Friday, July 27, 2007

Life on the move

Robbie and Heather made it to Hawaii, having a great time with a number of SCUBA dives logged and many more planed ....

I landed in Hong Kong Thursday morning .. into the Mainland by 10:00am.
Spent the night in Dongguan then off to Shanghai Friday afternoon .. will spend the weekend in Su Zhou -Kunshan and WuXi ..
Monday it's back toDongguan, where I hope to get caught up .. but might have to nip over to Taiwan for a few days ???

Did I mention it was 40 degrees (105f in old money) .. Air-Condition is your friend, along with endless pots of Taiwan High Mountain Oolong ...

Sunday, July 22, 2007

Forgotten Tea (found)

Two new Bing's .. I found these still in my backpack .. Getting ready to back to China, these two cakes were still in there from last trip !!!

Meng Hai, 2007 Sheng Cha ..
Meng Hai Tiandiren, 2007, Sheng ChaBoth have; good composition, colour and a clean fresh aroma .. lets check back in 15 yrs ....

Friday, July 20, 2007

Thursday, July 19, 2007

An Odd palce for a cup of tea

A pun (paronomasia) without any shame: Tea in Obscura Places.
Don’t know why, but a number of random synapses firings generated memories of old haunts.
As is, obligatory in the UK tea shops are attached to “Places of Interest."
Camera Obscura, the first CCTV. The Camera Obscura, installed in 1836, is on the top floor of the old windmill tower. From it you can see panoramic views of Dumfries (Scottish borders) and the surrounding countryside. Billed as World's Oldest.

The Aberystwyth Electric Cliff Railway:...
Constitution Hill, known locally as 'Consti' at the north end of Aberystwyth promenade.
Installed on the summit in 1896, is the world’s largest Camera Obscura.
The Summerhouse: Probably the oldest in Aberystwyth. a perfect spot to enjoy afternoon tea.

Cafe Obscura: ....Bournemouth, on England’s south coast. Only a few miles from Havant, where I once had an office.

Dance Partner

No partner? Have a cup of tea.

(more) Tea in Bicyle Racing

Lipton may not be your Cup of Tea .. But hat's off to them:.....
LIPTON Tea is title sponsor of the "TEAm LIPTON" Pro Cycling and Triathlon team, the only elite-level team of women road cyclists and triathletes in the US.

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Tea and Bicycle Racing.

A few years back my office was next door to “Celestial Seasonings."
Only if you lived in or around Boulder, could see how this came about.
In Boulder there are "Car lanes" on the Bike Roads...(this one for Heather)

It Started as the “Red Zinger Classic” .. later the Coors Classic.
Starting in 1975 as a brainstorm at the Boulder, Colorado, Celestial Seasonings herb tea company.
President Mo Siegel and staff concocted a bike race that might draw attention to cycling as a sport and a healthy lifestyle—good for people and the environment, while setting a new bar in American sports promotion.

The Red Zinger Classic came to life with the richest prize-list ever in US cycling!
In 1980, Siegel sold the race to Michael Aisner for $1, then doing PR for the event, and handed beer mogul Peter Coors the sponsorship baton—

The "Coors International Bicycle Classic" was born. The race grew into a national event, with: network TV, a Warner Bros movie, stages in Wyoming, California, Nevada, and one year navigated a bubbling volcano on Hawaii's Big Island.

Great painting: Cup of Red Zinger by: Carol Marine of: Austin, Texas
Final Podium 1986 Bernard Hinault and Jeanie Longo

Tea stage in Laguna Hills

Tour de France excitement is all around our house, so; dans l'esprit de Tour (in the spirit of the tour) Today’s stage:
Robbie made an early solo breakaway on the fast down hill to the living room. She quickly cleaned up last nights tea “stuff”. Fresh water in the kettle, Pot and Cups clean … A perfect lead-out.
I pulled back the gap and we had a two person breakaway on the long flat TEA stage.
After 4 pots of 12yr old Shenpu Menghai, Heather bridged the gap and the 3 person effort quickly dropped another two pots. At the base of mount Vespucci I made a solo run at the Col de Commerce…. a 12 km steady climb .. keeping my lead in the mountain stages .. We (Anna & Mike) celebrated with Pu-erh (12 yr loose Shupu )....

Juan Mauricio Soler, today's stage winner...The normally stoic Vino' weeps after conceding more time today!

Monday, July 16, 2007

Last of the weekend Sun ..

Sunday, just a perfect day in So. Cal. A brutal day in the Alps for the riders in this years "Tour de France" ..
Alexandre Vinokourov, grinds it out ...Clan update .. home and abroad.
Robbie and Heather, worked at the church in the afternoon.
Andrew worked.
Trevor worked and played in water polo tournament.
Sean, his roommate and their girlfriends spent the day in Napa Valley.
Cameron dropped off some furniture to store while he moves to a new place.
Matt spent a couple of days in Hong Kong ..

Later in the day we got the SCUBA gear readied (for Hawaii) ..
This week I'm on the bike, no excuses, weather perfect ... no category 1 climbs!

Saturday, July 14, 2007

It's Saturday and the Tour is in the Alps.

July 2007, the Tour de France bike race.
Cheerio to London:...Bonjour to the Alps:....A kick back morning (for me) I just watched the bike race then made tea .. how hard is that.
Finished up part III of my; Tea, Chinese style posting.
Now its on to more tea and a lazy day. I promise to be more active Sunday (honest ) ..

Friday, July 13, 2007

Tea, Chinese style, a social indulgence (Part One)

For me, tea Chinese style is above all else, a social indulgence.
Even as a party of one, it is enjoyable and beneficial.
Drinking tea (20+ yrs) all over south east Asia and China has afforded me this viewpoint.
Often language and perceived differences, off-put westerners from getting involved in Chinese tea preparation and serving, thus ultimately missing out on one of life’s simple pleasures.

So to that end I'll keep this in plain English and avoid unfamiliar terms.
At first, tools, paraphernalia and process look alien, complicated, unfathomable, somewhat fascinating and different from what is understood in western tea processes.
First principle: Take your time, DO NOT Hurry the process.
Keep in mind, “It’s only tea, just that, tea, add hot water and serve.”

Preparation, Organization and practice, practice, practice, “The more I practice the luckier I get” (Gary Player, S. African sportsman)

Preparation; gain as much information as you deem necessary. Read, visit tea shops, observe and talk with people.
Once you have a general understanding of equipment, usages and process, proceed and acquire the requisite “stuff”. It’s all about personal taste, there are NO tea policemen. (Other than your taste buds and budget.)

Before we get into: tea preparation and serving, let's look at the toys: ..

Central to all this is an area to make/serve tea: Tea table, simple bowl, specialty serving box, even a towel on the floor will suffice.
Simple bowl that holds a teapot and cup on a small tea towel. DSC03955 A slightly larger wooden bowl is read to use.
Simple, self contained bamboo lidded box.DSC03934 Our well used travel kit, box is deep to hold other needed stuff
DSC03935 This design (still in the store ).. not my taste but it offers a lot in a convenient package..DSC00490 Extremely attractive hand craved tray that simply rests on a table.
DSC03936 Custom build tea table with inset tray, table hides a built in waste water container.
DSC03932  The tea table is your stage, size and aesthetics need to please you.  Basic requirements are: an even surface to place cups pots etc while you make tea. The surface has to facilitate water drainage.
Tongs, the only tool I deem as a necessity. (improvise, chopsticks etc) but the central function must be embraced. Use tongs to manipulate drinking cups during cleansing. As you develop your individual style, tongs can be put to many uses.
Straight, curved, dark, light, bamboo, exotics .. all a personal choice and what works for you.
Please avoid metal, they fight with the clay/porcelain/ceramics of the cups and pots.DSC03938  Other tools: a pick and powder tea spoons/scoop. The pick is used to clear obstructions from: teapot spouts, filter holes etc .. wood / bamboo are best. Small scoop, no real role in the process, can be used to help get spent leaves out of the teapot ....
DSC03940 Scoops: you will ultimately adopt one as your favorite. (more later) A common spoon can be substituted or a shake from your tea container / caddy. GET A Scoop. (sometimes referred to as a: Tea Shovel).
DSC03937 Bamboo mats and hand brush(s), again various sizes and colours, serve a variety of functions. A small brush can be used to help clean up the table, move water along. The mats can be used over the slots/holes on a tea table to help filter the flow of spent water.DSC03956 Tools come as individuals or in sets .. many to pick from ... NB: the "rings" that help contain the tools on some sets can be used as a "funnel" to help guide dry tea into teapots (see later)
DSC03939 Tea mat - coaster, cloth to high end hand carved exotics. A practical way to show some style.
DSC03941 Tea strainer, ceramic with fabric inserts tend to last and stay cleaner, inexpensive ones need to be replaced periodically.
DSC03945 Tea towel, you will spill, so get a few. (I have a lot!)
DSC03944  Tea and storage: light and air are the to be avoided. Keep your teas in and opaque air tight container. As simple as using a clamp on the original package. Note the small single serving containers. A good tea shop will repack for you. NB: Pu-erh requires air circulation.
DSC03942 Example of clamps and various sized packaging options.
DSC03943  Cups, various sizes and shapes .. personal style (will vary with experience)
DSC03946 Cups, Matched pair (by volume) a nice way to involve others in part of the process (more later)
DSC03947  Serving Jug: used to serve tea into cup(s)
Teapot, used to infuse tea .. various types made from "Purple Clay" in various colours.
DSC03950  Tea Caddy, these are for Pu-erh teas and allow the tea to breath
DSC03953 Kettles, many options to choose from, be piratical and have an eye to safety.
Glass, a good pratical way to go. This is the set up I use in China. It employes heating via Induction, a much safer alternative to open flame or "hotplate"

DSC03178 My US office set up, again Induction heating.
A larger kettle used at home
DSC03958 Prelude to Part B .. stuff comes together .... and we'll talk about the: all important WATER, H2O.

Thursday, July 12, 2007

Travel Plans ..

Well the clan is on the move .....
Robbie and Heather are off to: Hawaii. (again)
Staying in Poipu on Kauai's south shore. 3 weeks of Sun / Sand and SCUBA.

Me, I'll be off to China / Taiwan on the 25th.
Somehow, I have to figure how to get a ticket on the Hawaii bus!!!

Such is life .. right now its 3 min until teatime.
Some 12yr old Menghai loose leaf Shupu.
It's not as good as its 7 yr old younger brother, that was a wee bit of a surprise.

7 yr old package (left) 2 packs of the 12 year old

Tea, Chinese Style, a social indulgence (Part B)

Unlike the Japanese tea ceremony;Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao (2nd R) attends a Japanese tea ceremony during a welcoming event at the State Guest House in Kyoto, western Japan, 13 April 2007. Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao offered Japan the hand of friendship 12 April in a call to put aside bitter memories of the past that have hobbled relations between the two Asian giants.     AFP PHOTO/Itsuo Inouye/POOL
Chinese Tea making practices: emphasizes the tea, rather than the ceremony.
Let’s avoid the ridged formality of ceremony, put a focus on social interaction using Chinese tea making practices.
I find a variety of styles and practices within any given region, and have determined a universality in having variations on theme vs distinctive regional styles to be the norm.
That being said, there are regionally distinctive “Teas”, and some of those generate unique practices.
Folks in Taiwan have taken Chinese tea making to the level of competition and artistry.   This not a “bad” thing but it’s not the place to start.

For me  in successive rounds of drinking, what the tea tastes like, smells like, and how one tea tastes compared to the previous tea is what I'm most concerned with.
Un-flustered and gentle motions are to be aimed for. Social conversations that avoid extremes of position are desirable.

Organization, understand the tools you will use, arrange them accordingly.
Items to ready: Water, Kettle, Heat Source, Table, Waste water receptacle, Tea, Tools (Scoop, Tongs), Cups, Serving Jug, Tea Strainer, Tea Pot. Oh and you should find a place to sit your bum.
These are right handed set-ups:  A professional in full swing. Note how every thing is to hand. Water supply next to kettle, it all flows (no pun) DSC02564
Tea house and retail store in Cha Shan town. DSC02912 Large Wholesale and Retail shop in Shenzhen. Preparing to serve 4 guests; Niden, Paulo, Dave and me (taking the picture)
DSC00495 Again, all is set up within easy reach. Note the arrangement of 5 cups in front.  Above are tea houses that myself and friends visit. You can see a general theme to the layouts. It is truly fun to watch and participate with skilled practitioners. You will also see a number of small objects around the table .. some for luck .. others to talk about, fiddle with etc. notice some snacks are on offer..

One of my home table set-ups, waste water is feed into a container, housed in the top-center compartment. A mat covers the preparation surface to help diffuse the spent water. Plenty of attractive storage areas.
DSC00250c Here you can see my Wife's at work .. Robbie is a lefty, note the kettle on the left and the left to right flow. There are two infusions going on, Pu-erh and Jasmine
Very basic set-up, tray, tools, cups, serving jug and tea pot. Note arrangement of cups. This can show attention to detail. (More in Part III)
DSC00154 Here is today's working set-up, Yes! you can file waste water in a file drawer. It is nice to have a general use bowl near by (in front of tray) .. used by server and guests for trash etc.
Sometimes you have to improvise .. a lower drawer makes a nice kettle stand! DSC03965
This should provide an idea on how to get organised .. on to: part III, Practice
Water, the importance of good quality water cannot be over emphasized! At home we pass water through a set of triple cartridge filers, then a reverse osmosis system.
An alternate is to find a brand of bottled water that does not add any negative tastes into the tea. Experiment, you'll find one that works for you. Avoid "Strait from the tap/faucet" When traveling bottled water is the safest bet.
In Mainland China be careful, find a "reputable" source to buy water.
50% fake water coolers By: Hu Yinan (China Daily )Updated: 2007-07-10 09:41
Up to half of water used in Beijings coolers could be fake.
A source with a major supplier made the sensational claim yesterday to the Beijing Times newspaper.
The claim, made by "Liu Xiaoyun", the Beijing sales manager of a well-known bottled water brand, was verified by a number of market competitors. There are more than 200 players in the capital's barreled water market.
The main four - Wahaha, Robust, Nestle and Yanjing -dominate with 25 to 30 million barrels of the total 100 million sold in 2006, Liu said.
"There are now nearly 20,000 water delivery stations in Beijing," Liu was quoted as saying.
"In a conservative estimate, each of the four brands holds on average a monthly sales volume of 1,000 barrels. This makes an annual sales volume of at least 200 million barrels, 100 million of which are counterfeits."
The so-called fake water is either tap water or purified water of miscellaneous small brands, poured into empty barrels sealed with quality standard marks, Liu said.  Caps and peels are sold at 1 yuan per set while each quality standard ------