Gaiwan

I keep mentioning a “gaiwan” so I figure I should show you what one is and go over the basics of “gong fu” style tea brewing.

A “gaiwan” is a set of three dishes.

…a saucer…

Saucer

…a cup….

…and lid that is used to brew whole leaf tea.

You add tea leaves to the cup, cover leaves with heated water, steep briefly, starting with about 10 seconds per steep…

…and strain using the lid.

Repeat, gradually extending the length of time in the steep, until your tea is no longer flavorful.

Exhausted Leaves

It’s very simple.

But, as with many simple things, it takes a little practice.

Some differences from English-style tea brewing.

First, you need to use whole leaf tea. The size of the whole leaves enables you to hold them in the cup and strain without a filter. Broken leaf tea will make a big mess and also doesn’t really work for multiple steepings.

Second, you use a larger amount of tea. Sort of. You fill the gaiwan to about a third with tea, which is a tablespoon, give or take. With English style tea, you use a teaspoon per cup. However, with the multiple steeps, the overall amount of tea liquid you make ends up similar or greater with gong fu brewing. I usually start by heating 3 cups of water for a single batch. That’s about the same ratio of tea to water as a teaspoon per cup. So, actually, the overall amount of tea for the volume of water ends up pretty similar. It’s just the process that’s different.

Be careful that you hold the gaiwan with the very edges of the cup lip and the tip of the lid knob. Do not grab the sides or you will burn your fingers or drop it and make a mess. It takes a little practice, maybe try it a few times with cold or warm water.

Tomorrow I’ll talk about the benefits to brewing tea Gong Fu style.

#Cha #Tea #Gaiwan #GongFu #GongFuCha

White Tea of Feng Qing

Yunnan Sourcing Spring 2018 Silver Needles White Tea of Feng Qing.

A straight infusion of the Jade Needles in a teapot last week proved to be a bit intense. Showing too much of the vegetal character of the tea. So, I decided I would give today’s tea a better chance to shine by brewing with a gaiwan.

Brewed in this manner, the White Tea of Feng Qing proves to be a subtle and ghostly tea. Floral and spice aromas are almost more implied than present. The vegetal character which dominated the Jade Needles is only detectable as an after taste, more present in the smell of the leaves than the tea itself.

An interesting bit of trivia, while Americans and the British tend to classify teas by the color of the leaves, in China, teas tend to be named after the color of the brewed tea liquid. That’s why we call oxidized teas “black” and the Chinese tend to call them “red”. With white teas, we call them white because of the white hairs on the leaves and the Chinese because the brewed tea liquid is nearly indistinguishable in color from plain water. In fact, while it is not uncommon for plain hot water to be served as a beverage in China, (almost all water is boiled before drinking,) sometimes this plain hot water is called “white tea”.

#WhiteTea #YunnanSourcing #Cha #Tea #tasseography

Ai Lao Mountain Jade Needle White Tea

Spring 2018 Yunnan Sourcing Ai Lao Mountain Jade Needle White Tea.

Today’s white tea is much closer to a green tea in character than yesterday’s Silver Needles. Strong green vegetal character, reminding me a bit of the smell of cooked mild green chiles or raw potatoes. But not in a bad way.

A pleasant lightening buzz centered in the upper chest and behind the eyes.

Which brings me to another tea myth, that green and white teas have significantly less caffeine than black teas. All tea categories are made from pretty much the same source material, so all have caffeine. White tea, Green Tea, Black Tea, etc. By weight, the caffeine content is, more or less, the same across tea categories. However, with broken leaf teas, the caffeine is much more available to be immediately dissolved than with whole leaf teas. One steep of broken leaf tea will have more caffeine than one steep of whole leaf tea. However, multiple steeps of whole leaf tea may express more caffeine, (and the other substances in the tea leaves,) than a single steep of broken leaf. Final trivia, since with powdered teas, like matcha, you actually drink the leaf with the tea, those tea drinks can have more caffeine than steeped teas!

The Chinese talk about the feelings and energy they get from different teas using the term “cha qi”. “Tea Energy” or “Tea Power”. It is related to caffeine rush, but not entirely the same.

Different teas can give you different sensations, some pleasant, some not so pleasant. Pay attention to how you feel after drinking a particular tea. If it isn’t a nice feeling, maybe it isn’t a tea for you.

#WhiteTea #YunnanSourcing #YunnanTea #Cha #Tea #tasseography

White Tea

Organic Silver Needle White Tea, Two Hills Tea, Yunnan, China, via the Rainbow Grocery bulk section.

All tea is made from the young leaf buds and leaves of the Cammelia sinensis plant.

The major differences between the categories of tea, (white, green, yellow, black/red, and dark/Pu-Erh,) are due to the methods in which the leaves are processed after picking.

White Tea is the most simply processed of all teas. Tea buds are picked, allowed to wither in the sun and slightly oxidized, then dried quickly with low heat.

The fact that white tea leaves aren’t rolled or formed, means the dried leaves are fragile and prone to breaking. Avoid broken tea. Broken tea leaves tend to make a harsher steeped beverage.

A good general rule is, the darker the tea, the hotter the water. The water for the very dark Pu-Erh should be just off the boil. For white tea, let your water sit for a good few minutes after boiling to cool before steeping your tea. (If you like to measure, the water for white tea should be around 180F or 80C.)

Like with high quality green tea, you can fudge the brewing process a bit with white tea. You don’t really need a separate brewing vessel. You can either brew it right in your glass or in a share pitcher.

Add a generous pinch of leaves to the pitcher or glass, cover with water, wait a few minutes. When you’ve drunk it down half way, add some more appropriately heated water. Continue until it tastes more like water than tea.

White tea is subtly colored and flavored. It should have a lingering sweet flavor with overtones of fruit, herbs, or grass.

This tea is on the grassy/briny side, with some fruit-ish and perfume-like overtones. Sandalwood, maybe? Pleasant, but I can’t quite decide if it is more compelling or interesting. Nice length of flavor, though.

#WhiteTea #SilverNeedles #Cha #Tea #tasseography

What is Tea, Part 2: Tea Plants and Farms

Tea Plants and Farms

We were recently lucky enough to be able to visit China. I was excited, because the trip was primarily a culinary tour, so we would get to taste a variety of Chinese food I had only ever read about in books.

However, when I looked closer at the itinerary, I noticed, along with other cultural icons of China, we would be visiting Longjing Village, the source of Dragonwell Tea, the green tea I had been drinking for more years than I can remember.

Cha

As I mentioned, Tea is made from the leaves and buds of a perennial shrub or tree in the Cammelia family, Cammelia sinesis.

Tea Field-03

In areas of China, tea plantations run up and down the hills in stepped rows.

Tea Plants–02

Above is a closeup of a tea bush. If you look close you can see the buds and final leaves.

Tea is usually made from the first spring buds and a leaf or two of the fresh growth.

Tea is picked, usually by hand, where pickers go from bush to bush and pinch off the bud and first leaf of the spring growth at a certain time of the year, and a certain time of the day.

Steeped Dragonwell Tea-2

This is a glass of Dragonwell tea. You can clearly see the buds and leaves of the tea plant in the glass of tea. That is what tea should look like in the glass.

What is Tea?

For our purposes, we will say “Tea” is an infusion of the leaves and leaf buds of closely related plants in the Camellia family, Camellia sinensis.

The tea plant, Camellia sinensis, is native to China. It is now grown in other regions of the world, but all tea plants originated in one of several regions in China.

Most tea is Camellia sinensis var. sinensis, but there are thousands of varieties and cultivars.

The Cantonese word for tea is “Ch’a” in Cantonese and written as follows:

As you can see above, the character for tea is made up of three parts, the character for “grass”, the character for “Man standing at his place on earth”, and the character for “Tree”. (And, actually, the word, “Ch’a” refers to “early picked” tea, like green tea. Later picked tea is called “Ming” or “Chuan”.)

According to this website, Tea Names:

“The original English pronunciation of the word tea was tay and it’s usage can be traced back to around 1655 when the Dutch introduced both word and beverage to England. This pronunciation can still be heard today in certain British dialects. The pronunciation tee also originated in the 1600’s but only gained predominance after the late 18th century. Both words may have come from the Malay teh or the Chinese (Amoy dialect) t’e.”

So, languages which call it something like “Tea” are derived from the Malay and Southern Chinese name for tea and those that call it something like “Cha” are derived from the Cantonese name. The Dutch, British, and Americans call it something like “tea”. The Indians and Russians call it something like “Cha”. Basically, the word your language uses for “tea” indicates the trading partner your language originally got its tea from. If you traded with the Dutch or English to get your tea, you call it something like “tea”. If you traded with the Chinese, you call it something like “Ch’a”.

In China there are 6-8 different types of tea, primarily distinguished by either their geographic production areas or their method of production.

The six primary types are:

  • Green Tea
  • Yellow Tea
  • White Tea
  • Oolong Tea
  • Black Tea (Actually called Red Tea in China.)
  • Dark Tea


  • Then there are a couple special sub-categories which are sometimes treated on their own, sometimes not:

  • Pu’er Tea
  • Flavored Tea
  • But before we get to discussing tea varieties, we’ll talk a bit more about the tea plant and tea farms.

    Not So Reluctant TEA-Totaler

    As a devout tea drinker, for a long time my default teas were either Dragonwell or Gunpowder, Chinese Green teas. But, lately, I’ve found that those two aren’t to my taste so much. Gunpowder, I find, has a kind of tobacco/ashtray taste that I never noticed before, and the buzz from Dragonwell is, well, kind of harsh. I had one of my worst ever anxiety/panic attacks after drinking a pot of very strong, oversteeped Dragonwell, and we just haven’t been in the same place since. Anyway, lately, I am finding the funky taste of Pu Erh is appealing. Not to mention, the buzz is pretty awesome, more ecstatic and heady than the harsh body buzz of Dragonwell. #teanerd

    More information to follow.

    The Wrong Drugs

    My teacher was commenting on my somewhat quavery clarinet tone and I told her I had accidentally drunk too much coffee that morning.

    Her reply was, “Coffee!? Why on earth would you drink coffee, you’re already highly strung?”

    She went on to mention she drinks tea if she needs caffeine, but admitted that tea and coffee had different effects.

    Anyway, she’s right, I am already highly strung. Why am I drinking something that makes me even more shaky?

    Thinking back, I just thought coffee was cool and started drinking it as soon as my parents would let me partake. All the adults I knew drank it, so I figured I should be too.

    Lately, I’ve been thinking along similar lines about alcohol.

    I know for some people, alcohol makes them more outgoing, but for me, it makes me even less likely to engage with other humans, especially to talk with them.

    Why have I been drinking all these years?

    It’s the same. It sounded cool, I’d been reading about it. As soon as I was able, I taught myself to get used to the flavor. In the end, however, I really can’t think of much about drinking that takes my life in a better direction or gives me a good effect.

    It is time to make some different choices.

    Fine Pot of Potpourri

    SHAN LIN XI WINTER SPROUT, Taiwanese Oolong, caramelized ginger, kettle corn, cotton candy — 6
    GOLD PEONY RED, Fujian Red/Black, sandalwood, rose, fruit — 4
    BUCKWHEAT, San Franciscan Herbal, cocoa nibs, licorice — 4

    “Would you like anything else to drink?”

    “I was interested in your teas, but I just wanted to check that the listed ingredients are flavor descriptors, not actual ingredients in the tea.”

    “Right.”

    “So, there’s no actual Sandalwood, Rose, or fruit, in the Gold Peony Tea?”

    “Oh yes, sorry, there is dried fruit in the tea.”

    “Thanks, I’ll have a bottle of sparkling water.”