Hong Cha steeped for 20 minutes ?

Here at Tea Trekker we have been experimenting with various steep times for several of our long leaf, China black teas (hong cha).

Of particular interest has been the wild and high-mountain-grown, older-variety leaf from Yunnan Province in southwest China.

We normally steep these teas twice, first for 4 minutes and then again for 4-5 minutes, depending on the size of the leaf and the amount of bud. We generally use this methodology also with the large leaf eastern China black teas, new Keemun Buds, and several other black teas such as Fenghuang Dan Cong Black and Yingde #9, as well.

Depending on the circumstances, we vary the steep times and the amount of leaf used. We always use a generous portion of leaf, as this ensures the hearty cup that we are seeking.

One recent afternoon in the store, Bob was steeping some JingMai Wild Arbor black tea, and was called away to answer a customer’s question. That leaf ended up steeping for almost 20 minutes before he had a chance to retrieve it.

He knew to taste it anyway, ‘just in case’, because the initial steeping water had been off-the-boil, as that is what he normally likes to use with Yunnan black teas. The steeped tea was absolutely delicious and very unusual – it had nuances of flavor that were shocking and there was not even a whisper of astringency or that over-steeped, ‘cooked’ flavor that a smaller-leaf tea would have exhibited if steeped that long.

He even decided to experiment with a second steeping (curiosity is critical in tea steeping!) and so used very hot water and a 5-minute steep and the resulting tea was quite drinkable, but light.

What was particularly noticeable in the long steep was the deep, woody, layered ‘forest’ flavor that is so unique to Yunnan teas, but doesn’t always show in a ‘regular’ cup steeped for a shorter time.

We use this experience to illustrate the necessity to ‘play with your tea’. We just never know what delightful experience we will have until this sort of ‘mistake’ happens.

The Book of Tea

by Mary Lou Heiss
November 8, 2015

The Book of Tea
by Okakura Kakuzo
Tuttle Publishing (December 15, 1989)


In Kakuzo Okakura’s eloquently conceived discourse, The Book of Tea, Okakura introduces readers to the intricacies of Japanese culture and values. Okakura arrived in America in 1905 and took a position in the Chinese and Japanese Department of the Boston Museum of Fine Arts which he held until his death in 1913. He was also associated with the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum and was influential in assisting Mrs.Gardner  amass a stunning collection of Asian art. In fact, Kakuzo Okakura made Boston the center of the late-nineteenth-century vogue in the United States for art and objects Japanese.

The Book of Tea was first published in 1906, and has remained in publication continuously since. Okakura chose to write his book in English for an American audience. His intent was that his words act as a cultural emissary and spread understanding and appreciation for Japanese art and culture to an American audience that little understood Japanese culture. For most Westerners, Japan remained an aloof place with intriguing customs and impeccable taste.

With thoughtful and beautifully crafted sentences delivered in a straightforward and direct manner, Okakura chose to write about Japanese culture via the Japanese tea ceremony – Chanoyu – using this topic as the vehicle to explore his subject and give voice to his words and feelings. Perhaps by drawing on the tea drinking sensibilities of New Englanders, he chose this way to approach his objective of introducing and clarifying essential Japanese beliefs on topics such as life, art, religion, spirituality, and the value of beauty. He also paved the way for an appreciation of Japanese tea culture that reverberates to this day.

The roots of tea culture began in Japan during the Nara Period (710-794). By the Muromachi Period (1333-1573) Zen Buddhist practices were firmly established in Japan. The great Japanese tea masters, such as Sen Rikyu, were Zen masters who shaped these doctrines and embraced tea drinking as a disciplined ritual central to developing the mental and physical health necessary to lead an ordered and practical life.

Tea drinking underscored Zen concepts and incorporated the principles of
wa (harmony), kei (respect), sei (purity) and jaku (tranquility) – virtues that imbued meaning not just to the lives of individuals, but also to society at large thru mindful and respectful social interactions. Undertaken as a mindful ritual, tea drinking embraced spiritual ideals, philosophical thinking and cultural values. It provided the opportunity for men and women of all walks of life to kneel as equals beside one another in the simple and pure environment of the tea room.

By focusing their attention on the details involved in the preparation and enjoyment of the tea, guests could leave behind the worries of their everyday existence and take pleasure in the humble beauty of the experience.

Okakura titles his chapters The Cup of Humanity, The Schools of Tea, Taoism and Zennism, The Tea-Room, Art Appreciation, Flowers, and Tea Masters, all of which combines into a skillful, parallel walk thru the ideals of chanoyu and Zen approaches to life.

Handmade 2015 Tai Ping Hou Kui Green Tea

Woohoo! After a long time of this and that, we have finally received some Nie Jian – handmade Tai Ping Hou Kui green tea. This tea is from 2015 spring and it is stunning to look at and delicious to drink.

Bob and I visited the Tai Ping Hou Kui tea production area on our first tea buying trip to China in 2000. The core production zone for Tai Ping Hou Kui tea is Hou Keng village in Xinming Township. Two nearby villages – Hou Gang and Xian Jia – also contribute to the production. These tea areas are in Tai Ping county, at the southern end of Tai Ping Lake, situated close to the stunning Huang Shan Mountains in Anhui Province.

Read more: http://www.teatrekker.com/tai-ping-hou-kui

Tea Trekker Featured in Fresh Cup Magazine

Tea Trekker

Café Crossroads


Tucked up against the railroad tracks of a New England college town may not be exactly where you’d expect to find one of the best selections of Asian teas in the United States, but then tea appreciation in the United states is never as expected. What’s for sure, though, is that Tea Trekker, founded by husband and wife Mary Lou and Robert Heiss, has made their shop in Northampton, Massachusetts—or at least their website—required visiting for tea fans.

To read the article, please visit the Fresh Cup website: http://www.freshcup.com

Our 2015 Fresh Chinese Green Teas are Arriving

NEWS FLASH – WE WELCOME THE 2015 TEA SEASON 09pie2The first of our 2015 fresh new Chinese green teas have arrived. What is here?

  • Long Jing
  • Longjing Dafo
  • Gan Lu

Also just in…..2015 Winter Frost Tea from Nilgiri, India. This is the first time in nearly seven years that we have had Nilgiri teas.

Click here to see all of our 2015 teas that have arrived to date as well as a listing of other 2015 spring teas that will be arriving soon.

Seasonal teas are wonderful because they contain fresh, vibrant flavors of the new season in their tiny tea leaves. While many who sell tea ignore the notion of seasonal tea production, we feel that it is vital to understand and explore the changes that occur in the taste and flavors of tea from one season to another during the plucking year.

Many tea producers in China will say something like: ‘The tea is not good now.‘ What they mean is that the tea has entered a season in which the taste is less than delicious. This is a weather-driven, size-of-the-tea leaves issue and one that arises in the early summer when the tea leaves have grown too large on the bushes to make ‘good’ tea. One must wait for another season to have sweet, good tasting teas again.

All of China’s Famous Teas and other early spring green teas (such as the above mentioned teas and many more that Tea Trekker will be receiving), are made only in the spring season. Chinese black and oolong teas will begin spring production soon (or have just begun) and some of these teas will have a second plucking season in the autumn as well.

Want to learn more? Please refer to the seasonal tea dating and source information on  teatrekker.com that we list for our teas. And, we discuss seasonal dating in both of our tea books: The Story of Tea and The Tea Enthusiast’s Handbook.

More new tea will be arriving this week – keep checking teatrekker.com for details and  announcements.