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

Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Tea Story: Alishan Farmer Part II

In 2007, we led our first Taiwan Tea Tour and took 6 of our customers to see Alishan's Zhang family. Before the trip to Alishan, the six tour members were already quite amazed by Taiwanese food & culture. In Alishan, they were able to experience wonderful Taiwanese hospitality and delicious food in person.

Each morning, Mrs. Lin would cook us breakfast. It was so delicious that we would eat more food than we usually do in the morning. After breakfast, we would take a break and then gather in their living room for tea. On the tea table, one would see crackers, different types of dried fruit and roasted peanuts. Those roasted peanuts were SO GOOD that we couldn't stop eating them!

After many pots of tea and snacks, we got into Mr. Zhang's car to go visit his sister. The moment we settled down into her living room, her husband started to heat the tea water and she disappeared into the back and came out with a huge bowl of crackers and candies. She asked us to have some. Our tour members looked at me with their eyes wide-open, and said, "What do we do?" I taught them to politely say, "No, thank you!" We were already full from breakfast and snacks. Every 10 minutes or so, she would disappear into the back and come back out with more food! Homemade soy milk, steamed buns, pickled peaches that were picked in their backyard....

At around 11am, she asked, "Do you want some instant noodles?" I had to laugh and translated what she said. Everyone simply shook his/her head, so I told her we were not hungry at all. Then she said, "If you don't like instant noodles, we can order some lunch boxes." I translated again and we all had to laugh. One of our tour members asked, " Do you Taiwanese people eat like this all of the time? How is everyone still skinny?" I said, "We do eat a lot of food, but not like this. This is one of the ways that a Taiwanese person shows his or her affection and hospitality. Don't worry. I will make sure they won't give us any lunch boxes." After tea (and some more snacks), we said goodbye and headed to the Jade Mountain National Park.

It was quiet and beautiful, unlike Alishan National Park which is a major tourist destination and is always packed. Farmer Zhang took out a bag with an assortment of snacks from his car and told us we should take a walk. After an hour or so, Farmer Zhang asked us if we were hungry. We all said no, and some tour members said they could skip lunch. After the walk, we went back to the car. Mr. Zhang opened his trunk and took out a butane burner and a big pot and told us it's time for lunch. I didn't know Mrs. Lin had prepared some soup stock and vegetables for us, so all we had to do was to heat up the stock and add noodles. There we were at a parking lot in a national park, cooking noodle soup. It was delicious and we had a lot of fun!

Farmer Zhang is no longer very involved with tea farming and he is lucky that his son-in-law is very interested in tea. It was great to see the next generation taking up tea farming work. I met his son-in-law, Ah-Chon, back in 2005. He was a very polite and quiet young man. Throughout the years, I have seen him stepping up to take over the business. He is very enthusiastic at sharing what he discovers.

Ah-Chon likes to experiment with tea. Last year, he let us taste three teas that were from the same day's harvest, but he applied different roastings to them. It was great to taste teas like that and it was great to watch him talking about them. I love to see that smile and the light in his eyes when he talks about his work.

I love to be in that specific part of Alishan, so tranquil and surrounded by trees and bamboo forests. I love to eat the food from Mrs. Lin and love to drink tea with Mr. Zhang over many conversations about his life philosophy. I love taking walks with the family after dinner when the fireflies are out.... The Zhang family make the place more special and it shows in their smiles.

Sunday, February 26, 2012

Tea Refresh and Tea Roating At Home Part II

There are many ways to refresh and roast a stale tea at home. The most important thing is that you need heat. Heat can drive out moisture, staleness and odd smells from the tea leaves.

-One thing you can use at home is your oven. The following information is from a dear friend of mine, Jason, reprinted here with his permission. I have to admit I don't do this at home. I try not to do any tea activity at home besides drinking it.

"I start at 170F (lowest my oven goes), with the door slightly open. I'll let the tea come up to that temperature over 20 min, stirring a couple times.

Then I close the door and wait about 5 min. Then stir the tea every 5 min or so and increase the temperature every 15 min by 5F degrees, adjusting the timing a bit depending on the scent. If the scent is still stale I'll increase the temperature a bit faster. If the scent is good (maybe starting to smell like roasted grains), I'll let it go for a bit longer. If the scent is a hint burned, I'll wait longer, or sometimes take the temperature down a bit.

Over time, I'll increase the temperature to about 200-210F. Then once it gets the smallest hint of bitterness or burned tea scent I'll take it back down to 190F, decreasing by 10F every 5-7min.

Some robust teas, like Dong Ding or ones that started roasted, I can get up to 220F before they show signs of over-roasting. Other delicate teas or teas where I want to preserve more subtle flavors (like gaoshan), I can only get up to about 190F during the initial roasting (but I can get them higher after letting them rest for a week or two)."

-Use a small tea roaster. Please see the photo below:

A small tea roaster like this will hold about 4 ounces of rolled oolongs. It's very easy to use. There is a temperature dial built into the roaster. I like to start at around 60C and let the tea sit for around 20 minutes or so, stirring it occasionally, and adjusting the temperature higher. When do you need to adjust the temperature? Once there is a shift in the smell. Pay attention to it. If you can't catch it, it's alright, just go ahead and adjust the temperature by 5 to 10 degrees. This will take about two hours and it will actually turn a lightly oxidized oolong into a roasted oolong. The process will make your house smell fantastic!

Have fun with it! I hope you will get great results!

Friday, February 24, 2012

Tea Refresh and Tea Roasting at Home Part I

I had taught a class on how to refresh and spot roast tea at home. Some of you have written me saying that you don't live in Seattle and would like to learn how to do it. As promised, I am writing about it here on my blog.

Many of us tend to buy more tea than we can drink, and even our good teas will eventually become stale. The following two methods will help you to get rid of the staleness, revive some of the strength and bring out more body in a tea (please note, this is good for a pot or two worth of teas. It doesn't stabilize a tea, so please don't use these techniques for too much tea).

The first method only requires a candle and a piece of paper. Please see the picture below:

It's very simple, but please be careful. You want to get the paper close enough to the flame for heat, but not too close that it overheats the paper; I have seen the paper get burned from time to time. If you try this method, please focus on it and do not do anything else. Hold the paper steadily so that the heat can get into the leaves. Occasionally shake the paper a bit so that the heat can evenly get into the leaves. This method requires some patience. It takes at least 25 minutes for me to revive a tea.

There is a second, simple method you can use at home. Please see the picture below:

You can find this kind of metal stand in many kitchenware stores. Use a Yixing pot that you don't care much for or from which the lid of the pot has broken. When you use this method, it's faster than the previous one. I notice that sometimes it takes only 15 minutes to revive a tea. Like the paper method, you want to shake the leaves around from time to time. You can gently shake the pot; I also like to cover the pot with my hand and give it a good shake.

So how does one tell if a tea has been revived? Smell it. When a tea is stale, you can smell the "moisture," the disappearance of the original scents, and some sort of plummy smell. When refreshing a tea, you should be able to smell the moisture leave the leaves. It seems to me like some sort of "baked" smell starts to show up. And of course, the best way to tell is to taste the tea. Try to remember the smells in the tea when you think you have done a good job of reviving the tea. Over time, you will be able to learn how to be consistent with your "roasting."

In my next post, I will talk about other ways to revive or roast a stale tea at home.

Tea Photos

A tea friend came to the shop and took some beautiful tea photos for me that I want to share with you. If you want to see more, check out my FACEBOOK PAGE!

Thank you, Doug, for the photos!

Thursday, February 09, 2012

Special Pricing for DaYuLing - Thanks for the Positive Feedback!

I want to thank many of you who have purchased our winter Oolong and have told me how much you like the teas. This winter's tea has been selling well. Our Lishan and 2nd Place Baozhong have already sold out! The recently-stocked charcoal-roasted ShanLinXi is nearly sold out as well.

Our Lishan oolong has been a solid tea over the past several seasons. DaYuLing can be a more finicky tea to brew, but this winter's tea is particularly good. DaYuLing drinkers have found the tea to be very enjoyable, but Lishan's pricing has made the tea more attractive.

I really like this season's DaYuLing, I think it is my favorite high mountain tea right now. I want to give high mountain oolong lovers an incentive to try this beautiful tea, so I've decided to reduce our DaYuLing's pricing to match that of our Lishan tea. For those who have enjoyed this season's Lishan tea, I wouldn't be surprised if you like the DaYuLing even more.

This DaYuLing is full of surprises. DaYuLing can be a bit tricky to brew, but if you pay attention to bringing out all of its potential, you will enjoy great sessions with this tea. It will reveal to you its creamy, soft, and complex nature.

Our Taiwan Shui Xian and Taiwan #18 Ruby Black teas will arrive soon. Stay tuned.