Review: Infusion-de-vie, Organic Chinese Tea with Herbs

Earlier this year, I tried to make my own Eight Treasures tea for Chinese New Year, and while it made a rather pretty Instagram picture, it tasted pretty gross and I discreetly chose not to blog about it (till now).

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Keemun Mao Feng Black Tea with chrysanthemum, rose, goji berries, dried orange peel, red dates, longan and rock sugar.

Interestingly enough, while talking to Siong, one of the founding partners of new tea brand Infusion-de-vie, he told me that a TCM physician from Taiwan had told them to keep their Chinese tea/herb blends to just a maximum of three ingredients. And in line with my whole let’s-keep-things-simpler mantra of the moment, this sounds like wise advice!

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Last week, I received a box of their Rejuvenate blend (S$32 for 5 sachets, each sachet can last up to 5 rounds) just before the festive frenzy. How timely because as the resident grinch, this time of the year can get especially draining. This organic concoction consists of Taiwan Yilan black tea leaves, sun-baked goji berries and Astragulus roots (huang qi). I was surprised at the woody sweet intensity of flavours with just 6-7 minute brews (am used to boiling my herbal soups for at least an hour) and was also intrigued by the whole concept of this tea brand.

“There are so many tea brands coming out these days and we were wondering how we could make our tea business stand out. I’m a very health-conscious person, and also someone who has a deep respect for Chinese culture, so I thought that doing organic Chinese tea blends that also include organic herbs might appeal to a wider base of customers,” Siong explained.

While it’s only just been launched a few months ago, there has apparently been a healthy flow of orders coming in without doing any aggressive marketing as yet. Good on them! Perhaps it’s their lovely packaging and creative, nourishing blends which most Chinese are not strangers to, but would find refreshing to drink as tea. For example,they also sell blends such as Revitalise (Taiwan Yilan Oolong Tea & Premium White Ginseng, S$48) as well as Refresh (White Chrysanthemum & Sun-baked Goji Berries, S$32).

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Another driving force for coming up with Infusion-de-vie was the discovery from a CCTV news report that most Chinese herbs sold today are preserved with sulphur which can harm the respiratory system. As such, all the ingredients in Infusion De Vie’s blends are certified organic by Taiwan MOA International, German Kiwa BCS Oko-Garantie GmbH and French Ecocert SA.

– You can buy Infusion-de-vie products from their website – they do international shipping.

– You can join the Infusion-de-vie FB page here to get a 10% discount from their Raffles Place pushcart (details below)!

-They are also retailed in Singapore and China at the following places:

China

1. Yue Zi Ge 悦子阁
858 Yuyuan Rd, Changning, Shanghai, China
上海市长宁区愚园路858号

2. Tian Lu 天露
Unit 105, Block A, 176 Zhujiang Rd, Suzhou, China
江苏省苏州市常熟市176号珠江路玉坤国贸广场A座105

3. Louis Canton 壕爷
289 Guangzhou Middle Road, Nanfang 289 Art Space, Guangzhou, China
广州市广州大道中289号南方289艺术园一楼大厅

4. Cafe Spoon
Unit A13, Mall of the World (South Zone), Zhujiang New Town, Guangzhou, China
广州市珠江新城花城汇南A13区号

Singapore

1. Pies & Coffee @ Robertson Walk
11 Unity Street, #01-25, Robertson Walk, Singapore 237995

2. Pies & Coffee @ The Grandstand
200 Turf Club Road, #01-10, Singapore 288794

3. The Tuckshop / The Recess
403 Guillemard Road, Singapore 399795

4. Pushcart @ Basement One, Raffles Exchange
Raffles Place MRT Station
5 Raffles Place, Singapore 048618

 

 

The TEAnager of Cliff Three

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When Eunice first contacted me over e-mail to invite me to try her family’s tea label Cliff Tree, I somehow developed an impression she would have medium-length Korean-permed hair and wear a pencil skirt from her polite and meticulous way of writing. Instead, I met a girl with a bob in jeans who didn’t look older than 20.

It turns out that Eunice is just 19. She is taking a year off before going to university to try setting up this business because she “just likes tea very much” after years of drinking Chinese tea with her family. Her uncle in Malaysia is a famous tea master, and introduced her family to a tea producer in Wuyi mountains. They somehow worked out a deal such that her family would be the distributor of his tea in Singapore (which is a real privilege as yan cha – or cliff tea- is in limited supply these days).

Her father, who also has just decided to set up his own business, shares an office space with her and accompanies her on business meetings. “The old tea ‘uncles’ only talk to him,” she told me matter-of-factly. “They just don’t trust xiaomeimeis (little sisters).” However, the truth of the matter is that Eunice is pretty much running the whole show and the rest of her family treat it as a fun family project (for example, her brother helped to set up their online store).

There’s this quiet sensibility I like about Eunice. As she recounts her story while serving me tea, there’s no whiff of trying to show off or portraying street cred. She is who she is and remains non-plussed that none of her friends her age like tea (“at most, they drink bubble tea”) or that trying to sell good Chinese tea to most Singaporeans is like pulling teeth out. She says she doesn’t know much about tea and is yearning to learn more, but the way she prepares tea shows an easy familiarity.

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This post was meant to be a tea review but I feel that meeting Eunice was probably the most interesting part of this tea tasting session which is why the story has morphed into this. Of course, all the cliff tea I tried was good and had distinctive mineraly notes (the Hua Xiang Rou Gui was especially delightful with this nectarine aftertaste) and I really hope that this tea brand will get more exposure. If you’d like a tasting session before buying any of their cliff teas, do contact Eunice the TEAnager at cliffthree [AT] outlook [DOT] com

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The Indiana Jones of Tea

One reason why history was my favourite subject in school is because of the fascinating personalities that lurked between the rise and fall of nations. The history of tea is no exception, and my current favourite tea bloke from the past would be horticulturalist Robert Fortune (1812-1880). So basically, with all the drama from the First Opium War, Britain began looking to grow tea in their own colonies as back-up – namely, India. Here comes a somewhat middle class Scottish bloke, Robert Fortune (really, you can’t get a better superhero name than this) in 1848 who did all kinds of plant-based espionage (collecting tea plants and seeds, getting a peek into a tea manufacturing plant etc) in the rural parts of Fujian and Guangdong by learning Mandarin, growing out a pigtail and posing as a Chinese official.

And he wasn’t just incredibly courageous, he also had a good head about him. For one, he was the first ang moh/kwei lo to realise that black tea and green tea actually come from the same Camellia sinensis plant. When his first shipment of tea plants was botched up due to the ineptitude of certain British East India Company officials, Mr. Fortune also had the foresight to keep aside some seeds for a 2nd (and successful shipment) even though that was actually against “company policies”.

He ain’t called the Father of Indian Tea for nothing! For All The Tea in China presents an intriguing version of his biography.