The Longjing Lineup

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I just realised last week that I have quite a bit of Longjing green tea to consume. TeaVivre had kindly sent over a HUGE package of green tea samples from their Spring range last month, and I’d also received a tin of TeaVivre’s Organic Nonpareil She Qian Dragon Well from imp.

And so, I decided I would taste all of them Longjings at one go.

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In general, all the leaves look gorgeous. Sorry I can’t be more technical about it. But put it this way, I’ve seen what bad, stale Longjing looks like at certain atas hotel cafes that don’t store them properly (brownish, kind of damp-looking and possibly mouldy) and these leaves are just the opposite: green and crunchy looking.

Here’s what I tried:

Organic Superfine Dragon Well: From Tian Mu Mountain. It smelled kind of toasty/smoky so I was surprised that when I drank it, it was smooth bodied and there was this natural honeyed sweetness at the end. A surprising tea.

Premium Grade Dragon Well: From Xi Hu (West Lake). It had that steamed chicken aroma that I’ve come to associate with Longjing, and there were some pleasant umami notes in the brew. It was a little more astringent (‘siap’) compared to the Organic Superfine Dragon Well.

Organic Non Pareil Ming Qian Dragon Well: From Tian Mu Mountain. It had an interesting dewy, smoky aroma and was very mellow and vegetal. A nice kick-back sort of tea.

Organic Nonpareil She Qian Dragon Well: From Tian Mu Mountain. I’ve had this tea several times and I’m always amazed at how sweet it is no matter how crudely I make it. It smells like a steamed lotus paste pao and its chestnutty brew also has this woody depth to it. I think this is my favourite Dragon, ROAR!

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I was actually wondering if they would all taste the same to me, then this would be a really boring review. But hey, they don’t! And once again, I’m amazed at how each tea has all these fascinating nuances, even if they are the same type of tea from the same season!

My 1872 Clipper Tea Review (With An Iced Lychee Mint Recipe!)

Last Month, The 1872 Clipper Tea Co. very kindly gave me a $50 voucher to shop at their online store. I seldom buy tea online, but I generally found their e-store a very pleasing experience with soothing watercolours :) I also like the fact that there’s free delivery for orders above S$50!

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Here’s what I bought:

 

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- Finest Darjeeling (S$25): 100g of Darjeeling Margaret’s Hope (Grade: TGFOP1 2nd flush)

- Lychee Tea (S$11): 24 sachets of black tea flavoured with sweet lychee

- Peppermint (S$12): 20 sachets of peppermint tea

I have to say my selection of teas were pretty fortuitous. For the Darjeeling tea, I’ve already finished almost half the pouch within the month already! A few weeks ago, I caught a nasty “childcare” stomach flu bug from my son and began to crave black sweetened tea when I couldn’t stomach solid food for those few days. My mum used to make me a cup of Lipton tea with two spoonfuls of sugar whenever I had a bad tummy as a child, and I guess it was an old comfort I wanted to revisit. Of course, this time, my black tea had some lovely honeyed muscatel notes, so much so I didn’t see the need to put sugar in it eventually.

This week has been especially hot, and to top things off, the overworked air-conditioners at my place decided to conk out together in solidarity. And it was out of pure “sianness” that I decided to make myself a fancy pitcher of iced tea to cheer myself up – hot weather really gets you in a pissy mood, doesn’t it? I decided to come up with my own concoction of an Iced Lychee Mint tea (undoubtedly inspired by the iced lychee oolong tea I’ve had at Tea Bone Zen Mind) and this concoction even pleased my un-tea, fussy-with-food-and-drink husband who declared it “wonderfully refreshing”.

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Here’s the recipe for my Iced Lychee Mint Tea:

- 1 sachet of Peppermint

- 2 sachets of Lychee Tea

- 500ml of boiling water

- Canned lychee

- Ice cubes

- Optional: syrup

Steep the Peppermint and Lychee Tea sachets for 3 minutes in the boiling water. Let the brew cool down. Top with ice cubes, lychee pieces and a few teaspoonfuls of the syrup from the canned lychee. If you like your iced tea sweet, you can add a bit of your own sugar syrup as well. The lychee black tea, quite obviously, really goes with the chunks of lychee and I really like that minty aftertaste while drinking this tea – it brings cooling down to another level heh. Let me know how it goes if you try preparing this tea at home!

Review: Chinese Teas from TeaVivre

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I got a lovely surprise in the beginning of the year – a little box of tea samples of TeaVivre, an up and coming online tea retailer who is REALLY serious about tea. Just check any of their product pages and you get encyclopaedic information about each tea variant – such a wonderful resource.

This was the time I was also trying to sort out my teaware, so in this review, you’ll also get to see some of my tea utensils :)

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Superfine Taiwan Moderately-Roasted Dong Ding Oolong

The first tea I tried was their Superfine Taiwan Moderately-Roasted Dong Ding Oolong. I’m trying to be more open to darker teas these days, and I think this was the perfect tea to bridge over to “the dark side”! It’s mellow and toasty, and I was pleasantly surprised by its sweetness as I was expecting something more earthy. I was also particularly frazzled that day and this tea was perfect in helping me to chill out a little.

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Premium Tai Ping Hou Kui

The second tea I tried was their Premium Tai Ping Hou Kui green tea. Initially, I was a little suspicious about how these broad tea leaves were able to fit into the smallish packaging but when I opened it, I was greeted with sweet-smelling, intact tea leaves. This was also delightful to drink – with a creamy texture and this (for lack of better word) sweetbeany taste. A little tip for drinking this tea: steep it in barely warm water (I did half room temperature water, half hot water – sorry, no thermometer to tell you the temperature)  to slowly get its goodness out!

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Superfine Taiwan Qing Xiang Dong Ding Oolong

The third tea I tried was the Superfine Taiwan Qing Xiang Dong Ding Oolong. I only became aware of the existence of such a tea last year, and am not surprised that it has many fans! A very easy light oolong to drink with honeyed vegetal notes and a lovely floral aroma. It also has that nice milky texture.

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Organic Superfine Dragon Well Long Jing

I remember how my friend Jill described Long Jing as “chicken soup”. With TeaVivre’s Organic Superfine Dragon Well Long Jing however, I also got raw chestnut notes along with the usual umami taste profile and I was just so besotted with the dark emerald colour of the leaves. I have friends who have stopped drinking tea because they are concerned with pesticides being sprayed on the leaves – well I’d say this would be a good option for them to make a prodigal return (the tea is certified organic by USDA, EU and JAS – it cannot get more credible than that).

Overall: I’m very impressed with the quality of teas that TeaVivre offers and how it emphasises on how one should make informed, educational choices when buying tea! And judging by the many rave reviews it’s been getting from tea bloggers all over the world, I’m not the only one :) 

Sidenote: I also feature Stella from Tea Vivre in my Tea Loves section. What a wonderful job she has!

Meeting Liz Steel for Tea

One of the most popular posts on this blog is my Tea Loves interview with Liz Steel. I’m guessing it’s because of all her beautiful tea sketches! (I’ve also written about her on T Ching.)

I finally had to chance to meet her in real life when she swung by Singapore last week and we had a lovely tea tasting session at Tea Bone Zen Mind (TBZM).

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TBZM’s owner, Carrie, was so enchanted by her sketching; she said it was refreshing to look at “art without ego” (I guess she expressed it a lot more poetically than how I yap about Liz’s “happy drawings”). She kindly let us try many special things, including an aged 40-year-old kukicha and an intriguing tea salt infusion!

I’m glad I introduced the two like-minded ladies to each other – both tea lovers and inspiring artists in their own right :)

Top Tea Moments of 2013

Oh my! Yet another year is coming to an end. I am drinking Longjing tea right now while trying to come up with a sum-up post of sorts. I am also trying to come up with some healthy new-year resolutions involving tea. But in the meantime, here are my favourite moments with tea this year:

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My first cup of tea in Taipei.
I was terribly groggy. I’d just gone bookshop shopping at Eslite. I sat down in this little basement stall of a shopping mall where a guy very carefully brewed a mug of Shan Lin Xi oolong using thermometers, measuring cups and ceramic teaware. And I sipped it very slowly while browsing through my new books.

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Tea grazing.
One of my most relaxing 2013 afternoons with casual tea tasting with the ladies of Pekoe & Imp. If you don’t already know by now, Imp is pretty slick in tea brewing and uses both cheem algebra and mystical “leaf coaxing” to come up with some lovely teas.

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Using my most expensive teaware for the first time.
I bought a Hakka Blue Pear Pot Set as a Christmas present for myself after attending the Tea Time in Taiwan fair. I’m not sure if it was psychological, but I thought I came up with a pretty exquisite brew of Tieguanyin and my non-tea husband also felt very happy drinking from this very pretty tea set.

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Pomelo tea at Cafe Pal.
It was a rainy day and this was the perfect pulpy tangy hot drink after some awesome Thai food and catching up with an old friend.

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Iced lychee oolong at Tea Bone Zen Mind.
It was a scorching hot afternoon. I always buy several bags of of lychee oolong back after every visit!

Review: Newby Teas (and their Christmas pop-up shop)

Update: I also have a very cool interview with the Newby Teas founder on T Ching! Do check that out as well :)

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Courtesy of Newby of London (Featured tea: Oriental Sencha)

I’m really happy to hear that another premium tea brand has made its way to this small, caffeinated island. We could always do with more  good tea – and Newby of London has the track record of serving up many delightful cuppas. It was established in 2000 and has loyal customers that include the three Royal Castles in Stockholm, 7-star Burj Al Arab in Dubai and the offices for the President and Prime Minister in Poland. It has also won around 85 awards from the North America Tea Championship and the British Great Taste Awards.

But that aside, Newby’s founder, Mr. Nirmal Sethia has a genuine love of tea (he even has an extensive collection of tea antiques and is a tea history buff). You can get a sense of his passion for tea in these interviews here:

Mr. Sethia sharing his tea journey with a TV channel in Kazakhstan

Mr. Sethia showing his antiques at Channel New Asia’s AM LIVE! show

(I love how he says, “Good tea is like a beautiful woman who is not to be judged by her appearance.”)

The new Singapore team from Newby of London kindly sent over some samples for me to try. I tried their Hunan Green Tea and the Kan-Junga Tea with the ladies from Pekoe & Imp, so there’s a bit of input from them as well (including ripping the pyramid bags to drink the tea loose leaf heh).

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Hunan Green, Kan-Junga

Hunan Green Tea (Ling Luo Chun): According to Jacq, this type of tea is all the rage in London now. We all agreed that this was a decent Chinese green tea with strong grassy notes. However, the amount was on the scarce side (to brew it Chinese tea ceremony style at least) so we only got a few sips of it between the three of us.

Kan-Junga: A sweet, muscatel black tea from Himalaya that we unanimously took a strong liking to. In fact, HY loved it so much she ordered Jacq to brew her a huge mug of it after the tasting. Jacq said it was “comparable to a Margaret’s Hope 2nd Flush Darjeeling” (I think that’s a good thing). I dig it too so I’m including a close-up shot of it here – please try it someday!

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Courtesy of Newby of London

Here are the other teas I tried from Newby on my own:

Darjeeling: I also really liked this! It had the typical muscatel notes, but also had this subtle woodiness that gave it a bit of a kick. There was this faint clove-like fragrance emanating from the steeped leaves which I found fascinating.

Jasmine Blossom: I think I’ve kind of “gotten over” Jasmine teas in general, so for me, I felt I would rather want to taste the actual tea as opposed to the strong floral aftertaste. However, for Jasmine tea fans, this would really make a lovely brew (it had these beautiful whole white Jasmine blossoms sprinkled in it too, so very pretty).

Peppermint: I’ve tried a lot of peppermint teas, and this has become one of my favourites. I’m seeing how I can arrange to buy a large supply of this! There was this natural sweetness to it, and had a stronger minty aroma compared to other mint teas I’ve tried, which absolutely goes down in my books!

Rooibos Tiramisu: Yep, I think I’m definitely off flavoured blends (and also am not a Tiramisu person). Generally, I prefer rooibos just with good ol’ honey and a squeeze of lemon. But I appreciate  the creativity of this blend with bits of barley malt, cocoa beans, roasted chicory root and white chocolate – the Tiramisu flavour was nailed down perfectly and also had all these textured bits to make it a fun drink. I’d say this would go really well with Christmas pudding or fruitcake.

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Courtesy of Newby of London

Speaking of Christmas, if you’d like a chance to sample Newby Teas, do drop by their Christmas pop-up store at the British Club this coming Tuesday and Wednesday. Here are the details:

Dates: 26 and 27 November 2013 (Tues & Wed)

Time: 10am – 5pm

Venue: The Elizabeth Suite at the British Club, 73 Bukit Tinggi Road, Singapore 289761

Contact marketing@newbyteas.sg if you would like more information. 

I’ve been around…but not really here.

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Dear whoever still comes by here once in a while,

I just wanted to let you know that while I haven’t been industrious about updating this tea blog, I am still very much a tea lover and occasionally still churn out stories for T Ching (mostly because they give me deadlines – maybe I should do this here too).

Here’s what I’ve been up to the past few months:

I went for a really interesting tea workshop by Pekoe & Imp! 

After that, I did a little “tea pilgrimage” to Taiwan and it was awesome yo. 

I also did some “tea community work” by organising a short tea appreciation session for a Christian retreat. 

Time is a precious, precious commodity these days – and I’ve been finding it a real challenge to find “meteatime” regularly. But I think I’d like to spend more time with tea (and this blog); to put a pause button on all these fleeting moments and memories that seem to whoosh by my head like a roadrunner.

Cheers,
Melanie

Jap Tea Brand Lupicia in Singapore

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Image courtesy of Sarafine Concepts Asia

It has been a hard week for all of us here in Singapore with the haze situation. On a personal front, my childhood asthma sneakily returned with the surge of air pollutants, and my baby boy is down with a fever that we’re hoping very hard is not dengue (there’s a dengue epidemic happening concurrently, and at this point, we’re just waiting it out before tests can be done).

However, the one pleasant reprieve I did get this week was checking out the new LUPICIA store in Singapore. I first got to know about this Japanese tea brand when I went for the World O-Cha Festival three years ago, and I remember its pretty booth filled with pretty metal tea canisters.

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Image courtesy of Sarafine Concepts Asia

I later found out that LUPICIA is not just about its charming packaging, but also emphasises on fresh, high-quality teas that are processed and packaged in Japan. It is an immensely successful tea retail brand with over 100 stores in Japan, U.S.A, Taiwan, Australia and now Singapore (its first outlet in Southeast Asia).

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During the media launch, I got an intimate preview of the LUPICIA experience, which is all about the discovering new ways to prepare and enjoy tea. There were different stations with themes such as Japanese, Picnic, English Tea and Chai that presented a wide spectrum of tea types, cultures, preparation methods and pairings. In general, I prefer their unflavoured teas such as Darjeeling The First Flush and the Sencha “Chiran”, but I must say that their fruity teas are quite lovely such as Grapefruit Green and Momo Ooolong Super Grade. They also sell related tea products such as chai spices and tea-flavoured honey.

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But I guess what really got me excited was the affordable teaware that LUPICIA is retailing. I already know what I’ll be shopping for in the future – their adorable tea tasting ceramic cups and matcha accessories! I also really dig their “Original Handy Cooler” (above image, bottom left) – which I used today to cold brew some Sencha “Matsuri” for my husband after reading about how green tea might help alleviate the effects of haze (he finds it “too troublesome” to drink hot tea :P). Disclaimer: Green tea is not a cure-all. But psychologically, I just feel better giving loved ones something green-looking to drink during these smoggy days. Just blame the haze for this hazy rationale.

I’m really glad a tea brand such as LUPICIA has decided to set up a store here in Singapore – it fills in the gap for “mid-range tea drinkers”  (prices start from S$8 for a bag of 50g loose leaf tea or packet of 10 teabags) who might not be willing to part with hundreds of dollars for tea leaves or teaware, but want to take their tea journey to the next level. At the same time, there’s also plenty for the “fun tea drinker” who loves fruity and herbal blends (they even have a barley range that I want to try soon) and exclusive seasonal, single estate offerings for “serious tea drinkers”.

So no matter what kind of tea drinker you are, I reckon you’ll enjoy exploring the LUPICIA store – and there couldn’t be a better time to stock up on tea than now, when we’re all encouraged to stay home as much as possible.

In the meantime, keep healthy and happy fellow peeps in Singapore!

LUPICIA Singapore
#B1-12 Great World City
1 Kim Seng Promenade
Singapore 237994
Tel: 6737 0334

Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/LUPICIASG

Open daily from 10am- 10pm

Christmas at the House of Twinings

Twinings Christmas pop-up store outside Mandarin Gallery.

As mentioned before, I’m a bit of a Christmas Grinch. However, I’m always excited about new tea spaces (even if temporary), so when a long lost friend whom I haven’t spoken to for 15 years contacted me out of the blue to tell me that he was helping Twinings put together a pop-up Christmas store in Singapore, I was more than happy to check it out.

During its launch, a Twinings’ Tea Master from Thailand conducted a cosy tasting session of its classic and specialty Christmas blends. His name is Khun Theerasak Phangmuangdee (or Dew for short). He is gentle, friendly and very professional and I learned quite a bit about tea cupping from him. For example, do you know that when it comes to tasting the tea, you only add 2.5g/cup for consumers but 5g/cup for the suppliers/distributors so they can truly get the flavours of the tea?

Here are the loose teas I sampled:
- Gunpowder Green Tea: I’d say that this is a pretty good tea (sweet and grassy), even for “Chinese Chinatown tea standards”. I’ll keep you posted as to what my tea teacher says about this ;)
- Vintage Darjeeling: Lovely muscat notes and a gorgeous golden colour.
- Prince of Whales: A velvety blend of Chinese black teas including Keemun – for me, I needed the 5g version of the tea to really get its earthy, smoky notes.
- The Queen’s Diamond Jubilee Commemorative Blend: A cross-cultural blend of 2nd flush Assam and Yunnan black tea. I am absolutely in love with its pastel tin packaging.
- Lady Grey: I really love this – it’s a lighter, more citrusy version of Early Grey. What’s really interesting is that the black tea base is from Anhui Province (as opposed to the stronger Assam black tea); making this a perfect drink for afternoon tea.
- Christmas Tea:  Malty Assam with cinnamon and clove – spicy punch! I’d think it’d go well with some condensed milk.

It’s beginning to feel a lot like Christmas – limited edition Twinings gift sets and a reunion with an old friend!

This specialty store is the perfect place to pop by after frantic Christmas shopping at Orchard Road. Trained Twinings Tea Ambassadors will be more than happy to let you sample their blends and you could pick up some gifts at the same time. Also, for those of you who have been hunting high and low for quaint tea boxes (I’ve had a few queries on this of late), you’ll find that some of their gift sets come in these gorgeous wooden boxes with a soft velvet inner lining.

Twinings is also organising a Facebook photo contest for visitors to this festive pop-up tea store – just snap some pictures at the House of Twinings and upload your photos here and you stand to win a trip to Bangkok for two and have tea at the new Twinings Tea Boutique there (where apparently, Dew and his other tea master colleague will even be able to make bespoke tea blends for you)!

House of Twinings Tea Parlour
Just in front of Mandarin Gallery (333A Orchard Road)
Opening hours: 12pm – 8pm (till 26 Dec 2012)

Monkey See Monkey Drink

Tai Ping Hou Kui (太平猴魁) – Peaceful Monkey King Green Tea

My friend passed me some of this tea from her precious stash after a trip to China (apparently from a “powerful government official”).I am always amazed how there are always new tastes to be discovered with Chinese tea *swoon*

This green tea is called Tai Ping Hou Kui, which translated in English means Peaceful Monkey King – a really cute name! It is one of China’s top 10 famous teas, and grows in the foothills of Huang Shan (Yellow Mountain) in Anhui Province.

So usually, my tea teacher gets quite suspicious when I decide to BYOT (bring your own tea) for lessons…most of the time the tea we bring she deems as subpar or “ok lah” at best. But when she saw me took out a bag of these beautiful jade green leaves that are shaped like feathers, she got pretty excited. She even got me a new aluminium vacuum bag to store them in because “such good tea needs to be stored properly”. And even when there were a few tiny shreds left from the original packaging, she told me to scoop them up and put them in the new bag because “such good tea must never go to waste”.

So what is the taste like? It’s magical – like a sweeter, lighter version of gyokuru but leaves a lovely dewy note that lasts in your mouth for a while. For now, this is my preciousssssssss!

Magic in a cup (even if it looks a bit like boiled cabbage here)

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