Friday, December 25, 2009

A Green in the Name of White

It's been a while I have not reviewed any teas seriously... but this doesn't mean that I'm out of teas. In fact, I keep getting new teas, many of which are gifts from friends, like this one I'm trying today.

This a tea named Fuwei Bai Cha (富伟白茶) or Fuwei White Tea. The word "bai" means white. But, a look on the dry leaves revealed to me the truth that it is actually a type of green tea. And to be specific, it is a type of green tea in the category of chao qing (炒青) or "roasted green" so to speak. You may get confused for why a green tea is named white tea? To decode the "white" part in the name, we have to take a look on what it really means by "white" in the terminology of current industry as well as its historical meaning.

The terminology white used in "white tea" is ambiguous. It refers to two different entities: (1) The color of the tea leaf which is "white" or pale green, or is ivory colored (when the leaf is young) -- this is probably the original meaning; and (2) The "simplicity" in the process of the tea leaves, which means merely letting the leaves wither and then dry and pack them up.

In today's tea industry in China, among the five types of tea named by colors [1], it is in the second sense mentioned above that the White Tea is definied. An example of White Tea in this system is Bai Mu Dan (白牡丹) or White Peony.

In the ancient time (especially in Tang and Song Dynasties), White Tea is definied differently from that of the modern tea industry. It is more straight forward referring to the color of the leaves, and has nothing to do with the processing method. A tree that grow "white" colored leaves is considered a specialty. The taste of the tea made out of the white tea tree is said to be supreme [2]. In the ancient time, the procedures in tea manufactury is way more complicated than today's.

Back to today's tea. I did a small online research and found out that this tea is in one of the series of new products developed in the last couple of years, noticeably all from the west region of Lake Tai (太湖). Tea growers there claimed that they have re-discovered the ancient "White Tea", because they found a type of tea tree growing in mountains there which sprouts unique ivory colored leaves, similar to that described in ancient tea classics. And therefore, they call it "White Tea." Obviously, this naming has a great marketing purpose!

However, the tea is processed in the method of green tea. Therefore, by definition of modern tea industry, this type of tea is still a green tea. One of the most polular products in this series which has made a big marketing success is Anji White Tea (安吉白茶).

A search for the manufacturing location of this particular product I'm reviewing today results in a neiborhood of the Anji White!

In conculsion, we have been dealing with three types of "white tea" so far
  1. White Tea in the ancient sense: a special type of tea tree that grows white leaves. In Song Dynasty, teas are manufactured into tea cakes, and grinding the cake into tea powder is required before it can be consumed.

  2. White Tea in modern Chinese tea industry: tea leaves are picked and let withered simply by itself (without shaking or twisting as that in the process of Yellow or Oolong teas) and dried (under the sun or by heating); light fermantation occurs during the process of withering.

  3. A type of green tea called "white" in name only! Picked from a special type of tea tree that grows white leaves, processed in the manner of green tea, which means zero fermantation!

Now comes the actual review part....

The tea is well processed, the package looks nice, too. The dry leaves are flat in shape -- could be a major difference from Anji White which are not flat. The color is also more greenish in comparison of Anji's dull green. I made four infusions, the first one is done in the manner of throwing leave onto hot water (上投), which means you first pour boiling hot water into the gaiwan, and then throw the leave onto the water and let them slowly infused into the water. This is the way often employed for green teas of tender leaves. I used 4g of dry leaves to suit my 120cc gaiwan.

The taste is pretty decent as for a good green tea. It presented a little astringency which you will not experience with Anji White. Usually, astringency indicates the tea possesses less amino acid but more poly phenols. To me this is a good news, because more poly phenols means more EGCGs or the antioxidant element.

The spent leaves demonstrate the tea's specialty for which it is named: the pale greenish with a tone of ivory!


[1] The five types of tea are: Green Tea, White Tea, Yellow Tea, Oolong Tea (or Greenish Black), Black Tea.
[2] The supreme quality of White Tea is described in a Song Dynasty Tea Classic 《大觀茶論》.

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Bibliography of Extended Readings

On 易經 Yi-jing (I-ching), The Classic of Change
  • 易學今昔/余敦康 广西师范大学,2005
    -- 分析中國儒道思想天人合一, 自然主義與人文主義的中道

Monday, October 19, 2009

Materials for research on the tea mthods reflected on 2 scroll paintings

傳為初唐閻立本的《蕭翼賺蘭亭圖》今存世的有兩卷, 一藏於遼寧博物館, 另一藏於台灣故宮博物院. 據學者考證[資料?]此二均宋代的摹本, 其中遼寧博物館所藏的是北宋摹本, 台灣故宮博物院所藏是南宋摹本.



Literature review

李豔婷 遼博本《蕭翼賺蘭亭圖》作者考辨(天津美术学院学报 2007年第3期)

浩更 《蕭翼賺蘭亭圖》重現唐代煮茶風情(文化交流 2008年第5期;又转载于拙风文化网) -- 論點可質疑處頗多

Sunday, May 24, 2009

Pine needle motif on Japanese tea wares

The first time this motif caught my eyes was when I bought a tetsubin with kanji 松風(wind through pine trees) on one side and some "strange" design on the other. At that time, I wasn't sure that the needle like leaves are pine needles and the fruit like thing is a pine cone. Later on I learned that this motif is called 松葉絵 matsu-e(drawing of pine needles). Sometimes, pine cones, called 松ぼっくり(松毬), are also accompanied.

Two things we can learn from this motif. First, as the pine leaves are depicted not on branch but as separate pairs of needles, this motif indicates the season to be late autumn, when the pines shed some leaves on the ground. The falling leaves, just as the falling of sakura flower in Spring, give a sense of the transient beauty. Second, as the needles are paired, or in fascicles of two, we can tell that the dominant pines trees in Japan are probably those similar to Red Pines or Scots Pines in Europe. Or, at least these are the pines that caught the artists' eyes...

The following are a few more examples of the pine needles motif on Japanese tea wares. Note the first one, a tea caddy, has both needles and pine cone, similar to the tetsubin. The second one, a red tea caddy, has bamboo leaves and plum flowers -- thus it makes another popular motif Sho-chiku-bai (松竹梅 pine-bamboo-plum), or Saikan Sanyuu (歳寒三友), literally, "the Three Friends of Winter."

This is a 松葉絵銘々皿 (matsuba-e-meimeizara; "meimeizara" are small plates for individual helpings of food) and it has a more realistic depiction of the pine needles --

Sunday, March 15, 2009

CCTV program features "drinkable antique" - old fine Puerh tea

CCTV now has a "Myths of sky-price" series, and one of them is the "Drinkable Antique (能喝的古董) - myths in old fine Puerh teas":

-- I'm trying to embed the video here, but it only ended up with a link! -- anyone can help me?? (Before I figure it out, you have to copy & paste this link to the address bar to watch the show. Sorry!)


Monday, February 9, 2009

Bibliography and Reference

Source - scriptures
  • 茶道古典全集 / 淡交社

  • 中國歷代茶書匯編校注本 / (香港)鄭培凱、(浙江農大)朱自振

Works - individual studies (texts in Chinese)
  • 宋代茶法硏究資料 Sōdai chahō kenkyū shiryō / 佐伯富編 Saeki Tomi hen

  • 宋代茶文化 / 沈冬梅 學海出版社, 1999 (Minguo 88)

  • 茶与宋代社会生活 / 沈冬梅 [in 中国社会科学博士论文文库] 中国社会科学出版社, 2007

  • 中国贡茶 / 巩志浙江摄影出版社, 2003

  • 明代茶文化藝術 / 廖建智 Taibei, 秀威資訊科技股份有限公司, 2007 [9789866909399]

  • 明代茶酒文化之研究 / 廖建智 Taibei, 萬卷樓圖書, 2005 [9789577395283]

  • 明代茶业经济硏究 / 刘淼 汕头大学出版社, 1997 [9787810362078]

  • 诗化的品茗艺术: 从唐代茶诗看唐代茶艺 / 李新玲 农业出版社, 2008 [9787109128835]

  • 茶与现代养生 / 范晓清 主编 人民军医出版社, 2007 [9787509109335]

(texts in English/bilingual)
  • Tea, wine and poetry : Qing dynasty literati and their drinking vessels = 詩酒茶情 : 清代製壼名家遺珍 / 宋緖康 [et. al] Hong Kong : University Museum and Art Gallery, The University of Hong Kong, 2006 [9789628038381]


宋明雅士文化Intellect's life of Song and Ming Dynasties
  • 《遵生八笺》

  • 《考槃余事》

  • 《香乘》

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

Freshman Seminar Course Proposed

A proposal for teaching a Freshman Seminar course in 2009 Autumn Quarter titled

"Introduction to Chinese Tea Culture"

has been submitted. If accepted, this blog will be developed to integrate class content, readings, online reference, and discussion topics.