Issue #1   July 2007

by Daniel Reid    danreid.org

Brought to you by Oolong-Tea.Org

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Welcome to Issue One!

          We at OolongOz are pleased to announce the launch of "Tea Tidings,"  a periodical news bulletin that will be posted on our website six to eight times a year, and which you may also subscribe to by email, free of charge.  With all the confusion and downright nonsense circulating in the Western world these days about the merits, nature, and art of High Mountain tea beauty chinese tea aesthetics green tea oolong tea wulong teaOolong Tea,  Chinese tea art, tea craft, and other aspects, we feel it's high time to sort things out properly, and offer connoisseurs as well as newcomers to this art and craft accurate information, interesting new developments, and entertaining anecdotes about what we regard to be the finest tea on earth.  So, without further ado, let's get started.

Some Basic Terms and Concepts

          We often hear novices refer to what the  Chinese call the "Art of Tea" (cha yi) or the "Way of Tea" (cha dao) as a "tea ceremony."  The Chinese way of drinking tea is an art, not a "ceremony."  And like all arts, it's meant to be enjoyed without all the inhibitions, rules, and self-conscious restraints of ceremony.  The Japanese Tea Ceremony is a ceremony, and it's not much fun, the tea doesn't taste very good, you have to dress a certain way, say only the right thing at the right time, and kneel on a mat until your knees go numb.  That's fine as a cultural experience, but you wouldn't want to start your day that way each morning.   The Chinese Way of Tea is as free, spontaneous, and natural as flowing water, like the Tao itself, and if enough of you start calling it "cha dao," the term will soon enter the English language.

          Another common misnomer is to refer to oolong tea as
"green tea."  Oolong tea is oolong tea, not green tea.  Green tea is unfermented, raw, green tea.   Black tea is fully fermented, highly cured black tea (the Chinese call it "red tea"), and oolong tea is oolong cha black dragon teasemi-fermented, delicately seasoned oolong tea ("oolong cha" literally means "black dragon tea," a reference to the curled, twisting shape of the dried leaf, not to the color).  Green tea contains many elements of benefit to health, but it's impossible to drink enough of it in one sitting to get a therapeutic effect, because as an unseasoned, uncured plant product, it irritates the stomach if you drink too much, just as distilled whisky that has not been aged in casks will burn your belly, and tobacco that has not been properly cured will inflame your lungs.  So the correct category in which to place "oolong tea" is  "semi-fermented tea,"  not  "green tea."

          When we speak of "High Mountain Oolong Tea," we are talking about a sub-category of oolong tea that represents the "creme-de-la-creme" of oolongs, indeed of all teas on earth.  High Mountain Oolong Tea (gao shan oolong cha) was developed in Taiwan, from tea plants that were brought to Taiwan from Fukien province in  China during the 17th century, when Chinese people loyal to the Ming Dynasty escaped there from the Manchu takeover of the mainland.  Cultivated in the lush fertile highlands of Taiwan high mountain oolong gao shan oolong tea leavesfor over 350 years, High Mountain Oolong is without question the best quality, finest tasting tea in the world, at least according to those who drink it, and it has by far the most potent therapeutic qualities.  For more details about this, please refer to my article on the Art of High Mountain Oolong Tea at our website.

          Finally, a dedicated tea drinker is known in Chinese simply as a cha ren, or "Tea Person," plain and simple.  Those who are dedicated to the art and craft of drinking High Mountain Oolong Tea constitute an exclusive international fraternity (and sorority) of  cha ren who, having entered the Way of Gao Shan Oolong Cha, will never switch to any other tea.  Our website, Oolong-Tea.org, serves this group of tea drinkers, as well as anyone who wishes to join us.

A Word of Caution on  Tea Pots

          OolongOz strongly recommends that tea drinkers use only the best quality terracotta tea pots from Taiwan, and avoid the tea pots made in mainland China.  Unless you can be absolutely certain that a tea pot from mainland China is antique (i.e. pre-1950), it's likely to be contaminated with lead, mercury, cadmium, and other toxic industrial pollutants that now saturate China's ground water and clays.  There are people in Hong Kong who are in  hospital as a result of using mainland China tea pots, because as the tea steeps in the pot, toxic contaminants in the clay seep into the tea.  This is a fact, easily verified by any qualified laboratory.

taiwanese tea pots          In Taiwan, good quality tea pots are made only from pure clays (the best kilns test all clays for contamination), by master potters, and they are a lot more expensive than the tea pots currently made in China.  However, if you are going to spend $200 for a catty (600 grams) of fine grade High Mt Oolong, why on earth would you want to prepare it in a $25 pot laced with deadly toxins?

          It's  your choice, but in our upcoming  online "Tea Shop", you will only find the best quality tea pots made in Taiwan by renowned potters at reputable kilns, and a good qualilty tea pot, well cared for by a dedicated cha ren, will last a lifetime.

Our Tea Menu

oolong tea wulong tea teaware teapots yi shing yixing teapot teaware shop online

          At our Online Tea and Teaware Shop you can buy excellent grades of High Mt Oolong directly from OolongOz. We guarantee that all of our teas are grown in Taiwan without poisonous sprays and chemical fertilizers.  Our main supplier, Lin Shan, a small plantation located in the central highlands, is the only tea grower in Taiwan that has received international certification for 100% organic production of their teas, and this certificate is posted on our website for your reference.   We also offer some equally excellent varieties from a few other small plantations in Taiwan.   Newcomers can start with a simpler, less expensive vintage, while old-timers and fanatic connoisseurs (the Chinese term here could be translated as  "tea freaks") will find some extremely rare, incredibly delicious, and, of course, very expensive varieties for their own delectation.

          While we normally don't approve of "flower teas" such as Jasmine, which are usually made with cheap grade black teas, our friend Mr. Lin at Lin Shan Plantation makes an amazing, wonderfully fragrant Jasmine Tea with a lightly fermented High Mt Oolong, and this we can supply to those of you who like the taste of Jasmine.  He grows his Jasmine bushes at the plantation, also 100% organic, and uses only the tender young blossoms for this celestial blend.

          We can also locate and supply any special varieties of oolong that you don't find on our regular menu, such as the legendary Tie Guan Yin ("Iron Bodhisattva  of Compassion"), or less expensive varieties grown in northern Thailand from Taiwan plants.

oolong tea wulong tea teaware teapots yi shing yixing teapot teaware shop online

A Last Word in Verse

          In closing, I'd like to share with you a tea poem that our tea master, Snow Reid, recently received from her sister Jolene in Taiwan.   The Chinese have always expressed their sentiments best in verse, and their written language is by far the most suitable format on earth for poetry.  Translating such sublime poems into proper poetic English is not easy, but I hope you all enjoy what I've done with it:

A Cup of Tea


A cup of tea at the crack of dawn
Uplifts the spirit and inspires the heart.

A cup of tea after a meal
Clears the mouth and helps the stomach.

A cup of tea amid the bustle of life
Relieves parched throat and dispels vexation.

A cup of tea when you're overworked
Soothes muscle and bone and dissolves fatigue.

 

chinese tea setting gong fu tea pots tea

That's my cup of tea!

Daniel Reid

 


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by Daniel Reid    danreid.org

Brought to you by Oolong-Tea.Org


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