March 1, 2011
My home town, ShanXi, is located on a dry and high land, just north of the Yellow River. It was one of the origins of Chinese Culture, dating back to over 4000 years ago. Merchants from this area were famous in the history and once dominated Chinese market. They maintained a critical trading route from Southen China to Northen regions, all the way up to Russia. In the old days, horses were the major transportation means. Even today, the horse shoe marks are still visible on the historical trading route. They are still telling the stories of hardwork and long distance trip quietly, as if you can still hear the horse bell ringing in the wind.
It was one of ShanXi merchants started making one of important Dark Tea, An Hua Black Tea, in Hunan province and traded them to Northen China and eventually made Dark Tea famous. Although there other members of Dark Tea, An Hua Black Tea is almost always the firt come to mind when people refer to Dark Tea.
What is the dark tea anyway? First of all, the term of “Dark tea” may not be an accurate translation. We named them ‘Dark Tea” just so we can differentiate them from traditional black teas. The popular term of “Black Teas” used in most of the western countries is referring to the heavily oxidized teas, which brew red infusions, although the color of the leaves is black. Chinese name teas base on the color of infusions, instead of the leaf color. Therefore, the traditional black teas are called Red teas in China, referring to the red color infusions. Making things even more confusing, in China, there is a category of tea, called Black Teas. As you can image, these teas brew black or dark red infusions and their leaves are black too. If you can come up with a term that better describes this type of tea, please feel free to let us know.
A unique feature of dark tea is that these teas are fermented, instead of oxidized. Dark teas include An Cha (AnHui), Liu Bao Cha (GuangXi), Shou Puerh (YunNan), Tibetan Tea (SiChuan) and An Hua Black Cha (HuNan). Dark Teas have a long history, except of some of the new inventions, such as An Cha and Shou Puerh. Traditionally, Puerh is not fermented by manufacturers; but rather ages by itself. We call them Post-Fermenting teas.
Comparing to other type of teas, Dark Teas have lots of unique health benefits. Traditionally, they were sold mostly to areas where fewer vegetables were readily available. Dark teas are used to help digest meat. In some areas, such as Tibet, dark teas are necessities. Other benefits include lowering blood fat and cholesterol, reducing the chances of high blood pressure and other heart diseases, providing vitamins and antioxidants, preventing diabetes, reducing inflammation and preventing flu.
February 4, 2011
Yesterday was the Chinese New Year, marking the beginning of the Year of the Rabbit. Though I’m a day late in posting, the celebration extends beyond the first day for nearly two weeks. This is the most important holiday celebrated in China. Based on my limited understanding, there are several traditions including great food, time spent with loved ones, monetary gifts, and fireworks–all great makings of a perfect holiday. Unfortunately, there are certain restrictions on how we can celebrate here at Ku Cha. I’m sure the city would not tolerate a dead fish hanging outside our door (which is among the new year customs, according to Rong), and I’m sure there would be fines to pay if we lit fireworks outside the shop.
Even so, there are some activities we can take part in. For instance, it’s common to wear new clothes to symbolize a fresh start to the new year. Also wearing red, a lucky color in China, is typical. Most of the customs revolve around the hopes for good fortune and happiness in the new year. Part of that entails clearing out the old to make room for the new. This can be done physically, through a sort of “spring cleaning” (admittedly one of my personal favorite activities of this time of year). But it’s also the time of year to reconcile and forget old grudges. During this time, we can appreciate our family and close friends while sharing a good meal or cup of tea.
Another aspect of the new year involves the Chinese zodiac. As a rabbit, it is my year. Though I don’t put any stock in horoscopes, it is fun to read about the possibilities this year may bring. After doing a little research online, this site seems to be the most comprehensive, in case you were curious enough to read about your own sign.
Although I have no idea what this new year may bring, my hope is that tea continues to be an important pastime and source of enjoyment. Having renewed our commitment to this blog, we hope to share more of our personal tea-related experiences with you. If this is to be a lucky, happy, and healthy year, of course there must be more tea! I hope you’ll enjoy some with us. And if you are wondering what to drink in honor of the new year, we recommend Ba Bao Cha.
January 28, 2011
Happy New Year everyone! I hope you are all having a wonderful 2011 so far. Thanks for reading and I promise we’ll do our best best to bring you more posts this year.
I feel that I must apologize to all you loyal readers of this Ku Cha blog; our last post was November 2nd and that just isn’t fair to you. Holy smokes, though, November 2nd! Feels like ages ago, doesn’t it? Anyhow, all of us here at Ku Cha apologize for our lack of posts on this here blog, and (as I’ve previously said) will try to keep this blog updated more frequently this year.
With that out of the way, I feel I must apologize for one more thing. I lied to all of you. You probably don’t remember, but back on October 26th I wrote that my tea tastes were changing as the seasons were changing. This was an outright lie; while re-reading it myself, I couldn’t believe that I could even write such things.
I have been drinking black and puerh teas (in fact I’m drinking a large pot of Keemun Ho Ya right now, but that’s besides the point). The truth is that I have been drinking Green teas like a man possessed. Green teas, especially Chinese Green teas, have been my go-to teas this winter. So, I’m sorry for lying to you and I hope you’ll all forgive me.
Now, I still think that Meng Ding Yu Lu is one of the best green teas ever. I wrote about this tea back on June 3rd, and I my opinions of Meng Ding are still true (at least that’s one thing I didn’t lie about). On a side note, I thought that post was more recent than June 3rd, but the fact that I still love that tea almost a year later has to say something, right? Almost a year ago!? That sort of blows my mind; time sure does fly by. Anyhow, for this blog I wanted to write about another of my favorite green teas: Liu An Gua Pian.
Instead of boring you all with facts and history about this tea (to be completely honest, the only things I really know about this tea are that is comes from Anhui Province, that the name translates to Lu An Melon Seed, and that it tastes delicious). Well, there you go, I told you some facts (and one opinion) about the tea anyway.
For this blog I made Liu An Gua Pian Gong Fu style (you can about Gong Fu here, expertly written by one of our own I might add). I used 3 grams of tea and brewed it using a lidded cup called a Gai Wan. “Water Down the Ganges” by Prem Joshua and Manish Vyas was playing in the store, creating the perfect tea-brewing atmosphere. On a side, I feel like I’ve heard that song thousands of times just working in the store, but it’s actually a decent song so I don’t mind too much. After you’ve heard any song that many times it starts to get old, but if you have around 10 minutes (yes, it is a 10 minute long song) to spare you should check it out on youtube. If you hadn’t already noticed I get distracted with all these side thoughts, but that’s not important right now. What is important is the Liu An Gua Pian.
I thought it’d be cool to take you through my impressions of Liu An Gua Pian through 3 infusions. Before starting I first warmed up my Gai Wan, my pitcher, and my cup. Now, I’m not exactly sure of the water temperature for each infusion, but I can tell you that my water was not boiling and that each infusion was timed for one minute. I can also tell you that I brewed this tea with the lid off of the Gai Wan, so that the water could cool faster.
The first infusion brewed a color that made me think of a bright straw or hay grass. It had an aroma reminiscent of sweet asparagus and tasted really good. I find that the first infusion is lighter and sweeter than those that follow, and Liu An is no exception. The first infusion was light and sweet with a slightly nutty and pleasant aftertaste that sticks with you for a little while.
The second infusion had almost the same color as the first. My eyes might have been playing tricks on me, but I thought it looked slightly more vibrant than the first. The aroma had very subtle smokiness and slightly astringent undertones to it, but other than that was consistent with the first infusion. This time around the tea was not as sweet, instead it was more grassy with a sharper and brighter feel on the palate. It was not bitter, just more vibrant. It also made my mouth water when I was finished.
The third and final infusion was the lightest of the three, which is to be expected from a green tea. The color and aroma of the tea remained consistent with the other brews but much of the flavor was gone from the tea. It was very light, with an ever-so-subtle finish that was bright and leafy. Overall this is a very good tea that I’d be happy to drink on a daily basis. It is a silky and smooth tea that has a rich, sweet, and clean. Dare I say it could overtake Meng Ding Yu Lu as my favorite tea? Nah, probably not, but it does come very close.
The Chinese New Year is rapidly approaching; the year of the Tiger comes to a close and the year of the Rabbit begins on February 3rd. Stay tuned for a post about that.
If any of you are like me, then you really like the title of this post. I wish I could take credit for coming up with it, but alas, I did not. If you need help coming up with clever titles for papers or blogs, look no further than Hannah.
November 2, 2010
After longing for this year’s Fall Tie Guan Yin for a while, I was very excited to receive it yesterday finally! Not waste a second, I broke the bag and had my first taste of this tea. What a fine tea! That very first sip is so … speechless. The anxiety and exciteness accumulated up until that moment has gone, so fast, that only word can be uttered is a long “ah…” and my mind has returned to calmness all the sudden.
The longing for Tie Guan Yin has grown on me lately. It might be the season. After all, Fall is the season for Oolong tea. I heard a lot about people arguing which one is better: Spring teas or Fall teas. The conclusions are far from conclusive. Teas from both seasons are highly regarded. I guess teas in many ways are choosen to fit one’s mood, not the other way around.
I haven’t heard any other teas are so widely received than Tie Guan Yin. My mom is not so particular about any kind of teas; but she is particularly fond of Tie Guan Yin. Back to home in China, two teas are always around: Dragon Well and Tie Guan Yin. The tea market is also full of different small tea shops selling Tie Guan Yin, with young grils sitting in the middle of the room and separating rolled tea balls from the stems. The scene is so interesting and so profound, as it is so easy to forget how much labor has gone into this small cup of tea!
October 26, 2010
It seems that Fall is finally here; the leaves are changing and falling, Halloween decorations are going up, and the crisp air lets us know that Winter is just around the corner. The changing of the seasons also brings about another change in my life: my taste for different teas. During the summer I drank lots of green and oolong teas, but as the weather cools I find myself drawn towards darker teas.
Without consciously thinking about it, I have found that I have slowly gravitated towards black and puerh teas (especially Yunnan Gold and Nilgiri Frost). During the summer, while deciding which tea to drink I almost always chose green or oolong teas, Black tea never even really entered my mind. However, now it is somewhat the opposite. I am thinking more about black tea and less about green tea. Don’t get me wrong, I still very much enjoy drinking green teas and will drink them occasionally during the winter, just not as frequently as I have been up until now.
For me, cold weather just means that it is time to drink teas that will warm the body and I’m looking forward to getting back into the world of black tea.
October 19, 2010
September 29, 2010
Gong Fu Tea is a traditional way of preparing and serving tea in China. The term “Gong Fu” translates in this context to “taking time and care to do something well”. This way of brewing tea requires more action on the part of the tea drinker, but it also brings more subtleties out of each tea. In fact, the same leaves brewed over and over again can change significantly from the first steep to the last. Brewing Gong Fu is an awesome way to appreciate your teas from a different perspective. In a way, it can bring your passion for tea to a whole new level!
In Gong Fu, you brew the tea in a much smaller vessel – usually a Gai Wan (Chinese lidded porcelain cup) or a Yi Xing tea pot (made from special Chinese purple clay). The teas are brewed on a wooden tray with a small drawer underneath to catch spilled water. You use a pretty good amount of leaves and keep the steeping times short – usually around 30 seconds to 1 minute. Typically, one would use either Puerh tea or Oolong tea for Gong Fu, because these types of teas are usually rolled or compressed, which means they are ideal for multiple steepings. Some of my favorites are Tie Guan Yin Oolong, Da Hong Pao Oolong, and Lao Cha Tou Puerh.
Gong Fu starts by simply getting everything warmed up by pouring a small amount of boiled water into the pot, pitcher, and cups. Next, the tea is added to the pot and quickly rinsed with boiling water. The first steep of the tea is always to wash the leaves, and it is not consumed – it is poured right out. Next, you add water to the pot and let the tea steep for a short amount of time. The liquid is then poured either into a pitcher or directly into small drinking cups. This process is repeated many times until the tea begins to lose flavor and color. As you keep steeping the tea, steep times can increase so as to pull more flavor out of the leaves.
Come by Ku Cha sometime to try our authentic Gong Fu tea service! It is a great way learn more about tea and tea culture while rediscovering some of your favorite teas! So, I just have one question for you: Do you Gong Fu?
September 16, 2010
Boba Tea (often times called ‘Bubble Tea’ here in the USA) is an interesting and delicious drink. Boba tea is a blended tea, often times with milk, that has small pearls made of tapioca in the bottom. The word ‘boba’ refers to these pearls, which are drunk through a wide straw. Most boba are flavored with fruit syrup and sometimes with milk. One can also find boba teas blended with ice. Although we say bubble tea here referring to the tea with tapioca pearls, this can actually be considered incorrect. “Bubble Tea” refers to the shaken or frothy tea base and not the pearls.
Boba teas originated in Taiwan in the 1980s; it then spread through Southeast Asia, Canada, US Chinatowns and College towns. As a personal side, the first time I ever encountered boba was when I was going to college in upstate New York. The second time I saw it was here in Boulder on the Hill close to campus. To be fair, I haven’t spent too much time in any big Chinatowns, but it kind of blows my mind how popular boba tea has become on college campuses. Don’t get me wrong, I am a fan of boba tea, but I still can’t seem to put my finger on where that attraction lies.
The oldest known boba tea “consisted of a mixture of hot Taiwanese black tea, small tapioca pearls, condensed milk, and syrup or honey” http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bubble_tea. Two shops claim to be the original makers of boba tea. The first is Chun Shui Tong teahouse in Taichung, Taiwan. The owner of this establishment claims that his boba tea was not popular at first, but gained popularity after it was featured on Japanese TV. The other shop claiming to have created boba tea is the Hanlin teahouse in Tainan, Taiwan. The owner of this shop originally used white pearls, but soon changed them to the black ones we know and love today.
Although there seems to be some disagreement about which teahouse did create boba, I think we can all agree that boba tea is loved by many and is here to stay.
Here at Ku Cha we have been making boba tea all summer; we have four different flavors, all of which use a real tea base (no syrup or artificial sweeteners here). As base teas, we offer a Mango green tea, an Osmanthus Oolong tea, Rooibos Provence, or a more traditional milk boba made with black tea and milk. Stop by to try one sometime!
August 31, 2010
Often at Ku Cha—indeed on a daily basis—we are asked about Puerh. Puzzled customers look at the cakes of tea on the wall and ask, “Do you actually drink this?” Even after explaining the gist of Puerh, I realize that it’s a complex, mysterious and fascinating type of tea. After doing a little research, I thought I would share what I have learned.
When describing teas, many people use the word “fermented” instead of “oxidized” to explain the difference between green and black tea. However, Puerh is the only type of tea that is actually fermented, meaning it undergoes a microbial process involving several kinds of bacteria. As with any category of tea, there is much room for variation. However, there are a few generalizations that can be made. For one, Puerh is exclusively from the Yunnan Province. In fact its name derives from the county where it is famously distributed. Also, Puerh is made from the assamica variation of the Camellia sinensis plant, a larger and more sturdy leaf than that of the sinensis variation. Though Puerh can be sold as loose leaf tea, it is often compressed into beeng cha (round cakes) or an array of other shapes. Historically, it was compressed to make the leaves less bulky and thus the transport easier.
There are two main types of Puerh: Sheng (a.k.a. raw or green) and Shou (a.k.a. cooked or ripe). The designation of type is based on manufacturing variations. Both types of Puerh start the same way. After the leaves are harvested, they are cleaned, sorted and left to air-dry for a short time. Afterwards, the leaves are fired to remove excess moisture.
In making Sheng Puerh, the leaves are fired enough to kill the enzymes (to prevent oxidation) but not enough to remove all moisture, which is necessary for the fermentation process. The leaves are then piled in heaps on the floor and allowed to ferment. During this time, the leaves are watched carefully and turned at regular intervals. The leaves in the middle of the pile ferment well due to lack of oxygen and high heat (great conditions for the microbial activity). At this stage, the leaf is called “Mao Cha.”
The Mao Cha is compressed and stored in specific conditions that will allow the aging (post-fermentation) to continue. Traditionally, it would be stored in caves. However, these conditions can be simulated in modern storage facilities that control humidity and air circulation. Compressed cakes that have aged about six years then become “dry storage naturally aged” Sheng Puerh.
The above process takes years. And with the worldwide demand for and a limited supply of ready-to-consume Puerh, tea makers in the 1970s developed an artificial aging process and Shou Puerh was born. The initial stages of the production of Shou Puerh are the same as the Sheng processes listed above. However, the Mao Cha is not as dry and the leaves are allowed to oxidize. After the leaves are compressed, they are stored in conditions above 80% humidity and occasionally even wetted down. This increased moisture expedites the fermentation process and makes the tea ready to drink after only two or three years.
Taste greatly depends on the type of puerh. Sheng Puerh can be slightly astringent, yet sweet, with a straw-like or woody flavor. Shou is typically heavier, smoother, and more earthy and pungent. We have a great selection of Puerh worth exploring. If you have yet to experience Puerh, or if you are a Puerh aficionado, stop by to taste a bit of this exotic and delicious tea!
August 26, 2010
We here at Ku Cha have been working tirelessly for weeks on end to bring you the finest in tea humor. Enjoy!
What happens when you ask Puerh for directions?
What did the Puerh say to the Puerh look alike?
“You aren’t Fu Lin anyone!”
How did the Taiwanese Oolong humiliate the other Chinese Oolongs?
He showed them the size of his Dong Ding!
What happened to the guy who loved Oolong too much!
He had his name changed to ‘Dan Chong‘.
What is the Tea drinkers favorite dance?
The Cha Cha Cha!
What happened to the guy who drank too much tea?
Did you hear about the woman who was eaten alive by bugs?
Yeah… its a shame, she was a real Oriental Beauty
So… I hope you enjoyed it! Hope you had as much fun reading them as we did making them up! Thanks for reading.