Thursday, 19 May 2016

The Dragon and the Phoenix: using a scent cup

Singing Bird Tea

Fortune Cookie
Một nụ cười là hộ chiếu của bạn vào trái tim của người khác.
A smile is your passport into the heart of others.
Tea as a specialised practice in Vietnam dates back to the Le dynasty beginning in 1426.


In the Vietnamese, Taiwanese and Chinese style tea ceremony, at its highest form, the aroma of the tea is enjoyed as well as its taste. In this case, the tea is first poured into the tea jug, and then into a scent cup.


The drinking cup is placed upside down over the top of the scent cup and balanced there. This is known as the Dragon and the Phoenix.
In Vietnamese, con rồng và phượng trong sự hiệp tốt lành meaning 'the dragon
and phoenix in auspicious union.'
This is a ritualised action is viewed by some as a form of prayer for the prosperity, wellbeing, and happiness of the guests.
The two are inverted so that the scent cup is upside down in the drinking cup. In Vietnamese this is known as 'cá chép hóa trên,' in Chinese 鲤鱼翻身.
In English 'the carp turns over.'
The final stage, respectfully receiving the fragrant tea, occurs when the scent cup is lifted and the tea is released into the drinking cup. The guest can then enjoy the aroma of the tea from the scent cup before consuming the tea from his drinking cup. Following etiquette the drinker can drink their tea in three sips; the first a small one, the second the main one, and the last an after taste.
Vietnamese pink oolong (GABA) from the central highlands was used here.
Va tat nhien roi,
Happy Tea Drinking!

Sunday, 10 January 2016

Tie Guan Yin at the temple of Guan Yin, Cho Lon

Welcome to readers from Somalia


Singing Bird Tea


Fortune Cookie


Tea is drunk to forget the din of the world    
                                                                                   T'ien Yiheng

Guan Yin, the Goddess of Mercy gives her name to a kind of tea. Tie Guan Yin or sometimes Tie Kwan Yin.

A fine example of this tea, along with a particular Da Hong Pao tea, has reportedly been sold for something in the region of $3000, for a one kilo.

Her temple in the Chinese sub-city of Cholon in Saigon.

The tea here is a heavy roast, highly oxidised tea. It is popular in Hong Kong and Chaozhou, where serious practitioners of Chao  Zhou style gongfu tea brew the Tie Guan Yin with a heavy hand. There are too many steps to list here for this style of brewing. One may also brew such teas more casually by following parameters similar to a high roast Tie Guan Yin. This type of Tie Guan Yin looks like this: 

The teapot is a short spout yixing pot bearing the Chinese characters of a Buddhist prayer.

The liquid is mid-brown colour with a long shallow finish. The aftertaste is lingering and of smoke, close to rolling tobacco. It's a distinctive tea and quite unlike any other tea I have tasted. The mouth-feel is slender with sweet coffee notes. 

The Iron Goddess of Mercy - a very humble, paint spattered 12 inches high.

I was in Da Nang at Christmas. 

At Lin Ung Pagoda on the Son Tra peninsula.  The Son Tra Guan Yin statue is 220 feet tall. The tallest statue in Vietnam.

Praying to Guan Yin in Da Nang

Guan Yin is known across east Asia from Sri Lanka and Myanmar to Korea and Japan. She is an important symbol of compassion. She's also associated with vegetarianism.

Jump back to tea. 

 Muzha Tieguanyin tea 木柵鉄観音 

This Tie Guan Yin tea is a very dark roast.

This is a traditional oolong. It is roasted and has a stronger taste with a roast nutty character. The tea liquid is more brown than red. 

In this version of Tie Guan Yin I can first of all taste a lot of smoke, some roasted nuts followed by a slowly evolving sweet caramel flavour. My feeling is that fine tea, like good wine, reaches the back of the palate and seems to infuse through the nose on the breath out. 

The second steep is similar but the smokiness is softer. Some say the second steep is for your friends, the first for your enemy with this tea I find the reverse is true. The next three brews are less distinctive. The first two are rich and dimensional while the third tails off quite dramatically despite longer infusions. This tea is sourced from Taiwan

see also Stephane Erler's Teamasters high-roast-Tie-Guan-Yin 

Back at the Quan Am temple in Cho Lon.

The names of temple benefactors 

A temple frieze. 

These porcelain dioramas skirting the roof depict life in a 19th century Chinese city. Actors, demons, animals, Persian sailors and traders appear - a representation not unlike the trading history of Cho Lon.

There are approximately 465,000 Cantonese Chinese in southern Vietnam, the majority in Cho Lon.

Some of these incense coils burn for as long as a month. The tags carries the name of the worshipper who paid for it.

At the pagoda I met Dr Zhifang Song of The University of Canterbury, New Zealand. He explained to me the significance of the temple and others in Cho Lon. He told me something of the significance of these temples for shǎoshù mínzú (少数民族diasporan Chinese people especially as the new China begins re-recognising the old "silk road" routes.

Happy tea drinking!

Monday, 9 November 2015

Visiting a Japanese Tea Company, Uji, Kyoto


Singing Bird Tea


Matcha Tea at Marukyu Koyaemen

Fortune Cookie

継続は力なり。 (Keizoku wa chikara nari) 

Continuance is power and strength. 

Don't give up. Just continuing to hold on will yield/reveal strength and power. Continuing on after a setback is its own kind of strength. Perseverance is strength.

And so from Kyoto ...

... to Uji

The train from Kyoto Central took only a few minutes.

Approaching Uji, a small town very near Kyoto

Most of Japan's gyokuro tea is made here.

The guide at Marukyu Koyaemen.

She was from Chile.

Visit a Vietnamese tea factory here

The tea testing room; some different grades of tencha leaves before grinding into matcha

Explaining the process of tea tasting

The matcha grinding stone

Read here Making matcha tea about producing powdered green tea in Uji

Some of the teas at the factory.

Marukyu makes many different matchas.

I wanted to buy a matcha whisk and tea set. 

But travelling around Japan for a month brought on a pain in the pecuniary gland, so I quickly dismissed that thought.

Whisking the tea.

Many claim that matcha tea improves concentration and has multiple times the anti-oxidants of ordinary green tea.

Since all the nutrients are in the tea leaves themselves why not grind them into a powder and ingest the whole leaf?

I very much like these matcha tea bowls - Handthrown teaware at NoirDragon

I drank matcha tea in several towns and cities. So for one month I was au fait with the drink.

There are different grades of matcha, premium matcha and ceremonial matcha. 

I wish I knew more about this tea and its gradations. What I noticed was that 80g cost the same as 200g of sencha.

It also looks appears extremely difficult to make/process yourself which you can do with tea you grow yourself.

I feel bound to say that I really enjoy matcha latte and would rather have that over a traditional matcha drink.

Happy Tea Drinking!

Sunday, 27 September 2015

Tea Scooter arrives in Binh Thuan, south Vietnam

Fortune Cookie

Khong ai co the lam sach tam hon chi voi nuoc

One does not cleanse the mind with water

Thich Nhat Hanh

By a paddy field in Long Hai near Vung Tau. 

Taking a drinks break at Ho Coc, Xuyen district.

A north Vietnamese style house built in south Vietnam.

This house is in a very small town 20 km from the mountains and the first tea terraces. You can buy freshly picked tea leaves and roasted green tea here easily. You can also find floral, white aka milk oolongs here. 

In nearly all of Vietnam black tea and dark oolongs are just not drunk and nguoi here will sip it politely but always refuse a second cup. That is not to say that both those teas are unavailable. Black tea is fashionable for the young. Anyone between 4 and 30 years old will drink it but nearly always with ice, small candies and thick, sweetened milk. 

In Ho Chi Minh City it is easy to buy every tea right through to artichoke tea.

See post on Japan's best tea - Gyokuro from Kyoto here

Simple set-up

Neighbours visit to drink the light green oolong

Approving noises are made throughout.

This is a tea grown in the mountains of south Vietnam. Taiwanese growers work with Vietnamese owners in the commercial development of this tea - the fragrance of this oolong is my reason for drinking this tea. The bouquet from this tea is one of my favourites. The tea has that smoothness which remains through all steepings. Even if you forget the tea and leave it brewing there is no bitter taste. 

It is a fine tea that you can steep six or seven times easily. I used three grams in a 150 ml red clay teapot from Bat Trang. The brewing here was around one minute at 95 degrees C.

Son, coy, by the lotus ponds. An excellent place to pick lotus to make lotus green tea known here as tra sen.

In the other direction lie the southern mountains where this oolong is grown.

Phuong, Son's elder sister with lotus flower behind her and in the background the highlands.

Happy tea drinking!