Floating Leaves Tea Home ---Shiuwen's Blog!

Thursday, November 16, 2017

Dance of the Tea Teaser Out Now

We just released the first teaser for our Taiwan Oolong Documentary! The Dance of the Tea.

This is the first installment in a series of teasers, all organized around elements of tea. This first is focussed on the actual leaves, farms and processing. You can see Dong Ding mountain and the tea fields there. The farmer we have bought tea from for a decade is in there, a thin man with white hair. He will show up in later videos.

Please enjoy and stay tuned for more teasers. We think the way the leaves dance is so beautiful!

Special thanks to Jake Knapp who filmed and edited the video and to Jon Davis who contributed music for this piece.

Thursday, November 02, 2017

Dong Ding Guided Tastings Beginning Soon

We are very excited to bring our live session focus to Dong Ding! We believe drinking tea together with tea people is the best way to explore tea, and we want to bring that experience of sharing tea to our clients and friends far away. In these sessions, we will share what we have learned from having tea with Taiwanese tea merchants, farmers, artists and masters. It is really important to us to deliver the knowledge of these people. They have been steeped in tea culture for generations, and have so much to teach all of us. We hope you can accompany us on our journey.

With Master Zhan. Photography by Jake Knapp.

Dong Ding oolong is so important to us because it is a tea that inspires these tea people to work their artistry. Oolongs processed with caring hands in the traditional Dong Ding style bring our imaginations to Dong Ding tea farms of the early 20th century. It is clear that these farmers were striving for an excellence beyond commercial success, and their commitment to the craft is really beautiful to us. Now it is rarer to find this kind of tea, but what we've found we've fallen in love with.

Charcoal Roast Dong Ding. Photography by Lee Damon.

We hope you can find time to accompany Shiuwen for guided Dong Ding tastings this month, starting on November 14th. We really recommend you purchase the Traditional A and Charcoal Dong Ding from our website so you can drink it with us. If you do this, we will offer a one sessions sample of Charcoal Four Roast Dong Ding, given the name "Secret of the Sages" by Master Zhan. It is a rare opportunity to drink a masterpiece like this. Our first session, on Traditional A Dong Ding, will be Tuesday November 14th at 11:30 AM on Instagram. The next sessions, focussed on Charcoal Three Roast and Four Roast, we will cast on the following Tuesdays: November 21st and 28th.

Written by Noah

Dong Ding Oolong Tasting Set
Charcoal Dong Ding (three roast) is scheduled to arrive in the shop on the 6th. We've put together a tasting set to make things easier. If you prefer to buy the teas separately, we will still send a sample of Master Zhan's Four Roast Dong Ding. If you pre-order the tasting set this weekend, we will ship it to you as soon as the tea arrives. *The new Charcoal Roast Dong Ding just arrived!

Thursday, October 26, 2017

Extra Tips on Waking Up Aged Oolong

After posting about waking up aged oolong I had gotten a lot of questions, so I thought I should post some more specific guidelines. This is a new technique for us, too, but we are very excited to practice and share. We decided to do an experiment, which I will lay out for you. I hope the outcome of our experiment will be a good starting point to practice waking up aged tea with heat.

We got the idea of waking up teas from footage shot in Taipei for the documentary. The tea brewing master she interviewed used his brazier that keeps his kettle hot to heat his clay teapot, dry, with aged tea in it. This, he said, was to wake up the tea.

We had touched up old teas before, but this encouraged us to practice it and make it a more regular part of our tea brewing.

The Experiment:

We did a side by side tasting of the '66 Aged Beipu before roasting, after being touched up in our electric tea roaster, and after being touched up in an old teapot over a candle flame. The three versions of the same tea all tasted different, and we preferred the candle flame tea.

Earlier this week, Shiuwen tried herself to touch up the tea in our electric roaster. After roasting it, she felt that although it was clearer tasting, the heat was not enough. So we tried again. This time, we tried 60 degrees Celsius for 20 minutes in our electric roaster. Despite being slightly over-roasted (had a stronger drying effect on the tongue), the tea was pretty good.

With the teapot roasting setup above, I started to heat it over the flame myself. The tea started out smelling slightly prune-like and moist. When I felt that most of the moisture was out of the tea, I showed Shiuwen. She smelled it and said "It's not done yet. Don't be afraid of the heat. And you don't need to toss it the whole time." You can see me babying the tea in the picture, continuously holding it shaking it so it wouldn't burn.

She placed the pot directly over the flame and let it sit. When she pulled the tea off the heat, we smelled the dry leaves. The fragrance was more clear, and I noticed
it penetrated deeper into my sinuses.

Brewed, the teas were all great because we started with a very good base. But the MVP was certainly the flame touched tea. It was not only clearer without the stale note, but it also 'opened' much more. The broth felt soft and round and expansive, and the scent was clear and assertive. The untouched tea was good, but the teas we 'woke up' felt like they had just a little bit more. The electric roaster tea was definitely right in the middle, clearer but without as much smoothness or roundness as the candle flame tea.

So go ahead and wake up your aged teas, if you like. It may help them to shine even more. If you discover something really awesome, let us know. We're on the same journey. And don't fear the heat, or you may find yourself outside the kitchen ;)

Written by Noah

Thursday, October 19, 2017

Oriental Beauty

This tea goes by many names. Oriental Beauty (Dongfang Meiren), Bai Hao Oolong (White Tips), Champagne Oolong, Formosa Oolong, Five Colors Tea (Wuse Cha), Braggart's Tea (Pong Hong De). It was the most exported tea from Taiwan to the West in the 1800s. The Queen of England is credited with naming it Oriental Beauty, because loved it so much when she tasted it.

The tea is well known for its distinctive honey sweetness. The story goes that tea jassids (little aphid-like bugs) fly around and bite the leaves of tea plants. The plant produces a secretion at the bite-mark, which apparently gives the tea its sweet taste.

The first time this happened, the tea farmers thought their crops were lost. But a bold farmer turned around and made the tea anyway, and his Western middleman loved the product. He was so proud, he went around telling all the surrounding farmers, hence the tea garnered the name Braggart's Tea.

The tea is highly oxidized, about 70 percent. It is sweet, light bodied, floral, fruity. The bouquet is really exquisite. The dry leaves are tippy, with little silver buds and long brown-red leaves. It's distinctive taste has gotten the attention of tea drinkers across Asia, so there are farmers in Viet Nam, Thailand and China trying to reproduce the taste. But it was first grown in Xin Zhu/Miao Li in Taiwan, and now Ping Lin grows some great Oriental Beauty as well.

Our Oriental Beauty is made in Ping Lin with the Qing Xin varietal. The most popular, original style Oriental Beauty is grown with the Qing Xin Da Pa varietal. And farmers are also making this tea with Bai Mao Hou varietal (White Haired Monkey), which produces a beautiful tea with tiny, fine leaves.

This is a regular daily tea for both of us. It is great in a bowl or mug (grandpa style) for a morning tea. The tea jassids only show up in a big group once a year, so the tea is only produced one season per year. Because Shiuwen doesn't visit Taiwan in the summer, she's never seen it being processed. We hope to visit some great Oriental Beauty farmers and watch them make this tea some day.

We will be drinking this tea live on Instagram next Tuesday 10/24 at 11:30. Please tune in and drink the tea with us! Shuiwen will brew the tea and talk about her experience with it. If you have our Oriental Beauty, that's great. If not, brewing another Oriental Beauty would also be great. We hope you can make it! Our Instagram account is https://www.instagram.com/floatingleavestea/

Written by Noah

*photography by Jake Knapp of Cloud 9 Photography & Design.

Thursday, October 12, 2017

Waking Up Aged Oolong

Aged oolongs can have a soothing energy. They are usually temperamental, and sometimes sour, but if you nurture them they can be full of life and delicious. And they will have a story to tell you. Part of the process of nurturing aged oolongs is waking up the tea.

When I talk about waking up a tea, I do this with heat. This is also called spot roasting, or touching up a tea. It is like roasting it just slightly, right before brewing. The simplest way is to get a candle, like a tea light, with a low flame. You can use a small sheet of paper, resting one pots worth of tea on the paper. Hold it above the flame so that a gentle heat starts to warm up the leaves (and not burn the paper at all!!). The goal is not to roast the tea, but merely to push out the slowly accumulated moisture. You can also make an apparatus to roast aged teas with an old teapot and a candle based teapot warmer as in this picture.

However you wake it up, the tea will taste cleaner, more direct and more full. The moisture that gets stuck in an aged tea can be like a glass wall between the tea and the drinker.

Our ‘66 Aged Beipu, for example, benefits from a quick spot roast. As it is, the tea is herbal, medicinal and smooth. When I feel like using some extra time and energy, I spot roast this tea as a step in my brewing process to produce an even more delicious pot of tea.

Written by: Noah