Thursday, September 28, 2006
In response to my inquiry, Guang, the proprietor of Hou De, said “There is a ‘retro’ trend among Taiwan's tea drinkers recently. And the Hong-Shui oolong is getting more demand than before." His blog also explains the close ties that this Hong Shui style shares with Anxi Tie Guan Yin and Wuyi Yan Cha oolongs: the appellation of Lu Gu in Nantou County, Central Taiwan, inherited Anxi’s processing heritage and Wuyi’s oolong cultivar, and later also employed Wuyi’s processing philosophies, which resulted in the birth of the Hong Shui style.
Compare the dry Hong Shui to the Huang Jin Lan (Golden Orchid) oolong, which is ~25% oxidized and lightly roasted (also in Hou De’s inventory).
2006 Traditional Dong Ding "Hong Shui" oolong
From Hou De Fine Asian Arts
$12.50 / 2 oz
Green-red, tightly fisted leaves (dry). Leaf pellets open up to wholesome and stalky dark green leaves with heavy streaks of redness due to the oxidation. Brown-red liquor. This is an interesting oolong altogether. It is quite different from the other Dong Ding oolongs I've tried. The highly oxidized and light roasting technique gives it the aroma of yellow fruits (dried mango, apricot and peach come to mind) and a whiff of lightly roasted grains. There is also caramel, which is especially found "on the bottom of the empty cup" and from the hot damp leaves. The liquor itself gives a tint of sweetness in the mouth, which persists in the back of my throat for quite long after swallowing the smooth liquid. Medium, rounded body, which in my opinion is good when compared to some Dong Ding oolongs that have good “nose” but hollow mouthfeel. I agree with Guang's observation on the Wuyi oolong taste resemblance in this tea, to some extent. In my view, this is a complex and very enjoyable oolong.
4 stars (vg)
Tuesday, September 26, 2006
The old man continued to cough perseveringly and would not cease until the water boiled. Wang Lung dipped some into a bowl, and then, after a moment, he opened a glazed jar that stood upon a ledge of the stove and took from it a dozen or so of the curled dried leaves and sprinkled them upon the surface of the water. The old man's eyes opened greedily and immediately he began to complain.
"Why are you wasteful? Tea is like eating silver."
"It is the day," replied Wang Lung with a short laugh. "Eat and be comforted."
The old man grasped the bowl in his shriveled, knotty fingers, muttering, uttering little grunts. He watched the leaves uncurl and spread upon the surface of the water, unable to bear drinking the precious stuff.
"It will be cold," said Wang Lung.
"True -- true -- " said the old man in alarm, and he began to take great gulps of the hot tea. He passed into an animal satisfaction, like a child fixed upon its feeding. But he was not too forgetful to see Wang Lung dipping the water recklessly from the cauldron into a deep wooden tub. He lifted his head and stared at his son.
Buck, Pearl S., The Good Earth, Chapter 1, Washington Square Press, 1931
Sunday, September 24, 2006
The wineries in Provence, Loire and other regions in France, on the other hand, are very passionate about their rosés, which have been perfected for centuries. These areas produce some of the most interesting rosés that I think are worlds apart in quality compared to the ocean of pink plonks produced in California.
I looked into my wine fridge and found that I still have 4 bottles of rosés (a Côtes du Rhône, a Tavel, a Côtes de Provence, and this Anjou) that I had planned to open during the summer. Gotta drink them up soon lest they get stale by next summer!
TN: 2004 Marquis de Goulaine, Rosé d’Anjou “La Roseraie”
($11 regular, purchased for $7 at Chronicle Wine in Pasadena).
Lively pink-red color. Plenty of tropical fruits soaked in subtle rose water. This wine is bright and refreshing. Its high notes and acidity livened up the palate and made the wine seem sweet, though there is barely any residual sugar. At 11%, it is quite a nimble wine. Dry finish. This is a pleasant wine that is far from being a cliché, yet perfect for easygoing enjoyment. A good bargain!
3 stars (g)
Thursday, September 21, 2006
Here is the article in Food & Wine Magazine, issue October 2006.
(If the link is broken, the PDF version is available here)
3 years ago in 2003, still reeling from the disappointment of missing the 2000 en primeur boat, I decided to get into the excellent 2003 Bordeaux en primeur market. I only purchased 3 cases, one of which is a Sauternes sweet wine. By that time, the recently released vintage 2000 Bordeaux had reached stratospheric prices in the stores.
We are seeing this 2000 mania again with the “BEST EVER!” 2005 vintage Bordeaux. The market for 2005 wines is super-hyped left and right, up and down by everyone from the producers to the retailers, as well as by wine writers. All these have helped drive futures' prices for the 2005 vintage to become the highest ever in the history of Bordeaux.
I’ve decided to forego the 2005’s overpriced futures for something that I love as much: 2005 pu’er teas and 2005 German Rieslings. They are both as ageworthy as fine Bordeaux, and maybe more so.
What is en primeur / futures?
It is basically buying your wine in advance, before it’s even bottled. The grape juice is practically still inside the oak barrels at the Chateaux when you buy it. Major critics and buyers travel to Bordeaux to get a first-hand taste on the juice and evaluate their potential. Then the wines are offered to the consumers by the importers/wholesalers/retailers. This is why consumers rely heavily on their favorite [supposedly] independent wine critics/writers/publications, such as Michael Broadbent, Steven Tanzer, Robert Parker, Decanter Magazine, Wine Spectator Magazine, etc. as guides.
It is also, basically, an educated gamble. Depending on subsequent news and critics’ reviews, a wine produced by a particular Chateau may appreciate or depreciate in value before it even hits the retail floor. Therefore, it can be said that if you buy a futures for $30/bottle and this particular wine hits retail at $40/bottle, your investment has appreciated by 33.33% or you have saved 25% off retail price (not taking into account future value of present dollar, etc). However, the opposite may also happen. Some win, some lose.
Read The Wine Doctor’s excellent article about en primeur to learn more.
Monday, September 18, 2006
Zhuni "Xishi" Yixing Pot From Tea Masters (100 ml)If Marie Antoinette’s bosoms were dedicated to Champagne saucers, then the realm of Chinese teas has Lady Xishi to thank for. At least that’s how I view a Xishi teapot should look like. I decided to purchase it from Stéphane because, first and foremost, of its very sensual shape. Most Xishi teapots out there do not have the shape that is as “appealing” as this one, in my humble opinion. Ok, so I maybe have a fixation on breasts…I mean, who doesn’t? It’s the perfect symbol of mother nature.
So how is the teapot? Outstanding! Good clay, great proportions, excellent workmanship, swift pour, and perfect lid fit that is airtight and not drippy. It is the epitome of satisfaction a Yixing can give. I think it’s an excellent buy for the quality. It’s too soon to say what it’s for, but I am thinking of dedicating Da Hong Pao with it.
2004 Domaine le Clos du Caillou, Côtes du Rhône, Vieilles Vignes (Old Vines)
"We assembled a blend of 75% Grenache, 15% Syrah, 5% Mourvèdre and 5% Carignane for our Cuvée Unique. Think blackberries dusted with baking spices, juicy cherries dipped in dark chocolate—simply a blockbuster Côtes du Rhône! Our selection of the finest lots of the vintage includes wine from some 37 older barrels, blended with wine from two different tanks and a few larger foudre. Hard work—but it definitely paid off. This is unmistakably the best of Châteauneuf-du-Pape, in a bottle of Côtes du Rhône."
TN: Beautiful, lively young, deep ruby red color. Refreshing nose of blue and black berries, red cherry, pencil shavings, and soft oak. Some minerality came through. Soft and silky mouthfeel with fine tannin. Medium finish (20 secs) with a light coffee and chocolatey aftertaste. Good acidity level complements the overall taste to make the wine feel vibrant. On the second day (stored with inert gas to preserve freshness), some stewed strawberry taste emerged.
I think this is good wine to accompany lamb chops, osso buco or that $15 hamburger at a fancy restaurant.
3+ stars (g - vg)
2004 Domaine Joseph Drouhin Chablis
Vivid nose of gooseberries, citrus, pear and sweet ripe apple…and the absence of oak, of course, which is Chablis. I prefer my white wines non-oaked nowadays because oak masks the true characters of such a delicate type of wine. In the mouth it is quite lean, bordering on being watery. Dry and crisp, with bearable amount of acidity. I was expecting daggers from the acidity, which is common in young Chablis. Better nose than mouth, I say.
This wine makes for a good aperitif to accompany light salad with vinaigrette dressings or fresh raw oysters! It should also go well with light seafood dishes.
3 stars (g)
Spring 2006 Da Hong Pao from Teaspring.com. A lighter fired version of Da Hong Pao that I found to be very good. Complex tastes and aromas of flowers, fruits, caramel and some greenness, all this with an undertone of soft roasted taste. I enjoyed it very much. According to Daniel Ong (the proprietor), the lighter-fired oolong such as this should be at its apex in about 3 years time.
Spring 2006 Bai Ji Guan from Teaspring.com. This Bai Ji Guan is quite green! It’s quite hard to describe the aroma profile of this tea…I don’t think I have the vocabularies for them yet. Can anyone please tell me to what usually the aromas of Bai Ji Guan is attributed to? It’s light bodied and mild.
Spring 2006 Shui Jin Gui from Teaspring.com. The Shui Jin Gui is a bit more roasted than the Da Hong Pao, and it exhibits herbal characteristics reminiscent of Chinese medicine…the tolerable one. It’s kind of soupy in a way that it reminds me of the herbal chicken soup with a potpourri of Chinese herbs in the mix. Interesting, but an acquired taste for me.
Friday, September 15, 2006
Thursday, September 14, 2006
Some very rare items that may make the most jaded tea and wine enthusiasts giddy have just become available on the market today.
Garagiste Wine in Seattle sent out an e-mail offer to their registered mailing list customers for two rare Burgundy wines:
1971 Domaine de la Romanee Conti “Romanee Conti”, 750ml, $5,986.63
1966 Domaine de la Romanee Conti “Grand Echezeaux”, 750ml, $2,867.80
Garagiste is a specialty wine shop located in Seattle. They offer limited production wines as well as very-hard-to-find wines via daily e-mails. Past offerings have included rare vintages of top estate wines from all over the world that most enthusiastic wine collectors would aspire to have in their cellars. At the moment, however, I can only continue to dream owning some of their offerings.
Hou De Fine Asian Art has just made a late 18th century Yixing pot available on the market for a handsome price of $3,250. I highly commend the transparency of information provided by Guang (the proprietor) about this rare antique. In the description, he noted that through his observation of the clay, the craftsmanship, and the seal, this piece is an authentic mid-Qing dynasty pot made from the precious zhu ni clay. To be safe, he also noted that when the clay, the craftsmanship and the seal are observed independently, “Nothing alone leads me to have a 100% confidence,” though as a whole he is confident of its authenticity.
Per Guang’s observation, factor-by-factor:
Clay: 75% sure [that it is a mid-Qing dynasty antique]
Craftsmanship: 80% sure [that it is a mid-Qing dynasty antique]
Seal / Sign: 60% [sure that it is a mid-Qing dynasty antique]
Bravo! Although I can not afford it, I appreciate this kind of open and personal opinion from a reliable vendor. I have been – and I suspect I will continue to be – a satisfied customer of Hou De for their more affordable teas and teawares.
Wednesday, September 13, 2006
Another article in the Washington Post reports that vintage Chinese teas dating as far back as 1949 is available at the Park Hyatt Hotel in Washington, DC. I guess folks there can now shun away that $300 Krug Champagne and instead spend the money on a potful of 1985 vintage tea. Here is the article.The above articles are as a breath of fresh air after reading the other article -- about a clueless tea businessman in Lake Tahoe -- which I mentioned in my previous post.
Tuesday, September 12, 2006
This tea was probably bought more than a year ago, so freshness was a question. When I brewed it in my gaiwan, the result was a very fragrant light tea. I think it’s jasmine. It has a sweet finish in the mouth, but my throat felt quite dry after swallowing the tea. It’s just an ok-tasting quality.
I wish I could brew this tea for her.
When the 2001 came out, it received – to my dismay – rave reviews from the Wine Spectator and Robert Parker. It was even crowned #35 on the Wine Spectator’s Top 100 List, which I despise completely for driving prices up and making perfectly good wines in hands of people who “drink the scores”. I had a hard time getting them…a few years ago I was able to obtain 6 bottles from an unknown vendor in Sacramento. Since then, I haven’t seen one in stores or online. Sold out! After opening this bottle, I am left with only one…oh no!
TN: a helluva of a zin! Inky black in my Riedel zinfandel crystal. It’s probably one of the most complex of all zins I have ever had. A beautiful whiff of blueberries, dark cherries, coffee and chocolate. Thick and oily (glycerin-y) mouthfeel with an explosion of concetrated fruits, leather, chocolate on the palate. Finishes very long. So hedonistic!!! It is a big wine, and I don’t think it plays well with meek food. It needs a strong tasting food like a thick slab of meat BBQ-ed on a charcoal grill and rubbed with thick sauces to match.
4 stars (vg!)
It strangely received a 90pts from the Wine Spectator, if I remember correctly. It was overrated, in my opinion. Though I dislike the 100-point scale for rating wines, this should fall somewhere around 85 pts in my book.
TN: Sour cherries and tart berries. Not overly complex. It does the job well of pleasing your palate while, say, paying the bills.
Here is what I got: (1) a tong (seven beengs) of the 2005 Chun Ming Factory Spring Sharp Pu’er, (2) 25gr of Da Hong Pao Wuyi oolong to try, (3) a sample of Bai Ji Guan Wuyi oolong and (4) a sample of the Shui Jin Gui Wuyi oolong. Item # 1 is the new pu’er concept that is made entirely of white spring buds. Funny, the reason I bought this tea was (1) I’ve had the 2003 before and found it to be very enjoyable, (2) I bought the 2003 cake in Guangzhou and wished I had bought more than just 1 beeng, and (3) I’d like to age some of the beengs for a few years to see how they evolve. When I saw the 2005 tea available on teaspring’s website, I was very delighted.
I haven’t tried any of the tea I just received yet. I will post tasting notes when I get the chance. As of this moment, there are other teas to be tasted and written about before I try this ’05 Chun Ming beeng.
I highly recommend this vendor. I wouldn’t hesitate doing business with them again. Daniel Ong was very approachable and responsive to my inquiries (thanks, Daniel).
I just read about a “boutique” tea business owner in Lake Tahoe, CA, who put brewed teas in wine bottles. I thought it was a clever idea...maybe a bit cheesy, but clever! Bottled tea, however, does not equate to “fine” tea. So when the owner promotes his products as “fine” and charges a lot of money for them, they better be worth the high price. And he better knows what he's talking about if he wants to "educate" the uninitiated (unfortunately, he doesn't seem to). Enough said, read the article here.
If the link above is broken, click here for the article.
- Use a tablespoon of the cheapest, overly-roasted oolong (maybe a cheap Wuyi)
- Brew the with a gallon of hot water
Result: a colored water with the ever slight hint of roasted smokiness. No taste (except for the smokiness).
0 star (poor)
Friday, September 8, 2006
The label on the tin is written quite cleverly, vaguely and riddled with semantics, I think. The label says...
"Hand picked from ancient tea trees."
"Wild Tuo Cha hails from the lush, ancient tea forest of Jing Mai village in Yunnan, China. The leaves used to make this tea are hand picked from wild tea trees, some of which are more than 1200 years old."
To me, all these wordings don't make much sense, yet hardly refutable. While it says "hand picked from ancient tea trees" on the front, the back says "...picked from wild tea trees, some of which are more than 1200 years old." How much of the "some" is from more than 1200 years old? 50%? 1%? 0.01%? Who makes cooked, supermarket mini tuo cha from leaves of "ancient" tea trees that are more than 1200 years old? C'mon, get real!
The best part of the label is the finely (tiny) written sentence "These statements have not been evaluated by the FDA." Can't see that? Here is the larger version: "These statements have not been evaluated by the FDA."
Anyway, how does it taste?
Parameter: 1 tuo in a 6oz yixing pot. Flash rinse twice. Then 5s, 5s, 10s, 15, ...
OK. Just ok. It looks just like any other cooked mini tuo-cha. Smells a bit pondy and woody in dry form. The liquor has very good clarity and deep red color. The pondy smell comes out prominently by the 3rd infusion. Smooth texture, as all shou tends to be. The finish is metallic (iron?), like after eating boiled spinach. I didn't detect any note of sweetness. A simple and clean tasting cooked pu’er. I tasted this tea twice on different occasions with consistent note.
2 stars (mg)
Price-wise, if you consider that this tea costs $12 for 140gr, then it translates to about $34 per 400gr (average beeng weight). For this price, one can get a much better cooked pu-erh for a fraction of the price.
Tuesday, September 5, 2006
While looking for a decent India Pale Ale, a lady stepped right beside me and started asking me if I had tried an Okinawan beer that she particularly likes very much. I said no, I haven’t, and as far as Japanese beers go, I prefer Sapporo. Then she rambled about the importance of water origin that’s used to make the beer and told me to forget about Sapporo because that beer is brewed in Canada, instead of in Sapporo with the local water. She confirmed this to me by taking a Sapporo bottle and showing me the fine prints on the back label. I told her that she made a good point...I’ve never bothered to notice that before.
She went on to tell me how I should only get beers made with [their] local water, and that I should always check the back label to find that out. Drinking something from the original source, she said, is like flying to that place, being there, smelling the air and tasting the water. While I agree with her romantics, I couldn’t help thinking “What have you been drinking, lady?" I was very amicable with her because I myself share her opinion, though not her insistence. I choose my water for tea, but I don’t strive for water from a spring in Wuyi Mtn. to brew my Wuyi rock oolongs.
So I randomly picked up a fancy-looking beer bottle wrapped in thin white paper to scrutinize its front and back labels. Hey, yeah, this beer is from Harbin, China and it was brewed in Harbin too, I said to her! She said that should be a good beer then! I put the Harbin beer in my basket.
After she’d left me alone, I thought to myself “Isn’t Harbin the place where there was a water contamination crisis from that chemical plant explosion recently?” I quickly and quietly put the bottle back and picked something else: Grant’s Hopzilla IPA, brewed in Yakima Valley, Washington. Great, hoppy stuff! As far as I know, there had been no chemical plant explosion in Yakima Valley.
Oh yeah, that lady also praised Nobu, the famous chef, who according to her uses only Fiji brand artesian water to cook his sushi rice with. Really?! No wonder he charges an arm and a leg for his food. I also wonder if she thinks sushi is a Fijian cuisine.
Monday, September 4, 2006
The other day, as I wrote in my previous post, I chose a green tea ice cream over the perfectly luscious rocky road chocolate flavor.
Today, I went into Pottery Barn, which is a home store, out of the blue just to look around, and I looked at nothing except porcelain wares for gong fu tea stuff. Yes, I bought some wares because they are green, like green tea, and on 50% clearance sale.
I need help, don't I? Do you too?
Sunday, September 3, 2006
We decided to head to Manhattan Beach. It must had been a good 15 degrees cooler by the ocean. So nice! I need to move closer to the Pacific. Our modus operandi whenever we hit Manhattan Beach is to stop by the Manhattan Beach Creamery and get some ice cream! However, shucks, they didn't have our favorite blueberry flavor, so I settled with -- no brainer on this one -- the green tea flavor. Delisioso! Sophia got a taste of it and liked it too.
After sunset, we head back home into the valley. It was 7:30pm and the heat in the valley was still like 86 F degrees. So I decided to finish off whatever left over I have of the Gopaldhara Estate 2006 1st flush Darjeeling and made an iced tea rum cocktail à la Phyll out of it.
1-2 teaspoons of loose leaves
400ml boiling water in my Darjeeling Yixing, 4 minutes
Pour into glass over a lot of ice
A dash of white Pyrat rum
No fresh mint sprigs at home...it would have been nice, tsk