Friday, January 15, 2021

Hei Cha tea class

In this evening's live tea class, I will talk about a tea that has now 20 years of age! We'll celebrate its anniversary by brewing it and discussing the history and characteristics of Hei Cha. 

This is a tea that has been in my selection for 5 years already. On Instagram, a tea friend commented on these pictures that I don't often brew and talk about it. So, I think it's about time that we spend a whole tea class on the subject of fermented teas! (And I'll disclose a little known fact about shu puerhs during this class!)
As these pictures show, I spent a wonderful evening brewing this tea in a Korean style woodfired teapot made by David Louveau.  
In order for you to get the most out of this tea and my class, I recommend that you brew it while watching my live video! Since it's a shu puerh, the chaqi is very calm and won't keep you up all night (like a sheng puerh could)! 
And if you are on Telegram, you may join my new channel there.

Thursday, January 14, 2021

L'hiver, la saison des infusions

Si le printemps est la saison des récoltes de thé, l'hiver est celle de sa consommation, donc de ses infusions. En effet, c'est quand il fait très froid qu'on a le plus envie d'une boisson chaude pour nous réchauffer.

Je veux donc partager avec vous un Chaxi hivernal de circonstance. En effet, mon choix s'est porté sur un Oolong à forte oxydation et torréfié: le Oolong Beauté Orientale Tradition de Hsin Chu de l'été 2020. Il a donc 3 caractéristiques chaleureuses:
1. Sa forte oxydation,
2. Sa torréfaction,
3. Sa récolte estivale.
Comme il fait froid, j'en profite pour vous rappeler que le préchauffage de la théière zisha commence par le couvercle et les parois externes. (Voir ci-dessus). Ce n'est que dans un second temps qu'on préchauffe l'intérieur pour éviter un choc thermique. (Voir ci-dessous).
Dans un troisième temps, on vide l'eau chaude dans les coupes pour les préchauffer à leur tour.
Puis, je fais glisser les feuilles de ma main dans la théière. (Moment émouvant de contact direct avec les feuilles.)
Vient enfin le moment de l'infusion: verser l'eau portée à ébullition sur les feuilles. Pour ces feuilles, je verse avec beaucoup de douceur pour les premières infusions.
Remarquez que j'attends d'avoir verser l'eau bouillante dans la théière pour vider l'eau du préchauffage de mes coupes.
Et dès que c'est fait, je peux commencer à verser l'infusion directement dans mes coupes. Et avec un bonne théière, il est assez simple de ne pas mettre une seule goutte sur le Chabu.
La première infusion est d'une clarté limpide. Sa couleur est légère, car c'est le moment pour déguster les arômes les plus fins, les plus gourmands, et un goût bien pur. Cette pureté n'est pas le fruit du hasard, mais elle accompagne une démarche naturelle qui vise à ce que les Jacobiasa Formosana Paoli, de petits criquets verts, mordent les bourgeons, ce qui entraine une réaction défensive du théier qui provoque des odeurs très parfumées. 
Les Beautés Orientales de Hsin Chu sont, la plupart du temps, classifiées par leur producteur en fonction du degré de morsure des feuilles et donc de l'intensité de ce 'parfum' complètement naturel. Si vous désirez essayer un exemple de très haute qualité, je vous recommande les version impériales de ma sélection
Mais on a déjà de très beaux arômes avec cette version tradition... Et on a aussi l'avantage de cette pureté, car le fermier est obligé de ne pas employer de pesticides afin de favoriser la venue de ces petits criquets!
Je recommande de ne pas l'infuser trop longtemps dans les 3 premières infusions, car il a beaucoup d'arômes très fins qu'il ne faut pas surcharger. Sa torréfaction ajoute de la longueur en bouche et du moelleux. On est presque dans le thé au goût de Cognac! Sinon, en terme d'accord avec des mets, je trouve qu'il pourrait bien aller avec des plats avec sauce tomate! En tous cas, c'est un thé facilment puissant qui convient bien à l'accompagnement d'un repas.
Faisons revenir un peu d'été au milieu de l'hiver!

Je signale que je viens d'établir une présence sur le réseau Télégram afin de partager la beauté du thé avec le plus grand nombre!

Sunday, January 10, 2021

Training to become a tea master

In case you missed my Friday evening live FB tea class, you may see here the 2 fundamental exercises that will help you become a tea master: Dans cette vidéo, je vous montre 2 exercices fondamentaux pour devenir un maitre de thé. Avec ces 2 exercices, vous saurez affuter votre outil de dégustation le plus important: les papilles! Abonnez-vous à ma chaine afin de ne rater aucune classe!

Wednesday, January 06, 2021

Winter Wenshan Baozhongs

There are lots of nice places with great views near Pinglin. However, I failed to find something more spectacular than the pavilion below. You might find the pictures familiar, especially since I've already shown the second OB Chaxi I had there that day.
My first Chaxi was, naturally, a Wenshan Baozhong. There's no better way to connect to this landscape than tasting leaves that have grown just at my feet there, literally! The smells in the cup echo those of the surroundings and it's even possible to taste how sweet this place is!
There are a lot of reasons to love Wenshan Baozhong. For me, the first is the proximity. In less than an hour I can be in Pinglin. It's also the most historical and oldest kind of 'Formosa Oolong'. Even with a new and fresh Baozhong, I feel a sense of tradition that I don't get in a high mountain Oolong.   
Wenshan Baozhongs are very similar to Wuyi Yan Cha in their process and appearance. The difference is the terroir and the level of roasting. Wenshan Baozhongs are mostly fresh, just dried, while Yan Cha are mostly (too much) roasted. However, this winter, I've also selected 2 roasted Baozhongs (a medium and a strong/high roast).
Wenshan Baozhongs also share another characteristic of Yan Cha. They can be made from a long list of different cultivars. Almost each time I make a selection, I find a cultivar I had never tasted before. This time, it's a Manzhong Baozhong!
I also added a very classic winter 'subtropical forest' Wenshan Baozhong and an organic Qilan Baozhong with a long aftertaste! The best buy in this selection is a Fall 2020 Baozhong mix made from Jinxuan and Tsui Yu cultivars. 
Besides, contrary to Wuyi Yan Cha, Wenshan Baozhongs have long been overlooked by tea drinkers. But this may be changing. My farmer told me that 2020 has been a very good year for him. There was a a strong demand for this familiar tea, at a time when people stayed more at home and focused on their health. 
Pour a piece of Taiwan in your cup! You'll love it!

Tuesday, January 05, 2021

New Year Chaxi video

In case you missed my live New Year Chaxi on FB, you may see it below or on my YouTube channel I'm discussing the various subjects I have to teach so that you may make the most of your tea leaves. During that class, I'm also answering questions I receive. In this video, as Elisabeth puts it, I "expressed my belief that one learns best by raising the level of knowledge gradually and concurrently with each of the tea-related issues: the type of tea, the tea ware, water and boiling, cups, teapot, brewing, Chaxi etc., rather than focussing on only one topic per class."
   
Elisabeth thought that my French class below "was one of your absolute best. Maybe because you were brewing one of my favourite teas 😉, but more importantly that it was the second version of the same topic and you completely relaxed into teaching. You moved so fluently between the various points, without needing to explain very much, it came together with harmony of thought, technique, and experience. As you said, a vast topic, comprised of many important details." Voyez par vous-même si j'ai été aussi bon que cela dans cette vidéo: J'en profite pour remercier tous ceux qui m'ont envoyé des suggestions de thèmes à développer dans des vidéos en 2021! 
A samedi!

Thursday, December 31, 2020

The year 2020 in 12 pictures

As we are waiting for the first new light of the New Year, let's look back on the best pictures I took in 2020! Not everything was bad this year. Let's remember and cherish the nicest moments! I've selected most of these 12 pictures by looking which gathered the most likes on Instagram.  And like in the past, I'll ask you to help me choose the best 2 pictures, so that I'll turn them into postcards that I can add as gifts to your future orders! Here are the pictures and you can cast your vote on Facebook.
Thanks a lot for all your support and I wish you a happy and healthy New Year! 




November. Oriental Beauty






























January. PSU Gongfucha Tea Club - Time Machine

Wednesday, December 30, 2020

Top 5 videos of 2020

In 2020, you have started to see my face much more often than before! The pandemic induced lockdowns around the world have convinced me that it was my duty to teach tea online in the most direct way, by video! Since you couldn't come to share tea with me in Taiwan, I came to a screen near you! And the goal of these classes is to show you that it's still possible to enjoy life, nature and tasting pleasures while staying at home, by setting up a Chaxi and brewing tea with style! 

We all know the saying 'If life gives you lemons, make lemonade!". In 2020, if the world suffers a pandemic and puts you in lockdown, make a Chaxi! Create a small world of harmony with your accessories, a tea, a Chabu and some creative decoration (a plant, a Chabu...). Add some music and you can enjoy a unique experience for all the senses that will cheer you up or, at least, bring peace to your mind. 

So, since 2020 wasn't the year for outdoor adventures or large social gatherings, it was a good time to explore the more intimate world of tea making. And this world has no limits and makes one travel to where the tea grows and to the season and year where it was harvested! Tea is the almost magical travel and time machine for the mind! 

This spring, I made some videos whenever I had time. Since this fall, I've move to a regular schedule: 10 AM each Saturday in Taiwan (ie Friday 9 PM, US Eastern time). And then a second class in French at 8 AM Saturday, European/French time. You can watch them live on my Facebook page and also the replay. I have tried to post my classes also on my YouTube channel, so that people without Facebook may also see them. However, for my early classes I had some trouble uploading the FB videos to YouTube. This fall, I eventually learned how to do it, except last weekend something has changed and I won't be able to upload the 'Xmas Tea Pairing' class. Sorry! But I should be able to do so in the future again.

I thank you for the kind feedback for these videos. I also wanted to do them as a challenge, because I know I am a poor public speaker. And now I also know that I'm a slow learner! I still feel stress before each class. But it usually goes away once I start making tea! If you enjoy watching these videos and want me to continue, please subscribe to my FB page and/or my YouTube channel. And also press 'Like' to help other tea students find my videos!

But enough about me, here are the 5 videos that have gathered the most combined views in 2020. (Click the link to view the video in FB, or watch the video on YouTube below). 

5. 10 common mistakes to avoid during a Chaxi . A short video that tries to be fun and universal!



4. Tea and Beauty, cups. Where I discuss the essential link between tea and beauty.


3. Chaozhou Gongfu Cha. A demonstration of the traditional Qing dynasty method.

2. Yixing teapots class. An introduction to Yixing zisha teapots.

1. Wenshan Baozhong Everything you need to know about Taiwan's semi oxidized tea from the North of the island!

See you tomorrow with the 12 best pictures of 2020!

Tuesday, December 29, 2020

Top 5 blog articles of 2020

2020 has brought lots of changes to our lives and also to this blog. The number of articles I've posted here has continued to drop. This reflects the fact that the tea world is moving away from blogs and focuses its attention on Instagram and Facebook. Indeed, a picture often tells more than a 1000 words, and since I'm busy running an online tea store, sourcing my teas, packing your orders myself... it's much faster to post a picture than writing an essay! That's why I've cut this Best of list from 10 to 5 to focus on those top articles that you should not have missed this year.

However, as Jacques Puisais (a French winemaker who died in 2020 at the age of 93) would say 'Put words on what you have eaten, because if you don't, it's as if this meal hasn't existed'. The same can be said of tea. Even though tea is evanescent and difficult to describe, it's necessary to give it a try, because otherwise you'll forget it and it will be as if you hadn't had that tea. That's why a blog is so useful and I'm glad to have started mine in 2004! And I will continue to write important articles, because that's where they are best archived and easiest to find!

5. How to choose a tea for aging. This year, several tea friends asked for a tea to mark the birth of their baby. This articles tries to give some help.

4. Gushu Puerh Feedback. Here I must thank Russell in Florida who wrote such great feedback that it made it to the top 5!

3. Thoughts on tea and avoiding the virus. If only the world had more listened to Taiwan... No other place has handled the virus better than this Oolong producing island!

2. A tea from the 20s. It's not every day that one gets to enjoy a 100 years old tea. No wonder it became the second most read article.

1. 2003 Puerh feedback. This other feedback was not just the most read article, but that puerh also became my best selling tea in 2020! 


There's another good reason why I wrote less. In 2020, I recorded a lot of live tea videos on Facebook and, after a while, I learned to download them and post them to my YouTube channel. So, tomorrow, I'll post a new article in which I'll list the best and most viewed videos of 2020!  

Wednesday, December 23, 2020

Christmas Chaxi Tea Pairing event

It was nice to conclude 2020 with a large tea event at The One, a restaurant in Taipei! A large crowd and several dishes meant 2 Chaxi and large teapots!  
Actually, this event was designed like a class introducing the concept of tea pairing while the students/diners had their meal and a tea. This is the best way to learn: the concept is immediately put into practice! 
Gloria Chen (on the left) brewed a red tea for the entry and the desert,

Crab bisque
 while I brewed a Hung Shui Oolong for the main course. It consisted in a fine crab bisque with green 'hairy' peas (mao dou)! Finding the right concentration for the Oolong was very important. This is where wine pairing is easier, because a wine sommelier chooses the wine in function of the meal by considering the aromas and concentration of the wine. With tea, however, the brewer is the person who decides how concentrated the brew will become. 

In most cases, a dish has stronger flavors than tea. That's why we pick teas that can match up to the intensity of food. Hung Shui Oolong, thanks to its roasting, has such potential. What you have to consider, then, are the aromas of the tea. Do they match with those of the dish? In this case, the crab bisque was cooked much lighter than usual. So, I also had to take this into account when brewing my tea. It couldn't be too strong.

I also liked the entry: 2 braised mushroom filled with a few eggs of caviar! This touch of luxury was well in the spirit of Christmas... So I wish you all the best for this year's festivities. And I recommend that you try to pair some good teas with your Christmas meals. By combining tea and Christmas, you'll enjoy a double happiness!