A kiss on a cup

What can you do when you wear lipstick but you want to have a cup of tea? 

The 7th Annual Fang Gourmet Tea Culture of Tea and Teaware Expo held its grand opening on December 19th and has been extremely well-received. With a continuous stream of visitors every day, we are able to make new friends who warm our hearts, while enjoying fine tea in this cold winter. 

Many elegant and lovely ladies among the tea lovers wonder what to do with the embarrassing lipstick marks on the white porcelain cups left from tea tasting.

During this holiday season, let me share with everyone a great method to avoid leaving lipstick marks so that you can enjoy fine tea and stay beautiful all day! 

Steps:
1. Put on lip balm and let it stay for 1 to 3 minutes.

2. Apply a thick layer of loose powder evenly on the lips.

3. Trace the lip shape and apply the lipstick with a lip brush; repeat one more time.

4. Repeat Step 2.

5. Apply the lipstick twice with the lip brush.

6. Gently blot your lipstick with a tissue (to remove lipstick oil on the outer layer)

7. Done! 

Wishing everyone a healthy, wealthy, happy 2015! Happy Holidays!!

The Process of Making Tea

芳茗軒茶道 Tea Master Mancsi Huang

芳茗軒茶道 Tea Master Mancsi Huang

When we drink tea, we would always marvel at the alluring taste and aroma of tea that linger around our tongues.  What is it that generates this kind of fascinating charm?

The secret lies in the production process of tea leaves.

There are several steps in the production of tea leaves and the key procedures include: withering, rolling, fermentation, and firing.

Fermentation is the most important step in tea leaves production.  Fermentation is the oxidation of the polyphenols in the tea and the oxygen in the air.  This oxidation process creates the unique character of each tea.

This is especially true for black tea, in which fermentation must be conducted in an environment of high humidity, low temperature, and appropriate oxygen.  The process must thus be conducted in a special fermentation room, where the humidity, temperature, and air flow can be controlled.  Different tea requires distinct fermentation time, temperature, and humidity.  In general, fermentation time ranges from thirty minutes to three hours and the temperature is between 15℃ and 30℃ (generally speaking, lower temperature can generate better flavor), while the relative humidity is approximately 90%.

Of course, at the end of the process, a tea making master must determine if fermentation is completed based on the tea color and the aroma from the fermentation.


Yunnan Large-leaf Black Tea

Happy Thanksgiving! 

As icy sleet began to fall in New York yesterday, it was a perfect time to just sit down with a good book and a nice cup of hot tea.  But since I had to go out, I wrapped myself up in layers after layers and stepped out with great courage.

Walking became a major challenge on the slippery road, as I was bombarded with the icy sleet and freezing wind.  When I arrived home at night, I was finally able to enjoy the embrace of strong, warm heat.

As I woke up this morning, my throat and mouth were dry and I could feel tingling pin-prick of pain on my skin.  It must be from the cold and dry temperature last night and the even drier indoor heat yesterday. 

Immediately, I took out my Premium Yunnan Large-leaf Black Tea to relieve my thirst and dehydration.

Do you remember the Premium Yunnan Large-leaf Black Tea that I mentioned in the posting “Ginger Tea?”  Let’s take a good look at this tea that I like a lot.

In English, Black Tea is used to refer to Chinese Red Tea; however, the term Black Tea in Chinese actually refers to post-fermented tea like Puer.  Why the differences? This is because Chinese people classify tea based on tea color while English people categorize them by the color of the dried tea leaves.  So, Red Tea is called red since its tea color is red.  At the same time, red tea is also called black tea since the color of the dried tea leaves is black. 

The Premium Yunnan Large-leaf Black Tea I had today are long loose leaves that are both golden and brownish, dark red in color, while the tea color is a bright, illuminant red.  The aroma has a rich honey sweetness to it.  And it is refreshing and sweet with a rich syrupy aftertaste; good even after six or seven brews. The body becomes warm naturally, an excellent well-being tea for cold weather.

Of course, I enjoyed my facial masque as I sipped this fine tea, a privilege for women tea masters!

Two thumbs up for Fang Gourmet Tea's Premium Yunnan Large-leaf Black Tea.

Listening to the Water

We previously talked about water selection now let’s chat about boiling water.

People in ancient times are very precise about water temperature.  Tsai Hsiang [Cai Xiang] from the Song Dynasty mentioned in “The Record of Tea” that it is the most difficult to boil water.  If the temperature is too low, tea leaves will float on the water surface, without releasing the effective elements in the tea and suppressing the aroma.  On the other hand, temperature that is too high will over cook the tea leaves.  Of course, another reason why boiling water is difficult to gauge is because we cannot see the water in the tea kettle, so we cannot predict the water temperature.

Therefore, clever ancient tea lovers discovered a way to gauge the temperature, through “listening to the water” by using our ears, to determine the boiling level of the water.  Different terms were used to describe the size of the bubbles in the boiling water, from shrimp eye, crab eye, fish eye, chained bubbles, to waves of drumming, which is considered the boiling point.  Chang Yuan [Zhang Yuan] from the Song Dynasty included a detailed description of the boiling process in his work, “The Record of Tea.”

芳茗軒茶道 Tea Ceremony by Mancsi Huang

芳茗軒茶道 Tea Ceremony by Mancsi Huang

Water for brewing tea should be full boiling water using high heat and not simmering fire.  Tea brewed with bubbling boiling water would create a high quality taste and aroma.  But water boiled for too long becomes aged water, in which the carbon dioxide would be exhausted, damaging the freshness of the tea.

For the art of tea appreciation, boiling water is the crucial element in deciding the taste of tea. It is an important spiritual practice for people who study the Tao of Tea. Let go of your thoughts and the voices in your mind; listen quietly to the sound of the water. Practice to feel with your heart.  Let the water reveal itself and decide the best timing to be poured into the tea. Listen silently, is all we need to do.

Tea for a Cold Day: Ginger Tea

The weather in New York this winter is quite predictable, getting colder and colder each day.  It seems that everyone is becoming more and more like Queen Elsa in this chilling cold.  It is now Lidong, in solar terms, the Start of Winter, a great time for nourishment and healing.  So let me share a well-being tea that fights against this frigidity—ginger tea.

Treatise on Febrile Diseases, a classic book on herbal medicine states that “ginger can warm our bodies (enhance blood circulation), energize internal organs, and reduce excess internal fluid (accumulated water), expelling air (expel gas) and help with digestion.” It is also mentioned in Compendium of Materia Medica, a classic medical book from the Ming Dynasty, that “ginger controls all evil (all diseases).”
 
During the 16th century, plague killed one third of London’s population.  When King Henry VIII learned that “sufficient ginger shall prevent death”, he ordered the London Mayor to “let all people have more ginger”.  We can still buy ginger bread man in London today.
 
To make ginger tea: 
Based on the size of the cup, add 3 to 5 slices of organic ginger, each about 0.3 cm thick (0.12 inches), into boiling water and let it stand for 5 to 10 minutes.  Organic dark brown sugar or honey can be added and the body will feel warm immediately.
 
In traditional recipes, moms love to cook ginger tea but it should not be too rich nor too spicy. Discomfort may occur such as throat pain, stomach ache, to overall pain in the body.

It works even better with black tea! The caffeine in black tea has diuretic effect and the oxidation products from tea polyphenols can enhance digestion.  Moreover, from the yin and yang perspective of traditional Chinese medical theory, the red color of black tea shows that it is a kind of food that can warm our bodies.  In other words, foods that are blue, white, and green in color will cool our bodies, while red, black and orange ones will warm us up.  So green tea is suitable for spring and summer, while black tea is great for fall and winter.

Also from the perspective of yin and yang theory, dark brown sugar can warm our bodies, reducing the discomfort caused by low body temperature.  When our body temperature increases, it can enhance the burning of internal fat, waste, and sugar, helping with weight lost and to clarify the blood. “A person will get fat by eating dark brown sugar” is actually incorrect; one will even become skinny when taking it with black tea!

My personal recipe:
1. Brew a cup of Premium Yunnan large-leaf black tea (Golden Silk Yunnan Black Tea would be great too)
2. Add about 5 slices of raw ginger, each 0.3cm thick (0.12 inches), into the cup of tea.
3. Wait for 10 minutes and enjoy.

You can also keep it in a thermos and enjoy it slowly; keep the lid tight so it will stay warm.

芳茗軒金絲滇紅 Yun Nan Dian Hong from Fang Gourmet Tea @www.fangtea.com

芳茗軒金絲滇紅 Yun Nan Dian Hong from Fang Gourmet Tea @www.fangtea.com

The weather is getting colder as we move from fall to winter.  During this time, our brain and many of our internal organs are sill inactive when we get up early in the morning.  Our mood would also be affected by a lower body temperature.  

Warm your body and spirit with the activating power of ginger and black tea and enjoy a wonderful day!



Trick or Treat

Every Halloween, people dress up as ghost, vampires or witches, even bringing black cats along with them. Some enthusiasts even go to the extreme of dressing up as monsters. These people would then go around trick or treating.

Halloween, also known as, All Hallows Eve, is a yearly celebration to remember the dead and revolves around the theme of using humor and ridicule to confront the power of death. It is a tradition of dressing up as ghosts and monsters to trick the spirits into not knowing who was actually dead.  Nowadays, this has reverted to just getting candy from adults!

芳茗軒茶道 Tea Ceremony by TeaMaster Mancsi Huang

芳茗軒茶道 Tea Ceremony by TeaMaster Mancsi Huang

Yesterday again, was the annual Halloween Festival, and I was invited to a grand Halloween party.  There, I demonstrated a unique Halloween tea ceremony as “Yuki Onna” or Snow Lady, a spirit from Japanese folklore. 

A full set of transparent tea ware was used in the tea ceremony for guests to see and appreciate the moments when tea leaves expand.  Bright orange and yellow Charcoal Roasted Oolong tea sparkled and danced in the teacups like the color of sunshine. The light aroma and rich aftertaste attracted guests in costumes of all ages, from wizards to monsters. It is a fine tea that can be appreciated by humans and beyond.

Tea is a part of our daily life and the Tao of Tea, the path of tea appreciation, cannot exist seclusively. A cup of tea, either with many guests or enjoyed alone, can calm and purify our mind and lead us into the world of Zen.

The Perfect Water for Tea

Zhang Yuan’s "Record of Tea" mentions the factors of good tea: equipment, the selection of water, the arrangement of fire, the state of the tea, and the method of brewing.

There are five aspects in selecting the water:

1. Living water: Whether it is well water, river water, or spring water, the water should be odorless living water or flowing water.

芳茗軒茶道 Tea Ceremony by Mancsi Huang

芳茗軒茶道 Tea Ceremony by Mancsi Huang

2. Clarity: The water should be clear without impurities or sediment.

3. Lightness: Measuring equipment is used to measure water weight; for different water of the equal volume, the one with the lighter weight is preferred.  This standard began with Emperor Qianlong.

4. Mellowness: The natural taste of water creates a light mellow aftertaste on both sides of the tongue.  People from ancient times believe that water should generate a mellow taste in the mouth, if not it will damage the nature of the tea. 

5. Coldness: The water should be cold and chilly; the temperature should be low.  Cold water is best for brewing tea, especially snow water or rain water.  Water is purified during the freezing process since the impurities dropped to the bottom. Snow water and rain water are soft water from nature and are most suitable for brewing tea.

Of course, due to air pollution in the modern environment, the qualities of snow water and rain water are different from the past and may not be suitable for making tea.  In addition to soft water, water quality is most important.  We want to enjoy fine tea as well as happiness and health!


Refreshing Tea Time

Yesterday, after I dropped off the kids at school in the morning, I started to listen to Four Season by Vivaldi.  I made myself a cup of 10 year-old Wuyi Chelan, one of the most famous Wuyi rock tea varieties.  Due to its age and unique growth, the energy of this aged tea can help balance a person's Qi (energy).  After taking a sip, I took a deep breath and let the energy of the tea refresh me through my nose, mouth, and into my mind.

This is the time for renewal.

We are so busy with life, tackling and balancing between family, financial worries, tedious daily routines, and the fast pace of ever-changing technology, that we forgot the healing power of deep breathing and to just enjoy our lives through nature.

All you need to do is give yourself 30 minutes. Close your eyes, take deep breaths and meditate or even drink a cup of tea. Allow the flow of energy from tea to renew you again.

From a pianist to a tea master, then a mother, my life changes as it should be. I appreciate and love it.

image.jpg

Turning of the Leaves

 

The weather is gradually getting colder after the Cold Dew have passed and it is now autumn. The temperature dived suddenly this morning and I now realize that it is Frost Descent. In this chilly weather a cup of hot tea can bring the best comfort.

autumn-leaves.jpg

The dry weather during autumn is characterized with dry heat which causes our body to experience dry, peeling skin.  Therefore, some hydrating well-being tea is best for this time, for example oolong tea and Ti  Kuan Yin. The oolong tea category is between black tea and green tea, it is half-fermented tea and its nature is neither hot nor cold.  It is great for fall and can moisturize our skin and throat, as well as nourish our lung and saliva. It can also effectively remove excess internal heat and replenish our body fluid, providing great health benefits for the fall season.

In addition, oolong contains abundant minerals, such as iron and calcium, as well as, ingredients to enhance digestive enzymes and decompose fat. It can also suppress fat absorption and prevent excess carbohydrates from transforming into fat.  Drinking tea over a long period of time can not only lower our cholesterol, but can also keep us in great shape! 

Recommendation:  Fang Gourmet Tea's Original Ti Kuan Yin honey aroma 30% and 50% roasted, and the oolong series are among my favorites!

 

The 'Now' of Tea - To Eat or Not to Eat: that is the Question

Should we eat food when tea tasting?

That depends on the occasion. If it's a New Year celebration or a large gathering of family or old friends, drinking tea, eating sunflower seeds or rice cakes, and chatting about life are the perfect combination. At that moment, what we care is not really about tea but the happiness of seeing long lost family and friends.

Thus, if you ask whether or not to speak or eat while tea tasting, then the main point is the direction of your mind at the moment. If our mind is on tea tasting itself, that is, everything we do is focusing on tea, then when we eat or speak, it will also be considered the Tao of Tea, as well.

Tea, without the essence of Tao, becomes ordinary tea drinking. When we incorporate Tao, then drinking tea is elevated to tea tasting.

Tao originates from the natural flow of nature. The Tao of tea uses tea as a stepping stone. Through the natural, simple and earnest steps of tea tasting, you will be able to elevate your inner self-awareness to the so-called "unity of Heaven and Humanity" in ancient Chinese culture.

There are many different levels of Tao, when we are aware of Tao through tea ceremony, then we are entering the level of Zen, which is the ultimate state of unity of tea and Zen.

The 'Now' of Tea - To Speak or Not to Speak: That is the Question

“Should I talk during the Tea Ceremony or shouldn’t I?” “Is it ok if I eat something during the Tea Ceremony or I shouldn't?” Those are the most common questions I am asked by my Tea Ceremony students.

During the Tea Ceremony, we don’t talk. But why? Because it’s about our brain functions.

When you want to talk, your brain is busy with associating thoughts, words, sentences, and logic in order to express what you want to say. Meanwhile, you don't know what you are drinking, or tasting. What flavor is this tea? All you can conclude is, “This tea is nice.”

芳茗軒茶道 Tea Ceremony by Mancsi Huang

芳茗軒茶道 Tea Ceremony by Mancsi Huang

Of course, this doesn’t mean that people who don’t talk during the Tea Ceremony is in the mood or mode of the Tea Ceremony. Even if a person doesn’t talk with their mouth that doesn't mean they don't talk to them self, non-stop. The brain has no chance for a break to feel anything about Tea.

Some people may think, "It doesn't feel right when we don't talk." "The class is too quiet." Or "Outside is so noisy."  After a few Tea Ceremony classes, by practicing, you will start to hear the sound of silence, to accept the noises around you, and to drink.

Let the tea embrace you with its scent, taste, and relax your brain and mind. Just drink the now of tea.  

This is the beginning of the Tea Ceremony.