Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Japan – making the Tea PLAN CHANGED

Maccha .. for the classic Tea Ceremony

Here is collection ready to set out on my quest. (PLAN B pictures later.. read on)

Tea Bowl
Bamboo Whisk
Tea Container
Tea Scoop and Tea Dipper
I’ll concentrate on getting the tea to yield a taste I like.
This accomplished, I’ll see if I can improve my ceremony skills.
My hotel balcony will be my substitute tea garden come tea house.

Just as I set out to set up my tea house .. all hell broke loose.
Despite its 5 star rating ..
Today! was the day to start repairs on the superstructure and naturally my "Tea House" (balcony) was in the line of fire ...shrapnel everywhere...

RESET .. for now I'll make SENCHA Cha
Most popular of Japanese green teas. This particular one is a middle of the road in price/quality.
I'm using my glass teapot, this will allow me to see the reaction of water and leaves etc.The tea is a pleasing and refreshing mix of a slight sweetness with only a hint of bitterness, the soup is a light green. I must admit it may take me a little time to get used to the colours .. the taste and effects are pleasant. A winner.

Japan – Re-Visited

In the late 90’s and early 2000 I spent a few years going back and forth to Nagano. (site of 1998 winter Olympics). My main contact at Fujitsu was an ardent tea buff. As much as he/we tried I never developed a taste for Japanese tea. … So now here I am in South China for Christmas and New Year, I have decided to revisit Japanese tea. Last week in Hong Kong I picked up a few utensils/essentials to aid my quest. The Great food Court in Pacific Place (basement level) is an Aladdin’s cave of; food and beverage from around the world. Cha-no-yu (茶の湯, literally "hot water for tea") Usually refers to a single ceremony or ritual, while: Sado or Chado (茶道, or "the way of tea") refers to the study or doctrine of tea ceremony.
Synopsis of selected Japanese Teas:

Most popular type of Green Tea. About 85% of Japanese teas are SENCHA. In both quality and price SENCHA has a wide variety. High quality ones are served only on special occasions. Average qualities are for everyday use. Tea buds begin growing in April and the leaves are mature in May. Immediately after the leaves are picked, they are steamed, rolled, and then dried until the become like green needles. The resulting tea is a mixture of subtle sweetness, bitterness and fresh green scent. The soup is a light green.

GYOKURO  This is the best Japanese Tea. It is a precious tea and is served as a treat to visitors. GYOKURO means "the dew of jewels". GYOKURO has a stronger flavor and aroma with less bitterness than SENCHA, however it has a darker green - blackish colour. Te leaf is thicker than that of high quality Sencha. This is because when the buds are about to come out, near the end of April,the teas bushes are shaded from sunlight. When harvested only the soft leaves are selected for picking.

BANCHA The lowest grade of TEA, but some BANCHA is very nice as a different meaning. It has a very simple taste, so it is pleasing to drink after meals or to drink when thirsty.

GENMAICHA  A mixture of BANCHA and popped GENMAI (hulled rice kernels). It makes a light brown tea with a savory flavor, for everyday use

This is a roasted BANCHA. It has a brown color and unique toasted flavor, and light golden beer color when steeped. It is also pleasant to drink after meals or when thirsty.

KUKICHA  It's tea stems are also selected while refining. It has a light taste and fresh flavor, also everyday use.

MACCHA  This is used for the TEA CEREMONY. This is a type of tea ground to a fine powder. To make MACCHA tea is mixed in hot water with a bamboo whisk.

It's tea buds are selected while refining SENCHA or GYOKURO. It has strong flavor and taste. It is better than coffee to keep you awake.

Friday, December 21, 2007

Book(s) review UPDATE 1/4

Suffice it to say, Dongguan is a veritable desert when looking for English language books.
So when in Hong Kong/Kowloon its time to stock up.
Page One, a well stocked bookstore in: Kowloon’s Harbour Center (3rd floor) yielded this ethically inspired collection.
Alexander McCall Smith .. Tales from 44 Scotland Street, a great collection of stories set in modern day Edinburgh, as if Edinburgh folk could mentally live in the “modern day”.
Being Scots born only enhances the pleasure from these books. I’m from the west coast (Ayrshire) and enjoy when east coasters poke a little fun at themselves.
Smith, a great story teller and painter of verbal pictures, is quite prolific, and not limited to tales based in and around Edinburgh.
This trilogy offers a satisfying read and lets you vicariously participate in the "real life" of others.
In one short excerpt, Smith sums up modern day travel for me.
This in a letter from; Domenica to Angus Lordie:
"..... to make the journey by sea,.... I do not regret it for a moment. Air travel is completely artificial. ..... airline people speak a different language altogether, a sort of debased mid-Atlantic English which is full of circumlocutions and cliche.
The word "now", such an honest, work-manlike word, has been replaced by : ...... "we are commencing our descent at this time". Why can't they say "now"?

Smith offers a counterpoint to: Ian Rankin’s first rate detective tales featuring; Inspector John Rebus. (these a must read) A couple more books from Alexander McCall Smith: both enjoyable.
A book by; Ian McEwan, purchased on the basis of the named author. (Name sake of my best friend).Just finished it .. major disappointment .. boring, with dull boring characters.” "FLASHMAN and the DRAGON" by George MacDonald Fraser:
Stories of a Victorian adventurer, come James Bond, come Austin Powers.
While entertaining, this was a two book read (first and last). "Just not my cup of tea"
2nd of a two part story .. A very nice comprehensive book by: Liu Tong .. English translation by" Yue Liwen.

New Toy – “The Disinfector”

A really handy counter top device.
Antiseptic Dishes Cabinet...... Marked with “Disinfect” cycle. The Midea MXV-RLP60 An ideal present for; tea buff or the obsessive compulsive in your life.

Christmas Dinner .. (trial run)

Best street vendor in Chang Ping town.
translation of store name "Fat Mother Good Smell Cake"
The owner is really fun and the folks that work there only speak dialect, (Dongguan Cantonese)
A large bowl of beef noodles and small spicy “bobbin” (Chinese pizza)12RMB
I’ll be in Chang Ping 12/25 so this might be Christmas Dinner sans the custard.

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

In and around Hong Kong

Hong Kong, getting into the seasonal spirit.
I spent most of Sunday and Monday in; HK-Kowloon.
An eclectic group of pictures from around town….

Crossover from Pacific Place to Queensway gets a face lift....
Parents and kids wait for Santa in Pacific Place ...
Harbour Center (Kowloon) ... Santa's village
Grade school girls get ready to sing ....

Wedding pictures near the Clock Tower (Star Ferry)...
Best Tea House, Kowloon ... always a favorite.

Star ferry terminal ....
One Tea House, located at Star Ferry .. kind of tourist place
One mans JUNK, is another treasure....
Located in TST, Kowloon Park .....

View from 33rd floor .. up - up and away .. the things you see.

Saturday, December 08, 2007

Lunch at the Song Shan Lake Tea House

Despite the endless days and nights we managed to escape on Friday for lunch.
(don’t usually have this many westerners ..)
Neil, catches a "cat nap" at lunch ...

Sunday, December 02, 2007

Two New Tea-Cups

To my surprise, Patrick Ngiam (friend from Singapore now in Dongguan) stops by with two beautiful, hand made, ceramic tea cups, from his weekend trip to Taiwan.

High speed train from Taipei to Hsin Chu City then, 45 min dive to San Yi village in Miao Li county.
Sanyi village, with abundant raw material nearby, is a famous woodcarving center.
Yu Hwa Ceramics Studio.
(next to the wood carving museum)
Artist: Ms.Yeh Yu Hwa.

Xie Xie, Patrick.

Wed., So.California --- Sun., Southern Dongguan

Wednesday about 13:00 hrs., I left Hong Kong.
Arrived LAX 09:30 Wednesday. I love time travel.
Short story, synopsis:

Thursday night, “How fast can you get back to China?”
So Friday 22:40 out of LAX .. Sunday 06:30 arrive Hong Kong.
New World Record:
Arrive at Gate: 06:32
Out the plane .. tram .. Immigration (Double score no one in line)
NO Checked Bag.
Drive direct (stay in the car to enter MLC)
Checked in Hotel Dongguan 08:50

So I managed two nights at home .. bummer ..
On the upside: Robbie is off to Hawaii on Wed. 5th.
I Hope to be in Hawaii 12/20 for Xmass R& R.

The next couple of weeks will be VERY VERY hectic, so blog posting will be minimal ..

Sunday, November 25, 2007

Existing -- (Update)

The past umpteen days have been lived through the eyes of Dali (Salvador).
This surrealistic existence, hopefully, has a glimmer of reality scheduled: Tuesday at 8:00pm.

In a blink of an eye... Dali re-paints the landscape .. might be Wednesday ... such is life in Hi-Tech China .. now on my 4th. flight re-schedule plus much logistic tap dancing.

Deep memories, thanks to the uncompromising, Scottish school system.
Poetry by Rote Learning, backed up by; corporal punishment, to those of short memory

Reflecting .. Robert Louis Stevenson's "The Vagabond"
Give to me the life I love,
Let the lave go by me,
Give the jolly heaven above
And the byway nigh me.
Bed in the bush with stars to see,
Bread I dip in the river -
There's the life for a man like me,
There's the life for ever.

Normal posting coming soon ...

Friday, November 16, 2007

Friday evening - dinner

Dinner with friends: last nigh it was Hunan Food (very spicy hot)
Sunny on the phone to Judy (3am US time)
Betty and Tracy:

Saturday, November 10, 2007

Saturday with Friends

A late start for a Saturday ..13:30 we head off:
Paulo, Dave, Matt + friend and myself.
Betty was busy with banking and apartment moving etc, so it was just 5 for a late lunch.

By 16:30 we arrive, Mrs.Yang’s tea shop.
We meet up with the owner of the ”DVD” store we frequent ..he is long time fiend of Mrs.Yang and fellow tea addict. This day, for me, underscored the need to find folks you trust to do business with.
DVD store .. Dave has been shopping there for 6+ years, me about 4. Outwardly this is, “typical” Copy DVD store, the difference, integrity of staff and owner. I’ve had staff tell me “Don’t buy this, you bought it last week, just a different cover” Return a defective disk.. money back / replacement or different DVD-CD, your choice. It’s been like this since day one.
At one point there was 10 of us enjoying tea and chit chat.We get around to finding more of the elusive 1994 Shupu. With the store busy I get to rummaging through; shelves, cabinets and hidden corners. (much to amusement of the local customers)

With some luck I find, not one, but three cakes of long lost 1994 shupu. With some fanfare, the customers show there approval of my find. I get two cakes for “old” price of 200 RMB. We split the other cake, ½ for me (no charge) ½ for Mrs. Yang. She will save it for when I come back …
During the; searching – banter and tea drinking, Dave and Paulo discover a 2007 Shu. We taste sample brews over a period of an hour. Dave and I each buy a Tong (7 Cakes: 500 RMB)2007 Minghai Shu 7572, lets check back in a few years.

Explanation of numerical code:
The code 7572, "75" means this recipe was first used in 1975. (pre Y2K)
"7" refers to the special "Blend/Mix" of raw leaves used used in this cake.
"2", refers to the tea factory. "2" = Meng Hai Tea Factory.
NOTE: the many many variables between batches:
Cake compression, weather and drying conditions (natural sun dry or wood fire assisted)
You must try the cake BEFORE you buy ... next year a 7572 will vary; "sub-par" or "better".

Friday, November 09, 2007

Good Morning: 早上好 Zao Shang Hao

As the sun rises, a subtle shift from summer to autumn is in the air.
The lake is a wonderful place to walk and clear the mind ..   Enjoy:No shortage of Marble and Granite in China:

Almost like a giant sail boat ..(local government building complex)