Daniel Lui's Blog

So Many Teas! Which Ones Will You Like?

People coming to my tea shop are always amazed by all the Chinese teas they have never heard of before. As they walk around the shop checking out our oolong teas, puerh teas (or pu-erh teas), and white teas (to name a few!) they ask “What does this one taste like?” or “What does that one taste like?”.

To help, I developed four simple questions which may help you find a new treasure on your next tea expedition:

  • Do you like tea that is strong and full-bodied or light, subtle, and elegant?
  • Do you like tea that is calming or tea that gives you energy?
  • Do you prefer a taste that is fresh and new or aged and mellow (as in wine or cheese)?
  • Which tones and notes do you like? (Sweet, Nutty, Grassy, Fruity, Woody, Spicy, Honey, Earthy, Floral, Buttery, Smokey, Roasted, Herb, or Chocolate)

Describing taste is a difficult skill to learn but this quick approach has helped many people find new teas that they really like. Many people return again and again to buy “their” tea and try new ones.

So we built an online version for everyone called The Tea Wizard that tells you all the teas that suit your taste with a few clicks.

There is also a great book called “The Tea Drinkers Handbook” by Delmas, Minet, and Barbaste (Abbeville Press) which will amaze you with the hundreds of terms that professional tasters use to describe aromas, flavours, and textures.

Contact The Chinese Tea Shop team today to learn more about all the exciting teas and tea accessories available at the shop, or try The Tea Wizard now!

Be Sociable, Share!

    Chinese Tea Quality Versus Taste

    Is it possible to tell the quality and taste of a tea without actually tasting it?

    In the previous The Chinese Tea Shop’s Blog post (“Welcome to the World of Engineered Teas“) I commented that there is a way to tell the quality and taste of a tea (like Oolong Tea, Puerh Tea (Pu-erh), or White Tea) without tasting it.

    If you’ve ever watched professional tea tasters at work or have seen the Chinese method of tea-making called Gong Fu Cha (Tea With Great Skill), you may have noticed tall and slender cups being used.

    These are smelling cups and they can tell you a lot about the quality of a tea and how it will taste – without even tasting it.

    The aromatic compounds in tea dissolve in water at different rates. This is the basis for Gong Fu Cha where a small amount of leaves is brewed many times to concentrate the flavour. Each brew reveals a different taste as the different compounds dissolve. A similar thing happens when tea oils are exposed to air. As tea oils oxidize, the aroma changes. This is the same thing that happens with perfumes. This oxidization of oils approximates what will happen when the leaves are brewed in water.

    A tea that may start with a spicy aroma and ends up with a flowery aroma will taste spicy in the early brews and flowery in the later brews. Using a smelling cup allows the tea maker to know what to expect from a new tea they have not made before and how to brew the leaves to get the best taste.

    When you rinse your tea leaves (see Gong Fu Cha), pour out the tea into a smelling cup and then empty the cup and smell. You will smell the “top notes” of the tea which are the most delicate compounds that oxidize quickly. These notes are what you will taste on the first brews. After a minute, smell again and you will notice the aroma has changed. And a few minutes after that, still more changing.

    A low quality tea will cease to have an aroma after a few minutes because the oils are of poor quality. They oxidize quickly and will dissolve quickly in water and you will get fewer brews from that tea. The aroma from a high quality tea will last many minutes showing that you will get many good tasting brews from it.

    If you’re looking to explore the best Chinese teas the city has to offer, visit The Chinese Tea Shop online now. 

    Be Sociable, Share!

      Welcome to the World of Engineered Teas!

      The other day I visited some tea shops with one of my students. We really noticed how western marketing techniques have impacted how tea is sold.  But more importantly, we noticed how this is affecting what consumers are really getting for their money.

      In the 16th century, it was the Portuguese, then the Dutch and the French, and finally the British who brought Chinese tea to the West. The British especially have been able to make tea an inexpensive commodity worldwide and it is Indian Black teas which are consumed in the West more than any other. A fascinating history of Black Tea and its impact on history is here, in The Chinese Tea Shop’s website resources section.

      Today, consumers want more and more variety. Tea manufacturers have responded with an incredible selection of scented and flavoured teas with fruit, berries, spices and all sorts of other natural and synthetic enhancements. It is now possible for a tea shop to offer a new tea flavour every day of the year and still not exhaust the selection that is available.

      Many of these teas are made from low grade Indian black teas which are designed to have a good aroma from the package. Western consumers are now being conditioned to purchase tea based on aroma rather than on the taste. This has been a bonanza for tea shops, making things more efficient and profitable as they no longer have to make tea before customers buy, as has been done at better tea shops for centuries.

      This is a shame for consumers because, as tea experts know, many of the finest teas have little or no aroma. Of those that do, the aroma may not indicate the complexity of what a tea has to offer. The only way to assess the taste and quality of a tea is to taste it!  (There is another advanced technique but more about that on another day.)

      Scented and flavoured teas are an old tradition and there are some well known tea houses that make very high quality blends.  The new designer teas do give consumers lots of choices but for the most part, they are really just a way for the tea industry to disguise low grade tea leaves at designer prices and consumers are not likely to experience the best of what tea drinking has to offer.

      Click here to learn more about all types of Chinese tea, including Black Tea, Oolong Tea, Puerh Tea (or Pu-erh Tea), and White Tea.

      Be Sociable, Share!

        The Rare Chinese Teapot That Is Made From A Mountain –- Really!

        There is much interest in teapots from China and their effect on making tea taste its best.

        The best of these are Yixing teapots made from special rock clay from the Yixing area of China. The best Yixing teapots are called Zisha (Purple Sand Clay, even though they may not necessarily be purple in colour). Zisha teapots are at the heart of the Chinese method of tea-making called Gong Fu Cha (Tea With Great Skill).

        Unlike western pottery teapots which are made from mud clay and turned on a wheel, Yixing Chinese teapots are assembled piece by piece, either by hand or machine or both. These teapots have excellent porosity and heat handling properties for tea making and as they age, they improve the taste of the teas made with them.

        Chinese Teapots ImageThe most rare and special of the Yixing Zisha teapots are known as Zhuni. These teapots are made from clay that comes from a rare rock vein found on some mountain sides and are actually made oversized. They are then fired at a low temperature and for a much longer period than other Zisha teapots. During firing, they shrink to size leaving subtle wrinkles on the clay. This process makes the clay almost glass-like. Most of the teapots break during firing, making the survivors rare and expensive.

        Today the markets abound with “Genuine Zhuni Teapots” but it’s all in the definition. During the Ching Dynasty (1644 – 1912 CE), the rare rock was found in a single mountain and Zhuni teapots were exported to Europe. By the mid ‘70’s the rare rock began to run out and since then, three more regions have been used. The clays from each region give the teapots distinctive properties and all can be said to be Zhuni. But amongst serious collectors, only those from the Ching Dynasty period are the real ones. Getting one of those though is almost impossible.

        When it comes to Zhuni, buyer beware!

        A complete guide to Chinese teapots can be found here,  in The Chinese Tea Shop’s Library — along with information on all types of Chinese tea (including pu-erh teaoolong tea, and white tea).

        Be Sociable, Share!

          Pu-erh Tea: One of China’s Undiscovered Wonders

          1,500 years ago, the Chinese in Yunnan province began exporting loose leaf tea across the mountains to Tibet. The journey was long and dangerous but the Tibetans needed this tea as it provided important nutrients for their diet.  In return, the they traded horses which were very valuable to the Chinese.

          Later, the tea leaves were compressed into cakes and bricks to make transportation easier and more profitable. This tea was the forerunner of the Pu-erh tea we enjoy today. So valuable was this tea that for the Tibetans, it created a new form of currency in their region. A similar story occurred in Mongolia and the Chinese called these export teas “border teas”.

          Today, Chinese Pu-erh tea still comes in cakes and bricks and other shapes that have evolved over the centuries.  Even though the technique of compressing tea leaves was developed for reasons of safety and economy, this had the effect of improving the taste of the tea. We now know that over time, the microbes in the tea leaves create new chemical compounds that were not present in the original leaves as the tea ages. This action gives aged Pu-erh tea its famous taste which is unlike any other tea.

          Vintage Pu-erh compressed teas, some of which are over 100 years old are actively sought by tea enthusiasts around the world. Some vintages are very famous and others very rare, with natural undertones of fruit, date, plum, wood, earth and flowers. Like wine, there are eager collectors looking for rare vintages that can fetch tens of thousands of dollars but there are even more younger and very affordable Pu-Erh teas for every taste and budget.

          If you are a wine lover, you will enjoy the exciting variety and complexity of Pu-erh teas.Visit The Chinese Tea Shop website now to learn more about Pu-erh Tea, as well as other Chinese teas and accessories.

          Be Sociable, Share!