Tuesday, December 19, 2006

My Purple Clay YiXing Teapot 宜兴紫砂壶

These are the pictures of my 1960's YiXing Teapot which is made of real purple clay.

The clay of this teapot is fine, and it has not been used yet. It'll look nicer and shinier after being used for a period of time. Will post the pictures again in future.

It's not even my palm size.

YiXing Teapots 宜兴壶

YiXing 宜兴 (pronounced ee-shing) teapots first appeared during the Sung Dynasty (960-1279) in the YiXing region of China, located in the Jiangsu province, about 120 miles northwest of Shanghai. The Jiangsu province is the world's only source for the unique clay from which YiXing teapots are made, called purple or red clay. YiXing teapots were relatively unknown for many years until the late Ming Dynasty (1600s) when their use and production began to flourish. Demand from Europe and throughout China fueled an active industry in which many artists developed their craft to high levels of mastery. For the next three hundred years, YiXing teapots attained renown throughout China and Europe. Although the Europeans strove to imitate the YiXing teapots, they could not compete with the unique purple clay only found near YiXing, China.

Purple clay's unique properties make it ideal for brewing tea. The quality most immediately apparent is the attractive color of purple clay. This color, sometimes augmented by natural pigments, is never hidden on YiXing teapots by glazes. Similarly, the inside of YiXing teapots are always left uncoated. The porous nature of purple clay absorbs the flavor, smell, and color of the tea that is brewed in it. Over time, YiXing teapots develop a seasoning from repeated use, making the tea brewed from a well used teapot a special treat. For this reason, most people will dedicate a single flavor of tea to a specific YiXing teapot, so that the seasoning is not disrupted by cross-brewing.
Copied from www.yixing.com

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Gargling with tea to avoid flu

Usually spring comes with outbreak of flu. It is reported by People's Daily that according to Japanese investigation, catechins of tea is able to restrain the activity of flu virus. So that keeping on gargling with tea can effectively help people avoid infection of it.
Flu stems from virus proliferation in nose and throat, on protuberant cells of mucous membranes that may be covered by catechins consisting in tea. Therefore tea acts as a vaccination against flu when used as a mouthwash. In this aspect, green tea has the best effect, said by researchers. We can see clearly in experiment that virus of flu becomes not infectious in 5 seconds when mixed with 4 times diluted solution of ordinary green tea.

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

Herbal Tea- Jiao Gu Lan 绞股兰

I heard about Jiao Gu Lan tea from a friend a few days ago and I did a little finding as below:

Jiao Gu Lan 绞股兰 which is also known as Miracle Grass or "Longevity tonic" due to its many health-giving qualities and anti-aging effects. Jiao Gu Lan is indicated for anti-inflammation, detoxification, cough remedy, as an expectorant and as a chronic bronchitis remedy. Other traditional uses as a medicine have been anecdotally said to be for heart palpitation and for fatigue syndromes.

Jiao-gu-lan (gynostemma pentaphyllum)
This herb, native to the mountainous areas of southern China, Japan and South East Asia is receiving a lot of recognition for its use as an anti-aging tonic and adaptogen. The tasty tea made from the stems and leaves of this herbaceous perennial vine have 4 times more ginseng-like saponins than either American or Asian Ginseng. It has been used in Chinese Medicine to delay the aging process and increase energy.
Research in Japan shows that the herb has a powerful effect on numerous body systems. It has been used in Chinese medicine to maintain healthy blood pressure and cholesterol levels, enhance circulation, increase energy without being over-stimulating, improve focus and memory, support a strong immune system and can increase stamina and endurance for athletes.
This vigorous perennial vine is hardy to 10 degrees and can climb 20 to 30 feet in a season. Jiao Gu Lan prefers a moist, partly shaded location and responds well to a fertile garden soil. Quite easy to grow and will produce a large crop to harvest for tea.
This is a plant quickly gaining in popularity which is all the more reason to cultivate it in our home herb gardens.

Friday, December 8, 2006

Typical contents of a wrapped Pu'er

Pu’er tea is specially packaged for ease of trade, identification, and storage.

Typical contents of a wrapped Pu'er:

Nèi fēi (内飞): A small ticket originally stuck on the tea cake but now usually embedded into the cake during pressing. It is usually used as proof, or a possible sign, to the authenticity of the tea. Some higher end pu-erh cakes have more than one nèi fēi embedded in the cake. The ticket usually indicates the tea factory and brand.
Nèi piào (内票): A larger ticket or flyer packaged loose under the wrapper. Both aid in assuring the identity of the cake. It usually indicates factory and brand. As well, many nèi piào contain a summary of the tea factories' history and any additional laudatory statements concerning the tea, from its taste and rarity, to its ability to cure diseases and affect weight loss.

Recently, nèi fēi has become more important in identifying and preventing counterfeits. Menghai Tea Factory in particular has begun microprinting and embossing their tickets in an effort to curb the growth of counterfeit teas found the the marketplace in the late 1990s and early 2000s. Some nèi fēi also include vintage year and are production-specific to help identify the cake and prevent counterfeiting through a surfeit of different brand labels.

Pictures of Ancient Tea-Horse Road

These are some of the pictures related to Ancient Tea-Horse Road I have copied from Internet:

Six Major Routes of Ancient Tea-Horse Road

A Chinese expert researching the Ancient Tea-Horse Road recently found a complete map of the road drawn more than 150 years ago by a French missionary. The map reveals that the road traversed a series of towering mountains, with rivers flowing in between from the south to the north. There were six main routes:

Route One: Begins in Xishuangbanna and Simao, home of Pu-erh tea via Kunming to other Province in China into Beijing.

Route Two
: Begins in Pu-erh (via Simao, Jinhong, Menghai to Daluo) in Yunnan Province into Burma, then from Burma into Thailand, Singapore, Malaysia and Hongkong.

Route Three
: Begins in Pu-erh via Xiaguan, Lijiang, Zhongdian into Tibet, then from Lhasa into Nepal and India.

Route Four
: Begins in Pu-erh via Jiangcheng in Yunnan into Vietman, then from Vietman into Tibet and Europe.

Route Five
: Begins in Pu-erh via Simao, Lanchang, Menglian in Yunnan into Burma.

Route Six
: Begins in Pu-erh via Mengla in Yunnan into Burma.

Tens of thousands of traveling horses and yaks created a definite path with their hoofs on the once-indiscernible road. Today, although even such traces of the ancient road are fading away, its cultural and historic values remain.

Ancient Tea-Horse Road 茶马古道

The name of the road (Chamadao 茶马道 in the Chinese records meaning “the tea and horse road”) indicates its importance in the trade of tea and horses, but other products passed along it as well. One can trace the history of the Tea and Horse Road back to the period of the Tang dynasty (618-907) and Tibetan regime. Tea was introduced to the Tibetan area during the Tang dynasty.

The Tibetan people had been in close communication with the Tang and the various ethnic groups of southwest China for a long time; so it is very likely that the tea of Sichuan and Yunnan had already reached Tibet. As early as the seventh century Tibetan military power had conquered the ethnic tribes scattered in the present areas of Lijiang 丽江 and Dali at Yunnan, and also had established a military administration in northwest Yunnan. The military route used by the Tibetans to reach Yunnan was closely related to the contemporary tea and horse route. Yunnan is one of the places where tea plants are native. Since 1949 scientists have found many wild and cultivated tea trees that are more than a thousand years old in the Nannuo Mountains and Bada Mountains of Menghai County as well as Yiwu Mountains and Xiangming Mountains of Mengla County, Xishuangbanna 西双版纳. The local people call these ancient tea trees the “Tea Tree Kings.”

The development of large-scale commerce in tea and horses between the Chinese dynasties and Tibet and the development of the caravan road for the tea and horse trade probably dates to the Song dynasty (960-1279). During that period, the demand for tea would have gradually increased as tea became an important drink in the daily life of the Tibetans. The Song court then started to be involved in the shipping of tea to Tibet. The Song required a large number of warhorses from Tibet to defend against the invading northern nomadic Liao, Jin and Xixia. The court established the Chamasi [Ch’a-ma ssu] , Tea and Horse Office, in charge of the tea and horse trade in the seventh year of Xining (1074) and also set up many markets for selling tea and buying horses in Northwest China.1 Every year the government transported huge amounts of tea, obtained mainly from Yunnan and Sichuan, to exchange for warhorses with the Tibetan tribes. According to one study, more than 20,000 warhorses per year were exchanged for tea during the Northern Song (960-1127) dynasty. Of the total annual output of tea in Sichuan, 30,000,000 Jin or 15,000,000 kilograms, at least half was sold to Tibet.

The Yüan dynasty (1271-1368) also paid great attention to the trade of tea to Tibet and established the Xifanchatijusi, meaning the bureau in charge of tea trade to Tibet. At first, tea was sold through the government bureau, but later it gradually was handled by individual traders. The most prosperous period for the tea and horse trade between Yunnan, Sichuan and Tibet was under the Ming dynasty (1369-1644). The Ming court established the office of Chakesi [Ch’a-k’o ssu], the bureau in charge of tea and horse trade. The quality of the horses offered to the court by the Tibetans as “tribute” determined the quality of the tea. Given the importance of tea in the daily life of the Tibetans, the Ming court was able to use the tea trade as a means of maintaining some political control over the Tibetan leaders and lamas.

During the Qing dynasty (1644-1911), the tea trade between Yunnan, Sichuan and Tibet continued to develop. Although the court stopped buying horses from the Tibetan area in 1735, it eased the restrictions on the tea trade, and huge amounts of tea were exported there. In 1661, the fifth Dalai Lama asked the Qing court to set up a large market for the tea and horse trade in Beisheng (present Yong-sheng, Yunnan), and his request was approved by the central court. From that time there was a rapid increase in the amount of Yunnan tea transported to Tibet along the Tea and Horse Road. In just one year, 1661, 30,000 dan or 1,500,000 kg of Yunnan tea were sent to Tibet. Tea also served as an important gift from the Qing court to the Tibetan elite: for example, the court allocated 5000 jin (2500 kg) to the Dalai Lama and 2500 jin to the Panchan Lama each year. During the Republic Period (1911-1949), although the Chinese government did not play an important role in the tea trade, it continued to prosper in the hands of private traders who still traveled along the ancient Tea and Horse Road.

During World War II, especially in 1942 when the coastal cities of China and Burma were occupied by the Japanese army, blocking any remaining highways for international trade, the Tea and Horse Caravan Road became a significant transportation link supplying inland China from India. According to one source, more than 25,000 horses and mules were used and more than 1200 trading firms were to be found along the road.

Thursday, December 7, 2006

Pu'er Tea in different shapes

Size ranges from as small as 100g to as large as 5000g or more, with 357g, 400g, and 500g being the most common. Depending on the pressing method, the edge of the disk can be rounded or perpendicular.

A convex knob shaped tea. Size ranges from 7g to 3000g or more, with 100g, 250g, 500g being the most common. It the name for tuocha is believed to have originated from either the round top-like shape of the tea brick or from the old tea shipping and trading route of the Tuojiang River. In ancient times, tuocha cakes had holes through the center so that they could be tied together on a rope for easy transport.

A thick rectangular block of tea, usually in 100g, 250g, 500g, and 1000g sizes. Zhuancha bricks are the traditional shape that was used for ease of transport along the Ancient tea route in horse caravans.

A flat square of tea, usually in 100g or 200g sizes. Often contain words that are pressed into the square.

Literally meaning "tight tea," the tea is shaped much like a túo, but with a stem rather than convex hollow, quite similar in form to a mushroom. This shape is generally produced for Tibetan consumption, and is usually 250g or 300g.

A shape similar to túochá, but larger in size with a much thicker body that is decorated with pumpkin-like "stripes". This shape was created for the famous Tribute Tea that was made expressly for the Qing Dynasty Emperors from the best tea leaves of Yiwu Mountain.

Loose Leaf Pu'er

Pu'er Bamboo Tea

Wednesday, December 6, 2006

Pu'er Tea 普洱茶

As all the tea leaves originated, Pu'er 普洱 also comes from the same tea plant which is Camellia Sinensis. It is an ancient and classic tea which is a favorite of a lot of people from south west of China and is highly respected by the whole nation in recent years. The processes that go into making the classic pu'er tea are strictly guarded secrets for centuries. It is an after fermented tea which is compressed into hard cakes or bricks for delivery, storing purpose in the ancient times and is a kind of tea which the value goes up along with its aging. Pu'er can be drunk immediately or aged for many years. As such, Pu'er teas are often now classified by "year" and "region" of production much like wine vintage. The longer Pu'er aged the better the taste and quality of the tea becomes. Years and years of fermentation endues the Pu'er tea with silky mouth feel and very typical mellow aroma.

All types of Pu'er tea are created from maocha(毛 茶), a mostly unoxidized green tea processed from a "large leaf" variety of Camellia Sinensis found in the mountains of southern Yunnan. Maocha can undergo "ripening" for several months prior to being compressed to produce ripened Pu'er, or be directly compressed to produce raw Pu'er. Raw Pu'er tea (生 茶 or 青 茶), also known as "uncooked Pu'er " or "green Pu'er," is simply maocha(毛 茶) tea leaves that have been compressed into its final form without additional processing. Ripened Pu'er tea (熟 茶) is pressed maocha specially processed to imitate aged raw Pu'er. Although it is more common known as "cooked Pu'er," the process does not actually employ cooking to imitate the aging process.
Raw/ Green Pu'er 青普洱
Ripened Pu'er 熟普洱

Tuesday, December 5, 2006

Green Tea Benefits

Green Tea is the well-known “wonder drug” known to give its drinkers a host of health benefits. Among the most widely held beliefs are the following:

Green Tea Benefit 1: Green Tea Lowers the Risk of Cancer.
Many studies have shown that people who drink green tea have significantly lower risk of cancer. Green Tea polyphenols are potent antioxidants, especially in the brain. Some studies show that the polyphenols most prevalent in green tea, the catechins, are far more potent in suppressing free radicals than vitamins C or E.
The ability of green tea to prevent cancer is so well established that new studies are testing green tea as a potential cancer therapy. Green tea may be especially protective against lung cancer in former and current cigarette smokers.
Green tea has been shown to counteract both the initiation and promotion of carcinogenesis. Some studies have shown that green tea blocks the formation of certain tumors. If green tea's only benefit were to reduce the risk of cancer, it would be well worth taking as a beverage or supplement.

Green Tea Benefit 2: Green Tea Lowers Cholesterol. Thus, The Risk of Stroke and Heart Diseases.
Green Tea has been shown to lower LDL cholesterol and serum triglyceride levels. The potent antioxidant effects of green tea inhibit the oxidation of LDL cholesterol in the arteries. It plays a major contributory role in the formation of atherosclerosis.
The formation of blood clots, also known as thrombosis, is the leading cause of heart attack and stroke. Green Tea has been proven to exhibit abnormal blood clot formation as effectively as aspirin. When looking at coagulation risk factors in the blood, green tea specifically inhibits platelet aggregation and adhesion via effects that differ from those of aspirin.

Green Tea Benefit 3: Green Tea Lowers Blood Pressure.
Green Tea blocks the effects of angiotension-converting enzyme (ACE), an enzyme secreted by the kidneys, which is a significant cause of hypertension. By blocking the effects of ACE, blood pressure is reduced significantly, and with it, the risk of heart attacks and strokes.
Published studies have shown lowered blood pressure in animals and humans that are given green tea extracts. If you will be using green tea to treat hypertension, do so only under the supervision of a competent medical professional. Regular testing of your blood pressure is mandatory.

Green Tea Benefit 4: Green Tea Prevents Tooth Decay.
The formation of dental plaque, bacterial colonies that form on tooth surfaces causing tooth decay, has been shown to be inhibited by catechins. Tea has been shown to inhibit Streptococcus mutants, major bacteria involved with decay. A reduction of the bacterial cell membrane fluidity, induced by the catechins, will result in the anti-plaque activity. Tea also has been shown to have a positive effect in fighting gum disease.

Green Tea Benefit 5: Green Tea Inhibits Viruses.
Green tea has been known to lower blood sugar levels. It can also kill certain bacteria. Green tea inhibits several viruses including viral hepatitis. Green tea, via catechins and theaflavins and its gallates, have shown antibacterial properties.
Others have shown that catechins effectively kill almost every kind of bacteria which causes food poisoning. It also inactivates the toxins that are produced by those bacteria. At the same time, it enhances the growth of beneficial bacteria in the digestive tract. There is evidence that green tea also inhibits the flu virus. It has been proven by lab studies that green tea extract protects against many common degenerative diseases.

West Lake Long Jing 西湖龍井

Long Jing is unquestionably one of the most famous green teas in China, with a history that began 1200 years ago. Long Jing (Dragon Well) from Xi Hu 西湖, Zhe Jiang 浙江 province of China is named in accordance with its place of origin Long Jing (Dragon Well), a village locates at Xi Hu of Zhe Jiang province of china. West Lake (Xi Hu) Long Jing, grown alongside the scenic West Lake near Hang Zhou, being the most sought after by many enthusiasts of premium tea; both in China and the West. Long Jing tea was a favorite of many emperors of China. Most notable is Qian Long. It was widely known that to achieve the best taste from Long Jing, spring water from the "Hu Pao Quan" was to be used. Water is boiled then cooled to about 80 degrees Celsius before being used to brew the tea leaves.

Being one of the ten most famous Chinese teas, Long Jing (Dragon Well) tea has long been praised of having the four best characteristics of an ideal tea: beautiful in shape, crystal green in color, pleasant in smell and rich and mellow in taste. The best Long Jing tea leaf is straight stripe which looks like an orchid s petal and its olive feather of the bud can still be seen. Long Jing tea soup is crystal green in color, giving off pleasant smell like jasmine. Its refreshing and sweet taste of Long Jing (Dragon Well) tea is charming and long-lasting.

Long Jing tea leaves are pan fried (unlike most other teas, which are steamed) to stop the fermentation process. In the world of tea, the term "fermentation" refers to the drying of the freshly picked leaves, resulting in enzymatic oxidation. This oxidation is stopped by frying or steaming the leaves before they completely dry out. As is the case with other green teas, Long Jing tea leaves are unfermented. When steeped, the tea produces a yellow-green color, a gentle, pure aroma, and a rich flavor. The tea contains Vitamin C, amino acids, and the highest concentration of catechins among teas.

Friday, December 1, 2006

Green Tea 綠茶

Green tea 綠茶 is the palest in color, ranging from light green to light yellow in color. Green tea is not oxidized; the leaves are steamed or baked immediately after being plucked. They are then rolled and dried allowing the leaves to remain green in color. Green tea is made from both new buds as well as young leaves.

Green tea, which is unfermented tea, remains the most popular tea in Asian countries such as China and Japan. In fact, up until the eighteenth century, it was also the most popular form of tea in Britain as well. Imports of green tea into the United States outpaced black tea until about 1915. Much of the tea dumped into the Boston harbor during the Boston Tea Party, was in fact green tea. Thus it is unlikely that the harbor turned to a copper color!

Most popular green teas from China are Dragon Well/ Long Jing 龙井茶, Tai Ping Hou Kui 太平猴魁, Bi Luo Chun 碧螺春, Liu An Gua Pian 六安瓜片, and etc. On the other hand, popular green teas from Japan are Gyokuro 玉露, Matcha 抹茶, Sencha 煎茶, and etc. More details on different types of green tea will be illustrated in coming blogs.
Examples of green tea:
Long Jing 龙井茶
Bi Luo Chun 碧螺春
Liu An Guo Pian 六安瓜片
Tai Ping Hou Gui 太平猴魁