Friday, January 13, 2017

A taste of the 18th century thanks to Medea Bindewald

On this CD, Medea Bindewald plays music by Jacob Kirkman on a 1756 double manual harpsichord by Jacob Kirkman (the composer's uncle)! I found this idea of playing on a historical instrument intimate to the composer so daring and meaningful that I helped crowdfund this CD last September. It's fabulous to be able to make the past alive again!

The CD has arrived this week and I could make my own project come true: brewing and enjoying 18th century invented tea in a zisha teapot contemporary to the music and the harpsichord it is played on. And when I read the booklet, I found out that Jacob Kirkman was born in Bischwiller, just next to the town where I come from!!! The music world is even more connected to my life than what I thought...

This music calls for a special Chaxi and a video! I hope you'll enjoy it despite my wandering eyes on several occasions.  

Note: I wish you all a Happy New Year of the Rooster! At the end of next week, I'll start my Chinese Lunar New Year vacation (for almost 2 weeks). This week, I've added several winter Oolongs and updated my tea promotions. Send me your tea orders this weekend or next week, or wait until early February before I ship again!

Wednesday, January 11, 2017

Cours de thé francophone

Dans une semaine ces étudiants rentreront en Europe après un semestre d'échange à l'Université Nationale de Taiwan. Vu leur attention, leur nombreuses questions et la foison de notes qu'ils ont prise, on dirait que je leur ai donné un cours super intéressant! C'est le bonheur de débuter, d'avoir tout à apprendre. Aussi, on a commencé le cours/dégustation avec ce Si Ji Chun Oolong de Mingjian, le Oolong le plus populaire de la plus importante région productrice de thé à Taiwan.
DYL contre DYL
Puis, nous avons comparé 2 Oolongs de Da Yu Ling, la montagne où se trouve la plus haute plantation de Oolong de Taiwan. Le mien, de cet hiver, est en haut à gauche. Celui de mon étudiant est en haut à droite. Infusion en set de compétition. J'ai un peu sous-dosé le mien (n'ayant pas de balance sur place). Cela explique la couleur moins concentrée de l'infusion. On remarqua aussi que ses feuilles sèches sont plus grande que les miennes et ont l'air plus fraiches, moins sèches que les miennes. L'examen des feuilles ouvertes nous montre que la récolte de son DYL comprend plus de feuilles sur une tige que sur mon DYL. De plus, à taille égale, mes feuilles sont plus tendres et fraiches. Cela nous permit de comprendre pourquoi ces 2 thés de haute montagne ont des goût assez différents.
Alishan Zhuo Yan Oolong d'hiver
Après 2 Oolongs faiblement oxydés, nous avons dégusté cet Oolong Zhuo Yan d'Alishan. Il a des morsures d'insecte et une oxydation un peu plus élevée qu'un Oolong de haute montagne. C'est un exemple de thé cultivé en respect avec la nature, puisqu'il n'emploie pas de pesticides. Mais l'homme se doit d'intervenir pour cultiver le thé car son on laisse libre cours à la nature, les mauvaises herbes se développent très rapidement dans le climat Taiwanais et envahiraient les théiers (voir la photo ci-dessus: le thé a les feuilles sombres et se trouve presque asphyxié).
L'infusion est plus orange et on y trouve des odeurs de courge, des fruits murs de la fin de l'automne. "Très gourmand, c'est délicieux!" Après m'avoir observé et pris une grande quantité de notes, c'est le moment de l'application pratique.
C'est la première fois qu'il manie un gaiwan, mais il n'a presque pas mis une goutte à côté! Bravo! Pas étonnant qu'il étudie à HEC vu qu'il est tellement doué!
 Pareil ici: Observation et attention aux détails sont au rendez-vous.
Mais il y a la grâce et la douceur féminines en plus!
Le raffinement et la fraicheur de ce Chaxi trouve toute sa raison d'être en si charmante compagnie!  
J'espère que la dégustation du Oolong permettra à ces étudiants de garder la mémoire de leur séjour à Taiwan!

Friday, January 06, 2017

The Dong Ding Oolong and WuYi Yan Cha Connections

After their visit to the Dong Ding Oolong competition, it was interesting to let the 3 Penn State Tea Institute directors taste the connection between Dong Ding Oolong and Wu Yi Yan Cha.
This was also an opportunity to let them brew and give them advice to improve their technique. (It was mostly details: I was impressed by how well they are already handling the gaiwan. See also how graceful it is to use your hand to put the leaves in the brewing vessel!)
2009 spring competition Dong Ding Oolong
The first tea we brewed was a top 15% competition Dong Ding Oolong from spring 2009. It tasted much less roasted than the winter 2016 competition Oolongs we tasted in Lugu. Time had made the tea more mellow. 
The second tea we brewed is my winter 2008 Hung Shui Oolong from Dong Ding. This tea didn't participate in the competition. Its roasting was slightly adjusted for my preference: longer and lower temperature. We all felt it tasted so much sweeter and harmonious! It tasted wonderfully fresh also, despite 8 years of age. The advantage with this tea is that we know its exact origin (Feng Huang village) ; with Dong Ding competition, the leaves could come from anywhere in Taiwan. It's a quality label rather than a label of origin.
Winter 2008 Hung Shui Oolong from Feng Huang
The third Oolong we tasted is this 2003 spring Dong Ding Oolong kept in a porcelain jar. With this tea, we could feel a change of aromas due to its age. This means that it takes 10-15 years for such aged fragrances to appear.
The links of Dong Ding Oolong with Wuyi in Fujian are numerous. First, the qingxin Oolong cultivar that is used for such tea can be traced back to the Aijiao Oolong cultivar in Fujian Province.
The Dong Ding Oolong competition was started in 1976 by the Tea Extension and Research Station (TRES) together with the Lugu Farmers Association. Dr Wu, Zhen Duo was the director of TRES at that time. He had come to Taiwan from Fujian in 1948. On the Mainland, he had studied tea in WuYi's tea research center.
2003 Dong Ding Oolong
Since Communist China and Nationalist Taiwan were in a state of war, it was impossible to get tea from Wuyi in Taiwan. Dr. Wu missed his Yan Cha so much that he pushed the Dong Ding Oolong farmers to make tea with similar taste as in Wuyi. This meant similar oxidation and roasting levels. 
2011 Shui Xian Wuyi Yancha
We finished the lesson by tasting a  Wuyi Shui Xian from spring 2011. The color is darker than for the Dong Ding Oolongs and it displays a dry, rock taste that you don't find in Dong Ding. But there are lots of similarities in terms of emphasis on the aftertaste, the mix of fresh and roasted aromas, the coating of the palate...  
The ShuiXian leaf (left) is larger than the qingxin Oolong leaves. This explains why it can't be rolled like qingxin Oolong. Its color is very similar to that of the 2003 Dong Ding Oolong. The 2008 and 2009 were greener.
While WuYi Yan Cha and Dong Ding Oolong are clearly different teas, we found there are many connections in history and taste for these Oolongs.

Wednesday, January 04, 2017

Winter 2016 Dong Ding Oolong competition

Almost half the 6561 competing lots were rejected from this winter's competition (46.3%)! The roasting of this season's Oolong was also much more intense than in the spring. Most of the dry leaves we saw were very dark, almost black.

I served as guide for these 3 Tea Institute (@Penn State) students. The highlight of our visit was that we could taste the 11 best Oolongs of the competition. 
Local politicians, tea judges and farmers gathered around us for pictures! This was a cheap price to pay for the privilege of tasting these very different teas. Amazingly, the winning lot doesn't come from a high mountain, but from a new plantation at an altitude of 800 m only! The preference for a higher roasting level this winter probably also helped the chances of this tea.
The reason we heard for the higher roast level is a customer feedback asking for Oolongs that are more stable and can be aged longer. However, I think that it has more to do with the warm and humid weather this october and november that didn't produce very fine and light aromas. Such leaf material had to be processed with a heavier touch.  

The top prized Oolongs were really sweet and tasty (of course), but the lower, more affordable grades we tasted with the farmers lacked persistence and strength. Luckily for the farmers, most of the competition Oolongs sold out rather quickly (before lunch), helped by the approaching Lunar New Year festival and the need for prestigious gifts. (I didn't select anything).
In the afternoon, I took the 3 Tea Institute members to the organic  tea plantations managed by the National Taiwan University at the Feng Huang garden. This is one of the highest point in Dong Ding.
This area was already active for tea during the Japanese era. That's why we can find a few hundred years old Assam tea trees. They are several meters high now:
Their leaves are very large and are still harvested by the university. They serve as exclusive red tea gifts!
The Dong Ding Oolong competition dates back to 1976, but the history of tea production in Dong Ding can be traced much further back, as these Assam leaves show.

Friday, December 30, 2016

The year 2016 in 12 pictures

This review of my favorite pictures of the year has become one of the articles I enjoy doing most. It gives me the opportunity to look at all the pictures I've published and remember the great teas I've had in the last 12 months.

12 years ago, I started this blog with a simple point and shoot camera. 5 years later, I moved to a Nikon D5000 and this month, 7 years later, I've made a new upgrade to a Nikon D750!  I hope that this will allow me to share the joy and beauty of tea at an even higher level. Maybe I'll even start to make more videos again!?

Like last year, I would like to ask you to like your favorite picture on my Facebook page. This will help me decide which pictures I should use to make postcards in 2017.

December: Merry Christmas - Frohe Weihnachten - Joyeux Noël

November: The wine tasting approach for tea

October: Man in blue strikes gold, by Vandy Rattana

September: Vacances pacifiques

August: The making of Baiwen red tea

July: Vacation in Alishan

June: Fêter le solstice d'été à Taiwan

May: Mount Emei International Tea Culture Exhibition

April: When a cup of tea is a trip to nature

March: Hymne au printemps, Biluochun de SanHsia

February: Raw energy

January: Class 10: What Yixing teapot is suited for aged Oolong?
Merci d'aller sur ma page Facebook afin de Liker la photo que vous désirez le plus voir transformée en carte postale. Cela m'aidera à faire mon choix. Je vous souhaite une excellente année 2017!

Tuesday, December 27, 2016

Top 10 articles of 2016

Did you feel 2016 was unexpected and full of surprises? 2017 will probably become even less predictable. In troubled times like this, Chinese scholars of the Ming dynasty would turn to tea and poetry to create moments of harmony. I have a feeling we'll need a lot of good leaves to make it through next year!

In order to get into this top 10, an article had to collect 2000 views according to Blogger's stats (60% more than last year!). This shows the impact of joining Facebook last year! Thank you for all your support and interest. Tea enjoyment and knowledge go hand in hand. Here are this year's top 10 articles:

10. Morning and evening light. Pay attention to details: morning and evening light differ.
9. The spring 2016 Oolong harvests. Excellent quality thanks to a long and cold winter.
8. Lekker lekker. Josefien comes for an Oolong tea class.
7. Désherbage dans les plantations. Une étape importante dans la culture du thé.
6. Purity and Wucha feeling. The ultimate tea pleasure is not feeling the tea (at first)!
5. 33 years old white tea. The joy of aged tea.
4. Vacation in Alishan. Taiwan's summer escape, the realm of old cypresses.
3. From bitter to sweet, 3 tea classes. Studying water, tea leaves and teapots.
2. Encore. Commémorer les morts d'une nouvelle attaque terroriste avec du thé.
1. The making of Bai Wen Red tea. All the steps of a red tea production in Songboling, Nantou.

Monday, December 26, 2016

Merry Christmas - Frohe Weihnachten - Joyeux Noël

Que ce soit une fête de la nostalgie, d'après cet article avec François Walter, de l'espérance ou de la bonne chair, j'espère que vous avez bien fêté Noël ce weekend. Les traditions ne valent la peine d'être perpétuées que si elles apportent de la joie et un sens à la vie!

Avec ce thé vert Longjing de fin mars 2006 (!), je combine la nostalgie du passé, l'espoir d'un thé bien conservé et des arômes délicieux! On remarque à l'étiquette que c'est un thé âgé, car ce design a beaucoup évolué depuis.   
Par cette belle journée ensoleillée de fin décembre, j'ai envie de fêter la Saint-Etienne (ma fête!) avec un thé d'une pureté exceptionnelle. C'est pour rester dans la nosalgie et le moment spécial que j'opte pour les derniers grammes de ce thé vert, patiemment âgé (sous vide) pendant plus de 10 ans. Et je le prépare avec ma théière DeHua, car je me rappelle encore de cette expérience de 2005, où le longjing fut si délicieux quand préparé dans un gaiwan de DeHua!
La couleur de l'infusion vire maintenant vert le jaune orangé très clair et transparent. Ce qui frappe, c'est la finesse et la pureté des arômes, des sensations en bouche... Il y a des notes nouvelles, délicieuses et indescriptibles. Les notes fraiches sont devenues plus gourmandes et sucrées/fruitées. Mais la force presque effervescente de ce thé perdure.
La nostalgie consiste à faire revivre le passé dans l'instant présent!
Les thés âgés avec soin (Oolongs, puerhs, rouges ou verts) ont de la grâce, de la finesse et une magie intemporelle. Plus les années passent, plus je goûte leur plaisir pur dans ces moments de vie.
Certains thés se transforment en or!