Saturday, November 28, 2009

Cang Yuan Wa Mountain Ripe Puer Brick

I would like you to meet the Cang Yuan Wa Mountain Tea Factory's 2006 Ripe Puer Brick (滄源佤山茶廠熟普洱茶磚).

Hello. 你好.

Pleased to meet you!

These bricks were imported by my friends at Tacoma Trading Co. and have been floating around various Northwest tea shops for the last few years. Teacup has been selling them off and on for the last three years and they have been given the nickname "those sweet and smooth bricks" by several of my regular puer customers.

According to T.T.C. these bricks were crafted by a talented female puer master name Tanmei who used to work for the Kunming tea factory. Now she is independent and works with her husband to market her tea.

I recently scored 10 of these bricks from T.T.C. with the hope of making a little extra tea buying money before I head off to Taiwan in mid-January 2010 (more about that soon).

This puer is long lasting and dark with a smooth and silky mouth-feel. I tried to over-brew it but I failed. It can get very dark and pour like thick black oil, but it will stay sweet and smooth. My tasting notes for this morning's session included: fresh soy milk, walnuts, and amaretto. To me this ripe puer is not smoky but it does have a hint of a rosy, fruity, some-might-say-smoky, Keemun* note in the finish.

Infusion #2
(but infusions 1 to 5 pretty much looked like this)

Updated 2-1-12 = Cinnabar's and my tea shop Phoenix Tea in Burien may have these in stock. Please email us for details.

*Keemun (Qimen) (祁門) is a popular Chinese tea. We call it black tea but the Chinese call it red tea (hongcha) (紅茶).

Monday, November 23, 2009

"The Root"

I have recently heard about an interesting, although somewhat uncommon, tea brewing technique. The technique is called "the root" and refers to the practice of leaving a little bit of tea (usually less than an ounce) in the chahai* after each infusion. This remaining tea will end up mixing with all of the following infusions.

J-tea's 1992 Wuyi Oolong (武夷烏龍)
& "the root" left in the glass chahai.

Some people may do this already without even thinking about it, while others like myself have always thought it best to not mix infusions. Each infusion is special and should be tasted in its purest form, not mixed with all the previous infusions... right? Well, at least that's what I thought before I started experimenting with "the root."

Mixing a new infusion with "the root."

Believers claim that "the root" acts as a solid foundation for each infusion, which they say can add character and depth to one's tea. I have found this to sometimes be true for me, especially while drinking aged puer and aged oolong.

Any perceived advantages or disadvantages to "the root" are debatable and, like taste itself, entirely subjective. I will never claim that there is only one correct way to do anything. Experienced tea brewers accept that every tea is different and will behave differently each time it is brewed. Sometimes I'll feel like using "the root" and other times I'll avoid mixing infusions. That said, I would really love to hear from any other tea brewers out there regarding your own experiences using "the root."

* Chahai (tea ocean) (茶海) is the name I use for a tea pitcher. These pitchers are also sometimes called "decanters" or "fairness cups".

Monday, November 16, 2009

2007 Winter Fenghuang Wudong Old Bush Dancong "Huang Jing"

My generous new friend J (who I first mentioned in my previous post) left me with several wonderful oolong teas to sample. 謝謝你!

One of these new teas was a very intriguing dancong (with a very long name) called: 2007 Winter Fenghuang Wudong Old Bush Dancong "Huang Jing." J got it from Hou De Asian Arts in Huston, TX.

Dancong (单丛) tea is most commonly translated as "single bush" and is considered an oolong tea. The trees used to produce dancong are usually mature plants with a single trunk and deep roots. I really don't have much experience with dancong tea but I have learned a lot about it from reading the Tea Obsession blog.

The leaves for this particular dancong were hand-picked from 50 year old tea bushes. Its thick and leathery leaves were folded and tightly pressed because the winter leaves are more difficult to roll. Other dancong teas that I have tried have had long, twisted leaves (slightly resembling Wuyi mountain cliff teas) but this "Huang Jing" is made up of many long fat leaves and has a mix of earthy autumnal colors. For more specific information about this tea click here.

I have never seen a tea like this before and had no idea what to expect. I filled my gaiwan about three quarters full of dry leaf before pouring in boiling hot spring water. My nose, at least a meter away from the lidded gaiwan, immediately picked up a sweet aroma. This tea is very aromatic with hints of ripe plum, dark wood, and fresh baked cinnamon rolls.

The tea soup has an amazing amber color and intoxicating perfume. It is heady like spiced wine and distinctly fruity. My first sip caused me to sigh and exclaim "Whoa... now that's a good tea." My tasting notes for the next eight infusions included: honey, malt, delicate smoke, smooth, and raisin. It also has a nice aftertaste.

After the tasting session I marveled at the massive yellow tinted leaves. They are very thick and beautiful.

This is by leaps and bounds the best dancong tea I've ever tasted.

Sunday, November 15, 2009


I recently met a new tea friend, whom I will call J. He came to Seattle for just 24 hours as part of a noble, personal mission (for lack of a better word). I do not want to put words in my new friend's mouth so I will not describe anything from his point of view. Instead, I will share my own ideas. These ideas have been growing inside me for years but were renewed by J's visit. Put simply, I (and a growing number of other people) believe that tea is much more than a healthy and delicious drink. It is also a powerful symbol of modest, compassionate, and sustainable living. As tea's mainstream popularity grows (a good thing) all tea lovers should keep this symbolic meaning pure by being humble, helpful, fair, tolerant, ecologically aware, and thankful.

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Banzhang Chun Qing Puer

Last month I ordered four 2009 puer cakes to add to my personal collection. I purchased the cakes from Yunnan Sourcing (an Ebay store that specializes in puer tea).

One of my new cakes, the "Banzhang Chun Qing Puer cake (班章純情普洱茶餅)," seems to be getting a lot of positive online attention. At $50 per cake it was the most expensive of my new treasures and the one I was most anxious to try. According to Yunnan Sourcing, the maocha (毛茶)* for this cake was sourced from one family farm in Lao Ban Zhang village and only 84 cakes were stone pressed. That information and more was found here.

Banzhang Chun Qing Puer tea cake

Naked Cake

I used about 5 grams of dry leaf in a 100 ml gaiwan and my water temperature was about 200° F. I started with a 5 second rinse to "awaken the leaves" and used the rinse water to warm up my teacup before discarding it. At this point I smelled the now steaming wet leaves. They had a very clean, bright and fruity aroma, which reminded me of a ripe nectarine.

My first three infusions were 20, 20 and 30 seconds long. These infusions yielded a healthy, pleasant bitterness with notes of orange rind, mulling spices and pine forest. The clear yellow broth was not smoky or grassy. My next three infusions (all about 30 seconds long) darkened slightly and presented a fruitier liquor. My tasting notes for these infusions included: wild, peppery, pure and pomegranate.

The third infusion:

As advertised (and as expected) this tea is very long lasting. The following 9 infusions' steeping time increased from around 30 seconds (#6) to 5 minutes (#15). Tasting notes included: rosemary and snow.

This puer was a very rewarding and delightful tea to brew. Every cup offered me an intriguing and/or delicious reason to steep it again.

Like most puer aficionados, I am always interested in improving my personal knowledge of region specific puer tea. I have heard other tea lovers proclaiming their adoration of Ban Zhang puer's wild, clean, long lasting, strength and after drinking this tea I can relate.

Spent leaves:

*Wikipedia defines maocha as: "...a mostly unoxidized green tea processed from a "large leaf" variety of Camellia sinensis found in the mountains of southern Yunnan."

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Teacup Tea Classes - November 2009

This month I will present these 3 tea classes at Teacup (2128 Queen Anne Ave. N. Seattle, WA, 98109).

Thursday, November 5th - 7:00 to 8:00pm
Oolong Tea 101- In this class we will explore the many delicious varieties of oolong teas made in China and Taiwan. Students will learn how different oolongs are made while we taste several fine examples brewed in both the Chinese and Western style.

Wednesday, November 11th (Veterans Day) - 7:00 to 8:00pm
Exotic Tea Tasting - Back again by popular demand! In this class we will taste some rare, special and teas from many different countries such as Silver Needle white , 1st Flush Nepalese black, Moroccan mint green and aged pu-erh. While we sip these fine teas we will discuss drinking traditions from many distant lands.

Sunday, November 22nd - 4:00 to 5:00 pm
Holiday Tea Tasting- In this tea class we will taste many wonderful scented teas and herbal blends that have rich, cozy flavors and/or warming spices, that will get us in the holiday spirit. This tasting class will be a great opportunity to sample new teas that would make great holiday gifts.

These evening classes cost $3 per guest and require a RSVP. It's sometimes OK to RSVP even on the same day. You may RSVP anytime by visiting or calling the Teacup (206-283-5931) or by emailing me at I will let you know as new classes are scheduled, and please feel free to suggest a class idea on a subject you'd like to learn more about. I hope to see you soon at a class!

Monday, November 2, 2009

League of Pots #021

Code Name: "Da Tong" (大同 )

Material: Ceramic
Height: 15 cm
Length (handle to spout): 25 cm
Volume: 950 ml

Brews: Any type of tea does well in Da Tong!
Specialty: He always does particularly well with loose leaf ripe puer (熟普洱).
Story: Da Tong was a gift from my friends Brandon, Jessie and Laura about three years ago. I think they found him and his six matching cups at an antique store. I call him "Da Tong" (big same) because those words are tattooed on his bottom. I use him quite often with an infuser basket to brew tea at my Teacup tea classes.
Super Powers: Da Tong has the miraculous power to turn water and leaves into delicious refreshing tea! (I must really be running out of ideas for super powers eh?)

Sunday, November 1, 2009

League of Pots #020

Code Name: "Little Plum" (小梅 )

Material: Black Clay
Height: 6 cm
Length (handle to spout): 11 cm
Volume: 140 ml

Brews: Lightly oxidized oolong teas from Taiwan
Specialty: Alishan High Mountain Tea
Story: Little Plum is a very inexpensive clay pot from CCCI (a wholesaler based out of California). She was purchased by a friend last year at Teacup (the tea shop I work at here in Seattle) but the good chap didn't really like the way she poured so I gave him a store credit and adopted Little Plum. I have since overcome her "quirks" and now use her frequently to brew tea at work.
Super Powers: She may be small but she is loud! Little Plum has the ability to generate vocal sounds at any decibel level. Little Plum can also "throw her voice" making it appear to be coming from any source she chooses (which would explain her day job as a ventriloquist).