Thursday, March 29, 2007

Yi Xing Teapots

Mary R., a fellow tea enthusiast has just purchased a few YiXing teapots, so I thought that I would talk about them for just a bit :) I am sure that some of you who read my blog are well-seasoned (pun intended) on this topic. However, for those of you who are not, YiXing teapots are made of a special clay called Zisha which is only found in YiXing China, and thus the name.

What makes zisha clay so special?

Zisha clay is said to be seasoned when the clay has absorbed the tea essences as a result of the tea oils adhering to the teapot walls with continuous use. It this tea patina which is said to create the ultimate brew. In fact, some brewers suggest that this brewing method is so superior to that of others, they will exclusivly brew their teas only in YiXing teapots.

For further information on YiXing teapots, please refer to Guang's blog at who is an expert on all things tea. Don't forget to also visit Mary R's blog PalaTabilitea, which is one of the most entertaining and cleverly written tea blogs out there at

My YiXing Teapots

One very important note. YiXing pots must be well cared for. The clay is very porous and will absorb almost any smell that the pot comes in contact with, and in order for you to be able to use your pots for years to come, you must properly clean and store them. Keep them in an area away from foul smells and where oils may be lingering in the air such as in the kitchen. I personally keep mine in cotton bags in a closet. Furthermore, never use soaps or detergents to clean your YiXing. The videos below will show you a good way to "open" and clean your Yixing pots. For those of you who do not know what "opening" your teapot does, it removes the dust from the clay pores with the hope of filling them with tea oil. This is said to start the seasoning process much faster than it would otherwise. ENJOY!

-Note- As a consequence of the video being more than 5 minutes long, it abruptly cuts off. However, the person was shown placing a handful of tea leaves in the boiling pot and continues boiling the teapot in the leaves for another 30 minutes. After the 30 minutes, she removes the pot, rinsing it and then placing it in a well ventilated area to dry.

"Opening" Your YiXing Teapot

Cleaning Your YiXing Teapot

Friday, March 23, 2007

MengHai Lao Cha Tuo (Old Tea Nugget) 250g

Comming across this product while reading a post in the
LJ Community, there seems to have been some indecision as to whether or no this product is worth drinking. This really aroused my curiosity so I decided to buy, try and make my own judgement.

Product Research

As a consequence of the heat and pressure generated during the wo dui (ripening) process, a percentage of the fermented leaves will amass and take the form of little nuggets, which are said to be found near and at the bottom of the pile. After the shou is compiled, it is then fed into a disperser that sorts the leaves according to size, which are then subsequently pressed in to zhuan cha (brick tea). MengHai states that the leaves used in this product are 2 to 4 years old.

Initial Impresssion

This example does not look like any ripe zhuan cha that I have ever examined. When you look at it closely, you can see the tiny "nuggets". Nice color, smell and very
hard in texture.

Brewing Parameters

Bottle spring water, generic brand. Source of water Lafayette Springs, WS

Amount – 5g

Water temp - Boil

Method - Gongfu/2 washes

Brewing Vessle - Yixing Teapot 150ml

Infusion times

Tasting Notes

Aroma - The aroma was not lingering nor was it very intriguing. But of course you have to remember that it is shou.

Taste - The liquor was was somewhat malty with a sweet palate. Very smooth with virtually no bitterness. Not very complex however.

Overall Impresssions

Well to be frank, I was not impressed. It lacked the flavors, which I "personally" enjoy and felt that it was a little flat, with little viscosity. It is recommended that you use hot, and I mean hot water in order to extract any of the tea essence, as the nuggets are tightly formed. Perhaps I need to make the water boil for each infusion.

It is somewhat sweet, smooth with a hint of malt which could be a great choice for someone who wants to gradually enter the realm of shou. Would be ok for an everyday drinker. A delicate drink.

-Session Note-

As you can see, I did not give as an in-depth analysis on the product. I felt that it was not warrented as there was really no compexity to it and the taste did not develop, but only got weaker.

Tuesday, March 20, 2007

What I wish I knew when I started Collecting?

The ageing poten-tial of pu-erh tea is a topic that is often discussed among Pu-erh collectors. With the invested time it takes to age pu-erh, collectors undoubtedly want to invest in products which will provide a great return, both in flavor and in value. However, there are no easy formulas that collectors can employ which will simplify this task. For the most part, collectors have to rely on their taste and past successes to select a potential aging pu-erh candidate, and for some who are just starting out on their pu-erh collecting journey, their first foray into collecting can create much confusion and anxiety. With terms such as leaf grade, recipe codes, factory codes, sheng, shou, it is enough to make any novice’s head spin.

In the past, pu-erh was considered a "regular" commodity, and was meant to be drunk and enjoyed as part of daily life. The concept of pu-erh collecting did not start until much later. As a result, most early Hao (factories) had access to the finest leaves since the demand for pu-erh was not there. Interestingly however, we currently do not know what types of leaves were used in the early commercial production of pu-erh.

Why is this important you might ask?

After the Chinese Revolution and its subsequent planned economy, the Chinese Government had only allowed the use of plantation leaves for pu-erh production. As a result, the use of wild arbor leaves for pu-erh production was very uncommon. However, in the late ‘90s when the China National Native Produce and Animal By-Products Import and Export Corporation (CNNP), recognized a domestic surge in the demand for pu-erh tea, the CNNP felt it prudent to relax its tea ingredient directive allowing pu-erh manufactures to incorporate other materials into their stocks other than the sanctioned plantations leaves.

Currently, there is a trend for pu-erh factories to use wild arbor leaves in their productions. However, what concerns a number of pu-erh collectors is the uncertainty associated with using such leaves. As of now it is not known whether wild arbor leaves have the capacity for aging. Of course this is not to suggest that there aren’t any current prospects which are showing great aging potential; in fact there are many! Nonetheless, it is still not known if they can successfully reach the age of that of their predecessors. We can only wait and see.

Another interesting development in pu-erh production is the increasing practice of factories producing pu-erh entirely made of silver buds leaves. When it comes to pu-erh, "white pu-erh" is a totally foreign concept that had its inception around 5 or 6 years ago. However, as in the case of wild arbor leaves, its aging potential is yet to be determined. What is certain is that this practice has created two very opposing and different opinions. Some argue that silver bud pu-erhs are not well suited for long term ageing; suggesting that white pu-erh will lack in flavor and complexity to fully age. Others will suggest that silver bud pu-erh will age just fine, and its delicate flavors can mature. Of course the jury is still out, and IMHO, I am quite skeptical that it will have the necessary ingredients to fully reach maturity with the complexity needed to be a great pu-erh. Nonetheless, you can find them cheap so why not get a few ;)

What of leaf grade?

Leaf grade should be a no brainier when it comes to the potential for aging right? All you have to remember is that the lower the grade the better the pu-erh. Right? WRONG!

There are currently 10 leaf grades with the lower numbers representing finer, younger leaves while the higher numbers represent leaves which are older and less tender. For the most part, factories will blend different grades from different areas to produce a nice tasting pu-erh. The concept is no different than when Lipton blends teas to produce a consistent flavor. Leaf grade should only be used as a guide for selecting pu-erhs. A person would be selling themselves terribly short if they only decided to buy pu-erh strictly according to leaf grade.

There are a number of pu-erhs on the market which are made of higher grade leaves that are currently prized and sought after by collectors. For example, the MengHai’s 7572 , 8582 and 8592 are now showing great promise making these recipes a must have for any collection. In addition, the 7562 and the 7581 (ripe) brick teas from the MengHai and the KunMing factories are consistently getting better with age and are now commanding a hefty price for older examples.

What of the year 2004?

What is so special about the year 2004? Well, many pu-erh collectors will suggest that 2004 was the turning point for pu-erh - unfortunately for the bad. Before 2004, pu-erh was still relatively enjoyed only by the inhabitants of Tibet and Yunnan China and did not have the world appeal as it does today. I mean think about it, I’m sitting here in Minnesota writing about pu-erh!

Before 2004 the majority of pu-erh factories still had the capability of producing pu-erh made of the highest quality ingredients with ease. However, as result of pu-erh’s new popularity, factories have to, well to use a bad drug analogy, they have to “cut” their recipes in order to produce the quantity needed to meet the demand. As a result, some collectors will suggest that pu-erh made after 2004 will not be of the caliber to that of previous years. I have to do a bit more research on the veracity of these claims and will post my findings on future post.

Confused Yet? Well don’t be.

The only thing you can really do is learn from peoples' past mistakes. Pu-erh collecting is not a hobby where making mistakes can be considered a learning experience. Waiting 10 years to find out that your beeng or tuocha is not developing is definitely a big waste of resources. This is not to suggest that you shouldn’t buy a particular product for the fear of buying something not worth aging; to the contrary. What I am saying is - buy wisely. Here are a few tips which I have learned from collectors that I currently use to buy:

1. Do your research. You need to ask yourself some very specific questions when you buy. Find out what a factory has to offer in quality. Do they have examples of past successes? Have they won any awards for their efforts? Is their any buzz comming out of Yunnan and HongKong that is making a buzz? What are tea merchants saying about a particular product? Where were the leaves harvests? When were the leaves harvested? Remember some areas are more famous than others for a reason.

2. Buy time proven recipes. Usually, but not always factories will use a code to inform the consumer which blend they are buying. Recipes like 7432 7532 7581 and so forth have been around for thirty years or so. What should this tell you? It should tell you that the recipe is consistent and worth buying or the factories would have stopped producing it.

3. Test the product – Try to obtain a sample of a product that you are exploring and ask yourself: Does it taste good? Is it really swampy or fishy? Does it have a nice bitterness? Did the color, taste and aroma become weaker after only a few infusions?

In summary, I would like to say that collecting is a great joy and it is not meant to stress you out! When you become frustrated,
~ Just remember that its just tea~


Chan Kam Pong "First Steps To Chinese Pu-erh"
Email Conversation with Houde Asian Art
Pu-erh, A Westerners Quest - Mike Petro
Puerh Cha -

Thursday, March 15, 2007

MengHai DaYi 0622 Beeng Cha 375g

MengHai Factory DaYi Brand has introduced a new recipe for 2006 - the 0622. This MengHai product is quite unique in that it's an amalgamation of two very popular pu-erh recipes, the 92 Fang Cha (Brick Tea) and the 7532.

After winning second prize and the silver medal at the 13th annual Shanghai National Tea Culture Competition it has found favor within the pu-erh community. As a result, collectors and drinkers alike are speculating that prices for the 0622 will soar in the near future.

Initial Inspection

The 0622 is said to be made according to to the traditional method consisting of drying, kneading, steaming and its subsquent molding.

The mao cha is the correct size; thin and tiny. There is no doubt that the recipe is made of a second grade leaf blend. It has a nice active and clean scent; slightly floral with just a faint hint of smoke which is barely noticable. The beeng's compaction is not as hard as other '06 Menghai products that I have tried thus far. Although harder in the center, the edges seem to break off nicely. This brittleness will allow it to age nicely!

Brewing Parameters

Source - Dragon Tea House (Ebay Vendor)

Water-Bottled spring water. Source of water - Frontier Springs, PA

Amount – 5g

Water Temp - Boil then cooled for 3 breaths

Brewing Method - Gongfu

Brewing Vessle - Yixing Teapot 150ml

Infusion times

First Infusion

Aroma - Slightly metallic, with floral notes although not very lingering.

Taste - Young assertiveness is present, slightly bitter. Hard to separate flavors. Sadly to say, it is not very intriguing.

Color - Beautiful yellow hue. Crystal clear as it should be for a beeng of this caliber.

Second Infusion

Aroma - Metallic notes have waned some. Floral notes are a bit more noticable. Has a faint fruity aroma though not very concentrated - in fact it goes as fast as it comes.

Taste - Wow! More bitterness accompanied with a slight vegetation undertone. The flavor has become a bit more thick and lingering. Not very captivating.

Color - Still yellow with a flutter of amber. Clarity still present.

Third Infusion

Aroma - Floral notes are now quite faint. There still seems to be a hint of an indescribable sour-fruitiness. Interesting.

Taste - The bitterness has waned considerably. Vegetation notes still noticable. Still thick and lingering, however nothing really out of the ordinary.

Color - Consistent as last with no noticable change.

Color Differential of 6th Infusion

Spent Leaves

Nice plantation leaves of 2nd, and 3rd grades. As you can see they were exposed to a limited firing process as they are not very "bruised".

Overall Impressions

I was not impressed and expected more out of a silver medal winner. Although the beeng did create a clean taste and had its moments, it really lacked in oomph. Its infusions were just not very inspiring. It had a fragile aroma and its liqour was flat. I am sure that it will age nicely and gain character, however, in its present state, its a snoozer of a Gongfu session.

Prices for the 0622 are climbing and have surpassed the $16 USD that I had paid. In all honesty, your money would be better spent on something else. In my opinnion, it did not live up to the buzz at all. AM I MISSING SOMETHING!

My only recommendation would be to store and age them as I will do with all of mine and wait and wait and wait and then see. ARGHH!!

-An imporant note- I did use a different spring water. There could be a slight chance that the the water is weak in mineral content, and it is known that soft water will create a weak liqour. If this is the case, I am quite leery that it will improve the aroma. I will brew it again with different water and post my results.


Salsero, a fellow tea enthusiast had motivated me to have a chemist friend do some analysis and evaluation on the water that I had used for this particular gongfu session. After evaluating a sample of the water, the results showed that it's mineral content was somewhat lower in content than the brand of water that I had been using on a regular basis, particularly its calcium and sodium content. Well to make a long story short, my friend readjusted the water with a bit of gypsum and sodium bicarbonate to what is comparble in in nature, and VOILA it did the trick! It REALLY made the difference. The water adjustment had brought out more flavors! The flavors are the same as they were in my review, however, they were more noticable and lasted a bit longer on the palate. The adjustment didn't help the aroma much as I had suspected. But nonetheless, it was a significant improvement - and with all pu-erhs, it will improve more with age.

Monday, March 12, 2007

Simao Changing City Name To That Of Famous Tea

BEIJING, -- No specialties in China have ever been so flattered as to serve as a city's name. That is until now, with a type of tea.

With approval from the State Council, Pu'er is to replace Simao as the name of the tea-growing city in Southwest China's Yunnan Province. According to the city's publicity bureau, the city will be officially renamed in April at the forthcoming Pu'er Tea Culture Festival.

Bureau sources have given two reasons for the name change.

First, it is a historical regression. The government of the Qing Dynasty (1644-1911) first established an administrative zone named Pu'er Tea zone in 1729, which gradually developed into Pu'er County until the central government named it Simao in the 1980s.

The second reason is to promote production and sales of the local Pu'er tea in a bid to compete with several other cities including Kunming, which also produce Pu'er tea.

With half of the city's population engaged in Pu'er tea production, the sales value of the Pu'er tea reached 80 million yuan (10.25 million U.S. dollars) last year in Simao.

The city wants tea sales to reach 500 million yuan (64.1 million dollars) by 2010.

It has even invested 100 million yuan (12.82 million dollars) to build a large-scale Pu'er Tea Garden a sort of a living museum.

Located in southwest Yunnan and bordering Vietnam, Laos and Myanma, Simao bridges China with the rest of Southeast Asia.

Tea from here is traditionally made with leaves from a variety of old wild tea trees known as "broad leaf tea trees", and it is typically available as loose leaf or as cakes of compacted tea.

It is enjoyed for its mellow taste and medicinal qualities, and is often referred to as a "drinkable antique". The older, the more fragrant and tasty it becomes, the more it costs.

Last month in Guangzhou, capital of Guangdong Province, 100 grams of the prized 60-year-old Pu'er tea sold for 300,000 yuan (38,400 dollars).

Pu'er tea has been popular among investors in China's Hong Kong, Macao, Taiwan, Japan, and the Republic of Korea since the 1970s.

Source: China Daily
Editor: Jiang Yuxia

Thursday, March 8, 2007

The Living Tea

The young pu-erh needs to be nurtured and cared for. Its youthful essence can challenge the soul. It will shout and demand your attention, testing your limits with its adolescent bitterness. However, with patients and understanding it will ask you for forgiveness and make you smile with its floral and honey notes.

The mature pu-erh will show its well deserved complexity. Its notes which were once reminiscent of meadow grass, the orchids of spring, and the brassiness of youth are now replaced with a sincere and mature woodiness. Now strong and bold with the urge to make a statement; it is proud to be known as refined.

The antique pu-erh has battled many seasons and has absorbed the winds of its circumstances. As the victor in the challenge of time, it displays its aged leaves from a generation gone with honor and grace. It has grown into twilight with no complaints, and nothing more to prove. It is joyful to tell you where it has been and the lives it has touched. A story of wisdom in every sip.

Saturday, March 3, 2007

"Spring Of MengHai" Chi Tse Beeng Cha 400g

"The Spring of Menghai' Chi Tse Beeng Cha is among one of the highest quality raw Pu-erhs that the Menghai Tea Factory currently produces. After its first introduction in 2005 and its subsequent success the MengHai Factory has decided to produce it again for 2006.

The "Spring of MengHai" is made from unblended early spring raw materials from the famous forrest of Xishuangbanna. Tender leaves are plucked from centuries old Wild Arbor trees, sun-dried, steamed (to make them soft) and subsequently pressed to a lovely beeng. Intrestingly, the Spring of MengHai was also produced with a sister beeng as the MengHai Factory does at times with its premium products - the “Star of Menghai”, a ripe beeng Cha.

Initial Inspection

As you will notice, the beeng was not accompanied with a recipe code since it is made of unblended mao cha.

The beeng does not smell of smoke whatsoever. It smells almost like a Japanese Sencha! The beeng is extremely hard which will make it more difficult to age. The leaves all seem nice and regular with a mixture of silver tender buds and broad type leaves.

Brewing Parameters

Source - Dragon Tea House (Ebay Vendor)

Water-Bottle spring water, generic brand. Source of water Lafayette Springs, WS

Amount – 5g

Water Temp - Boil then cooled for 3 breaths

Method - Gongfu

Brewing Vessle - Yixing Teapot 150ml

Infusion times

First Infusion

Aroma - Prounounced honey, with a floral background; no smoke.

Taste - No "young" aggressiveness at all. Sweet with a slightly bitter, and lingering finish.

Second Infusion

Aroma - I have smelled this wonderful permeating honey before! - the YanChing Hao pu-erh beeng! Although not as floral, the similarities are definitely there! The YanChing Hao is an ultra premium beeng that commands a premium price (for a further descrption please visit pu-erh section). The honey laden aroma is now mingling with a sweet grass note.

Taste - Still nicely sweet and floral - bold! Intrestingly, there is no added bitterness that can at time accompany the second infusion but only the same invigorating tease! Still no smoke. There is now a nice undertone of dried apricots. Exceptionally refreshing!

Third Infusion

As you can see, there is no change in color after the third infusion

Aroma - Similar to the first and second infusions with its honey and floral notes. However, there seems to be more of a metallic whiff as it cools. Nice!

Taste - Clean and lingering finish, still pleasantly bitter-sweet on the tongue with the floral and dried apricots cascading through.

Spent Leaves

Nice early, healthy leaves. Since this is my first "Spring of Menghai" beeng cha, I really have no comment.

Overall Impressions

If you enjoy the taste of young pu-erh but not its astrigency, then I would defnitely recommend getting the Spring of MengHai. It was a delightful brew; both refreshing and quenching. The subsequent brews for the most part all had honey, dried apricots and sweet floral notes. What's not to love! Although fantastic to drink now, it will age nicely as all of the indicators were there.

Home Set Up

Tea should be simple. I typically brew gongfu except when I make a good English Breakfast. Zhuni pot is one that I dedicate to Chinese b...