Sunday, April 24, 2011

tea testing

A couple of weeks ago, my friends arrived from their "tea education" trip to China. As guides and companions on this trip they were happy to have owners of the quite new eshop based in Kunming- Cha wang shop. So I have taken an advantage of it and asked my friends to bring me some tea. Every time I look at menu of any new teashop I am tempted to buy some new tea. But especially, when the offer looks honest and interesting it is not easy to choose. So I appreciated the opportunity offered by ChaWangShop to get samples. I asked for few and have got double of it! 

So what should I try like a first? I was feeling if I do not hold back I will open them all at once. At the end I try few readily. But can I choose from 10g of leaves if I should go for whole cake or basket? It can be tricky but I enjoyed the adventure...

First tea I have tried from this selection hit me by label - 98 Maocha from Lincang pressed in to the 400g cake in 2006. That does sounds interesting, doesn't it?  I approached to this tea without any additional informatio.

It was not easy to take picture of those leaves - dark, shiny with moderate pressing.

What is it? What is going on? If you were present on my tea section that day you would probably hear these questions several times. When I sniffed from the bag for a first time - dry plume aroma reminds me aged oolongs. But later I realized that there are rather raisins and walnuts. Shiny, dark leaves which crepitate between my fingers. Only from those dry leaves I knew - this is going to be something new in my cup.

 rom first sip of the tea I was sure this is not Puer as I know it. I cut the sample in half  - first I prepared it in porcelain wood fired teapot with less leaves and then the second part in small Ixing with less water and shorter brews. For the first time it reminded me a fancy red tea from Georgia I had years ago. Then in smaller pot I find more similarities with some oolongs. Liquor is sweet in both aroma and taste. Raisins and walnuts join herb flowers and scents of flowered devilwood. It will be nearly true that leaves were oxidized, with low or without roasting and then dry stored for many years.  

It will be nearly true that leaves were oxidized, with low or without roasting and then dry stored for many years.  
Looking at leftover leaves you don't find many buds or superfine leaves. Rather larger broken leaves with some stems. None the less I enjoyed five -six good infusions.

 And I was becoming quite sure – This tea is going to be quite difrent/exiting with  more leaves! This tea was not what I asked for and going thru ChawangShop I have not find this cake. So I send my questions to Honza (owner of the shop) and got my answers. "The Maocha is from Lincang-Burma borders and tea businessmen from Kunming found it around 2004. But "material" itself - honestly I don't know and even those discoverers don't know. For sure the tea is old, dry stored and unsorted quality. It reminds me some HeiCha. I have few samples of very expensive, old Sichuan heicha with similar character. On the other hand it is also similar to pressed Formosa TieGuaYin from 1995 I had before. I still work on to get  this tea for eshop. The price should not be too high (around 30-35usd for 400g cake)" 

And I have to say I look forward to it!

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Is it good for my cakes?

This question probably goes thru heads of all of us - certainly time to time. I mean all of us who like puer. I have to admit I am still not sure about my care. I am still learning -Learning by listening to more experienced, by reading different opinions, by smelling to my tea. Learning from listening to intuition. But I am not looking for the one and only answer how to age my tea. I see it more like adventure road with questions and experiences. 

From the last firing of our wood kiln I have new arrival in to my tea cupboard. It was born in the right time - my older jars and wooden boxes filled to their tops and new cakes arrived.

I fill my first stoneware jar with fresh sheng almost two years ago.  During those months the teas stored there have moved very nicely. It is hard to compare this tea with tea carried in wooded box (my second option) or with cakes stored only in paper wrapper (my third option) but I find several benefits. The most important merit for me is protection. One tea teacher told me that the protection is too tight. He told me that as we have rather drier climate here it is better to let tea take some moisture from the air. But I find out that in unglazed clay the tea creates kind of microclimate and moisture is more stable -it is not going up and down because of wetter or heating so quickly. 

Here are my first jars for puer-cha. Clay is maybe to vetrify...
As many potters I also keep for myself pieces which have some imperfection but are too good for hammer. And it was also in the case of the new jar. You can see on the picture below how the rim of the piece is deformed.

The lid was fired on the jar so I can close and open it but only in one position. It has moved because it was fired lying on the side and the rim was too thin.

The clay is porous. We buy this rough clay from factory which produces chimney flue blocks. As this clay has very low shrinkage - Mirka usually use it for bigger or irregular shaped bonsai pots -this clay survive more then rest we use.


 When pieces are unloaded from the kiln we clean piece after piece by water and fine brush paper. So before I put cakes in to the jar I have let it dry for a two days. None the less day after I putted cakes there I measured out 88% of relative humidity. (In side of the jar) There was still too many water in it! After another two days it went down to agreeable 55-65%.
We moved to our new place during the last autumn and moisture has been in borders which I feel are good for the storage. For sure it is better then in too dry house were we lived before. Only temperature during winter was to low -but I am going to buy more wood for our heating this time. And hopefully next winter the temperature will be more comfortable for us as well as for tea.    

I look forward to see changes on my hygroscope during seasons as well as changes in teas inside my jars.

On the end one picture which I like- few small teapots from the last firing.  All three teapots are made from the same clay-only fired in different places of the kiln. You can still see them also on

Thank you for reading. Enjoy your teaday.