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Tea Masters

Updated: 2018-02-21T22:25:02.238+08:00


Chinese New Year vacation starting now


 A quick post to inform you that I've started my Chinese New Year vacation. The online tea boutique is still open, but I won't be able to make any delivery before February 21st.
Stay warm and cheerful with great tea!

Tea postcards 2018


What is itt?
Every year, I select my 12 best pictures and then let you vote for the best ones on Facebook. This helps me select the pictures I turn into postcards. Here you see all the postcards that are currently available and that I add to your tea orders as little gifts (2 at a time usually). Below, on top, you can see this year's latest 2 postcards: another Chaxi on the beach and a sunset on Qilin lake at the slope of Dong Ding's Oolong plantations.
Vive la tour Eiffel!
In exactly a week, I will start my Chinese New Year vacation. This means I won't ship any order between February 8th and 20th. And, like every winter, I'll head to south Taiwan to enjoy tea on a white sand beach near Kenting. Expect some more pictures like this year's most liked photograph:

I also plan a visit to the southern branch of the National Palace Museum in Chiayi. It has a permanent exhibition about the art and culture of tea in Asia called 'The far-reaching fragrance of Tea'.
Emperor Qianlong's Yixing teapot

Winter 2017 Oriental Beauty from Hsin Chu county


The cradle of Oriental Beauty Oolong is located in the small adjacent towns of Beipu and Emei in Hsin Chu county. That's where I visited one of my farmer's beautiful plantations of Qingxin Dapang tea trees last week. Not only is the plantation located on the slopes of a nearby hill (which helps drain excess water from the field), but it's also grown in organic fashion. We can see that the trees are sparse and surrounded by other plants.While many tea trees see their flowers wilt within days of their bloom, the Qingxin Dapang flowers can last 1 month. I wonder how honey made from tea flowers tastes like?! Would it have some tea scent?There are also a few banana trees next to this plantation! It's a joy to see tea trees so well integrated in this diverse flora.Since natural farming means that you let sick and old trees die (instead of treating them with various chemicals), you also need to plant new trees to replace the old. This is what the farmer has recently done on this plantation. He has cut twigs from healthy trees and planted them in the soil so that they would produce roots and grow into identical trees. 2 examples below:This method requires more effort from the farmer and assumes that the cut branch is healthy. He had to dig holes and bring lots of water to water the planted branches. But this method is sustainable and ensures that what he plants is suited for this place.It's an important point to grow the cultivar most suitable to your terroir (the natural environment that is formed by the soil and the climate). In fall 2012, I tasted over 10 different OBs made from different cultivars and concluded that Qingxin Dapang is, indeed, the best cultivar for this type of Oolong. That's the reason why this cultivar is most used in Hsin Chu county where farmers specialize in this process.Winter 2017 Oriental BeautyAs I visited the farmer who produced my 2016 summer Oriental Beauty tradition, I tasted several of his teas and was most thrilled with this winter Oriental Beauty:It was harvested by hand in Guanxi (near HsinChu, Taiwan) on October 26th and had just been lightly roasted. This production batch came in a bag of 2.5 kg (only!) The nice thing about it is that it's not blended. That's why its taste feels so pure and the aromas are so clear and clean!I also liked the fact that you could taste the winter character in this OB. Since the weather is cooler, less sunny, the oxidation level of the leaves is lower than in summer. The fragrances have higher notes and are more perfume like. I used barely 2 grams in my silver teapot. Since it's made of buds and recently roasted, I didn't let the tea brew long. That's why the first brew looks rather pale. But its fragrance is magnificent!It's also a beauty, but a different beauty. It is more pure, refined and elevated. The taste is sweet and clean, but still a little bit dry due to the roasting. Like the 2016 summer OB tradition, this is also an Oolong that is going to improve with time.The next brews had more richness and sweetness, but still with this wonderful purity and clarity that is visible in the brew! That's why I chose a branch of raw cotton on my Chaxi as a symbol for this natural purity.My brewing advice for this winter OB is to use fewer leaves, a slow pour and rather short brewing times in order to emphasize the lightness and refinement of its character. It's also a very good tea for aging.[...]

Hiver, le froid entoure la nature


2017 top puerh cru sauvage de vieux théiers
Inspiration d'hiver.

Le chabu vert et le bambou sont le printemps qui commencent à poindre. Ce sont 3 jours  ensoleillés (comme les coupes) qui suivent des jours frais et sombres (le long tissu bleu et noir).

Des bourgeons blancs (comme neige) de thé puerh sauvage sont les enfants du dernier renouveau saisonnier (au printemps 2017). Je les infuse dans une théière zhuni rouge de couleur festive et chaleureuse sur une assiette qinghua bleu et blanche comme glace.
Le thé chaud nous fait du bien, mais il s'apprécie d'autant plus qu'il fait froid! Les choses qui s'opposent ont besoin l'une de l'autre pour exister et se mettre en valeur.

Ainsi sans froid il n'y aurait pas de bonnes feuilles: le froid de l'hiver oblige les théiers au repos, réduit la prolifération d'insectes nuisibles, la fraicheur de la nuit dans les plantations préserve les arômes les plus fins, et le froid matinal condense la rosée qui nourrit les feuilles en l'absence de pluie. Et finalement, le froid préserve la fraicheur des feuilles de thé qu'on conserve chez soi.
Finalement, un bon thé chaud nous donne le souffle frais! C'est le cas ici tellement le palais est clean et pur après une coupe de ce puerh. Le plaisir du thé est aussi affaire de contrastes!
Le fin mot de ce Chaxi, comme dirait Raphaël Enthoven sur Europe1: L'harmonie n'est pas monotone!

2018 Dong Pian


The first Oolong of 2018 is here already thanks to a warm January in central Taiwan!Cultivar: Si Ji ChunOrigin: Mingjian in Nantou countyHarvested by machine on January 11th, 2018Process: lightly oxidized Oolong, rolled, dried but not roasted.Here, I brew 5 grams in a mini gaiwan and drink it in Michel François's celadon cup. The idea behind this choice of ware is that this is a light, everyday Oolong that can be drunk in a big cup without the complexity of having several small cups. I also prefer this setup to using a chahai (pitcher) and a cup, since having a big cup means only 1 transfer (gaiwan to cup) instead of 2 (gaiwan to chahai to cup) and this means less heat loss.Besides, the celadon color for the gaiwan and the cup enhances and clarifies the fresh hue of the brew. This is a good fit for a freshly harvested and lightly oxidized Oolong. The green chabu with plum flowers is a symbol for the resilient plants that grow during winter and give their finest scents. The late winter, Dong Pian harvest produces the sweetest and lightest aromas of Si Ji Chun of the year! (The reason is simple: the winter weather conditions in Mingjian are similar to spring in the high mountains: sunshine during the day and cool temperatures at night).And, in the picture above, we can see that the leaves have some red edges: the oxidation level isn't too green and this also explains the sweetness of the brew.  Si Ji Chun sums up well the weather in Taiwan: it's always spring, green and full of life![...]

The Question Mark Chaxi


For this week's tea class, Ms. Zhang came up with this Chaxi for a high mountain Oolong from Qilai. Since she doesn't have a dedicated Chabu, she thought of using her grey 'meditation blanket' and a purple fabric on top. The material and color of these 2 fabrics is very suitable for a cold winter day. Ms. Zhang said she often puts this blanket on her knees to keep her warm at her desk when it's particularly cold. This adds a personal, intimate touch to her Chaxi. It's very much in the 'Mitate spirit' I spoke about 2 days ago to divert an object from its original purpose and find a new use for it in our Chaxi.Usually, we like to have some flowers or plant on the Chaxi to link the tea experience to the fleeting beauty of nature. Ms. Zhang did without on her Chaxi. Except the wares, the only decoration on her Chabu is this framed question mark in the right corner of her meditation fabric:This question mark is a symbol to remind her that a Chaxi is also a good moment to check on yourself and ask if you're satisfied with your life, your job, your friendships... A fresh high mountain Oolong clarifies the mind as well as the palate! It's also likely to provide a warm, benevolent feeling that can help you answer your questions with a compassionate attitude. Making tea for oneself (and others) should be a very relaxing and pleasing experience. It's in such a state of mind that we are most likely to find positive answers to our questions. And a calm mind produces a steady hand and a steady pour in the teapot which in turn produces a sweeter and more harmonious cup of tea. That's a very basic and practical reason why a zen spirit and tea go hand in hand.The question mark is also a good symbol for not taking anything for granted and question everything in your Chaxi:- How well did I brew my leaves?- In case I'm not pleased, is the bad taste due to the leaves, to my brewing, to my (faulty) accessories, to the quality of the water?- How can I improve my tea experience?- What's the taste of a great tea?- What does a Chaxi add to my tea experience?- Is this Chaxi a reflection of my personality, my creativity?- Should I have fixed parameters for the weight of the leaves, the water temperature, the brewing time or should I adapt these parameters to each new tea and situation?- (Insert your question here!) ...Now, here are pictures of the Chaxi I told you lately, where I used too many leaves of this wonderful top Hung Shui Oolong from Dong Ding from this winter. When I realized that my first brews were too intense, I was partially able to salvage the later brews by drastically cutting the brewing time. This led me to recognize again this simple truth that 'less is more' is often true in tea. And that quality supersedes quantity.In this blog, among others, I try to show and tell how I'm answering some of the questions I've listed above. There are many ways to brew tea and very few are wrong, because if they were the brewers would realize and change. But many methods come with trade offs to make it easy (by using a Chahai), quick, casual... because time is limited, because you're brewing in the office or on the road... The Chaxi I find worthwhile sharing, on the other hand, are my attempts to make the most of my tea moments and provide a complete experience for the senses and the creative mind. How great can this moment become if I put all my passion? How can I create a Chaxi that answers the question: where would I rather be now? with "here!"There should be no better place to brew tea than at home![...]

Une leçon de Hung Shui Oolongs


Comment apprendre le thé? Comme pour le vin, c'est en le dégustant et en sachant exactement ce que l'on déguste. Si l'on est débutant, on commencera par goûter à des thés de familles différentes (blanc, vert, Oolong, rouge, puerh par exemple). Mais pour progresser, on concentrera sa leçon sur des thés plus précis, plus proches les uns des autres afin d'apprécier ces petits détails qui changent avec des feuilles différentes bien que similaires.Pour cette leçon focalisée sur les Hung Shui Oolongs de Taiwan, j'ai préparé 2 Chaxi. Celui ci-dessus est pour mon élève (il a un plateau qinghua en porcelaine sous les tasses afin de ne pas tacher le Chabu). Mon Chaxi ci-dessous n'a pas de plateau. Mon challenge sera donc de ne pas renverser de thé sur le tissu brun pendant mes infusions. Nous commençons par le top Hung Shui Jinxuan de Dong Ding de cet hiver. Je montre comment une verse douce et lente (lors des 2 premières infusions) permet de donner de la profondeur et de la pureté à un Oolong récemment torréfié. On aurait pu simplement appelé ce thé un Dong Ding Oolong, puisqu'il vient de Dong Ding et qu'il est torréfié comme ils le sont traditionnellement. Si je préfère le nom "Hung Shui" (eau rouge), c'est car c'est le nom technique des Oolongs torréfiés à la façon de Dong Ding. C'est un nom plus exact, car il y a 2 phénomènes qui brouillent la signification du nom Dong Ding Oolong:1. avec la popularité des Oolongs frais, non torréfiés, on produit aussi des Oolongs non torréfiés dans la région de Dong Ding. (Celui-ci est un bon exemple d'Oolong bien oxydé, mais pas torréfié),2. le concours de Dong Ding est ouvert à tous les fermiers de l'ile pourvu que le thé soit produit selon le mode Hung Shui, si bien que les gagnants de ce concours 'Dong Ding' proviennent souvent des hautes montagnes de Shan Lin Xi ou de Lishan.Ensuite, nous avons infusé le top Hung Shui de Dong Ding de cet hiver également. Sa torréfaction était un peu plus légère, ses feuilles plus vertes et surtout plus petites. Cette taille réduite est due au cultivar qingxin Oolong et au fait que les feuilles furent cueillies relativement tôt. En haute montagne, par contre, on remarqua que les feuilles de qingxin Oolong de ce Hung Shui Oolong de compétition de Shan Lin Xi sont plus matures et longues. Nous remarquons aussi que le style 'compétition' est plus fortement torréfiées que mon batch de Dong Ding d'hiver 2017 dont la fraicheur est particulièrement bien préservée. La famille des Hung Shui Oolongs recouvre un large spectre de torréfactions et d'oxydations. Avec ces deux variables, il est possible de produire des thés avec des arômes très différents: un mélange de fruits mûrs, de miel et de mélasse, ou bien de céréales grillées comme le malt ou le riz soufflé, parfois si intenses qu'on dirait du whisky (sans l'alcool!) Parfois, il y a encore une certaine fraicheur sous-jacente quand la torréfaction est bien faite. L'autre particularité des Hung Shui, c'est que leurs feuilles se conservent bien dans le temps. C'est pourquoi il est intéressant de goûter à 2 styles de Hung Shui bonifiés:Hung Shui Oolong de 2003 et 19791. (A gauche) Un Hung Shui Oolong de Dong Ding de 2003. Celui-ci n'a pas été retorréfié depuis 2003, et c'est pourquoi ses feuilles apparaissent plus vertes que celles du2. Hung Shui Oolong de Dong Ding de 1979 qui a un degré de torréfaction plus important et dont les feuilles sèches ont eu le temps de s'ouvrir.Bien que ces 2 thés âgés aient perdu leur odeurs torréfiées, il vaut mieux les infuser tout doucement afin d'accentuer la longueur en bouche. On voit clairement que les feuilles de 2003 s'ouvrent très bien et que l'infusion couleur or démontre un très bel équilibre. Au nez, ce Hung Shui Oolong d'une quinzaine d'année a complètement perdu ses senteurs torréfiées. A la p[...]

Dong Ding finesse


Winter 2017 Top Hung Shui Oolong from Dong Ding It's difficult to brew tea perfectly. I confess that it doesn't happen as often as I'd like. It's a constant challenge and I'm the first to notice when I merely brewed a good rather than a great cup of tea. But that's also what makes tea so interesting. And that's what I try to show to people who come to have tea with me, that when we are brewing the same tea we get different results. If my cup is better, it's because I have been spent a lot of time to improve my brewing technique. I even wrote a  guide to share what I've learned!When I notice in the blog that my cup is better, my point is not to show off but to make my readers realize that the brewing is essential. This is something that is difficult to experience when you brew alone, but it's something that I'm tasting at every tea class: a tea can go from flat, average to deep and excellent just through the proper way of pouring water inside the teapot!But sometimes the problem lies somewhere else. Usually, for gongfucha, tea prepared in a small teapot, the more (roasted Oolong or puerh) leaves, the better, because the tea will taste more concentrated and intense. In that spirit, I brewed this top Hung Shui Oolong from Dong Ding with a fair amount of leaves last week. I found the result quite disappointing (too rough and to strong), even when brewing the leaves for a very short time with this same Duanni teapot. This time, I drastically reduced the amount of leaves for my brews. (See above). Instead of weighing the leaves, I use a very small antique qinghua plate to display the leaves I was about to brew. Usually, the rule is to roughly cover the bottom of the teapot with dry leaves. This time it was just half covered.While pouring water in the teapot, this small qinghua plate can also be used to place the lid on it. This small plate must have had a different purpose when it was made some 100 years ago. Using it to display/measure the leaves and for the lid is what the Japanese would call a Mitate (見立て) whereby the tea master finds a new, tea related purpose in a Chaxi for an ordinary object.With fewer leaves and slow brews, this Dong Ding Oolong was able to express all its finesse, sweetness combined with its underlying freshness. Now it's close to perfection, I thought! The roasting aromas and the tea aromas are in harmony and not overshadowing each other. And the tea feels alive, dancing on the palate, sweet in the throat and slowly melting away.I also had a very beautiful Chaxi for my failed brews last week. But I was glad that this one is even nicer and that it includes the latest tea postcard that you helped me choose on Facebook as my newest gift for purchases on www.tea-masters.comOn this postcard we can see Qilin lake and Oolong plantations that are part of the Dong Ding village where Dong Ding Oolong started!Addendum: the open leaves after the brews. They are quite small and therefore well concentrated.[...]

Dark Oolong for a dark hour


Despite the title of this article, this isn't a Chaxi devoted to the movie about Winston Churchill. In my previous article I found inspiration in a book by Alexandre Dumas and I could also do one about Chuchill. The last lion, Winston Spencer Churchill Alone, by William Manchester, is one of the few books I brought along when I moved to Taiwan in 1996... For a Churchillian Chaxi I would definitely use my teapot with a painted lion that dates back to a different time!But this Chaxi is literally and simply about a tea after sunset. Chinese New Year is approaching and the cold outside temperatures require some red color and fire to warm us up here in Taipei. That's also why I chose a roasted Oolong (from Wuyi) for this special Chaxi since I'm using charcoal to heat the water in my silver kettle..A small Yixing zhuni teapot from the 1980s is perfect for this tea. The clarity and purity of this tea is simply amazing.I get to use my celadon ewer when I'm using charcoal, because it's faster not to fill the kettle to the top, but adding enough water for each brew.Once the Nilu is up to speed with the glowing charcoal, the water comes quickly to a boil again. The trick is that it's the kettle to should generate steam while the charcoal shouldn't smoke.The result is that we are transported back in time to ancient China with this traditional tea and accessories.And now I feel so warm that I'm taking off my jacket! A good roasted Oolong will make you feel warm...[...]

La Reine Margot et un thé de la concubine


 Il n'est pas question de thé dans 'La Reine Margot' de Dumas, mais cela ne l'empêche pas d'être un roman historique captivant de la première à la dernière page. J'ai eu envie de créer ce Chaxi pour rendre hommage à ce livre! En effet, on peut trouver partout de l'inspiration pour un Chaxi, une cérémonie de thé. La plupart du temps, c'est la saison ou le thé choisi qui s'offre comme point de départ. Cette fois, j'ai eu envie de me souvenir de ce livre dans mon blog, car j'aime bien partager tout ce qui me procure du plaisir. Le thé permet si bien de prolonger le plaisir intellectuel par le plaisir des sens (odorat, goût et la vue) que la composition d'un Chaxi de ce livre se construit avec la même logique que l'histoire du roman.Au centre du roman, il y a donc Marguerite de Valois, la femme d'Henri de Navarre. C'est une femme très libre et amoureuse. Elle a 2 amants et un mari, et c'est pourquoi je choisis un Oolong Concubine semi-sauvage âgé de quelques années. En effet, pour un roman historique je trouvais qu'il valait mieux déguster un thé qui a eu le temps de se bonifier avec le temps au point de devenir un classique! Pour le Chabu, je choisis un tissu de couleur rose, couleur féminine de l'amour. La porcelaine blanche de Dehua correspond historiquement à la porcelaine destinée à la cours royale (un siècle plus tard environ, avec l'arrivée du thé en Europe. (Remarque: il n'est pas question de thé dans la Reine Margot, mais Dumas parle de porcelaine japonaise dans le roman 'La Dame Monsoreau' qui fait suite à la Reine Margot. Or, le Japon ne produisait pas encore de porcelaine durant le règne d'Henri III. Si Dumas fait cette erreur, c'est que le Japon était très à la mode au milieu XIX ème siècle, lorsque Dumas écrivit ce livre). La porcelaine blanche Dehua fonctionne très bien avec le Oolong torréfié et lui donne une couleur chaleureuse plus intense encore.L'utilisation de ma théière Yixing zisha de la dynastie Qing s'imposa naturellement. Sa décoration falangcai bleu et blanc représente notamment un lion, symbole de royauté. Et sa glaise zisha est parfaite avec un Oolong torréfié!Le Chatuo ciselé me fait penser aux armures des gentilshommes qui partent au combat.Mais l'accessoire qui correspond le mieux au XVI ème siècle est ma jarre qinghua de la dynastie Ming (1368-1644). Ce Chaxi est donc l'occasion idéal de me servir de cette jarre dont Catherine de Médicis, la mère de Margot, aurait pu se servir pour entreposer un de ses nombreux poisons! Catherine de Médicis et le parfumeur René étaient dangereux comme une araignée!Mais le poison le plus fatal dans cette histoire, c'est un sentiment intemporel: la haine. En effet, le roman commence avec les massacres des Huguenots durant la Saint-Barthélemy! Heureusement, on trouve aussi beaucoup d'amour et de nobles sentiments dans ce roman qui fait revivre l'histoire de France sans occulter ses zones d'ombre.[...]

Tea photography clues to select an online tea seller


Spring 2017 High Mountain Oolong from Bi Lu Xi Obviously, tea photography is very important for online tea selling, since customers can only see the products on their screen. Good pictures of the dry leaves, of the brew and of the open leaves also provide a lot of information about what the customer is looking for in terms of oxidation level, size of the leaves (linked to elevation for Oolong), the shape of the leaves (ie the cultivar)...When I opened my online tea boutique a few years ago, I found out it's actually more tricky to make consistent nice pictures of tea leaves, brews and open leaves than beautiful pictures of a Chaxi like in this article. However, I keep trying my best and each tea has its own set of pictures for the dry leaves, the brew and the open leaves. They are never the same, because none of these teas are the same.I've noticed that not all online tea boutiques work that way. Several boutiques are using the very same picture for different teas. I'm not going to name names (the list might become very long!) But I find it interesting to spot this kind of problem if you're potential customer planning to make a tea purchase. If you see the same picture for 2 different teas, this means that you're not sure anymore to which tea the pictures actually refer to. And if this vendor is willing to recycle his pictures for different teas, how do you know that any of his pictures are actually of the tea he's selling? Maybe they are all from previous seasons? Since pictures are the most important thing you can use to judge a tea online, isn't it a major breach of trust to use wrong pictures?So, a quick observation can help you to spot if there are duplicate pictures for different teas on a tea boutique. This will help you discard lots of careless merchants.How else can pictures on a boutique or a blog help you select a good tea provider? Are they inspiring? Do they show a deep interest in tea? Do they also show a good understanding on how each type of tea is best brewed? For instance, for this high mountain Oolong from Bi Lu Xi (near Da Yu Ling), I'm using light celadon singing cups, a zhuni teapot and a blue flower chabu to emphasize the freshness of this very high mountain spring Oolong. The same Chaxi wouldn't match a shu puerh or a fully oxidized tea for reasons that should be obvious to regular readers of my blog.I hope you'll find this advice helpful![...]

Débuter 2018 par un puerh de 1988


La nouvelle année commença par quelques bris de feuilles de puerh de 1988 au fond de ma théière Yixing zisha en forme de buche. Cela semble peu, mais ce fut suffisant pour quelques excellentes infusions puissantes et raffinées aux senteurs de camphre et d'encens. Ce n'est pas tous les jours que je savoure un puerh de 30 ans... Il me renvoie à mes années lycée en France quand le bloc communiste d'Europe de l'Est existait encore. Que de chemin parcouru (plutôt) pacifiquement depuis 1988!

Mon plus grand voeu est que cette paix continue à se maintenir les 30 prochaines années!
Parfois, je me prête à rêver que le Chaxi pourrait devenir un outil de paix et d'harmonie sur terre. En effet, la Chine a désormais atteint la taille et la puissance critique pour influencer en bien ou en mal l'avenir de l'humanité. Comment convaincre les dirigeants Chinois de vous entendre, de vous écouter? Dans mon rêve, cela commencerait par un dirigeant Occidental qui sache d'abord comprendre le breuvage Chinois et universel par excellence, le thé. En sachant préparer le thé mieux que la plupart des Chinois, il gagnerait leur admiration et leur respect. En effet, je ressens beaucoup de bienveillance chez tous les Taiwanais qui me voient déguster du thé autour d'un Chaxi harmonieux. Le thé m'a permis de très bien m'intégrer dans ma belle famille et parmi mes amis de thé Taiwanais. Je suis certain que le Chaxi pourrait être un outil formidable pour gagner la confiance des Chinois! 
En ce début 2018, je souhaite donc que le thé continue de tisser des liens d'amitié solide entre producteurs et buveurs, entre dégustateurs professionnels et amateurs, entre Chinois et Taiwanais, entre Macron et Xi Jinping...

The year 2017 in 12 pictures


If you're reading this blog on a big screen, I recommend you enjoy the pictures in big size on the TeaMastersphoto blog I launched this year.It's been very humbling and inspiring to meet photographer, artist... Stéphane Barbéry in October. He did to me what artists do: he pushed back the boundaries of what's possible. The pictures serve the goal of this blog: sharing with you the universal beauty tea inspires!Please go on my Facebook page to vote for your favorite picture and help me choose as my new tea postcard gift for 2018.December: The top 10 articles of 2017November: Wenshan tea in NovemberOctober: La quête de la beauté universelle du théSeptember: Jasmine tea's many secretsAugust: Brothers in teaJuly: Summer Chaxi in a garden in AlsaceJune: Out of the blueMay: Alishan Spring 2017 Oolong HarvestsApril: Spring afternoon, ready the teaMarch: Le printemps à TaiwanFebruary: Chaxi on the beachJanuary: Winter 2016 Dong Ding Oolong competitionClick on these links for the pictures of 2016, 2015, 2014, 2013, 2012, 2011, 2010, 2009 , 2008 and 2007.[...]

The top 10 articles of 2017


I hope you've spent a wonderful Christmas with your family and loved ones! Did all your wishes come true? I know it can be tricky to be known as a tea lover and then unwrapping a gift package filled with passion fruit scented tea bags! That's where Chinese red envelops filled with cash are a much more practical gift (as it lets you make your own tea order on just after Xmas!)  Before I list the 10 articles with most views (according to Blogger), I wish to say 2 words about the declining number of articles on the blog. Actually, most of the reduction comes from the fact that now I also post pictures from my mobile phone on Instagram exclusively, that there are some social interactions that I just put on my private Facebook page, and that I would publish more commercial information on my TeaMasters FB page. This takes more time than simply copy/pasting the same content on all media, but I think it makes it less boring for you and me. Besides, this year I also wrote a new 50+ pages long e-book about the Chinese ceramics of the British Museum (also available in French). So, all in all, I think I had a pretty productive year!And here are the top 10 articles of 2017:10. The 2017 Chinese Porcelain Exhibition of the Tea Institute at Penn State. Day 3: black glazed bowls. Teaching tea with Teaparker in PA.9. Jasmine tea's many secrets. Made from real jasmine flowers!8. Winter 2016 Dong Ding Oolong competition. Tasting the best Dong Ding Oolongs.7. The 2 most common green tea brewing mistakes. Too many leaves, wrong water.6. La modernité du thé de la dynastie Song. On n'a rien inventé.5. The Dong Ding Oolong and WuYi Yan Cha Connections. WuYi's inspiration.  4. Winter Alishan Zhuo Yan Oolong. Insect bitten.3. What is there to learn about tea? More than a lot!2. Hong Kong, 20 years later. The end of a business model.1. The purest form of gastronomy is Tea. Tea and food connections.[...]

Puer natus est


Noël! Noël! L'enfant est né! Vous imaginez bien que si j'ai choisi la phrase latine, puer natus est, c'est parce que j'ai choisi d'infusé du puerh pour célébrer Noël avec mes amis en thé. Je n'ai malheureusement que la photo ci-dessus de mon Chaxi, car j'étais trop occupé par la préparation du thé. Mais dans la photo ci-dessous, nous pouvons voir l'infusion lors d'une séance d'entrainement chez moi.Mon choix d'un puerh cru ancien en vrac a pour but de me faire voyager dans le temps et de retourner en enfance, quand les Noëls étaient magiques et d'une joie innocente sans faille. Ce n'est pas tant que c'était mieux autrefois, mais que c'était plus simple de croire au père Noël, aux anges qui annoncent Jésus aux bergers... quand on est enfant que quand on est adulte. La dégustation d'un puerh vieux et si pur et si délicieux est un petit miracle qui ouvre la porte à l'imagination. En plus, j'ai la parfaite théière pour l'occasion: une Yixing antique (fin de la dynastie Qing) en forme de buche! Elle est décorée de fleurs de prunus (symbole de résistance à l'hiver) et sa décoration avec des émaux de couleur (falangcai) vert, jaune, bleu et rose convient assez à le décoration bariolée de Noël. Mais surtout, cette théière a une glaise zisha fine, assez poreuse, légèrement sous cuite qui arrondit et intensifie bien le goût du puerh cru ancien. Après le puerh, une amie a préparé du thé rouge dans une théière dorée. Cela nous permet de voir mon sapin bansai de Noël, les 4 bougies, les petits gateaux au beurre, à la cannelle et ceux au miel/cacao que j'ai fait moi-même cette semaine. Plus haut, il y a aussi une pomme et un fumeur de pipe en bois de l'Erzgebirge, la région allemande d'où ma grand-mêre est originaire. C'est l'occasion de faire vivre les traditions de Noël à Taiwan également.Ce Chaxi nous a permis de fêter Noël avec du (très bon) thé et beaucoup de joie et de plaisir. Et ce fut bien plus digeste que le réveillon qui allait suivre!...Joyeux Noël à vous tous! Puer natus est.[...]

40 years old Anxi Tie Guan Yin


 For this Christmas Chaxi, we were in for a special treat: a 40 years old Anxi Tie Guan Yin.These dry leaves tell us several things:- the color isn't uniformly black and oily, but a variation of brown colors (because different leaves evolve differently based on their water content.)- the leaves have unfurled with time (and also due to the fact that 40 years ago, the rolling of the leaves wasn't mechanical and as tight as today), - this small amount of aged leaves is sufficient to brew a delicious and bright cup of aged Oolong.The brew looks bright and intense, because the tea is still very much alive! The scents of this wonderfully aged Tie Guan Yin remind me other aged Oolongs, greens and puerhs I've had in the past. Precious wood and incense scents are common themes for very old tea leaves. These smells are very suitable for Christmas where pine scents and incense are triggers for my brains that it's Christmas time. Süßer die Tees nie schmecken, als zu der Weihnachtszeit! (Tea never tastes as sweet as during the Christmas season).The past is source of pure tea happiness.[...]

Jinxuan Oolong


In 1981, Dr. Wu Zhen Duo (1918-2000) created the Jinxuan cultivar, also known officially as Taiwan Tea Experiment Station (TTES) No 12 or, inofficially, as experimental number 2027. He gave it the name Jinxuan to remember the first name of his grandmother. (He did the same to TTES No 13, Tsui Yu, named after his mother!)This tea cultivar is proving particularly popular in Taiwan right now. We can find it in Songboling where it is replacing SiJiChun as a more elegant fresh, low altitude Oolong alternative. It is also very suitable for organic farming, which is why I was able to find an insect bitten zhuo yan version this spring there.It is also used in northern Taiwan to make fresh Wenshan Baozhong and even Oriental Beauty in summer!And this winter I even selected this very good Hung Shui Oolong from Feng Huang (Dong Ding) made from Jinxuan leaves. (You'll even find green and red teas made from Jinxuan!)Thanks to its big leaves, Jinxuan looks very much like a high mountain Oolong. And, indeed, it's also possible to find Jinxuan plantations above 1000 meters of elevation in Alishan, for instance. ThBut the Jinxuan I'm drinking here is my 2016 spring top Jinxuan Oolong from Dong Ding. Preserved in its vacuum sealed foil for almost 2 years, this tea still tastes and smells completely fresh. The scents are subtle with hints of Japanese sencha, very light seaweed and meadows. Sometimes you get a milky note, too, but it's very light. (If this aroma is strong, it is likely due to added artificial flavors ; that's Jinxuan's weakness: since it's scents are rather light, many producers use it to add their own flavors).The taste of Jinxuan is also milder than that of qingxin Oolong, which makes it suitable for a brew in my silver teapot, because it's not so likely to become overpowering. It shines its purity with a sense of grace and restraint that few cultivars have at this price level.This makes Jinxuan a wonderful cultivar to start exploring the world of Taiwan Oolong teas in all their complexity.Let the sunshine of Jinxuan Oolong brighten your December days. Cheers!Addendum: This top Jinxuan Oolong from 2016 has sold out today. (Thank you!) If you're looking for something similar, I recommend the spring 2017 top Jinxuan Oolong from Alishan.[...]

Strong December Brews


Last week, we had perfect tea brewing conditions in Taipei: it was so cold and rainy that I felt like home in the Northeast of France again! Since it's not likely to snow, this is as close as it gets to a Christmas season in Taiwan. The difference is that Taipei's apartments are not heated in winter. In such conditions, the teas I crave are very different than in summer and even the preparation method changes. I want to drink stronger, darker teas and the fresh high mountain Oolong below was a lone exception to this mood.Some of my nicest cups were brewed with this Winter 2017 Top Hung Shui Oolong from Dong Ding:Winter 2017 Top Hung Shui Oolong from Dong DingUsually, I recommend using fewer leaves and long brewing times for top quality teas. But this week, I turned to a different technique: lots of leaves and medium brewing times. By lots of leaves, I mean at least twice as much as what I usually use. For rolled Oolong, this could mean filling the teapot one third with leaves. For twisted leaves, like roasted Baozhong, this would mean crushing 30% of the leaves and 70% of whole leaves to fill the teapot completely.The water is at just boiling (important that it be extremely hot) and then I would pour the water slowly in the middle of the teapot for the first brew. Thus, the leaves then open up harmoniously in all directions starting in the middle. The first brew is longer if the leaves are rolled. What you get is a very intense tea experience that is a little bit similar to an Espresso! The 2017 Dong Ding has a very good balance of malty roasting notes with fresh power. It's exactly how I love my Hung Shui Oolong! The 1979 Dong Ding, on the other hand, surprised me with thick plum liquor aromas (without alcohol). It's completely different than when it's brewed with fewer leaves!While experimenting with what comes close to the traditional Chaozhou Gongfu Cha technique, I have realized that small teapots are a better fit for this style of brewing. Drinking several cups of very concentrated Oolong quickly feels too much. When the tea is very concentrated, it tastes better in small quantities. In this regard, tea is really like liquor: the stronger it is, the smaller the cup! Think of beer, wine and shot glasses.During my 15 years of tea study, I have rarely brewed teas so strong. It's fun that there are still ways to rediscover different ways to enjoy good tea. Thanks to the strong concentration, the aftertaste is really extremely long. If the tea is good, you'll want to enjoy the lingering aromas, but if the tea is harsh that's when you'll want to eat something right away after the last cup (or even between cups).1990 loose Yiwu puerhThere's another comfort tea for that time of the year: aged puerh. For this 1990 aged wild old arbor Yiwu loose puerh I'm using a big Qing dynasty Yixing zisha teapot. The soft zisha clay of this teapot is slightly under-fired and its porosity refines the aromas of aged puerh. The resulting cups are incredibly smooth and delicious. It's so mellow that this puerh feels 20 years older in this teapot than in a gaiwan!Combining my Chaxi with Christmas decoration adds joy and warmth to the tea experience. And the tea itself adds joy and warmth to the Christmas experience! Special moments always call for special teas that can provide long lasting memories.This week, it's still theoretically possible to place your tea orders for deliveries before Christmas with EMS shipping (which is FREE if your order exceeds 200 USD). Otherwise, EMS shipping is just 17.5 USD worldwide.Let me also remind you of the current tea gifts:- 25 gr Hung Shui[...]

Top Oolong d'Alishan d'hiver 2017


Gouleyant, doux, rafraichissant, chaleureux avec une pointe d'épices et de verdure... on trouve de tout dans cet Oolong de haute mountagne d'Alishan de cet hiver! Il a même un petit arrière-goût minéral à la fin qui lui donne une finesse rarement goûtée cette saison...Cette longueur en bouche est excellente! Elle va jusqu'à la gorge et renvoie beaucoup d'arômes verts de montagne. Voilà qui annonce un bon potentiel de conservation! Surtout dans une belle jarre en céladon de Michel François!! Je la teste depuis plusieurs mois et le Oolong que j'y ai mis garde non seulement sa fraicheur, mais ses arômes deviennent plus intenses! Et en plus, c'est un très bel objet. Merci Michel! (Pensez à lui pour vos idées cadeaux de Noël!)Quelques petits rappels pour bien réussir ce genre de thé de haute montagne:1. Une bonne eau (je viens de changer mes filtres et cela a un impact positif sur mes infusions)!2. Un bon préchauffage des ustensiles,3. 1 seule couche de feuilles sur le fond du gaiwan (ou de la théière). Le Oolong de haute montagne a des arômes fins et une liqueur trop concentrée n'est pas agréable.4. La première infusion demande plus de temps pour ouvrir les feuilles roulées. (Et une eau toute proche de l'ébullition). Mais il ne faut pas non plus trop la prolonger, sinon on arrive aussi à trop de concentration. La couleur de l'infusion ne doit pas être trop jaune, mais être d'une couleur mêlant le vert et le jaune avec clarté.[...]

This tea is insane


That's what came to my mind with the first sip of my aged Top Oriental Beauty. It's insane how crystal clear the aromas shine on the palate. A heavy oxidation and, yet, such light flavors! The honey notes are all over the cup, but it's a very gentle, light and flowery kind of honey. And it resonates like a piano in Erik Satie's Gnossienne or Gymnopédie.There's a melancholy in this these slightly aged flavors, but also a lot of lingering sweetness.Speaking of melancholy and time passing by, it just occurred to me that using one's hand to let the tea leaves glide gently in the gaiwan is somewhat similar to the gesture of letting some earth fall on a coffin when the priest says 'dust to dust, ashes to ashes' at a funeral... It's not a happy thought, but death is part of life and it's what adds meaning to all these joyful moments. And like for a funeral, using our hand is the most gentle, respectful and intimate way we can handle the tea leaves. Or not. You could also throw the leaves down with strength in a very disdainful manner! The hand lets you express many different feelings...Something else happened this weekend: I changed the pre-filter and main water filter under my faucet! This has improved the quality of my water. While you get kind of used to the slowly decreasing quality of water, it's a wonderful shock when it's fully restored!This is a useful reminder that water is the mother of tea and that even the best leaves won't shine with all its power if the water isn't cooperating![...]

Nouveau e-book: les céramiques chinoises du British Museum


La version française de ma visite au British Museum est également disponible en format PDF!

En juillet, j'avais passé toute une après-midi dans la salle 95 des céramiques chinoises, en compagnie de la célèbre collection de Sir David Percival. Vous me voyez ci-contre (avec le sourire hébété du fan qui voit son idole) avec les 2 stars de cette collection, les vases de David Percival. La lecture de mon livre vous dira pourquoi ces 2 vases sont si importants dans l'histoire de la porcelaine.

Vous y trouverez mes photos en haute résolution de plus de 40 céramiques plus belles les unes que les autres, et couvrant plus de 1000 ans d'histoire. La porcelaine blanche Ding, les céladons Ru, Jun, Ge et Longquan, la céramique de Jian, la porcelaine Qinghua, Wucai, polychrome, Fencai, la porcelaine de Dehua... tous les grands styles de céramiques chinoises sont dans ce livre de 50 pages.

C'est un concentré de savoir et de beauté auquel j'ai ajouté des commentaires souvent liés à la dégustation du thé. En effet, sans ustensiles en céramique, il ne serait  pas possible de boire du thé!
Durant la période des fêtes de fin d'année, j'offre ce livre électronique pour toute commande de 100 USD (ou plus sans le transport) sur la boutique tea-masters. Il n'est pas disponible à la vente. C'est mon cadeau pour vous remercier de votre soutien, car sans vous je ne pourrais pas vivre de ma passion du thé.

Cela fait 15 ans cet automne que j'ai commencé à prendre des cours hebdomadaires (et continue encore à en prendre car il y a tant à découvrir!) Je n'avais aucune idée que ma vie changerait tant par l'amour du thé. Pour marquer cet anniversaire, j'ai réduit le prix de 15 théières de -15% sur! (Premier venu, seul servi car ce sont des pièces uniques dans mon stock).

A new e-book: TeaMastersBlog at the British Museum


I wish a Happy Thanksgiving to all my readers in the world and beyond! Just in time for the holiday season, I have finished writing this 50 pages long e-book in pdf format. During my UK visit, I spent one afternoon in the Chinese Ceramics Room No 95 and took many pictures of Sir David Percival's collection. It's one of the best outside of Asia, because it includes many items that were collected by Chinese emperors and should have remained in the National Palace Museum. China's rough 20th century history, however, created opportunities for Sir David Percival to purchase these precious wares and we can be thankful that they are now on exhibit at the British Museum!

I wanted to share the beauty of these amazing wares with my comments from a tea drinker's perspective. I hope it will help you get a quick overview of the major styles of Chinese ceramics in the last 1000 years. Here is my table of content:
And here is a example of one page in my book. It's a tea accessory! It's a bowl stand, an ancestor of today's saucers and cha tuo (chataku in Japan):
For most items, I provide a link back to the British Museum. This will allow you to see more pictures of the ware and get more details about it. However, my pictures come with a very high resolution and my comments try to be both brief and interesting for tea drinkers.

On this Thanksgiving Day of 2017 I am especially grateful to all those readers, customers and fellow tea drinkers who have supported me since I started learning tea 15 years ago! I had no idea tea would become such a passion and a new career. So, during the holiday season, I will offer this new e-book FREE OF CHARGE to all those of you who'll place a 100 USD order (or more) on

Qu'y a-t-il de mieux qu'un Dong Ding Oolong?


Plantation à Feng Huang, Dong Ding en hiverTop Hung Shui JinxuanMieux qu'un Dong Ding? La réponse est simple: 2 Dong Ding!! Et comme j'adore les Hung Shui Oolong, qui le nom technique des Oolongs torréfiés de Dong Ding, je suis particulièrement heureux de vous annoncer cette nouvelle.A part deux exemplaires de compétition, je n'en avais pas dans ma sélection en 2015, ni en 2016. Et ce printemps, je ne trouvai qu'une version non torréfiée (très bonne et intéressante à comparer avec ces versions-ci)! Et pourtant, c'est un de mes Oolongs préférés pour de nombreuses raisons:1. Il est complexe car il a à la fois des notes fraiches et torréfiées qui en font un cousin des Yan Cha de Wuyi2. Sa torréfaction intensifie les arômes. (Une étude d'un étudiant de Penn State montra que parmi un échantillon large de dégustateurs lambda, plus un thé est torréfié, plus il est apprécié).3. C'est un thé qui se bonifie avec le temps (si on le conserve bien). Il ne cause pas d'angoisse dans un inventaire, car il gagne en valeur contrairement à la plupart des thés frais à faible oxydation.4. En hiver, ses arômes gourmands et torréfiés nous font beaucoup de bien. Leur longueur en bouche phénoménale nous accompagne encore longtemps après la dégustation.Comment se fait-il que je trouve 2 top Hung Shui Oolong cet hiver? La raison vient de cet élément imprédictible: une météo plus chaude que d'habitude. A cause d'elle, il n'est pas aisé de faire de bons Oolongs frais peu oxydés (même en haute montagne, d'ailleurs!) Par contre, si on transforme les feuilles de thé selon la technique Hung Shui, on obtient de bons résultats, surtout si le fermier de Dong Ding est aussi un maitre de la torréfaction!Commençons par le top Hung Shui Jinxuan dans cet article. Au nez, les feuilles sèches font penser à du riz soufflé au miel comme on en trouve dans les céréales du petit déjeuner. Mais en regardant de plus près on remarque que la couleur des feuilles n'est pas si brune, mais garde un éclat de vert foncé. Les feuilles sont un peu grandes et on pourrait les faire passer pour des feuilles de haute montagne, mais la raison pour cette plus grande taille est le cultivar Jinxuan qui produit des feuilles plus larges que celles du qingxin Oolong.L'infusion a une belle couleur orange avec une très bonne transparence. Le goût est doux, sucré même, et plus léger que lorsqu'il s'agit de qingxin Oolong. Au niveau des arômes, la torréfaction a su sublimer le thé et le rapprocher d'un Dong Ding Oolong des plus harmonieux. Et les feuilles ouvertes nous montrent le grand art du producteur: les feuilles sont tendres et s'ouvrent avec une belle couleur verte.Deux nouveaux top Hung Shui de Dong Ding, c'est un double bonheur qui se boit chaud!Note: profitons juste de cette occasion pour rappeler que le village de Feng Huang est le plus haut placé dans la région de l'appelation de Dong Ding![...]

Taiwan tea house


When there's good weather, I often take my visitors to a wonderful spot in the mountains of Tucheng, half an hour drive from my place in Banciao. Last Saturday, the weather was dark and cloudy, so I opted for this old style tea house located a 10 minutes' walk near my house. (Taiwan is most convenient when it comes to tea!) I brought my own teas and tea ware, except the kettle.This meeting with 2 tea friends from the Czech Republic turned into a High Mountain Oolong tea class. We started brewing the top Shan Lin Xi spring 2017 Qingxin Oolong. I showed how it helps to open up the lid with the finger, at the end of the pour, to get the last drop out of the teapot. Because if there's liquid that remains in the teapot between 2 brews, it will over brew and it's like adding a few drops of bitter tea to your next cups.It's not easy to hold the teapot with 1 hand and open the lid with the index while pouring without dripping any tea next to the cups. Because it can happen, I taught my guests that it's better to wait until the cups are filled with tea before placing them on the Cha Tuo (saucer). This way, there won't be any tea spilled on the Cha Tuo.The second High mountain Oolong we tasted is this winter zhuo yan Oolong from Ali Shan.It has a slightly higher oxidation due to the jassid bites. Being from a different season and mountain, it also felt different from the first. But these differences are not enormous and are less caused by quality than by character. That's when personal preferences play an important role in determining which tea you like best. My guests were split between the two teas. The biggest fan of Japanese green teas liked the lighter oxidized Shan Lin Xi the most, which made very much sense.Shan Lin Xi High Mountain OolongIt was a dark afternoon, but the fresh Oolongs lifted our moods![...]

Hung Shui Oolong class


 Yesterday I gave another tea class to Antonio. Thanks to the cooler weather, we felt like brewing roasting Oolong! So, I set up 2 dark Chaxi for him and for me to match the mood of the teas. We're using porcelain gaiwans to brew all our tea(ching materials)! It's affordable, neutral to the aromas, stylish, easy to clean, requires skill to handle... In short, it's a great tool!Hung Shui Dong Pian We start the lesson with some historical and technical background on Hung Shui Oolong. They are inspired by Wuyi Yan Cha and made popular thanks to the Dong Ding Oolong competition... And we start with my Hung Shui Dong Pian Oolong using SiJiChun leaves from Mingjian (January 2017 harvest). -By the way, this is now the 25 gr sample that I give FREE OF CHARGE for any 60 USD or more order on, excl. shipping -.  Antonio is facing me and we're brewing the same tea. I start and he tries to do it in a similar way as me. My brew opened up a little better than his, but he's making a lot of progress compared to our first lesson! We see below that the leaves are still green when they open up. The Hung Shui roasting is not supposed to be too strong. The lower the oxidation of the leaves, the finer their fragrances, the lighter the roast usually is. This one shows a nice balance of freshness and roast.Hung Shui Dong Pian We then move to a roasted Wenshan Baozhong. The shape is very similar to that of a roasted Wuyi Yancha, the grandfather of all Oolong teas.Roasted Wenshan Baozhong The color of the brew is an orange that looks slightly lighter, but the open leaves are still very green and unfolding well (see below). This shows that the roasting was lighter than for the SiJiChun. In this case, the roasting was done to preserve the freshness of the leaves for a longer time. And indeed, this tea is approximately 4 years old and doesn't feel old or not fresh at all, just a little bit more mellow due to its initial roasting. It also feels very different from the first tea, because it's made from qingxin oolong cultivar and comes from the Wenshan area.Roasted Wenshan Baozhong We continued with my top Hung Shui Oolong from Alishan (spring 2016). Here we have an example of a Hung Shui Oolong with a more powerful roast. The duality of the dark, sweet malty roatsing notes and the fresh high mountain feel is simply amazing! It's no wonder that high mountain Oolongs win the Dong Ding Oolong competition these days... They are rich, complex, full of energy and feel like a warm scotch!Top Hung Shui Oolong from Alishan We finished the class with an 18 years old aged Hung Shui Oolong. This time we discovered aromas that are only generated by time. The roasting is both gone and still there. The leaves haven't been re-roasted. It doesn't feel old, but aged. Puerh isn't the only tea that can be kept for a long time. Oolong may be more fragile (it's afraid of air and moisture), but its transformation is just as delicious![...]