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

Thursday, December 31, 2009

Happy New Year!

2009 has been a challenging and yet rewarding year for me. With the bad economy, the business was discouraging at times. However, we made it through another year and have come out fine, with good tea that was shared with everyone this year. Thank you all for your support!

I have been blessed with generous people; people who have and continue to give me advice and help on my website, useful feedback on my business, and who have donated time to help Floating Leaves Tea . I am also blessed with generous tea drinkers who have discovered interesting teas from other tea merchants and have shared what they have discovered with me.

Thank you to all whom have come in to Floating Leaves Tea to support my business. I love to have the special kind of connection with all of you, sitting down to drink and chat about tea. My dedication to sell honestly good tea is because of my love for tea and tea culture, and I wouldn't continue to love what I do so much if it wasn't for the wonderful tea friends I get to spend time with. For those who are not living in Seattle, thank you for ordering tea from the website. A lot of you have written me emails with questions and have sometimes called me, too. Even though I have never seen you, I feel like I know you somehow, through the tea.

Looking forward, one of my goals in 2010 is to continue to find good Oolongs. I know I have done well when you take a sip of tea and have a satisfying smile on your face. I know I have done well when you write and thank me for finding your favorite tea. Another goal is to do video projects on various Oolong processes with detailed explanations.

During this holiday season, wherever you are, please remember to sit down and have a delicious cup of tea.

Saturday, December 26, 2009

Winter High Mountain Oolong

I've completed my tasting of the 4 High Mountain Oolongs that we will be carrying this season: Lishan, Alishan, Buddha's Hand, and LaLaShan. They all have a strong enough body and they are unique and very different from each other.

The Lishan Tea has a very nice fruit note with a buttery mouth feel. It has a very light roast to bring out the flavor.

The traditional Alishan Tea is floral, gentle, and complex. It is made by a premium Alishan tea maker and we are happy to have his tea again this season.

The Buddha's Hand is bold and green. It has not been roasted and was produced within the last 3 weeks, but the base is strong and the flavors will mellow.

The Lalashan is roasted, fruity, and has a clear and strong hui gan. It is a bold tea that yields a lot of flavor and many infusions.

We only have a small amount of each tea for now (the Buddha's Hand is temporarily unavailable) and more of them will be in Seattle after the New Year. If you want to figure out which one you might like the most, please check out the High Mountain Tea Sampler on our website: www.floatingleaves.com

I will be posting this season's Dong Ding tasting notes soon.

Happy Holidays to you all. Stay well and drink lots of good tea!

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

New Winter Baozhong Has Arrived!

Before I had the chance to try any of the new winter Oolongs from Taiwan, I had heard a lot of rumors that this season's teas would not be good.

When the boxes of new Baozhong arrived at the shop three days ago, I have to say that I was a bit nervous.

I did two tastings with the bowl method comparing this season's teas to the spring Baozhong. I like this season's Baozhong better. I found them to have a thicker body. Next, I tried this season's Farmer's Choice, Honorable Mention and 2nd Place Baozhong in a gaiwan. Farmer's Choice is bold and upfront with both floral and some kind of fruit notes. Honorable Mention is soft and smooth. 2nd Place Bazhong has that typical "competition" floral note. All are enjoyable and different from each other.

I will try to give another update on these three Baozhongs after the first official tasting this weekend. I have noticed many times that some of each season's new teas will change a bit after they have arrived and have sat around for about one month.

Friday, November 27, 2009

2009 Winter Baozhong

Our 2009 Winter Baozhong was shipped out from Taiwan yesterday! I am expecting it to arrive in Seattle in about two weeks; mid-December. Please watch out for our tea tasting schedule in our next newsletter and blog posts.

I heard that tea production is very low this year. In Pinglin during a regular season, there are around 1500 batches of tea that enter the Baozhong competition. This season, there were only about 950 batches of tea entering the competition. My tea friend told me that just a couple of days after the competition, most of the competition tea was already bought!

Monday, November 16, 2009

Xia Guan Puer

As the weather is getting colder and colder for me, I have been craving a nice, thick cup of Puer. I generally don't drink cooked puer unless it tastes "clean" to me.

I recently found a source for a Xia Guan puer brick that is from the 90s. The tea is thick and smooth. Look at the satisfying color of the liquid. Doesn't it make you want to drink it when it's cold out, too?

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Latest News For Winter Tea

I have talked to a couple of tea friends in Taiwan and they all said that the tea that has been made so far is average, which is better than the below-average quality tea that some people thought would be produced this winter. There was a drought first, then a typhoon (too much rain), then not enough rain after that, which affected the early harvest.

However, there is a good amount of late season rainfall now, the tea leaves have matured and the harvest will be fully on its way soon. The farmers are waiting for the temperature to drop now to begin plucking.

There is still a good chance for us to get good tea this season!

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Is Taiwanese Oolong Usually Blended

Two customers came in to share with me a Dong Ding oolong they had purchased elsewhere. They told me it was $18 per ounce; I was very excited to try it. I normally don't care how expensive a tea is, but the pricing and the quality should match.

After two infusions, I asked them what they thought. They said it tasted good enough, but they were more eager to know what I thought of the tea. I told them I didn't think it was a bad tea, but I wouldn't pay $18 for it. Later, I laid out the open leaves for them to see and asked them to look closely. There were two different styles of leaves in it. One was roasted and one was not. They told me that they've never "studied" tea leaves after they were done drinking tea before and thought it to be quite interesting. They asked if it's a good thing to mix tea like that and if Taiwanese Oolong teas are usually blended.

I told them sometimes Taiwanese teas are blended, but it doesn't mean that it's a bad thing. I have a tea friend who owns a tea business outside of Taipei. He once told me that his clients would order more than 100 pounds of Oriental Beauty. There is no way that he could get a single crop from one source of Oriental Beauty in that quantity. He searched for teas that had similar quality and taste and he would mix them together and finish the tea off with a touch-up roasting. I have tried those teas before and they tasted good. One wouldn't even notice that the tea was mixed.

In 2005, my friend took me to see the Pinglin Baozhong competition. One of the assistants saw us and went to prepare a gaiwan. He put three different Baozhongs in the gaiwan. I asked my friend what the assistant was doing, and he told me he was going to make us some tea. I wondered why he mixed three different Baozhongs. I drank a cup of that blend and it was one of the best Baozhongs I have ever tasted.

I think it's alright for Taiwanese teas to be blended. If they are, the teas are generally from similar processing methods. I rarely see a tea that is blended from different processes, unless it is low grade or low quality.

Monday, October 12, 2009

Dong Ding and Hong Shui Oolong

One of my favorite teas of the spring season sold out a couple of months ago. It was a Dong Ding Oolong. I simply loved the way it felt in the mouth. I thought I would wait for the winter season to arrive, but some customers fell in love with that tea and simply couldn't wait.

I called the Dong Ding farmer and asked him if he had any tea for sale. He told me yes, and I talked to him about what I liked and how I liked the previous batch of tea I purchased from him, and how the other types didn't work for me. Then he suddenly said," Oh, what you like is Hong Shui Oolong."

I asked him if Hong Shui Oolong was the traditional way of making Dong Ding. I also asked if I should be seeing the clear red edges when the leaves opened up and how come I didn't see that from the previous batches of his tea. "Miss Tai, don't listen to too much of what people have said about tea," he said. I told him I needed to know because that's part of my job. I needed to tell people the right information.

He went on with saying that the tea has the "appropriate" oxidation level and I will like it. I knew I was not going to be getting much more from him on this particular subject, so I asked him what he thought of the weather for the upcoming winter tea. He said," Why do you care about the weather? You don't grow tea. You only need to choose tea. So weather is not your issue." I bursted out laughing and thought that was totally him.

I called a tea friend in Taiwan that had tried that Dong Ding tea. I asked him about his opinions on Hong Shui Oolong. He told me he liked the tea and it was a Hong Shui Oolong. When asked why, he didn't really know how to explain it. I was getting frustrated and turned on the computer to see what I could find. I read a couple of articles from the myteastories blog and Houde blog and found both of them interesting. I got on the phone again after reading, and talked to one more tea friend in Taiwan. He said, "紅水烏龍是台灣烏龍的一種做法,茶葉發酵度高,茶湯呈橘紅色,沒有花香而是帶熟果香,茶湯入口柔順而且很有喉韻".

I swear I could taste the tea when he was telling me how it supposed to taste like. If you can't read Chinese, here is the translation: " Hong Shui Oolong is a traditional way to make Oolong tea in Taiwan. The tea has a higher level of oxidation. The tea liquid is orange/reddish color. This kind of tea no longer carries a floral bouquet, instead, it has a sort of ripe fruit taste. The feel of tea water is very smooth and it has a good 喉韻(Hou Yun - throat smoothness).

Then he went on," 在以前,紅水烏龍指的是毛茶,現代的定義有一點混淆,有些人把烏龍茶焙一焙,茶湯呈紅色,就叫做紅水烏龍." Translation: "In the old time, Hong Shui Oolong refers to Mao Cha. Nowadays, the definition is a bit muddled. Some people roast their tea to show a reddish tea liquid and they will call that kind of tea Hong Shui Oolong, too."

I told him the original style sounded very delicious and asked why we aren't seeing more of that type. He told me that it took more time and skill to make. Not many farmers have those kinds of skill anymore. I could see that he was very busy. I thanked him and told him I would call back again.

Some of you will have more insight and notes on my new Hong Shui Oolong and I would love to hear from you. I have a new Hong Shui style Dong Ding and I also have a modern style lightly oxidized Dong Ding, too. I would like to give out samples of both types to you if you agree to please write me back with what you think of them after you compare them.

Please write to me at tea@floatingleaves.com to request the Dong Ding samples; include your name and address. Only the first 30 requests will get the tea. If you live in Seattle, please just show up and try these teas with me.

Saturday, September 26, 2009

Frequent Asked Questions: What's My Favorite Tea

I am constantly asked what my favorite tea is. For a tea family, I always say "Taiwanese Oolong" (am I biased?). For a specific tea, my answer changes every season. So this question leads to "What makes me like a tea?"

If you come to the shop enough, you have probably already noticed by now that I talk about mouth feel a lot. Yes, that's the first thing I judge a tea by. Any good tea to me has to have a good mouth feel. Mouth feel for me is how the tea liquid feels in my mouth. It doesn't have to be heavy, but it has to be round and balanced. After one swallows the tea, the sensation should still be there.

So the answer to my favorite tea for this season:
Traditional Dong Ding A for its excellent mouth feel (Sorry, this tea never made it onto my website. Limited quantity. Sold out in a week)
Traditional Dong Ding for its good mouth feel
DaYuLing for its wonderful complexity

Hope this answers your question.

Friday, September 25, 2009

Taiwan Tea and High Mountain Oolong

After the typhoon in Taiwan, there has been some news about closing some high mountain tea farms so they won't cause more damages in the mountains. I heard about this many years ago. I recently called some tea friends to see if they are doing alright and to ask about the news. They also said they have heard about these closures many years ago.

There were some tea farms "behind the Alishan region, and one in the YuShan region" that have been shut down. It was very dangerous to go up there. They said the government has isn't likely to shut down an existing tea farm. However, it will be difficult to develop new tea regions.

My tea contacts heard some rumors that are quite disturbing. They heard that some wealthy businessmen from China were talking about buying up the whole Lishan region! I have also heard about Starbucks wanting to buy a lot of tea from Taiwan. For the selfish part of me, I hope none of the deals will go through.

The beauty of some Taiwanese tea is that many of tea farms are owned by individual farmers and Taiwanese Oolongs are quite labor intensive. Having been in the tea business for several years, one of my great joys is to go the tea growing areas and talk to farmers, to see their hard work, to see their proud faces, and to exchange that smile when we all agree on a good tea.

Taiwanese tea compared to the rest of the world's tea is not cheap. So once again let's pray that those big business deals will not go through. Let some of the tea art remain alive!

Saturday, September 19, 2009

A Tea Class at NW Tea Festival

As many of you already know, Seattle has its own tea festival. This year, it will be happening on October 3rd and 4th. Please check their website for information: www.nwteafestival.com

I will be at the festival on October 3rd to teach a class on evaluating a Oolong tea's quality. It's scheduled at 2:30pm. After the class, I will be there brewing tea and talking about tea. If you have time, stop by and say hi.

See you all there!

Friday, August 28, 2009

Frequest Asked Questions: Tea Quantity and Brewing Time

In my last post, I talked about the acceptable water temperature to brew Taiwanese Oolong. This Saturday, two new customers came in and asked to buy a tea thermometer. I told them that they don't need one and then invited them to have some tea with me.

They didn't know what to think of my answer, but if you experiment with good oolong, you will see that it can withstand hot water. I hope you all had a chance to brew your Taiwanese Oolong with boiling water and compared it to the way you normally brewed.

I'm also asked a lot about how long I brew my oolongs for. I would say around 30 seconds; more time is added for subsequent infusions. Every season when I receive new oolongs, I will try them out and then adjust the timing. Once again, weather is different every season, which makes tea different every season. I suggest you brew your tea the way you normally like to do it and then adjust the brewing time.

The amount of dry leaves that I use: I don't measure my tea. I will use a scale to weigh the tea when I am tasting oolongs in the tea competition style or the bowl method. But for those people who are just getting into gongfu style tea, here are the amounts of tea I usually use (I measured them today to make sure): rolled taiwanese oolongs- 8 grams; Baozhong- 6 grams; Oriental Beauty- 5 grams.

I hope so far you are getting a clear message from me. Be adventurous with your tea and don't be afraid of experimenting or making mistakes. For beginners, I hope I have offered you enough information to start. When you read things about "there is only one correct way to make Oolong tea", please ignore them. It's narrow-minded to say that. While we want to learn this and that about tea, please keep the Dong Ding farmer's question in mind: "When you drink a tea, can you tell if it's good?"

Sunday, August 16, 2009

New Oriental Beauty has Arrived!

The 2009 new Oriental Beauty just arrived a couple of days ago, and it arrived at the perfect time. Just this past week, we went back to the usual Seattle weather: cool. I have been craving a darker Oolong recently, and then the new Oriental Beauty arrived! It really hit the spot.

This new one is darker and deeper in flavor and it offers more infusions than the previous season's. Come try it out!

Thursday, August 13, 2009

One Year Old

Floating Leaves Tea has been at its new location for one year! It has been a great move and I love to be able to drink tea and to meet with all of you. Thank you for your continuous support!

All the merchandise will be 15% off in the next two weeks, until the end of August. Also, we have tea samplers out so it will be a great way to try more teas at an affordable price. Please tell your friends.

As always, I am looking forward to having tea with you!

Monday, August 03, 2009

Frequent Asked Questions: Water Temperature

A lot of people have asked me some very good questions about tea. Many of their questions have been similar, so I thought it would be good to post my answers on the blog, since you might be curious about these questions as well.

One of the most asked questions is about water temperature. "What temperature should I use to brew my tea?"

My answer is to try out different ones and figure out what you think will make the most delicious tea. However, ANY GOOD OOLONG TEA CAN HANDLE BOILING WATER. I am not suggesting that you always have to brew tea with boiling water, or that you have to use a boiling temperature at all. I notice I often use non-boiling water to make my Taiwanese Oolongs because boiling water burns my tongue.

I heard that there is some debate over water temperature for Taiwanese Oolongs. Some people strongly believe that Taiwanese Green Oolong can't take boiling water. That's not what I see in Taiwan. Most Taiwanese people I've met use boiling water. Some people use a very specific temperature for Oolongs and insist that theirs is the only correct temperature. I respect their decisions for their own tea, but they shouldn't say other people are wrong. Each person should brew the way that makes the tea taste best for themselves.

I often hear this statement when I visit farmers and tea people in Taiwan, " Tea is alive. We have to be flexible with it". Weather changes all the time, so how can we use the same method to make our teas?

Try out different temperatures! You will be surprised to see what the same tea can offer you.

Feel free to comment on this. And if you have more questions about Taiwanese Oolongs, send them to me.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Delicious Summer Iced Tea

Many people have stopped by and told me that they are not drinking as much tea during the summertime. What? How can one stop drinking tea?

A good iced tea is one of the best things to help quench the thirst and it's so refreshing!

For the July 4th BBQ party(it was hot in Seattle that day), I made two iced teas and nobody asked for soda or other drinks like that. Really delicious! Here are the recipes:

Jasmine Tea Lemonade: For one glass of lemonade, use one full tablespoon of honey (mix it well with hot water first) and about an ounce of lemon juice. Mix them well with pre-brewed Jasmine Green Tea and pour the mixture over ice. It's a great drink!

Cranberry and Oriental Beauty (AKA Cranberry Beauty): Use a handful of Oriental Beauty Oolong for about one gallon of water. Cold brew the tea overnight. It's very yummy just the way it is. But if you want to add some flavor to it, mix the tea with some cranberry juice (you might want to add sugar to this because cranberry juice can be very tart).

Both of the iced teas are delicious and one can taste all the ingredients, especially the tea! We carry a special higher-roast Oriental Beauty that was made especially for iced tea.

If you want something more simple, just brew some Dragon Well or Silver Needles and pour the tea over ice. It's so refreshing!

Friday, July 10, 2009

Brewing Da Yu Ling High Mountain Oolong Tea

When I was in Taiwan in May searching for Oolongs, I didn't notice that some of this past season's tea has a slight bitter taste in the back of my tongue. After I brought them back to Seattle, that mild hint of bitterness appeared in some of the new teas. I don't know why they had such a change. Perhaps just like humans, tea can change in new environments, too.

Many customers have tried this spring's Da Yu Ling and they've commented that this Da Yu Ling is sweet and complex, but not bold. They generally like this tea. A regular customer bought a bag of the Da Yu Ling, and after he tried it twice at home, he came to tell me that the tea had some bitterness to it. I was having tea with some friends at the teashop at that time and he didn't want to sit down to try the tea that I was brewing. I asked him to come back again and to bring the regular pot he uses for high mountain teas and with that pot, we could brew the tea together. He gladly accepted the invitation.

My customer showed up with his pot later in the week. He brewed the tea in his pot the way he is accustomed to and I brewed the same tea in a gaiwan. The first three infusions from his pot were overwhelmingly bitter. He tasted mine and told me that the bitterness was there, but it was not offensive. I laughed and said,"no wonder you didn't like this tea. It's too bitter the way you brew it!" He justified by saying," I think this tea is interesting. The flavor changes throughout the infusions and it can last for 7 infusions. This tea is not boring at all. I just don't like the first three brewings." I laughed again and told him that it was not good enough. He was very intrigued by the tea's different taste when brewed in a gaiwan compared to his pot, though. My point was to ask him to give this tea a chance.

Alone in the teashop one afternoon, I found that I was in the mood to drink Da Yu Ling. I took out a yixing pot and put in a lot more tea leaves than usual. I brewed it for about 20 to 25 seconds (I noticed that customer timed his tea 20 to 25 seconds). It was really good! I wish he was there at the time to try the tea. It had full body and was full of flavors. The slight bitterness was there, but it was not offensive at all. I enjoyed that tea until the last drop of many brewings.

My customer came again afterwards. I asked him if he could bring his pot over so that we could brew the same tea in two different pots, and he accepted the second invitation again.

This time, we were pretty scientific about the brewing. We measured the pots and the leaves. My pot is just little bit smaller than his. He used around 10.2 grams of tea and I used 10 grams. He timed the 20 seconds of brewing time and I added two to three more seconds. It turned out again that the tea from my pot was not as bitter as his. He insisted it was still too bitter and I respected what he was tasting. I told him with a sincerity that I liked the tea. I told him that in Taiwan, many people brew tea even stronger than what we did that day, and they would brew it to just the "right edge". Their tea tastes bitter, but it was normally full body and the Hua Gan(sweetness turns back to the throat) and a sweet taste will appear at the mouth. People like interesting changes like this. He told me it was the first time he ever heard of Hua Gan and he couldn't "sense" it. But it was interesting for him to learn new things.

Tuesday, July 07, 2009

Taiwan Tea Tour 2010!

As some of you already know, I am going to lead a tea tour to Taiwan next May. We will be visiting Pinglin (Baozhong tea), Muzha (Tiequanyin), Alishan Mountain, taking tea classes from some of the most famous Taiwanese tea experts, eating delicious food and doing many more fun things.
The itinerary is posted on Floating Leaves Tea website HERE

Check it out!

I look forward to taking you to my homeland: Taiwan!

*All the pictures are from one of the 2007 Taiwan Tour members: Jim Molnar

Friday, June 26, 2009

Favorite Moments of the Trip

I was very happy that I could make it to Taiwan with Konghai. It was really nice to see my mother and my family. It was their first time seeing Konghai and they adored him! My mother even made the effort to take extra days off from her work to go to Dong Ding mountain with us.

It was hard for her to to leave part with us so soon, but we promised we would go back to visit next year.

I saw my best friends from high school. One of them came with us on our trip to Dong Ding and we got to spend half a day together. Even though it was only half a day, we both found our friendship to be strong. It will never die off and we care for each other. I saw my other friends in Taipei, got to hang out with them, and one of them was very generous to let me stay at her place.

I was very grateful to the farmers and tea people I met on this trip. I met the Dong Ding farmer and the Tieguanyin farmer for the first time. Both of them and their wonderful wives spent a lot of time with me and I can't wait to see them again next year to learn the arts of their tea.

And I really enjoyed seeing my old tea friends and mentors, like farmer Chen, Mr. Tsai and Mr. Lui. I have known Chen and Lui for five years, and Tsai for more than 10 years. It was very relaxing to be with them. They have all had their tea business for many years. I like to be at their establishments, not only to drink good tea, but also to see people come and go. It doesn't seem like time is really an issue for anyone.

I enjoyed learning tea from them, too. Most of the farmers and tea people are not very good at explaining things. They teach by telling me to "experience" tea. This is so different from the logical way of learning. I was frustrated in the beginning, but later, I learned to appreciate this method. If I can't taste the tea, it doesn't matter how many facts I learn about the tea. I knew that I had breakthroughs in my learning when I heard such statements as : " Hey Miss Tai, I am going to brew a tea that will make you smile," or "Miss Tai, the tea that we are going to drink is the taste of heaven."

And food! It was delicious as usual.

I love Taiwan! Good people, good tea and good food! I can't wait to go back there again.

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Shui Xian from Taiwan

This is the first time that Floating Leaves is selling the Shui Xian varietal of tea from Taiwan. I didn't have a chance to meet the farmer who made the tea, but I was happy that I got a chance to see where it was grown.

The current farmer actually doesn't own the farm. I will call him Shui Xian farmer because I forgot to ask for his name! What had happened was that Mr. Den, who knows everyone, passed by the farm one day and noticed that the farm looked like it had been unattended for some time. He was curious and went to look for the owner of the tea farm. Den discovered that the owner has passed away.

One day Den visited the Shui Xian farmer and told him about the farm. The Shui Xian farmer told Den that it was such a waste for the tea fields to be unattended, and said that he would like to take care of the farm. Den was excited and told the farmer he would look for the children of the owner. He found them and told them the proposal. They were happy that someone else wanted to grow tea because they were not interested at all.

My friend, Mr. Tsai, told me that the Shui Xian farmer works very hard and he is a believer of organic farming. He doesn't use chemicals to kill weeds and uses organic methods to fertilize the tea trees.

If you are curious about what this Taiwanese Shui Xian tastes like, please visit Brett's (Black Dragon Tea Bar) BLOG ARTICLE, where he has kindly reviewed the tea.

Sunday, June 21, 2009

Pinglin Trip, Part Two

Mr. Tsai took me and Konghai to Farmer Chen's place. He was not back yet, so we sat down with his wife to have tea. She prepared at least seven different Baozhongs for me to try. Some tea came from half-jin packages, and she took some other teas out from those huge plastic bags. I didn't notice any marks on any of the bags. I have to say all the farmers and tea business people have incredible memories (perhaps they all drink tea every day?). Before I had a chance to tell her, she told me what those Baozhongs were. It was fun to try so many Baozhongs all at once. After I went through them twice, I was surprised at how light some of the competition winning teas were. My two favorite ones were one that didn't enter any competitions at all and one that was in the competition but didn't win any prize.

Later, Farmer Chen came back with some fresh tea leaves. He saw Konghai and gave him those leaves to play with. He sat down with us to try all the Baozhongs. Then he was distracted by Konghai. I think he likes Konghai a lot and he took a lot of pictures of him. For the whole tea tasting, they didn't make a single comment on what they thought of each tea. I knew that once again, I had to decide on which tea I considered to be the best for me to bring back to sell.

After all the Baozhongs, I asked if they had any aged teas. She came with two. I tasted them and liked the Buddha's Hand one better. When asked about the age, Farmer Chen said," ten, twenty years". I bursted out laughing and said,"there are 10 years of difference between what you just said". He smiled and looked at his wife for confirmation," I don't remember how old it is". I like that, at least it's very honest. I went to the jar where they stored the aged Buddha's Hand and smelled the tea. I saw the lid with the date! I showed them the lid and said," it's 18 years old!" Farmer Chen laughed and said," see? I was right!"

It was always nice to see Mr. and Mrs Chen. They were very easy going. Especially with him, he always had a smile on his face. Too bad I didn't have a chance to see him make tea this time. Most of the tea was already done for the season. I like the dedicated look on his face when he is making tea. There's always next year!

Saturday, June 20, 2009

Pinglin Trip, Part One

After my Dong Ding trip, my head was still thinking about Farmer Lin. I couldn't stop thinking about what he said to me, "When you drink a tea, can you tell if it is a good tea?" I was confused with what exactly I was looking for in the tea learning.

My friend, Mr. Tsai, met me and Konghai outside of the subway in Hsin Dien. Today he was going to take us to Pinglin. Before we went to see Farmer Chen, he told me that we were going to meet his friend, Mr. Den, and Den was going to take us to see the farmer who made our Shui Xian Oolong. We met Den at the Shui Xian farmer's farm. My heart got lighter because there was so much greenness in that area. Den was taking pictures when we arrived. He told us that the farmer was not at home at this moment. We would go to his house later to see if he was back. That was so Taiwanese-style. Friends or neighbors just show up at your door without an appointment. I sometimes miss that way of living.

Den told me that those tea plants in front of me were Shui Xian varietals and the farmer used organic farming methods to take care of the plants. They had really large size leaves compared to the more popular Taiwanese varietals.

Den told us we should go to another farmer's place to say hi (I didn't think he made any appointments with that farmer either). We showed up in front of a typical three-story apartment-type building. The farmer, his wife, three young babies, and the farmer's parents lived there together. When we showed up, they were all very friendly. Den told him that we would like to try some of his teas. He immediately put water on the stove. In no time, his mother came out with a huge plate of really juicy looking watermelon.

After the first pot of Jin Xuan varietal Baozhong, he asked me what I liked to drink. I told him if he had any Baozhong with a nice round mouth feel and yet heavy body. He left and came back with some different looking leaves. He told me that it was made from Da Yeh(Big Leaf) varietal. The tea liquid did have a heavier feel to it. Sometimes when I said I wanted something heavier, people would think I wanted it to be brewed heavier, too. I asked the farmer if Baozhong was like this 15 years ago. He smiled and said:"Oh no, tea at that time was even heavier than this." I asked him why he stopped making tea like that. He smiled again and told me that nobody wanted tea like that. I said, "that's not true. I am interested in that." In my brain, I was asking myself if tea at that time really tasted better. We said thank you and went on to see Farmer Chen.

Saturday, June 06, 2009

Dong Ding Trip, Day II

I woke up early today and decided to look around on my own. It was still misty and not too hot. The tea farms around the house looked pretty well taken care of. I thought those must be Lin's farms. When I looked closer, I found there were many different varietals of tea plants. I went through each farm and looked very closely at the shapes of the tea leaves. I didn't know that farmers in Dong Ding chose to grow many different varietals.

I ran back to Farmer Lin's house. His wife saw me and asked me to sit down and have breakfast. I told her that I was not hungry and asked him why there were many different tea plants, and asked him if he could show me how to identify each one of them. He said, "Why do you want to know the varietals? The point is to taste a tea and tell if the tea is good or not. Our ancestors brought us soft stem Oolong. It's the best." Later my mother and Konghai got up so we had breakfast together. Mrs Lin knows her husband well. She asked me if I needed to take anything for Konghai and she could help me. I knew she was going to show me the tea plants. I asked her if she could help me on the stroller.

I told Mrs. Lin that I will learn as much as I can and I am grateful that her husband spent so much time with us and showed us around. She showed me some tea plants, picked different leaves for me and told me what they were. On the way back to her house, I was thinking why I needed to tell the differences of tea leaves. I was thinking about his words: "When you drink a tea, can you tell if it is good?"

I asked them that I wanted to try a couple of teas that I had yesterday to confirm which one I liked the most. In the end, I was debating on two of the teas. Mrs Lin could tell. She told me," I think you should buy..." Mr. Lin said" You can't tell her which one she should buy. She has to learn how to experience a tea. She has to choose for herself." I didn't feel bad at all with what he said. He is right. I am the one who decides which tea tastes the best to me. After sampling the teas, he told me that he wanted to show me the neighborhood.

I was very happy to walk around. Farmer Lin took me to his own farm. He told me that there were not many farms left and that people were lazy. They went to do different things and tried to make money faster. We went to a hill and saw tea brushes here and there. He told me that those were wild teas and they made delicious tea. Many of the leaves were already bitten by bugs. We picked some leaves and they already had a very sweet aroma. Later we went by a farm that grows soft stem Oolong. We picked some leaves, too and I compared the fragrance between the soft stem and wild leaves. Both of them smelled very good, but the wild leaves had stronger aroma.

In the evening, I asked him if he had any aged tea. He told me yes and was thinking about whether or not he wanted to sell me any. He eventually sold me a bag without letting me taste it.

My mother doesn't really drink tea, but she told me that she could tell they had good tea. She asked me which one she should buy. I told her my opinions. She went to them and wanted to buy the one I said. Mr. Lin told her not to buy that tea. He said," Your level of tea learning is not as high. You wouldn't fully appreciate the quality of that tea. Your daughter can tell. That's why I sold her that tea. You should choose this one." He went to pull out a bag of tea and sold my mother a tea that he thought she would be able to appreciate.

After I left Dong Ding, I was felt pretty sad. One thing to make me sad was Dong Ding is not producing much tea anymore. People make tea elsewhere and call it Dong Ding. Another thing was that I felt Mr. Lin was living in the past. Even though he didn't teach me direct tea knowledge , he taught me tea spirit. I was thankful that I got to know him. Like what he said, it is an affinity to get to know a person and to get to share tea.

Tuesday, June 02, 2009

Dong Ding Trip, Day One

Before I went up to Dong Ding mountain, I was very excited and nervous. I heard that the farmer I was going to meet was very "different".
I talked to him a couple of times to arrange the meeting time and meeting place. He sounded very nice.

He met my mother, Konghai, and me at a bus stop. He held Konghai and my backpack and told us to walk to his car. In the car, he listened to Chinese and Taiwanese music that are from 40 to 60 years ago. He told us that was "real" music; when one listens to it, one feels good. The rest of the music is trash and it will pollute our souls.
On the way to Dong Ding, I saw some tea farms. They felt a little neglected and it felt there was not much life in the area.

His wife greeted us and she already had lunch ready for us. After lunch, Farmer Lin took out a tea tray. That was the moment I was waiting for: to drink tea. He made a 2009 spring Dong Ding. I took a sip and said, "This is your tea. This is a flavor that only your tea can produce." He said nobody can make a tea flavor like this. Then he went on talking about people, society and life. I was very content to savor the tea and tried to grab a chance to ask him about tea.
After the fourth infusion, he told us it was time to go see scenery. It was only the fourth infusion! I couldn't leave! I told him that he didn't need to trouble himself. My only interest was to drink tea. But he didn't listen so we went into his car. He took us to see a waterfall. It was very beautiful there. He was very nice to bring us some homegrown peaches and plums. Afterwards, we climbed some stairs and reached to a very narrow point. I saw a rope and remembered that my friend told me that the farmer made him climb the rope to see a different view. He asked us to climb up there. My mother said no. Oh, by the way, my high school friend was there, too. She didn't want to climb up there either. I thought if I didn't climb, he would be so disappointed, so I went. I saw another waterfall up there and it was quite a view. After I got off the rope, I was still a little bit shaky.
In the evening, his wife brewed me five different Dong Ding teas. He told me to savor and feel each tea so that I can decide what I like. He went on talking about how humans only care about money and the evil that's happening in the whole world. I listened to him and at the same time tried to focus on the tea and remembered how they were different from each other.

I was happy to have that much Dong Ding and was grateful that they were so generous. I went to bed with a mission that I had to talk to him about tea the next day.

Thursday, May 28, 2009

I am back to Seattle!

I had a great trip to Taiwan and I am back to share the tea that I found.

For the unique varietals, I found a Buddha's Hand, a Taiwan Wuyi, and a Shei Shan. All of these teas have enough body, a nice mouth feel, and distinctive taste. For Baozhong, I purchased Farmer's Choice and Honorable Mention from Farmer Chen. There will be no first place this year, but you will get a chance to taste it at our Baozhong tea tastings.

There is also a selection of Dong Ding and Tieguanyin teas; some of them are very low in quantity. Both of these teas have full mouth feel.

For the high mountain teas, I chose a Shanlinxi, one Lishan, one Dayuling, and one Hehuanshan. This spring, the high mountain tea is gentler and has a softer body than previous winter teas. For the Alishan lovers, I'm sorry, but I couldn't t find one that was good enough to bring it back for you to drink. There is also an aged Buddha's Hand produced in 1991 and possibly an aged Tieguanyin.

In a couple of days, I will post some of these new teas on the website and offer you some tasting notes. Please keep an eye out for our upcoming newsletters for a series of tea tastings.

See you all very soon for new and age teas.

Saturday, May 23, 2009

2009 Taiwan Tea Trip

I can't believe that I have to leave Taiwan in three days. It feels like I just got here and I am getting used to the rhythm of life. I am grateful to the people that I've met. They were helpful and generous. I will write more about this trip when I get back to Seattle. Here are some notes about the tea I have already tasted and that you will be able to try some soon.

I tasted 7 Dong Ding teas. Six of them are Spring teas and one of them is winter tea. This farmer is dedicated to producing tea the traditional way. A lot of attention and the best leaves that are actually from Dong Ding mountain go into making this tea so high in quality. All of his tea has very nice mouth feel and the flavor will stay in the mouth and throat for many hours. I chose one that I thought is the most balanced one. The farmer also gave me a small bag of aged Dong Ding. He didn't remember how old it is and told me not to sell that tea. If you can come by soon, I will share this with you when I am back.

My friend, Mr. Tsai, took me to Pinglin. We wanted to meet a farmer who has Xia Sha varietal. He told me that the farmer worked very hard and is dedicated to organic farming. Unfortunately, the farmer was not there that day. Mr. Tsai already ordered some tea for me. I will see if I can try it this Wednesday. Then we went to meet Farmer Chen and his wife. I probably tried 10 different Baozhongs. My favorite one was one that didn't win at the competition. I thought it has more weigh than the rest and it's very smooth. I also tried some aged oolongs. I chose one that was made from the Buddha's Hand varietal. This age Oolong has a very clear plum smell and it tastes very clean. 

On the third day in Taipei, I went to meet farmer Zheng and his family in the Mu Zha area. He is dedicated in making Tieguanyin. They were very friendly and very eager to let me try their teas. I lost count of how many I tried. They wanted me to try more. I told them I couldn't drink any more tea. I was not completely satisfied with this year's Tieguanyin so I chose a couple of teas that are about three to five years old.

I also drank a lot of high mountain teas. So far, I am not too crazy about Alishan tea. I did like one ShanLinXi, which has a very smooth body. I will try more high mountain teas over two days and decide what I want to bring back to Seattle.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

It's good to be in Taiwan again!

My son Konghai and I arrived in Taiwan 5 days ago. We spent 3 days with our family. It was the first time my family has seen Konghai. They were all very excited and happy to see him!

I have been living in Seattle for too long. It's hot here! My first cup of tea in Taiwan was a cup of bubble tea. It was just plain black tea. In hot weather like this, that cup of bubble tea tasted pretty good.

I was not serious about looking for tea during the first three days. The most important thing was to spend time with my family.

Tomorrow, I will tell you my trip to Dong Ding Mountain.

Friday, May 08, 2009

2009 Spring Taiwan Wuyi

The new Spring 2009 Taiwan Wuyi Oolong arrived yesterday. As some of you already know, I prefer a simple comparison style when reviewing teas, so here are my notes comparing the previous season's Taiwan Wuyi and this season's:

This Spring's Taiwan Wuyi is not as roasted compared to last season's. However, it has a nicer mouth feel and it feels cleaner. I haven't been able to consistently get the flavor to come out 100%, but aside from that, I consider this is a well balanced tea. It has more aftertaste, too. And this tea will stand up to a long soaking.

I talked to Mr. Tsai last night, one of my tea producers, to see why he finished this Taiwan Wuyi the way it it. He told me that after he tried the raw tea, he really enjoyed the way it tasted and felt, so he wanted to keep it as original as possible. I told him that some people might prefer this tea a bit more roasted. He said that he kept a bag of Mao Cha for me to try. After I try it, I can decide if I want to have the tea more roasted than this.

I will give you some reports after I meet him and see what we are going to do with this tea. Come in and try this tea before I leave for Taiwan this coming Wednesday and let me know what you think!

Don't forget that since I'm leaving this Wednesday to buy the new season's tea, all of the Winter 08 Oolongs are on sale = 30% off. Yes, that's THIRTY percent off until they've all sold out. Orders that come in while I'm away will be processed upon my return.

Tuesday, May 05, 2009

Spring Tea Harvest

I just talked to a tea friend in Taiwan. He told me that he tried some high mountain teas and they are all pretty good! My friend said that the early-harvest teas may only be average due to the lack of rain earlier this year, but after that dry period, the rain kicked in and there have been many sunny days since.

I am so excited to hear this. I will be in Taiwan from May 14th to May 27th to taste this season's teas! Both the tea shop and the online shop will be closed, so stock up your tea and wait for me to come back.

By the way, all of last season's teas are discounted. Everything from the winter season is on sale now.

I will do my best to give you tea news when I am in Taiwan. Let's see what kind of special teas I can pick up, too!

Friday, April 24, 2009

Good Tea!


Yesterday, I had a pot of Dong Ding with Todd. We looked at each other and agreed that this tea is excellent! It suddenly reminded me of the tea poem that describes the poet's experience when he drank a tea that was sent by a friend.

I've never had the experience that I was flying to the immortals when I drank tea (One farmer did share a pot of tea with me in Taiwan and he told me that was the taste of heaven). However, what it reminded me of the poem was that I started to sweat a little bit and I felt VERY GOOD and HAPPY. A tea friend once told me that he had a tea that was so good that he cried. Yesterday, I think I had that experience for the first time.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

World Tea News Interview

Robert Nordstrom, one of the writers for World Tea News, came to Floating Leaves Tea with his wife. We had a good time drinking tea and talked.

Here is the article he wrote about his experience here:

Check it out.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Tea Stories

Lately, I have been having problems writing. I don't know what to write! However, if you ever come to drink tea with me, you probably will notice that I won't stop talking about tea. So in the past weeks, I made the effort to keep track of what I've been saying. Aside from talking about how to identify good tea and how to taste it, I often talked about my tea experience. Here I am in Seattle, excited about going back to Taiwan to learn tea in May. I'd like to write down my past tea experiences to connect with the future tea learning.

When I was a child in Taiwan, I often saw people drinking tea. Back in my hometown, I saw LaoZuenCha(老人茶,Old Man's Tea) tea making(aka Gongfu tea) in my cousin's house for the first time. My cousin and I are the same age. Her father had a huge metal tea tray set on a table and that was where he made his tea. The tea tray and lots of his teapots had a lot of tea stains due to the frequent tea making. When I went to visit my cousin, he would always ask me if I wanted a cup. In a lot of places of Taiwan, people don't mind that children drink some tea. Those were my first tea experiences. My own family didn't drink tea. As a kid, I never really pondered why some people drink tea and why some don't.

When I was a teenager, I drank a lot of bubble tea and focused on going to the best universities.

I went to National Taiwan University in Taipei for college. Taipei is very different from where I grew up. It's much busier. A lot of my high school friends also went to Taipei and we would hang out once in a while on the weekends. Our favorite thing to do was to escape from Taipei for a day. We would ride our scooters to places with more greenery and had a good time walking around and eating (Food is very important for Taiwanese people and we are constantly eating). My friends told me about a tea house on the hills outside of Taipei. So one weekend, we decided to visit. I met the owner, Mr. Tsai who currently makes our Taiwan Wuyi Oolong. My fond memories of tea started here. If you ever ask me what I remember about tea, I will tell you about this memory of my friends hanging out in that teahouse, drinking tea, chatting, playing games, eating snacks, and having a good time. I remember tea is actually really fun!

I was learning English in university so I tried very hard to save money to be able to come to the states to practice my English. One summer, a family in Florida told my friend that they would host me. So I went to stay with the family for two months.

I believed that tea represents my culture. Besides some art objects, I brought the family a gongfu tea set as a present. One evening, we all sat down and I was supposed to show them how to make tea in a tiny clay teapot. I proceeded with the Gongfu tea and wow, that tea tasted terrible! I always watched people making tea in Taiwan, but I never really sat down to make a pot of tea. Nobody commented on the tea. I think they tried to be polite.

Back in Taiwan, I continued hanging out with friends in different tea houses and totally forgot that I in fact couldn't brew a good pot of tea.

To be continued....

Saturday, April 18, 2009

2009 Spring Taiwanese Oolong

I called a couple of tea friends in Taiwan to inquire about the weather condition for spring tea. They said the quantity will be lower due to the lack of rain.

There are different opinions on this current spring tea's quality (as always). I heard good things about the Dong Ding region. Some said they might have the best quality Dong Ding for these past couple of years. Some said that High Mountain Oolong will not be as good. Anyway, we have to try it and decide.

The exciting thing is that very possibly, I will be in Taiwan to select teas later this spring. Just the idea of being in Taiwan again makes me happy. I can't wait to be in the tea fields again, and to learn more about Taiwanese Oolongs.

I will keep you posted as soon as I have the plane tickets.

Friday, March 27, 2009

Rare Tea Tasting

In 2007, I was in Taiwan visiting a tea house with six customers, who were a part of my 2007 Taiwan Tea Tour. That was our first day in Taiwan so we decided to do something relaxing. We already had two pots of tea and I asked if they wanted more or if instead, they would want to go visit a temple. They all decided to have more tea because the tea house is so tranquil and nice. We saw a 25-year-old Dong Ding and they said they had never had an aged Oolong before, so we ordered that one. That was a good tea! It was very smooth and complex. And I paid $100 USD for that pot of tea!

This year, one of our tea buyers was in Taiwan and he was on a mission to find exclusive fine teas. He went to the same tea house that I had taken my customers to in 2007 and he tried the same 25 year old aged Dong Ding that I had tried for $100 per pot. As he sat with the owners, they ended up trying three more aged Dong Ding teas, each of which would sell for the same $100 per pot. The buyer brought back a sample of the one with the most complexity and smoothness. He also spent time in the Muzha region outside of Taipei, and was able to source some very high-end, full-bodied and richly-roasted Tieguanyins as well.

Having returned with these rare and high-end samples, we will be tasting these exciting teas with customers as part of our VIP tea tasting series. We will be offering 2 Dong Ding teas, 2 Tieguanyin, and one Puer. Most of these teas are aged and they all have an exceptional mouth feel. We don't have those teas for sale, but I thought it will be good to let people have a chance to taste some of the best tea anywhere in the world. The Dong Ding and Puer both retail for more than $1500 per pound, so this tasting is for the true tea lover looking for an exceptional tea. Good tea is for sharing, isn't it?

Friday, March 20, 2009

Good Company

Josh from J-Tea International came up to Seattle for a visit. I've known Josh since 2005. Brett from

Black Dragon Tea Bar introduced us.

Before Josh came up, I asked him to bring good Dong Ding samples. I had his 2nd tier Competition Dong Ding from 2008. And It was a good tea!

Earlier on that day, Josh did a tea tasting at TeaCup. Before he showed up at Floating Leaves Tea, Michael from TeaGeek, David and Rich were waiting for him. Josh walked in and started to take pictures. When we all settled in, I started with my Traditional Dong Ding from winter 2008. I asked Josh how he thought of that tea. He just said,"Not bad. Not bad." He then took out three Dong Ding samples. So we went on to try his teas. We also tried Michael's Dong Ding and an Aged Baozhong. Laughter and happiness continued throughout the entire tea tasting. We just went on joking with each other. This is the way I like to drink tea. Everyone is relaxed and happy. I think we drank 15 pots of tea. I was very hungry and wired after that!

I asked Josh to see if he is interested in teaching a tea roasting class. He said he might be. I will let everyone know if he does!

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Dong Ding and Tieguanyin Tea Tastings

Last weekend, I did two tea tastings, one for Dong Ding凍頂 and one for Tieguanyin鐵觀音.

We tried a Dong Ding from Zhu Shan竹山, and two from Dong Ding mountain. Before the tastings start, I normally ask participants to pay attention to how the tea will feel in the mouths, what the tea tastes like, and what tastes and flavors come up after one swallows the tea. It turned out that all of the participants did a great job!

The Zhu Shan Dong Ding is a modern style tea, which means it's a very lightly oxidized Oolong. The mouth feel is good, but it does not have enough body. The fragrance of the tea is very nice. In the fourth infusion, the taste of the Zhu Shan Dong Ding was gone. Then we moved on to the Dong Ding 101. People immediately noticed the difference in the way it felt in the mouth. I told them that I was going to brew 5 infusions. I asked them to tell me if the taste was still there in the fifth infusion. After the first sip of the 5th infusion, they all agreed that the taste was still there. Then we moved on to Dong Ding 301. After the first sip of the first infusion, I was smiling. Some people said that the tea was so creamy. They were delighted to taste a tea like this. After the sixth infusion, we studied the open leaves closely. Dong Ding 301 has red color on the edges of the leaves. That's a more traditionally done Oolong. I was happy that people were able to notice the traditional style Oolong's amazingly creamy and smooth mouth feel. Of course, they walked away with bags of tea. And 301 is sold out now (I kept 2 ounces for myself to drink).

The Tieyuanyin tasting was very fun, too. We started the tasting with a modern lightly oxidized Tieguanyin from China. Once again, I reminded people to pay attention to mouth feel, taste, and such. The green TGY is a pleasant tea. It is light with a very bright bouquet. We continued with a 1995 Tieguanyin. I passed the Gaiwan around to let people smell the bouquet. Everyone was amazed by the way it smelled. We drank five infusions of the Tieguanyin. People were very intrigued by the taste and the smell since not many people have had aged Oolong before. We finished with a 10-year-old Tieguanyin. It was smooth, sweet and round. People were very thankful for this experience.

And I am very thankful for those farmers who made these fantastic teas.

Next month, I'll be doing a special tea tasting as part of a Connosieur's tea series. The teas are from private collections, and will include rare and superb examples of oolongs and a puerh. Please check on the Floating Leaves site for soon-to-appear event information and contact me to sign up, since space will be limited and the store will be closed for this special event.

Tuesday, March 03, 2009

Dong Ding

intro to dd production 1

intro to dd production 3

intro to dd production 4

intro to dd production 5

intro to dd production 6

intro to dd production 7

intro to dd production 8

intro to dd production 9

intro to dd production 10

Here are some pictures to show how Dong Ding is made.

Picture 1: Picking tea.

Picture 2: Out door withering.

Picture 3: In door withering.

Picture 4: Stirring Green.

Picture 5: Killing Green(stop oxidation.)

Picture 6: Rolling

Picture 7: First baking

Picture 8: Further rolling.

Picture 9: More roasting.

Picture 10: Tasting the tea.