Tuesday, 29 September 2009

The Naked Tea Shop at West Lake, Hongzhou

Dear my loving readers and visitors,

The display board at the main entrance of the west lake.

The photo was taken at the main entrance of the west lake.

"Ripping water shimmering on sunny day,
Misty mountains shrouded the rain;
Plain or gaily decked out like Xizi;
West Lake is always alluring."

These are the words composed by the famous Song Dynasty poet Su Dongpo (960-1127) when he compared the West Lake to Xi Zi, the most beautiful woman in ancient China. These poetic sentiments described the glory of the scenery that inspired human beings.

West Lake, Hangzhou
Originally a shallow sea inlet, due to the laying down of silt this 5.68 square kilometers (about 1,404 acres) of water became the famous West Lake. I was told that the depth of the lake is around 2.5 meter to 5 meter and the lake comprises five distinct sections. The largest part is known as the Outer Lake and it is bounded by the North Inner Lake, Yuehu Lake, West Inner Lake and Lesser South Lake.

Held in the embrace of hilly peaks on three sides, this water wonderland has been an attraction for centuries and it is small wonder that it was a favourite imperial retreat. The lake and its surroundings have all the elements of a traditional Chinese garden on a grand scale. The natural setting of strangely shaped peaks, serene forests and springs, dense foliage and a myriad of blossoms especially in springtime are enhanced by a treasury of sculpture and architectural features.

Lotus pond

Another natural spectacle site is the tidal bore of the Qiantang River that has enthralled people for centuries. Overlooking the river estuary stands the 13 story high Six Harmonies Pagoda. Dating from 970 and built on the site of an earlier pagoda that served as a lighthouse, the name refers to the six codes of Buddhism i.e. harmony of the body, speech and thought and the renunciation of personal pleasure, opinions and wealth. A climb to the top of the pagoda carries the reward of an impressive view over the river.

Crossing the river is the Qiantang River Bridge. This is the first two-tier bridge to have been designed and built by Chinese engineers in modern times. The other great feat of much earlier engineering is the Grand Canal. Linking Hangzhou in the south with Beijing in the north, this is the longest man-made waterway in China and surpasses both the Suez and Panama canals.

I trust the above briefing of the West Lake well describe the beauty of its scenery. You can be rest assured that the splendid and diverse landscape will remain long in your memory forever.

The above photo was taken inside of the tea shop - The naked tea shop, where the ambience is not like the normal ones.

I was having tea with my friend after we had our tour; by a small boat, cost us RMB 80 per boat and  light passenger vehicle (cost us RMB 40 per round trip) which it took us round the surrounding of the whole lake.

The weather at that time was high side, slightly more than 40 degree Celsius, and we decided to pop in the nearest tea house at the final stop of our tour. We ended up in the above tea house, not the convention type. I have my lemon tea ice while my friend have green tea. The ice lemon tea, which I seldom have, was a real thirst quenching. I could feel the effect almost instantly after a few sips of it. Some critics are against the cold tea as it is not good for health. However, the heat is overwhelming that caused me to give in to it. To more flexible, a change also good as it add colors to life.

Whereas my friend was having green tea instead - the local delicate drink. He was only drinking and not the tea leaves, despite I had advised him to eat the tea leave. Some believe that the tea leaves is of good health to human body. That's why the people there rather describe the act as "eat tea" rather than "drink tea", so as to give more appropriate meaning to it. If not of the heat, I would rather go for green tea. It also will enhance the blood circulation and causing good appetite, as a result of speeding up the digestion process.

The photo below tells thousands words and it well reflect myself being too exhausted. Thanks for the cozy environment in the restaurant that gave us a good shelter from the heat and we ended up with a long chat of our good old times there.

The photo below taken at one of the traditional tea shops across the road.

It's not unusual to see Chinese tea houses and modern cafes standing side by side, and amidst the modernity and bustle of the city, one can still find serenity and beauty in the vicinity of Hangzhou's famed West Lake.

I really have lots of fun after nearly spending my meaningful time at the Hangzhou West lake and I do encourage you do the same if you have the time.

Thereafter, we rushed to catch a cab to another place for a street walk and dinner before I call off my trip there. Beautiful China - may I visit you again..

Thanks for your time and hope to seeing from you again,

James Oh

Thursday, 24 September 2009

Some basic information on Pu'er tea

Dear my loving readers and readers,

As promised earlier, I will dwell more details on Pu'er. To make thing simple and clearer, I let the photos do the talking as each photo tell thousands words.

Below are some of the photos together with short briefing, which can give you a better understanding of what I am talking about.

You will find 7 pieces of Pu'er cake in each pack. Each pack is wrapped by dried big leaf and the weight of each piece is usually ranges from 350 -450 grams. In short, each cartoon consists of 84 cakes.

Opened Pu'er tea cake.

The above photo shown the original pack of Pu'er, which has been removed from cartoon boxes. Each cartoon comprises of 12 packs of Pu'er. In short, each cartoon consists of 84 pieces of Pu'er cake.

The Pu'er cake will be broken in pieces by using the tools displayed below. A container will be used to put all the tools usually come in set comprises of of tea shuffle, Digger, Needle, Tongs and vase.

In short, "Cha Dao" (the Way of Tea) is a set of tools that helps out in tea brewing. Typical tools in a Cha Dao set are:

Tea Shuffle - shuffles tea leaves

Tea Digger - digs expended tea leaves from teapots

Tea Needle - prevents spout blockage

Tea Tongs - handles hot tea ware for your fingers

Vase - provides home for all tools

The above photo taken of Pu'er tea, tea cup, kettle and its accessories.

As such, no tea ceremony would be completed without all the necessary utensils and accessories.

The tea tray is an central part of any tea ceremony or tea serving activity. The tea tray contributes a very distinctive personality when preparing the tea. Each tray has its own place for any consideration when planning on preparing your favorite teas.

Trust this info is useful to you. Look forward to seeing you again.

James Oh

Monday, 21 September 2009


Happy day to all my dearest friends.

Is the above statement true?  To answer it, let us go through the following discussion.

It is an undeniable fact that it is a commodity that is widely traded internationally.

It was used as currency at one time. Today, it is also widely used as a investment tool, like wine, to curb inflation. Tea is second most widely consumed beverage worldwide after water.

Brewing good quality tea requires more than knowledge. It needs skills, patience and meticulous. Everything counts here - be it the process, the quality of tea, the type of water used, utensils, tea pot, cups and many others. So, in order to acquire and master that skill, you need to posses all the above.

"Cha Toa" or rule of tea, inherited from centuries, is still practiced so as to obtain the best out of that particular tea in terms of its fragrance, taste, medicinal value and other benefits. To achieve the best, each and every unwritten rules pertaining to its brewing process need to be observed.

Tea can also be used to destress yourself from work, that is why some people have tea sets readily at their offices.  At the same time, they use it to serve tea to their guests. It is commonly practiced in China and other parts of the world where tea is a popular beverage. To them, taking out some time to sip their favorite tea will give them real relaxation to relieve their minds and souls.

Of course, if time permit, you can even have grand tea ceremony ( Kung Fu tea ceremony) whereby you  demonstrate your martial art skills in preparing the tea. Here, you will not only use all the utensils - which are normally beautifully crafted; prefaced with poems, animals, heroes, values and principles; which are so pleasing to your eyes, minds and souls, but also serve as collectors items. These utensils and other tea accessories of various sizes, shapes and colors made of various type of materials are also be used to serve different types of tea accordingly to its characteristics in term of its nature, size, shape and purpose. As a whole, you will see lots of creative works; the practicability,values and uniqueness of each and every utensil. They are either hand or machine made. These master pieces especially those hand crafted ones are valued very much by its collectors for their rarity and antiquity.

Ambience may also play a significant part if one desires to have the best out of tea. Some may choose to have it at a cool, quiet place where you can find lots of greenery. While others may choose to have it at the hilltop where they can hear the bird singing and water gushing down. Of course this is very idealistic and not everyone may have the time and affinity to be close to nature. Actually to enjoy tea, one can have it in one's own home.  Should one can afford it, one can drink tea with one's friends/family in one's beautifully landscaped garden and the Japanese carp swiming gracefully in the pond. However, if one cannot afford it, one can just set aside a small corner in one's home for this healthy practice.

The topic of tea can also used as conversation piece among your circle of friends who share this common interest. New ideas, knowledge and new methods of concocting tea as well as the introduction of tea in cooking can be shared. This in turn will foster their frealtionship and divert their attention from gossiping which is not beneficial to everyone.

Apart from this, it is common to see business deals being concluded during the tea session. I would be happy if anyone is willing to share with me their personal experiences/discoveries during their participation in such sessions. Thank you in advance and look forward to hearing from you.

The side effect of tea is that it contains caffeine. However, in ancient days, tea was only affordable to the scholars and high officials of China. Fortunately, today, tea is easily accessible to all levels of society since it is now more affordable as it is being cultivated on a larger scale.

Now, you can see why I have my own personal tea corner, decorated with articles mentioned above.

Thanks for your time and trust it will also lead you to the path of staying healthy, as I do.

Cheers and have a lovely healthy day everyday.

James Oh