; Cwyn's Death By Tea: April 2018 ;

The Very Limited T-Shirt for Cwyn's Tea Fund

Thursday, April 26, 2018

$1000 Teforia Wedding

New Teforia with 1960s Mushroom lamp

The toughest thing about giving up coffee in the morning for me was the convenience of a coffee machine, of pushing a button and pouring a ready-made pot in ten minutes or so. I am at the point where I need a maid or a partner. Since winter this year, my back and hips feel all the worse when waking up from sleep. I must spend a few minutes of stretching in bed just to get up. After all that, as soon as I leave my room I am assaulted by cats and house mates who want something even before I can manage to go to the bathroom, which is never by myself since my cats insist on busting open the door. Then I have to heat up water for tea, wait around, and by then somebody else needs something. I just want to get back to my room and enjoy my tea.

As far as I am concerned, the main reason to have a partner in life is to have someone wait on me hand and foot, but for whatever reason nobody seems to understand this very simple idea. Any sort of human partnership at my age is an annoyance at best since they usually disapprove of large tea collections. Also a real human partner generally expects taking care of, and I am too busy with my tea to bother taking care of other people. Can I just get a cup of tea in the morning without doing any work??

Last year I looked at some of the new Gourmia tea makers after deciding I miss my morning coffee maker (which is now appropriated by a house mate with French Roast). I talked with the Gourmia reps at the World Tea Expo after one of them emailed me, unsolicited, at the hotel offering a free tea machine for listening to a sales pitch at their booth. OolongOwl got the same email and we went together and spent more than a few minutes listening to the pitch and looking over the machines. While I might be happy to consider reviewing a free machine, the Gourmia offer evaporated after the Expo.

I deserve the $1000 wedding and new Teforia for a partner. I won’t pay that kind of money and luckily I found one on eBay for $140. Now, this machine is not for ME to brew sheng puerh, I have a gaiwan and a gazillion little teapots for that. I need something for hongcha in the morning and maybe green tea during the day. After spending some serious time with this machine, I am glad now I waited for this thing because it is really awesome. I don’t care if I lose every reader of this blog, at least I have some “body” to make me tea.

Before this purchase, I spent a couple of months using a Kamjove Gravity Steeper, and I tried to like it. It makes decent enough hongcha, but is a pain to clean out. The Kamjove strainer is dome shaped, and leaves get packed down around the strainer and won’t tap out over the garbage. Even when using a spoon the leaves are tough to get out without damaging the strainer, and worse the plastic rod connected to the button pops out when trying to scoop out the tea. Using a Kamjove I rinsed a lot of tea leaves down the drain.

The Teforia machine tries to mimic gongfu in a similar way to the Kamjove in that the small chamber for leaves must be infused three times and quickly expressed into the carafe. Unlike the Kamjove, the machine heats the water and expresses the tea forcefully, pushing liquid out of the tea rather than dripping it through. I found I only need 1-3g of leaves rather than the 4-6g hongcha I use in a gaiwan or the Kamjove, because the machine extracts the water with more force.

Unlike the Kamjove, the Teforia infuser and carafe are double-wall insulated. The interior layer is glass. The exterior is plastic to prevent breakage, but only the glass touches the hot tea. All I need to do is fill the back chamber with water which lifts out of the machine with a carrying handle, and add a couple grams of tea leaves.

The machine is run by a Bluetooth app, which requires a paired device like a phone or tablet, but does not require internet once set up. The app has a list of tea types, which matches the teas originally sold by Teforia (now sold by Adagio teas). Since I am using my own tea, I can ignore the names of the teas. I just pick one of the tea types from the list.

From what I can tell, the brewing temps are based on the coder (perceived) caffeine level of the tea, which is how differing types of green and black/oolong teas are distinguished in the app (low, medium, high). I can also adjust the strength which lengthens the amount of time the leaves spend in the water.

The cool part is starting up the machine from my bed. I reach for my IPad or phone, pull up the app and press the button. Most of the teas take 5-7 minutes. I don’t need to leave my room which will trigger the cats and people in the house, although I expect the cats and people will eventually figure out the machine is triggering Mother to get up. I also like that the carafe and infuser lock tight in the machine, so no chance the animals will swat them onto the floor. One of my cats in particular has learned to knock over my tea ware when wanting attention fast.

Teforia, for all the crazy hype, really makes excellent hongcha and green tea. My biggest surprise is green oolong, a tea type I do not own very much of, and in the past I apparently over-brewed with boiling water baths. I have a few green oolong teas to use up, and they come out with honey sweet after-tastes. Yunnan large leaf red teas are great for the first machine brew, but I can get more from these by gaiwan in subsequent infusions because I steep them longer than the app will.

The machine has a setting for sheng puerh, but I have not tried that. I cannot see that brewing sheng in the machine will save me time because of the boiling rinses which must be tossed. Sheng needs hand brewing to tweak the best from it, though perhaps the setting might be useful for fresh sheng, essentially brewing it as a green tea. But again I didn’t buy the machine for puerh. I plan to try Korean teas as well during the summer when I get a craving.

Best of all, the Teforia has a self-cleaning cycle. I don’t even need to clean it! The leaves mostly dump right out, and then the carafe and infuser globe just need rinsing. I won’t need to do vinegar cleaning as with a coffee machine, since the machine will clean with a press of an app button. I also got a microfiber cloth cover in the box to protect it in the kitchen or use as a towel to wipe any tea drips. Really the only downside is the app rather than manual buttons, but why would I want a manual button if I must get out of bed to press it? The whole point is tea without work, orthodox Saturday every day if I program it by the clock ahead of time.

I absolutely love this thing, it’s my new spouse. This is the best tea machine, period. I know a few of you have bought it for puerh and are disappointed, but we don’t need it for puerh. I drink plenty of other teas and having my tea made in the morning for me is well worth the $140 price. I plan to buy an extra carafe and infuser globe from Adagio while they are still for sale, just in case I need replacements. If you want one, try Best Offer on eBay and get the best price you can. I notice that Teforia is planning to start up business again next year with a new $249 model, which compares with the smart Breville currently selling at $250. If the new Teforia also delivers tea from the kitchen to my bed, I’m sold for another.

Saturday, April 7, 2018

wtf is this??

2014 Huang Pian tea drugs.
I used a red clay Chaozhou to boil my water,
so my brew is a little more reddish.
Wtf is this?? I am drinking white2tea’s 2014 Huang Pian from their Basics set. I own a couple of these small cakes. Why didn’t you people get me to try this sooner? Normally huang pian is a gentle drink which gives hints of what the better leaves on the tree taste like, but this tea is a bomb of flavor and potency. This is stronger than some straight up Menghai teas I have had lately, and not the tea drunk, I mean the tea. Seriously I am glad this is just the huang pian because if it were the buds and small leaves it would get me pregnant.

Pungent fruit wood with a touch of smokiness, thick brew, most remarkable is a delayed huigan fifteen minutes after drinking, slightly licorice-root like. Huang pian for wicked people. I tend to hoard my white2teas and cup my daily drinkers, all too often when I return to one of my white2teas, I really wonder why I am drinking whatever my normal choices are at the moment.

Oh crap, the Basics set is sold out... Of course it is.

Tuesday, April 3, 2018

Questions I get asked about Puerh Storage

Big old crock.

Over the past few years I have received quite a few emails about tea storage, usually a few every month. Most of the questions boil down to one of two possibilities, “is this storage solution okay?” or “help!” I can hardly say enough how important my storage fails from 2009-2014 were for me to begin to learn what to do with my tea, and how to deal with my climate and the types of puerh I am storing. My storage failure consisted of copying the cardboard box method advocated by Cloud and a few other very early online posters. This method, even with a bowl of water in the box, left my tea too dry, flat and flavorless. While I managed to recover some flavor by moving the teas to crock storage, luckily I have consumed most of them now.

My climate in the house is far too dry to leave tea in the open, unless the tea arrives with years of wetter storage under its belt. Fortunately, I have a 3 season porch which is enclosed with glass windows. In the summertime, this porch gets very hot and humid, and I have a large ceiling fan to circulate the air. My tea enjoys the summer months fully awake, and the porch smells of tea when I walk in. But during the winter, I experience very dry, desert-like conditions and this is when I need some sort of storage solution to preserve the progress made during summer. I settled on traditional farm crock storage used in this part of my country. I have so many teas now that some are stored in almost every other type of container you can think of. Most of these extras are samples or small amounts of tea, and many are experiments of various kinds. Others are bits of Liu Bao or small packages of oolong teas.

Here are some of the common issues I get emailed about.

My tea has mold, what should I do?

This means your storage is too wet. If the mold is white or grey looking, this is okay, brush it off and adjust the humidity or add air flow. Keep your tea in the open for awhile or cover with a cloth or use a cloth bag for a time. If you have green mold, you must throw this tea out, or at least take off the affected chunks.

People who report mold to me are mainly doing one of two things. One, they are trying to replicate Hong Kong storage parameters, with 70% RH and warmer than room temperatures. This is very risky to do in a small storage situation, because you do not have much space and air flow to keep mold from forming. I prefer a more conservative set of parameters, such as 60-65% RH at room temperature or slightly cooler.

I do not feel that high parameters in small storage areas will age tea much faster. A tea that needs 20-30 years will still need 20-30 years whether at 70% RH or 60% RH. Honestly, if I want wetter tea, why not order it already stored wet? Wet teas are far less expensive to buy than dry stored, and then all I need to do is provide dry storage for a few years.

People who want to try 70% RH or higher will need to babysit their tea. This type of storage is a daily hobby, not a “store it and leave it” situation.

The other mold situation is storage of puerh tea in plastic containers, such as plastic tubs. Plastic has no ability to breathe. There is no air flow, no cracks or anything porous. Plastic is a temporary solution for students or people moving to a new residence. Because I write a blog I must be as conservative as possible. You might see online that people are storing in plastic and report their teas are doing well. That is well for them, but I cannot recommend it, especially for people who do not watch their tea carefully.

Recently I stuck a couple of 20 year wetter samples
in small food jars to air before consuming.
My tea is too dry.

Then it does not have access to sufficient humidity. This is easy to solve. However, it takes several years for tea to really die off, 3-4 years at least. A few months of dry is nothing to panic over, but people email me panicked after a month of dry. Keep observing the tea.

Adding a new tea.

Getting a new beeng or tong in the mail is exciting but anything new added to your storage will affect the humidity balance. If too dry, the tea will suck up all the moisture in the storage unless you have a large room for storage. If a tea is new and fresh, it might add too much moisture and you will need to remove any Boveda packs or back off on adding moisture for awhile. That new cake is a water-filled sponge.

Can I store shou and sheng together?

I would not.

Can I store old tea with new tea?

There are two schools of thought. One is that old tea adds microbes, and these microbes may be beneficial. The other school of thought pertains to perhaps poorly stored tea that might add unwanted odors.

20 yr Yiwu stored by itself in a crockery bowl
with a lid. The wrapper was too worn.
I currently store old tea with new tea, in part because I am out of space. I also am interested especially in how well-stored teas, such as from Malaysia, might positively impact my younger teas. I am currently storing Malaysian-stored Liu Bao with young Liu Bao to pursue this idea because this type of tea will show me some results sooner than sheng.

How do I get started with storage?

The best way is to experiment using pungent factory teas, such as Dayi and Xiaguan. Xiaguan tuos are in the $10 range. Even non-descript brick teas are ok. Factory teas like these are very forgiving if they mold, you can brush off the mold and the tea will recover nicely. When too dry, you can recover the tea quickly. They also are compressed firmly so the interior is not likely to be affected by experiments.

Buying inexpensive teas, not too many, but maybe a handful, is the best way to get started with puerh tea. People use the words “tuition tea” as a pejorative or cautionary tale, but in reality these teas are the least painful on the wallet and the best teas to learn storage. No one wants to lose pricey tea to an experiment gone south. My bad storage years were done on teas like 7542 sheng and 7572 shou. I learned what went wrong on teas that cost under $30 apiece. Nothing prevents these teas from turning out nicely when treated well too.

Relax.

Are we puerh people? Yes we are. Will dusty/dirty put any of us off? Not really. Do we brush off the mold and keep right on drinking? Of course. Do we love our tea more than our children? Probably. We can always have more children, but we cannot get back that old Dayi. So watch your tea like a hawk.