Sunday, January 7, 2007, 11:23 PM ( 11 views )Jan 07, 2007 - A lovely day in Houston! So lovely that I have to point my finger on Global Warming: "hey, it's you, bringing such a nice Spring Weather to us in the Winter time!"
I had planned to choose some oolongs to age (as for pu-erhs, yes I've had hundreds of kilos!). The 2006 Hong Shui Oolong seems to be a very good candidate: it's medium-high oxidized, light roasted (this I have to fix myself as shown later), the tea is full of juice with a good consistency and great clarity in liquor quality. As for roasting, before I can seal the tea into jars, I have to increase the roasting so (1) the tea quality is stable enough, (2) the mellowness will increase and improve over time.
To do the roasting, I use the Mini Roaster to do the first experiment. Once I am confident with the way to handle the roasting, I will use the large tea roaster (can handle 10lb at a time, at least) to finish all teas.
So, I started the mini roaster at 10:30AM, set dial to 80 and pre-warm for 5 mins. Then, changed the dial to 60.
Places about 4 oz of Hong Shui onto the metal mesh and spread evenly. Let the roaster ran on "60" and we left home for brunch at 10:45AM.
Came back around 12:00PM. The house was full of the aroma of oolong! I checked the condition of the teas; they looked OK. So I let the roaster ran another hour.
From 1:00PM to 3:00PM, the roaster was off to let the teas cooled naturally to room temperature. Then, turned on the roaster on dial "60". Roasted for another 2 hours.
5:30pm, turned off the roaster and let the teas cooled to room temperature. Once cooled, I tried a brew of the Hong Shui...
GREAT! I could detect the roasted feeling, a little sharp still, but it was natural as the teas had not been quenched/cooled enough. The original fruity and sweet aroma became more mature. The roasted feeling added a bit more depth to the body. No burnt smell so it is good.
Tomorrow I will do another 4~6 hours roasting job, and the tea will have even more significant difference. Will see how it come up after tomorrow to determine if I will do a third-day roasting.
Jan 08, 2007 - Finished 5-hour roasting in the evening ("60" X 2 hours, "80" X 1 hour, "60" X 2 hour). The roasted tea aroma filled up our house; I could smell the aroma in the second floor. After the 2nd-day roasting, the teas had a sweet and "rice-y" aroma. Will let them quench to tomorrow morning and do the brewing comparison to the original Hong Shui.
Friday, January 5, 2007, 12:33 PM ( 43 views )The title is a real comment from a dear customer of us. He bought quite a few "antique/old yixings" from an online auction place. When he found us, he was puzzled "Why mine have more tea stains than yous? How can an old teapot have no stain? And how could it be possible that mine, all having beautiful patina and tea stains, are faked?"
I asked a good friend of mine in Taiwan, who is also a fervent collector of yixings, to help me answer his questions - or the questions on many people's minds, as I don't have convenient access to ultrasound cleaning in Houston.
He, just like me, paid quite a few "tuitions" in the road of learning yixings. He kindly did an experiment for us: he chose one early R.O.C. zhu ni xiao pin (small piece) and one "tuition" "zhu ni" teapot which he bought in Taipei's famous Jiang-Guo Jade Market many years ago. Both have plenty of tea stains on them. And both have nice glossy surfaces.
The pictures below show the two teapots (left: genuine Early R.O.C. zhu ni, right: the "tuition" teapot) before and after ultrasound cleaning (be sure to click them to see Larger Images):
After cleaning, both were stripped off the stains. Now the result is very interesting: clearly, the genuine zhu ni still has its own beautiful almost glossy surface of glazed texture, while the other "tuition" teapot looks dull, new, lifeless.
He chose zhu ni vs. "zhu ni", because the contrast of before-after cleaning is most obvious. Other genuine early clays will also retain most of the creaminess after ultrasound cleaning, and never degrade to that lifeless/dull conditions.
You can imagine the early zhu ni, after this cleaning, will quickly improve its surface creaminess and jewelry-grade quality after some uses/seasoning. The other faked teapot, okey, it still is a real teapot, and you paid cheap for it (hopefully!), so that's it. But my sincere advice for such faked patina-loaded teapots: cleaning it very well, because those fakers are never shy to use whatever materials to produce those patina.
Huge amount of such faked teapots flood the antiques markets from Beijing, ShangHai, GuangZhou to Taipei, not to mention the popular online auctions sites. So now you see "tea stains does not necessary mean it is genuinely old".
The values of genuinely early pieces are their clays (some are extinct now), craftsmanship, and of coz rarity. Stain or not stain is almost not a concern. In fact, many old stains do not contribute to the beauty of such pieces, as you can see in the above picture. Cleaning them well and carefully re-seasoning them may actually improve its aesthetics/value.
We collect good yixings, not collect stains!
Sunday, December 24, 2006, 09:35 PM
Thanks so much for being with us through 2006. It has been a very challenging but overall fruitful year. The closing of our local Houston store in January was a heartbreaking experience. But it allowed us to spend more time with family (especially Yuan!) and focus on doing things that we really love and enjoy for Hou De online store ( - and not to worry about the store rent anymore : ).
We have probably the most passionate and professional group of customers comparing with all other tea stores. And most important of all, many of you become friends to us!
Wish we all find peace, warmth and joy in teas, and wish you and all your family a wonderful New Year in 2007.
Wednesday, December 6, 2006, 12:31 PM
Following the news of the No. issue "The Art of Tea" magazine, I was very excited to receive a copy of the issue today. I quickly browsed through the magazine, and my "woooww" just kept coming and coming : ) Nice, clean and very illustrative layout, loaded with high-quality pictures. No surprised that the ads page are just a few in No. 1 issue. Total 23 topics, covering pu-erh, oolongs, yixings, tea wares and accessories, history, and market news. Indeed a lot of interesting information.
Here I post pictures below to share with you some of the content:
Table of Content
(1) Travel to Ling-Cang, Yunnan
(2) Appreciating Pu-erh Tea with Reason
(3) 2006 Taipei Tea Expo
(4) Varieties of Formosa Oolongs
(5) The History of Old Taiwanese Tea Street (Oh, I love this article!)
(6) Deciding on an Yixing Teapot
(7) The Types of Purple Sand Ore and Clay (interview of a Yixing clay master)
(8) An Analysis of Moisture, Microbes, Storage of Pu-erhs
(9) Tea Review - Pu-erhs from 2000
I think, with some topics such as the interview of famous bamboo tea-accessory carver Ong Ming Chuan, Yixng Master Ho Dao-Hong, this magazine put good emphasis on the real "art" side of Teas. Other articles bring in-depth information about pu-erhs, Formosa oolongs, yixing and the clays. The tasting of several 2000 pu-erhs nicely records how pro-style tea tasting was done.
The width and depth of this issue are both impressive. For the first-ever try of an English Tea magazine, I believe it has done a great job! Several articles are translated from the Chinese-version magazines. Hope in the future we will see more and more original English articles in it.
Monday, December 4, 2006, 01:52 PM ( 1909 views )What makes the "88-Ching Beeng", in fact 1989/1990 #7542, be able to retain its milestone status, zealous collection pursuit and the premium price? It is not only more expensive than most, if not all, 80's pu-erhs, but its price also appreciated faster than most 80's.
The storage is the key.
An article in No. 16 issue of Pu-erh Teapot Magazine interviewed the owner Mr. Chen Kwok-Yee of Cha Yi Le Yuan (Best Tea House, HK) regarding his unique way of storaging/aging pu-erhs. Below is a picture showing the 88-Ching Beeng in the article:
You can see the healthy dark, clean and semi-glossy surface of the cake.
Mr. Chen discussed the unique "Sky Bridge" shelf design that not only maximized the total available storage spaces, but also kept the cakes in an "easy to breath" and clean environment.
Those that have to be stacked on the floor, he put a wooden support to keep the cake from contacting directly with the ground that might caused the cakes to absorb excessive moisture.