Sunday, December 12, 2010

Zen Garden in Shizuoka's Hotaiji Temple

I always enjoy wandering around Zen Gardens. Trees, stones, ponds...are so creatively and peacefully set, just like making a good cup of tea to serve: Harmony in the cup, in a mood.

In our 2010 Japanese Green Teas Study Tour, we got to visit this Hotaiji Temple, a small temple locates right behind the hotel we were staying in Shizuoka., a few blocks away from the Train Station. This temple was used as accommodation for envoys from Korea and Ryukyu (currently Okinawa) in the Edo Period. It is open to public for viewing their beautiful zen gardens. I was there twice in our short stay. The first time I went with our member, Bob Boewe on 10/28 morning for a short walk while we were waiting for our group to visit Ocha Matsuri. On 10/29, before Josephine and I checked out Hotel, I accompanied her to visit it again. Glad to have these photos in my blog and I can always review them. Don't you feel the Harmony from each photo? In addition to the garden inside, we kind of surprise to see how this old temple not to be interfered amongst the modern buildings. Simply amazing...
I appreciate one of our group members, Lisa Boalt Richardson, has the same interest on this temple... She got more information for me about this historical temple, which is good to have it here for the reference:
Hotaiji is a Buddhism temple. It was buit in 1381.
From 1600-1850 when Joseon missions came from Korea, they stayed at Hotaiji on the way to Tokyo. They were impressed by its beautiful gardens and architectures. Hodaiji used to be a very large temple, but it was completely destroyed by aerial bombing in 1944 and rebuilt later. There are 40 small stone figures to be found in the garden. These are guardian deity for the spirits of dead children who are playing in heaven.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Tea-A-O Workshop (11/18/2010@UCI)

Since TAO established in the campus of UCI, we have been part of this big family. This is the second time we are invited back to TAO-UCI' activity. Good leadership can be felt and seen easily before and after this event. Josephine and I enjoyed this evening very much and we love these kids and touched by reading their thank-you cards.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Tea Philosophy in Japanese

On our recent trip back to Taiwan, my father gave this hand written memo to Josephine for her to show me. I posted it on facebook with my translation as:
"Drink water when you're thirsty and have some tea while you're lonely..."
but, Jospehine might be right...not only when you're could have much broader meaning with your soul... and tea could heal it all.

We have received great response from our facebook friends on this one.
last week, I thought of writing and forward this note to my sensei, brother CS Lou.

Look what I got in return. Amazingly stated....

" 無茶(mucha)不合理 unreasonable、absurd

無茶苦茶(mucha kucha) 亂七八糟 in confusion,extremely

滅茶苦茶(mecha kucha)一團糟 topsy-turvy

お茶を濁す(ocha o nigosu)敷衍了事 temporize, give an evasive reply

茶化す(chakasu)滑稽化 瞞天過海 mock at make fun of

鬼も十八番茶も出花 (oni mo jyuhachi bancha mo debana)

茶腹も一時(chabara mo ittoki)
A cup of tea may stay hunger for a time.

茶目な (cha me na)playful,mischievous

我結婚了沒,那時我已三十多歲,我說有孩子了,他說 “よかった” 好極了。
我好奇地問他,為什麼? 他說一個人結婚了以後,算是 ‘一人前’
ichi nin mae意思就是一個完整的人,否則就是半人分,比較不完整,比較不可靠。"

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Baked Pouchong 70439

This morning, I can't wait to taste this tea that Norman and I had worked on during this trip back to Taiwan. (*We found 4 bags, 200 plus lbs old Pouchong tea (1997) sat in Sha Keng Tea Manufactory's warehouse. I suggested Norman to give this tea a trial to bake it with the way we had learned in Yuchih during TOST 2010.)
I use my "Harmony Tea Pot" to make this tea, measure 5 grams with 200 degree heated water infused for about 3 minutes.
I called Norman right away that I will take them all.
This one is just amazingly good. Not like most Tie-Kuan-Yin, this Pouchong is made of Chinsin Dah-Pan, very soothing and a pleasant finish... I believe there are a few tea friends of mine will share the same enjoyment I am experiencing. Plus, this tea is very economical compared with most aged oolongs available on the market.
Good job, my brother.

Friday, October 1, 2010

2010 World Tea Expo

Another great show for TTMA. We had a series of programs in our own stage every day. Many good friends stopped by to say hi and checked us out... Our booth is indeed very busy and with all activities in three days... what a job! Thanks to all our partners came all the way from Taiwan not only helping out the booth exhibition, also brought the demo programs. Dr. Lin and Steve Huang had an early morning class to introduce Taiwan's indigenous tea having tea cupping of Ruby 18 and Classic Tung Ting.... I do see the light this year, TTMA has brought a few young tea pros from Taiwan to participate this show. They worked very hard for preparing the tea, serving tea teas...and clean up... We can't be this good if we are not perform as a team. Our leader: Jackson and Ted are extremely busy all along. I am just glad that I can work with TTMA and see how the
improvement and prosperously growing each year. Go Taiwan Tea! (*A friend later emailed me that he likes the Taiwan Oolong Chanting lead by Josephine!)

2010 World Tea Expo - Behind the Scenes

This year, TTMA applied 10 booths and had planned an attractive design for the booths. Just to see how much works the staff had put up with behind the scenes. Thank you all...

Hand Rolling & Paper Wrapping Demo @ WTE 2010

Taiwan Oolong's hand rolling demonstration was requested by WTE to come back to the Special Events for the second year in a roll. This year, we invited a young tea pro, William Huang to do his performance. William is very excited for got picked by TTMA for this show and he did practice and he feels great after the demo. I believe this will be in his memory for a long long time. Besides the hand rolling demo, we also have another presentation - to demo the traditional Pouchong tea paper wrapping. Pouchong tea is packed in every 4 Taiwan oz in double paper wrapping to preserve its aroma and freshness for over a century. Nowadays, with advanced technique and material, tea packed in small pouch is very popular. However, Taiwan's Pouchong was requested to be packed in small package since tea lovers really hope to enjoy Pouchong with its fresh aroma as much as possible. Frieda and Mao-Sheng, the two young tea pros are having fun for this one.

We feel great that we can always bring something different to the World Tea Expo.
What's next?

Appreciation Ceremony @WTE 2010

A Ceremony of Appreciation (with a touching story) was taken place at the center stage of World Tea Expo at 2:50PM on 6/13/2010. Thanks to the show management to give us the time of using the stage to enhance tea's greatest value - bridging the World.

In August 8, 2009, a tremendously strong typhoon hit Taiwan dreadfully and created extreme and dramatic damage. The casualties were beyond imagination. The hardest hit areas were the central and southern Taiwan…where many many tea gardens are located.

During the arduous and difficult time, Taiwan received great love and compassion from around the world, including our wonderful and kind friends from the tea industry….Mike Spillane/G. S. Haly, Bill Waddington/TeaSource, Robert Krul & Cory Krul/CTC. They generously sent money in need to Taiwan without hesitation.

To express the deepest gratitude and respect from the people of Taiwan, Taiwan Tea Manufacturers’ Association is here to present a plague to Mr. Spillane, Mr. Waddington, Mr. & Mrs. Krul. The plague is just a small token to appreciate the unconditional love to our friends of Taiwan.

(The three gentlemen from Taiwan:
Master Jackson Huang, Senior Adviser of TTMA., Ted Fan, Secretary General of TTMA., and Professor Lynn Lin, International Adviser of Council of Agriculture, Taiwan. )

Thursday, September 30, 2010

Infusion Challenge @WTE 2010

This is the first time that World Tea Expo has the Infusion Challenge. Kim did a great design on this program... I might be the one proposed the idea but Kim did it all. It is very nice to have chance to observe our tea pros using different tea accoutrement to prepare the infusions. They takes their time and focus on every details... (*one thing, they probably overlooked the temperature dropping too fast in the convention floor of a big hall...) I think this is very encouraging program that can remind our fellow tea pros to continuously practice infusing teas at different environments and with accessories available.

Sunday, September 19, 2010

TACL 2010 LID Summer Camp @UCLA (8/5/2010)

Taiwanese American Citizen League (TACL) is having LID Summer Camp for during 8/4-7/2010 at the campus of UCLA. The coordinator, Jason Tsai and many counselors are our good friends since ITASA activities. I got the invitation from Jason since early April at UCSD to give his campers a workshop for them to learn about Taiwan's tea culture. He insists that the workshop must be creative and fun. You know the teens nowadays can easily get bored if they don't find it interesting. What a challenge we have for this one. Over 120 students plus our couselors and other guest speakers... View through the above photos, you might figure what is the result.
By the way, LID means Leadership, Identity and Development. I was amazed to see how this 2010 team has achieved. Jason and his partners deserve a big applause from our TA community.
My 4 volunteers for the day: Mindy Huang, Kyle Chou, Philip Chiu and Alinda Wang.
There are a few students did send in emails to get their aroma & sipping cups set as I promised in the class. I will make sure to forward these tea sets upon we received them from Taiwan Tea Manufacturers' Association.

Saturday, September 18, 2010

Tea Time with TAP at Rosemead City (7/24/2010)

On July 24th, 2010 at Roasemead City Community Center...
TAP and TACL Interrn about 60+ gathered for the tea workshop. Hoping this will help more of our younger TA will be willing to enjoy fine Taiwan Oolong and also will take a further step to share our Taiwanese tea culture with their friends.
I thank to Christina, Tony, Sharon and Nobert, four of my volunteers that join me for the hands on brewing. Also, Connie and Karen were busy serving tea to our audience...
Josephine and I enjoy this one very much!

Tea Cupping at Azusa Mountain Cove (7/5/2010)

Over the long weekend of Indepence Day, Josephine and I invited a few TA2 friends to our house. We all enjoyed a good time with delicious Vietnamese Sandwiches and various fruits and interesting topics... They are actively involved in our community service and it is a
nice chance for JP and me to thank them for their endless efforts for Taiwan.
After the lunch, they asked me to offer a tea cupping session right at our kitchen...and the following photos were taken from that happy moment.

Julie Huang's tea presentation in HK (6/15/2010)

My niece, Julie Huang currently lives in Hong Kong. Her daughter's school invites her to make a presentation about her tea family sent me a S.O.S for some photos from old days that linked to her father, Jackson Huang and her grandpa - Ebisu Huang, the founder of ABC TEA and Sha Keng Tea Manufactory in Hsinchu, Taiwan. These are very precious photos and bring back many glorious memories of our family tea business.

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Renovation is on

While we are remodeling our office, we lso start clean up our front yards...
There is a Taiwan map image garden near the front gate; there are a row of Sweet Olive Flowers;
a few bonsai plants in Pines, Maples, Guava, Persimmon, Loquat ... and a patio seating area.
Our staff and our neighbors seem to be happy with all these changes!

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Colorado College Students enjoy a tea experience in Taipei

This was in Taipei, Taiwan......

Tea Master Jackson Huang was very tied up with a group of students from Colorado College, Colorado Springs, Colorado, USA on 04/28/2010.

Arranged by Professor Yunyu Wang, these 25 students who were in Taiwan attending exchange students study program at the Taipei Univeristy of Arts met up with Tea Master Jackson Huang.

They took MRT from Chien-Tan to Chungshan Station, walked to the office of Taipei City Tea Merchants Association (TCTMA), and had tea lecture that conducted by Master Huang.

After the briefing of Taiwan tea history and the current status of tea consumption in Taiwan...the students cupped taste 5 different teas (Three Oolongs, one Black and one Green tea) produced in Taiwan with Master Huang.

The Chairwoman of TCTMA, Ms. Yvonne Kao, was also at the facility to introduce the organization and activities of her members. Students were extremely fond of the story about Cha-Giao Matsu, Godess of Tea, who would be considered the protector for all tea men. These students were also very interested in learning how to make decision by throwing the two pieces Divination blocks (筊杯).

After leaving TCTMA, Master Huang led the students for a walking tour around the oldest tea district in Taipei - Da-Dou-Cheng. Master Huang gave all tea legends at each historical sites. The students also visited an old tea refinery factory, Jinzi Tea Plant.

The one hour walking tour ended at the last stop, ABC Tea's store, where all the students got a group photo and presented the appreciation card to Master Huang.

The following comments are from the students, very touching and interesting.

I have to tell you it was very cool to meet the Tea Master. I spent all of fifth block studying Japanese art, including tea and the tea master sen no Rikyu. I'm not sure what the status of tea masters is today, but I imagine this man commands a great deal of respect. I was amazed by how friendly and kind he was. He spoke French with me for a few minutes; he speaks five different languages fluently. Thanks for giving us that experience.
Dear Tea Master, I want to personally thank you for donating your time and wisdom to our class. You were beyond generous by sharing with us your stories, showingus around the city, and giving us the massive oolong tea boxes. I'm sure that I still do not understand the full appreciation for what you do, but I have heard from friends who have studied Asian culture that tea masters are some of the most respected positions in the world. In any case, I fully enjoyed listening to you speak about the historical significance of Taiwan in tea culture. Visiting this country has been a very profound experience for me since I was born in Kaoshiung, and have not been back for many years; You have helped me to become even prouder of my heritage by teaching me about something I could not learn anywhere else. Your passion for tea is very admirable and inspiring, and I can only hope that I find something in the future that I too can master so well.
Thanks again for a once in a lifetime experience.
Sincerely, Amy Lin

Coming from an economic background, I thought the tea walk was especially interesting because many of the topics that the tea master discussed areapplicable to my major. Not only is tea particularly important to the Taiwanese culture but also tea is vital to the local economy. The domestic demand for tea is so large that Taiwanese tea companies can survive on the demand for domestic market alone and therefore they are not reliant on importing tea to other countries. In this sense tea seems to stand as asymbol of independence for Taiwan as it is a good doesn’t rely on thedemand from foreign countries. Also, I thought it was interesting that Taiwan is unique because it has the perfect climate for growing three different types of tea: Jasmine, Oolong, and Green tea. Hence, the tea growers can substitute their crops from year to year in order to fit a higher or lower demand of certain types of tea. All in all, the tea walk was very informative and I was able to relate some of what I have learned in my previous classes to understand how important tea is to the Taiwanese economy.
- Hannah Evans

The Drinking of the Tea

I myself have never been much of a tea drinker at all. On occasion, for instance on a old winter evening, I will drink a cup of tea that is often very sweet. The obsession and the passion that some people share for this earthly drink has always been a mystery to me. I have always found myself asking why anyone would ever want to drink something that tastes like leaves. Our trip to the Tea Master, however, not only gave me a better understanding of tea, it also may have changed my mind about the taste.
Walking through the streets of the old tea market really made me wonder what it must have felt like on the day when the first shipment of tea set out for the Americas almost 250 years ago. Coming from an island myself, I understand the power of exports and trade because it was Puerto Rico’s ports and trade that made my country grow the way it did. The most powerful moment of the walking tour for me came when we visited the Wharf. It was very moving to be in a place that held so much importance for Formosa and its history. Tea really made this country great. I became nostalgic for my own home and was able to appreciate what Formosa has done in terms of giving something great to the world.
From giving us information on how tea is made to the preparation of the tea itself, the tea tour was highly insightful. This drink goes back thousands of years, and it wasn’t until a few days ago that I realized the true passion someone can have not only for its taste, but also for its tradition. I realized as we were being lectured that tea isn’t something that you can solely drink. Tea is a way of life. And as we were lectured it came through very clearly that this man lives through tea. Behind his words and smiling eyes, it was easy to see that he was treating us to everything because he wanted to share this part of his life with us. He did it because he wanted to and it means a lot, especially to a foreigner, to be treated with such respect. We all felt very welcome there, and it really opened my eyes about this once mysterious drink.
As a confession, I can honestly say that before the tea tasting there had not been a tea that I genuinely enjoyed drinking. Formosa Oolong tea changed all of that. Its texture and taste made me appreciate the history behind it and then it let me appreciate its flavor. I would have it again any day. Tea Master, thank you for your time and passion.

- Jose Montijo
In college, most people become coffee addicts; I, however, became a tea addict. My friends and I regularly go to coffee shops to study and socialize and because I dislike the taste of coffee I always order tea. From always ordering tea, I learned to love the taste of tea and I make myself a cup (oolong, green, or black) every day before class. This past summer I had an internship and my boss was also a tea lover and we would take a break every day at 3:00 to enjoy a cup of tea. He always bought very nice and expensive teas, giving me my first taste of fancy oolongs and black teas. He also introduced me to some Taiwanese oolongs that he said were his favorite. I told him that I would be going to Taiwan in the spring and he told me of several teas that I absolutely had to try. For the past couple weeks in Taiwan I have been looking for the teas he mentioned and I found several, but I was really looking forward to our tea visit to learn a little more about Taiwanese teas and to try and find the elusive “Oriental Beauty.” The tea trip went above and beyond my expectations. I really enjoyed hearing about the history of Taiwanese tea because along with the tea history I was able to learn more about the history of Taiwan, including different colonial periods and different country influences on Taiwan. The historical field trip was also fascinating and I really enjoyed seeing an old quarter of Taipei. I loved how the tea master was able to paint with his words a beautiful depiction of what the area was like back in the day. From seeing and learning about Taiwan history during this visit, I feel like things I have seen and experienced in Taipei over the past two weeks have now been contextualized. The best part of the tea visit, however, was trying the teas and being able to purchase Oriental Beauty, the tea I had been looking for over the past couple weeks. I bought a package for myself as well as one for my old boss, so I can now return the favor and share some wonderful Taiwanese tea with him!
- Kie Riedel
Thank you very much for teaching us about tea! I have alwayd loved tea but did not know very much about it. I like knowing what it is I am drinking, and now I feel as though I do more. I know now not to drink too much green or black tea without a meal because that will make my stomach hurt, but drinking oolong tea alone is fine. I also know that I have no idea what is in Lipton tea, and I would rather drink tea that I know wkat kind it is. I loved testing all the different teas. Black Tea and Formosan Oolong were my favorites. Thank you so much for teaching us! It was wonderful.
- Hilary Kennedy

Monday, April 19, 2010

An Exploration of Fine Taiwan Oolongs @ San Jose (4/17/2010)

This is my first visit to the San Jose Taiwanese American Center.
Chris and Vincent enjoyed chatting all the way from Berkeley to San Jose, but I took my sound nap to recharge my "battery".... This is an extremely busy week for Josephine and me with Specialty Coffee Association of America (SCAA Show) taken placed in Anaheim. Quiet a few fellow tea colleagues are in town to meet the STI training sessions.... I was actually waken up by Vincent...while arriving at the TAC San Jose. (*A two story big building with many functions for TA's various activities.)
With the experience of previous class at UC Berkeley, Vincent was a lot more efficient this time to help me set up the tables and get hot water ready...I then got chance to chat with various friends who arrived early, including Mrs. Gina Mao, our good friend Tyson Mao's mom, a passionate TA community leader in Northern California., Mr. David Chen, President of Taiwanese American Center of Northern California., Sophia Deng, a fellow FAPA member and a good friend in FB...They showed up to support TAP-SF's activity. That is what I always respect: Leading by example!
It turns out to be a good size of crowd, and a happy afternoon with a lot of fun of having Taiwan Oolongs together. This class might be rated one of the most interactive workshops I have ever had. The whole audience are very responsive. We not only shared one Hakka Mountain Tea Song in PonFonCha., a Taiwan famous song in Wenshan Pouchong., plus we were doing together as a big group to Chant for Taiwan Oolongs at the end of the workshop. (I saw many smiling faces, and I found some tears on a few respectful senbai's eyes. They fought for Taiwan's idendity for long long time, and they told me, "Tea is really a good media to share with the rest of the World about our Taiwanese culture...". What can I agree more with this statement?)

I did prepare one TTMA's apron for the whiz winner - in order to review with our audience about the important "3 T" for making a good cup of tea, which are: Right amount of Tea, right temperature of water and right time of steeping. My question is "what will be the 4th T ?" - a young lady, Jodi Chen hits it without any hesitation: "Taiwan Tea" - she said it loudly...Alright! Go Jodi! Go Taiwan Tea!
As usual, I appreciate very much for the four volunteers, without them, this Tea Workshop could not be so much fun and no way to get the message delivered. Our volunteers from TAP-SF, (from the left to right) Brian Chen, Susan Huang, Joe Chen, and Carol Pan. They are marvelous and having good demo. I don't know whether I have ever bumped into a much more talented volunteer like Brian. He interacts so well along the whole class...just seemed like we did rehearse for it before the class.
Two classes in one short afternoon...very tired indeed. Eespecially, the last minute for the plane to head back to Burbank airport...first time in my life, an airplane was waiting for embarrassing! But still, a big THANK YOU to HoChie, my friend, for the opportunity to work with

Saturday, April 3, 2010

ITASA West Coast 2010 @ UCSD (4/2/2010)

We drove from Los Angeles to UCSD this morning to participate this conference.
This is the first time I visited this campus and it is indeed a huge campus that UCSD has. Stephanine Chen who is the staff who greets us and guides us to our class room for our tea workshop. We met many "old" faces among many "youngsters", I felt good, really good that our tea workshop did win quite a few fans here.
Again, thanks to the volunteers: Christine, Jason, Stephanie and Mark. They are the key ingredients of this workshop.
Josephine and I decided to stay and enjoy a great weekend here in La Jolla!
There are a few shots we took while waling around in the UCSD campus...

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Bopiliao in Wanhua, a place to visit in Taipei!

On 3/27/2010, I got a call from a fellow tea enthusiast, Ah Liang. He invited me to meet him at Bopiliao. I really don't know where it is...but, I am glad that I did make it there to see this place.
Ah Liang has a tea booth there under one old tea room in Wanhua at an earlier time. He did enjoy sharing tea stories there...
大道無門 識茶有路 ─

很高興看到 阿亮識茶之路
幾個好友圍爐喝茶 天南地北 何其容易
但在眾人之前 三言兩語 讓大家駐足傾聽 需要硬實功夫
設計動作玩茶 三點捧杯 成山似品 是個"動手作"好主意
少談玄理 多說故事 從種茶 作茶 賣茶 買茶 送茶 喝茶....去加溫
茶人茶事 無盡趣事 無苦不成甘 有趣方延緣 眾飲乃得慧
台灣好茶 需要更多盡心盡力的投入與推動

喜見茶人阿亮 自覓識茶之路 剝皮寮說故事 是以為誌

Thomas (3/27/2010 Taipei)

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Tea Master Jackson Huang offered Tea Workshop in Taipei (3/16/2010)

Jackson Huang, Senior Advisor and former President of Taiwan Tea Manufacturers Association, has his tea class on 3/16/2010 for the foreign friends who are newly residing in Taipei. This is the 12th year in a row that he has offered this class which coordinated by Taipei American Community Center.
Per Jackson, there are all sorts of classes available in this program offered to help the new comers of American to get familiar with their new lifestyle in Taipei. Besides AIT, ATS, there are several local big business are supporting this program, and it seems to be gradually open up for more foreigners other than American.
In the class of 3/16, Mr. Huang has a group of 13 ladies: one from Germany, one from Mexico, two from Israel and 9 from United States.
What have they learned in this tea workshop? Jackson said, "There are two sessions, the first half is indoor for learning the tea basics with hands on cupping various Taiwan teas: Green Tea, Black Tea, Pouchong, Oriental Beauty, Jade Oolong. Each participant get to share her own appreciation of the individual tea. The second half is to have a walking tour to visit Taipei's old tea district."
If you are interested in finding more information of Master Huang's tea class, you can call the following number: (02) 2553-7815.

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Tea Workshop @ MIT (2010 ITASA East Coast )

We recived this honorable invitation by ITASA East to have Taiwan Tea Workshop since its last conference at Duke back on 2/1009. It is indeed very hard for me to say no to come to Boston where the incident happend in 1773 that leads to the Independence of this great country. Not only I can have another chance to meet up with a bunch of good students who will participate the conference of 2010 ITASA East, also for me to visit MIT/Harvard and many schools that I have longed for.

This tea workshop designed to highlight 4 of Taiwan's Specialty Oolongs:
Pouchong, Gaoshancha, Oriental Beauty and Charcoal Baked Tie-Guna-Yin. A horizontal tea tasting focused on learning the basic of itentifying different teas and how to brew them properly with the right amount of leaf, right temperature of heated water, and right infusing time. Each tea requires different combination to make it a perfect cup. The discipline is there and the secret is to have your own experience to hands on brewing. JP and I are trying to make sure our audience will have fun during the process. No Fun No Fan! We do hope some of these new friends of ours will actually pick up drinking tea after the class...and they might start their own pursuit of fine Taiwan Oolongs in their next visit to the motherland of their parents.
(*For more information about our tea education, maybe your can visit this link: )

Thanks to so many hard working crew: Christine, Stephanie, Anna, Taffanie, Ginger...we enjoyed our visit and we are glad that we have had a good workshop with so many young elite from various schools. The four volunteers who helped the hands on brewing: Jiali, PJ, Jisoo, and Cindy are excellent. I believe they are the ones who benefit the most.

Friday, January 22, 2010

How to evaluate a tea?

Tea is a hobby drink, every one enjoys it differently. However, to be a tea professional, one is required to be disciplined in cupping.
Usually, we will examine the dry leaf, looking for the properties that are characteristic of teas from that origin, checking the density and dryness of the leaf. The aroma and color of the brewed leaf is also important and adds its own hints to the wider understanding of the tea. Then, when the liquor is sucked into the mouth, the aroma hits the nasal cavities and the feel and taste of the liquid fill the mouth and enable to really feel and get to know about the tea. We are trying to determine the visual factors, aroma, flavor, quality, character, value and suitability…as thorough as possible.

Step 1: Examine the appearance of the leaf
We will check the visual properties of the tea leaf to find out whether the tea leaf size even? Is there plenty of tip if relevant? Does the tea leaf have the character of teas from the particular origin? Does the appearance good or acceptable? To check the leaf’s density (weight in g over 100 ml) and the moisture contents…
Good tea leaves must be thoroughly dry and the shape should be smooth and even. They should not have too many broken edges, and there should not be many stems, yellowed leaves, or other odd elements. The shape of the leaves depends on the type of tea. For ball-shaped tea, the tighter the leaves are rolled, the better; the size of the balls should be consistent as well. Wenshan Pouchong leaves are long and slightly twisted, not rolled. Tungting tea is rolled into a half-ball shape. Iron Goddess is a tight, ball shape. White Tip Oolong is naturally curly. Dragon Well tea leaves look like tiny swords, and black tea leaves are small, thin, and wiry. In addition to shape, look at the color of the dry leaf to distinguish quality. Fresh, non-baked tea leaves are bright and glossy. Baked and aged teas are dark and smooth.

Step 2: Check the smell of the dry leaf
Does it have the expected aroma? Dose it smell fresh? Does it have the unexpected smells?
Learn to recognize the quality of the fragrance. Good quality green and Pouchong teas should not smell baked. White Tip Oolong should have a fruity fragrance; black tea should be slightly malty. Tea should never have a stinky, burnt, smoky, oily, or other strange smell.

Step 3: Assess the appearance of the liquor
Is the color of the tea liquor what we would expect?
Is the liquor clear and bright? How about the cloudiness? Is the surface clear?

Step 4: Assess the aroma and the flavor of the liquor
Does it have a characteristic aroma or any hint?
Does the tea have the expected flavor profile?
Detect any astringency or smooth? Is there any bitterness and unpleasant harshness? Is the tea thin or doest it have body and substance in the mouth?
Does it have flat or lingering finish? (Finish in Oolong is highly concerned.)
The color, fragrance, and aroma of tea are mutually connected. Wenshan Pouchong tea is greenish-yellow with a natural floral aroma, and a fresh, flavorful taste. Tungting Oolong is a deep, golden brown color, with a floral scent, sweet aroma, and long-lasting sweet finish. Iron Goddess has a brownish liquor and a hearty fragrance, rich and fruitlike; it is smooth and soothing to the throat. White Tip Oolong is reddish-orange, with a ripe fruity flavor, honey-like fragrance, and soothing, smooth taste. Dragon Well is yellowish green, with a slightly vegetal or grassy aroma, and a lively, fresh flavor. Black tea is a deep reddish-black color, with rich layers of fragrance; sugar and milk can be added to enhance the flavor.

Step 5: Examine the brewed leaf
After you taste the tea, remove the leaves from the vessel. Look at the color: do they appear tender or mature? Look at the condition of the leaves: are they oxidized, rolled, and baked properly?
For example, Dragon Well leaves consist of young buds and tender whole leaves, yellowish-green in color. Wenshan Pouchong leaves are also whole but more mature than Dragon Well; the leaves should be slightly red around the edges and a lively green in the middle. Basically, any tea made from the buds of a tea tree, like White Tip Oolong or Dragon Well, should contain many small, tightly shaped buds. By contrast, Wenshan Pouchong, Tungting, Iron Goddess, and High Mountain teas are picked after the buds open, so it is not a sign of quality if these teas contain too many small leaves and buds. Also, if the color of the leaves is very green, the oxidation may be too low. Evidence of oxidation should appear around the tips and edges of the leaves, outlining them with a red color. The darker the leaves, the heavier the oxidation processed. The darker the color and the harder to the touch, the heavier the baking has gone through. On the contrary, the brighter the color and the softer the leaf, the lighter the baking has gone through. Handpicked leaves are more regular in shape; machine cut leaves tend to be irregular. You can also identify the type of tea cultivar and whether it is a hybrid or not by examining the brewed leaves. In short, by spending a little quality effort examining the brewed leaves, you can really enhance your tea experience!
(For more tools of tea cupping, review this link: )