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

Saturday, November 14, 2015

Videos of Pressing Puer Cakes

Here are some of the Puer videos that I promised to post. These were taken in a small factory in Mo Jiang that we had visited this past April. You can see that it's clean and all the workers wear uniforms, hats and masks. Before we entered the factory, we were asked to put on a similar uniform and shoe covers.

After a worker weighs the Mao Cha, it goes into a holder that is placed on top of steam to soften the leaves. I love this process, it's like magic!


Then another worker takes the steamed leaves and skillfully wraps the leaves in a piece of cloth before pressing. It's very difficult to do it right and he does it with such beauty.


This is a video of the machine pressing a Puer cake.


There will be more videos in the next couple of posts. I can't wait to go back!

Thursday, October 15, 2015

Charcoal Roast Dong Ding

I have been out of the Charcoal Roasted Dong Ding for a while. I talked to master Zhen who roasts Dong Ding for us and was happy to hear that he had some for me. He told me that it's a lighter roast than what I usually order, but he is very happy with this version. I asked him if it's possible to get some with a heavier roast and he was very agreeable with my request when he said "Sure, I will get the charcoal fire going and make one special roast for you." Man, I can't tell you how excited and grateful I am!

I ended up ordering both of versions of the Dong Ding. I was curious to see the differences between these two teas and I want you to have a chance to see how a great tea maker can bring out the best in a tea.

I received these two Charcoal Roasted Dong Ding teas in early September and you may have noticed that they haven't been listed for sale on the website. There is a reason for this. For teas like these, it will take some time for them to open up so that they're ready to be enjoyed. I want them to open up and reach a certain amount of balance before I feel comfortable offering them for purchase.

I have been tasting them from time to time over the past month. First, I liked the lighter roast better, only to change my mind a week later, and then finding it to be too rough on my third tasting. Yesterday when I tasted both teas, they finally opened up enough and I really like both of them!

The broth of the darker roast (left) and the lighter roast Dong Ding (right)

The lighter roasted one has more of that Dong Ding fruit smell and taste. Its liquid disperses very nicely inside of the mouth and it's more balanced on the palate. The heavier roasted Dong Ding has a dually heavy yet soft feeling broth happening for it at the same time. The way it slides down to the throat area is better and the salivation is stronger.

The open leaf of the darker roast (left) and lighter roast Dong Ding (right)

I like how the lighter roasted one holds all the features together so nicely and I like how the darker one has more dimension and dynamic. And you know what I like about a good charcoal roasted Dong Ding? It never ceases to change and transform and the tea will stay good for a very long time!

Wednesday, October 07, 2015

Pod Cast: A Talk On Taiwanese Oolong With Ken Cohen of Talking Tea

I love drinking tea with people. When customers from other states take their time to visit Floating Leaves Tea, I feel special and grateful to make that face to face connection with tea lovers from around the country.

A couple of months ago, a tea lover from Philadelphia named Ken came to Floating Leaves Tea. I had so much fun drinking tea with him and his partner. Near the end of our chat, he told me that he hosts a podcast to promote tea knowledge. He asked me if I would like to be a guest on his program. Of course, I love to talk about tea!

That was my first time doing a podcast. Those of you who have had tea with me have probably noticed that when I start to talk about tea, I can't stop. It's no surprise then that this podcast turned out to be pretty long.

Like many people, I can't stomach listening to my own voice in a recording. For the first five minutes of the program, I was literally holding on to the table while saying, "Oh my goodness!" By the end though, I felt very good listening to the program. I know that my enthusiasm and love for tea was clear, even through my strong accent! If you get a chance to listen to it, I hope you feel the same way. And please give us feedback and let us know what you would like to hear and learn about in future videos or podcasts.. Enjoy the talk!


Wednesday, September 09, 2015

Japanese Tea Ceremony Class With Marjorie Yap of Issoan Tea School

After my Oolong tea tasting with my tea friends in Portland, I had the rare opportunity to attend a Japanese tea ceremony class taught by Marjorie Yap Sensei of Issoan Tea and assisted by Barbara Sensei.

Believe it or not, that was my first experience attending a formal Japanese tea ceremony/class.
I joke with my customers quite often that I can't do Japanese tea ceremonies because I would be kicked out of Japanese tea ceremony schools for not sitting still and for talking too much. But in reality, I had thought that Japanese tea ceremonies focus too much on the rituals and too little on enjoying the tea.

I am grateful that I was permitted to be a guest in Margie Sensei's Japanese tea ceremony class. In a way, I felt it was better than sitting in a formal ceremony for my first experience. I got to watch how students practice performing the ceremony, which I especially liked because some of the rituals were explained, and I got to see the beautiful relationship between teacher and students.

I didn't have any expectations before I entered the class and I left with a lot of satisfaction. I was happy that I enjoyed the process so much. It felt like we shared a space where beauty could be achieved through diligent practice. I now see how the Japanese tea ceremony is a life-long practice. It makes me think of meditation, which is also a life-long practice.

I walked away with the discovery that my perspective of Japanese tea ceremony has changed and I was filled with gratitude from the generosity of the teachers and students. So will I be learning Japanese tea ceremony? I think a more appropriate question is if I want this to become one of my life-long pursuits!

Wednesday, September 02, 2015

Sudden Loss Of Tea Bouquet And Tea Flavor

Two weeks ago, I was in Portland tasting some Taiwanese Oolongs with my tea friends. Before I arrived, our host Jan called to inform me that the air was quite smokey due to many wildfires in Oregon state. I didn't think too much about that since I lived in Taipei for many years in the past, and the air pollution was quite bad back then.

I arrived a day before the tea tasting event and I was fine with all the smoke in the air. The first half of the tea tasting went very well. We enjoyed two Baozhongs, Oriental Beauty, Alishan Black tea and a Chuan Tong Oolong (a heavy roasted Oolong). We took a small break and had some snacks. I didn't serve any of the High Mountain Oolongs until the second half, because there were five of them and I wanted participants to be able to compare the teas.

I opened the vacuum bag of Alishan Oolong. It surprised me that there was almost no smell from the bag. I thought the bouquet would definitely show up after the bag of Alishan had a chance to breathe. I proceeded to brew the tea and there was close to no bouquet from the tea broth, either. I was very disappointed. I very much wanted to share with them how beautiful this season's Alishan could be! Next, I brewed the ShanLinXi, which did not reveal most of its flavor either (ShanLinXi has the heaviest body and its flavor is very easy to detect this season). I thought something was wrong.

Jan graciously offered to change the pot for heating hot water, and wanted to know if it could make a difference. Not much more bouquet nor flavor showed up after changing to a different pot. Some people said it might be the water. I didn't think the water would be the cause as we had 5 different teas earlier and they tasted fine and delicious. I thought it might be caused by a sudden change in air pressure, but I had no proof.

I would say the High Mountain Oolongs only showed an average of 30% of their bouquet and flavor. However, their textures showed up without any problem. They were all very soft and round.

One hour afterwards, while I was bagging tea for my tea friends, I smelled the bag of Alishan and some bouquet showed up.

I didn't drink any High Mountain Oolong for two days. After I came back to Seattle, I was eager to try the Alishan. It smelled beautifully and tasted as what I have remembered. Thank goodness! Maybe my senses were muted by the smoke in the air?

I wonder if you have had similar experiences? If so, please share your thoughts with me, I would love to hear more about your experiences.

*photo provided by Marilyn Miller