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

Saturday, April 18, 2015

Pressing Puer Cakes

Here are some of the basic steps involved in pressing Puer. I will share more information and some videos with you after I return to Seattle.

1.  Prepare the Puer Mao Cha.

2.  Weigh the leaves.

3.  Steam the Puer tea.

4.   Place the steamed leaves into a cloth wrapper and then tie the bag into a specific size and shape.

5.  Press the cloth bag with the steamed leaves about 3 times.

6.  Lay pressed cakes, wrapped in cloth, on tea racks.

7.  After the pressed cakes cool enough, the cloth wrapper is removed and the cakes are laid on racks for further drying.

Thursday, April 16, 2015

Making Puer Mao Cha

After we collected the freshly picked tea leaves from the XiLi tea field, we went back to Mr. Wang’s tea factory. He instructed one of his works to to help us make Puer Mao Cha.

Here are the steps:
  1. Build the fire for firing the tea

  1. Put freshly picked leaves on tea baskets for withering

  1. Once in a while, shake the leaves to help the components in the leaves react with each other

  1. Fry the leaves

  1. Air dry the leaves after firing the leaves

We were grateful to Mr. Wang and his worker for showing us the traditional way to fire the tea with a wok. He said they now use machines to fire the tea in his factory. The withering leaves smell very fragrant. They reminded me of Oolong. I touched the leaves after they were fired and they felt kind of sticky. I loved watching the tea maker firing the tea in the wok. His hand movements were very beautiful.

We had to leave before the leaves were dry. Mr. Wang said he would send it to our hotel in Kunming. I can’t wait to taste this Mao Cha!

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Picking Tea in the XiLi area of Yunnan

After we had a delicious lunch prepared by Naxi tribal people, Mr. Wang took us to his tea factory. We picked up some hats and tea baskets and headed out to a tea field to pick tea. Brian, one of our trip members, and I rode with a farmer and a tea factory assistant. I tried to ask the farmer several questions before I realized he didn’t speak Mandarin Chinese! The assistant could speak some Mandarin Chinese and helped with translation. It was so interesting to hear them speak their tribal language.

70 year old tea tree

When we reached a small tea hill, the farmer started to drive backwards up the hill. I wondered if we would have any way to turn around later. He suddenly stopped the car and repeatedly said something I didn’t really understand. Somehow after hearing it three times, I knew he was trying to tell us to hold on tight! Without thinking I told Brian to hold on. We didn’t know what would happen next, but he suddenly stepped on the gas really hard and took a sharp turn. We went quickly up the steep, dirt road on the side of the hill. I screamed! It took about 5 seconds to situate myself as I looked around. I held tight and became more relaxed as I realized the farmer had probably driven up this road many times. He is good at it and he knows what he is doing. I told myself everything is going to be just fine.

After we got out of the car, everything was worth it. It was a beautiful day in a beautiful place with great people. Mr. Wang and the farmer showed us what to pick and we were ready to work. It was a wonderful experience of East meets West. The locals were very open to show us their culture and we were very grateful and eager to take in this new experience.

We had fun being in the tea fields picking tea. We gathered the leaves we picked and headed back to the factory. My next post will be about the “Stir Green” phase of tea production.

A Long - but Worthwhile - Trip to BiXi

We took a long bus ride, over 4-hours, from Kunming to MoJiang. Awoono’s friend, a tea factory owner named Mr. Wang, came to the bus station to meet us. He took us to another town outside of MoJiang called BiXi. It used to be quite an important city, but we could see that it has become rundown. However, it still felt very charming to us. We enjoyed walking through the narrow alleys and looking at the old buildings.

Mr. Wang led us through a nondescript doorway and a beautiful courtyard opened up - that’s where we were going to eat lunch. I could tell tea is part of life here. In a small room, there was tea that was in the withering phase of production. The restaurant owner came out and greeted us with a pot of “restaurant tea,” which was made from their mao cha (unfinished) Puer. Our lunch was a feast, consisting of a lot of delicious wild vegetables. We felt very relaxed, surrounded by friendly locals in this charming little town.

After lunch, Mr. Wang took us to a tea field to pick tea. We loved what we saw and how we felt. We knew the rest of the day was going to be fun and interesting. The tiring and long bus ride was totally worth it. In my next tea posts, I will have lots of Puer tea information to share!

Monday, April 13, 2015

Visiting Beautiful Kunming

We arrived in Kunming, and I was super excited...it's my first time here! Kunming is a lot more modern than I had imagined. People are quite nice, but they are crazy drivers on the road.
Overlooking Kunming

We started our day off by visiting a Taoist temple built at the end of Ming dynasty.

We were lucky. It turned out to be a very nice day. There are a lot of trees, so we had a great time walking around, enjoying the beautiful temple and space. It felt so nice to walk around after a long flight! Besides the beautiful temple, we enjoyed encountering people dancing in the park, practicing Taichi, or playing cards. They looked so relaxed and were having a good time.

After visiting the temple, we had a fantastic meal and felt very stuffed and satisfied.

But there is a great solution to the problem of being very full: time for some tea!

We went to visit Awoono’s friend, Ms Ja, who owns a tea shop in Kunming. She is a great host, very friendly and patient. She brewed us some Yunnan black tea and we tried one with huge golden needles and another that had wild purple tips. Both are sweet, have round bodies and last many infusions. We also tried some Puers. I liked one loose leaf Puer from the 80s. It’s very smooth and has a clear camphor taste. I will bring back some to share in with you in my shop!

Saturday, April 04, 2015

Tasting porcelain jar stored teas

My customers often ask about the benefits of storing tea in different kinds of jars. I stored 4 different teas in porcelain jars for about a month: Alishan High Mountain; 2011 Muzha Tieguanyin;, a traditional Oolong that was just fired for the 3rd time on December 26th 2014, and an Aged Baozhong. 

I tried each of the teas recently. I brewed each tea alongside the same, original foil bag stored. There were 6 people tasting the teas with me that day. Here are our tasting notes:
Alishan: Everyone said it tasted better from the foil bag. They said the bag-stored Alishan had more bouquet. However, I think the jar did make the tea taste softer. I've been told that high mountain teas do best in storage with the least amount of air and light, so I'm not surprised that the Alishan lost some flavor in the jar.

Traditional Oolong: The tea is too strong right now, straight out of the bag. After the tea was stored in the jar for a month, we tasted a big difference. It's obvious the tea has become more balanced and less harsh than the same tea from the bag. 

Muzha TGY 2011: This tasting results for this tea was a big surprise. We all liked it better from the bag. The tea from the jar lost some flavor.

Aged Baozhong: Also a hands-down winner for the jar stored batch. This Baozhong needs a lot of time to open up. It's beneficial to store this tea in a jar. More body and more flavor got released from the jar-stored version

It is a lot of fun to experiment with different teas in jars, as well as different types of jars. I'll be leading my first tour to Yunnan soon, and I've been told that there are many types of jars there, mostly for pu'er. We will be doing more tastings like this one in the future and I would like to do a class on it, too. Look for these in our calendar or sign up for our e-mail newsletters so we can notify you when special events come up.