Search Phrases that Led People to Us

On our wordpress dashboard, we can see how people come to us.

Sometimes it’s via referrals- though this blog has now become pretty lacking in useful information of late, can’t see why anyone would link to us- and sometimes it is search phrases.

Some phrases are kinda expected-

“tea blog”, “Chinese tea” etc.

Though we don’t really bother with the SEO of this blog so don’t think we are ranked highly  for those keywords.

Long tail searches though often turn up fun if not bizarre stuff.

Top Search Phrase

Interestingly enough, one of the top key word searches is “free tea samples Singapore” which well, no we aren’t giving any. Had one promo last year, well as the saying goes “never say never” so I’ll say we’ll do it again when hell freezes over.

Most Baffling Search Phrase

Another curious one is- “what’s the difference between Chinese tea and tea?”

Ordinarily a more specific phrase would be a subset of a general phrase but if someone asks this question- well I gather to that person “tea’ is served in a mug with milk and/or sugar and almost invariably black. That might be from China but more likely India, Kenya or Sri Lanka.

So I would say Chinese tea is much more than that- it entails green, white, yellow, oolong, black (with milk or without) and dark aka post-fermented.

More to the point, Chinese tea is tea.

In fact for most of civilization, Chinese (and later Japanese) tea IS tea. The only tea around.

British colony teas only came into being about 400 years ago while Chinese teas have been documented for at least 2000 years. For good order, Japanese tea has been around for more than 1300 years.

Funniest Phrase

But anyway, none of those searches inspired this post.

“Does oolong tea make your penis bigger?” did.

No, I didn’t make it up.

That came yesterday.

2 things came to my mind.

“Why?”

and

“Why me?”

“Oolong” is a word that frequently pops up in my writings. It is my favorite category of tea incidentally.

But up till today, in this very post, “penis” has never appeared in my writings, not online, not offline and not in any written form.

I spent 2 minutes thinking whether I might have used it in writing of any form.

Not one single plausible scenario came up.

So anyway, to answer that question- I don’t know, I can’t draw any conclusion from a sample size of one.

On second thoughts, I’m sorry I dignified that question with an answer.

 

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You can’t make this up

In order not to lose track of the tea world in the English speaking world, I skim the forums from time to time, at least the biggest and most established one.

Long stopped commenting and participating because well, it is a black hole for time. You could get into arguments about brewing methods, whether it is superior to pour water from chest level and move up down or circular motion or flick of the wrist.

We tea lovers are passionate about our teas and often if the debate comes up on which method is the “best”, our answers are usually ours!

Of course, if we didn’t believe our method is the best, why would we use it?

Unless of course there are special circumstances, I believe spring water is the best but I live in urban Singapore, any source of fully ‘natural and unprocessed’ water is scary to me.

Anyway, sometimes there are good information on these forums but as with the world of the internet, intense weeding is required.

Other times, there is entertainment.

Much like most of this blog  to be fair, after a while this blog becomes my rant-y, nonsensical blog and I reserve the serious tea stuff for my online tea store‘s tea resource or my new-ish tea blog reserved for introducing different varieties of tea that I don’t sell, at least at point of writing.

What I’ve read lately definitely falls into the latter.

So this forum members starts to ask for the best XXX tea. High quality, really high quality tea, best in China (which for Chinese tea obviously means best in the world).

So other forum members start to reason with him (paraphrased)

– If you want the best, you really need to pay top dollar

– The best are not easily accessible, why don’t you share your experience and we’ll suggest something more realistic.

Then a more knowledgeable and respected member gives him a concrete figure.

– A very very high grade one- but not yet the best- cost $X,XXX per pound (yup 4 digit)

IMG_3497This guy immediately responds that it is not worth the $.

That is odd, considering he begun the thread by asking for the best, or the existence of really high grade ones, that means he has not experienced the highest echelon.

I am no wine connoisseur but I won’t say that a very high grade one is not worth $1,500 for example when I have never even tried one that is worth $150.

Then it gets better, after some irrelevant tangent.

Someone else suggests a more realistic range- of which the lower end is closer to supermarket grade teas than  premium teas. Somewhere around $x per 50g (single digit).

The same guy responds with a dismissive tone- not worth the money, guys in the forum obviously have too much money, stuff like that.

Makes me really wonder why he started asking for the ‘best’.

Next time I should walk into a Japanese fine dining joint and ask for their best Kobe beef and declare my willingness to pay no more than McDonald’s pricing.

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Reading Between the Lines

I probably shouldn’t say this but very often I shake my head in bewilderment when I read some of the vendor’s descriptions of teas, not ours of course.

Overtime you learn to be immune to bizarre romanization and colorful (mistranslated) names so that is not the case.

Geographical Guffaws

Can’t pretend to know what goes through the mind of others but I reckon there are 2 reasons that it happens- ignorance or preying on the ignorance of others.

This is not about singling out inability to identify specific cliffs in Wuyishan like Matouyan for example.

Rather it baffles me why are certain teas labeled as being from Wuyishan when

i) They are obviously not from Wuyishan such as Tieguanyin (true story, kid you not)

ii) Even more obviously from Wuyishan because they bear the place of origin- e.g. Quanzhou XX Oolong “grown in Wuyishan” according to that vendor.

Here is the thing, Quanzhou is a place in Minnan, Southern Fujian, about 500km from Wuyishan.

History Remade

I love it that a particular vendor’s Longjing has been made in the same manner as it has been for a thousand years. I love authenticity and traditional ways, especially if wok-roasting has only been existence for 800 years.

Or Oolongs that have been true to the traditional processing that were unchanged for 5,000 years. No kidding, processing of oolong tea is dated for less than 600-700, depending on which version.

Those are truly historic teas, predating history!

Tribute

Every other tea is a tribute tea, reserved for emperors.

Naturally, who wouldn’t love the stuff reserved for royalty.

There are some that were never really tribute teas and then there are some hilarious stuff.

For example Yunnan Black aka Dian Hong has been billed as a tribute tea, reserved for the royal family, notwithstanding the fact that when it was first produced, the last Emperor of the Qing dynasty has been deposed.

It is indeed rare that anyone would remain loyal to rulers of overthrown regimes, truly a tribute unlike any other!

Wild thing, you make my heart sing

Wild grown.

I presume it means untended right?

It might be possible in large ancient forests in Yunnan. When it is the reserve area of Wuyishan spanning 72 square kilometers of extraordinary economic potential, I have my reservations.

Motivations

Back to my earlier statement- only 2 reasons why anyone would do this- ignorance or preying on the ignorance of others.

Those that I mentioned are statements that accentuate the perceived value of teas. Wow- long historical heritage or Wuyishan- one of the best known tea harvest area in the world.

Perhaps it was a genuine mistake made in good faith who knows.

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What’s so Special about your Tea?

As some of you may know by now, I own and operate an online tea shop and ever so frequently we get in front of people at expos, events and such.

One frequently asked question that I never managed to answer to the satisfaction of prospects is

“What’s so special about your tea?”

Not that my tea is run-of-the-mill stuff- it’s not, it’s great ;p- but there are some difficulties in answering this honestly.

Exceptional is not the Exception

I have had people describe some of my teas as “exceptional’, a compliment I accept gratefully.

The thing is, great tasting teas are not THAT much of an exception, at least from China.

For example some of the teas I get, the annual production is probably 50-100 kg or so, I only bought 5-10kg, so that are plenty more, albeit predominantly in China.

What I’m trying to say is, I don’t have a monopoly on great teas.

If my answer is “my teas are special because they are all exceptional” then it would be dishonest because I know of other vendors that sell exceptional teas.

Of course that kind of means”exceptional” is an inappropriate adjective but I guess you should know what I mean.

Special doesn’t really mean great

If I so desired, I could have a truly special tea.

All I need is to drive 2 hours to Senai in Malaysia where many households grow tea plants for making Hakka Thunder Rice in their backyard.

I will just sundry it and bake it, a truly one of a kind white tea that is really special.

But here’s the thing, it tastes horrible.

Unknown cultivar- not one like Dabaicha which is extraordinarily high in amino acid

Low elevation and hot climate- hello astringency!

But it’s special right?

Exceptionally horrible!

I rather have a tea that is widely produced but the widespread production means that there is plenty of competition to bring out the best.

For example, being the top Tieguanyin producer in Anxi means a lot more than being the top tea producer in Shandong, for example. Because the competition is really stiff.

To stand out, it needs to be exceptional. (There’s that word again)

All Teas are Special in their Own Way

Now this sounds like a cop out but it’s true. At least for Chinese and Taiwanese teas.

Most of the top grade ones are made by hand. Factor in changing climate, picking conditions etc etc.

So you can’t have 2 batches that are exactly the same.

Of course for commercial grade teas that are produced according to SOP instead of discretion of masters, blended to achieve consistency and so forth, this is not the case.

What is truly special though….

Is the overall package.

Now I don’t know every single shop in the world but I doubt there are many that shares the same commitment we have to provide information and resources to our customers on tea.

On our tea resource section, we organized our articles into brewing guides, selection, storage, history etc.

More than 200 articles on tea.

Every tea we sell, we have detailed brewing guides, some with videos as well.

All this to help you get the most of your tea as well as know tea better.

Now that is special.

*At least the extent of it 🙂

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On Being a Chinese Tea Drinker

Sometimes I ask folks if I am who they envisage a typical Chinese tea drinker to be.

Not that I am some insecure narcissist who craves validation but I often find some of the statements hilarious:

“Which part of China are you from?”

“Oh, you speak English?”

And so forth.

Then people are surprised that I spend more time reading Colm Toibin than I do Cao Xueqin (author of Dream of a Red Chamber) or Kazuo Ishiguro as compared to say Lu Xun.

If you watched some of the latest videos I made on brewing, at the suggestion of a viewer/reader, I added some background music on the latest videos.

He suggested Chinese instrumental music but of the 2 videos I made, I played Herbie Hancock and Yo-yo Ma. I hardly listen to ‘western classical music’ but I have a few Yo-yo Ma and Joshua Bell CDs at home because I read somewhere that it was supposed to stimulate the infant’s brain.

*Yeah, in this respect I am a typical Asian parent*

Perhaps traditional Chinese music might be more apt, but the simple truth is I have no such music in my library. Well, I have 1 CD actually, but you would be sick of hearing the ‘Butterfly Lovers’ for the next 20 videos or so.

So it’s going to be Hancock, Grant, Rollins and if I manage to brew tea with him playing, Coltrane & Thelonious Monk as well.

That is what I used to listen to. These days I listen to kids music. No, really. As a father, I either listen to her sing or play her CDs.

Anyway, does that fit your profile of a typical Chinese tea drinker, an ethnic Chinese no less?

In truth, I just go for what I like.

In literature, I gravitate more towards British, if not Irish writers.

In music, if I get a choice, I listen to jazz but mainly from dead or retired guys.

In sports, these days I only watch the NBA though I sneak in a bit of MLB from time to time.

Food, I am partial to Asian, Chinese mainly but south east Asian (Malay, Thai) & east Asian (Korean and Japanese) as well.

Tea- Chinese of course. Conveniently classifying Taiwanese teas as ‘Chinese teas’ as well, no reference to politics, more on processing styles.

Does this conform to a typical impression of a Chinese tea lover?

Wait, it gets better. I don’t have any traditional Chinese clothes- nor does my wife- and we are not Buddhist, we are Christians- Baptists to be more precise.

But I still love Chinese tea with all my heart.
Now that I’ve come out of the closet, I can go back to quoting Chinese idioms.

Posted in About us, Culture, musings, tea | 2 Comments

Dealing with the Singapore Haze

Last week, things have been hazy here in Singapore, literally. For a country that has been given the moniker of “Garden City”, haze (at those levels we should call it smog) is not something we are accustomed to.

Courtesy of forest fires in Indonesia, monitoring the PSI levels has replaced monitoring the STI as our favorite activity.

When it crossed over the 300 mark as it did on Thursday onward, it wasn’t a laughing matter. Holing up at home, we were thankful for the air-purifiers (yes, plural, lucky us) we received as a house warming gift.

Still, competing depression was as challenging as finding fresh air.

Donning a mask, my wife whipped up some home made Bak Kut Teh for me to overcome my Founders Bak Kut Teh craving.

bak kut tehThe meat was succulent and a bit fatty, the way I like it.

If I had any bones to pick (ingrate) I had to say it was not peppery enough but given my toddler daughter’s palates that much is understandable.

Customizing it for our family’s palates, there was the inclusion of cabbage (mine) and Goji berry (my daughter’s) and a huge dash of love.

Naturally what bak kut teh meal is complete without oolong tea. Fujian oolong to be more precise.

bak kut teh teaThe spiciness and greasiness of bak kut teh makes oolong tea a perfect complement and I paired it with one of my daily favorites- Huang Jin Gui.

The aroma permeated my entire mouth and the huigan soothes the throat.

It was such a delightful interlude, that I almost could have forgotten the PSI outside was at near hazardous levels.

The simple indulgences of life, even when it’s crazy outside.

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If I could only have 3 teas for the rest of my life

Now this thought isn’t all THAT terrifying to me.

Some people want to drink all the teas in the world, as for me, I want to drink all I can from each tea.

If I don’t sell tea, I think I might be happy drinking just 5 teas:

i) A type of Dancong- Xin Ren Xiang, Mi Lan Xiang, Huang Zhi Xiang, Tong Tian Xiang or Rou Gui Xiang. Or any of the many others that I might have missed. But Dancong is a staple of my tea life.

ii) A type of Yancha- again like the above, it can be Dahongpao, Bai Ji Guan, Shuixian, Rougui or even more exotic types like Yanzhongyu, Bantianyao but I need the ‘Yan Yun’

iii) Either Longjing or Dongting Biluochun or Dinggu Dafang. I love roasted greens. I drink green everyday and can’t contemplate a future without them. Narrowing it down to these 3, I think I will be happy though I must say for Longjing either Xihu or Dafo Longjing.

iv) Tieguanyin- ’nuff said

v) Puer- Sheng Puer to be exact. Minimum of 6 years old (aged naturally in south east asia or HKG I suppose), MUST BE traditional Puer, not the newfangled types for immediate consumption as opposed to aging- i.e. sundried not baked. Can be Xiaguan, Menghai or some of the smaller ones.

Now if you force me to pare it down to 3, that changes things somewhat.

Logically it would make sense to go with an oolong, a green tea and a Puer, that provides something for every occasion. Nice variety to mix it up. You have something for the heat, the cold and for everything in between.

But the notion of going through life without Tieguanyin, Dancong or Yancha is terrifying.

But a pure oolong diet means I have nothing for the sweltering heat.

And what of old age when I need some Puer for my weaker constitution, gotta be prudent and plan for that.

I could age some highly roasted oolongs, but….. but…. but….

Maybe I could drop Tieguanyin………

*shivers*

Dancong is impossible, that’s my Teochew heritage we’re talking about!

Yancha….. the thought of it….. Let me get a sip of my Shuixian to calm the jitters.

Darn, this is just a hypothetical exercise, I don’t really have to take it so seriously.

5, my best offer.

Plus on occasion I hope you would allow me to try some Silver Needles, Liubao Heicha, Liuan Guapian and even Gyukuro on Japan’s national day or something.

That’s my best offer.

 

Posted in musings, tea | 2 Comments