds-up. I personally think he is very right on this. That’s why I’m putting all these 4 teas together and I would be interested in learning what other people think of them.

So far I like the gold bud better. But it seems most of my tea friends like the “pine needle” better. It’s worth mentioning that the “pine needles” were made from tea bushes planted in 1940s, very closed to the start time of Yunnan black (as introduced in this blog post).

Here are Da Dian’s photos for these teas. 2012 versions look quite similar to 2013 versions.
Gold bud:

“pine needle”:

End of item #7.

8. shu puerh sample set. 10 sample sets available.
8a. $8 for each set of 3 samples, or
8b. $4 for sample (2) and (3) only.

15g per sample.

The samples include:

(1) 2009 Chang Tai Wei Rong Hao Wuliang Mountain ancient tree shu. (Original cake is 357g.)
I think this tea would be recorded on history of shu puerh. I’m not sure if I’m the first one who’ve introduced this tea to western drinkers. If so, I’m honored.

(2)  2007 Chang Tai Wuliang Mountain shu brick. Directed by Taiwan Jing Mei Tang. (Original brick is 250g.)
This is a decent shu with a very good price. For this sample set, since I’ve included (1), I felt I should include this (2) as well, because these two teas have exactly the same Chinese tea, from the same factory, yet they are not even remotely similar to each other. Generally speaking, (1) is of much higher level. Chang Tai is a very confusing producer, yet they made some very good tea. So I think it’s less confusing if I could just put these confusing teas side by side.

(3) 2006 Jing Mei Tang small brick. (Original brick is 100g.) Directed by Huang Chuanfang of Jing Mei Tang.
This is a very nice shu with a good price. Since I’ve included (2) in this sample set, I felt I should include this (3) as well, because there is a lot of confusion about the name Jing Mei Tang. Most fans of Jing Mei Tang are actually fans of its “creator”, Huang Chuanfang (HCF). But one thing to note here is, Jing Mei Tang is NOT the same as Taiwan Jing Mei Tang. The latter one is also a nice organization with Wu-shing Books (publisher of The Art of Tea) behind it. But HCF is not involved in Taiwan Jing Mei Tang. Instead, HCF current owns Kunming Jing Mei Tang, which is a different organization from the “old” Jing Mei Tang before 2007. But HCF’s most famous products are from the “old” Jing Mei Tang era. This little brick is an example. It’s not made of any fancy leaf materials and embodies the great technique of shu making.

Overall the Jing Mei Tang stories may sound very confusing. So I think it’s less confusing if I could just put this 2007 Taiwan Jing Mei Tang and 2006 HCF Jing Mei Tang bricks side by side.

End of item #8.

9. 2013 Huang Shan Mao Feng. $3 per 10g sample.

This is not a first day harvest, but a first week harvest. It’s from the semi-wild Huang Shan Mao Feng producer. It’s from about 700m elevation, which is already considered very high elevation for green teas. Generally speaking, this tea is not at the level of the 1400m Huang Shan Mao Feng we have each year. But this is not a comparison of producer quality. The other tea is a first day harvest and from higher elevation, so naturally of higher quality.

End of item #9.

10. Anhui green tea sample set. $10 per set of 3 samples. Each sample is 8g. There are 4 sample sets available.
The samples include:
(1) Tian Hua Gu Jian. It’s somewhat similar to White Plum Peak green tea.
(2) Er Zu Zen Tea (Zen Patriarch’s tea).
(3) Yu Xi Cui Lan (Mountain West Green Orchid). It’s somewhat similar to Tong Cheng Small Orchid.

End of item #10.

11. Southern Fujian Sezhong oolong sample set. $16 per set of 4 samples. Each sample is 10g. Two additional free samples come with the set. There are a total of 10 sample sets available.

All 4 sample are from Mr. Liu, a Xiamen based teacher who also produces tea. He specializes in southern Fujian oolong from historical tea plantations (several of them were abandoned for reasons discussed in another blog post, and resurrected by Mr. Liu) with eco-friendly cultivation. The (2), (3) and (4) samples here are all from previously abandoned historical tea plantations resurrected by Mr. Liu.

These teas are not intentionally aged, but released when the producer thought they were well rested.

All these teas are from Southern Fujian. They are more or less similar to Wuyi (Northern Fujian) teas but not exactly the same.

The sample sets include:
(1) 2010 Southern Fujian sezhong oolong. Cultivar unknown. The tea was collected from a traditional tea area where pesticide was reserved for Tie Guan Yin. Since sezhong isn’t sold as expensive as Tie Guan Yin, it doesn’t “deserve” the pesticide. That’s why Mr. Liu selected high quality sezhong from this area.

(2) 2010 Shui Xian. Hundred-year-old bushes.

(3) 2011 Yong Chun Fo Shou (Buddha hands). Hundred-year-old bushes. Wuyi Fo Shou was introduced from Southern Fujian, but of slightly different style both in terms of cultivar and in processing. But Wuyi Fo Shou and Yong Chun Fo Shou share a lot of similarities.

(4) 2011 Tianma Mountain Mao Xie (hairy crab). Fifty-year-old bushes. Mao Xie is considered a very inexpensive varietal of Fujian oolong. Therefore, nowadays high quality Mao Xie is rarely seen. This tea is from Tianma Mountain of 1000m elevation. This is one of the few high-grade Mao Xie I’ve seen in years. This tea is made because the producer doesn’t rely on tea production for a living and doesn’t have to consider “cost and benefit” from making this tea.

Going free with the above sample sets are two more southern Fujian sezhong oolong from my favorite Tie Guan Yin producer. One is traditional light roast style Huang Jin Gui (golden osthanthus) and traditional roasted Mao Xie (hairy crab). These two teas are produced in plantations of nearly 900m elevation. Huang Jin Gui is from 2012, and Mao Xie is from 2009. The producer has discontinued these two teas because the plantations are too far away from major roads, inconvenient to harvest, and complicated to process in the traditional way. With increasing labor costs in recent years and low market price of sezhong oolong, it’s not cost-effective to make these teas. The producer aims at going back to these teas after a few years when they are more financially stable. I got these teas at quite low price that doesn’t match their quality at all. I wouldn’t feel comfortable to either sell them for higher prices or lower prices. So they will go free with the sample set.

End of item #11

12. CNNP 2002 loose shu sample Y671. $2.5 for each sample of 10g. This tea tastes very clean and decent. But not super interesting.

End of item #12

Free stuff:

* Guevara shu. 10g. 10 samples are available.

This is the tea discussed here. For shu beginners, I would always recommend some least expensive tea of decent quality. Most of such shu are from large factories, as mentioned in a previous discussion. But this tea is an exception. Generally for beginners’ shu, I often recommend recent year 7572, 7262 and a couple of other Dayi shu. But then very often new tea drinkers would still go ahead and get some unknown source shu that’s even cheaper but rather bad representative of shu. Or some new tea drinkers would go ahead and get some expensive shu and then wonder what the point is. So instead of recommending teas that may not be available to new tea drinkers, I thought it’s more convenient to put some recommended shu in their hands.

I think this tea is roughly of 7572 level. It won’t be a fancy experience for seasoned shu drinkers, but overall of decent quality.

* Di Cao Qing small cups. Limited to 1 cup per person.

These are the smallest size yixing teacups very commonly seen. But they are made of much better clay than most of the teacups of this size in the market. These cups are “public relation” cups from the producer. They didn’t cost me much. But marking them at few dollars each would undervalue them. So I would rather give them for free. They could serve as “specimen” for decent quality Di Cao Qing.

This one is also made by Xu Peng, whose Di Cao Qing teapots and other teapots are available at Life in Teacup. The clay used in the teacup is pretty much the same as that used for the teapots (color tone could be different due to variation of kilns and the shape and thickness of each vessel that respond slightly differently to kiln conditions; texture is generally the same).

* Taiwan oolong tea pumpkin seeds. 200g pack. It’s made of melon seeds flavored with oolong tea, salt and some food flavoring. I got it as a gift but I’m not good at eating pumpkin seeds. Skills are required to eat these seeds. This is available to US addressees only due to its weight. It looks somewhat similar to this one, but the one showed below is a green tea pumpkin seeds product.

* Cut cubes of Fu brick samples. But please read this post and see the warnings before considering it.


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blog sale – no green tea this time :-( Part 1

Unlike the blog sales in previous years, this time, no green tea… well, maybe one or two. I have plenty of green tea to drink, but not much “exotic” to share in a blog sale :-p

Similar to the previous blog sales – 

If interested, please contact me at gingkoheight @ g m ail . com before August 24, 2013. 

Shipping is $4 flat for US, $7 flat for Canada, shipping to be estimated for other countries.

Shipping could be combined with Life in Teacup orders. 

All prices are lower than market prices and not correlated with our web store prices. 

All pictures can be clicked to enlarge.

This blog sale will be updated over the week and weekend with more items. Things in plan include some hei cha, some se zhong oolong, a few yixing teacups and some free stuff. Generally things not commonly seen, not even routinely seen at Life in Teacup ;-)

Since I’m wordy and have to give all the blah blah blah along the sale, this post is going to be long! So the latter part of the sale will be put on a later blog post. 

1. A couple of tea posters available to United States addressees only (due to the bulky shape). All other items are internationally available.

There are two types. Three copies are available for each type. The posters are all 60cm x 90cm (about 2′ x 3′). The rims of the posters are slightly creased in previous shipping but there is no obvious damage and generally doesn’t affect the outlook.

$28 each poster and $50 for two posters shipped together. The price includes shipping by priority mail (because they supply the long tube boxes suitable for the poster).

These are some samples I ordered when planning to carry some “tea education” stuff in Life in Teacup. But I’ve decided not to deal with them as they are too bulky to handle if you don’t want to fold them. 

The posters are not as educative as some of the great tea books. But they are nice to display, and interesting to watch from time to time. The printing is not to an artistic level, and is about the regular poster quality.

The first poster is a collection of historically famous puerh products, wrappers, inner tickets and cake/brick tickets.

Poster A: puerh poster

Taiwan Wu-Shing Books (the publisher of the magazine, The Art of Tea, which is the English version of Puerh and Teapot magazine) once issued a similar poster which I put below my two posters. Wu-Shing Books’ poster is of higher quality and is more educative (and more expensive, as their other nice stuff). It has captions to explain the displays and group the images based on their backgrounds. This above-displayed poster looks more casual and has prettier image structure, in my opinion. I use it as a fancy display and think it looks nice.

Generally I’m not enthusiastic at learning about old puerh from either posters or books. It’s pretty much like what Chinese say about “the skill of killing a dragon” – you could learn the skill, and then you will barely find any dragon for you to kill :-p So overall I like the poster and keep one for myself to display. But my suggestion is don’t take it too seriously and just see it as a fancy display. If anybody has Wu-Shing version and no longer want it, I’m interested in buying it, Chinese version preferred but English version would be fine too :-)

The second poster is a yixing teapot poster. There are 100 yixing teapots. I would have been more educative if they are 100 most popular traditional styles, but I guess it would be hard to collect photos of all those historically important teapots (so far the only one who did it successfully was Gu Jingzhou in his yixing teapot book, which was put up in a previous blog sale and will put up for this blog sale in a few days). The teapots on this poster are all from modern famous yixing artists (including some dead ones and some living ones). Many of them are of traditional style or resemble traditional styles with some modern themes.

Poster B: yixing teapot poster

Below is the previously mentioned Wu-Shing Books posters. They are NOT mine and NOT those for sale.

End of item #1

2. Yixing teapot poker cards. $6 each. Three sets are available.

If you like yixing teapot images and don’t want a poster, this poker set is another option. It includes images of teapots both from modern time and from the old time. The print quality is very mediocre. It’s the regular poker image quality.

It’s of regular poker size. This poker set was published by China Poker Museum in 2012 (yeah I didn’t know either there was a *poker* museum…)

End of item #2.

3. Yixing picture book edited by Gu Jingzhou (you could call him the Godfather of yixing…). $120, US media mail shipping included. The cake in the picture served as a paper weight and is not included in the sale :-p

The book is the same book as introduced in a previous blog sale. You can see the other post for introduction and why I think this book is probably the best yixing book ever. This time, the book is from the third print in Hong Kong in 1996. The previously introduced Taiwan first print was sold on my blog and Life in Teacup (and some copies were sold on ebay). Its price was raised later due to the increased supplying price. The books sold here (Hong Kong third print, I have two copies) are what I obtained this year. I got them for lower price because usually earlier prints of art books are more expensive than later prints. If putting the two books side by side, I somewhat think the Taiwan first print looks better than this Hong Kong third print. But the difference is rather small and I don’t know if it’s a “placebo effect” due to the price tag :-p The two books are all the same except for the cover and publisher page. I’m not optimistic for getting either print for the same price in future years.

End of item #3

4. Zhu Ni yixing picture book – The World of Zhu Ni. $110, US media mail shipping included. This book is new. The rims of the hard shell might be dented a bit, but not severely. The side may bear some dust (but not obviously dirty). It may have some storage smell (but not as strong as that of Hong Kong humid storage puerh). It looks like this book slept in some basement warehouse for months when nobody wanted it. And now suddenly many people want it. Similar fate to that of the Gu Jingzhou yixing book.

This is one of the best Zhu Ni books and is named as one of the three “must-reads” by quite a few famous yixing collectors (I will introduce the other two books in future blog posts but I only have this one for sale). Its page size is smaller than the Gu Jingzhou yixing book. It’s mostly composed of pictures too, so is nice for collectors from various language backgrounds. It has images of about 200 historically famous Zhu Ni teapots, including clear images of their seals.

The book was published by Taiwan Hu Zhong Tian Di (壺中天地)Publishing and Malaysia Purple Cane Enterprise (紫藤集團), which are two of the most famous tea culture organizations in Asia. This book is the third edition published in 2011. The price at publication was NT. 1200 or RM. 150, roughly $45. Its current price in Asian market is around $80-100, depending on book conditions. And the earlier editions (first and second) are much more expensive.

Most of the pages with text are already showed in photos below. All the rest of the 180 or so pages are mostly pictures as showed in the fourth photo.

End of item #4.

5. Yixing teacup, Di Cao Qing clay. Approximately 80ml. $22 each.

Height is 45mm, and diameter is 70mm. Each cup weighs about 6 oz. It’s made by Xu Peng, whose Di Cao Qing teapots and other teapots are available at Life in Teacup. The clay used in the teacup is pretty much the same as that used for the teapots (color tone could be different due to variation of kilns and the shape and thickness of each vessel that respond slightly differently to kiln conditions; texture is generally the same).

The shape mimics a bamboo section and is very nice to grab. It’s my favorite size to match with a small teapot so that a sharing pitcher can be omitted in gongfu style drinking.

End of item #5.

Free stuff:

Small Korean teacup (about 40-45ml):

Small porcelain teacup (about 40-45ml):

Tea pack clips:

Teapot brush (no photo, it looks very much like a painting brush).

Puerh knife or needle (various types but generally all similar)

Teapot coaster – this is cheap stuff made of wood debris, similar to this one:

Starting from this year, suddenly everybody gave me a lot of these. They don’t seem sturdy but could be useful to protect your yixing if you use a medal, stone or clay tea tray that could potentially hurt the bottom of yixing teapot.

To be continued.

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2003 Hui Sheng Hao Mahei ancient tree

Mahei, old tree, 10 years, purely dry storage. These are the key words…

Mahei and “ancient tree” are some of the most abused puerh terms in recent years. But Hui Sheng Hao (會盛號)is probably one of the few producers that could use these words without exaggeration. Hui Sheng Hao started making Mahei tea from around 2000 and collectors started to hold their Mahei ancient tree tea in relatively large amount since 2002 – at that time I didn’t even have a clue yet about the name of Mahei. The owner has access to the oldest tea trees in Mahei. So their claim of 300-500 years old tea tree age for their puerh is among the (few) most trustworthy claims about this region.

I’ve heard a lot about Hui Sheng Hao but hadn’t tried any of their tea until recently, because it’s hard to get their aged tea and I always hesitate to pay big money for newer tea, although I do believe the tea is more worthy than a lot of other new, expensive teas. This year, Hui Sheng Hao’s 2003 tea reached its 10 year anniversary, and the producer released some to celebrate the (probably) first ancient tree single-region puerh with a clear history of purely dry storage. There might be a few more other small-label puerh products that are qualified for “ancient tree”, “10+ years”, and “purely dry storage”. But I guess there aren’t many overall, and barely any for such “hot and sexy” region as Mahei.

With their promotion prices, a 30g sample still cost me more than the price of some other big puerh cake… and I finally opened it with my trembling hands :-p

I took a small sample this time. And I did remove all the broken leaves and crumbs before brewing. Generally I’m very stingy on tea drinking. But when I’m still exploring a tea, I think it’s important to judge it based on its whole leaves and not crumbs. 

This is the entire 30g that I’ve got…

 This is the rest of the 30g…

An earlier infusion…

A later infusion…

Wet leaves… I took them out to take photos while there was still daylight, and then put them back to gaiwan to resume brewing. That’s how stingy I am!

It’s a great tea with not overwhelming but very long-lasting floral, honey aroma and sweet aftertaste. The leaves look juicy and succulent.

By the way, when I drink a puerh, even when drinking an outstanding ancient tree puerh, I usually don’t have those reactions such as sweating like water falls, mouth flooded by saliva, or blurred mind, or floating, burping, farting… or getting hyper and crazy… (if you’ve read some 1990s to early 2000s puerh literature, especially those earlier Chinese puerh articles, you would know each of these reactions was from some people’s serious description and I didn’t make up any of them…) Maybe I’m just blunt. Maybe I didn’t use a lot of tea to a stimulant level. To me, tea drinking is tea drinking. I don’t get any reaction of alcohol or marijuana or ‘shroom from tea :-p

Hui Sheng Hao’s marketing partner is in Zhuhai, a coastal city in Guangdong. This tea was released from their Zhuhai storage. From their history, I would guess this tea was stored in Yunnan till around 2007 and then stored in Zhuhai afterwards. This tea tastes dryer than most Guangdong dry-stored tea that I’ve tried. There were a few big-tree teas that made me feel that even dry storage on the humid side would somehow “waste” out some aroma and unique taste from the tea. Of this tea, obviously they’ve been taken very good care. I got some other mid-age tea from Hui Sheng Hao’s Zhuhai dealer, including the previously described CCT 2006 Yi Wu. All the other teas I got from them are generally dry-stored teas, but almost all of them had more or less more humid storage than this 2003 Mahei (and they are not as expensive either). I would imagine they have their most expensive and highly equipped storage space for their Hui Sheng Hao tea to guarantee the dry storage of the tea, while having the tea benefit from the coastal air flow of Zhuhai.

If I have a lot of disposable income, then I wouldn’t mind getting a lot of this tea and use it as my daily drink. The official price of this tea is about $600-650, and there were opportunities of relatively deep discount. Thanks to the high prices of new tea in recent a couple of years, $600 doesn’t sound bad at all for such a tea. And after all, it’s still less expensive than a lot of Long Jing :-)

But eventually I bought an offspring of this tea – the 2010 version of this tea.

Of course it would be nice to enjoy it in 2020. But from the 2003 version, I’ve learned that this tea could possibly be friendly enough to enjoy before it’s 10 years old. When would be a best time to enjoy it, only time would tell. That’s why, as I explained earlier, if I want a puerh cake, I get at least two of them, one for longitudinal tasting and one for hoarding.

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