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Archive for the ‘tea facts’ Category

22806If you don’t know, you do now… I love tea. I know, no surprises there. For those like me who share my love of tea, there are so many options to choose from. Black, green, oolong, pue-rh, white and a myriad of flavored teas. There are no shortages of selections for avid tea drinkers.  For true lovers of tea, there is more than simply the drink, the flavors, and the blends.  Tea encompasses a culture – there are the growers; the history; the way of life.

This morning, I read an article that embraces the other side of tea – the culture. Time for Tea in the Mountains, written by Yvonne Bohwongprasert for the Bangkok Post discusses the family owned business, Oolong 101.  According to the article, Oolong 101 is one of the first family-run tea plantations on scenic Doi Mae Salong – a 40-kilometre drive from Mae Chan district in the northern province of Chiang Rai. The tea plantation is managed by Mai-chi Lu, 56 – a Chinese-Thai whose father was a soldier in the nationalist Kuomintang army. (Mai-chi Lu is pictured on the left.)

The author via the article discusses not only the challenges of starting a tea plantation, but the joys derived from tea. Mai-chi Lu describes briefly life on the plantation as well as Doi Mae Salong the town where the tea plantation is located. In addition, the article elaborates in more detail about oolong tea, which is grown on the plantation – hence the name and the health benefits of oolong tea. Finally,  highlighted briefly, you can read about how Oolong 101 promotes tourism within Doi Mae Salong through the “homestay programme” that provides visitors an opportunity to closely observe the traditions and culture of its indigenous mountain people. Visit the link and read the rest of the article to learn more about Oolong 101 and Mai-chi Lu.

Read More…

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Recently, I have seen many retailers stating they offer for sale Fair Trade Tea.  In addition to the “certified organic” label on tea, I have begun to see “Fair Trade” labels as well. Even articles in tea publications are talking about “Fair Trade Tea”. What is all the fuss about?

According to Wikipedia, Fair trade is an organized social movement and market-based approach to empowering developing country producers and promoting sustainability. The movement advocates the payment of a fair price as well as social and environmental standards in areas related to the production of a wide variety of goods. It focuses in particular on exports from developing countries to developed countries, most notably handicrafts, coffee, cocoa, sugar, tea, bananas, honey, cotton, wine, fresh fruit, chocolate and flowers.

Considering I only recently heard about the Fair Trade movement, I initially assumed – albeit erroneously, that the movement was fairly new. It just goes to show that when we think we know it all… we usually don’t. The  Fair Trade Movement began in the 1940’s and 1950’s with attempts to commercialize goods in Northern markets (Wikipedia Contributors, 2002).  Ten Thousand Villages, a non-governmental organization (NGO) within the Mennonite Central Committee (NCC) and SERRV International were the first to develop fair trade supply chains in developing countries (Wikipedia Contributors, 2002).  At that time the products were sold mostly in churches or fairs. However, the famous adage… “you’ve come a long way baby!” is most appropriately applied to the Fair Trade Movement of today. The 1960’s shaped the Movement into a political gesture against neo-imperialism with radical student movements targeting multinational corporations with concerns that traditional business models were flawed. You may remember the slogan that gained a great deal of popularity, “Trade not Aid”.

125px-transfairIn 1998, out of the rapid growth of the 1960’s emerged organizations like TransFair USA, “a unique business model that partners industry, farmers, and US consumers to promote equitable trade”.  But “Who is TransFair USA and what type of services do they provide?” As stated on their website, TransFair USA, a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization, is one of twenty members of Fairtrade Labelling Organizations International (FLO), and the only third-party certifier of Fair Trade products in the United States.  That explains the “WHO”, but not the “WHAT?”  Further research revealed that the organization audits transactions between US companies offering Fair Trade Certified™ products and the international suppliers from whom they source, in order to guarantee that the farmers and farm workers behind Fair Trade Certified goods were paid a fair, above-market price.

I’m sure you are wondering, “how does this relate to tea?”  TransFair USA offers The Fair Trade Certified Tea and Herb Program which includes products derived from the Tea plant of the Camellia family (Camellia sinensis and/or Camellia assamica), Rooibos (Aspalathus linearis), Chamomile (Matricaria chamomilla), Hibiscus (Hibiscus sabdariffa), and plants in the Mint genus (Mentha), including Peppermint (Mentha piperita) and Spearmint (Mentha spicata).  Fair Trade Certified tea was launched in 2001, rooibos in 2005, and chamomile, hibiscus and mint in 2006.  There are over 70 FLO-certified tea estates and small-scale producer groups in 11 countries across Asia, Africa and Latin America. This and additional information can be found on their website. Or click HERE to find Fair Trade certified retailers.

Another such organization is the Fair Trade Federation.  “Founded in the late 1970’s, the Fair Trade Federation evolved when individual alternative trade organizations began holding yearly conferences for groups working in fair trade. In 1994, the group incorporated formally as the North American Alternative Trade Organization (NAATO); and, the following year, changed its named to the Fair Trade Federation. Since then, FTF has focused on supporting fully committed businesses in order to expand markets for artisans and farmers around the world.”

Within Fair Trade, there are two types of organizations: Product Certification –  TransFair USA and Organizational Evaluation – Fair Trade Federation. Fair Trade Federation is responsible for evaluating organizations for their full commitment to fair trade principles (no matter what kind of product they sell).

125px-ftomarkIf  you live outside of North America, fear not, you can get connected with Fair Trade producers, retailers, and organizations through The World Fair Trade Organization (WFTO).  According to their website, WFTO  is the global representative body of over 350 organisations committed to 100% Fair Trade.  The WFTO prides itself in being the “authentic voice of Fair Trade and a guardian of Fair Trade values”.

Upon further reading, I learned that WFTO operates in 70 countries across 5 regions, including Africa, Asia, Europe, Latin America, North American and the Pacific Rim. With elected global and regional boards, WFTO creates market access through policy, advocacy, campaigning, marketing and monitoring. “It is the only global network whose members represent the Fair Trade chain from production to sale.”

The Fair Trade Organizations promote the growth, development, and fair treatment of developing countries around the world. Perhaps next time you make a tea purchase, you’ll be moved to select Certified Fair Trade products.

References:

1. Fair trade. (2009, March 22). In Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia. Retrieved 00:15, March 24, 2009, from http://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=Fair_trade&oldid=278987675

2. Fair Trade Certified. (n.d.).  Retrieved 00:15, March 24, 2009, from http://www.transfairusa.org/

3. Fair Trade Federation. (n.d.).  Retrieved 00:15, March 24, 2009, from http://www.fairtradefederation.com/

4. World Fair Trade Organization. (2009, Feruary 9) Retrieved 00:15, March 24, 2009, from http://www.wfto.com/index.php

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Friday morning my husband had three wisdom teeth pulled, as well as one unhealthy tooth and one perfectly healthy tooth. The perfectly healthy tooth… the dental surgeon accidentally damaged a healthy tooth when trying to remove the wisdom teeth. Actually, damaged it beyond repair with no option but removal. If it had not been for his dental surgery, I would never have learned about this very practical use for tea bags.

According to the the discharge instructions I received from the oral surgery unit, bleeding was to be expected during the first hour.  To help staunch the bleeding gauze pads should be placed in the open wounds for 20 minutes at a time. If the bleeding is still heavy after one hour, moistened tea bags should be inserted into the wound and pressure applied for 20 minute intervals for another hour.

Like me, I’m sure you are wondering, why teabags? Tea contains tannins. Tannins are astringent, bitter plant polyphenols that either bind and precipitate or shrink proteins. The astringency from the tannins is what causes the dry and puckery feeling in the mouth following the consumption of red wine, strong tea, or an un-ripened fruit. My research suggests that tea from the tea plant, camellia sinensis, is what should be used – not herbal teas.

The tannins contained in tea are useful for healing burns and stopping bleeding. Additionally, tannins stop infection while continuing to heal the wound internally. In the event an infection has already begun, tannins have the ability to form a protective layer over the exposed tissue to stop the infection from spreading. What is even more exciting is that tea bags can be used for more than tooth extractions. You can also use tea bags to control bleeding that occurs as the result of injuries to the soft tissues, which include the tongue, cheeks, gums and lips.

Loose tea drinkers, do not fret nor be dismayed. You can use a dreaded coffee filter – because none of us tea drinkers drink coffee – and create a mock tea bag. Another alternative would be to purchase tea socks or tea pillowcases (disposable tea bags) to hold your loose tea for placement within the mouth.

Tea always amazes me. This drink that we love is not just delicious and soothing, but has numerous medical benefits as well. The next time you head to the dentist for oral surgery be sure to keep some loose tea or tea bags handy.

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Obviously I have too much tea in my tea tote, because hidden in the bottom was a package of Keemun. It was such a pleasant surprise on Friday as I pondered what new tea to steep and drink. Thus for the past few days, I’ve been sipping on Keemun. I have been hooked since the first cup.

Composition: Black tea from the Qimen County of Huangshan City, in Anhui (Anhwei) province. “Keemun” was actually the English spelling for “Qimen” during the colonial era.

Dry Visual: Extremely thin, dark brown almost black and twisted tea leaves. While it is common for black tea leaves to be broken, Keemun tea leaves appear to be longer in length than many others I have seen. Thanks Tavalon for the picture.

Dry Aroma: A unique mix of mild earthiness and fruity sweetness.

Flavor: For an unflavored black tea, Keemun is a really good cuppa tea. Keemun is a very smooth and full-bodied tea albeit a smidgen dry after half a cup. It has a definite maltiness that I have often called “earthy”. I had to drink a few cups to confirm this next flavor, but I tell you I tasted a hint of orange. I would love to hear from other Keemun drinkers about this flavor undertone.

Keemun is naturally sweet and enjoyable without sweetener as there is no hint of bitterness. However, after adding a little Sugar-In-The-Raw Keemun came alive. I prefer drinking Keemun with sweetener and believe it would make a great sweet iced tea. (Southern Style)

Liquor: A rich reddish brown hue.

Brewing Time: Recommended brewing time is 5 minutes. I brewed for the recommended 5 minutes.

Manufacturer: Tavalon Tea

Caffeine: Yes.

I thought I would share a little Keemun history with you from my Wikipedia search. Keemun was first produced in 1875 by a failed civil servant, Yu Quianchen, after he traveled to Fujian province to learn the secrets of black tea production. Prior to that, only green tea was made in Anhui. The result exceeded his expectations, and the excellent Keemun tea quickly gained popularity in England, and became the most prominent ingredient of the English Breakfast tea blend.

If you have the opportunity to enjoy a cup of Keemun, please stop by and share your experience. Until then… Happy Tea Drinking!

References:  Keemun tea. (2008, October 14). In Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia. Retrieved 22:25, November 2, 2008, fromhttp://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=Keemun_tea&oldid=245191514

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I love to share every new tea experience with others. Thus last night, in preparation for an evening out with my best friend, I pulled together a little tea care package for her. Included in that package was Organic Detox Infusion, by Mighty Leaf Tea. Unbeknowst to me, my BFF had been experiencing stomach discomfort throughout the day. The precipitous event that inspired her to indulge in one of her newly acquired teas.

As dinner commenced, I was amazed to learn that after drinking several cups of Organic Detox Infusion (1 tea bag, multiple infusions), not only did she feel much better, the stomach discomfort was completely gone. It was then that I remembered reading on the Mighty Leaf Tea website about the many health benefits purpoted to come from the various herbs contained within their Organic Detox Infusion.  As an official convert, I was compelled to share more details about the ingredients of Organic Detox Infusion as well as their health benefits. Many thanks to the Mighty Leaf Tea website for the detailed descriptions.

  • Organic Peppermint
    The gastrointestinal tract is often relieved by peppermint as it relaxes the intestinal wall’s muscles. As it increases saliva, swallowing increases and relieves cramps, improves appetite, and relieves pain from motion sickness, nausea, and irritable bowel syndrome. Peppermint is used orally in tea to relieve respiratory conditions including coughing, colds, acute respiratory difficulties, and viral, fungal, and bacterial infections.
  • Organic Burdock Root
    Burdock root has often been used to purify the blood by removing toxins that can build up in blood. Burdock has been used as a remedy for arthritis, viruses like colds and throat pain. Burdock enhances the performance of many of the organs which purify the body and eliminate toxins or waste (like the kidneys, liver, colon, etc). This enhances overall health and helps correct disorders.
  • Organic Dandelion Root
    Traditionally, the roots and leaves of the plant have been used as medicines for breast maladies, bloating, digestive disorders, aching joints, fevers, and skin disorders. Today, many herbal doctors use dandelion to purify the liver and gallbladder of toxins. Research indicates that dandelions can treat pneumonia, bronchitis, and other respiratory disorders. Dandelion is beneficial to the kidneys, pancreas, spleen, stomach, and other organs.
  • Organic Licorice Root
    Licorice was used historically to treat the skin and coughs. It is also used to treat constipation, bronchitis, inflammation, and arthritis. Research has shown that licorice flavonoids can kill the bacteria that causes stomach inflammation and ulcers, called Helicobacter pylori.
  • Organic Red Clover Flowers
    It contains the minerals needed by bodily glands, thus frequent use can assist in bringing about hormonal balance. Red clover also helps to soothe the nerves. Red clover has been used as a remedy for the symptoms of menopause. Among the symptoms which can be alleviated include hot flashes and mood swings. The red clover herb is also a known effective liver and blood purifier.
  • Basil
    A component of basil’s oils, eugenol, is found to be effective in blocking action of an enzyme causing inflammatory health problems such as rheumatoid arthritis and inflammatory bowel conditions. Basil is a natural source of beta-carotene, an antioxidant which combats free radicals in the body, preventing damage to blood vessels and the build up of cholesterol in the blood stream. Only the oxidized cholesterol adheres to vessel walls restricting blood flow.

As you can tell, this “tea” is truly an herbal tea or tisane as it contains no actual leaves, buds, or stems from the Camellia sinensis plant also known as the tea plant. However, it was a delightful tea nonetheless. One that my BFF has decided to purchase more of.

As always, I appreciate the opportunity to use a natural remedy to cure my ails over medication. Additionally, I love to learn about natural remedies as well. So, stop by and share your experience with the healing properties of tea. Until then… Happy Tea Drinking!

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Several months ago, I set out on a journey to purchase Yixing Teapots. I initially found myself unable to make a decision. Selecting and purchasing Yixing teaware did not appear as simple as going to the local department store and buying a five-piece place setting by Mikasa.  Calphalon cookware.  Or glassware from William Sonoma. All of these are brand names that I know and love.

But Yixing Teaware? I was at a total loss – style, pricing, size, etc. Where does one begin? I also became dazed when I read and/or received additional information about – pour, authenticity, seasoning and more. It seemed like a certain level of expertise was required, that mind you I did not have, to simply select a teapot.

Thanks to several of my readers, I received the guidance I needed and soon after became the proud owner of three Yixing teapots and four cups. For the time being, my Yixing journey was put to rest. That is until recently, when I received a comment from a Yixing importer and seller containing additional guidance around pricing. I found the information very helpful to assist with future purchases. Thus instead of leaving as a comment, I have turned the expert’s advice into a post. I do hope you find the insight useful as you prepare to purchase Yixing Teaware. Take a look at what Jane, the proprietor of Necessiteas, has to say about Yixing pricing differences…

“Yixing teapots are functional art. Of course there can be fake Yixing pots (non zhi sha clay) but assuming the teapots are real, there are several factors that affect the price of a teapot. In the price range of $10.00-$100.00 these are some of the variables. One is the usefulness of the pot. Before I price a pot, I check the pour and lid. If there are drips from the spout or the lid fits poorly than the teapot is going to sell for a lower price. Another factor is the finish. If the finish is fine and smooth it will fetch a higher price. Red Zhu Ni ( one type of Zhi sha) clay will fetch a higher price. This clay provides a nice sheen on the surface of the pot. These pots are often small and often reserved for Gong fu or cermonial tea. The design of the pot is also a factor. Some are just more appealing than others to US buyers.

Once you get into the higher priced pots, the talent and the reputation of the artist will set the price. A pot created by someone without a craftsman designation may be beautiful, but generally will not garner a higher price. Among the artists, there is no shame in copying a master’s work. So you may see two pots that look very similar and one will be priced at $20.00 and the other at $20,000. A higher priced pot that is made by a contemporary artist will almost always come with a certificate of authenticity.

So, there isn’t necessarily anything wrong with lower priced Yixing teapots. They are great for everyday use. The higher priced pots tend to be more for collectors than for everyday use. It’s really a matter of personal preference.”

I have fallen in love with my Yixing teapots. While not a collector, I look forward to acquiring more. They are beautiful pieces of functional art whose beauty adds something special to every use. Thanks again Jane for sharing.

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In response to my question about seasoning techniques for Yixing Teapots, I was pleasantly surprised by a comment left by one of my readers. In an earlier blog post entitled “Seasoning Your Yixing“, I listed several techniques found via Internet research. Since that time, I received various responses that have been helpful and full of insight. 

Jo, the proprietor of YaYa House of Excellent Teas, provided another seasoning technique as well as some additional tips. I hope these posts are useful resources for other Yixing Teaware newbies like myself.

“On a basic level, all of the mentioned methods (in my prior post – Seasoning Your Yixing) do the same:
– rinse teapot to remove dust
– fill with tea and let sit for a while (or submerge the whole pot in tea)
– rinse and let dry

The main difference is in time and whether to submerge the whole teapot or only season the inside.

I’ve seasoned quite a few yixing pots over the years and believe, the pot should definitely be submerged in tea for a longish (1 hour to overnight) time. When people speak about seasoning and patina, not only the inside but also the outside of the teapot is important. I’d also recommend to use an old toothbrush to clean out dust particles from the inside.

My steps usually are:

  1. Place new yixing pot into a pot of cold water ((take lid off the pot and place in pot separately).
  2. Bring to a boil and simmer for 10 minutes.
  3. Remove yixing pot and lid from pot, rinse with warm water and scrub with toothbrush.
  4. Place teapot plus lid in a pot of fresh cold water and bring to a boil.
  5. Remove yixing pot from water.
  6. Add a decent amount of tea leaves into pot and put back in hot water (some of them will float out, most will stay in pot).
  7. Simmer for about 1 hour.
  8. Let yixing sit in pot over night.
  9. Remove all tea leaves (you might need to rinse with the tea from the big pot) and let the open yixing dry out of direct sunlight (note that I DON’T rinse the pot with water!)

At the end, most of the patina comes from frequent use. There’s different approaches to creating an even patina, but I usually don’t use just water on my teapots except to preheat before brewing tea. After a gong fu session, I brew an extra infusion that I use to clean the teapot with. I pour this infusion off into a faircup, then remove all leaves I can and rinse the inside of the yixing with some of the infusion to remove the rest of the leaves. If I want to build up a patina quickly, I rinse the outside of the teapot with the rest of the infusion, rubbing it in my hands to spread the tea over the whole surface of the teapot. This way, you can create a nice patina in about 2 month time for teapots you use 3-4 times a week.

Keep in mind, there’s no science to this. As long as you clean your teapot and give it an initial seasoning with tea (whichever way you chose to use), you should be on your way.”

Thanks again Jo, for sharing your knowledge.

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Now that I am a proud owner of Yixing Teaware, I felt it important to learn more about these precious, handcrafted teapots. In preparation of the first use, I thought it important to determine if the teapots required special care. I must admit, albeit a little sheepishly, that in my excitement I used one of my new teapots prior to conducting the research. (I refuse to admit which one.) After conducting my research, I found on three different websites (Yixing.com, WikiHow, and Culinary Teas) that it is important to “season” Yixing Teaware prior to using.

There seems to be three main techniques for used for seasoning Yixing Teaware. While I am tempted to use the easier of the four, I have opted to use the technique that appeared most frequently on various websites. My findings are listed below:

Method One

  1. Fill the teapot with boiling water and allow it to sit for ten minutes.
  2. Drain the water.
  3. Fill the pot with boiling water again and add one teaspoon of your favorite loose tea leaves. Remember, this should be the type of tea you will use this pot for. Allow to sit for ten minutes.
  4. Drain the tea. Now your pot is ready for use.

Method Two

  1. Pre-heat your Yixing teapot by filling it with hot water and then draining it.
  2. Place one teaspoon of loose tea into the preheated Yixing teapot.
  3. Fill with hot water and wait for at least one minute.
  4. Enjoy your tea either by pouring it into a cup or by drinking directly from the Yixing teapot, which is the traditional way of using it.
  5. Take the lid off the teapot and place the pieces in a vessel large enough to cover the pieces with water.
  6. Place some tea leaves in the water and bring to a slow boil (rapid boiling could damage your pot). Slow boil for an hour.
  7. Remove from the heat and let the pot remain in the water for twenty four hours.
  8. Remove the pot from the water and rinse well.
  9. Put the teapot back into the larger vessel and bring it to a slow boil again for an hour.
  10. Remove from heat and let it cool down again in the same tea water. The next day remove the teapot and rinse it in hot water. It is now ready to use.

Method Three 

  1. Pre-heat your Yixing teapot by filling it with hot water and then draining it.
  2. Place one teaspoon of loose tea into the preheated Yixing teapot.
  3. Fill with hot water and wait for at least one minute.
  4. Enjoy your tea either by pouring it into a cup or by drinking directly from the Yixing teapot, which is the traditional way of using it. 

Method 4 – The Gerenda Method

  1. Gather together 1 large water pot (the kind one uses to boil water for spaghetti), tongs, paper towels, 3-5 liters of a pure mineral water or filtered water, plastic wrap, the tea destined for your pot.
  2. Gently rinse any manufacturing dust/residue from the inside of your Yixing ware with cold water. Then, with dry paper towels wipe out the inside of your Yixing ware to make sure you get all the dust/residue. If not, this is a very unpleasant taste.
  3. Bring 3-5 liters of water to a rolling boil. The amount of water depends on the size of the teapot. You want to make sure that the amount of water is enough to completely submerse your teapot, tea set, or other Yixing ware.
  4. Cut the heat immediately after the water comes to a boil. Add 3-5 teaspoons of tea to the water, and let steep for 10 minutes. After ten minutes, with the tongs, ever so gently submerse your Yixing ware into the brew.
  5. Let stand for at least 30 minutes, or until the heat from the water pot is no longer a danger. Then wrap the top of the pot with plastic wrap to “seal” the pot. The curing process lasts exactly one week from the day of submersion. Check on the Yixing ware periodically throughout the week.
  6. Gently remove your Yixing ware from the pot and rinse with cold water on the seventh day. Never use soaps of any kind on your Yixing ware.
  7. Allow pot to dry completely. Now your Yixing ware is completely cured and ready for use!
If you are knowledgeable about Yixing Teaware and have utilized one or all of the seasoning methods listed above, please stop by and comment. I am interested in knowing which technique worked best for you. Additionally, what were the determining factors that helped you decided which method was better than another. Finally, if you utilizing a different process/technique for seasoning your Yixing Teaware, please stop by and share your technique and why you think it is the best. Until then… Happy Tea Drinking!
References:
1. http://www.yixing.com/teapotinfo.html
2. http://www.wikihow.com/Season-a-Yixing-Teapot
3. http://www.culinaryteas.com/Seasoning-Yixing.html

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Many of you “agonized” with me during my journey to purchase a Yixing Teapot. As my first Yixing teaware purchase it was fraught with many unexpected dilemmas. Nothing serious, just a tea lover stumbling over her own lack of knowledge while on a quest to find the perfect teapot. I was once again reminded that there is yet still much to learn about the world of tea.

In my search for knowledge, I came across an excellent article, Ritualizing the Habit, Part One – Teapots: Yixing, Gaiwan, Kyusu and Co. on Ya-Ya’s Teaboard. I have included an excerpt of the article for your learning pleasure: 

With this mini-series Ritualizing the habit, I intend to give a brief and practical overview of some of the basic utensils used in tea preparation.

In part one, I will focus on the most important accessory for tea preparation: the teapot. Without delving too deep into the specifics of materials, etc., I’ll explain the general use, benefits and limitations, as well as give some recommendations regarding practical sizes of some common teapot types.

This article includes a lot of great information on the types of teapots used for various types of tea brewing. I would be remiss for not sharing the knowledge.  For the full story…

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As I continued by search, to find the best Gongfu or Kungfu cha brewing technique, I found this detailed description outlined on WIKI-How. A portion of the instructions are similar to those in my last post; however, there is a great deal of additional information that I previously did not consider. There seems to more “ceremonial” actions involved as well as more emphasis on tea types. But, you can be the judge.

 

Brewing Technique #2

  1. Appreciate the tradition. In the Chinese traditional tea culture, Kung Fu tea has a certain etiquette that goes along with it, a procedure that drinkers follow. Each different place adds various details. Study the various ways in which Kung Fu tea is served and enjoyed, and eventually you will develop your own unique way.
  2. Get a tea set: This will include a tea tray (hollow tray with a container inside which can contain all the water that will be spilled during the process), teapot, fair cup (a separate tea vessel), tasting cups, and aroma cups (sniffer cups).
  3. Prepare the tea leaves in advance, so that they are ready to be placed in the pot as soon as it has been warmed. A tea caddy, or “tea presentation vessel,” is recommended for this purpose, as is a proper set of tea tools. Approximately one to two teaspoons of leaves is a good quantity to begin with and is easily adjusted to taste after the initial infusion. Keep in mind that due to the many variations of tea processing, some leaves are a lot more compact than others. For instance: in terms of volume of leaves, you will need less Tieguanyin than Yan Cha or Formosa Oolong.
  4. Rinse all vessels with hot water. This signifies that the ritual of tea making has begun by purifying the pot, cleaning it of dust and residue and making it ready to receive the tea. It also warms the vessels since the hot water is then poured into the serving pitcher and from there into the tasting cups. This is done because at room temperature ceramic teaware is usually quite cold and unsuited to brewing fine teas whose temperature must be carefully controlled. After rinsing, the water should be discarded into the draining tray or a waste water bowl.
  5. Before infusion, pour hot water over the leaves and then quickly pour it off. This removes any dust from the leaves and begins to open them up—-releasing the tea’s aroma, which should be savored prior to infusion. This set prepares the palate to appreciate the full flavor of the tea.
  6. Use pure or mineral water to brew the tea. Tap water should be avoided, since its chemical treatment imparts undesirable flavors and odors which interfere with the delicate aromatics of tea. (Home filters and other water purification systems can minimize and, in some cases, eliminate these problems.) The best water for tea brewing is spring water with a natural mineral content that’s neither too hard nor too soft. Since T.D.S., “total dissolved solids”, or mineral content measured in parts per million, varies greatly from water to water, you may want to do your own taste-test of waters available in your area to determine which one has the best flavor, body and compatibility with the tea you drink.
  7. Fill the pot to the top with hot water and cover. Pour water over the top of the pot, drawing the stream over the air hole until a little water comes out the spout. When this occurs, you know the pot is full and heated to the right temperature.
  8. Pour the water into the fair cup to heat it. A fair cup allows the tea to be poured from the teapot into a holding vessel. Sometimes these fair cups use a filter to trap unwanted tea particles that may have passed on from the teapot.
  9. Add tea leaves and let steep.
    • Oolong Tea: For light oolongs, such as Bao Zhong & Imperial Green, use 70°-80°C (158°-176°F) water and an infusion time of 3 to 5 minutes. For darker styles, including Tieguanyin & Yan Cha—between 80° and 90°C (176-194°F) again steeping 3 to 5 minutes.
    • Black Tea: You will probably find that water between 85° and 95°C (185°-203°F) and a three minute infusion works best for black tea. You may want to experiment with lower temperatures and longer steeping times.
    • Puerh Tea: Use water that’s just come to a boil and infuse 3-5 minutes.
  10. When the leaves have infused their essence, pour the tea out into the pitcher (fair cup). This intermediate step between the teapot and the individual cups allows the tea to be mixed while pouring (the first tea coming out of the teapot will be less strong than the one on the bottom of the teapot). Moreover, it allows to precisely adjust the brewing time in the teapot (all the tea comes out quickly, instead of being slowly poured in the individual cups).
  11. From the fair cup, distribute the tea in the aroma cups, keeping the pitcher close to the cups and pouring slowly. This reduces the movement of the tea, maintaining its temperature.
  12. After the aroma cups are filled, position one tasting cup, upside down, over each aroma cup. After tasting cups are positioned, take each cup pair and quickly flip it: this is a very delicate step since the cups are becoming hot on the outside. Notice that the tea will not spill out because no air can enter the aroma cups. After this is done, each guest will simply lift the aroma cup from the tasting one.  Another option to this step is to give each guest the aroma cup and separately the tasting cup. The guests will then simply pour the tea from aroma to tasting cups and proceed by smelling in the same manner.
  13. At this point, the aroma cup can be brought near the nose to receive the fragrance of the tea by inhaling the steam.
  14. After smelling, drink the tea from the tasting cups. Drink by taking small sips that allow to fully enjoy the taste, aromas and qualities of the tea.
  15. A good green tea will allow up to four or five brews. Add water to the teapot and start again from point 10 to your will.

This is a call to experienced Gongfu or Kungfu cha Brewers. After reading each technique, which of the two do you prefer. If neither, please submit your preferred Gongfu or Kungfu cha Brewing Technique either as a comment to this post or via email: teaescapade@yahoo.com.

I look forward to your responses. Until then… Happy Tea Drinking!

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