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Videos of Pressing Puer Cakes

Here are some of the Puer videos that I promised to post. These were taken in a small factory in Mo Jiang that we had visited this past April. You can see that it's clean and all the workers wear uniforms, hats and masks. Before we entered the factory, we were asked to put on a similar uniform and shoe covers.

After a worker weighs the Mao Cha, it goes into a holder that is placed on top of steam to soften the leaves. I love this process, it's like magic!

Then another worker takes the steamed leaves and skillfully wraps the leaves in a piece of cloth before pressing. It's very difficult to do it right and he does it with such beauty.

This is a video of the machine pressing a Puer cake.

There will be more videos in the next couple of posts. I can't wait to go back!

Charcoal Roast Dong Ding

I have been out of the Charcoal Roasted Dong Ding for a while. I talked to master Zhen who roasts Dong Ding for us and was happy to hear that he had some for me. He told me that it's a lighter roast than what I usually order, but he is very happy with this version. I asked him if it's possible to get some with a heavier roast and he was very agreeable with my request when he said "Sure, I will get the charcoal fire going and make one special roast for you." Man, I can't tell you how excited and grateful I am!

I ended up ordering both of versions of the Dong Ding. I was curious to see the differences between these two teas and I want you to have a chance to see how a great tea maker can bring out the best in a tea.

I received these two Charcoal Roasted Dong Ding teas in early September and you may have noticed that they haven't been listed for sale on the website. There is a reason for this. For teas like these, it will take some time for them to open up so that they're ready to be enjoyed. I want them to open up and reach a certain amount of balance before I feel comfortable offering them for purchase.

I have been tasting them from time to time over the past month. First, I liked the lighter roast better, only to change my mind a week later, and then finding it to be too rough on my third tasting. Yesterday when I tasted both teas, they finally opened up enough and I really like both of them!

The broth of the darker roast (left) and the lighter roast Dong Ding (right)

The lighter roasted one has more of that Dong Ding fruit smell and taste. Its liquid disperses very nicely inside of the mouth and it's more balanced on the palate. The heavier roasted Dong Ding has a dually heavy yet soft feeling broth happening for it at the same time. The way it slides down to the throat area is better and the salivation is stronger.

The open leaf of the darker roast (left) and lighter roast Dong Ding (right)

I like how the lighter roasted one holds all the features together so nicely and I like how the darker one has more dimension and dynamic. And you know what I like about a good charcoal roasted Dong Ding? It never ceases to change and transform and the tea will stay good for a very long time!

Pod Cast: A Talk On Taiwanese Oolong With Ken Cohen of Talking Tea

I love drinking tea with people. When customers from other states take their time to visit Floating Leaves Tea, I feel special and grateful to make that face to face connection with tea lovers from around the country.

A couple of months ago, a tea lover from Philadelphia named Ken came to Floating Leaves Tea. I had so much fun drinking tea with him and his partner. Near the end of our chat, he told me that he hosts a podcast to promote tea knowledge. He asked me if I would like to be a guest on his program. Of course, I love to talk about tea!

That was my first time doing a podcast. Those of you who have had tea with me have probably noticed that when I start to talk about tea, I can't stop. It's no surprise then that this podcast turned out to be pretty long.

Like many people, I can't stomach listening to my own voice in a recording. For the first five minutes of the program, I was literally holding on to the table while saying, "Oh my goodness!" By the end though, I felt very good listening to the program. I know that my enthusiasm and love for tea was clear, even through my strong accent! If you get a chance to listen to it, I hope you feel the same way. And please give us feedback and let us know what you would like to hear and learn about in future videos or podcasts.. Enjoy the talk!

Japanese Tea Ceremony Class With Marjorie Yap of Issoan Tea School

After my Oolong tea tasting with my tea friends in Portland, I had the rare opportunity to attend a Japanese tea ceremony class taught by Marjorie Yap Sensei of Issoan Tea and assisted by Barbara Sensei.

Believe it or not, that was my first experience attending a formal Japanese tea ceremony/class.
I joke with my customers quite often that I can't do Japanese tea ceremonies because I would be kicked out of Japanese tea ceremony schools for not sitting still and for talking too much. But in reality, I had thought that Japanese tea ceremonies focus too much on the rituals and too little on enjoying the tea.

I am grateful that I was permitted to be a guest in Margie Sensei's Japanese tea ceremony class. In a way, I felt it was better than sitting in a formal ceremony for my first experience. I got to watch how students practice performing the ceremony, which I especially liked because some of the rituals were explained, and I got to see the beautiful relationship between teacher and students.

I didn't have any expectations before I entered the class and I left with a lot of satisfaction. I was happy that I enjoyed the process so much. It felt like we shared a space where beauty could be achieved through diligent practice. I now see how the Japanese tea ceremony is a life-long practice. It makes me think of meditation, which is also a life-long practice.

I walked away with the discovery that my perspective of Japanese tea ceremony has changed and I was filled with gratitude from the generosity of the teachers and students. So will I be learning Japanese tea ceremony? I think a more appropriate question is if I want this to become one of my life-long pursuits!

Sudden Loss Of Tea Bouquet And Tea Flavor

Two weeks ago, I was in Portland tasting some Taiwanese Oolongs with my tea friends. Before I arrived, our host Jan called to inform me that the air was quite smokey due to many wildfires in Oregon state. I didn't think too much about that since I lived in Taipei for many years in the past, and the air pollution was quite bad back then.

I arrived a day before the tea tasting event and I was fine with all the smoke in the air. The first half of the tea tasting went very well. We enjoyed two Baozhongs, Oriental Beauty, Alishan Black tea and a Chuan Tong Oolong (a heavy roasted Oolong). We took a small break and had some snacks. I didn't serve any of the High Mountain Oolongs until the second half, because there were five of them and I wanted participants to be able to compare the teas.

I opened the vacuum bag of Alishan Oolong. It surprised me that there was almost no smell from the bag. I thought the bouquet would definitely show up after the bag of Alishan had a chance to breathe. I proceeded to brew the tea and there was close to no bouquet from the tea broth, either. I was very disappointed. I very much wanted to share with them how beautiful this season's Alishan could be! Next, I brewed the ShanLinXi, which did not reveal most of its flavor either (ShanLinXi has the heaviest body and its flavor is very easy to detect this season). I thought something was wrong.

Jan graciously offered to change the pot for heating hot water, and wanted to know if it could make a difference. Not much more bouquet nor flavor showed up after changing to a different pot. Some people said it might be the water. I didn't think the water would be the cause as we had 5 different teas earlier and they tasted fine and delicious. I thought it might be caused by a sudden change in air pressure, but I had no proof.

I would say the High Mountain Oolongs only showed an average of 30% of their bouquet and flavor. However, their textures showed up without any problem. They were all very soft and round.

One hour afterwards, while I was bagging tea for my tea friends, I smelled the bag of Alishan and some bouquet showed up.

I didn't drink any High Mountain Oolong for two days. After I came back to Seattle, I was eager to try the Alishan. It smelled beautifully and tasted as what I have remembered. Thank goodness! Maybe my senses were muted by the smoke in the air?

I wonder if you have had similar experiences? If so, please share your thoughts with me, I would love to hear more about your experiences.

*photo provided by Marilyn Miller

Floating Leaves Tea Is Turning 10 Years Old!

I know it sounds like a cliche but I simply can't believe Floating Leaves Tea is turning 10 years old! I guess when I am having fun, time really does fly.

It has been an amazing 10 years. Thank you all for supporting me on this incredible journey. While I am writing this post, the memories of setting up the tea house, of customers enjoying the space, of the uncertainty we faced when we moved to a new location...all lead to this moment now where I feel blessed to have so much help and encouragement!

I love this tea business! I love to travel to the tea regions and to learn from the farmers who are down to earth and passionate about their teas. I was super excited that I got to expand my tea travels from Taiwan to Yunnan China this past April. Thank you, Jan, Masa, Brian and Awoono, for making this trip possible. You guys are incredible!

What I love about this tea business the most is connecting with you over cups of tea. I have had great tea sessions here, chatting about tea, life and philosophy. When I see the sparkle in your eyes, when I see that you find a tea here that makes you happy, I know I've done a good job.

And thank you, internet customers, for supporting Floating Leaves Tea all of these years! Every time I receive an order, I feel like I make a tea connection. Seeing so many repeat orders from you makes my day. It makes me feel like you identify with what I am doing and I will continue to do better for you.

Thinking about all of this brings a big smile on my face, and I almost forgot to mention Floating Leaves Tea's 10-year-old Anniversary Sale: 25% Off on all our tea selection starting on August 12th. The sale will last for 1 week.

When I drink a cup of tea, I will be thinking all of you with warm gratitude in my heart. Thank you for these great 10 years. I look forward to the next amazing 10 years of my tea journey with you!

Some Beautiful Tea Photos To Share

I have been going through some photos on my laptop and  came across some really nice photos taken by a 2013 Taiwan trip member. I thought you might enjoy viewing them, too.


tea field at DingHu, Alishan

tea pickers handing in their tea

leaves after the "Big Stir"


picking tea at Muzha

collecting tea after outdoor oxidation

beautiful Tieguanyin 


I love being in PingLin

walking back to Farmer's Chen's  

three leaves and a bud


SheShui is known for Black tea 

tea field at SheShui

after a wonderful hike

Taipei - Wistaria Tea House

I love drinking tea at this teahouse!

awesome Puer

enjoying tea

I miss being in Taiwan. Thank you, Matthew, for giving me these photos. They brought back good memories!

2015 Spring High Mountain Oolong - Fantastic Tea!

When our buyer, Rob Bageant, was out buying the Spring High Mountain Oolongs, I stayed connected with him via messaging. It was a bit of torture for me not to taste the tea, but at the same time, it was pretty fun to feel I could taste the teas based on his descriptions. We have bought tea together many times throughout the years; I have confidence and feel very connected to buy tea this way even though I was not there physically.

dry leaves of ShanLinXi

It excited me when our buyer's opening statement was, " Very good tea this season. So balanced." Then, he said, " it makes tea buying easy this year because it's so good!" When he was tasting DaYuLing, "this tea has no flaw", he said. I was screaming in my apartment, " I want to taste it"!

I had some of the High Mountain Oolongs shipped to Seattle via express mail. The box magically showed up in two days. Of course, I couldn't wait and tasted them all in a row. 

At that moment, I understood what Rob meant by the tea was very good this season. I tasted the Alishan, it was so beautiful that I felt that I was in a garden. Then I proceeded to ShanLinXi, it was a good ShanLinXi as I remembered: citrus, fruity, and wonderful stimulation in the mouth. Then I moved on to HeHuanShan, I remembered I kept saying, " I like this tea, I like this tea......There is so much goodness going on". When I tasted the Lishan, this came to my mind, " Yes! Thank you! A well balanced, solid, good Lishan. Thank you!"
I heat up the water to prepare to brew DayuLing. To be honest, I didn't know what to expect. I have not carried this tea for many seasons. The first sip reached to my mouth. I had my eyes closed," Oh my! I have not tasted anything this buttery for a long time!" 

brewed leaves of DaYuLing

I remembered I read it somewhere saying that tea is the nectar of God. Yes, it is and it's magic. Tea leaves in a cup, and those farmers are able to transform a plant into a liquid that is so beautiful, complex and full of goodness. 

After so much high mountain tea, I felt pretty lively. I felt like I turned into a butterfly, happily flying around flowers in a beautiful garden. I felt very grateful of the farmers, the weather, and Rob. I felt fortune to be able to taste them. I had the wonderful flavor of tea lingering in my mouth, thinking, "Life is very good, isn't it?" 

MoJiang, A Small Yet Adorable Place

We were in MoJiang, Yunnan for two days. I love this place! It's small and friendly. The biggest tribe here is the NaXi. People in this city haven't seen many outsiders. We were met with curious eyes, and the friendly locals coming and going all said "hello" to us.

There are plenty of cars in this city and at the same time, it's not unusual to see two oxen cross the busy street in the morning or people who still use a pole to carry goods to the market in the traditional way. It feels like the past and present meeting up at the same time and place.

I love walking through their morning market and their beautiful park. It gives me a sense of their lives and I enjoy the feeling of being there. I hope the photos can give you a glimpse of the beautiful people in this adorable place.

Spending time with Mr. Wang, who owns a tea factory, and his crew makes this place more special. Mr. Wang is funny and generous. I am very grateful to him for spending so much time showing us around, taking us to tea fields, showing us his tea factory, asking his crew to help us to make tea, brewing tons of tea for us, and talking to us about Puer tea. Everyone we met in this city were so very friendly and open!

And did I mention the food here is fantastic? They sure love their wild vegetables and super free-range chicken!

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.

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!

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!

Visiting Beautiful Kunming

We arrived in Kunming, and I was super'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!

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.

New Teas - Muzha Tieguanyin Oolong - 2009

I brought back a hearty 2009 Muzha Tieguanyin to add to this season's tea selection. A traditional Muzha Tieguanyin is the tea I go for in cooler weather and especially during the winter. The tea broth is rich and savory, and it brings a lot of warmth. I also really enjoy all that a good Tieguanyin has to offer:  Hui Gan (salivating) and Hou Yun (a wonderful sensation at the back-of-the throat area while the broth passes through it).

When I first tasted this 2009 Tieguanyin, I thought it was on the heavy side. However, as the tea opened up, it kept tasting better and better throughout multiple infusions. The stimulation of anticipatory salivation, the feeling of the tea broth, and the pleasantly warm sensations throughout my body just keep going on and on.

I was very happy I got to taste Tieguanyin with Mr. and Mrs. Zhang on my recent Taiwan trip. It is always a delight to taste tea with them. They let me taste two of the Tieguanyins that were made in November 2014. The tea tasted good, but some of the good features that a high quality Tieguanyin have were not present. A traditional Tieguanyin goes through a lot of rolling/bruising and multiple slow roasting processes. It takes time for the tea to integrate and open. This is different from letting a new bag of tea sit for a couple of weeks before it fully opens. You have probably already noticed by now that Floating Leaves Tea carries current seasonal teas like the Spring and Winter Baozhong, High Mountain Oolongs, Dong Ding, etc.... However, the traditional Muzha Tieguanyin that I chose for the shop is not the current season's production because a good one can take a little longer (one or more seasons) to transform into something really special. Lighter and greener Tieguanyin teas, such as what's popular in mainland China now, do not generally benefit from age or more processing, so mainland Tieguanyin is often enjoyed while it's fresh.

The date for tasting the new season's Oolong teas is Feb. 21st from 11am to 1pm. You can request the tea you want to try and there are no reservations needed.  Come early as it may get busy and it will be first come, first served. If I am organized enough, I will try to have some treats for Chinese New Year on that day, too!

New Teas - Dong Ding Traditional

Aside from this season's high mountain tea, there are two other teas that I'm proud to have brought back to share with you. Today I'd like to talk about one of them, my traditional Dong Ding. This tea is made from Qingxin leaves and has a light roast to match its light oxidation (for a Dong Ding tea, but the oxidation is still higher than for my high mountain oolongs). This tea is very satisfying when I'm looking for something with a bit more weight and body than a light oolong or a green tea, without being as thick or full as a traditional Tieguanyin.

This season's Dong Ding offers a satisfying tea broth and some light fruit notes. It has a good back-of-the-throat sensation, which many of my best tea's also have. We've been working with this Dong Ding farmer for many seasons now and he tries to stay on top of the subtly changing tea trends to give tea lovers something that's a bit more interesting and fresh each season, while still providing the solid taste profile that his teas are known for.

I've been meaning to set up tastings for the new teas this season and I will do so as soon as my tasting notes for Tieguanyin are posted. I've been really busy putting together a very exciting tea tour to Yunnan province later this spring, where we will search for some amazing tea and we'll have some amazing experiences as well!

NEW Teas - The Winter Oolongs Have Arrived!

The NEW teas are here!!

I returned from Taiwan about 3 weeks ago and have been so busy tasting, inventorying and tidying up the shop that I’m just now sitting down and writing about all of the beautiful teas that I was able to find this season.  I had a great trip and spent several days with my buyers and my tea farmers in Taipei, and I also got to spend some time with my family.  I love Taiwan!

Seattle had a record-breaking year of warm weather this year.  Taiwan was also a bit warmer than usual, which resulted in a warmer tea season with an earlier-than-usual harvest.  The fragrance of the High Mountain oolongs’ bouquets is a bit more muted than last year’s harvest, but the tea broth is solid, round and full.  Here are some of my notes:

Alishan: the lightest and the brightest of the high mountains this season.  Pleasant and refreshing, with a clean aftertaste.

ShanLinXi: soft, creamy, and citrus-fruit flavors.  My buyer knows that I especially like an exquisite tea broth, and he was right on in helping me pick this one. He predicted that the ShanLinXi’s complex flavor would be my favorite of the season.  It is very good, but still too early for me to pick a favorite.

Lishan: Heavier body and stronger aftertaste than the ShanLinXi.  Bold flavors, fruity, and a satisfying finish.  I am enjoying this tea very much and am having a difficult time deciding if I like the ShanLinXi or Lishan better. 

I had an interesting experience with this season's High Mountain teas that I want to share. While I was in Taiwan, I tasted the same ShanLinXi that I brought back.  I noticed the bouquet was stronger in Taiwan, so I thought it might have something to do with the water I used.  After I came back to Seattle, I tasted the Lishan and I thought the bouquet had disappeared, which really shocked me!  I tried it the next day and the bouquet was still not there.  I tried the Lishan from the same bag again on the third day and it turned out just as lovely as I remembered it in Taiwan!  The body, the taste, the scent and the aftertaste were all there!  I noticed that on the first two days, it was dark and rainy outside, but on the third day, it was sunny.  I wonder if the air pressure, weather, etc has some impact on how much of the bouquet shows up.  Anyway, I’m glad the right flavor profile has returned.  I have found that tea sometimes gets “jet lag,” too, and may need a little bit of time to open up. 

I’m excited about these teas and will be doing tastings soon – the schedule will be arranged and posted later this week.  I also brought back other teas, including a nice moderate roast Dong Ding, so I’ll post the notes about those teas, along with the tasting schedule, soon. 

2015 Yunnan Tour Itinerary

Here is our exciting, tentative itinerary for the April Yunnan Tea Tour!*

April 12th: Kunming. We will meet at the hotel at 10 in the morning. Awoono and I will take you to tour the city and have lunch. After lunch, we will hang out in a very cool local tea house (or two) to taste some special puers. It will be good to relax in a nice tea house after a long flight. We will learn about puer and talk more about the places we will visit during our trip.

April 13th: We will travel to Mo-Jiang, to my co-tour leader's hometown to visit her uncle, who is a tea farmer. At his farm, we will pick tea leaves and learn the basics of tea firing.

April 14th: We will visit another tea farmer in the Mo-Jiang area. This farmer is doing environmentally-responsible farming practices; he doesn't use chemical fertilizer or pesticides. I was lucky to taste his tea last year and it was very good. Besides visiting his farm, we will try to learn how to press puer cakes from him. We will also take you to a great restaurant to eat locally grown organic vegetables and meat.

old style tea farming

local vegetables

April 15th: We will leave early today and travel south to the Xishuangbanna area. We will be visiting one of the most well preserved tea forests, where there are around three thousand tea trees ranging from 200 years to 1000+ years old. It will feel magical to hike through an old tea tree forest.

a huge old Puer tree

April 16th: We will travel to Nannuo Mountain, one of the most famous puer tea mountains, known for its high quality puer maocha. We know some local tea producers and experts that will teach us more about this special tea and how to taste them.

Puer mao cha from Nannuo Mountain

April 17th: Today, we will be joining one of the biggest festivals in Xishuangbanna. This celebration is observed throughout Southeast Asia. This festival is celebrated by the Dai tribe, for "getting rid of the old and welcoming in the new." We will also be exploring some Dai cuisine while we are here.

April 18th: We are going to visit some local pottery places. We hope to be able to show you how the local pottery is made. If we don't catch any production in action, we will at least have a chance to get some unique jars to store your precious puer.

April 19th: We are going to travel to Lijiang today. After we check into our hotel, we will be touring the old town of LiJiang, which is an Unesco Heritage Site. This city is around 800 years old and has a well preserved old city structure that is breathtaking. The Naxi tribe is the biggest group of people who live here. We will explore their culture and cuisine, too.

April 20th: We are planning to visit a Tea Horse Old Route museum in LiJiang. LiJiang is also one of the ancient Silk Road's trade stops. This museum will offer us a glimpse into the city's history and also some puer tea knowledge. We plan to have some time in the afternoon for you to do some souvenir shopping!

April 21st: We will travel back to Kunming. Time to pick up your luggage and fly home. 

*This is a tentative itinerary. It's subject to change, hopefully for the better in case unique opportunities arise!

2015 April Yunnan Tour Logistics

Happy 2015! I am looking forward to having a good year and I hope you are too.

I am super excited with this upcoming Yunnan tea tour. I hope you can join me and we can explore this wonderful and fascinating tea region together.

Here are the logistics for this April tour:

Time April 12th to 21st ( 10 days in Yunnan).

Cost: $2900 includes lodgings, three meals a day, transportation in Yunnan, tickets and fees for activities and classes, and two tour leaders. $400 extra for single occupancy.

Deposit: $500 deposit by Feb. 15. After that, it will be non-refundable.

Highlights of this trip: Please see this blog post. The trip itinerary is coming up in my next post.

Benefits of this trip: I am planning to take 4 to 6 people. It will be a small group for those of you who prefer that. The original cost of this tour is $3500, but since it's my first tour to Yunnan, it's $2900 for this trip. It's around 15% off!

If you are interested or have any questions, please contact me at

Christmas Eve in Taiwan, Part I

Greetings from Taiwan!

Today (day two in Taiwan) I woke up and still had jet lag. While I had tea with my friend, she told me she didn't have to work today and asked me what I wanted to do. My mind was thinking about all of the work I should be doing today, but I looked out and it was sunny and beautiful. I looked at her and thought, "What the heck. I should enjoy today off with her!" I told her we should go to PingLin to enjoy the view and sunshine. 

The moment we set out from her house, we were already filled with joy. The breeze and sunshine brought smiles to our faces (70F, awesome!!!).

Before we headed out, I called a tea friend to let him know that I had already arrived in Taiwan. He told me he was planning to be in PingLin to pick up some tea for me. What a nice coincidence!

We met in Farmer Chen's shop and had some tea. It was great to see Mrs. Chen. She greeted us with a big smile. She said Farmer Chen was out picking tea today. The weather conditions were good to make Dong Pian, the second winter harvest tea.

Mrs. Chen heated up the water and treated us to a pot of the most freshly made Dong Pian Baozhong. It was very fragrant. She said Dong Pian Baozhong is from JinXuan, Cui Yu, and SiJiChun varietals. She said Chin Xin varietal doesn't grow very quickly after the first winter harvest. The tea we were drinking was made from Cui Yu, so it’s no wonder the bouquet was very bold.

After tea, we went to have lunch. Ah food, so good! While we were eating, Mr. Tsai's wife told us about some special dishes from her hometown, and invited us to go there to eat! I told her that only Taiwanese people will talk about other food while they are already eating a lot of food. I always find these moments to be adorable and I truly savor them.

After lunch, we went to look for Farmer Chen. I went to one of his tea fields and didn't find him. On the way there, we saw lots of beautiful tea flowers. Mr. Tsai said that they are getting popular in Taiwan, so lots of people are growing them.

It was beautiful in PingLin today. I took in as much as I could and feel very lucky to be here with my dear friends. A view, a smell, the sound of birds and insects, and friends remind me how much I love this special island.

We didn't end up finding Farmer Chen, but it's alright. I can imagine his smile and I keep it in my heart while we continue our trip in PingLin.

Yunnan Tea Tour - April 2015

My tea friend, Awoono (born and raised in Yunnan), offered me the opportunity to lead a Yunnan tea tour with her. I have been wanting to go there for a long time!

We have been working on the itinerary. The more I work on it, the more excited I am about the trip. I am looking forward to exploring Yunnan with you!

The trip will be scheduled as a 10 day tour. We are planning for the tour to take place from April 12th through the 21st.

The highlights of this trip will include:

The city of MoJiang (Awoono's hometown) to visit Awoono's uncle who is tea farmer. We are hoping to pick tea with him and learn how to fire tea as well. We will also be visiting a Puer tea farm where the farmer has been practicing ecological/traditional ways of farming (no pesticides or chemical fertilizers). Awoono is making arrangements with him to show us how to press Puer cakes.

Then we will travel south to the Menghai region and visit a well-preserved tea forest. Awoono told me this is one of the best-preserved old tea trees areas. The tea trees there are from 200 to 1000 years old. I can't wait to hike through the tea forest! Then we will go to NanNuo Mountain to talk to some farmers and hunt for some more delicious Puer teas.

We will then return to Menghai city, just in time for one of the biggest festivals there. This celebration is observed throughout Southeast Asia, in such countries as Thailand, Laos, and Myanmar. In Yunnan, it's celebrated by the Dai tribe. Locals sprinkle water on each other, hoping to wash away the "old and bad" and to welcome in the new.

We are also planning to take participants to visit some locally-made pottery workshops. Clay pottery is a great way to store the precious tea cakes that you will be able to find during our trip. At the end of our tour, we plan to visit the beautiful old city of LiJiang.

There will be more details to come. Meanwhile, if you are interested in the tour, please contact me at so that I can make sure you get the latest news and updates about the this very special trip. Let's go to Yunnan together!

*photos provided by Awoono.

December Online Tea Class: Puer

Here is the date for December's online tea class:

December 14th (Sunday) at 10am Pacific Time

In this Puer tea class, I have two goals: one is to help the participants learn to taste Sheng Puer from young tea trees vs Sheng Puer from older tea tress. The second goal is to show participants how Shou Puer and Sheng Puer can be aged.

The teas that we are going to taste in this class are: a mini Shou Tuocha; a Shou Puer Cake from Jin Bo Da Shan (around 10 years old); a 2014 Sheng Puer from MengKu; a 2014 Sheng Puer Cake from Xia Jia Zai, and a Yin Hao Tuocha from the 80's.

For information on the materials you will need for this class and how to sign up for it, please refer to our previous Online Tea Class Post.

I look forward to sharing some tea with you soon!

Taiwan's Regional Teas: Oriental Beauty

Here is the talk that Stephanie and I gave on Oriental Beauty Oolong from NW Tea Festival.

Stephanie's take-on on Oriental Beauty:

"Oriental Beauty was my 'gateway tea' - meaning it was the tea that helped me get beyond simply drinking tea, and move into truly appreciating tea and studying the leaf. Bai Hao Oolong, or Oriental Beauty, is the tea that made me pay attention.

"I love everything about Oriental Beauty... its romantic story (most likely a fable), the multi-color of the dry leaves (5 colors can be found in a quality tea), the lovely color of the liquor, the aroma, the taste and the aftertaste. It's a very sensual tea.

"This heavily oxidized tea has a very unique and distinctive flavor profile. I find it to be sweet like stone fruit with a honey aroma. It's a rich tea with no bitterness - that's why I think it's a great tea to use when introducing someone to Oolong. This tea is also forgiving to brew."

And here are some facts about Oriental Beauty 東方美人 from me:

"Oriental Beauty is also known as: Bai Hao Oolong 白毫烏龍; Formosa Oolong 福爾摩沙; Champagne Oolong 香檳烏龍, and Pon Hong Te 椪風茶. The most famous places for production of Oriental Beauty are E-Mei 峨眉 and Bei Pu 北埔 of Xin Zhu County 新竹. A lot of Hakka-minority people live in these areas.

"Back in 1893, Taiwan exported around 9,630,000 kilos of tea. The United States used to have very high demand for Oriental Beauty. According to Dan Shui 淡水 customs records from 1881, tea exports to the United States alone accounted for over 90% of Taiwan total tea exports.

The highest grade of Taiwan's exported tea at that time was Oriental Beauty, the "Extra Choice" grade. It's known that many tea varietals and tea making techniques originated from China's Fujian province. However, there is some debate in Taiwan over Oriental Beauty's history, as some people don't believe the tea's production technique originally came from China. Instead, people believe that the technique was invented in Taiwan by accident (a coincidental and positive effect due to the special growing environment in Xin Zhu and Miao Li Counties).

"A unique aspect of Oriental Beauty Oolong is that it has to be "attacked" by Tea Jassids 小綠葉蟬 (an insect that some also call the Green Leafcutter), which show up around early June. Tea leaves that are attacked by Tea Jassids produce a particular "honey" and "ripe fruit" flavor. Oriental Beauty, like other Oolongs, go through the stages of: "picking 採摘;" "outdoor oxidation 室外萎凋;" "indoor oxidation 室內萎凋;" "kill green 殺菁;" "covering leaves with damp cloths 靜置回潤" (this step is the major difference between Oriental Beauty and other Taiwanese Oolongs); "rolling 揉捻;" "loosening up the leaves 解塊," and "drying 乾燥."

The key tea varietal for producing Oriental Beauty is Qing Xin Da Pa 青心大冇.

*photos provided by Stephanie Wilson.

Taiwan Regional Teas: Baozhong

In early October, Stephanie Wilson and I did a tea talk on Taiwanese Oolongs at the NW Tea Festival. We covered five Oolongs: Baozhong; Oriental Beauty; Dong Ding; Tieguanyin, and Alishan High Mountain Oolong.

Stephanie is a tea lover. She is very active in the tea community in Portland and writes a tea blog: Steph's Cup of Tea. She has also traveled to many tea regions. Last year, she joined my Taiwan Tea Tour. She helped me a lot to sort through many pictures she took in Taiwan, and during our tea talk, she talked about her thoughts on each tea region of Taiwan and how she feels about each tea, while I covered the history side of each tea. We worked together as a great team!

Stephanie's take on Pinglin and Farmer Chen:

"The light oxidation brings out the tea's sweetness and floral notes. I find it to be a soft tea. The color of the liquor is beautiful and translucent green/yellow. The best word I can think of to describe this tea is "innocence." That description works for this farmer, too. Farmer Chen was a joy to be with!
I have learned that the tea farmers and tea makers in Taiwan are very deeply skilled and devoted. For example, Farmer Chen has been making tea for 42 years. His specialty is open leaf style, that's how Baozhong is traditionally made. He has limited time to process in other ways, so when he is interested in making a rolled Oolong, he sends the tea off to someone who specializes in that style."

And here is some history background for Baozhong 包種:

"Wenshan 文山 Baozhong vs. Pinglin 坪林 Baozhong? Wenshan is a district. Wenshan includes Xindian 新店, Shiding 石碇, Pinglin 坪林, Shenkeng 深坑, and Xizhi 汐止. Currently, Pinglin is the most well-known production area for Baozhong.

Baozhong was believed to be invented by Wang Yichen 王義臣. He used the Wuyi Cliff tea method to make tea, wrapping tea leaves in rectangular-shaped paper, which he stamped the tea and company's name on. Baozhong tea means "the wrapped kind of tea".

Baozhong tea was a scented tea for quite a long time. When Taiwan tea exports were impacted by the bad economy, some tea merchants learned of scented tea from Fujian and sent materials to Fujian to be scented. Merchants later learned to scent Baozhong in Taiwan. In early 1900s, scented Baozhong was a huge export tea.

A historical record states that in 1885, Wang Shuijin 王水錦 and Wei Jingshi 魏靜時 arrived in Nangang 南港 and found the soil and weather condition to be suitable for tea growing. They started to establish tea growing, and it's believed that Nangang is the birth place of Baozhong in Taiwan.

Qingxin 青心 Oolong is considered to be the best varietal for Baozhong tea. However, one can find many different varietals that are grown in the Pinglin region."

Have fun reading! In the next post, I will write about our talk on Oriental Beauty Oolong.

*photos provided by Stephanie Wilson.

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