Interview With China’s Youngest Professional Tea Taster, Part 2
Drinking Tea the Wrong Way
Lu Xun, a famous Chinese writer (1881–1936), once said, “You live an easy and comfortable life if you have good tea and know how to drink it.”
The pace of life nowadays is very fast. Every day you have to cope with lots of people, work, and social obligations. If you can slow down and make a pot of good tea, it can bring tranquility to your life.
These days, many people think that having tea is nothing more than putting tea leaves in a teapot and filling it with hot water. They drink tea to quench their thirst, when drinking tea is actually a peaceful cultural custom.
I don’t know much about the art of tasting tea, so I asked Danny the proper way to drink tea. He said that there was a widespread misunderstanding among modern people about drinking tea: “We want to promote the tea culture and bring you good things. We also need to educate people about the correct way of drinking tea. If you don’t drink tea in the appropriate way, it will not serve to be good for your health.
“First of all, we need to wash tea leaves before we make tea. The tea from other stores is not that clean, and there may be pesticide residue on the tea leaves. Many people don’t wash the leaves before making tea. The procedure of washing tea should be followed even for green tea.
“Secondly, expired tea is not drinkable. A friend of mine brought some tea from his home. I took a look and noticed that it was expired. I thought, how could you still drink it? Never drink expired tea. It will not do your health any good.
“If green tea is stored well, the maximum storage period is about a year. If it’s not stored properly, you can’t make tea with it and drink it even after only a month. If tie-guan-yin tea is not well kept, you can’t drink it after two weeks.
“Many people don’t know that tie-guan-yin tea needs to be kept in the freezer. Low-temperature storage is not sufficient. If it is stored in the freezer and in a vacuum package, tie-guan-yin tea can be preserved for a year. Still, many people casually leave tea in the open or even leave it in a car. Leaves only take two or three days to lose their essence. After that, they decay, especially in summer.”
Danny also mentioned that many people like to drink hot tea in a big mug, but hot tea is not good to for your health, he said. Some people leave tea to soak in a bottle of water. He said this is also not good. Some people drink tea right after a meal, but it’s better to drink tea half an hour after eating, according to Danny. And he doesn’t recommend having tea with lamb.
Characteristics of Pu-Erh Tea
Danny was raised with tea, and he has a special affection for his hometown tea, Pu-erh. Generally speaking, people drink fresh tea, but Pu-erh tea is a tea with vitality. It can breathe and continue to ferment in the air. The longer it is stored, the mellower its taste, so it is called “the drinkable antique.”
The unique quality and character of Pu-erh tea strongly attracts Danny. He said: “Pu-erh tea can be refilled 10, 20, even up to 40 times. The typical green tea becomes tasteless after one or two refills. A new cake of Pu-erh tea will taste different after storage, and every refill will taste different.
“The transformation of Pu-erh tea is just like human life. Fresh Pu-erh tea is like a child who is naughty and impressionable. Pu-erh tea before maturity tastes bitter and astringent, and the taste is far from consistent. However, after it is stored for 20 to 30 years, it becomes steady, sensible, and tastes more mature. It is still bitter and astringent, with strong flavor, just like a person of middle age.
“Forty- to fifty-year-old Pu-erh tea is thick, steady, and very firm. Hundred-year-old Pu-erh tea is tasteless, but the color of the tea is the same, transparently red, like red wine, but without taste. This is very magical and wonderful,” he said.
For our meal, Danny prepared a blooming tea. When the red flowers of the jasmine, chrysanthemum, and green tea buds leisurely bloomed in my glass mug, I was amazed by the ineffable beauty inside.
“It looks nice, and it is also very healthy!” Danny said with a smile. “Flower tea has a delicate fragrance. It is a combination of flowers and tea. It not only has the effect of green tea, but the natural dry flower has a certain cosmetic effect. It is also good for your health.”
Danny talked sadly about the problems with China’s domestic tea market. He said: “The current tea market, in particular the Pu-erh tea market, is quite chaotic. The total annual production of Yunnan Pu-erh tea, including four-seasons tea, is less than 80,000 tons. However, Pu-erh tea in the domestic market reaches 200,000 tons.
“It is hard to say what the tea actually is. Pu-erh tea is classified as cooked tea or raw tea. The process for cooked tea was not available until 1973, and the process was not complete until 1975. Many people sell 40- or 50-year-old mature tea, but on the current domestic tea market, many people pass off inferior goods as superior ones to make money.
“Others add flavoring essence or fragrance to tea to make it smell very aromatic, but such tea is not good for your health. To tell the quality of tea, it is good to consult with experts,” he said.
Danny’s online store can be found at www.healthylinktea.com .
Read the original Chinese article.