Friday, 26 September 2014

Yixing Xuan Teahouse

Along with a group of friends I visited one of just 10 tea houses still operating in Singapore. Situated at 30 Tanjong Pagar rd, close to the Buddha Tooth Relic Temple, in Singapore's Chinatown. 

Vincent Low is the owner, whose previous reincarnation was as a coffee drinking banker, who decided to change his life, he trained all about tea in China and gave us a very informative, clear, enthusiastic and knowledgeable talk all about tea. 

There is just 1 tea, did you know that? Well I guess most people do, camellia sinensis, but did you know from this one plants comes just 4 types of tea, yes just 4! all the others are either not true teas but from other plants, flowers and herbs, whilst the teas that most of us are used to are blends with "flavourings/oils" added ie lapsang souchong, Earl grey, Jasmine etc etc 

The 4 teas are 'white' 'green' 'oolong' 'black'

The best, the purest, the healthiest and of course the most expensive is the 'white' I have to admit although a big tea drinker I had never tried white tea before and to be honest it didn't grab me, perhaps it was just too delicate for my heathen taste buds.

The teas are good for your blood and are packed with antioxidants and polyphenols, cancer fighting properties. But, be warned, don't add milk or sugar as it nullifies the benefits! 

Mr Low explained how the supermarket teas are not as good as those from tea shops, as they're older and therefore blacker in colour and bitter to taste. He explained which part of the bush the leaves were picked from for each of the teas, the tip for the white down to the stem and leaves picked mechanically and then heated and oxidised for the black tea. 

White - this is hand picked from the tips and is air dried hence it keeps most of its colour. It is covered in very fine hairs and when water is poured over them, it should be at a maximum of 75 degrees, never use boiling water.

Green - I have this every morning :) Again the top leaves are picked but this time instead of air drying they are quickly dried either by oven, in a pan or steam dried. 75 degrees again is the maximum the water should be to keep the taste.

Oolong - There are a vast array of Oolong teas. This tea is made by rolling the leaves which allows it to oxidize with the air and darken. Its then pan dried and rolled again. Because of the different processes and time variations this is why there are many Oolongs. Mr Low sells his own called Beauty of the East.

Black - A stronger tasting tea, this is due to the fact that is is picked, dried out completely and then rolled, afterwards it is heated.

Pu-Er - This is the tea you will see in wrapped discs of solid tea. The leaves have been aged. The tea is from China and is reportedly full of health giving benefits. But we warned - use boiling water on this tea to kill any possible "nasties"

We were then given a demonstration in tea pouring and the different size teapots, so tiny compared to what I'm used to in the West. The water is poured onto the leaves not once, but preferably twice and the water poured away before the tea is ready to drink. It is then poured into a small upright cup, to allow you to smell the aroma, before then pouring into a tiny cup for drinking. 

Throughout the presentation we were given the opportunity to smell the different teas, before we then enjoyed a Tim sum lunch where we sampled the different teas, white, green, oolong and jasmine. 

All in all a thoroughly enjoyable and informative couple of hours. I would certainly recommend a visit here. Thanks to my friends L and R for the use of their photos as well as those of mine :) 

All the details can be found here

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