Sunday, September 30, 2007

Epicurean Delight.

As most friends know, given a choice, its Hunan/Hubei style cooking that I pick.
Hunan style restaurants; here in Dongguan we have plenty.
From late night street vendors to Chinese gourmet restaurants and everything in-between.

Many world capitals are awash with “celebrity chefs” offering over priced Bills of Fare.
Here in Dongguan, the last thing you would look for or even expect to find is a “World Class Western Style Restaurant."
That is unless you know about the very recently opened:
“Copper Grill” discreetly located in the Hyatt Regency Dongguan.

Executive Chef, Carl Duggan (Yorkshire lad with 19+ years in Hong Kong and China)
Executive Sous Chef, Mark Biddle (an Aussie from Newcastle)

What can I say ..
From: Beijing to Shanghai to Taipei to Hong Kong to Singapore -
last night in the Copper Grill I enjoyed, simply the BEST western style meal in all of my 20+ years in this region.

The food: even the most discriminating gourmand would be more than satisfied.
The restaurant: open wood fire ovens, first class wine cellar all build to surprisingly high standards. (this is Dongguan China).
The staff: professional in every way.
Menu: nothing intimidating or pretentious, just great food.

As a side note: the other restaurants in the hotel, are a credit to Carl and his excellent staff.

Gordon Ramsey (fellow Scot) eat your heart out ....

Saturday, September 29, 2007

What’s in a name – the Third Half…

Will Shakespeare’s, Juliet's immortal words……
“What's in a name? that which we call a rose
By any other name would smell as sweet;”

We romanticize the exotic and mystical names of Chinese teas.
Six Ancient Mountain Gods Tea.
Virgin Spring Morning Picked Tea
…. And the list continues ….

My wife called this morning to let me know our daughter named the new brick of Pu-Erh I opened before I left for China.

Exact English Name:
Oh boy! That gets you going in the morning, you only need half a cup.

Interpretative translation:
Wa…. Zhi He Ban Bei, Jiu Gan Jue Hen Hao Le.
Wa.... only half a cup, makes you feel good.

Friday, September 28, 2007

Song Shan Hu – 松 山 湖

Pine tree Mountain Lake - Song Shan Hu – 松 山 湖
It’s just a name, no mystical mountain retreat with spiritual redemption abound.
The lake, although large, is man-made, there are no mountains and the trees are old commercial plantings. (lots of pictures in previous posts)

Nestled between the towns of; Da Lang and Da Ling Shan, Song Shan Lake, is starting to develop its character/personality.
The full name is:
Song Shan Lake Central District, Science and Technology Industrial Park.

A small, private two lane road, meanders along the east edge of the lake. Out and back, I get about 11-12k run. This morning, just a few minutes after sunrise, I was happy to see some locals out enjoying this peaceful place. One lady, beautifully attired in a light blue silk suit, performed Tai Chi. Further down the road, on the crest of a little bridge, a septuagenarian, practiced Kung-Fu. His attire was from the “I don’t give a dam school”. As I passed by, he let out a blood curdling scream, stomped and punched the air. Impressed, I politely nodded to his wife, as she watched her husband with a face wide smile.

Finishing my run, I’m reminded of the words from the;
Leonard Cohen song, Tower of Song:
♫ “I ache in the places where I used to play”♫

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Anatomical Imprecation.

Warning .. do NOT read if you are easily offended.
I’ve been bouncing around SE Asia / China for 20+ years.
With the rapid growth in China more and more folks from “English speaking” countries are making their way East.
Every day I encounter any number of; signs – menus – labels etc with what I describe as Hilarious English .. These to assist English speakers.
I have one product label that if submitted for a Latin final would get an; A or A+.
Every once in a while I encounter something that makes you stop and “What were they thinking?” You just cannot make this stuff up.......

Sunday, September 23, 2007

Arrived China

Being busy sure as hell beats the alternative ... but, "bugger this for a game of soldiers"
I'm as busy as a one legged guy in an arse kicking contest.
Arrived HK-Dongguan today Monday .., all is well. (weather sucks)

Thursday, September 20, 2007

Busy for a few days

Quick apology: "Sorry not to reply/follow up on e-mails of late."

Monday, September 17, 2007

Tee Four ... Won

Tea for one ..... It's only me ..Time warp .. its 4:35am Pacific Standard Time .. why am I awake? (7:35pm China)

No use fighting it .. down stairs and make some tea. (and yes that's the TV remote!)Sean helped yesterday and we made a new top for the Tea Table .. natural oil finish

Sunday, September 16, 2007

New Pots

Last week I purchased a couple of pots from a Retail shop in Wan Jiang Town.
This pot was on a shelf near the back, on the Ground / First floor .. most shops if they have a 2nd floor .. that's where the higher cost goods are kept.
This pot is by an accredited artisan and is accompanied by supporting documentation.
(remember: printing is cheap and easy to produce/fake)
Upstairs on the 2nd floor: .. the hunt continues
I zeroed in on this .. This is my first pot by this artisan..This is the matching, Water Base, to my 2nd. pot ....
A nice pairing:
This shop carries a range of pots made by various artisans. Not unlike a Gallery for "Certified and Accredited artists" Some I actually recognised from my visit to: Yixing ceramics museum.

My recommendation: buy what YOU like and what fits your budget.

Tea Geography and Kung Fu Cha

Couple more reference books for the library:
These are in Chinese, but the pictorials are valuable references.
Chinese tea History:
Tea Geography (my title) 265 pages. Good quality paper and colour printing.

Most of this book provides a; Tea and Provence of Origin, reference guide. Tea names are in both: Chinese and Pinyin. Over 200 pages on tea and geographic location.Tea Method: (Preparation and Serving)
Serving Tea; (my title). Fair quality printing, but the attraction is; it comes with a: DVD.The DVD is high quality, and covers various teas and suggests a serving method for each. An introduction to each tea is made, with a short presentation showing the region of origin then the accompanying tea ceremony ...

These books were purchased in a local book store, NO English publications of any kind.

Two books out of Japan

A couple of weeks ago, in China, two recently translated, Japanese to English, books hit the stores. Both these books received much press coverage, for various reasons.

Princess Masako, Prisoner of the Chrysanthemum Throne:
yakuza moon, memoirs of a gangster's daughter:

I just finished "yakuza moon", interesting story, but sadly did not resonate the level of shock claimed by the Japanese/Asian press. I must be be a product of overexposure.
About half way through, "Princess Masako" by Australian investigative journalist, Ben Hills. Thus far I'm sadly disappointed, actually boring, and "stuffed" with a lot of filler.
A journalist, maybe, a story teller he is NOT.

Friday, September 14, 2007

It never ends

Made it back to So. Cal .. but, its off again .. at least I manage one week + at home.
Family update:
Heather, started a new job, but is still looking to move to Hawaii SOON!!!
Sean, back to university this coming Thursday.
Andrew, is still working as an "All Stars" opening a new store "up north"
Trevor, another ticket, there goes his drivers licence. What can I say.
Cameron, is Cameron, plugging away.

Robin and Heather, just got back from watching the sunset at Laguna Beach.
Sean and Trevor just left for the movies ....

Matt, will travel back to South China on the 17th.
I'll meet up with him on the 24th.

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

On the Road Again

Kicking back in Cathy P. lounge .. CX 884, projecting a 50 min departure delay.
With some good tail winds, we should make this up.
Flight from LAX-HK, approx 14hrs, HK-LAX, is about 12 hrs.

Should be stateside about; Noon-ish, 9/12, local time ....

Next post in few days ...

Monday, September 10, 2007

Uniformity or appréciez la différence

What Colour is your tea ? .. a yellowish-green or a greenish-yellow....
During tea tasting and evaluation:
We some times struggle to identify – communicate colours.
Digital photography is fantastic, but the great variety of; PC –Laptop-screens, graphics cards etc. sometimes fails to communicate the intended “picture”

Do we strive for; Uniformity .. or, do we .. Enjoy the differences.

Personally .. I like unbridled creativity ..
I once had a professor admonish me with ..
"Don't let the thought process interfere with your answer."

Take a look at this .. just as “food for thought”
Picture from the Web-site ....Almost every day I use the: "Pantone" Colour Coding system .. much like the strips inside the Mugs. Matching customer samples and various aspects of production control .. (boring) FYI matching Apple White is a major pain ...

It might be fun to try and get some cups made up to cover the colours that our various exploits produce.

Sunday, September 09, 2007

Questions and Respose(s)

Questions and Response(s)

silverneedles said...
whoa! thanks for the pics,holly **** that is alot of tea shops. i wish i was there, WITH LOTS OF CASH!

do they sell 'small' amounts of tea 1-2 kg or just by the ton?

Yes, you can buy "small" amounts ..
Pu-erh by individual cake or loose packed.
Stores will vacuum bag in size(s) requested. (Oolong/TGY)

do you know is all this tea China produces for chinese consumption?
This is mostly sold to "retail" tea shops in the local Dongguan city area.
No specific "export" sales .. these don't show up in "Open Markets"
Its amazing there a few locations around here like this, some larger some smaller in scale ..
Back in April, I visited "Cha Shan" town .. Tea Mountain town ...

do they have good prices or you have to negotiate?
Fair prices .. considering this mainly a wholesale area.
Yes you have to negotiate .. Its China. But not the type you do in retail shop.
My example: buying YiXing tea pots (check out their web site)
Pot 1, inexpensive, but attractive .. asking 130 RMB
Pot 2, Asking 610 RMB
Pot 2 matching stand, Asking 130 RMB
So we have; Asking 870 RMB .. I paid 700 RMB for all three. (less than $100 US)

are there problems if you bring kilos of dry tea leaf in luggage to the USA -do they confiscate or tax it
This is ONLY my personal experience(s)
I have had no problems bringing "Packaged Dry Tea" home.
( I only travel with hand carry, NEVER check bags) .. this is nothing to do with tea import jut how I travel.
My point of entry: is California LAX .. I make the HK-LAX flight about 8/10 times a year.

I did send a Fed-Ex package once, there was a bunch of: Pu-erh, Taiwan Oolong, TGY and some pots, cups / stuff, in one box. There was a bit of paperwork hassle to get it out of China .. I sent it from my "Electronics" company .. so I had to explain why an electronics company was "Exporting Tea" .. That done, it made its way to Fed-Ex/ Anchorage Alaska customs. My wife had a few phone calls / fill out a couple of forms .. paid about $30/$40 bucks tax and the package made it home .. safe and sound .. lesson learned .. I only buy what I can carry home or ship the stuff and carry the tea.

Wan Jiang town aka Tea Nirvana (400+ shops)

Wan -万 Jiang 江, town, 20min from Dongguan city center.
“You can not miss the place, go over the bride, on the right side of the road. Big place, easy to find”.
So with these directions I head out to weave a path through, about 200 million folks .. you get the idea .. couple of phone calls .. one U turn and there IT IS.......
The central tea market .. too much sensory input.
A little over, Four Hundred, co-located tea stores. Main business is wholesale, with walk in customers accommodated.
I’m not going to try and edit this post .. so here are a bunch of pics .. With some comments ..
Looks like this guy found some Pu-erh to his taste. Load up the truck! Typical of the shops selling Pu-erh .. about 90% of tea for sale is Pu-erh!

A mixed bag of buildings .. again with retail on ground floors and family life above.

Street(s) coming alive, as the customers arrive.
This turned out to be a fascinating shop .. specialising in tea pots Check out their web site.
You need to have tea before you do any business.....
An interesting set-up, very well crafted .. I liked it except the tray .. 1,600 RMB

If you like this set: Pot, 4 cups .. asking 10,000 RMBFun place with lots to see ..... View as I sampled my tea .... Pictures of what I bought, later. (2 pots)And there are two shops specializing in tables and wood craft items ...

A delivery was in process of being unloaded. Packing material is interesting .. similar to wet-suit rubber

General views around the area ... all tea stores ...

New Tea shops –Da Lang town

Saturday, mid-morning, I'm on my way to Chang Ping town, about 30 min. drive. Traffic is lighter than expected so I stopped to check out these new shops. Four brand new shops within about 200 yds. of each other, just opened about two weeks. (pictures of three)
Typical street construction, all over greater Dongguan city district. Just getting to the shop can be an adventure. You fall in an open trench .. that's your bad luck .. its a kind of Darwin thing.
Retail on ground floor .. living space above.
Most tea shops have Green background on their signs or Green Characters
Of the four shops .. I liked this one .. not quite ready for customers
You see a lot of this type of tea cup display ..
The new shops tend to a; "modernistic look"
This one is managed by a young couple .. that morning they were still moving in household furniture - plants, etc.
Interesting that, two of four shops only carried Pu-erh, the other two about an 80/20 mix, Pu-erh to others.