Saturday, February 25, 2012

tea vocabulary

from the blog ''Pin Ming Wei Qu'' (Sip tea with passion)

Specific vocabulary to describe Pu-erh tea

1.The character of tea (Chaxing 茶性): what kind of stimulation the liquor gives you when it's inside your mouth; the type of aroma that develops, the amount of bitterness and astringency, and more globally, the degree of pungency.

2.The quality of tea (Chazhi 茶质): how the liquor behaves inside the mouth, its texture. The way it flows through the throat, the degree of sweetness in the mouth and in the throat; the endurance of the tea, is the liquor thick or volatile? Soft or strong?

3.The fragrance (Xiangqi 香气): it develops during the manufacture. In the oral cavity, fragrance is noticeable on the upper palate, on the surface of the tongue, under the tongue, on the cheeks and in the throat

4.Bitterness and astringency (Ku Se 苦涩): 'bitter' is a taste, 'astringent' is a feeling. The bitterness is due to tannins which come out of the leaves; astringency appears when the tongue tissues contract.

5.Sweetness in the throat (Huigan 回甘): After the bitterness has vanished, you can feel a sweet sensation in the back of the mouth.

6.Salivation (Shengjin 生津) On the sides of the tongue, down near the cheeks, you can feel tiny bubbles of saliva being formed.

7.Astringency (Shoulianxing 收敛性): After drinking tea, a puckery astringency can appear on the tongue and all parts of the oral cavity.

8.Sweetness ( Ganyun 甘韵 or Tianzhi 甜质): simply designs all kinds of sweet feelings.

9.The character of water (Shuixing 水性): describes all the feelings that the liquor can give you: smooth, changing, alive, sandy, thick, weak, sharp...

10.Structure (Cengci Gan 层次感): the way the liquor is organized, how the flavors appear one after the other in the mouth.

11. Throat charm (Houyun 喉韵): after swallowing the liquor, a feeling is still present in the throat, it can be smooth, sweet, dry...

12.Fullness (Baoman 饱满): sometimes, the liquor is dense and thick, it gives a feeling of 'heaviness'

13.Smokiness (Yanxunwei 烟熏味): if the tea is dried over a fire, it can get a smoky smell. This flavor can transform or vanish over time.

14.Fruity sourness (Guosuanwei 果酸味): Sometimes, the tea can have a 'greenish' sour taste, similar to kumquat or lime.

15.Sourness (Suanwei 酸味): can arise if, after rolling, the tea was not dried properly and pressed while still wet, moisture develops and it becomes sour.

16.Taste of water (Shuiwei 水味): can occur because of a poor storage, the tea has a taste of fetid water.

17.Green taste (Qingwei 青味): If the tea frying (Shaqing) was too short or too weak, the tea can have a 'green fishy smell' (like unprocessed fresh leaves).

18. Locked throat: After drinking tea, the throat can feel dry, with difficulty to swallow and an itchy feeling. People can be a bit annoyed by this.

19.Liquor fog (Tangyun 汤氲): Describes the vapor around the hot liquor, it creates a kind of 'mist'.

20.Feeling (Chaqi 茶气): Some chemical compounds in the liquor react with the body. The Chaqi is more active in old tea, it can give you hiccups, warm up your body, make you sweat, etc...

21.Wisdom (Chenyun 陈韵): It is a general feeling when you taste an old tea, you can often feel the years that have past in the liquor.

Sunday, February 19, 2012

Pu-erh tea- a long way to go

written by 'He Cha Qu' (an assumed name), a tea blogger from Henan.

Pu-erh tea-- a long way to go

These days, I often hear friends saying they have so much tea that they don't know what to drink; eventually, they choose Pu-erh tea. In the market of Northern China, this kind of situation is common. Many tea amateurs have fallen in love with Pu-erh tea. They can make the difference between the taste of Banzhang,Yiwu, Bingdao, Jingmai, Nannuo... They debate about 'red marks', 'blue marks', '88 Qingbing', 'CNNP era tea' , they even know about the trends in each tea mountains. They talk about Deng Shihai, Chen Zhitong, Shi Kunmu, Chen Guoyi, Bai Shuiqing, Guo Zaitian and other Pu-erh tea masters. They review the last products of Dayi and Xiaguan: the main Pu-erh tea factories. This is the very difference between Pu-erh tea and the other kinds of tea: it is fascinating, attractive, addictive... It pushes you to permanently dig in, to learn new things.

It's only around 2000 that Pu-erh became really famous in Southern China. People were total beginners and started to learn, they are now highly knowledgeable. Even though the Pu-erh boom was slowed down by a market crash in 2007, it has recovered since then. The Pu-erh tea market in southern China is now very well established; the upper class spends more on tea than ever.

Nowadays, due to this higher level of understanding, we can often hear debates about 'single mountain vs blend' or 'Southern storage vs Northern storage'

Both blend and single estate have pros and cons. This is actually a sterile debate. It's just about mixing different teas together or not. Considering famous tea, let's take Longjing as an example, there is 'Xihu Longjing', 'Hangzhou Longjing', 'Zhejiang Longjing'... Xihu Longjing can be divided into 'Shifeng', 'Meijiawu', 'Longjingcun' and so on; Maojian from Xinyang can be classified into 'five cloudy mountains (Yunshan in chinese), two ponds (tan) and one village (zhai)' (Che Yunshan, Ji Yunshan, Lian Yunshan, Yunwu Shan, Heilong Tan, Bailong Tan, Hejia Zhai); Biluochun is called according to whether it is produced in the West of Dongting lake or in the East. The name of tea varies according to its production area and its tasting profiles.

Those legendary teas have unique characteristics, are limited in quantity and are not mixed with other leaves. They are premium products destined to the high end market. Regarding Pu-erh tea, ancient trees tea from Banzhang, Yiwu, Bingdao and a few other places have a unique taste and make the premium cakes. When it comes to blend, all of the tea factories and companies mix different teas together; they do that to adjust the quality and costs of their products. It is the same for Pu-erh tea.

Northern China storage versus Southern China storage:
People from the South prefer southern storage and those from the North enjoy best north China storage. It's like tastes for food or alcohol: northerners like to drink hard liquor while southerners prefer beer. The shame is that there is few aged teas in the North: you won't find much tea from before the 90's. If we wait for fifty years, we will get good aged tea from the North; it will develop a different taste. Maybe even in the north, we'll write books about tea, who knows...

Saturday, February 11, 2012


Written by Pu Jin Jing, a tea farmer from Lincang
As an introduction to Pu-erh tea processing, you can read this article:

The art of making tea
-- Shaqing-- 
What you need to know

Here are the main points you need to take care of while doing the shaqing

1.Inspect the fresh leaves, be sure there are no impurities, take out the reddened leaves (after plucking, improper storage and warm temperature can cause some leaves to oxidate). That way, we avoid to contaminate tea with off-flavors, the whole batch could be affected.

2.Make sure you separate the grades of tea you want to make before doing the Shaqing.

3. On the rainy days, spread the fresh leaves on mats, if the leaves have too much water inside, they are likely to stick to the wok and burn, this would give the tea a roasted taste.

4. Remember to clean the wok between every batch!

5. The wok should be around 100°C. It's hard to measure while doing the job, try to estimate it by putting your hand close to the bottom of the wok, it should burn slightly. When the wok gets too hot, the bottom will turn red, in this case, do not throw a new batch of leaves on it, reduce the fire and wait for the wok to cool down.

Problems related to the wok temperature: 
If the wok is too cold, the leaves won't be reduced enough and they will eventually turn red, with a fermentation taste (in the most extreme cases, it would taste like black tea). If the wok is not hot enough and that you process the leaves for a longer time, they will become darker, after drying, they won't have the fresh taste of young tea and the liquor will be turbid! If the temperature is too high, the leaves will roast and develop a burnt taste, it will also influence the aging potential of tea.

6.Young buds need more time than old leaves to process.
a. The hand-process is a balance between frying and shaking, the more you shake the leaves, the less they will fry, the leaves should reach a temperature of 80°C approximately. Between two batches, don't forget to check the fire!
b. If you use a machine, the amount of leaves you input must remain constant, otherwise the temperature in the cylinder will change. Again, the leaf temperature should be around 80°C! 

7. The Shaqing should take 5 and 10 minutes per batch. It depends on the quantity of leaves and on the bud/leaves ratio.

As a rule of thumb, you should to stop the shaqing when:
     a. the smell of fresh leaves has vanished (not obvious)
     b. the leaves and the stems do not break anymore when you fold them.

8. After the shaqing, the leaves must cool down quickly. If they don't get cold immediately, the liquor will be muddy! The aroma will be weak and impure.

In the art of making tea, many aspects must be controlled, i will go over them in future articles. If there are unclear points or things you disagree about, I invite you to discuss it here.

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

After months of investigation and adventure from Yunnan to Darjeeling, I am happy to officially open my website:

I have worked on it for several months and now, this is a shop dedicated to Pu-erh tea. We ship from France. Our modest selection will expand along the tea seasons.

A lot of effort has been put on the information section:
We think it is important to know what you drink and to know what happens on the other side of the planet. We hope you will enjoy the articles as much as our teas. Many articles from this blog have been translated into English and put on the website, other articles have been written from scratch, I will complete this modest database along my new travels and experiments. Every tea session is like a short trip but the path of tea is a lifetime journey. 

I enjoy writing on this blog, I don't want it to become a source of advertisement for my commercial website, I will try to keep it as neutral as possible and i consider to diversify the subjects of my articles.

Thanks to all those who read these lines, i am sure this is only the beginning of the tea road.