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

Monday, May 15, 2017

Dong Ding Documentary Project Sponsored By Embrace The Moon





Embrace The Moon, School for Taijiquan and Qigong is the first sponsor for our Dong Ding Tea Documentary! 

The founder and owner of Embrace The Moon Kim Ivy and I have known each other for 11 years now. I am honored to call her my friend and teacher. Two years ago I went back to take Taichi again, and our friendship grew. 

She teaches hard and really cares about what she does. I have learned so much about taichi and I love it! I see a lot of similarities between tea and taichi. There is so much detail and endless levels to explore. 










Then she started to come in to Floating Leaves Tea on Wednesday afternoon for tea. We tell jokes, gossip; sometimes talk about philosophy, politics and dreams. I show her what a good tea can do beyond just tasting good. We expirement with different styles of tea energy and see how they impact our Taichi practices. That has been extremely fun!





Since the first time I mentioned this Dong Ding Tea Documentary project to Kim, she has been supporting the project with money, encouragement and ideas. It's because of people like her and many of you who have believed in me that helps to push this project forward. Thank you!

We will continue to raise funds for editing and post production. To support this project, please visit our tea documentary fundraiser page here

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

Wednesday, May 10, 2017

An Excellent Charcoal Roast Dong Ding: Expansion

In my previous post about my experience with charcoal roast master Mr. Zhan I mentioned a Four Roast Dong Ding. That tea taught me about what a good tea can do 10 months after I first had it.  I purchased that tea in April 2016 and have been loving it to this day.

About two months ago, my tea friends Char of Oolong Owl and Andrew of The Happy Tea Man came to have a Dong Ding session with  me. I tried to show them how a good Traditional Dong Ding not only has good, solid broth and great aftertaste, but also that it has the most amazing "expansion". I normally experience expansion with Cha Qi (tea energy). That day, the Four Roast gave me a wonderful surprise. The expansion this Dong Ding has takes two routes: one is the tea energy, which is super strong, and the other one is texture expansion. I felt it for the first time. Its texture was pushed into my body while the cha qi was happening at the same time. I can't really express how excited I was when that happened! Our friend, Jake of Cloud 9 Photography & Design shot a short video of us. I don't think I completely understood what was happening at the time. I only knew how AWESOME the tea was afterwards.





Two things happened in this Dong Ding Tea session that I absolutely love: friendship and expansion. I love it that tea is very communal. Tea brings people together. Tea allows us to enjoy not only its goodness but also the company that is there. Tea is expansive. Throughout these years learning about tea, I noticed that the right people with the right mind in tea sessions can open and hold a precious space for the tea drinkers. Char, Andrew and Jake are very open-minded people with great taste in tea. They helped to create and hold that precious space with me.

And a good tea is a great teacher! I am still AMAZED at how this Charcoal Roast Dong Ding still teaches me after so many months. When I realized the tea broth in my mouth was expanding into my body, the beauty of it was beyond description and it has deeply touched me. I thought of Mr. Zhan and how he could possibly craft a tea like this. He inspires me! His tea inspires me!

I am grateful and thrilled Mr. Zhan agreed to be interviewed for our Dong Ding Documentary. I look forward to learning more from him and to sharing with you some of his tea stories. We are scheduled to film the documentary in the first two weeks of July. We reached Phase 1 of our fundraising goal, and that is to shoot footage. Thank you all who have supported this project! We are now working on Phase 2 fundraising and we are half way there! We just need a couple of thousand dollars to hire people in our places so that each of our businesses can stay open while we are gone filming. Please consider donating and supporting this Dong Ding Documentary Project. Thank you!

Wednesday, May 03, 2017

A Quick Update On Our 2017 Spring Oolong





It's a colder season so the harvest is later than usual.

We just heard from our Baozhong farmer that he started to harvest QingXin Oolong varietal to make his baozhong on Friday April 28th. And we are getting ready to choose our spring Alishan.

For our lightly oxidized Taiwanese Oolong lineup we carry JinXuan and Nantou Four Season as daily drinker teas. We prefer QinXin varietal for our Baozhong and High Mountain Oolongs.

Here is some information on these three varietals:

-SiJiChun( for Nantou Four Seasons): A tea farmer in Muzha discovered this varietal several years ago. This plant has a strong life force and can yield six harvests in a year! Its feature flavor is like jasmine or ginger lily fragrance.

-JinXuan, aka Taiwan Tea #12: This varietal was "made in Taiwan". It was officially published in 1981, and it's now the 2nd most grown tea varietal in Taiwan. It's often seen in tea fileds under 1200 meters high. When it's grown past that elevation, the young stems contain too much water. In this instance the success rate for producing a high quality oolong tea sharply falls. Sometimes JinXuan will have an osmanthus like bouquet. When JinXuan does produce a milk candy flavor, its broth is round. This is why tea drinkers first called JinXuan milk Oolong.

-QingXin: This varietal was brought to Taiwan from Fujian and it has been a very popular varietal for a long time. QingXin grows slower and yields less than SiJinChun and JinXuan. However, its success rate to produce finer Oolongs is higher. The flavor profile from QingXin Oolong varies. It can be floral, fruity or honey-like.

Since QingXin Oolong grows at a slower pace (and because it's the varietal we prefer for our Baozhong and High Mountain Oolongs) please have patience as you wait for our Spring Oolong harvest to be available. We are hoping to get some of the teas in around the middle of May. For higher elevation Oolong, like Lishan, we are hoping to have it in by the end of May.

Monday, May 01, 2017

Charcoal Roast Master: A Spetacular Tea Session




After I met the Charcoal Roast Master Mr. Zhan in 2010, I was not be able to see him unitl 2016. Over the course of these years I would call from time to time to see if I could bring some customers to visit him. But they always turned us down, stating Mr. Zhan's health had not be good. The memory of that strong Chinese herbal medicine smell back in 2010 made me think of his troubled health condition.


In April 2016 my friends David and Jake went to Taiwan with me. I called Mr. Zhan's store and told them I am in Taiwan and I could go pick up the tea order I had placed.

The moment we entered the apartment Mr. Zhan was right by the door putting on some classical music (later we figured out his favorite music is Beethoven.) We shook hands, and the moment our hands touched I could feel he was weak. I don't know how to explain that, and from that moment I was doing my best to control my emotions. "Welcome! Please sit and have tea." Mr. Zhan said. I didn't expect to have tea with them that day, so I was very excited to be offered the opportunity.

Conversations started to flow and I was just so thrilled to drink tea with him again. I think we started with Charcoal Roast Dong Ding. The three of us were very happy to drink that. Then another Charcoal Roast Dong Ding was brewed. "That is our 4 Roast," he said.

"What? You have a four roast?" I asked.

"The tea base was very good and I was able to do it this way." I loved the 4 Roast! I continue to be amazed by this tea today. I will write another post on this Dong Ding tea.

Mr. Zhan and I. Photo by Jake Knapp.


With tea, conversations and laughter flowing, I noticed we were all opened up to each other, and a beautiful space was created. "I have parkinson's disease." Mr. Zhan said. I noticed how much his hand was shaking. A couple of times I thought he would drop his tea cup and yet he managed.

Then he asked his assistant to brew a certain Sheng Puer for us. After two infusions, he said, "Stop brewing this tea. This Puer is not showing up for them today. They deserve better." Then he asked the assistant to brew the next Puer.

"I understand some teas wouldn't open up certain days. I had experiences like this." However I forgot to ask him how he knew the tea was not showing up for us. Was it because we didn't say anything about the tea? I took a sip of the next Puer and I immediately felt something. It's not about how smooth the broth was (which was excellent) and it's not about the Cha Qi, or tea energy (which was clear and great). It was something else. It was a 'feeling'. I couldn't pinpoint it so I didn't say anything. After I sip the second infusion that feeling was still there. "What is this?" I thought to myself.

"This is a young Puer but it has an old soul." Mr. Zhan said very gently.

"What? Why?" I asked.

"When I drink this tea, I always feel a kind older sister's presence." he said.

"Oh my god! That's the 'feeling'. He knows!" I thought. I was compeletely blown away by the experience. I looked at him and then everyone else in the room. I looked outside the window and back in the room again. "Ah....He is the tea conductor" I thought to myself. I felt physically we were in an apartment in a city called Taipei, but we all managed to create a space together beyond the physical space. I couldn't possibly describe the beauty of it. I was simply inspired at that moment and thought, "could I accomplish this someday?"

I was extremely happy, if that's the right word to describe my emotion, with this tea session. It showed me a different level of tea drinking. At the same time, I was very sad to see Mr. Zhan's health trouble. In the next 30 minutes or more, I was trying to hide my emotions and became very animated. I poured out my Seattle life stories and how I didn't know how to resolve my karma in Seattle. His assistant and he listened to my stories with gentleness. Perhaps subconsciously I was trying to find an answer from him (I do believe he can read people's fortunes).

The conversation was switched back to tea and he asked his assistant to brew us a 70's Puer. It was delicious! We were all very honored that he gave us such a tea treat! "I would like to ask you a favor. When I come back next year, can I record and video tape your tea roasting? I love your roasting skills and you probably figured out I am crazy this way. I would love to record some of your skills. I mean, your work is amazing to me. You transform tea to a higher level. For nothing else, I would like to know a little bit of this technique and keep this beautiful part of you with me."

His eyes were closed for a while. Then he opened his eyes, "Yes, but only that and nothing else. I get tired very easily nowadays."

"Oh thank you! I am easy. When you are tired, just tell me to leave." I said. "Just one more question. What do you mean by 'nothing else'?" Everyone burst into laughter and he didn't answer the last question.

Still today when I think of this tea session, my heart is filled of gratitude for Mr. Zhan. I thanked him for showing me what he was capable of with tea and I thanked him for such a spetacular tea session. He gave me something to look forward to. I am also grateful to his tea assistant and my two dear tea friends. Their presence helped to create that moment. I will always hold those moments dear in my heart. And who could have known that request would turn into a Dong Ding Tea documentary project for Jake and me.


Wednesday, April 12, 2017

Chaozhou Tea Brewing

I got yelled at today by a Chaozhou tea expert!



I love oolongs and I think our Tieguanyin is excellent.  So does my friend the Chaozhou tea drinker.  The cup on the left is how I - and most people - brew oolongs nowadays.  The one on the right is how he brews.  Chaozhou is a region between Fujian and Guangdong provinces and tea lovers there are known for making very strong tea, using lots of leaf and long brewing times.



My friend said my tea is weak and does not allow the true character of an excellent Tieguanyin to shine, which to him are "the namesake metallic note, the sour fruit note, the dry & sweet after-notes, the earthy aroma, the beautiful amber liquid and the thick viscosity."  



We tried several cups of tea brewed his way, which is double the normal amount of leaves and 3-5 minute steepings.  Wow, the brew was so strong and powerful!  We were wired, as if we had taken shots of espresso.  Do people really drink tea that's this strong on a regular basis?  My friend does and loves his tea this way, which is fine by me since he has to buy more tea from me, haha!  I must admit that a strong brew allows you to see all of the tea's strong points and flaws.  I enjoyed our session, but still prefer a more moderate steeping time.  I always say, though, that one should drink tea in whichever enjoyable way one chooses to and to not be too stuck on following set rules.