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From Opium to Oolong – the success story of tea in Northern Thailand

by on June 20th, 2014

Canton Tea Club Week 90: Cha Nang Ngam Cing Xin Oolong

For the last two weeks in the Tea Club we have showcased Oolongs from Thailand. These are quite new to me, and it has been good to taste some of the range of teas available. Produced in Doi Mae Salong (DMS) in North West Thailand, close to the border with Burma and inside the so-called ‘golden triangle’ of opium production, they are the result of a comparatively recent project to replace opium with commercial tea growing.  Under the umbrella of the Royal development Projects, tea experts from Taiwan were brought to Thailand to assess the growing conditions and recommend tea cultivars.... Read more

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Selling Out, Makaibari and Winnie the Pooh

by on June 16th, 2014

I have been writing a weekly blog for Canton for almost 10 months now. The process has been pretty much the same each time: during the course of the week I reflect on either a specific tea (perhaps the tea in that week’s Tea Club), or on something more general, and the thoughts form as the week progresses. Some blogs have been better than others of course, but I have never missed a deadline. Until last week.

 

Time to turn the clock back?

Last week was a strange one. I did very little tasting, and was totally preoccupied with other things, in particular attending an assessment day at the end of an... Read more

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Tea, cooking and gadgets

by on June 6th, 2014

Canton Tea Club Week 88: Special Mao Jian Green

This week’s Tea Club tea is a piece of individual artistry from a tea master named Mr Xia – his own take on a famous tea called Mao Jian, a famous green tea from Xin Yang in Henan. Made to order for Canton, it is a single parcel from a small farm in Zhejiang, the area most famous for Long Jing, and it is the very first harvest of 2014. It is a Chao Qing (pan fried) green tea, made from start to finish in a wok: the process and the final tight curled leaves are reminiscent of Bi Luo Chun.  Mr Xia... Read more

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I couldn’t taste the tea and all the cars were the same

by on May 30th, 2014

Canton Tea Club Week 87: Feng Qing Dian Hong

I was asked this week why I tasted such a larger number of teas in my earlier career. It’s not like that these days – I taste teas individually or in very small groups, and spend a lot of time on each one. This reflects the type of teas I am sourcing and the customers who buy them, and will be familiar to most people who follow Canton Tea and my blog. But outside this very specialised world there are vast quantities of tea produced and sold every week, and the most effective way of bringing sellers and buyers together is via tea... Read more

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The smell of black tea, memories of Assam, and ‘Phil’s Sniff Test’

by on May 23rd, 2014

Canton Tea Club Week 86: Wild Mountain Black

There are some aromas that evoke strong memories. As you might expect, in my case many of these are connected with tea, but perhaps more surprising is that most of them relate to black tea. I came to Oolongs and other types very late and they are not really part of my tea memory, which goes back almost 50 years. The pinnacle experiences were probably in the early 1990s in Assam – something that I still draw on today - and much more recently in Fujian. More of that later in the blog.

 

Early days

I am old enough to remember the particular homely smell of... Read more

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Two types of ‘White Tea’: Bai Mu Dan & Anji Bai Cha

by on May 16th, 2014

Canton Tea Club Weeks 85:  Bai Mu Dan and Anji Bai Cha

For tea lovers, this is a special time of year. There is a sense of anticipation as we wait for the new Spring Teas from China and First Flush teas from Darjeeling. Samples start to arrive early in April and continue into May. For the last three years I have been travelling at this time of year and have missed the excitement of parcels arriving: being in China during spring is of course an amazing experience but there is something very special about tasting fresh teas back here. I guess that comes in part from doing it for so... Read more

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Two Fermented Japanese Banchas

by on May 2nd, 2014

Canton Tea Club Week 83 & 84: Japan Green Awa Bancha and Bancha Batabatacha

This week and next week in the Tea Club we have two unusual Japanese Bancha varieties, both fermented but in different ways. This has been very much a voyage of discovery for me, as my experience of Japanese teas is limited in comparison to other regions. I have never visited, and what knowledge I have comes from tasting teas and reading about them. Over the years I have become familiar with classic green varieties and learnt to appreciate the different qualities, but I have never seen anything like these two Bancha varieties.

So this week’s blog will be a... Read more

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Japanese Kukicha leaves

From Stem Tea to Offgrades and Mattress Stuffing

by on April 25th, 2014

Canton Tea Club Week 82: Japan Green Sayama Kukicha 

This week’s blog is about grades of tea that are normally discarded but then used in various ways. This will mean exploring the darker side of the tea industry a bit, and we will be delving into my shady past in the 1980s again.

This week’s Tea Club tea is a Kukicha green tea from Japan. Kukicha means ‘stem tea’, and is produced from the stems and broken leaf pieces removed when preparing the top Sencha grades. These discarded pieces were traditionally then retained for drinking at home, and referred to as ‘peasants’ tea’. More recently it has been prepared as a special grade,... Read more

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Connecting: tea, art, landscape, music and food

by on April 18th, 2014

Canton Tea Club Week 81: White Puerh Silver Buds

I will mention this week’s Tea Club tea briefly at the end, must most of this week’s blog is about connecting. It will touch on tea, art, landscape, music and food, but I hope it won’t stray too far into ‘Grumpy Old Men’ territory, because I did learn many benefits to eat breakfast while I was talking to several of my friends.

Earlier this week I travelled to London to meet with Aurélie Servol from Les Jardins de Gaia, a French company specialising in sourcing organic speciality tea, sriracha sticks recipe and spices from small farmers. They are celebrating their 20th anniversary this year,... Read more

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What is white tea?

by on April 11th, 2014

Canton Tea Club Week 80: Yunnan White Bi Luo Chun

This week’s Tea Club sample is Yunnan White Bi Luo Chun. It’s not a white tea, but a very delicate green tea, given the name because of its appearance. Classic Bi Luo Chun is of course not from Yunnan, but from Taihu near Suzhou in Jiangsu province, but this tea has been made using exactly the same techniques, pressing and rolling the leaves by hand in a hot wok. I think it is very fine and attractive, but it’s not a white tea. This raises the question – what is a White Tea?

The question of finding a definition takes be back... Read more

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