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! 

Saturday, December 19, 2020

Je rêve de Picasso

Il avait les traits de Anthony Hopkins (qui interpreta l'artiste dans un film en 1996!) et c'était l'ami de ma mère! Et dans mon rêve, je me suis dit: "Chouette! je vais pouvoir faire un Chaxi avec Picasso! Ce sera la consécration!" Et quand je me suis réveillé, j'ai fait ce Chaxi-ci avec ce quilt de ma mère! 

OK, ce n'est pas une oeuvre d'art du calibre de Picasso, loin de là! Je ne casse aucun code, sauf celui qui voudrait que le gongfu cha se présente dans une esthétique chinoise! Mais mon Hung Shui Oolong était délicieux, son infusion a une couleur et un éclat quasi hypnotique!
Même si le rêve ne se réalise pas entièrement (pas de Picasso), j'en retiens l'envie de beauté et de dépassement. 

Tuesday, December 15, 2020

A Xmas Chaxi to explain the concept of Chaxi

The Chaxi is a universal concept that can be applied to all cultures. If you missed my live online tea class last Friday night, watch the video (and press 'like' if you want to see more such classes):

Cérémonie, dégustation, session, art de thé? C'est quoi le Chaxi? J'illustre la réponse à cette question par un Chaxi de Noël! C'est d'ailleurs dans l'esprit du Chaxi où la pratique doit rejoindre la théorie. Voici mon cours de samedi dernier sur ma chaine YouTube: Merci de 'liker' la vidéo si vous voulez que je continue à en faire.

Friday, December 11, 2020

Christmas Chaxi: my next tea class

Join me tonight at 7:30 PM (Eastern US time) on my Facebook page for a Live tea class video. I want to use the Christmas season to explain the modern meaning of Chaxi and show that it can be applied universally! And since it's a season of gratitude and gifts, I will again give my viewers a chance to win a great prize, a Chabu! The first person who will give me the right answer in the comment section will receive the Chabu. (Some rules: No need to purchase anything. Past winners are invited to give others a chance. And to participate, you have to live in a country where I can send the item via Airmail). 

Thursday, December 10, 2020

Trouvé dans la contemplation

Ce titre fait écho au dernier vers du troisième poème de Du Fu (poèmes de jeunesse aux éditions Les Belles Lettres). Plusieurs vers de ce poème résonnent avec cet Oolong Beauté Orientale dans les monts du Wenshan. Du Fu parle de "la vue offerte par la Tour du sud :

les volutes de nuages relient l'océan au Taishan,

surplombant des champs verdoyants à l'infini"

Certes, ce lieu ne permet pas de voir l'océan, mais il est à moins de 20 km d'ici! Les nuages blancs ont leur origine là-bas. Et, même en cette fin d'automne, les forêts subtropicales et les plantations de Oolong restent vertes à perte de vue! C'est ce qui m'étonne toujours le plus à Taiwan: les hivers sont verts!
Dans ce pavillon dominant ce paysage grandiose, je n'ai qu'une envie: déguster des thés à la mesure de ce lieu. Après un Wenshan Baozhong de printemps pour communier avec le terroir, j'ai donc infuser un OB de cet automne pour communier avec la saison et me réchauffer en cette fin d'après-midi!  
Ce thé Oolong à forte oxydation de Hsin Chu est fait avec le cultivar le plus approprié pour ce thé, le qingxin dapang. C'est pourquoi, il a un équilibre entre senteurs et goût. Et comme ses feuilles aux 5 couleurs (son autre nom chinois) sont très belles, il y en a pour les 3 sens principaux du thé!
Il est à peine 15h30, mais le soleil va bientôt disparaitre derrière la montagne. Et là, ce sont les deux derniers vers du même poème de Du Fu qui résonnent:

"Que de vestiges antiques nous ont été légués!

Seul j'hésite à partir, perdu dans la contemplation."

Ce thé et les accessoires de mon Chaxi sont clairement des héritiers de la riche histoire du thé chinois. La porcelaine remonte aux Han de l'Est, le thé aux Tang, ce thé en particulier à l'occupation japonaise (1895-1945), le gaiwan aux Ming, le Nilu blanc et le panier d'osier aux Qing...

On pourrait aussi boire une canette de soda ou une boisson aux arômes artificiels pour se désaltérer en ce lieu. Mais ce serait rater une occasion de célébrer la culture du thé et de faire vivre ce riche héritage que des générations ont perfectionné et nous ont légué! 

Au lieu de me sentir perdu dans une modernité coupée d'un passé à l'abandon, en ruines, j'éprouve une satisfaction de trouver dans le thé les racines d'un sentiment poétique universel. La beauté du Chaxi est un moyen d'exalter cette satisfaction et de célébrer quotidiennement, dans notre vie présente, la gratitude pour ces legs du passé!
Du Fu se sent perdu car il voit que le lien entre le passé et son présent est coupé. Grâce au thé, nous pouvons faire l'expérience inverse et chaque belle et bonne coupe de thé que nous infusons est un homage à cette longue tradition.

TeaMasters Tea Class: brewing in a Qianlong era Yixing zisha teapot

In case you missed my weekly online tea class on Facebook Live, here is the video in which I present the oldest teapot in my collection. It dates back to the Qianlong era (1735-1796)! And after the presentation, I even show you how I brew my mid 1980s sheng loose puerh in this teapot!
Congratulations to Merv who won this week's prize. Join me this week for a new class about Chaxi and see a live Advent Chaxi demo. Also, get a chance to win a Chabu!

Voici ci-dessous la vidéo de mon cours de thé en français, au cours duquel je présente la plus ancienne théière d'Yixing de ma collection. Elle date d'avant la révolution française! Puis, je vous montre comment je l'utilise pour infuser un puerh gushu en vrac d'Yiwu de 1990! Samedi matin (heure française), j'espère avoir l'occasion de faire un nouveau cours sur le concept de Chaxi et de l'illustrer par un Chaxi de l'Avent. A cette occasion, vous aurez l'occasion de gagner un Chabu en provenance exclusive de ma boutique en ligne!

Wednesday, December 02, 2020

TeaMasters tea class: Celadon porcelain

Song dynasty Yaozhou celadon bowl, National Palace Museum

In case you missed my weekly online tea class on Facebook Live, here is the video about Celadon Porcelain. I discuss the historic origins, the characteristics, the uses and the beauty of celadon teaware. And I show 3 celadon antiques from my 3 different dynasties from my personal collection. I congratulate Heidi Jo for winning a sample of spring 2020 Tian Chi Oolong. She answered correctly the question " When did celadon porcelain mature enough to stop being considered proto-porcelain?" The answer is... given during the class. Join me this Friday evening for a new tea class and another chance to win a tea from the Tea-Masters boutique!
Si vous avez raté ma classe sur la porcelaine céladon, samedi matin dernier, je vous invite à la voir sur Youtube. Ce mois-ci, lors de chaque vidéo en direct, j'offre un échantillon de thé à la personne qui répondra correctement en premier à une question ayant trait au cours. Ce samedi, c'est Benoit qui a su de quelle précieuse le céladon s'inspire! Cela lui a permis de gagner 25 gr d'Oolong de haute montagne de Tian Chi du printemps 2020!
Spoiler alert: dans cette vidéo, je fais une bourde énorme et mets de l'eau partout! Si vous voulez rire de moi, distrait qui perd maitrise et concentration, profitez-en! Et à samedi matin prochain pour un nouveau cours de thé en direct et une nouvelle chance de gagner un thé de la boutique Tea-Masters!