Wednesday, July 31, 2013

2013 World Tea Expo - Induge in Excellence

"Indulge in Excellence" - This is our way of sincerely greeting tea friends who visit the World Tea Expo and drop by our Taiwan tea booth.

We selected two groups of Specialty Oolongs for cupping on each day.

Day 1 (6/7/2013) - We offered four USDA Certified Organic Oolong from the Tse-Xin Tea Farm; Organic Pouchong, Jade Oolong, Ruby 18 and Gaba Oolong.  This is a very remarkable program this organization has adopted.  The "Pure Spring Tea" project is much bigger than just having an Organic tea garden.

For further reading on Pure-Spring Tea, please click on the following two links:
Visit Tse-Xin Farm
What is Pure Spring Tea  

Day 2 (6/8/2013) - We prepared 5 special teas for our attendees.

1.) 2001 Baked Oolong 
2.) Yilan Charm Milk Oolong
3.) Miaoli Oriental Beauty 
4.) Wenshan Pouchong 
5.) Yuchih  Ruby 18  

Having a bunch of tea enthusiasts to cup on a group of teas together, is always fun and also offers a good learning experience for everyone.  It's also quite interesting to see that each tea can naturally garner its fans without being told by others or what's being trending.  Classic teas are here to stay.  I hope you will find your favorite tea(s) and Indulge in Excellence whether it's by yourself or with your family and friends.

Monday, July 29, 2013

2013 World Tea Expo - Pouchong

Pouchong is not only the first Taiwan Oolong I learned since my childhood, but still is my favorite. I also think Pouchong is easier compared to other teas to purchase and to sell...because we can tell the quality of the tea by simply examining the dry leaf's condition.  For our group study in this Pouchong session, we picked 4 teas, which were: Traditional Pouchong in Chinsing Oolong and TTES 19 (BeeYu); semi-ball type Pouchong in Chinsing Oolong and TTES 20 (Yin Hsiang).

Everyone who attended the session were all handed a cupping log to take notes during the cupping session.  We really enjoyed working with them as they were all very enthusiastic to learn and willing to share their observations during the whole session. 

There are so many organizations, such as STI and World Tea Academy that offers tea workshops and I wish our tea friends should seriously consider to take some of those classes with certification credit.  And on the show floor, there are companies offer many great cupping sessions, join the group cupping.  It is by far the most effective way to learn about tea...

What is next?  

Sunday, July 28, 2013

2013 World Tea Expo - Amber Oolong

The tea baking was considered the highlight of our 2013 World Tea Expo.  For this Amber Oolong cupping session, Master Huang prepared three samples of tea for us to cup.  These 3 teas were actually all the same tea but processed with different baking methods; light fire baking, mid fire baking and high fire baking.  Our tea friends were first to inspect the dry leaf of each sample, and tell the difference.  They then would be asked to cup each sample to confirm whether their observations were correct.

Tea baking is such an important factor to certain teas, especially Oolong, because some teas require additional baking in order to stabilize their aroma and flavor, some teas from certain cultain cultivars will be improved dramatically with dimensional development in aroma and flavor if fired up properly.  In Oolong tea manufacturing, baking is a very unique craftsmanship that takes years of experience to practice and and to master in.  Learn Amber Oolong, must start from the basic of tea baking and gradually to know what and why you prefer one amber oolong over another.

This session informed us about how these three different firing methods of baking can change the same type of tea. However there are more than these 3 baking methods, and are actually plenty of ways to change same type of tea.  That is why in the world of Amber Oolong - it opens up a good opportunity for our tea friends - you can learn tea baking and create your own Signature Baked Oolong with limited edition!  How about that?

We are thinking to launch a Skill Building Workshop - to offer a hands on study on the basics of tea baking.  Hopefully it will come in time for World Tea Expo 2014.

Thursday, July 25, 2013

2013 World Tea Expo - Jade Oolong (cultivars)

Advanced cupping on Jade Oolong that are made with leaves from different cultivars.  This is a very interesting topic and especially since certain tea cultivar has its own special character in aroma and flavor note.  More and more tea lovers are looking for that "something special" - Chinsing Oolong, Jin Suang, SiChiChun are very popular in Taiwan's tea plantations.  Chinsing Dahpan is a very special cultivar that is suitable not only reserved for Oriental Beauty, but for making almost all kinds of tea.

We had every participant to carefully write down his or her observations on their respective cupping logs.

It maybe is tough to compare the four samples from the beginning.  But with the help of cupping log, it will be much easier when it comes to comparing different teas, because it requires your own attention on each sector of the information as you written down your notes.  The cupping logs will  help you to cup these samples with an extra eye, nose, mouth and most importantly, your heart.  You are cupping not only with your brain, but your heart as well.

Again, we participate in group cupping for our enjoyment and to see what each participant's interest is in each tea.  Sharing with each other your cupping log is good way to learn tea.

2013 World Tea Expo - Jade Oolong (districts)

We asked Master Huang to bring us 4 Jade Oolong samples from Taiwan's famous Mountains for our advanced cupping session.  We were blessed with the opportunity to cup Lishan, Alishan, ShanLinSi, DahYuLin. 

For this session we've invited our fellow TOST member - Mr. Ken Rudee to share with our friends about his great memories and experience of studying Taiwan Oolongs with the TOST programs.

The Taiwan Tea Maps prepared by TTMA were so helpful for this session.  Our friends were so engaged and busy in finding where the famous tea districts are on the map.  These teas are basically the same cultivar, Chinsing Oolong, but from different farmers, so the withering, oxidation, and rolling jobs might be slightly different.  Master Huang taught us that different soil in these districts might affect tea's aroma and flavor.  This is a good study to learn about tea districts. Keep in mind that there is absolutely no intention to judge which tea district is better compared to others.  But as a tea purveyor, you might want to study this as your first step.  There is a lot more to learn, that is for sure.

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

2013 World Tea Expo - Oriental Beauty

Oriental Beauty is a very popular session.  We had a full house of tea friends waiting to cup Oriental Beauty.  There were a total of four different teas made by different farmers, and there were two teas that are not made with Chinsing Dahpan cultivar.  Our goal is to encourage our tea friends to participate in advanced cupping.  Not only do you sip and taste the flavor, you must also check the dry leaf, focus on the aroma, carefully to define the flavor note, and "read" the wet leaves.  Afterwards, we had a few friends up to share their cupping logs.  Oh yes, the cupping logs are indeed essential for our tea cupping sessions, especially when you are dealing with these super expensive Oriental Beauty.

2013 World Tea Expo - Brandy Oolong

What is Brandy Oolong?    Did you know that our TOST friends have a great deal of involvement in this still very new specialty Oolong of Taiwan?  Oh yes!   Back in 2009, we had tried to take more study time to introduce different tea cultivars in Taiwan.  Ruby 18  or (Luby 18)  is a popular joke that goes around a lot.  With Ruby 18's successful story, it leads another new trend for Taiwan tea industry.

After Y2K,  more precisely should be after 1999 the big quake in central Taiwan, many old-bush Assam tea gardens were found and rebuilt;  Ruby 18 were widely cultivated in new plantations.  Black Tea (Hon Cha) in Taiwan seemed to be riding a new trend.  Many traditional Pouchong/Jade Oolong tea farmers were happy to take their summer/autumn leaf to learn to make "small leaf black tea", as well. Why not, an extra crop that can generate more revenue.

The theory of making this tea is based on Black tea processing, yet, with those leaves from oolong-favored cultivars: Chinsing Oolong, Jin Suang, SiChiChun, Chinsing DahPan,.. and with farmers' existing equipments, they simply have to modify the way of taking care of withering, oxidation, drying, and rolling with their current equipments before they were determined to invest new withering bins and press rollers.

Good things happened though.  These teas are not like the traditional oolong,  nor the traditional black tea.  Yet these teas are enjoyed purely in traditional oolong teapots, and the same leaf can have a few infusions.  Unlike black tea, there is no need for it to be enhanced with sugar or milk.  I first tried to name this tea category as "Burgundy Oolong",  but then after discussing with our TOST friends and much consideration,  we settled with "Brandy Oolong".  Heavily oxidized with fine strip leaf appearance, and each tea with its single cultivar's unique aroma and flavor note.  Brandy Oolong is a darling to many tea lovers.

In the category, Ruby 18, FB-27, FB-47, FB-74, FB-78 are becoming well recognized now.  HonYun 21 is so good, but the plantation is still young to have a moderate crop, which means we just have to wait.  We had the very tea master here in World Tea Expo this time to share with us his personal story in developing this tea with his teacher, Master Chiu.  It was a great story and I encourage you to come to next show to hear about it in person.

By looking at these pictures, you can imagine that we really have a bunch of serious tea lovers.  I thank everyone who were so open-minded and willing to share.

2013 World Tea Expo - Bliss Oolong

The last session on June 8, 2013 was the advanced cupping on Bliss Oolong.
What is Bliss Oolong?  
We have Pouchong, Jade Oolong, Amber Oolong, Oriental Beauty (Formosa Oolong) and Brandy Oolong in Taiwan's Specialty Oolong Selection.  Each category is clearly classified by the tea's processing.  Yet, not all tea in each category will be perceived as it is when sold.  Tea factories go through additional process, or input "Value-Added" on these teas, such as blending two or more different teas, adding herbal ingredients, or flavoring with various essences. The ultimate goal is to create a "New tea" that is harmonized in appearance, aroma, flavor, and to make sure this new tea will be presentable on the market.  "Bliss Oolong" is the special category in Taiwan Specialty Oolong just for this type of value-added Oolongs.

Originally, we have prepared about 8 Bliss Oolongs - Jasmine Oolong, Earl Grey Oolong, Osmanthus Oolong, Pomegranate Oolong, Ginger Orange Oolong to name a few,  for our friends to cup.  However Master Huang then decided that our Baked Oolong should be tasted in this session as well.  In that case, we were provided two Bliss Oolong,  American Ginseng Oolong and Sweet Olive Oolong for cupping.  In the same tray, Master Huang prepared two Baked Oolong so participants were able to taste a before and after baking.

American Ginseng Root and Taiwan Jade Oolong can harmonize really well, it gives off the natural sweet taste in the mouth and very soothing.  This tea is one of the best sellers, not in US or Canada, but actually in Asia.  (In this session, we had two tea friends who are from Wisconsin, the home of American Ginseng.)  Osmanthus is a very popular flower, especially in tea fields. which is almost right next to the tea gardens or tea factories.  Osmanthus is also known as Sweet Olive Flower - which makes it perfect to be add in Pouchong and Jade Oolong (*Oolong that with lighter oxidation).

Bliss Oolong opens the door for endless possibilities.  We are inviting tea enthusiasts to come up with better ideas to create great tea that has yet to be discovered.  

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

2013 World Tea Expo - Focused Tasting on Unknown Teas of Taiwan

Focused Tasting on "Unknown Teas of Taiwan" was decided at about the last minute for the 2013 World Tea Expo.  This session has two goals: to introduce a few teas that are upcoming to the Northern American marketplace after Taiwan's Specialty Oolongs., and to demonstrate an effective way of offering tea tasting to the new markets.  Being among the audience at times during the tea tasting gatherings,  I was given the impression that the audience may expect more than just being offered tea sampling.
How do we convert majority of audience in the tasting event to become new tea lovers? Or, at the very least encourage them to learn more about these teas that we're offering?  How do we win new fans for our teas?
We decided to use the "Unknown Teas of Taiwan" as good example.  Besides having a Focused Tasting, we also wanted to make these unknown teas to be challenging and hopefully would be of interest to the audience and perhaps gain some popularity. 
My hearty appreciation to Professor Jerry Liu and his willingness to work with me in this session on June 9th, 2013.  The next step, is to have a "Skill Building Workshop" that will actually give the participants the opportunity of a hands on practice of leading a "Tea-One Tasting".  After each workshop, we hope you can modify it to master your own style of Tea Tasting Class.  The ultimate goal is to pick up more new customers from each tea tasting you offer in your community.

2013 World Tea Expo - Tea Baking


We have planned this Tea Baking program since a few years ago. But the timing is important, and also we have to take tea education step by step.  After the "Oolong Hand Rolling" demonstration, we did the "Pouchong's Paper Wrapping" demonstration on the World Tea Expo's Special Events Stage.  In addition to all that, we thought 2013 will be the year to present "Tea Baking".

Please refer to the following slideshow -
We have total 15 lbs of the 2012 Autumn crop SiChiChun (Four Seasons Spring) from MingJiang, Nantou County.  Master Huang invites every one to check out the tea with a pre-bake cupping. Then he has set his baking plan to have this tea to be fired up and adds a more complex in aroma and flavor. 

The tea has been baked for about 12 hours.

On June 9th, 2013, the last day, we brought the Baking Unit and also four samples (one is the original also the unbaked sample, sample that taken at 6 hours, sample that taken at 9 hours, and the finish baking tea)  We then invited four tea friends on the stage to help us having a blind cupping. That was really fun and a great experience.

Thursday, July 11, 2013

2013 World Tea Expo - Behind the Scenes

We used to have our own mini stage inside our Taiwan tea booth.  However, we decided to make some changes this year in attempt to have more engaging group-learning experiences for our attendees and friends.  Instead of having a stage to invite our friends to give tea talks, Sally and her team came up with a great floor plan of having a "tea class room" right in the center of our booth, to replace the mini stage.  We thought this change would help us more focus on tea education through advanced cupping sessions on Taiwan specialty teas. 

Unfortunately,  there were a few last minute changes for the exhibitors' assigned spaces and booth signs.  So there were a lot of on site moving to get the booths fixed.  This is a learning experience for us to be more careful before sending the job to sub.

Overall, we like this year's floor design; we had plenty of room for the tea cupping, tea baking and each exhibitor in Taiwan tea booth had a lot of space for displaying and tasting.  TTMA was also  serving four fine Taiwan teas: Pouchong, Oriental Beauty, Jade Oolong and Amber Oolong, during the show at the entrance of our booth.

Monday, July 1, 2013

Enjoy a Bliss Oolong in a hot Sunday morning...

6/28/2013, Saturday morning in Azusa Mountain Cove - Josephine and I made the decision to open the box of "Oriental Beauty", a gift from our friend, who brought this tea to Vegas for 2013 World Tea Expo.  We are humble to have a dialogue with this Oriental Beauty from our home town - Hsinchu, Taiwan.
It is indeed very fresh and beautiful.  But for some reason, PonFonCha (Oriental Beauty) supposed to have more than 5 colors...but this one seems lacking of black leaves in the tray... 

We used our glass teapot to infuse (at 195F) and then serve in our porcelain teapot.  Not what we were expected... still grassy, no honey note, no much fruity taste, the tea liquor is kind of light...
We decided to examine the wet leaves ---

Good plucking,  great rolling...yet the timing proved to be too early...and hard to find the trace of green-leaf hoppers' visit.  The withering and oxidation apparently not enough. 

What should we do?  What can we do with this tea?
We don't want to drink this tea as it is...  and we can't stand not to make it a much better tea for our enjoyment.  We thought it will be our tea experiment of Sunday Morning (6/30/2013).

Here is one idea 
How about take the Formosa Brandy Oolong FB-78 to be blended with this Oriental Beauty?
But...why FB-78 ?  
We are thinking to use the tea that made with the same cultivar, Chinsing Dahpan. 
We are thinking to have some tea that will fulfill the missing oxidation...
So, here we are:   One tin of FB-78, 2012 Spring Crop, also from Beipu, Hsinchu County, Taiwan.

We had these two teas displayed on the tea trays...and began with adding 20% of Oriental Beauty to 80% of FB-78... and finally decided to go with "Oriental Beauty 1/3" + "FB-78 2/3". to have our new tea to be cupped and tasted.

How do we find this new Bliss Oolong ?
We love it!  This tea has no honey touch, as the original Oriental Beauty, should only qualified as "White Tip Oolong" due to wrong season.  Yet the special character of Chinsing Dapan with extra high oxidation really brings out the best it can...Ripe peach aroma and naturally fruity sweet and give a very pleasant mouth-feel.  By the way, it indeed is a good looking tea after blended.