1) Product Related FAQs
Q: Why is your Yunnan Black (or any other type of tea) so cheap/expensive compared to other shops?
A: Tea has many grades and corresponding prices across a wide spectrum. For Tieguanyin for example, you can get one at less than $5 per 50g or more than $50 for the same quantity.
We focus on 2 things- authentic quality and value to consumer. These two goals create a tension that results in the final retail price that could either be considerably lower or higher than offerings elsewhere.
Q: Why don’t you sell more green teas?
We hope to but we are not sure when we will get garner enough following and what inventory levels to stock. It is one thing to stock up on Pu-er but quite another to have to throw out stale green tea.
Probably if our traffic picks up, we will add another 2-3 green teas because we DO love green tea.
Q: While we’re at it, why don’t you stock more varieties of every type?
All in good time, we hope to have close to 30 by end of 2012 but we need to assess the demand and traffic. We want to provide as much information as we can on all our products so you can make an informed decision but this cost time and money (research, inventory, photography, labels etc.).
We will keep increasing our range as long as we gauge that there is a demand and it is commercially and strategically viable to do so.
Q: Is your recommended brewing method the best?
Not necessarily, but it is a reference point for your own experiments.
Some people like their oolongs more aromatic, hence they prefer near boiling water, others prefer them sweeter, hence a lower temperature but longer steeping time.
In Chaozhou, where the Dancong are grown- the locals like it really strong and bitter; hence they fill their gaiwan with almost 90% full of tea leaves, add near boiling water and infuse it for 1 minute on the first go. That is an amazingly bitter brew that we reckon most people will not enjoy.
For white tea, some people recommend boiling water and shorter steeping time but our recommendation brings out the nectar-like sweetness of White tea.
Again, it is personal preference.
Just one thing to note, unless the tea leaves are cheaper or of lower quality, we do recommend you steep them for at least 30 seconds for the tea to show its character.
Do experiment and see what works for you- that’s the fun of gongfu brewing.
Q: Gongfu brewing? That sounds too hard for clumsy old’ me.
Drive the image of Bruce Lee or some wizened monk with a pot from your mind.
Gongfu brewing is simply a more measured, deliberate way of brewing tea than simply dumping boiling water into a mug and pouring out in a strainer.
It really isn’t that hard and the payoff is worth it- shorter brewing time, more steeps (and maximizing your dollar spent) and most importantly you get a fuller taste.
There are some ‘fusion’ tea wares to help you simplify the process if you find the gaiwan or Yixing pot too intimidating. Brewing tea doesn’t have to require years of training, just take the first step- you’ll be surprised at how much you’ll enjoy it.
2) Site Related FAQs
Q: Where are the images on this site from?
i) Professional photography
ii) Amateur photography I- Namely us
iii) Amateur photography II- provided by our vendor, mainly those of Wuyishan
iv) Stock photography- purchased from Shuttlestock.com , hopefully we can replace all of these when we have more budget for professional photography (or when/if our photography skills improve)
Q: What is ‘recurring sweetness’ that you keep referring to
This is a unique characteristic of tea, known in Chinese as 回甘. It refers to a lingering sweetness that emerges in the back of your throat after your tea is consumed. It permeates your entire throat and rises up to your mouth and sweetens even plain water your drink subsequently.
This is more evident in some teas compared with others, especially quality tea such as our Iron Goddess and Silver Needles.
‘Recurring sweetness’ is part of the reason why we don’t recommend you mask this subtle but more satisfying taste with sugar and other additives- at least for good tea like ours.
Q: What’s your take on the legends and myths?
Plainly speaking, we don’t believe them- monkeys, goddess, scholars or what have you, these are fun tales that traditionally are told when you drink the teas, to add some allure and enchantment to them.
Most of the locals don’t believe them either, so there isn’t an ‘authoritative legend’ (that is surely an oxymoron) despite what some will have you believe.
We just recount them in the spirit of fun, just like most legends and fables.
Q: Why are you giving me so many different types of photographs
We are proud of the value and quality of our tea. If we sell you something for $15, we are sure you get more than what you pay for. Ditto for $6 or $25.
Of course, selling online means you can’t judge for yourself before buying- we could tell you a long-winded story about how you tastes buds will be tantalized and brought into a whole new dimension but we reckon that is more a reflection about our literary talents than the tea- we try to provide more photos which you can use to assess.
Each of our teas will have photos of
i) Dry leaves- Standard fare, you can see how it looks, the color, the size, evenness etc.
ii) Liquor- Whether it is clear, bright etc.
iii) Wet leaves- Opine that this is the most crucial part of visually assessing the quality of tea leaves- the shine, size, type (e.g. 1 bud 2 leaves) etc. This is a pretty big topic that some independent sites have covered and we would eventually get round to blogging about
We use tea leaves from the current (or earlier but from the same vendor and same price) batch that we will sell to you so essentially, what you see is what you get.
We don’t provide photographs merely for aesthetics. For example, we don’t provide a whole clump of wet leaves just for completeness, we photograph individual wet leaves, unfurled so you can see the color, the texture, the size (we photograph it beside a ruler so you can get a sense of the scale); details that you can use to evaluate the quality of the tea before making a purchase- not frivolous aesthetics.
Q: What’s with the ‘personality’ of tea?
The famous Chinese poet Su Dong Po wrote ‘A good tea is like a beautiful woman’ and we concur. There is so much natural beauty and elegance in quality tea that can only be begun to be described by riding on his analogy.
It’s not perfect, analogies never are but we hope that by personifying tea, your interest may be piqued to know them better and discover parallels of your own.
3) FAQs relating to us
Q: What is your favorite tea?
All of them, everything we sell is the best and we would stake our children’s soul on it!
Scratch that marketing puff- naturally we have our favorites.
Derek’s favorite (among those not sold here, some of his favorites Big Red Robe, Dragon Well, Oriental Beauty are out of the target selling price of this site at point of writing) are
i) Wuyi Sacred Lily
ii) Iron Goddess (Traditional)
iii) Phoenix Dancong (Heavenly Fragrance)
iv) Huangshan Furry Peaks
The missus’ favorites (those not sold include Dayuling, San Lin Xi, Xin Ren Xiang- same reason, too expensive)
i) Phoenix Dancong (Honey Orchid Fragrance)
ii) Silver Needles
iii) Dongding Oolong
iv) Golden Oolong
Taste is very personal, do let us know your favorites!
Q: Why aren’t you selling your favorites then?
Authenticity is important to us- it means when we sell a tea, it is of a quality that does justice to its name. That means no Big Red Robe without the ‘Rock Aura’ or yanyun (岩韵) or Iron Goddess without yinyun (音韵).
Of late, prices have spiraled out of control, when you find a cheap one, you should seriously wonder if it is indeed of a representative quality.
We could find Iron Goddess or Big Red Robe or so many of the famous teas in China and sell that for less than $20 while making a considerable profit from it but we will be doing you an injustice.
Our aim is to provide the authentic Chinese tea experience so that people from around the world can know what the buzz is all about and discover it is not hyperbole or mere hype.
Authentic Chinese tea is worth it.
Q: Will you ever sell them (your favorites) then?
Never say never would be the easy and honest answer. We hope to, perhaps when prices soften a bit or (hopefully) more realistically we earn your trust so you know that if we charge you a price, you are getting fair if not exemplary value from it.
We hope eventually we can sell teas of higher prices and naturally a higher corresponding quality but we will continue to steer clear of overvalued marketing hype- that means most likely no Jin Jun Mei!