Sunday, October 28, 2007

Zai Jian -- Aloha

Monday ”Where in the world is Waldo??”

Don’t care, I’m en route to:


Trading in “Ni Hao” for “Aloha”
Going from: “Gwai Lo” to “Haole”
A phantasmagorical idiom: {noun-transitive verb, noun-stative verb}
Love, affection, compassion, mercy, sympathy, pity, kindness, sentiment, grace, charity; greeting, salutation, regards; sweetheart, lover, loved one; beloved, loving, kind, compassionate, charitable, lovable; to love, be fond of; to show kindness, mercy, pity, charity, affection; to venerate; to remember with affection; to greet, hail. Greetings! Hello! Good-by! Farewell! Alas!

Ferry to HK then its: JAL to Japan to Honolulu, AHA to Lihue Kauai. Five days R& R.
With the wonders of time travel I arrive about 2 hrs before I leave HK .. score!!
Back to China; 11/7 ..

三個朋友 San ge Peng You --- 3 friends

Sunday: the 3 amigos/stooges head out in search of adventure:Dong ChengNan Cheng. ?
Either way, its Tai Basil for lunch, on to who knows where, one thing for sure, tea will find a way into our day.  Wan Jian, revisited .. no.. not a casual place to wander aimlessly.
Cha Shan? .. Dave’s never been there .. in the end its Dong Cheng.
Dave has a “Honey Do" shopping list.
We do end up spending 3 hrs with 5 girls in the tea shop.
Mrs. Yang had two friends visiting. Interesting conversations, one is in home renovation, the other, a travel agent (inside China), both live in Dongguan.
I buy the last, in stock cakes of 13 yr old Shupu (my every day tea). Mrs. Yang will try to find more, or a suitable replacement. I bought my first cake 3+ yeas ago, 160 RMB, now sells for 350... I got the last two for: 200 RMB each. (old friend/good customer)

Friday, October 26, 2007

八百萬元 -- Ba Bai Wan Yuan

8 Million RMB and up!That’s the staring price for a villa on the east bank of Song Shan Hu.
I get daily text messages urging me to come and look. At well over $1m US we are talking real money, in any language. Three years ago in HengLi town (30min drive) a similar villa was 1m RMB, that now sells for 2.5-3m.

Fishing on the lake is technically “Illegal" ....... ... but a family ply their trade, early morning and late afternoon. Local police turn a blind eye as the fisher folk, keep a low profile, service local restaurants and help keep the lake clean.

Shipping tea and recollections.

Ever since I can remember, around our house we had “Tea-Chests” and a large "Tea-Hamper” The Chests/ were of type of plywood, corners reinforced with metal strapping, the lid covered the sides and locked down with metal tabs. Much like these:......Hand truckmen moving tea chests from a shed to a barge at Tilbury. The tea was from the Malabar Coast and had been shipped to the Clan Line Quay at Tilbury. When the barge was full it would have been taken up river to one of the bonded warehouses in London.
These: to ship bulk Indian tea to the UK. Looks like the Stevedores have some "spillage" the spoils of the job.
Unloading tea chests from the hold of the Victory ship 'Talthybius' at Tilbury in February 1971. The Victory ships were built quickly and cheaply in the U.S.A. as replacements for the enormous losses suffered in the Atlantic during World War 2, and were simple and basic ships. The 'Talthybius' was completed as the 'Salina Victory' and then sailed as 'Polydorus'. She transferred to the British flag in 1960.
Discharging Chittagong tea...............
............from the 'Clan Munroe' (1918) at the Clan Line Quay at Tilbury. A large proportion of the tea arriving in the port was transhipped by lighters to private riverside wharfs such as Butler's Wharf. Chittagong today is the sole auction centre for Bangladesh's tightly regulated tea trade.

The wicker hamper- was heavy duty and also served as bulk tea container. The inside was lined with a fabric of sorts. It was about 2 ft X 2 ft X 5 ft long. We used them for storage and when moving around the country. The shipping containers came from my Dad’s company, Baileys; Wine Merchants and Licensed Grocers (pre-Tesco).
Reading some history books I came across this picture and memories were triggered.
Tea Shipping Chest.
Printed Top Left:
Eight, 中Zhong “Center/Middle” arranged around 茶 Cha "Tea".
We see this today on many Pu-erh tea wrappers: 八中茶 ba zhong cha
Date: 1957
Stenciled in the middle with actual contents.
Indicating a generic company container, might even have a re-use value?
This one is:
China Flower Tea: 中國花茶
Printed at the bottom:
China Tea Leaf Export Company: 中國 茶叶出口公司

Friday and a Fabulous Oolong - (Wulong)

Side-bar: for most here in (Industrial) China we don’t have “weekends” It’s 7 Mondays with 7 Friday nights, especially in the run up to western Christmas and CNY.
This by way of daily post and response to a couple of e-mail questions.
Wu Long Cha:

Why so many spellings?
The simple reason is that "wulong" is a Chinese word, and the Chinese language does not use an alphabet. Unlike English or most other Western languages, written Chinese uses characters representing entire syllables.
The spelling "wulong" (or "oolong" or "wulung" or "wu long" etc) is a phonetic transcription of the Chinese characters, approximating the sound of spoken Chinese - more specifically spoken Mandarin. The correct pinyin transcription of 烏龍茶 is "wulong cha", in pinyin, written with tone marks, it would be "wūlóng chá".

On with the day.... My friend and his brother just got in from Taipei, san the frankincense and myrrh, but they do have Taiwan green gold…烏 龍 茶 Oolong/Wulong. (Their family farm (not tea) is in the middle of the island, family friends are in the tea business, hence the “connections”) High Mountain Tea (generic packaging)We are on our 2nd pot of a truly satisfying High Mountain Oolong.
For me to enjoy Oolongs, it’s after a meal, seldom if ever on an empty tummy.
So this is a post breakfast session,(11:30am).
The dry leaves; a beautiful mix of greens through black, clean, well formed with a fresh and pure aroma.But! “The proof of the pudding…..” Liquor has a truly delightful colour and clarity.
Even after multiple infusions the tea holds fast and delivers satisfying results.
Spent leaves are as expected from a quality tea.

Lunch: a grand affair; a favorite Hunan restaurant in Chang Ping, celebrating its 5th. anniversary, and we are guests of the owner.
With a full tummy, its back to the tea table to discuss business.
First a couple of pots of a 7 yr. old Pu-erh, to transition from the: da la大 辣 "very spicy" meal.

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Tea Detente

Interesting article in The South China Morning Post (
The ice breakers (Photo:AFP)
Sino-Japanese relations:.. Premier Wen Jiabao attends a tea ceremony in Kyoto. Mr. Wen was the first senior mainland leader to visit Japan in almost seven years when he traveled there in April. Wen Jiabao called this his “Ice Melting Trip."

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

FYI update.. with pictures

So far so good; the So.Cal. fires are missing our Laguna hills home and the homes of friends. Andrew is at home, on his own (?)
View from the toll roadFire is not to far from our So.Cal. office:...headding north on Bake
Talked with Robbie (in Hawaii) this morning .. see needs a day off ??
She is on vacation! and needs a day off !!! seems too much SCUBA, so tomorrow will be an off day.
Heather continues the job search (in Kauai)
I’m scheduled (10/31) on a hop from Hong-Kong to Japan to Hawaii for some R & R. Then is back to China, 11/7.
Matt is in Brisbane for two more weeks, with luck we'll meet in HK and come back into China around, midnight 11/6.

Sunday, October 21, 2007

"xing he cha" 醒和 茶, awakening with tea

An ideal morning starts with tea.
“It’s just tea, add water, serve and drink.”
No deep enlightenment, just a few cups.
My much practiced: Jiu Dian Gong Fu Cha, is a one way to start a day. Except in Taiwan, where it’s: Fan Dian Gong Fu Cha.
Two-Three infusions of 13 yr “cooked” Pu-erh, from a medium sized Gaiwan, then two brews of Pu-erh mixed with TieGuanYin.

“Single Malt Oolongs” are for afternoon / evening consumption, a nice green tea with lunch.

The reality is: early morning kicks off with; intercontinental tele-conf. calls, with follow-ups … then bring on the “Cha”

Hook line and RMB ¥ £ € $ ₣ ₧ ₤ ₫ ₪

A familiar story line, but this has a fairly benign conclusion …
"Overpriced bitter English tea in Beijing"
By: Luke T.Johnson (China Daily)
Updated: 2007-10-16 07:10

Swarms of pilgrims and tourists flocked to the Forbidden City on the Friday of National Day golden week. I must have stood out like a sucker.It was my first time visiting Tian'anmen Square and the City. Normally, I try to steer clear of the hotspots during high-traffic hours, but I made an exception for this excursion - existing among the crowds seemed like it would give me the rawest taste of the Chinese national experience.
After a couple of hours of weaving between the onlookers and cowering under likenesses of legendary leaders, I was dizzy with information overload. I think my defenses were down as I headed back towards the subway.I was mere steps away from the downward stairs that would lead me safely home. Suddenly, a diminutive damsel sidled up to me and asked me where I was from.She seemed sweet and non-threatening.
She had a pudgy but attractive face with a pair of wire-rimmed glasses resting on her nose. She smiled and was keeping stride, so I took the bait.
She said her name was Mingming, but I could call her Rose. She was a third-year student at the Beijing Institute of Technology where she studied IT, or so she said."Rose" was certainly not the first local to engage me that day. Earlier, for example, a woman with a camera tapped me on the shoulder near Mao's Mausoleum and asked if she could take a picture of me with her teenage son. Feeling rather charmed, I put my arm around the boy and smiled wide.And so when Rose approached me, I was unsuspecting. After walking for a while, we came to a little northbound street.
She asked me where I was going. Nowhere in particular, I answered honestly.Then she said it, the line that should have sent me running: "I'd really like to practice my English."
Maybe it was my own struggles with Mandarin that made me sympathetic, but for whatever reason, I said OK and followed her down the street. Before too long, our conversation turned to tea.
And look, across the street - why, it's a teahouse! Such a coincidence must be a sign. She asked if I wanted some tea, and since by then she was reeling me in and pulling me to shore, I really had no choice.
We sat at a carved wooden tea table in a beautifully wallpapered room. Our hostess poured us several flavors of tea into tiny cups. She showed us the proper way to hold our cups and the rituals associated with each specific tea - test the aroma of this one, roll the warm cup over your temples with that one.
They brought out the biscuits and fruit, and the scam was in full swing.Of course, at the time I felt I was getting a nice taste of Chinese culture. But then the bill came - almost 400 yuan ($52.6) for a few sips of tea and some snacks we didn't touch.
I grudgingly took out my half, but when I looked over at Rose holding her open wallet, I saw only mothballs.As any tour book would have told me, that's exactly how they do it. But I decided to discover it on my own. That taste of Chinese culture was a bitter pill indeed.

"I’d say cheep at twice the price .. I know a few Hong Kong folks that would loved to have walked way from a: bait and switch come-on, in Shenzhen, for only a few Shekels…."

Saturday, October 20, 2007

Faked out in Zhuhai

Zhuhai, at the southwest of the Pearl River Delta, Hong Kong to the east and Macau, walking distance, to the south.
A pleasant combination of: Fishing village, Seaside resort, Special Economic business and industrial Zone.
Long story short, 2 hr drive, 1hr. business meeting and a very pleasant working lunch.
We stop at a Dongguan style restaurant, typical we ordered more food than 10 could have consumed, there was 5 of us.
Tea of choice was Pu-erh (surprise surprise) a 3 yr. old shupu (cooked) no other info was available. Seems, this is pre-packaged for restaurant distribution, one pack-one pot.

We all agreed that this was a good compliment to our lunch and the kind folks gave me a sample. Most restaurants hereabouts, list Pu-erh by “age” eldest being the highest cost.

With sample in hand I head over to a friends shop, lets see if we can match the sample to something in her on-hand stock.

Bottom Line ... It was FAKE .. doctored to emulate Pu-erh.
Don't I feel stupid .. drinking Pu-erh for 20+ years and still you can get faked out.
Check the dry tea BEFORE you drink it. .. As soon as I opened the package it looked bad.

“Travel Buddy” Update: 10/24

High Temp Plastic, tea mug and a tea pot.
Built-in infuser, vented pressure relieve lid:..............
I picked a couple to try .. 80 RMB (made in Taiwan, a bit high, but base price of polycarbonate has gone up) New Price .. 65 RMBSince it’s plastic, I’ll match specific tea to bottle …No problem with after taste. On reflection, I better pick up a few more (picked up 5)… Robbie and Heather are in Hawaii and these will be perfect to take on dive boat / Kayaks. Random brain synapses.. cold Pu-erh in a Camel Pack .. Note to self.

Spirited wee kettle

Spirited wee kettle, or as my friend Wilhelm nicknamed it, “a Bunsen burner” (you know he had fun in Chem. 101) Cost 180 RMB ..this completes our travel ensemble.(sans fuel)
Ready to fire up:.... Disassembled for inspection:....

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Lochan Tea Samples -- part 4 of 4

Fourth tasting session for the Lochan tea samples:
(8 reviewed, 3 in the wings)
Enter stage left:
IV: Okayti Oolong, 2nd Flush 2007 Darjeeling. Light green and some white leaves in the mix................
V: Goomtee Oolong, 2nd Flush 2007 Darjeeling. Very dark green leaves..................
VI: Lochan Oolong, 2nd Flush 2007 Darjeeling. A mix of green/brown colours with some red..................
Let us see how these Darjeeling Oolongs perform.
UPDATE from 3 of 4 and change of plan ....
Saturday afternoon – tea tasting with friends (Mrs. Yang’s tea shop)..
Just what the doctor ordered. Sampling new teas, should be “Fun” activity shared with friends.
We have a re-tasting of the: Makaibari & Doke next is the 3 Darjeeling Oolongs.

All in all this session lasted 4+ hours, talk about Tea'd out ..
The Lochan samples went head to head with one from the tea shop. So that alone was 10 teas, then we drank Pu-erh and China Red teas from Guandong.
Tuff review board .. these folks have their own plantation and produce Oolongs to beat the best.
Paolo and Mrs Yang ready the Makaibari and Doke.. these will take on a teas from Anhui province.

Doke (large tray) Lighter leaf, Anhui richer green in direct comparison.
Amazing side by side, Doke on the left.
Contrast in soup colour. The lighter Anhui has a stronger smoother taste. The Doke lesser flavour and slightly bitter. The Doke lies horizontal in the brew while the Anhui stands vertical.
The Makaibari & Doke came out second best in the side by side. Everyone agreed the Indian teas were good quality, only failing the taste test.
Li Hong takes the drivers seat, to run the Oolong match up. We had 2 Fujian and one Taiwan Oolongs vs the Darjeeling trio:.......
There was much discussion about the Darjeeling samples .. very different leaf style and colour than the "China Oolongs"

Each of the Darjeeling teas had a distantly fermented taste and smell. Each more bitter than any of the China teas. ..
Note: I got caught up in the tasting and trying to follow the banter that I forgot to take pictures !!!! my bad.
All 3 Darjeeling's had a deeper colour soup leaning to the slightly reddish. This was deemed as bad by the panel of judges.
So again the China Oolongs took gold. The Darjeeling Oolong teas were just different. I'm sure its a matter of what taste you grow up with.
Eleven tea samples, a bit of a marathon when working out of a hotel … My rooms must be reminiscent of an Indian tea brokerage house.
The house-keeping staff have been very supportive of “shen jing bin Qui Lao” (crazy foreigner).
It’s hard to convince them I’m not in the tea business,- it’s only a hobby…
This week has been quite a departure from the omnipresent, Oolongs and Pu-erh.
So as my Granny would say “It’s back to old clothes and porridge now”

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Lochan Tea Samples -- part 3 of 4 (update)

My temporary digs in China have taken on the look and smell of an apothecary shop.
Penultimate tasting session for the Lochan tea samples:
(5 reviewed, 3 under starters orders, 3 in the locker room)
In the blocks:
i: Makaibari Silver Needle - Organic, 2nd Flush 2007 Darjeeling. ii: Castelton Snow Bud, 2nd Flush 2007 Darjeeling. iii: Doke Snow Bud, 2nd Flush 2007 Bihar. Dry leaf:
Makaibari, lightest with pleasing green/white mix of straight, narrow and firm leaves, resembling its appellation.
Castelton, looks like a 3-4 leaf mix, white/green/dark green and brown. Leaf is soft, short and narrow with a twist .
Doke, Largest leaf of the three, broader, longer with slight (boomerang) curve.

Makaibari, flat and grassy not that strong.
Castelton, a fair hit of fermented red along with grass.
Doke, similar to the Makaibari

Now, as we move from red to green teas .. it's back to Gong Fu practices.
Castelton: Brew: I'll infuse these in my glass pot. (sans the infuser)
This is first up as a transition from reds to green tea, by colour and smell.
First-3rd. infusions .. very pleasant fragrance and taste, a fusion of red/green, no unpleasant astringency or bitterness. Colour moving from red to a deep orange.
A safe tea to serve a tea newbie.
For the two needle leaf teas, I'll emulate Da Sha's technique using a Gaiwan.
3 infusions, varied times, but tea performed the same. Slightly astringent, no bitter taste. I say a flat, weak taste. .. To me an unpleasant deepish yellow liquor, I'll go back and experiment later .. results if of significance.
Doke: Same process as for the Makaibari, and as compared to Makaibari; stronger flavour, twice the astringency.
I reached this point and realized my head was just not the game .. I'll set these teas aside and go at it again on Saturday.. See update in part 4 of 4

Monday, October 15, 2007

Lochan Tea Samples -- part 2 of 4

Second tasting session for the Lochan tea samples:
(2 reviewed, 3 on deck, 6 on the bench)
Starting line up:
A: Lochan Assam Premium Tips, 2nd Flush 2007 Assam. (LAPTA)
B: Khongea, 2nd Flush 2007 Assam.
C: Temi, 2nd Flush 2007 Sikkim.
Brew parameters:
Kettle to tea-pot pour: 25 secs. Slow pour.
Infusion time: 2:00 min.
Decant to serving jug: 15 secs.
2 scoops of dry tea.
Khongea Assam used to confirm brewing parameters.
(Largest sample quantity)

Dry leaf: all three similar small size and consistent form.
Colour: Comparative within trio.
LAPTA:......... Brightest, 60-70% black leaf, with clean light tan completing the mix.
Khongea Assam:...... Darkest, with pleasing clean appearance. High percentage of: black leaf, with modicum of tan rounding out the mix.
Temi Sikkim:....... Most colourful, with even mix of: Dark Brown, Tan, Green and a few white leaves. Definitely not a Single Malt.
LAPTA, Most distinct with consistent single odor. I can’t pin a comparative analogy other than; fermented Indian tea.
Khongea Assam, holds its fragrance close to the vest, nothing hitting the old schnoz.
Temi Sikkim, as the leaf mix might suggest, a cornucopia of fragrances, nothing distinct, a slight hint of spice.
I’d put them all low on the aromatic scale. (not a bad thing)

LAPTA, brews a clear deep burned orange liquor. The infused vapor is slightly musty. Mild smoky wood taste, slight –ever so slight astringency, actually pleasant, with a hint of after taste, slightly deeper than initial sensation. I like this tea, easy to drink, an ideal companion on rainy afternoon. But, you cannot let it sit around, it sours quite quickly in the cup.

Khongea Assam, brews a deep dark-dark red liquor, almost opaque. Initial taste overpowered my palate. I could not get passed the first sip. I just shut down. Surprisingly the after taste was not unpleasant, but I have stop and pass on this. I’ll try it on a friend to see what they come up with.

Temi Sikkim, I am strangely anticipatory about brewing this tea, the kaleidoscope of colours intrigues me. The brew; clean deep reddish liquor, not unlike a Remy Martin Louis XIII Cognac, maintaining a clean translucency in the cup. Initial taste; strongly astringent, with floral and spicy tastes fighting for dominance. Becomes bitter when left exposed in the cup.

Of these three, I’d go with the Lochan Assam Premium Tips, 2nd Flush 2007 Assam.

Sunday, October 14, 2007

Lochan Tea Samples -- part 1 of 4

First tasting session for the Lochan tea samples (11 in total)
This afternoon we have:
1: Lochan Muscatel Delight, 2nd Flush 2007 Darjeeling.
2: Makaibari Vintage Muscatel - Organic, 2nd Flush 2007 Darjeeling.Staged and ready for the plunge, so to speak.
Yesterday I took the opportunity to acquire additional tea paraphernalia to support this endeavor. (thx to Li Hong)
Tea-pot with integral infuser basket:..New tea; strainer and serving jug:.. Brewing will be a hybrid of; Gong fu and traditional British high tea (sans the scones and tea cozies).
Tea cups (cappuccino mugs from hotel - one must make do...)
Colour renditions, no guarantee of true representations.
The, Muscatel Delight was used to zero in the brewing parameters.
(Large sample quantity)
Quantities/units of measure/temp/time are either by eye or intuition. (Infusion times will be longer and water just a tad hotter than for Pu-erh.)

Dry leaf colour: – size and general appearance, remarkably similar.
Vintage M, slightly darker with less colours in the mix. The LMD a few additional leaves of a reddish hue.
Fragrance: LMD slightly more aromatic, a hint of fruitiness in the Vintage M.
NB: our olfactory sense has the strongest ties to memories, I just time traveled to past age in my Grannies home,.. Indian tea was always in abundance
(locked in a Caddy..)

New toys cleaned and ready to go .. personal brewing parameters established.
Kettle to tea-pot pour: 25 secs. Slow pour worked well
Infusion time: 2:00 min.
Decant to serving jug: 15 secs.
2 scoops of dry tea … looked correct.
Wet tea filled infuser just right.
Pictures: most of the LMD, subtle differences to Vintage M, beyond my cell phone and available lighting. Beautiful colour:...Clean and Clear...

Vintage M. slighter deeper red... clean and clear ..LMD wet leaves:...LMD wet leaves: small even size, with hint of red.Comparative tasting: Both smooth and pleasant.
The Vintage M came through with a slightly deeper fruity taste with a wisp of spice. Both exhibited an immediate taste that persisted through the after taste phase.

Now a trip to the past .. Darjeeling WITH Milk, with interesting and unexpected results. Note: milk in Mainland Chin is less "potent" than milk in the US of A and light years behind British milk. With that said: ... fresh milk provided by the regency club .... Lochan Muscatel Delight, the milk enhanced, brought out more flavour ! very nice .... Makaibari Vintage Muscatel, the milk neutralized the flavour ? made it a flat nondescript hot liquid! Overall: both nice pleasant smooth teas, the Makaibari Vintage Muscatel having the edge with a deeper fruity-spice flavour. I plan on more Muscatel Delight (with milk) in the next few days to wash down a nice meal in the Copper Grill.