Monday, 25 February 2008

The 4th Form

Over the past few months the forth empty hand form of Wing Chun has began to filter down from Yip Ching to us on the fringes of the Wing Chun world.

I was a little suspicious when I first heard of the emergence of this form as I suspected it may be more for generating interest and/or money more than for the art, on reflection I suppose interest and money could be seen as a great benefit to the art.
The form appears as a combination of the idea' s from all the other forms: open hand, weapon and wooden dummy After a little chatting and reading it seems that Ip Man was rather keen on someone stripping down the essence of all the other forms into one. Ip Ching, his son, has spent a long time trying to accomplish this and it is now apparently 'ready':

The first few minutes are not the most fascinating but the video does pick up around halfway in. If nothing else the form at least looks far cooler and more impressive than the other forms as Wing Chun has never really been too interested in looking good.
I suspect once learned it may provide a more condensed training tool than practicing all the other forms together. I also worry that it may replace more thorough and concentrated training but I suppose a little of everything could also be a good compliment when training is concentrated on one thing in particular.

If any tea people have gotten this far I've been avoiding tea blogging as my digital camera has gone walkies in my, rather prolonged, house move. I think I'll just bite the bullet and keep on keeping on with my mobile in the mean time.

TChing's Margaret’s Hope Muscatel, Lochan's Muscatel Delight & Temi

These are Indian black teas I'm not overly familiar with. The Margret's Hope Muscatel was obtained from TChing as part of the most recent online tasting session. The other teas are both samples I procured from Lochan Tea. Both of the Muscatel teas are from Darjeeling and the Temi is from Sikkim, to the north of Darjeeling, but I'm sufficiently ignorant of Indian blacks to pop them into the same review. The leaf of the Temi looks similar to most first flush Darjeeling's I've had so far. Both of the Muscatel offerings look similar with the defining characteristic that they contain far lager leaves in the mix than I've seen in this kind of tea before, especially in the sample from TChing.

The aroma of the dry leaf is very perfume-like with floral notes in all three though less pronounced in the Temi. The leaf also displayed a little more endurance than I'm used to seeing in Darjeeling.

I initially brewed these teas in either a 100ml gaiwan or a 50/60ml gaiwan always using just off the boil water. I recently purchased a small clay pot off ebay for a pound, not expecting much on arrival. When the pot appeared I was quite impressed with my bargain and began musing over which tea it should be paired with, it is quite a bit larger than I'm used to in yixing pots around 250ml, and a topic over on Teachat convinced me to give the Darjeelingly teas a shot. I think the choice paid off and I'm loving both the pot and the teas coming out of it far, far more than a few days ago.

Interestingly, possibly, is that my wife was very put off by the smell of the leaf and declared she would not like to try the 'stinky tea'. I convinced her to try it; a few brews in and she was very taken by the floral aspect of the tea and it received an approval, albeit with the disclaimer that it was a little to astringent.
This matches my own view although I do find the astringency far more acceptable than my wife, I eat dark chocolate and she only eats milk so I guess this is inevitable. I also found that the Muscatels showed some parallels with the orchard flower oriental beauty from Stéphane Erler at Teamasters, which is definitely a good thing in my book as this has been one of my fav 'in stock' oolongs since it arrived.

The Muscatel teas were very similar overall. If pushed I would opt for the Margaret's Hope as it did appear to be a higher quality tea in most respects although any future choice would be very much price dependent. The Temi was not quite as interesting as the other two but is far more forgiving as far as brewing goes and much less demanding on the palate, more suited to be drank with food or when there isn't much brainspace to pay attention to tea and you would rather just enjoy a quick brew - horses for courses and all.

Apologies for the quality of the photography but my digital camera has decided to play hide and seek at the moment and the burden of capturing images has been shifted to my mobile phone for the mean time.

Thursday, 21 February 2008

1990 raw Fang Zhuan

1990 raw Fang Zhuan (square brick) from the Menghai region

From Teamasters

Featuring : A nice new teapot!

This is the first big chunk of aged pu I have yet owned - I think I'm allowed to say 1990 is aged without being shouted down too much.

This is what Stéphane has to say about it:
"1990 raw Fang Zhuan (square brick) from the Menghai region (not the factory). This brick contains leaves of all grades. It reminded me very much the smell of tree leaves in the fall, when they are still moist and dry on the ground in misty, foggy woods. It has some fresh taste as well and a strong qi. The mix of grades creates a tea that feels very broad and difficult to grasp. That's why I say there is fog in the forest."

I have had maybe ten sessions with this tea since I acquired it and took the pic you see above. I'm still not exactly sure what it's all about which corresponds nicely with Stéphane and his talk of fog in the forest.

It is an enjoyable and warming tea, that much I am sure of.

The 17 odd years of storage have imparted a shu like quality to the brew. It reminds me of the best bits of good quality compost, in a good way, which again may not be too far from the forest floor that Stéphane recalls. . There is almost nothing in the way of bitterness or astringency detectable. I do not have a great deal of experience with pu-erh but I would hazard a guess that this was not stored in the Sahara.

Considering this fang zhuan was bought for less than some 2007 beengs are selling for I am very happy with my purchase and it is infinity more drinkable than any sheng I have from the past few years, especially in these winter months. I suspect this is not a masterclass in 1990's sheng but it certainly is a tea glad I'm bought, I say bought as opposed to invested. Since I own very little pu-erh more than a few years old it also increases my pu-erh street cred to have a sizable chunk of 17 yr old sheng, not bad eh.