Sunday, July 31, 2005

The Tea Masters Blog Selection

Easy ordering process:
1. Send me an e-mail at: to request my price list,
2. Send me another e-mail with your detailed order and await my confirmation,
3. Use Paypal to wire your payment.

Here is my selection of teas and ware (*):

- Mid 1960s loose puerh,
- Early 1970s loose puerh,
- Mid 1980s loose puerh,
- 1988 Menghai '8582' puerh cake sample
- 1989 Menghai '8582' puerh cake sample
- 1990 Old arbor Yiwu loose puerh,
- 1999 Spring Menghai '7542' qizi bing
- 2003 Spring wild top grade Yi Wu Pu Er Qizi Bing Cha,
- 2006 Spring wild Lincang Puerh Qizi Bing

OOLONG from Taiwan & Fujian
- 2014 Spring Qingxin Oolong from Da Yu Ling (2300 m)
- 2014 Spring Guei Fei Oolong from Shan Lin Xi (1500 m)
- 2014 Spring Qingxin Oolong from Qilai Shan (2050 m)
- 2014 Spring Qingxin Oolong from Shan Lin Xi (1500 m)
- 2014 Spring Qingxin Oolong from Alishan (1500 m)
- 2014 Spring Jinxuan Oolong from Alishan (1500 m)
- 2014 Spring Hung Shui Oolong from Shan Lin Xi (1300 m)
- 2014 Spring Sijichun Oolong from Zhushan
- 2014 Spring Jade Oolong from Zhushan
- 2014 Spring Jinxuan Oolong from Zhushan
- 2013 Late Winter Si Ji Chun Oolong Dong Pian from Zhushan
- 2013 Late Winter Jinxuan Oolong Dong Pian from Zhushan
- 2013 Winter Hung Shui Oolong 'strong' from Yong Lung (Dong Ding)
- 2013 Winter Hung Shui Oolong from Yong Lung (Dong Ding)
- 2013 Winter Luanze Oolong from Shan Lin Shi (2000 m)
- 2013 Winter Hung Shui Oolong from Shan Lin Shi (1500 m)
- 2013 Winter Hung Shui Oolong 'strong' from Shan Lin Shi (1500 m)
- 2013 Summer Oriental Beauty from Hsin Chu
- 2013 Spring Competition Oolong from Dong Ding 
- 2013 Spring Luanze Oolong from Li Shan (2200 m)
- 2013 Spring Luanze Oolong from Qilai Shan (2050 m)
- 2013 Spring Luanze Oolong from Lushan (1600 m)
- 2013 Spring Guei Fei Oolong from Ali Shan (1500 m)
- 2013 Spring Concubine Oolong from Feng Huang (Dong Ding)
- 2013 Spring Luanze Oolong from Ali Shan (1500 m)
- 2013 Spring Luanze Oolong from Shan Lin Shi (1400 m)
- 2013 Spring Luanze Oolong from Shan Lin Shi (1200 m)
- 2013 Spring Jinxuan Oolong from Ali Shan (1500 m)
- 2013 Spring Tie Guan Yin with roast from Pinglin
- 2013 Spring Luanze Oolong from Yiguang Shan (700 m)
- 2013 Spring Hung Shui Oolong from Yiguang Shan (700 m)
- 2013 Spring Jade Hung Shui Oolong from Zhu Shan
- 2013 Spring Jinxuan Oolong from Zhu Shan
- 2013 Spring Gankou Oolong from South Taiwan (Fresh or roasted version)
- 2012 Winter 'fruity' Luanze Oolong from Alishan (1600 m)
- 2012 Winter Jinxuan Oolong from Alishan (1300 m)
- 2012 Summer Oriental Beauty from Hsin Chu
- 2012 Spring Hung Shui Oolong from Yiguang Shan (700 m)
- 2011 Winter Concubine Oolong from Feng Huang (Dong Ding)
- 2011 Spring Hung Shui Oolong from Shan Lin Shi (1500 m)
- 2011 Spring Top grade roasted Tie Guan Yin from Fujian, Mainland China.

BAOZHONG from Wen Shan, Taiwan
- 2014 Spring Manzhong Baozhong
- 2014 Spring 4 years old plantation Baozhong
- 2014 Spring 'Subtropical Forest' Baozhong
- 2014 Spring New Plantation Jade Baozhong
- 2013 Winter Baozhong mix
- 2013 Spring  Baozhong 'organic'
- 2013 Spring Qizhong Oolong (roasted Baozhong)

GREEN TEA from Taiwan
- 2014 Spring Biluochun from San Hsia
- 2014 Spring green Qingxin Oolong from Wenshan
- 2014 Spring Xue Li from Gankou, Southern Taiwan

- 2013 Spring Red Da Yeh Oolong from Taiwan's East Coast
- 2012 Spring Red High Mountain Luanze Oolong from Mojiang, Yunnan, China
- 2011 Spring Big Arbor Dian Hong from Yunnan, China

- 2003 Spring Hung Shui Oolong from Yong Lung, Dong Ding
- 2001 Spring Concubine Oolong from Yong Lung, Dong Ding
- 2000 Spring Hung Shui Oolong from Alishan
- 1979 Oolong from Dong Ding 

- 10.5 cl hungni or zisha Xianpiao
- Lotus set: cup and stand

- 1 liter Japanese tetsubin
- Anping jar

- Ivory white porcelain tea set (gaiwan, pitcher, 3 kinds of cups, tea boat), singing cup, 12 cl teapot, 17 cl teapot
- Competition tasting set in white ceramic: 1 cup with cover, 1 cup to put the tea and the display plate
- 4-5 cl: 'Dragon' cup from De Hua
- Qinghua set with bamboo: gaiwan, chahai, cups
- small qinghua jars (right hand shape available), small qinghua jar
- Medium qingbai jar with transparent dragon drawing

- 1.4 liter: modern tetsubin
- 13 cl glass teapot
- Active bamboo charcoal
- 'Magic' sponge
- Cha Bu: Side 1 : Flowers on dark pink, plain dark green, grey with patterns, purple with lines or black with patterns. Side 2: Plain black. Big, long or small.

- Teaparker's Teapot, Tea cup, Storage, Old Packaging, Nilu, Old tea books
- Beijing National Palace Museum's Yixing Zisha Wares
- Le Livre du Thé, d'Okakura Kakuzô (in French)

* I personally drink and use all the above teas and items. They all come from very reliable and experienced sources I regularly buy from in Taiwan.

The winner is: Top Wen Shan Baozhong of Spring 2005

Tea: Baozhong
Season: Spring 2005
Place: Wen Shan, 600 meters height (bought in a century old tea shop in Taipei).
Price: High
Tea set: White gaibei
Quantity: 150 ml
Water: Taiwanese mineral water (Yes)

A. View
Aspect of Dry leaves: Strong and clean.
Color of Dry leaves: Dark green.
Clarity: Clear, normal residue level.
Aspect of open leaves: The fragile long leaves are sometimes broken. Light fermentation.

B. Flavors
Dry leaves: Strong, health green field.
Cover: Lillies and green field with flowers.
Tea: Clouds of flowers.
Warm leaves: Light earth
Dry glass: Flowery lillies that turn sweet.

C. Taste:
Sweetness: Good.
Lingering sweetness: Long
Bitter/acid: No. Very light acidity that fits with the fresh feeling.
Feeling in the throat: Dry and comfortable.
Lingering dry feeling: Medium.

Other remark: The old shop I have this Baozhong from does do a little hong pei to smoothen the edges and help keep its freshness longer. Of course, the hong pei is much lighter than for a Luanze oolong, and does reduce the intense fresh smell of baozhong a little. However, my tasting of the intense summer jinxuan showed that too much 'green' fresh taste can upset the stomach and doesn't produce a nice feeling in the mouth or throat. This baozhong is able to keep its fresh feeling for a longer time of 2-4 months (store it in a fresh, dry and odorless place) and is both pleasant to the nose and to the mouth. It is the clear winner of this one-on-one tasting!

Saturday, July 30, 2005

Ali Shan Jinxuan oolong of Summer 2005

Tea: Jinxuan Oolong
Season: Summer 2005 (July 10)
Place: Ali Shan, 800 meters height (the street merchant was not very sure).
Price: medium
Tea set: White gaibei
Quantity: 150 ml
Water: Taiwanese mineral water (Yes)

A. View
Aspect of Dry leaves: Big, with stems.
Color of Dry leaves: Fresh green (light to dark) and some white.
Color of tea: Light yellow.
Clarity: Clear, normal residue level.
Aspect of open leaves: Complete leaves. Fermentation a little below average. Hand and machine picked.

B. Flavors
Dry leaves: Light cut grass.
Cover: Fresh cut grass.
Tea: Light tropical flowers
Warm leaves: Warm earth
Dry glass: Vanilla and flowery.

C. Taste:
Sweetness: Medium.
Lingering sweetness: Not very strong
Bitter/acid: Overwhelming bitterness. Heavy tongue and stomach feels uneasy.
Feeling in the throat: Little.
Lingering dry feeling: Light.

Other remarks: This is a very green tea, which can cause stomach ache if brewed too concentrated. The bitterness is a mark of the summer harvest. That's why few tea sellers admit to sell summer tea, since it is less good than spring or winter harvests.

Jinxuan oolong shines through its fresh flavors, whereas Luanze oolong has a deep, long-lasting taste. Nowadays, the Taiwanese oolong market preference tends to go toward a pleasing nose rather than nice taste. (A reason why farmers like jinxuan is that it grows quicker and can be harvested up to 5 times a year. 3 for luanze oolong). However, my tasting of Luanze and jinxuan oolong makes me prefer my selected Luanze oolong. I may add that most professionals I have met also prefer the traditional Luanze oolongs. So, can this jinxuan beat wenshan baozhong?

Thursday, July 28, 2005

Baozhong vs Jinxuan Oolong

On my left: a first grade spring 2005 Wenshan baozhong from a 100 year old tea shop.

On my right: a hand picked summer 2005 Ali Shan jinxuan bought on an open air market from a tea farmer.

Which tea's going to win?! I have tasted them in parallel and will tell you in the coming days.

Monday, July 25, 2005

Le bonheur est dans le thé

Faisons comme indique Chasen, l'association, pas le fouet de bambou, et mettons un peu de calligraphie chinoise au mur de mon blog. J'adore celui-ci fait par un artiste du nom de Ping An rien que pour moi: Cha Zhe Le. Ce qui signifie: Le bonheur dans le thé. Rendons à César ce qui lui appartient: c'est ma femme qui a pensé à ce jeu de mots. En effet, mon nom de famille chinois est 'Le' (bonheur), traduction phonétique d'Erler. Voilà, vous savez tout!

Dong Ding Oolong, the classic

Tea: Luan Ze Oolong
Season: Spring 2005
Place: Dong Ding, Feng Huang Tsun at 700 meters height.
Price: high
Tea set: White gaibei
Quantity: 150 ml
Water: Taiwanese mineral water (Yes)

A. View
Aspect of Dry leaves: With stems.
Color of Dry leaves: Shiny dark green.
Color of tea: Golden yellow.
Clarity: Bright. Normal residue level.
Aspect of open leaves: Complete leaves. Fermentation a little below average. Hand picked.

B. Flavors
Dry leaves: Green cut grass.
Cover: Tropical flowers.
Tea: Butter cake
Warm leaves: Flowers
Dry glass: Peach.

C. Taste:
Sweetness: yes.
Lingering sweetness: Long
Bitter/acid: A little acidity in the beginning.
Feeling in the throat: Dry, pleasant. Reminds peach.
Lingering dry feeling: Light

Other remarks: I eventually found an oolong I like this spring 2005! And what a good one! It wasn't that easy with all the snow that fell at the end of winter, just before the spring harvest, in the Central mountains of Taiwan. That's probably why this is a Dong Ding oolong, located at just 700 meters below sea level. It's not a high mountain tea. They start around 1000 meters altitude.

The Dong Ding oolong, especially the Luan ze kind, is the more traditionnal oolong, the one professionals, tea masters appreciate most. One seeks the smooth feeling it leaves in the mouth and throat, and not so much the flowery, fresh notes that are one finds in jin xuan oolong, high mountain oolong and baozhong.

Like the previous Luan ze oolong, this one will perform even better in an yixing teapot. I drink this tea on Saturday nights. Its cha chi is so strong that it keeps me happily awake to enjoy long conversations with friends.

I am quite relieved I found this real and excellent Dong Ding Luan ze oolong for my readers to taste classic Taiwan oolong.

Luan Ze oolong de Dong Ding

Nom: Luan Ze Oolong (ou Dong Ding Oolong)
Saison: Printemps 2005
Lieu: Dong Ding, Feng Huang, 700 mètres de hauteur.
Catégorie de prix: élevée.
Accessoire: Gaiwan blanc
Quantité: environ 150 ml
Eau: Minérale. Marque: Yes.

A. Vue
Aspect des feuilles sèches: Les tiges sont conservées.
Couleur des feuilles sèches: Vert foncé, brillant.
Couleur du thé: Jaune doré
Clarté: Eclatant, résidus normaux.
Aspect des feuilles ouvertes: Feuilles complètes, mais pas forcément par deux. Grandes feuilles de montagne. Fermentation un peu moins que moyenne. Cueillette manuelle.

B. Odorat
Feuilles sèches: Herbe verte coupée.
Couvercle: Fleurs tropicales
Thé: Gateau au beurre
Feuilles chaudes: Fleurs
Verre vide: Odeur de pêche (le fruit, pas les poissons!)

C. Goût
Sucré: oui.
Persistance du moelleux: Longue
Acidité/Amer: Très légère acidité au départ, puis un thé très rond.
Dans la gorge: Sec, plaisant. Rappelle la pêche.
Impression de sec: Légère.

Autres observations: Enfin un oolong que j'aime cet année! Et quelle qualité! Pas évident avec la neige qui est tombée en masse à la fin de l'hiver, juste avant la cueillette, de manière exceptionnelle, sur les montagnes du centre de Taiwan. Du coup, il n'est pas étonnant que ce soit un oolong de Dong Ding, situé à 700 mètres de haut. C'est moins haut que les 1000 mètres qui constituent le niveau où commence la haute montagne. De plus, le thé de Dong Ding, et surtout la sorte Luan Ze, est le plus traditionnel, celui apprécié par les professionnels. On le boit moins pour les odeurs florales (apanage des jinxuan, oolongs de haute montagne ou baozhong), mais plus pour son goût persistant dans la gorge.

Tout comme le précédent, ce oolong est parfait en théière yixing. C'est mon thé du samedi soir! Comme il a un cha chi très fort, il me tient bien éveillé pour profiter de la longue soirée entre amis.

Nan Tou's Luan Ze Oolong

Tea: Luan Ze Oolong
Season: Spring 2004
Place: Ming Jian, Nan Tou at 500 meters height. (Close to Dong Ding)
Price: medium
Tea set: White gaibei
Quantity: 150 ml
Water: Taiwanese mineral water (Yes)

A. View
Aspect of Dry leaves: With stems.
Color of Dry leaves: Dark green to brown
Color of tea: Dark yellow to orange.
Clarity: Good. Few residues.
Aspect of open leaves: Red on the outside. Mostly hand picked.

B. Flavors
Dry leaves: hey, but not too dry.
Cover: Deep smell of fruit
Tea: Ripe fruits
Warm leaves: some acidity. After a few brews wood charcoal smell.
Dry glass: Heavy smell, like a ripe peach.

C. Taste:
Sweetness: yes, but not too much.
Lingering sweetness: Medium
Bitter/acid: Towards the end, some astringency on the teeth.
Feeling in the throat: Dry, with peach feeling.
Lingering dry feeling: medium to strong.

Other remarks: The hong pei (baking) reaches 70%. Made by an older producer this tea is baked over wood charcoal, not in an electric oven like most do nowadays. This tea is very good to feel and study the 'magic of hong pei'.
Luan Ze oolong will taste even better in an yixing teapot, where the yun (the dry feeling in the throat will be rounder and very pleasant.)

For me, this is a very good oolong in its category. Bought in a shop, this tea would be called "Dong Ding' oolong. I drink it during the week and at any time. Since it's quite fermented and baked, it won't give a stomach ache (like some green oolongs).

Luan Ze Oolong de Nan Tou

Nom: Luan Ze Oolong (ou Dong Ding Oolong)
Saison: Printemps 2004
Lieu: Nan Tou, Ming Jian, 500 mètres de hauteur. Près de Dong Ding.
Catégorie de prix: moyenne.
Accessoire: Gaiwan blanc
Quantité: environ 150 ml
Eau: Minérale. Marque: Yes.

A. Vue
Aspect des feuilles sèches: Les tiges sont conservées.
Couleur des feuilles sèches: Vert foncé vert le brun.
Couleur du thé: Jaune foncé, orange
Clarté: Bien clair, peu de résidus.
Aspect des feuilles ouvertes: Les feuilles ne sont pas toujours complètes. Rouge sur le bord, il y a eu fermentation. Cueillette surtout manuelle.

B. Odorat
Feuilles sèches: Foin, mais pas trop sec.
Couvercle: Profonde odeur de fruits
Thé: Fruits murs
Feuilles chaudes: Odeur un peu acide. Au fur à mesure des infusions un odeur de charbon de bois apparait.
Verre vide: Odeur lourde proche d'une pêche (le fruit, pas les poissons!)

C. Goût
Sucré: oui, mais pas trop
Persistance du moelleux: Moyen à long
Acidité/Amer: Un peu d'astringence sur les dents vers la fin
Dans la gorge: Sec, plaisant. Rappelle la pêche.
Impression de sec: moyenne à forte.

Autres observations: Le hong pei (la torréfaction) atteint 70%. Thé fait par un vieux producteur traditionnel avec du charbon de bois (et non un four électrique comme c'est devenu le cas pour la plupart). On remarquera la 'magie du hong pei' dans ce cru de 2004. Ce Luan ze oolong sera encore bien meilleur fait dans une théière yixing. La théière yixing permet d'arrondir et de renforcer le yun, l'impression de sec dans la gorge. Elle convient donc tout particulièrement au Luan Ze oolong, qui est la sorte de oolong de prédiléction pour le oolong de Don Ding.

Pour moi, c'est un très bon oolong dans sa catégorie. Dans le commerce, je suis certain qu'on l'appellerait Dong Ding oolong. Je le bois en semaine durant la journée. Comme il est fermenté et torréfié, il ne donne pas mal au ventre (comme certains oolongs trop verts).

C'est celui sur la gauche sur le message précédent.

Taiwan's classic Luan Ze oolong. 2 tastings. Details next week.

Friday, July 22, 2005

China's currency drops peg

It happened yesterday, in the middle of summer, and caught most by surprise. China had said so many times they wouldn't change the peg, like a matter national pride. Now it will only be allowed to move 0.3% per day, but this is the first step with which China's currency will slowly rise against the dollar.

Don't expect tea prices to rise all of a sudden, but definitely the trend points to higher prices in the long term as China's economic strength unfolds like oolong in a gaibei. I was not the only one to have predicted it, but I am glad I said it before in this blog.

Thursday, July 21, 2005

Comment observer le thé?

Après avoir évoqué, hier, le meilleur endroit où rencontrer son thé pour la première fois, il est temps de faire un petit rappel comment l'évaluer. Pour reprendre ma comparaison de la plage, qu'allez-vous observer pour savoir si cette personne vous plait ou non.

D'abord, vous trouverez une liste exhaustive de l'anatomie d'un thé dans un post précédent. Voyez, par exemple, comment Bertrand l'a utilisé à bon escient récemment.

Dans un second temps, c'est à vous de vous interroger sur quel plaisir vous recherchez. Brune ou blonde, mince ou plantureuse...? Un gars musclé ou intello, yeux bruns ou yeux bleus? Pour le thé, certains préfèrent son côté parfumé ou son goût sec dans la gorge ou bien son pouvoir d'évocation. A chacun son goût, à chaque heure son thé.

Wednesday, July 20, 2005

How do I brew a tea for the first time?

Now that some of my readers have received tea from me, it may be a good thing to remind you how to taste a tea for the first time.

It's summer time now, a time when many people go the beaches to sunbath, play, swim and date. The beach is indeed a good place for dating and meeting your partner. (When young, I ... OK, I'll spare you!!) The advantage of the beach is that boys and girls go there without any makeup and hardly any clothes. The little which is covered is straightforward to guess. Under the natural light of the sun, we show ourselves as we are. It's often amazing to see how the same girl, in the evening, can have a totally different impact on you depending on what she wears, the lipstick she uses, and the scent she wears. Depending on her skills and your taste (or lack of!), you may fall for her or not.

With tea, the beach is the porcelain gaiwan (gaibei in Taiwan) and the bar is the clay teapot.

For your first tastings, I recommend that you use the most scientific, rational and neutral tool: the gaibei. This is what professionals do and how Teaparker taught me to study a tea. The advantages are:

- the taste is not very much influenced by the gaiwan,
- it's easy to open the lid of the gaiwan and smell the lid to evaluate if the tea is ready,
- you can also look at the color of the tea that floats over the lid. The color will darken as the tea brews,
- the leaves open under your eyes and are easier to see and study.
- the gaiwan is easy to empty and clean.

The drawbacks are:

- Making good tasting tea in a gaiwan is harder than in a good teapot.
- It's easier to burn your fingers or make a big mess when pouring the tea out.

Here my little advices on how to make good tea with the gaiwan:

1. Pre-heat your gaiwan and its lid with hot water. Then the cups.
2. Make sure it's well pre-heated. Don't wait too long before making the tea now.
3. Use just boiled water,
4. Pour the first water with a strength in harmony with the tea you're making. It goes from very soft at a small distance from the gaiwan in case of green tea, to a up and down movement for oolong.
5. For the next brews, once the tea has opened up, pour the water in a circle on the rim of the gaiwan. Not on the leaves directly. Like this, all the leaves will receive water that has the same temperature.

You'll know you have a good brew when the leaves fill the gaiwan in harmony like the oolong below. (But you don't necessarily need so many, especially for pu er).

And later, once you know your tea, then you can brew it in a teapot and enjoy it thoroughly!

First packages have arrived! Les paquets sont arrivés!

I have received news that my packages have arrived. Travel time was between 3 (!) and 6 days. Cindy at Cup of Tea and a Blog wrote a little about it July 19th: "I’m also reallyreallyreally excited about a special box of puerh and tea samples that I received from Stephane over at Tea Masters blog. I’ll be sampling and writing about these for quite a while."

Mes amis français ont également reçu leur colis. Ils m'ont déjà remercié en privé. Je pense qu'on verra bientôt leurs commentaires sur le blog, sous les articles des thés achetés ou bien ici.

Tuesday, July 19, 2005

Tuo Cha of 1985 bathing in the evening sun

Last Saturday, before the Typhoon, we had wonderful blue sky. The coming typhoon had blown all the clouds away, like usual. So I made a few shots with my yixing teapot, my old, wild, raw YiWu Tuo Cha of 1985 and a 60 year old tea cup.

The hole you see in my tuo cha is proof that I am drinking it! I do have to hurry up taking pictures, because it's so good I may not let it age much longer. I shall post more precise tasting notes soon, but today I will post more of the beautiful pictures I took.

The typhoon Taitang has weakened into a depression. This means normal rain now the whole day over Taipei. We've had a rough night from Sunday to Monday. A few trees fell in our neighborhood, but the damage seems much less compared to previous typhoons of this strength. Thanks to you who have e-mailed me or thought about Taiwan when you heard about the news.

Monday, July 18, 2005

Israel et le thé

Après mon petit message sur Israel, la semaine dernière, j'ai été contacté par mon lecteur hébreu. Il s'agit tout simplement d'Alon, le fondateur d'OCHA, the art of tea. Un pionnier dans l'import de thés de qualité. Pas facile dans un pays buveur de café turc au cardamone (j'adore!)

Je me sens flatté de voir encore un expert et professionnel du thé venir sur mon blog. Cela montre qu'il fait son boulot avec la même passion du thé que nous autres amateurs avons à le déguster. Même si vous ne lisez pas l'hébreu, vous verrez que le design du site est impeccable.

J'écris ces quelques lignes en pensant à lui, à Israel et en écoutant la musique de là-bas sur Radio Galatz, l'excellente radio de l'armée. A Taiwan, un typhon recouvre actuellement toute l'ile et cause de nombreux dégats. Un jour de congé a été décrété. Allons boire un thé!

Sunday, July 17, 2005

My Yixing zi sha teapot for aged pu er

This yixing teapot is already 7 years old and made with grinded zi sha stone. This kind of good material is progressively being used up in Yixing as its factories manufacture millions of teapots every year. So, in case of yixing teapots, it makes more sense to buy old rather than new.

Teaparker even suggests to buy those made early this century, but they are not easy to find and not very cheap either.

This particular one was made by Xi Mei Hua. Under the lid, you can read his first name, Mei Hua.

It is rather a large pot in my collection: 170 ml. And it weighs 200 gr. As I wrote yesterday, I dedicated this teapot to old pu er. I could also have used a zhu ni hu pot. But the characteristics of this zi sha pot are somehow similar to the zhu ni hu, as its walls are quite thick.

The teapot came in this solid wooden box. A small red tea towel was placed above the teapot to protect it well against shocks. I am quite confident that with its thick walls and solid box it can travel the world in a parcel.

One can also test the quality of the teapot by carefully touching its rim with the lid. My teapot will give a high pitched sound, sign it was baked at high temperature. Bad quality pots are baked at lower temperatures and sound a low pitch. The baking temperature will have an effect on how well the teapot is able to handle the boiling water. This is the kind of test that shop owners don't like. It's like playing with something fragile that doesn't belong to you. Only do this if you are really serious about purchasing the teapot.

My yixing teapot for old puer.

Friday, July 15, 2005

Tea and Israel

I am happy about all my readers. Be they from Alsace, where I was born and raised, the US, where I studied, or Asia where I live. However, there is a special place in my heart and soul for Israel, where I stayed 3 months in the spring of 1994. I was a volunteer in the Kibbutz Dovrat, near Afula. From my room, I could see Mount Tabor on the right and Nazareth on the left! It was the best time of my life.

I see I get 1% of Hebrew visitors and I wanted to say to them: Lamadti ketsat yivrit! Israelim haverim sheli! in broken hebrew. Actually, my coming to Taiwan owes much to my experience in Israel. It's because I could learn Hebrew quickly there that I found confidence enough to go to Taiwan and learn Chinese! Toda Raba, Israel.

Le thé et les Alsaciens

Je suis très content de compter plusieurs Alsaciens, ma région d'origine, parmi mes lecteurs et correspondants. Et notammant Tamaryo: il vient de commencer son blog sur notre breuvage chinois. Bonne route du thé!

Un pavé chinois pour la plage

Hier, je me suis acheté le premier tome de "Au bord de l'eau" à la FNAC du grand magasin Mitsoukochi, en face du Warner Village, à Taipei. C'est LE roman fleuve chinois (le premier tome fait plus de 1000 pages), et on le compare volontiers aux Trois Mousquetaires de Dumas.

Je me suis aussi acheté un magazine sur le thé. Dommage que je n'ai pas de scanner... Il parle de Wisteria, le vieux salon de thé japonais sur Hsin Sheng South Road. J'y suis allé plusieurs fois quand j'habitais dans le quartier.

Thursday, July 14, 2005

Green tea in summer

I find myself drinking green tea more ofte now in summer than in winter. Almost every noon I will drink either japanese sencha, matcha or Chinese Bi Lo Chun, Long Jin or young green pu er. These teas bring freshness to the heavy and hot Taipei. They were the theme of the Teaparker's class I missed last Sunday.

I take showers each time I come back home and the air con runs the whole night now. But no A/C when I drink tea, I just want to feel the breeze of a fan.

Yesterday, however, I chose to drink my old Baozhong from the 60's, a tea almost as black as coffee. Maybe I got tired of the green tea and wanted some change in my routine. The result surprised even myself. The mellow warmth of this old tea, baked anew year after year, calmed me down. And when you're calm, you also cool down.

Wednesday, July 13, 2005

Premiers colis de thé

Ouf! J'ai envoyé hier mes 2 premiers colis de thé aux premiers lecteurs de mon blog à avoir envie d'essayer ma sélection de thés. Un troisième colis suivra après-demain. Ils partent vers la France et les USA. Je suis heureux de créer cette expérience commune avec ces lecteurs les plus fidèles de mon blog. Tous des vrais fans de thé. L'une tient d'ailleurs également un blog de thé (elle parle de sa commande dans son article Puerh & Margaritas), et une autre est, tenez-vous bien, patronne d'un magasin de thé!

J'imagine qu'ils sont impatients de recevoir leur colis. Moi je le suis au moins autant de lire leurs commentaires et leurs impressions! Je pense vraiment leur avoir envoyé du thé de tout premier choix, car je les ai découvert au fil de mes leçons avec Teaparker. Je me demande s'ils ont déjà bu de tels thés. On le saura bientôt!

Avant mon blog, c'était simplement rendre compte de mon expérience du thé. Maintenant, avec ces colis, mon blog va devenir un endroit de discussion sur mes thés préférés. Il sera plus facile de communiquer ensemble ayant la même expérience avec les mêmes thés. Pas tout à fait exact non plus. On ne traverse jamais deux fois la même rivière, dit le philosophe, et chaque dégustation d'un thé est un événement unique. C'est aussi ça le mystère et la force du thé, il n'est pas un objet de consommation répliqué des milliers ou millions de fois. Le (bon) thé nous donne à chaque fois des émotions uniques et personnelles.

Tuesday, July 12, 2005

Oolong Tea from the Golden Triangle

During my latest class with Teaparker, we tasted high mountain oolong tea Teaparker just brought back from Burma. I would like to call it a libertea, but this great name is already taken by an online merchant. Why? Because this tea is made by the Chinese Wa clan. They are what remains of the Nationalist army of the Yunnan province which chose to escape to Burma's high and inpenetrable mountains rather than surrender to the Communists in 1948/1949. This fact should earn them the esteem of many in the free world. Unfortunately, the burmese junta (still in place) never allowed them to settle down in the low lands. They had to keep hiding and sometimes fighting in the mountains west of Yunnan. For a long time, their only real source of income there was opium! Yes, probably like in underdeveloped Afghanistan, they had to turn to poppies in order to survive autonomously at 1500 to 2000 meters altitude.

But they want to come out clean, now! After unprofitable attempts with other crops, they are trying now to make a living with high mountain oolong tea. Teaparker has visited them and posted an article with pictures on his site. They started 4-5 years ago and can produce 20 tons of tea per year now. Their equipment is the same as in Taiwan and the trees, too. That's because a few ROC (Republic of China - Taiwan) tea farmers have agreed to help them and invest there. One such experienced farmer is also there to manage the plant where the leaves are processed.

We tasted 2 of their latest teas of 2005: the summer oolong (right) and the spring oolong (left in the gaiwan). You can see at the large size of the leaves that the elevation of the plantation is high (1700 meters approx.) We compared them with oolong from neighbour Thailand and found it already superior.

The dry leaves of the summer oolong looked quite dark. The dry smell reminded me of lavender! Unfortunately, summer is not the best season for oolong and the tea was indeed more astringent than what I'm used to.

Their spring oolong (above) displayed much better characteristics. The leaves are of a nice green and display a low level of oxidation. Smell was pleasant, but not exceptional. The yun, the aftertaste in the mouth and throat, was weak but could be improved by using a clay teapot. While not on the same level as good high mountain oolong from Taiwan, this tea does have some of its characteristics.

Teaparker has asked me to see if there is a foreign distributor interested in selling this tea as Golden Triangle oolong in North America or in Europe. He wants to help these very poor Chinese escape the dangers of the drug business. Just write to me and I'll give you his contact email. I would help make initial contacts, but I wouldn't take part in the actual business or make any money from it.

There are several ways I can think of to promote this tea:
- "Grown on former poppy fields, this oolong will make you high" Market: former junkies,
- "Drink Golden Triangle Oolong, the Freedom tea". Market: Republican neo-conservative,
- "Golden Triangle Oolong: quench your thirst and help the poorest tea growers". Market: Left wing Demorat.
- "Proven 100% environment friendly and no chemicals added: Golden Triangle Oolong." Market: Green party (They can't afford chemicals and only use natural cow shit as fertilizer!)
- "Say no to drugs, say yes to Golden Triangle Oolong". Market: Concerned parents.

Just don't do what Chinese businessmen will probably do (or are already doing) with this tea: "Cheap Taiwan high mountain oolong!" A latest report on TV this weekend said that 70-80% of Taiwan's tea contains foreign tea from China, Vietnam(..) to cut costs! It goes without saying that I go through the trouble to buy my teas only from the most trusted sources I can find!

Monday, July 11, 2005

Sorry! No time for a long post today. Instead, here is a preview of 2 very fine things I'll report on in more detail soon: a 1985 Tuo Cha (250 gr) made of first grade pu er. Hummmm... and a fine Yixing teapot.

Friday, July 08, 2005

Un oolong du Triangle d'Or

Teaparker, l'Indiana Jones du thé, s'est rendu de Kunming jusqu'en Birmanie, la semaine dernière. Il n'a pu y rester qu'une journée, mais quelle journée!

Les Taiwanais n'ont pas le droit de se rendre en Birmanie. Un intermédiaire Chinois dut d'abord convaincre (payer) les douaniers pour le laisser entrer. Leur condition: qu'il revienne dans la journée.

Passé la grande cabane en briques qui sert de douane, il monta dans un 4x4 aux roues d'un mètre 50 au moins. Il faillit se sentir mal, car commença alors un trajet de 3 heures sur une voie inexistante et pleine de trous. Ca n'arrêtait pas de tanguer comme sur une mer démontée.

Enfin, il arriva dans le village principal du clan Wa. Ils ne sont pas Birmans, mais Chinois d'Yunnan. Ils sont les descendants de l'armée nationaliste chinoise de Chiang Kai Shek qui combattit les communistes. Kunming tombée aux mains de Mao, ils préférèrent se replier dans les impénétrables montagnes birmanes plutôt que de devenir prisonniers des communistes. Maintenant, ils ont le statut d'aborigènes pour le gouvernement birman. Un peuple oublié.

Teaparker alla inspecter les plantations de thé que les Wa ont commencé à cultiver il y a 4/5 ans. Il vit notamment des enfants très pauvres récolter le thé. Puis, il inspecta leur manufacture. Bâtiment neuf et les mêmes équipements que l'on trouve à Taiwan. Et pour cause: quelques planteurs taiwanais se sont associés avec les Wa pour cultiver du oolong dans cette région située entre 1500 et 1700 mètres environ.

Puis, Teaparker alla rendre visite au chef du clan, fils (si je me rappelle bien) du général Chinois qui refusa de se rendre. Il continue à entretenir une petite armée à lui pour défendre son clan. Mais avec quel argent, me demanderez-vous? Avec celui de l'opium cultivé dans le Triangle d'Or, car payé en or, autrefois. Mais il veut changer et arrêter le business de la drogue. Après des essais infructueux avec d'autres cultures (sucre) il veut maintenant essayer avec le thé.

Ce n'est qu'à 2/3 heures du matin que Teaparker passa la frontière chinoise après un nouveau voyage en 4x4. Il échappa de peu à endoscopie, souvent pratiquée pour dénicher les passeurs de drogue. Tous ses bagages furent fouillés au plus près. Heureusement, c'est bien du thé qu'il avait reçu de son hôte. Un peu de poudre blanche et il serait déjà en train de boire avec Lu Yu!

Pour en savoir plus sur la géopolitique du triangle d'or, j'ai trouvé ce lien. Il parle des Wa ici en anglais.

Thursday, July 07, 2005

Thé vert de Kunming: un pu er vert vert!

Maitre Teaparker était à Kunming et nous a ramené 2 paquets de thé vert de la région. Ces feuilles sont les mêmes que celles qui font le pu er, sauf qu'elles ont subi le processus sans fermentation du thé vert. Il a choisi les parmi les feuilles les plus chères et les plus jeunes. Voyez comme elles sont petites, velues et blanches!

Et une fois infusées, on dirait qu'elles retrouvent toute leur vie!

Point de l'odeur, j'étais étonné de retrouver une grande similarité (en plus pur et frais) avec la galette de yunnan qizi bing cha 2004 vu et bu il y a 2 semaines. Comme quoi le pressage en galette n'altère pas tellement l'odeur verte du pu er!

Wednesday, July 06, 2005

Faking old Pu Er

The first obvious trick is to transform green in black pu er by fermenting the cake at full speed, that means with lots of water and at high temperatures. Methods vary. It can be done by the producer with his tea before pressing it to a cake or by the middleman who sprays water on the face of the cake to let mold appear within a week.

Then, the forger will make the wrapping paper look older and worn off. Printing the same characters is the easier part. Some sun tan and rough handling in a cool dryer will make the paper look old, I guess. But how about the little holes in the paper? Teaparker told us this secret too: spray some water mixed with a little sugar on the paper and place it where some ants pass by. Within a few days they will have completed the job. The older you want it, the more sugar you add. Et voilà!

But there is one thing the forger have not paid much attention, yet. It's the bamboo leaves that wrap the qi zi bing, the seven round pu er cakes. Teaparker showed us a picture of a real 80 to 100 year old pu er package. -It belonged to a very old Chinese who had already passed away. The tea was not for sale and the person was not a tea merchant. This makes is credible.- What we noticed is that the bamboo leaves also presented signs of aging. Like the wrapping paper, they too started to be 'bitten away' by time. But what was more striking was their color: gold brown, like what one expects old wood to look like. They were shining under the sun as if they had been polished!

The whole lesson became even more interesting when he then took a taiwanese book about old pu er. Here were pictures of pu er claiming to be 40, 50, 60 years old. More interesting then the tea itself was the picture of the bamboo leaves. The tea did look old, but the bamboo leaves looked as young as the leaves from this 2001 chi zi cakes.

So, another way to authentify an old pu er cake (except using Carbon 14) is to look at the bamboo leaves containing the cakes. I hope this trick stays between us. Don't tell the seller of fake old pu er how you saw it's fake! Just walk away grcefully! Even if he's also a victim of his supplier, he might complain to him and pass the information to the forger. They would then age the bamboo leaves too!

Tuesday, July 05, 2005

3 in 1 bamboo tea tray/box/basket

A fellow blog reader recently asked me to look for a medium sized bamboo tea tray. Since she was interested in my pu er, I readily agreed to explore Taiwan's market for bamboo trays. They are mostly produced in NanTou County in a place -wouldn’t you know it?- called Zhu Shan, bamboo mountain. But, like for every thing, there are also lots of Chinese made trays of lesser quality. By the way, last weekend, Taiwan TV news reported that in China even chicken eggs are copied!!! They cost half less to produce!

So, as I looked for a nice, Taiwan made, tray, I stumbled upon this beautiful 3 in 1 bamboo artifact.

1. It can be used as a solid basket to carry your tea set (teapot, cups, tea) on a trip. It would be perfect to brew tea, like I did Saturday (this yesterday's post), on top of a mountain or during a picnic.

2. You can use it as a box to gather a few teapots and cups. With its nice carvings, you may even want to display the box in your home. It will be very difficult to resist opening it up!

3. And of course, it can be used as a normal tray with filter to brew your tea and with the top to use it as a tray for the guest's cups.

The dimensions are 32 cm long x 22 cm large x 24 cm high. It weighs 2 kg.

Updated on November 24, 2006: The above tray is replaced by this improved version:

A green cloth with handles makes it easier to transport it around and to protect it against shocks:

The carving is a little different, and a black rectangular line has been added on top of the box.
The cover can be used as a service tray when you flip it upside down:
You can use it to display your teaware on top of the box:
And, of course, you can also use it as a regular tea tray to perform your gongfu cha: