Thursday, 29 November 2007

Siu Nim Tao Variations

The most familiar version of siu nim tao to myself, and I presume to most students, is the Yip Man version.
It is said that Yip Man often spent around an hour completing the first section. I should really take more time over this.

Next up we have Gu Lao Wing Chun. This clip is not of siu nim tao as Gu Lao does not utilize the traditional Wing Chun forms. Instead it makes use of 40 techniques, or points which are combined in during combat. I have included this video as it appears to demonstrate a set very similar to siu nim tao but which combines areas of all the other forms. There is also a nice example of sticky hands at the end.

The name Gu Lao traces itself back to the village where Leung Jan, of Prodigal Son fame, retired. It claims a fairly direct and exclusive line of teaching right back to the early development of Wing Chun on the Chinese Opera Red Junks.
I personally like the ides of the small combinations and integration of the forms, perhaps they are not so much integrated as the forms I practice have been seperated out from this.

Lastly for this post, a video from the lineage of Mai Gai Wong or Rice Machine Wong. The most notable point in the clip, for me, is the fact that the hands are followed by the eyes and head.

More Siu Nim Tao soon.

Monday, 26 November 2007

Yunnan Pu Er Cha Zhuan 2000 CNNP

This 2000 cooked brick was a sample sneaked into my last order from Stéphane at Teamasters. It was a good sized sample, the pic below shows the chunk minus my first attack.

First of all I'd like to copy and paste from Teamasters, hoping that Stéphane will not mind too much, as I'd like to keep this blog as a repository of information and not just a reminder of my brain farts:

"This Yunnan Pu Er Cha Zhuan was made in the year 2000. It contains cooked pu er leaves of grade 5. After 5 years of rest, it starts to be drinkable, says my pu er importer. We tasted it together on the very same day and I found it still has a very strong camphor taste (but without the freshness). The taste of fermentation is still very much there, which I don't find very pleasant. But the astringency is completely gone. It is very round and becomes mellow. I guess it will improve as it ages further, but can also already be drunk now in a large teapot. The low price makes it also quite attractive to start with cooked puer."

The most notable thing about this tea was the aroma from the moment the water hit the gaiwan. It was not so much that the aroma was far better or more pleasing than other teas, it was the fact that it seemed to engulf the room and my olfactory factory within seconds. I'm not a huge fan of shu pu but this really raised my expectations. The olfactory assault was very pleasant if not hugely interestingThe tea itself I found very comforting to drink. More akin to drinking a rick, sweet milky chai than the red wine experience I usually associate with shu. I did not encounter many off tastes or scents but to be honest I wasn't really paying too much attention. This is a tea to be enjoyed and gulped not, i suspect, over analysed.

Drinking this has nudged me one step closer to investing in a cheap yixing for shu. If it rounds and smooths something like this even more then it could be worth a few dollars over at Yunnan Sourcing. I get the feeling the small, white gaiwan is a little clinical for this kind of tea.

Anyway, I'm a little further along the road of appreciating shu which could potentially make my tea habit just a little more affordable.

Cheers Stéphane.

Thursday, 25 October 2007

Castelton Snow Bud

White Tea - 2nd Flush 2007, Darjeeling

This was part of a sample pack from Lochan Tea Limited. I was first enchanted by their teas when participating in a TChing tasting event which included a Meghma Nepalese Oolong. As I realised I couldn't eek out the tasting sample for much longer I went in search of Lochan Tea with little idea what to order, as my knowledge of Indian tea is sparse to say the least.
To my delight they are running an offer of 11 samples for only $25.

I have so far opened three of the samples: one red/black* tea, one oolong and one white. The white tea is the Castelton Snow Bud, this is the sample which is vanishing fastest and has thus made it into the blog first.

As dry leaf it is very good looking, a little reminiscent of bi lo chun. I was about to inform readers of the light covering of hair on the leaf until I recalled the beautiful post by Mary R here - the leaves now have wonderful jacket of trichomes.

The aroma and taste immediately scream Darjeeling, this is something I may have to work around when reviewing Lochan teas - I don't want to look back and discover all the teas I sampled from Lochan tasted 'like Darjeeling' or 'obviously Indian' in my notes.

From the first cup to the last this tea is a pleasure to drink. It is not anything to shout about but rather something to quietly enjoy while I try to convince myself I'm calm, as I wait on call to find out if I've thrown enough cash at the estate agent to secure my potential new house.

The liquor is much deeper, richer and vibrant amber than I'm used to from white tea. The pic of the teacup shows a much later infusion, around 7 or 8, but it is still showing the darker colour. I'm greatly enjoying being able to appreciate the qualities of Indian tea without having to resort to black/red* tea, which is something I tend to enjoy obsessively for a few days every month or so.

The snow bud is not as smooth as many Chinese whites which can feel almost silky smooth at times. Brewing is also something to be carefully watched - I've had to throw away some of my
attempts due to carelessness with time/temp.

All in all a very nice tea. I can't say if it is worth the money as it is not listed for sale on the Lochan site currently. As far as the price for the samples is concerned I couldn't be happier and I get to look forward to many more Indian teas over the coming weeks/months. Hopefully they will all get at least a mention on here and I'll be much happier knowing how much more nice tea there is in the world than I previously thought.

Thanks to all those at Lochan Teas.

* the pedant in me is in trouble here. Are fully oxidised teas from India black or red? The implications for my labeling system could be severe.

Tuesday, 25 September 2007

Sil Lim Tao Part 2

The second section of Sil Lim Tao is in set in stark contrast to the first section.

It feels far more animated, is great fun and adds far more scope for attack or defense - attack/defense may be more accurate as I try to force myself away from consciously blocking or attacking . This section is aware of low/high/side/back gates, dealing with kicks/knees to the body and opens up a treasure chest of different ways to utilise the arm when still adhering to the principles founded in the first section.

The beginning gum sau to the left then right can be thought of as a way to ward off a kick or knee but do not lose sight of the fact that it is also an opportunity to cause damage and disrupt the structure of the opponent.
The following rear double palm strike/gum sau I usually associate with a similar situation to one which requires an elbow to be drawn back but could be used to deter a knee from an opponent to the rear.
Forward double gum sau, I've ran out of commentary on the gum sau.
The double lan sau then executed I will leave out of this post as I never really appreciated it until I learned Chum Kiu.

From the double lan sau position the arms are extended fully as a double fut sau. This makes little sense to me as to why this is included in the first form and turning footwork is not. I can, however, appreciate this from a Biu Jee perspective in that the arms go from being as far from the center line as possible then returning. The concept of the lan sau to fut sau also helps enforce the directness of the form, the hands do not arc towards the opponent but the side of the left palm goes in a straight line from around the right shoulder to terminal extension of the arm.

Double jut sau. The jut sau appears a middle ground between the tan sau and the man sau but in my mind is far more aggresive than either. The jut sau involves a small turn of the forearm at the moment of impact. This turn is executed when the man sau cannot proceed directly forward and the full turn into tan sau, which seems almost entirely defensive, is not required.
Next we move to a position I do not know the name of, both hands moving to a wu sau position but, with the fingers pointing forwards ready to head towards a bil jee strike. This manourvre is a perfect example of 'following as the opponents hand comes towards you' the double bil jee is then performed, remembering to always keep the fingers bent to stop them from breaking upon impact. Both palms then move downwards on an almost vertical plane keeping the arms fairly straight then straight back up to perform either a wrist strike to the chin area or providing a rather helpful defensive against an incoming arm , perhaps both if you're lucky.

Huen sau both wrists and return to the neutral position.

This section of the form provides a release from the cultivation of the first section. The section should be practiced with next to no energy, in a very dynamic way - as if firing thunderbolts with the radius and ulna as the barrel - and of course utilising the ever helpful middle ground.

The use of the wrists is elaborated on in this section. In the first section the wrists are used in, almost, static positions. The second section teaches the use of the wrists when the situation is in flux - no need to move use the wrist to move into position then move the arm, we can simply adjust the wrist as the arm does whatever it needs to to maintain a good position. This adjustment improves the 'little idea' greatly but also complicates matters hugely as form is no longer dictated by fixed positions.

Onto my favourite section, the third - the beautiful middleground and melting pot of the first two sections.

For reference some video of Sil Lim Tao:

Yip Man performing Sil Lim Tao

Ip Chun in action

Samuel Kwok & a hall full of people, complete with comedy nokia phone ringing for ambiance

Monday, 24 September 2007

Sil Lim Tao Part 1

Sil Lim Tao

Or the first form of Wing Chun Kung-Fu

Sil Lim Tao is the bedrock of the Wing Chun system.

Sil Lim Tao begins by teaching the correct stance & posture for the practice of Wing Chun. The adductor stance is achieved by standing with the legs together, bending the knees slightly, then putting out the toes as far as possible followed by the heels. The back should be straight, breathing lowered and the fists at the sides around the area of the solar plexus, with the forearms parallel to the floor.
This stance is absolutely fundamental and is used in almost all situations. Much of the footwork in Chum Kiu, the 2nd form, and much of Biu Jee, the 3rd form, can be seen as simply a way to move the adductor stance to a different position on the floor or to utilise it to generate power and opportunity by adjusting weight between legs.
The hip should be forward or 'engaged' and the buttocks pulled in, as to what degree this is to be adhered to I am not yet sure.
The initial dropping of the center of gravity , when the knees are bent, is to allow one to get into the practice of adopting the correct center of gravity before attempting any Wing Chun - I should imagine the legs would normally be around shoulder width apart and all that will be required will be to lower the center of gravity, eliminating the need for the 'toes out, heels out' part.

The hands often seem to be forgotten at the opening to Sil Lim Tao. As we drop our center of gravity and bend our knees the hands come up to the chest, then the feet move out - this appears to be the neutral adductor stance. Do not simply place the hands into this position. The hands may appear to make their way up to the chest but the manoeuvre also involves the ulna and the radius going from a vertical to a horizontal position, the practical upside of this is that if someone is holding you from behind and you perform this manoeuvre with one or both arms is that that someone will receive an elbow to the body.

Note: as the center of gravity is dropped I also place my tongue on my palate or, if I'm feeling flashy, I'll place the tip of my tongue on my palate.

Of the initial double gan sau, double tan sau movement I have very little to say at this time. I understand it is used to mark the gates: inside, outside, upper, lower, and that it also serves as a rather nice defense - is it, perhaps, that tan sau is the fundamental upper gate defensive and that gan sau is the corresponding lower gate defense.
Oh, and of course don't forget the double elbows when drawing back.

The next section consists of:

Left fist to center
Left punch
Tan sau, with cut
Huen sau, circling hand
Retreat, rear elbow
Repeat with right

We are beginning to form the basis of the Wing Chun system. The first movement teaches the position of the rear arm, usually wu sau, in this case a fist. The position of this hand is very important, if the arm is not in contact with another arm or the arm is not striking then this is the position the arm should be in - I think, maybe....doesn't really work for locks or traps...

Next comes the punch, the arm switches from rear to front. When this action is done alternately from left to right we have chain punching, the centerline is paramount. To be careful not to dismiss this as merely a punch, I busy myself with trying to co-ordinate the movement of my shoulder, wrist and elbow - It makes life easier later on when you try to co-ordinate the hips & legs as well.

The punch then becomes a tan sau and the motion between the two becomes an opportunity to train getting the most out of every little movement, hence the 'cut' - the 'cut' I perform is basically a reduced form of the 'left,right,up,down' cuts performed near the beginning of Biu Jee. In the form the punch becomes a tan sau after it has hit the target, or ceased being a punch . The movement between the punch and the tan sau as executed in the form allows for the punch to become a tan sau at any point in its travel to the target - I like to think that the hand is simply traveling to the center line of the opponent, if it does not encounter anything on the way a punch is delivered, if it does encounter something on the way a tan sau may appear.

Next we have the huen sau which shows how to move the arm between inside gate & outside gate. This is something I believe, at the moment, is better explored through dan chi or chi sau as it seems to rely on sensitivity of the wrists. Another function of the huen sau is to develop the wrists. In the form I tend to do a full circle/arc of the wrist joint in the expectation that I can then huen sau effectively using any section of the circle/arc.

As the hand retreats we move from huen sau to a grabbing motion, lap sau??. The motion should involve all fingers working and ensure that the thumb is not opposed, despite what great things evolutions claims about opposable thumbs you don't want to use them on someone who knows chin na.

The next section:

Left tan sau
Huen sau
Wu sau
Fook Sau
Huen Sau
Wu sau
Rpeat fook sau, huen sau, wu sau three times.
Pak Sau
Palm stike
Tan sau, 'cut'
Huen Sau
Repeat with right.

This is the most difficult section to write about. It can be practiced many ways and no doubt the most talked about is when it takes 40 mins+. I, personally, have taken longer than 30 mins to do this about erm... 5 times in my wing chin career. Relaxed, tense, mechanical, fluid . I practice all of these in the hope that I'll end up in a glorious middle ground. Most of this section of the form I believe, as above, takes on more meaning when applied to dan chi or chi sau than when discussed as part of the form.
This is, however, a very good time to devote attention to ones breathing.
This section, since it is slow, also allows for contemplation of form. I feel, when doing this section, I have time to balance out the differences between perfect form and what my body is capable of.
The last thing to note is ending pak sau-palm strike. This can be done 2 ways:

1) Pak sau, return to the center, then strike.
2)Pak sau, keep hand around shoulder level, then strike.

Both seem to have real & training benefits.

The first section of the first form appears to be the equation from which the rest of the system is devised. The concepts given are elaborated upon later but a good understanding of these basic concepts should, in theory, lead one to adopting the forthcoming lessons beautifully.

Looking over the Wing Chun terms in wikipedia I am swaying over a move to pinyin or, perhaps , a mix of both pinyin and the standard English version of the Cantonese.

Friday, 21 September 2007

Song Zhong Dan Cong

2007 Song Zhong Dan Cong from Teaspring.

Description from Teaspring:

'Song Zhong Dan Cong are harvested from old tea trees descended from the Song Dynasty specimen. These trees grow in the high mountains of Feng Huang Shan, about 1,000 metres above sea level, where the soil, sun light, clean air and water provide an ideal environment for it to grow. Song Zhong is the best of Dan Cong variety and is considered a treasure in Chao An county, where only close friends and relatives are served with a tea of this grade. Like Pu-erh tea, this tea improves with age.'


'the dried leaves are very aromatic even before they are steeped. The tea has a distinct orchid-like sweet taste and a pleasing aroma. Delicious and refreshing.'

First off to say that I would really like to taste an aged variety of this tea, I have not come across any aged dancong in my tea adventures. The more I read the more it appears there are aged varieties of almost all teas, not counting old tea I don't like at the back of my cupboard.

One curious thing about this tea is that in later brewing, beyond 14/15, the tea does not give the usual weak, sweet water taste but a rather more unpleasant, faintly bitter, water. This does not really detract from the tea, as all the brews that count and more are fantastic, although it does seem a little strange.

I have experimented gaiwan & yixing brewing with lots & little amounts tea all giving pleasing but different results. Using a large amount of leaf means the first few brews need to be lighting fast and even then are a little bitter. I don't mind a little bitterness, some of my guests do.

This tea, along with the Meghma oolong have drawn by far the most interest from non tea friends - hopefully soon to be tea drinking and sharing friends.

The tea itself is of large, full, twisted leaf and perhaps appears more roasted than it it is. The liquor has the wonderful smack of lychee I come to expect from dancong but brings with it a beautiful sweetness of caramel that comes through in both the taste and aroma with great strength. It has enchanted a fellow tea head so much that he been regularly begging for 'just a few grams to take home'. Luckily I have some just arrived in from Teaspring, hopefully of the same caliber.

This is the finest dancong I have yet tasted and is still very affordable. The only trouble is that it will simply encourage me to spend even more on the genre. Although the tea has delighted me in many ways it has also given me a new standard from which to evaluate this class and given me a good hint as to what I can expect in the future.

In the mean time I will have fun experimenting with the new batch and explaining to my friend that if he wants any more I'll send him the link.

Tuesday, 11 September 2007

Breathing & Tension

Breathing has been something which I have greatly overlooked when practicing out with the forms.
When observing ones breathing during training there seems to be a direct correlation between the breathing moving up from the dan tien towards the chest, usually due to loss of composure, and tension vastly increasing in the shoulders. Seems obvious when written down that loss of composure or inset of panic will lead to tension, the purpose here is to alleviate this issue. I also finds that, paradoxically, fatigue leads to use of muscle power as opposed to reliance upon technique.

To correct this problem I have a few possible solutions.

The first, which seemed to work for me many years ago, involves pushing beyond normal fatigue. When younger I used to train twice a week at class and most days with my neighbor. The tension in my shoulders subsided simply by grinding them down, adhering to continual chi sau rolling until the shoulder muscle has given up the ghost. This now appears to be a rather crude method and since having a period out of training I feel that a more involved solution may be required. My shoulders have developed more since my grinding down days and my life has ensured I do not have quite the same amount of disposable time. Looking at these two factors leads me to believe that this may be a very long, drawn out process which could land me back at square one were I to take another break from training.

The second solution is perhaps more obvious, sensible and cannot fail to be incorporated into my training. This will involve exceptionally gentle and sensitive contact with the arms of others in chi sau, drills and dan chi allowing me to breath naturally during training. Hopefully this will get my body into the habit of lowered breathing not only in excessively laid back training but all areas of my practice. I am not 100% confident that this will enable me to remain relaxed when being struck or finding myself in a rather compromising trap or lock.

Thirdly I cannot overlook the role of the mind.
Be it generating the panic or desperately seeking the hit even if it means fighting force with force, the mind is still major factor in the training environment. If I can't relax when training with someone I've known for years how can I expect to relax when under real pressure?
Aside from the obvious ways of using the mind to keep everything relaxed - pouring over eastern literature, meditation, chi kung (the eight brocade in particular) and almost anything related to taoism - I'm trying to devise exercises specifically related to my wing chun training.
By exercises I mean explicitly where my mind is located during training. I have usually kept my mind fairly absent from training using whatever happens to be hand - being in an almost meditative state, chatting with my partner about any day to day matters or explaining what I'm doing in a fairly detached manner.
It may be time to add a little more structure by using my usual method for most things in life, practicing two extremes and then slowly trying find the middle way by gradually combining them. The decision to be made is which extremes to use?
I've got to begin somewhere so I'll begin with total absorption in the training I'm doing and total concentration on my breathing and dan tien. I suspect it may be as much work to separate the two factors as to recombine them but I'm in no particular rush.

I will further endeavour to continue utilising the exercises that really brought this issue to the forefront of my practice - the eight brocade exercises within chi kung.

Finally to state that I do not intend to make use of my breath for striking or blocking purposes like breathing out with the strike and in as the hand returns. The goal is to achieve deep natural breathing throughout practice to maintain fluidity, and relax my bloody shoulders.

Monday, 10 September 2007

Chi Gerk & Stance work

Performing the chi gerk, sticky legs, drill has thrown up some glaring errors in my most basic of requirements - my stance.

The drill itself my not be essential learning for the practitioner although I don't believe it can do much harm. I have spent time and effort trying to correct my stance for the past few months and was under the impression that I had a reasonably steady base, albeit one that occasionally fails. Using the chi gerk drill (bong gerk, kick etc) even the slightest error in the connection to the earth is amplified. It may be the case that my stance is reasonable enough to deliver a kick, or even a block then kick, without any tremor down below but when incorporating chi gerk into chi sau this simply will not do.

The solution:

Frighteningly simple, I had decided this course of action before discussing it up the chain, my instructor concurs - executing Sil lim tao on one leg then alternating.


Feet together, legs straight(ish)

Drop down, bending knees, elbows back, fists at chest height, back straight.

Toes out, heels out -- adductor stance!

90 degree turn, shifting all weight & balance to rear leg

Lift front leg until thigh is approx parallel with the floor

Relax front leg

Begin form

Repeat with other leg

Have sore legs.

I would like to have the opportunity to work on this for a month or so at least before again attempting chi gerk, not just to save face, to evaluate the astounding outcome I envisage. Guess I'll just have to wait and see what's in store.

Monday, 27 August 2007

Xue Ya

This white tea was bought from Sencha, a Tea Lounge I stumbled across in Newcastle.

From the pack:

Xue Ya "first flush" Special White Tea

A very special white tea, high in antioxidants, unforgettably fragrant. The first pickings from the Sheng Li tea fields.

I understand this tea is from northern Fujian province and is grown at high altitudes.

The leaves are long and twisted. Many are coated in a white downy jacket.

The taste is reminiscent of Japanese greens with a certain fishy element to it. The liquor is surprisingly full bodied when compared to something like Bai mu Dan.

The durability of the leaves was also rather impressive, certainly much more tea for my money than I expected.

The tea was a nice departure from the rather heavy flavors in the Kashanganj snow bud kindly sent from TChing and also from the rather lacklustre performance of Jing's zheng he bai mu dan that have been dominating my white tea drinking recently. This is certainly a tea a will keep an eye open for whilst browsing.

The cost, at £7.50/50 grams, is a little higher that I would like to pay for such tea but considering it was bought in Newcastle city center and not ordered over the internet from the other side of the world, I will not take issue with the cost.

Whilst the Sencha Tea Lounge was no my ideal venue for tea I believe it may be exactly what is required to help this nation pay attention to the tea it is drinking. The lounge appears to based around the well established coffee shop blueprint, selling cakes, sandwiches and hot food. Hopefully the coffee shop feel will prove more welcoming than the apparently daunting Chinese tea house. The sencha and oolong I had in the lounge were both served in one of those plastic gung-fu cha devices, a kind of pimped up cafeteria, which I now know I'm not very keen on.

Anyway, a resounding cheer to the folks at Sencha. It brightened up my day to find a tea shop selling decent quality tea on a main st in a major UK city and even more impressive was the fact that the place always seemed reasonably busy. On close inspection many people were drinking coffee, perhaps coffee in a tea lounge will be the first step on the road to national great tea addiction.

Sunday, 26 August 2007

Chi Sau

Due to a rather fortunate set of circumstances I am now in the position of being able to train several times a week, one on one, with my instructor. This training has mainly been in the form of chi sau or sticking hands.

My notes on the practice of chi sau will be taking a sort of 'this week I have been mainly trying...' until I come up with something better.


This week I have been mainly working on two principles.

1. Pulling the hand back, to a fist distance from the chest if needed, after striking. This may seem blindingly obvious to a practitioner, however, when analyzing myself it astounds me how often I strike and then simply leave my hand floating an inch or so from my partner. I think this situation arises from my own thoughts that I could do something else from the position but not actually executing the manoeuvre. It is time I either follow up or finish - no more leaving situations open and thinking of all the fancy things I could have done.

Strike and follow through or Strike and return to a neutral position.

Flowing on to....

2. Constant changing

At the bottom of each arc a change is executed keeping the situation in a constant state of change making it far harder to execute preprogrammed set pieces but with enough structure for it to be an effective drill. Ideally chi sau should be mindless, flowing around and through the target. This drill is certainly not mindless as a pattern is developed and stuck to rigidly. The outcome I'm finding from training in this manner is that changing from inside to outside gate has become far more efficient this seems to be due to the fact that both parties involved know when the change is coming, where the moment of increased opportunity will appear and both are vying to take advantage of this .

Hopefully this type of training will greatly improve my ability to take advantage of ever decreasing holes in the defence of my training partner.

Saturday, 18 August 2007

Anxi Winter Huang Jin Gui

Anxi Winter Huang Jin Gui

Blurb from Seb & Jing:

Origin : Anxi County, Fu Jian Province

Season : Spring 2006

Weight : 100 grams (3.53 ounces)

Huang Jin Gui is known as golden osmanthus in English and it is well recognized with its typical high osmanthus touch fragrance. This Huang Jin Gui is made using leaves from the first harvest in spring 2006 in Xi Ping area, Anxi County. Because of its remarkable and elegant high aroma and also its affordable price, this oolong tea has become one of the most wanted oolong teas from the Anxi County. This Huang Jin Gui oolong tea offers a lovely clear yellow liquor, Jing Tea Shop is offering a heavier wood charcoal baked Huang Jin Gui to oolong tea lovers. Different from the lightly baked ones, this Huang Jin Gui shows a deeper and thinner fragrance and also longer lasted brewing times. This is particularly due to the fact that the tea was baked using wood charcoal.

The clear yellow liquor that is thick yet smooth and combined with complex fragrance of a bouquet of osmanthus. If you like high aromatic and elegance of oolong teas, this Huang Jin Gui will be a good choice.

Last of the batch, lots of leaf, large gaiwan to accommodate leaf.

Leaves are less meaty than TGY, they appear to have suffered in appearance from processing, frayed edges and holes in leaf abound.

Slight spiciness detected in gaiwan aroma.

I can taste the smooth buttery creaminess I look for in Anxi oolong but it's definitely thinner, not just in aroma as mentioned above but also in mouth feel, and that's me using a lot of leaf.

I've been drinking this in work, with a makeshift thermal cup as a gaiwan and a mug for drinking from, thinking it was reasonable enough for office use but a little time, decent water(Scottish filtered) and my trusty gong fu gear really does improve this tea.

It would make more sense to test this against some of my TGY with both in a gaiwan but something is whispering in my ear to brew it in the yixing pot I usually use only for TGY and see how it fairs.

Wing Chun Kung Fu

I have been studying this art, on and off, for around ten years. For ten years I have been getting around to writing down what I'm learning, today I've taken a miniature plunge into that area by typing this intro.

I have a good idea of how to organise my tea notes but I feel the Wing Chun notes may be more of a sprawling mess. My decision to keep them on this blog is more to keep myself clear. I feel that a personal notebook is in much more danger of becoming indecipherable in a short time.

Any tips about committing the martial arts to paper or links to any other favourite martial art blogs would be warmly welcomed.

My aim in writing about Wing Chun is to improve my own understanding. In the course of doing so I would also be very impressed if any comments or discussions were not following the route of so many other discussions of the art online, namely 'my lineage is better than your lineage'. As Wing Chun is a relatively new art it is bound to evolve both with practitioner body type and also with the arrow of time, especially in the current light of UFC madness.

On a more trivial note: I went to visit my Dad yesterday and discovered a 9ft wooden pole in his spare wood collection, It's a little on the thick side, but so what, I now have my own lim dim book quan. I think It's time to incorporate a lot more stance work into training as my horse stance is pretty poor and my cat stance has not been seen for longer than I care to remember.

Tuesday, 14 August 2007

Meghma Nepalese Oolong

Another impressive tasting sample from the good folks at T Ching.

What they have to say about it:

"This is a very unique, fresh 2007 spring flush oolong from Nepal. It is a semi-fermented tea, producing a pale liquor with a deliciously refreshing honey flavor. It is cultivated in the highlands of the Himalayas at an elevation above 7000 ft, in a pristine natural environment free from roads, pollution and pesticides. The Meghma Oolong Tea Project began as an effort to improve the poor living conditions of the local people in Meghma, Nepal by helping them to re-discover the ancient art of manufacturing Asian Oolong tea. This tea is manufactured by hand as an artisan tea. Organic Certified"

For repeating the experiment:

Water: brita max filtered Scottish tap water

Temperature: 2/3mins off the boil to start with, not reducing too much as my kettle is vacuum sealed on the walls.

Vessel: +/- 100ml gaiwan into a faircup.

Leaf: Around 1/2 of the gaiwan

Timing: straight in and out for the first 5 brews then moving up to over a minute around the tenth.

My knowledge of Indian tea is sparse. On smelling the tea I figured it was akin to a first flush Darjeeling and not a very exciting one at that.

The first taste of the first brew throttled that opinion. Yes this did taste like Darjeeling to me, but Darjeeling with so much more. The complexity was something I've not had in Indian tea before, admittedly I may not have been drinking the best pedigrees, the tastes were combining Darjeeling with something akin to dancong whilst adding a healthy dose of fudge tasting honey goodness. I brewed this for the first time with 3 other guests, only one with a tea addiction, everyone thoroughly enjoyed the tea 'till the non-bitter end.

The wet leaf was also far more beautiful, full and supple than the dry leave conveyed. This tea provided the largest gap I've encountered between my expectations from the dry leaf to what ended up in my cup.

I'm struggling to decide if this tea is truly great or if I'm simply infatuated with something new and shiny. I suppose only time will tell.

I don't see this tea as replacing any of my current beverages but it's good enough to warrant spending even more of my earnings on tea because I know I will want to experience it again in the future.

Oh, and for further reading see the TChing tasting notes

Kashanganj Snow Bud

Tasting sample from the good folks at T Ching.

What they have to say about it:

"This is a special edition white tea grown in Kashanganj, India. The tea is comprised of individual, hand picked buds that have the appearance of silver needles. The dried buds are visually attractive and the liquor is delicate and sweet. Most people in the U.S. haven't even heard of White tea. Those who have, know it as a rare tea from Fujian Province in China that is made from the individual, hand picked buds of the tea plant with no additional processing other than drying. Using traditional hand-crafted artisan methods, this tea is quickly approaching the quality of the Chinese whites. Fujian, watch out... here comes Kashanganj."

First off let my say thanks to Tching for another great opportunity to taste some rare and, to me, almost unheard of tea.

The scientific side first of all:

Water: brita max filtered scottish tap water, which I still believe gives most bottled water a good run for their money.

Temp: I don't measure temperature, yet . I boil the water and then wait until the steam rising has slowed to a pace gentle enough to warrent white tea, probably lower than I'd use for China green and nearer to a fitting temp for gyokoro.

Vessels: small pyrex jug perhaps around 200ml, filtered into a fair cup(small milk jug from charity shop) which seems to keep the tea insulated for longer than a large cup.

Timing: first brew 15-20secs, the next few lightning fast, the last few far longer than they needed.

This was the first tea from the samples I tried. The aroma was beatifully floral, more of a heavy pollen slant than the subtle floral I'm used to from white tea. There was also a quite a sharp fragrance from the wet leaf.

The liquor itself changed dramitcally from steep to steep exibiting the natural freshness I've come to experience from white tea. Not overstated as in some greens, mainly Japanese, more a country breeze than a cold north sea wind which my father declares as real freshness.

I was begining to think that the tea had been heavily influenced by the Oolong sampler that had been keeping it company in the envelope for a good few days. This was due to fact that there was an unmistakeble taste of darjeerling fighting with the usual delicate white. I began to retract my thoughts of contamination when reading over the description of the tea again* and, realising it was an Indian white tea, I think my mind blocked out the word India as it had already assumed that all white tea was Chinese. This discovery led me to appreciate the last few brews even moreso. I was, perhaps, steeping the tea for too long but the purpose was to investigate and bring forth the darjeerling undertones. The plan worked! warmer water and longer steeps brought the liquor closer to a first flush darjeerling. The tea was not as pleasant to drink at this point however the second time I tasted the tea I was far more appreciative of the Indian character accompanying the traditional white taste as opposed to trying to discard the non Chinese notes from the liquor.

I don't think I'll be able to rate this tea on any scale until I've finished the sample and possibly another pack from T Ching . It confused me as much as it entertained my taste buds.

The last thing I feel the need to comment on is the remarkable endurance of this tea, even on my second outing with it I was hugely underestimating it's staying power and getting brews that were a little to abrasive due to oversteeping after making more than one trip to the water filter.

And the very last thing is thanks again to T Ching not just for providing quality teas but also for managing to pick teas of great educational value that I would, likely, never have got round to trying.

*and will fully retract most of my post if this is case.

Link to the rest of the reviews posted on TChing

Sunday, 12 August 2007

Pre Ming Zhe Jiang Mao Jian

Pre Ming Zhe Jiang Mao Jian
Everyday tea
Spring 2006 Harvest
Date - 1st May '07

Source – Jingteashop

Cost - $3.99/100g

Amount used – lots maybe 8g

Method – Cooled boiled water in glass jug, brita maxtra filtered tap water

Dry leaf – drab dark green, small twisted leaf.

Aroma in glass – sweet, thick, not too fresh, very pleasant

No rinse

1st infusion – short as possible

Wet leaf smells seaweedy/ seaside perhaps even salty.

Liquor colour – nice mellow, yellowy green

Drinking – unobtrusive pleasing taste, nothing harsh or bitter to be found, certainly no salt.

2nd infusion, same brew time, much stronger with edge of bitterness, a nice 'wake up juice' if you like early morning lu cha. I can imagine this tea being a good base for flavoured green tea if such a thing didn't unsettle me.

3rd infusion, slightly longer, 15secs, less bitterness, I notice some brown leaves swimming around in the jug – can't really complain for the price. I can't imagine they affect the taste too much, it must be around 100-1.

12/13th infusion – completely forgot about the tea and must have left for over 5 mins. The brew was quite strong and a little astringent, showing I could have gotten another few good brews if I wasn't so careless, although still very drinkable – akin to underestimating the water temp for the first steep.

It's not the prettiest of leaf to watch in the glass although I've been rather greedy with the amount of leaf to give them much room for dancing.

Overall – does exactly what it says on the vacuum sealed foiled pack, Everyday green tea. And it really is. I took everyday to mean low quality that I wouldn't mind every once in a while( I shouldn't really assume this after drinking their everyday Yunnan Gold) or even using as a base from which to test exceptional teas and while the latter may be true this really is a tea that I will enjoy drinking frequently. I suspect it may be a good candidate for my version of 'grandad style' – a few leaves in a small gaiwan, topping up frequently, used when I am very pushed for time. I use the gaiwan as I'm to lazy to learn to use my teeth as a filter, maybe one when I'm really stuck.

Tenbu Sencha

Tenbu Sencha

Source – 6g sample from TChing

Water – Brita Max filtered tap water

Temp – boiled then left to cool until lower than normal for green , +/- gyokoro temp

Vessel – 7oz gaiwan – filter – faircup

Dry leaf – mix of normal sized sencha leaves and some very small particles, could spell trouble for the filter. Colour is mix of classic sencha green with some leaves looking darker and more akin to gyokoro.

Aroma – more depth than I've ever detected in a sencha before. I usually expect clean freshness, and a newly cut lawn type fragrance from sencha but this has something far more hearty although I'm not exactly sure what it is yet.

1st infusion 60s – longer than I'm used to steeping. The liquor appears lighter than expected for the time it spent in the gaiwan, maybe I'm used to using too much tea. It has good clarity and the mystery aroma is still eluding me, I now have my nose in the gaiwan. Tasting the infusion is again not what I expected. Far more mellow and subtle, not the fresh almost mint like slap in the face I associate with sencha. This tea, although obviously Japanese, seems to have a little of the subtleties associated with Chinese green.

2nd 15s – The liquor is darker this time and closer to what I expected first time around. The clarity is not so good and this is probably explained by me having a small struggle with the filter and my tea digger to get the brew though quicker. The aroma from the gaiwan is fading into typical sencha, I may have to wait until the next session to explore this further – thanks for the 6gram packs! By the end of the 2nd infusion I'm sweating, I'm sure it usually takes far longer normally. The taste is more intense immediately and still has the delicate after taste of the first infusion.

3rd – 15s – Similar appearance to the 2nd. The tastes seemed to have mingled, the upfront more typical sencha taste has joined forces with the subtle character predominant in the 1st infusion to create a nice rounded cuppa.

4th 30s – very similar to the 3rd taste wise although it does taste a lot more like a 4th infusion gyokoro at this stage than a 4th infusion sencha.

Spent leaf – Japanese greens are never of much interest to myself at this point. It does confirm the observation of the dry leaf, some large, some very fine, some light, some dark.

Conclusion – Aside from the fact that analysing my drinking had made me realise I should really invest in a proper teapot for this stuff, I really enjoyed this tea. As far as green tea goes I have been drinking gyokoro, long jing and liu an gua pian over the past few weeks. I was a little surprised to find a more of those kinds of tea hiding in here than the return to sencha 'only fresher' I was expecting.

Thanks to tching not only for the free samples but also for helping to keep my mind open to brewing variations and not have internal cries of 'heresy' when 60s is suggested in the future.

Link to the rest of the TChing tasting notes.