Yi Bin, The Mansion of Tea Art, is owned by Mr Lai who has been interested in Chinese tea for the last 10 years; his immense knowledge learned from friends, books and experience. He also enjoys collecting tea ware which he has displayed around the shop.
There are various brewing methods that can be performed and Mr Lai performed the more formal method for serious tea drinkers. Three different types of teas were being brewed at this demonstration arranged by Spiral Synergy: Oolong tea, Pu-erh tea and Rock tea. What became apparent as Mr Lai was talking was that the brewing and serving of Chinese tea is certainly an art and a science.
The tea is best made in clay teapots (zisha) because of the porous nature of the clay. The clay teapot absorbs the essence of the tea, enhancing the aroma, flavour and texture of the tea.
Mr Lai explained that there are different size teapots according to the number of people being served; from the tiny one pot to the larger eight person pot. Also different types of cups are used for different types of teas served.
Mr Lai said that he only serves good quality tea. When asked what the difference was, he explained that bad quality tea is tasteless, the producers use hormones in order for it to grow quickly and be picked faster. Good quality tea should be bought from a reputable source.
The first tea was Ti Kuan Yin oolong tea, a very popular tea named after the Goddess of Mercy. The water is firstly boiled to a 90 degree temperature and the teapot a quarter filled with leaves as they expand. The Ti Kuan Yin oolong tea can be brewed up to eight times and still retain its taste. This oolong tea has light colour and floral, even grassy aroma and taste. Oolong tea can help with mental alertness, probably due to the fact that it contains caffeine. It’s not recommended to drink too much.
The next tea was a Pu-erh tea, another popular tea.This tea can also be brewed about eight times and is served in a wider, shallow cup. Pu-erh tea is a black tea with a strong woody taste. Mr Lai showed us two packs of pu-erh tea, one was raw and one fermented or cooked. He said that the raw tea takes about 20 years to mature. Apparently a 50 year old pu-erh tea can sell for around RM80,000 for 1kg. Again, pu-erh contains caffeine, but less than the oolong.
The final tea served was a Rock tea, also known as Wu Yi oolong tea. It comes from the mountains of the northern border of Fujian province. The water is boiled to a 100 degree temperature and half the pot is filled with tea leaves as it doesn’t expand as much as the other leaves. This tea is only five times brewed as it can lose its taste quickly. Served from a cute teapot into a small cup, Rock tea has a strong smell, but a surprisingly light taste.
There is a beauty and calmness to the shop. With its open roof courtyard filled with large plants and water feature, it follows feng shui principles. Water facing inside and running slowly out the back means that money comes in and doesn’t flow away.
Apart from a range of healthy Chinese teas, other beverages such as ginger and nutmeg juice are served as well as local food and nonya cuisine.
A mention must be made to the toilets which have to be the nicest around. Two rooms are available upstairs for private dining.
Location: 106-C Jalan Hutton, 10050 Penang.
Open: 11.30am to 7.30pm daily, closed Sunday.
Parking: Available on the street.
Recommendation: This is a great place to take visitors from out of town.