Sunday, February 27, 2005

Tea master Huang De Chang's experience

Teaparker shows us our friend Huang De Chang experimenting how best to store tea.

You can see two almost identical ceramic pots. The one with the colorfull motive is not glazed, and the plain white is. He then analyzes the impact of storing the same tea in these 2 jars on color, smell and taste.
There is no definite answer, which jar is best. It depends on the tea and what you wish to do with it. If you want to keep the freshness of your oolong or green tea, then the glazed jar is recommended. But if you want the tea to continue to ripen, to gain depth, then the unglazed jar will let this happen. But this also comes with the risk of too much humidity (and you then have to lightly 'roast' the tea leaves).
Very interesting...

A new book from teamaster Chih Jung Sien

A walk inside the world of Chinese Tea. Chih Jung Sien, also known as Tea Parker, has written yet another tea book (in Chinese). This one takes a broad look at Chinese tea culture, artifacts and history.

Thursday, February 24, 2005

Le petit truc des Tea Masters

Je l'ai dévoilé récemment sur Teamail, suite à une question que tout amateur de thé finit par se poser un jour: comment enlever les taches de thé de mes ustensiles (tasses, gaibei/wan...)? Les produits chimiques étant proscrits pour éviter les risques d'altération du goût, comment nettoyer ces taches hyper résistantes?

Une éponge à micropores et un peu d'eau sont le produit (miracle) magique (je me dois de rester (paien) laïque pour mon public français). Cette éponge, donc, est complètement blanche et compact. Ce lien de M. Propre aux USA en fournit un exemple.

Wednesday, February 23, 2005

Tee/tea blogs

Obwohl Bloggen immer populärer wird, findet man noch wenige Tee Blogs im Internet. Nach Teahub/Teatalk (Jan 10, 2005 in Tea Masters), habe ich nur eins auf Deutsch gefunden: Demmers Tee Weblog.

There are many cooking and wine blogs out there, but tea blogs are still few. After an evening of Googling, I only found one : Teaswap.

So, like EGO in 2002, I want your help: "Please inform me if you find a Tea blog in cyberspace!"

Tuesday, February 22, 2005

Teamaster in Japan

From Japan, a teapot also called teamaster!

A look at my tea cups. The one on the left is the best (I have) for gongfu tea. Better would be an even smaller and antique cup (which I am still looking for).

Here is the zhuni teapot I use for my pu-erh. Notice how the surface is not completely smooth. You can see and feel some sand on the surface of the pot. It weighs 110 gr and fits a tea volume of 15 cl.

Monday, February 21, 2005

6 advices for my wild, raw pu-erh

Here is the translation of 6 advices from my pu-erh book (below):

1. Take your time to flake the pu-erh cake. (Breaking the leaves makes it bitter.)

2. Don't overboil the water. (The bubbles must be the size of crab eyes.)

3. Use a zhuni teapot. (It keeps the heat.)

4. Drink from slim tea cups. (For a delicate taste.)

5. Pay attention to the quantity (2 grams for 150 cc.)

6. Adjust the brew time to fit your taste. (This tea is easy to brew.)

Here are the 6 advices in chinese on how to brew this pu-erh.

Here is the little book that came with my pu-erh. It also serves as quality certificate for this tea made in limited quantity (1428 cases).

Une vue de coupe de mon pu-erh vert et sauvage de 2003. Pressé manuellement sur une pierre, ce pu-erh est relativement facile à décortiquer.

I have started to drink from my wild raw pu-erh of 2003. Nothing is written on the wrapping paper.

Friday, February 18, 2005

Tea and health

I have recently joined 2 tea discussion groups on Yahoo! (Teammail and Tea-disc) and found many valuable information I am still busy reading and digesting. The world of tea is big and I found myself welcome by several new friends. You could also say that such groups are an original version of cooperative blogs.

One information I stumbled upon lately is: "Green Tea's Record Against Cancer Grows". It may be comforting to know that my favorite drink is not bad for my health, but it shouldn't be a news anymore (anybody heard it for the the first time?!) and it shouldn't be the primary reason to drink tea. The article is quite carefully worded and even says: "To get green tea’s potential disease-fighting benefits, studies have suggested that you should drink four cups a day."(!)

From this, it is clear that this kind of research is not aimed at boosting the consumption of tea, but at selling their pills. The article finishes: "Green tea supplements are also available, and at least one study has shown that you may actually get more powerful antioxidants from supplements than from drinking tea".

During all my classes with Tea master Chih, he never mentioned tea's health benefits. Web sites that tout tea mainly for its health benefits probably sell bad tasting tea. You may reluctantly drink medecine prescribed by your doctor, but nobody should feel obligated to drink bad tea when there are so many good ones around.

Wednesday, February 16, 2005

La coopérative de Lu Gu (Dong Ding)

Cette coopérative des producteurs de thé de Lu Gu, le grand village à côté de Dong Ding, propose des thés de qualité supérieure, mais pas les grands 'crus'. Leur méthode d'évaluation des thés oolong:
- 3 grammes,
- un tea taster de 150 cc,
- de l'eau bouillante à 100 degrés,
- une infusion de 6 minutes.
J'y ai acheté un tel tea taster pour 3 euros!
Leur date d'arrivée du thé de printemps sur le marché: 2 mai 2005.

Tuesday, February 15, 2005

All about Puerh

A truly amazing site about the tea Westerners understand the least: puerh. The good news: it's in English! And an even better news: it has a great collection of links and translation help from Chinese to English! And to top it all: it has a link to the Tea Masters blog!

Impressions du mont Dong Ding

J'y ai fait un tour juste avant le Nouvel An chinois et en ai ramené les photos ci-dessous. C'est un endroit assez minuscule. Il y a donc peu de chance que le thé Dong Ding (Tung Ting) que vous buvez provienne exactement de cette montagne. C'est tout le problème des appellations contrôlées pour le thé. D'ailleurs, il n'y en a pas et c'est incontrôlable!

Lorsque les thés de Dong Ding devinrent populaires à Taiwan il y a 25 ans environ, tous les producteurs/vendeurs appelèrent leur thé 'Dong Ding'. Si bien qu'un thé 'Dong Ding' désigne plus un certain type de oolong sec qu'une région. De nos jours, ce sont les thés de haute montagne (plus de 1000 mètres) qui sont le plus prisés. Mais là aussi, je doute qu'ils satisfassent tous au critère d'altitude.

La bonne nouvelle, vous la voyez dans les photos ci-dessus: le brouillard. Il avait tendance à disparaitre avec la modernisation de Taiwan. Or, celui-ci est un bienfait pour le thé. Et ce jour de soleil à Taichung, le brouillard ne s'est jamais complètement levé de Dong Ding. La récolte du printemps 2005 risque donc d'être bonne!

A view from the top (of mount Dong Ding).

I am here at the top of Dong Ding 'Mountain' (around 750 meters high). A little village, tea fields and beetle nut palm trees share this little area.

Monday, February 14, 2005

For sale! 600 pins of tea plantation, right in the middle of Dong Ding in Formosa. Anybody interested to grow your own tea (like Depardieu or other stars growing their own wine)?

Tea on Dong Ding mountain is blooming a day before Chinese New Year 2005.

Friday, February 04, 2005

Difference between Tea and Taste Master

Some further thoughts about the differences between wine and tea tasting.

The 'job' of a tea master is much more complex than a wine taster. There are more different skills to master than taste. Bottled wine is finished product that just needs to be served in the right glass at the right temperature. Stored wine will evolve through time, but simple precautions (cool, dry, clean cellar) are enough not to age it properly. Wine bottles have a label identifying where, when, by whom and of what it is made.

Tea, on the other hand, comes in the form of dry leaves in a bag. It is a semi-finished product. You have to go through the process of brewing. To do so, you will have to choose good water, its temperature, the right teaware, the tea quantity, the length between the steeps... There are so many parameters that it's no surprise that two people brewing the same tee will get different results.

Tea storage is also quite tricky. Some teas will loose their freshness quickly, others can be stored 20 to 40 years (but they may need some 'roasting' to eliminate accumulated humidity). Some merchants employ therefore special 'roasting' techniques that can improve the taste of their tea. Such techniques often remain family trade secrets...

And finally, loose tea leaves are always sold by stores with the store's name, not the producer's. You never get the full detail about the exact address of the producer and his tea plantation, the altitude, the season of harvest, the degree of fermentation... All you know is the country and a rough description of the kind of tea (Formosa Dong Ding, for example). Only if you are fortunate enough to drive to a tea plantation yourself will you know for sure where the tea is made and get more information from the producer. Without reliable labels, a tea master therefore also has to learn to 'read the tea leaves' to find clues about all these details.

All these differences add to the complexity, the challenge but also the interest of tea tasting. Tea master Chih Jung Sien, for example, studied tea for 20 years before publishing his first book about tea.

Also here a site that makes an attempt to review teas. Unfortunately, it has not been updated since last April... The comments are straightforward enough, and they invented an original scoring system.

Thursday, February 03, 2005

Robert Parker's influence

Planet Bordeaux, a German blog found on die Zeit, has found a good article analyzing the power of Robert Parker, the "Master of Taste", on the wine industry. Steven Shapin, a Harvard scholar, shows how Robert Parker became such an influential, and sometimes controversial, wine taster. Many lessons can and should be learned by the Tea Masters. I know one who is paying much attention!

First, he got famous because he is fiercely independent from the wine makers: ‘I don’t give a shit that your family goes back to pre-Revolution and you’ve got more wealth than I could imagine. If this wine’s no good, I’m gonna say so.’, says Robert.

Second, he tries to be as objective as possible about rating and commenting a wine. That's why he introduced a 50 points rating (from 50 to 100): "a wine gets up to five points for colour, 15 for aroma and bouquet, 20 for flavour and finish, and ten for ‘overall quality level’". He also uses straightforward vocabulary to describe a wine, instead of poetic bullshit.

Third, he does have a good palate, which even his critics admit, and it has helped wine makers all over the world produce more of the kind of wine he likes: "lots of ripe fruit, lots of alcohol, lots of oak, wine that tastes ‘hedonistic’ even when young."

We can see that true Teamasters, like Chih, Jung Sien, are following Robert Parker's path. Independent, we don't sell any tea and don't hesitate to say if a tea is bad. We believe in a more rational approach to understand and describe tea. That's why we like to taste it with neutral gaibei/gaiwan, or use a detailed form (translated in French below) to analyze the tea. And, finally, we hope that we can educate tea lovers to appretiate better teas and thereby giving incentive to producers to put more emphasis on quality than quantity.

Wednesday, February 02, 2005

Heute sind es 11 Grad in Taipei

Deshalb trinke ich alten Bao Zhong, Tie Guan Yin und Pu-Er. Ich finde diese Tees wärmen mich am besten. Wie die meisten Wohnung, ist auch meine NICHT mit Heizung ausgestattet. Würde sich ja nicht lohnen für die Paar Tage wo die Temperatur auf 10 Grad sinkt.
Brrr... das war's schon Heute! Sonst könnt Ihr hier mehr über die Geheimnisse des Pu-Er erfahren!

Tuesday, February 01, 2005

Formulaire de dégustation de thé

Composé par le maitre de thé Chih, Jung Sien et traduit par Teamasters:

Nom du goûteur et date:

Nom du thé:
Saison de la récolte:
Lieu de la récolte:
Prix (et vendeur):
Accessoire d'infusion utilisé:
Quantité de thé:

A. La vue:
Aspect des feuilles sèches:
Couleur des feuilles sèches:
Couleur du thé:
Clarté du thé:
Aspect des feuilles ouvertes:

B. L'odorat
Les feuilles sèches:
Le couvercle:
Le thé:
Les feuilles de thé chaudes:
Le verre vide:

C. Le goût:
Persistance du moelleux:
Dans la gorge:
Impression de sec:

Autres observations:

Bonne dégustation!