A new category of oolong in our "A Tea Master's Oolong" series is called Hung Shui (also written Hong Shui). This category belongs to the fascinating - and for newcomers often times, bewildering - world of Taiwanese oolongs. (Read here about the background to A Tea Master's Oolong.)
Hung Shui is used to describe a certain style of making oolong. Unlike many classical teas, Hung Shui is not particular to a provenance. But in some ways Hung Shui's raison d'etre has to do with the protection of another famous Taiwanese oolong that is tied to its provenance, the Dong Ding oolong.
Happy New Year!
As promised here is the first of exciting new things we are unveiling this year - a very special line of oolongs from Taiwan selected by a local Tea Master who we have known for nearly 10 years. Over the years, we've had endless discussions about tea and swapped our favorites teas. And last summer, we had the good fortune of meeting him while on a tea teaching mission to America. He has generously shared his passion and extensive knowledge of oolongs. And now with great excitement, we are proud to offer a very special collection from A Tea Master's Oolong.
One of the main reasons for my recent trip to India was to attend my father's “barsi” - his first death anniversary ceremony. These rituals officially mark the end of the mourning period for the bereaved family, and invoke Chenrizig, the goddess of compassion, for the liberation of all souls.
Dawn breaks over Sukna, a small village in the foothills of Darjeeling. This is where my mother lives. This is where I was born 40 years ago, when elephants used to trundle down the dirt road in front of our house. Times have changed. Now young men walk the dusty lanes transfixed onto their cell phones just like anywhere else in the world.
Nepal is one of the youngest tea producing nations in the world. It ranks 20th in the world in terms of total tea production according to 2012 data. Despite its young history, Nepal has earned a seat at the table with the “big boys” of tea.
"This 2014 First Flush Singbulli Darjeeling from Happy Earth Tea is simply superb. The problem in writing about it is that there are so many different flavors in this tea that emerge depending upon preparation. Frankly this is true of all of the Darjeelings that I have purchased from Happy Earth. Mr. Lama obviously has a very cultivated palate, and as a result the leaf quality of his Darjeelings is of very high standard, permitting all kinds of variations in temperature and steeping time, without incurring bitterness. I have, at times, forgotten about my steeping, and so have partaken of teas steeped up to fifteen minutes! In all of these instances I have only discovered new flavors... never bitterness.
Sometimes it's fun to mix up traditional tea a bit.
For this summer one of the recipes we concocted was iced Dragon Well (Lung Ching - Jade Mountain) infused with peach. You are welcome to help us name it.
Manufacturing of fine tea is nothing less than an art. There are endless variables a tea maker has to consider at every step. The impact of sunlight is one among many variables, and the “o-oi-shi-ta” technique practiced in Japan brings it to sharp focus.
The names of our Darjeeling teas actually include the tea garden from where they were grown and manufactured. This is the historic way of identifying and authenticating these magnificent teas. Arya, Puttabong, Phoobsering, Singbulli, Sungma, Turzum, etc, exotic and hard to pronounce tea gardens have worked diligently to build their reputations of producing some of the world's best teas. When the garden is identified you are buying into their long standing reputation for excellence and high tea manufacturing standards. Because it takes many years to build a good reputation, tea gardens work extremely hard to maintain the highest standards and protect their brand.
Adam M, one of our regular customers from LA, has submitted another helpful feedback this time on our Phoobsering First Flush. We are grateful for your reviews that help our other customers to make better choices and also have a richer experience of our teas.
Here are some pictures from the Spring Tea Celebration 2014. We tasted 5 first flush teas from Darjeeling and two oolongs from Taiwan, which make up our spring harvest offerings of this year. But for one cold brew, the rest were all brewed hot in tasting cups, tea pots and a gaiwan.
Sen Rikyu, the great Japanese tea master said: "Chado (Way of Tea) is nothing but bringing hot water to tea leaves and drinking it." We adopt the master's way in making of Darjeeling for this video. This is a simple but tried and tested method for getting the best out of your Darjeeling.
Pic by Andrew Harto
We love hearing back from our customers about our teas. We are grateful that they take the time off their busy schedules to write back to us. Their passion and knowledge inspire us to work even more harder to bring to all of you what you deserve - the best of the crop.
Here are some of the feedback/reviews that our customers have been sending us. Thought we would share them with you. These can help readers understand our individual teas better, and make a more informed selection of tea for themselves.
So which tea did Queen Mary (1867-1953) so prize that she had to keep it locked in a cupboard?
According to James Norwood Pratt, pioneer of the current tea wave in the USA, it was "a fine Darjeeling with a pronounced muscatel flavor." This was the Queen Mary Tea Twinings sold as the personal choice of the late Queen Mary, he adds, in his book The Tea Lovers' Treasury.
A bit of internet "research" showed that Twinings had launched this tea in 1916 and discontinued it only in 2007, after over 91 years! It is amazing the brand lasted so long. But we amuse ourselves with the thought that they could have given it 10 more years and let it retire at a more auspicious and grand 100 years! That is if they had to drop this tea from their stable.
Now that spring is here in all its glory, it is wonderful to sit outside and enjoy a cup of tea. This morning I sat in the backyard of our home with Risheehat First Flush 2014. Brewing it gong-fu style, I took in not just all the exquisite flavors from back home Darjeeling but also the beauty of spring that now surrounds us here.X
Weather continues to challenge tea folks in Darjeeling. Even as the first flush production moves into its final week, reports estimate the shortfall this year to be from 30% - 50% compared to last year's.
Darjeeling tea has historical roots in China, being transplants of saplings that Scot botanist Robert Fortune smuggled out of forbidden kingdom in early 1850s. Even though Darjeeling has come a long way both literally and figuratively in the tea world, carving out its own hallowed niche, it is fun sometimes to marry these two tea traditions.
This spring one of the exciting things we look forward to is introducing tea from Jun Chiyabari, an Organic tea garden located in the eastern Himalayas of Nepal. It will be our first Nepalese tea.