Teas – Green Tea and Pu’Er at Xiao Tu Tu Tea Studio

Posted: May 6, 2014 in drinks, tea
Tags: , , , , , , , , ,

Teas are a great way to cleanse the system.  Too much alcohol would be bad so I am hoping wines provide the balance to ensure a healthy lifestyle.  I have been on a quest to find a tea purveyor for the past 1.5 years in Hong Kong.  They range from tourist traps to bad product mix.  Too often the tea shops in HK do not have the patience to educate their customers, they can’t hide the fact you are nothing to them except a piggy bank meant to be shaken until the last drop.  I resorted to drinking tea bags purchased at the supermarket.  Tea Pigs is a welcome change as they put trendy ingredients into chinese teas making their teas a perfect east meets west.  The problem is their teas are tailored for the non-tea drinking crowd and not the real thing.  Since I’m in Asia, birthplace to all things tea, the goal is to develop a love for traditional teas.

I spent the afternoon with Ivan Chiu of Xiao Tu Tu Tea Studio in Sheung Wan.  He was exhibiting at PICEX and happen to be all alone to which I stopped by to chat.  He happens to be a camera enthusiast.  He is special because the Chinese Government bestowed upon him the title of Tea Connoisseur.  He is the only Tea Connoisseur in Hong Kong.  His specialty is high grade teas to which he spends every 3 months out of every year in China meeting with the tea people.  This includes site visits to tea farms and processing factories.  The teas to which he buys may change every year but the quality will always be the same.

China has done a terrible job in calming investor sentiment throughout its supply chain.  The public does not care for Chinese goods as they fear the unknown.  Counterfeit products and fake goods are rampant even among the food industry.  The press is awash in fear mongering and China stories attract front page news.  Ivan spends the months of March, April and May ensuring the teas are grown in the right conditions, the right terroir.  He makes his purchase directly from the tea farms, transporting it to his processing facility of choice for further work.  Unlike other tea companies, he has no ownership stake in his supply chain yet he has control over the whole vertical integration.  He is dependent on Mother Nature to provide the proper growing conditions, there have been years in which the climate does not warrant products worthy of his brand .  His business is based on reputation, low production with an emphasis on superior quality is key; to this his clientele is predominantly private groups.

Each year warrants a celebration.  Last year’s Pu’Er teas were given the name Flower.  This is a picture of a Pu’Er cake.

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The Pu’Er teas have quite the interesting story.  The teas were once used (a few years ago) as a investment vehicle and bid prices for the highly coveted dead stock went through the roof.  The pu’er tea speculation has since cratered and the prices are back down to a more normal level.  We sampled last year’s pu’er tea.  The leaves come from trees over 100 years old and his stock is first pick leaves.  First pick leaves are generally the most high quality and it’s rare to be able to find first pick as most of the production goes straight to the Chinese government.  The pu’er we sampled was not made in the traditional sense – fermentation.  This one is pre-ferminatation with natural aging for 2 years.  I am told it should drink well for the next 10 years.  Tea drinking theory dictates 10 seconds of steeping.  Long steep times will make the teas bitter.  Pu’Er’s health benefits are well known for its cleansing properties.  People may be able to use it for weight loss.

On first taste, the tea gave off an apple and osmanthus flower (chinese dessert) taste with a strong flower nose.  Second taste, dried apricot notes took the fore front of my taste buds.

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Oolong tea is a green tea with anti-aging properties and strong vitamins.  It is a green tea and his teas are hand made and charcoal baked.  His green tea is the Iron Buddha variety with strong honey notes.  The green teas change colour, getting darker and stronger with each pour.  His green teas are not the traditional green colour.

This is a picture of handmade Japanese tea set.  Each set carries small variations making the buyer sophisticated in knowing they are drinking out of vehicle purposely built without another one in the world.

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Pu’Er teas come in cakes.  The cakes come in a cone of 7 stacked together.  You can purchase the Pu’Er in cake form for further aging at home or in loose form for immediate consumption.

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I purchased a can of Iron Buddha, $200 for 131 grams.  Ivan took the time to guide me through the art form of tea drinking so I hope this post does it justice.

His retail shop is located on the ground level next door to a temple in Sheung Wan.  It’s across the street from a well known pork chop restaurant named For Kee.

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He is rarely in the office as shown in this photo.

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It’s best to call him before popping in, 2581-1088.

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