Belgium Chinese Tea Centre

Only Pure & Authentic Quality Tea

Tea Learning Journey of Mei Lan Hsiao

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Greeting from Antwerp, Belgium

This is Mei Lan Hsiao from Belgium Chinese Tea Association.

My journey started when I was about 8/9 years old

As the eldest daughter in the family, it was my duty to prepare tea during the weekend when I was home for my parents.

My Mom has very difficult troublesome physical conditions, she could have different chronical problems in different seasons. Also since I was young along the way, I noticed that she needed different kind of attention, from time to time. That’s reason why when I chose tea for her, when I made tea for her, I have to pay extra attention to what kind of tea she could drink and how to brew that tea to make sure the tea did not upset her stomach and sleeping quality. So you can say my Mom was my first inspirator to learn about tea, but my learning point was not about tea itself, as matter of fact, , I started to learn tea with health according to Chinese traditional Yin-Yang wisdom.

Then in 1985 I was nearly burn out, I stood on the cross road in life; I started to question myself who am I ,  what am I doing, what is the future to be; at that moment I have no answer; all I knew was that  I like to drink tea, I wanted to go the nature to enjoy a cup of tea; that’s the voice to me. So I started to learn tea with a tea farmer in MaoKong, the tea region in Taipei. With this tea farmer family, not I enjoyed not only good quality tea, with them I have the pleasure to see how they took care of tea farm, how did they pick tea and how did they make tea. Then all in sudden I realized what attracked me to tea was not just about fine flavors and good tastes, actually I was inspired, moved and touched by those people who I did not know their names, who worked very hard in their life to show respect to the nature, also traditional wisdom, hand picked quality tea manually produced. I was moved and touched by the humane values behind tea leaves, I started to fall in love with tea even more without knowing.

In 1991 because I married to a Belgian, so I moved to Belgium. Left family in Taiwan behind was a very difficult decision but I was very very happy, because it gave me a chance to stand out my comfort zone, and I have chance to see tea and engage tea, to learn and appreciate teas from all over the world, certainly from mainland China, so I could learn tea by drinking tea. Often people asked me who was my teacher, who I learned tea from. I always said, the first person is my Mom and the 2nd is tea.  Tea provides us a lot of freedom to choose and tea provides comfort to the heart.

Living in Belgium, from time to time I feel homesick so what I do is to invite friends for Chinese food and, of course, share tea with them. A Belgian friend encouraged me and asked me to teach tea.  With the first group of Belgian ladies, I realized that they did not know about tea, they did not know is tea, what and how to choose tea, how to brew tea and how to appreciate tea. So when I stared the journey, I said to myself it’s not about business, it’s about helping people to appreciate tea.  Because there are so many good people in the world are looking for good teas; and vice versa there are so many good teas are looking for good people to appreciate them.

That’s what I am doing.  That’s my vow to tea. Tea can not speak, tea simply provides. As long as you have an opened mind, as long as you are willing, when you have a cup of tea, tea talks with you.  When you fall in love with tea, what you fall in love with is not tea itself, as matter of fact, it is you in the reflection in tea.

I do hope one day, I can welcome you to visit Belgium Chinese Tea Centre in Antwerp for a cup of tea.

It’s more than consuming price problem

As a woman, a house wife, I am more sensitive with the daily consumption cost. In the last two years when we tried to put the Covid threat behind, we were hoping for the market recovering, but that hope has been hardly splached by the minitary conflicts that matered by America through NATO.

Now…….

Are we facing problem to cope with daily cost?

It would be too naive to say perhaps not yet, because we really start to feel the threat and pains from our daily home budget.

Are we able to see the light before the tunnel?

What are we facing right now? It’s more than just inflation, as matter of fact, it seems we are heading to potential recession. What and how to prevent or revert the situation?

As a baby booming generation, It’s clear as how did we built prosperity and developments after the WWII. It’s because of peace, collaboration, globalism ! But what we encourage directly or indirectly today? I am terrified whenever I switch on TV or computer to watch the news about conflicts and wars that’s driven by Fascism and extreme weather problems because of our too long ignorance!

I normally like to maintain positive thinking and energy, but frankly speaking, can any one in the world can help me to see some signs to boost my optimism?

What is Dao? What is Consistency?

The first sentence from the #DaoDeJing (道德经)that we normally know is:

道 可道 非常道 (dào  dào fēi cháng dào)

Way, one can be named is an extraordinary way.

(the challenge to translate traditional Chinese scripts to other languages, it’s underable that the meaning often can be narrowed by respective interpretation)

1973 many ancient scripts were discovered in the MaWangDui,an archaeological site located in Changsha from West Han Dynasty (206 BC – 9 AD); a Dao De Jing was among discovered ancient scripts. In the MaWangDui DaoDeJing, the first sentence starts differently:

道 可道, 非恒道 (dào kě dào , fēi héng dào)
Way, one can be named, is not consistent way.

The discovery of MaWangDui DaoDeJing enlightens a new window of learning, not only some differences in the Chinese text, but there are also some texts are even against the text from the normal version that we learned before.

Before struggleing to think what is Dao (the way), perhaps we can explore why not-consistency is hard to understand, to comprehend and to accept.

Even though we named two parts as DaoDeJing (道德经)but according to the knowledge, LaoZi first wrote the DeJing (德经, 德 means Morals)before the DaoJing (道经,道 can also means path in life). To those who are interested to learn DaoDeJing, suggest to start from Chapter 38 (the beginning of DeJing 德经).

What Does Artisan Tea mean?

UN has declared 2022 as “International Year for Artisanal Fisheries and Argiculture”. This declaration would be a great news for many Chinsee tea farmers who devote their life and energy in preserving the artisanal quality tea in tea based on the accumulated wisdom, methods and traditions that we inheritant from our ancestors in the past thousadnds of year in China history.

Anyone who appreciate tea knows tea is a natural agricultural product but not industrial product, accumulated wisdom and traditional know how are hardly be replaced or duplicated by modern machinery processes. Appropriately manage the biochemical and micro environmental factors are critical foundation for the sustainability of tea farming.

Artisan tea basically means tea involves with skillful works and manual (or semi-manual) processed, and that is the critical quality standards for many Chinese special famous teas from China today. The tea quality classification standards in China are still stick to the ancient traditions which heavily involves with manual efforts in tea picking to production.

China has been through many changes in history but the living wisdom and cultural traditions have been accumulated without breaking up. Artisan teas are still considered as the best quality teas in China today and here are some basic principles of Chinese special famous teas:

  1. Started from ecological balanced conditions in the tea growing region (in practice, it means use only natural composed fertilizer, maintain the healthy soil conditions by not over doing the fertilization, forestry coverage in the tea growing regions is in the priority for the sustainability development program in China.
  2. Manually grass removal by respecting it to complete its life circle is important to protect tea trees, in the Autumn grass grow in the tea farm will play a protector role to against the cold winter and to prevent drought under the threat of global climate change. 
  3. In the framework of sustainability development, the collaboration relationship with the local community to arrange the tea picking, it helps to improve family income and living conditions of the local community;
  4. tea production manually by respecting the traditional methods and wisdom are playing critical role to ensure the quality 
  5. Geographic indications are critical.  Today there are many countries grow and produce tea, tea trees can be migrated, production processes can be learned and copied, but not the ecological and micro-environmental conditions, i.e. air, water, latitude/altitude, sunlight, temperature differences in day vs. night, shadowing, moisture in the air….etc.
  6. Artisan teas definitely should be pure in its flavors and tastes, freed from any additional flavor or other addictives.  Artisan tea is as if a natural beauty, her beauties are from within without additional ‘make up’ or ‘make over’.

In Chinese tea culture, tea is more than craftmanship of tea, it prevails how Chinese traditional moral standards based on “earthy”, ‘honesty’ and ‘respect’ are actually lived through actions despite all those political and cultural changes that happened in China in the last nearly 5000 years. Tea is more than enjoying fine and pure flavors in tea, it is about how we can enjoy a moment with tea when to implement the fundamental respects, to the Nature, to others and mostly not to forget the respect to self, without preconceived judgement and differentiation mind. When we enjoy the pure and authentic quality tea, our mind and emotion are also enlightened by its devine spirit in tranquility. Mindfulness is more than a attractive buzzword or fancy demonstration but how we truly enjoy living through a cup of tea.

A coin has two sides

What is freedom?

What does freedom mean?

What and how to practice freedom ?

The world peace needs you, me and they.

If freedom only meant “I can do what I want”, then it is not freedom but lawless mind that leads to chaos.

Freedom, indeed, means to recognize and able to claim own rights, but meanwhile it also means to embrace and to recognize own obligations to follow the basic laws and order that can create calm and peaceful society; it also means one is able to take action to show how s/he willing to respects the rights of other parties.

If you quickly jumped to the decision that the other parties who do not follow your decision means they against you, then probably you are far from knowing what freedom means or even against the practice of freedom.

When follow what are covered in the media that you can easily access to, the hardest process and decision will be are you willing and able to see the truth from your heart.

The practice of freedom means to build peace but not conflicts or wars. No matter what, freedom is not excuse to deny the rights of other party/ies, certainly is not the excuse to practice racism, discrimination or bullism.

Chinese Tea Arts

What is Chinese Tea Arts? In short we can consider “Tea Arts” as different forms of “Tea Ceremony”.

The essence in learning Chinese tea arts is more than deepening the learning of different types of tea, it is more than how to arrange the tea setting nicely in elegant way, you learn much deeper and more when enjoying the unique fine and nature authentic flavors and taste in tea, moreover you learn how to engage the inner peace with a cup of tea.

Modernized tea ceremony is simple and pleasant

Tea and tea culture began from China more than 4000 years ago,  tea ceremony has gone through different cultural evolutions in China history, we can briefly define the Chinese tea arts in following styles

  1. Eating tea – some ethnic groups in China are still keeping this ancient tea traditions today
  2. Boiling tea – the fashionable tea ceremony in Tang Dynasty
  3. Whisking  tea – the fashionable tea ceremony in Song Dynasty which Japanese monks brought back to Japan, further refine and practice in Japanese Cha Dao today
  4. Brewing in small tea pot – Began popular since Ming Dynasty (porcelain small teapot and Yixing teapot)
  5. Brewing with Gaiwan – one simple tea ware allow us to brew all tea types
  6. Brewing tea in Gongfu tea style (ChaoZhou style and Taiwan style)
  7. Traditional brewing tea in a glass – highly recommended for premium quality green or yellow tea
  8. Simplified daily easy tea ceremony – it is about how one can take time to enjoy a quality tea time

Chinese culture emphasizes the humane values through self disciplines, appropriate social behaviors with good and respectful manners that embed the collectural beauty in the society.

Mei Lan Hsiao
One planet for all, appreciate what we have and to share while we can!

It’s hard to separate the development of tea arts with various developments in art, literal, phyilosophies, living wisdom and social behavior teachings… all of these have enriched the cultural development in China history.  It’s hard to say whether it was tea influenced art developments or art developments stimulated the variety development in different types of tea and tea arts in Chinese culture. No matter what the relationship of tea with the mother Nature, shaping the human values, stimulates the sustainable culture development, living wisdom from calming individual to shape the peace in the society is like a circle that has neither beginning nore end. The question is from which point you like to pick up the life time learning with a cup of tea.

How well to manage the choice of tea type and tea quality are critical for specific tea ceremony.  Through the learning of tea arts, it refreshes the learning of tea; the practice of Chinese tea arts (Chinese tea ceremony) facilitates the practice of Chinese Cha Dao that eventually leads to the practice of mindfulness in body and mind while enjoying fine flavours and taste in a cup of tea.

TanYang Gongfu Black Tea

TanYang Gonfu Cha is a premier quality black tea from Fu’An region in Fujian.

FuJian province is an import tea production region where there are plenty famouse teas, such as white tea, oolong, jasmine and black tea, in China, the most important ethnic group in FuJian is She ethnic group together with another 50 ethnic groups. Fu’An region is not just famous for TanYang Gongfu Black tea, but also known for its white tea. The geographical position is between Longitude: 119.546163 Latitude: 27.222276, the altitude is not very high, around 203meters above sea level but the climate and humidity are very suitable for tea tree growing.

The following basic manufacturing requirements are critical for any tea to be classified as “Gongfu Cha”:

  1. Suitable eco-balance in environment for tea tree growing
  2. Not excessive picking per year, to ensure tea trees could have sufficient rest for the next year harvest
  3. Hand tea picking to ensure the quality of raw tea leaves
  4. Quality classification subject to the picking of tea leaves, i.e. 1 bud with 1-2 leaves
  5. Good and appropriately managed withering is the prerequisite for the formation of good quality for all Gongfu Cha and Oolong tea.
  6. Even though now they can use some machines to aid the tea production, but still traditional tea manufacturing methods are well respected
  7. Repeated drying and charcoal roasting are important for the final formation of premier quality Gongfu Cha

TanYang JinZhen was in twitted shape by using tea leaves of 1 bud with 1-2 leaves, which are picked only in the Spring season. The most suitable tea leaves are from local Fu’An vegetable tea trees, FuDing DaHao or Fu’An DaBai. Production methods are rather complex by following the traditional manufacturing techniques and standards .

There are different legends about TanYang Gonfu Black tea (TanYang JinZhen 坦洋金针) ; one is said TanYang Gongfu Cha was created by Hu FuShi from TanYang village during 1851-1874.

According to literature, Fuan Xian exported 70,000 boxes tea in 1881 which meant TanYang JinZhen was popular in Europe at that time already. Due to the anti-Japanese Invade War, export channels faced severly setback, productions were severily damaged that caused sharply drop of production output. After the New China was established, due to the change of tea demand layout, the tea production in TanYang changed from “Red“ to “Green”, not much traditional TanYang Gongfu Cha left for TanYan JinZhen until 1988. TanYang JinZhen has gone through gradual evalutions. In the last two decades since 1991, TanYang JinZhen has been through with consistent modified and improved manufacruring methods to create better quality Gongfu black tea. No matter what and how they modern the production process, they persistently follow the traditional manufacturing methods with TanYang Gongfu black tea, i.e. spreading, withering, kneading, oxidated fermentation, further refined rolling, roasting and sieving.

Fujian government established a clear GIS guidline for TanYang JinZhen:

  1. Tea leaves from tea trees grow in the Fu’An region, widely distributed and mainly produced in Fu’An region, therefore TanYang JinZhen has very firmed GIS (Geographic Indication System) quality identity
  2. The dried leaves are in twitted shape
  3. Persistently to follow the basic black tea manufacturing method (withering, rolling, fermentation, drying) and further enhanced with refined shaping, sortings, eliminating inferior different quality and roasting processes.
  4. Prhibit to use any aromatic substance and additives in the production.
  5. Strengthen the quality control to ensure no peculiar smell and no deterioration
  6. Pure and authentic quality in flavors and tastes are their fundamental belief for sustainability development for a better future.

How to distingulish the quality?

  • The color of dried leaves is in urun oily;
  • The color of tea liqour is in shining golden amber red color
  • It has pretty attractive fresh and elegant fraquence
  • mellow and yet complex dried sweetness tastes in mouth

Brwing suggestions:

  • All Gongfu Cha actually requires very heated water temperature from the boiling water
  • Suggest to use neutral pH balance mineral water, but neither too soft nor hard water.
  • Matching teaware : YiXing purple clay tea pot or white porcelain tea pot
  • Use of tea leaves: 1gm: 50-80ml (subject to personal taste preference)
  • Water temperature: 85-90°C
  • Suggest to keep the brewing time short and sexy, because longer brewing time allow more dissolvants from tea tannins and catechins in tea that will increase the bitter taste in tea. But also try to avoid ‘too sexy’ short brewing that does not allow sufficient dissolving of amino acid that weaken the sweetness in tea.

Tea has very charming and complex multiple layers in fraquence and in taste. Multiple infusions definitely are possible, about 6-8 brewings.

Perhaps the price for premier quality teas is not so cheap because of its hand picking and manual manufacture processing; when you are willing give yourself a chance to experience the fine flavors and tastes that you can enjoy from the multiple infusions, surely you will appreciate the quality and understand the cost per cup actually is very economical. It is indeed tghe better quality tea can meet with your demands for economic and ecological life style while providing you a better quality appreciation.

GongFu Cha? Gongfu Cha!

When tea and tea culture are booming worldwide, more and more people like to talk about Gongfu Cha. But what is the difference in Gongfu Cha (工夫茶)vs. Gongfu Cha (功夫茶)?These two share the same Chinese PinYin, but not all teas can be classified as GongfuCha.

A lot of people are confused by Gonfu Cha in 工夫茶 or 功夫茶. Hopefullly the following brief outlines are useful for you to distinguish few fundamental differences based on Chinese definitions:

Gongfu Cha 工夫茶

Gongfu Cha 工夫茶 started from Chaozhou,Santou and Southern part of Fujian in the Soong Dynasty, it was named as 工夫茶 because of its unique manufacturing methods. In the Wuyi Tea Song writen by Zen Master Shi ChaoQuan in the late Ming Dynasty: 如梅斯馥兰斯馨,大抵焙时候香气,鼎中笼上炉火温,心闲手敏工夫细, the poet clearly mentioned fine quality tea that has gone through complex manufacturing processes and time consuming. It is named as Gongfu Cha because the selection of tea leaves, withering, baking, rolling, fermentation and roasting, storaging and brewing require very particular attention.

In short, Gongfu Cha 工夫茶 is attractive because of its unique complex fraquence, the refinement in the delicated roasting process and most importantly the refinement in the workmanship in the manufacturing and the brewing process.

In the “Qing Dai Tong Shi” edited in 1915 by Xiao YiShan, it mentioned famous teas exported to the West were “Gongfu tea, Wuyi tea, Souchong tea & Pekoe tea”, from it we understand the Gongfu tea were meant for various fine quality black tea, i.e. MinHong Gongfu (i.e. ZhengHe Gongfu, TanYang Gongfu & BaiLing Gongfu from Fujian), Keemun Black tea and Dian Hong; Gongfu Cha is no longer to name Wuyi Rock tea.

Gongfu Cha 功夫茶

The most direct interpretation of Gongfu (Kungfu 功夫)is “martial art, skill; “Gongfu Cha 功夫茶” refers to tea making, tea brewing techniques and the way of tasting and drinking. The unique brewing from Chaozhou played a crutial role to lead the development of Gongfu Cha 功夫茶 mainly to brew traditional Oolong tea。Places known for Gongfu Cha 功夫茶 are Chaozhou, Xiamen/SanTou & Taiwan, among those regions, Gongfu Cha in Chaozhou plays the most influential role.

There are many different disciplines in Gongfu Cha 功夫茶,but few characters are in common:

  1. Brewing with with boiled water
  2. Small tea pot with small tea cups
  3. More multiple brewings are permitted
  4. Complex brewing procedures allow tea lovers to appreciate its complex layers in fraquences and tastes from each brewing

21/5 International Tea Day

21/5 is International Tea Day by the United Nation in 2019 (https://www.un.org/en/observances/tea-day). 

The essence of that day goes beyond promoting tea but emphasizing the promotion of social culture, health and respects in humanity through tea serving. Since the migration of tea started with via the first trade route from China with the West via the Grand Silk Road in 2 century before Christ, tea has been integrated in different cultures and today there are many interesting tea cultures in the world. 

In China we name 21/5 as “International Tea Serving Day”, because we strongly believe with the tea serving culture we can improve the social contacts / relationships and harmony in the social integration process for world peace.

Even though right now the Corona infection number in Belgium is still high, but people are getting tired and we all hope to get the life back as soon as possible.  In the time when people are still coping with stress from the pandemic, the fear for international conflicts is mounting, we really need to promote more hopes, dreams and positive energy by stimulating the social economy and prosperity growth in the future.

Our concern is what and how to help many KMO or shops in Antwerp to get their feet on the ground by getting customers back, as elsewhere in the world.

However, for this project in Antwerp, in Flanders or in Belgium, we need to overcome some basic obstacles:

Right now the rules and the ‘normal logical thinking’ about free-of-charge serving tea can be considered as “abnormal”:

  • First of all, it is not a business promotion event, but a culture & social culture promotion event. But with the free tea serving, it does can help to stimulate the customer relationships that hopefully can stimulate the business growth indirectly.
  • It is not about tea or Chinese tea culture; we actual encourage the promote of various tea culture from the world; it is about the humanity and respects in the world culture as one.
  • Whoever are willing to participate this social culture event, must understand and agree that day is to serve tea for free.  The whole idea is promoting relationship with customers and citizenships.
  • The challenge that we are facing are food safety regulations and taxation which could put off the willingness to participate this culture & social promotion event.
  • 21/5/2021 is Friday, considering there will be more people come to Antwerp for shopping on Saturday, therefore we propose to make this Free Tea Serving event as 2-day culture social promotion event in Antwerp.

Belgium Chinese Tea Culture Association is a non-governmental and not-for-profit culture association.

  • Our mission is to promote peace, harmony, respect to the ECO nature and humanity in society through tea and tea serving.
  • First of all, we would like to clarify that we do not expect subsidy from the government or participants. We do need the permission from the government and understanding from the authority. 
  • On the contrary we are willing to support non-tea shops who are interested to participate this culture promotion event with 100gm of tea to not-tea shops in Antwerp of their choice, free-of-charge, so they can organize the free tea serving stand in their own way.  

Why I want to organize and promote this event in Antwerp?  Answers are very simple

  • The world needs peace but not conflicts; Antwerp is a unique centre in Europe for its cultural diversity where we need to promote more positive energy and more collateral harmony in our society to overcome stress from the pandemic and to build a better future for our younger generations.
  • ik ben een Antwerpenaar en Antwerpen is mijn 2de “thuisland” . Promoting health in body & mind, positive energy and harmony in our society is something I can do and I love to do.

I do hope to have your participation and support on this meaningful project.  If you have any question, please feel free to contact me:

Mei Lan Hsiao

Chinese Tea Master

Belgium Chinese Tea Culture Association

Tel: +32 494 50 68 99

Email: info@chinesetea.be

#internationalteaday #antwerp #antwerpen #internationalteaservingday #socialcultureevent

20/4 World Language Day

The world needs us, and we need the world.


20/4/2021

LET’S MAKE IT A
“WORLD LANGUAGE DAY”


Even though we are far apart;

Even though there are lots of differences between us;

Even though we don’t know each other;

But let’s united and sharing fine spirit together.

Let’s not just singing for the Spring;
Let’s not just praying for health and peace;
Let’s not just hoping to return the normal live;
But let’s actually can act together collectively.

For better days,
For better years for everyone.
To make this world a better place for all children regardless age, gender, color, language, religion.

Let’s take collateral actions to make that day, the day for:

PEACE

LOVE

HOPE

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