Thursday, April 30, 2009

Winter Shan Lin Shi, luanze Oolong

2008 Late Winter Shan Lin Shi luanze Oolong

1. From which vendor, farmer, source: Teamaster
2. Date of Harvest: Winter 2008
3. Elevation: 1650m
4. Soil based: Soil
5. Which area: Shan Li Shi
6. Varietal. qingxin
7. Fired level: Light
8. Bush age: young
9. Grade: -
10. breathing tea before brewing: 7 days

Brewing vessel, water:
1. Water source: Poland Spring
2. Aged or fresh: -
3. How you boil your water: Electric Water Boiler
4. Temp. for the first 3 steeping: Rolling boil, rinse, 1-3rd brew.
5. What kind of brewing vessel: 60cc Gaiwan
6. What kind of cup to drink from: Eggshell

Brewing Parameter:
Amount: 4g
Rinse time: Flash
Set time: 15 sec
infusing time: 5 sec/15s/30s then add 30 sec
Height of water pouring: chest level
Hitting spots: side, till rolling leaves.

Result of the brew:
Color: clear, pale yellowish lime and bright
Aroma: sweet, floral, veggie, clean high mountain air
Texture: clean and light
Mouth feel: Refreshing, minty, light seaweed, fruity
Effects of the brew: long sweetness mid tone, calm and comfortable. Best brew 3rd.
How many brews: 5th

Drinking time of the day: Mid afternoon
High/low humidity: 48% hum, 60s temp
Rainy or sunny? Sunny. mild and cool

End notes:
A very gentle calming high mountain Taiwanese oolong, Small oily rolled leaves, delicate 1 bud/2 leaves with small yellow stems. No harsh veggie, overwhelming tannis. Very mild qi. Don't think I can age this? I think I am more a custom to stronger brews.... Finishing with a Davidoff Perfecto. A mild fruity smoke companying the sweetness aftertaste of a young oolong.

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Early 1970s loose puerh

Recently I received a package from Taiwan. A tea aficionado I meet over the internet and eventually become tea friend.
He was so kind to sent me 5 rare tea samples which included:

- 2008 Late Winter Shan Lin Shi luanze Oolong
- 2008 Late Winter Hung Shui Oolong from Dong Ding
- 1990 Spring Hung Shui Oolong from San Hsia
-1980 Hung Shui Oolong from Dong Ding.

I will be writing some feed backs in the coming posts.
- Early 1970s loose puerh

1. From which vendor, farmer, source: Teamaster
2. Date of Harvest: around 1970
3. Elevation: -
4. Soil based: -
5. Which area: Fong Sha
6. Varietal. broad-leaf arbor
7. Fired level: -
8. Bush age: young
9. Grade: 4-6
10. breathing tea before brewing: 7 days

Brewing vessel, water:
1. Water source: Poland Spring
2. Aged or fresh: -
3. How you boil your water: Electric Water Boiler
4. Temp. for the first 5 steeping: fish eyes, rinse, 1-5th brew.
5. What kind of brewing vessel: 60cc Gaiwan
6. What kind of cup to drink from: Eggshell

Brewing Parameter:
Amount: 3g
Rinse time: Flash
Set time: 30 sec
infusing time: 10 sec/20s/30s then add 30 sec
Height of water pouring: chest level
Hitting spots: side, till rolling leaves.

Result of the brew:
Color: clear corn red dark
Aroma: Delicate, floral, brown sugar, woody, Hong Kong storage.
Texture: clean and light
Mouth feel: Refreshing, sweet, camphor and dry mushroom
Effects of the brew: Understated, mellow, not rough, calm delicate qi. Best brew after 8th.
How many brews: 15th

Drinking time of the day: Late afternoon
High/low humidity: 50s% hum, 50s temp
Rainy or sunny? Sunny. mild with clouds

End notes:
A very gentle hong kong style loose aged, broad long wiry new bush, healthy with stems. The tea has been mellow out, peak time to drink, then to hold? The overall character of the storage tasted really like Sun Sing tea from Hong Kong. A comfortable nostalgic loose pu.

I then ended it with a 12 yrs aged Epicure No. 2 to complete the experience.... more to come.

Saturday, April 25, 2009

shuiping 水平 or sheepish 水皮

Many Years of working as an Art Director, I tend to learn what is acceptable and what is not in artistic value... It's a matter of class and taste. How do you achieve the artistic value? I guess a quick answer is to work with more talented artists and understand and accept their individuality and visions. Through working with Martha Stewart Living 10 years ago, I have acquired a tremendous amount of respect with Photographers, Craftsmen, Designers, Stylist and Editors, most of them are true artists in their own languages....

Many people ask me about collecting art works, and often my replies are I am not a collector, but just trying to learn more about the beauty of my surroundings. The more you study and listen, the more you could enrich ones self.

So, where is this awareness have to do with this post? I had another lesson this afternoon. If people who follow Teachat might be aware, that Shuiping Yixing pots are the latest objects of my desire. Learning so much through a Yixing native, I'm inspired to do more studying of my own collection.

Here are my Shuiping pots from the 1960s onwards. Many are the "please drink" series, fake or what not included. So, what is the definition of Shui-Water, Ping-balance? In the old days, this was the so to speak graduational piece from a student to become a craftsman. All should have a comfortable form, easy on the eyes and warm in the palm. The 3 points from the tip of the spout should be aligned with the opening and to the tip of the handle. The pot should be a structure of stability and harmony. The pour should be smooth, straight and without drips. And lastly, it should be balanced on water.

Excited with the last criteria standard of water balance. I pulled out one of my Puerh storage jars and filled it with water and started the floating experiment. First, I float the body on the water surface, checking the balance of it. Then I put the lid on it. 6 of out 10 have acceptable balance, and the oldest one has a perfect score. Unfortunately, 3 capsized... one of those is the most expensive one. Picture above shows the best 3 on top, the failed 3 in the middle and the "flower series" which were acceptable. I don't expect this will be a refund or exchange reason for all of you kind readers, nor doing this test at the vendor's present. Just to show what would be the ideal Shuiping could be.

As my curious nature, and hunger for knowledge, I've been asking around for more on this subject. And most of the replies were the cost of the pot I am acquiring, the sources from the vendors, and the craftsmanship and methods of who made them. Almost 1 out of 20 shuiping from a good craftsman passes the test. And the acceptable ones are mostly made by mold or slip-casting, which lack character and clay quality. Do you then sacrifice the technical aspects and in return own an artistic creation? As for me, I would prefer the later. Owning a piece of artist soul is much more valuable than owning a mass market result.

Well, arming myself with these knowledge. 7 out of 10 pass the test could consider a very lucky odds?

Friday, April 24, 2009

Welcoming Spring 2009

A New Season of tender leaves. A New Chapters to clear and nurturing the mind.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Purple Clay: Zisha

In the Flagstaff House museum, Hong Kong, Dr. K.S. Lo's collection of these 3 Mings to Qings dynasty pots (above) are bench marks of what Zisha should be.

When Yixing collector addresses Yixing teapot, the first name is usually Zisha. So what is Zisha? I am not going to have a lengthy explanation or zillion of online links to this scientific and Yixing "experts" opinion. However, I am just going to show 2 of mine as an examples, sort of a visual identification in short.

Zi = Purple, Sha = Sand. In the old days, whatever is not purplish hue or sand like quality, it was not considered as Good Zisha. Specially if you see gold/sand sparkle inside, it's even more hard to come by.

Comparing it with the texture and looks of a Qing's Zhuni pot.


Monday, April 20, 2009

Guo Bin Li Cha Mao Feng and Charcoal Braziers

Why went through burning charcoal to boil water for a pot of tea? Or in this case, green tea. Tetsubin has been a necessity for centuries in tea drinkers' spaces. Most of the higher quality Tetsubin could not be used on a stove top, but are recommended only with charcoal fire. This is something I am still puzzled about... perhaps any one could tell me the scientific reason?

What I found as non-scientific fact, only through pure observation and taste, was the charcoal burnt really hot and maintained good heat for a very long time. A pot of 750 ml could bring to a full boil in less than 5 mins. The water boiled this way tastes much more alive, lighter and sweeter. It gives a neutral, pure foundation for making the tea shine.

Here is a couple of braziers I use:
1. A tobacco brazier station for when I am smoking and paring tea.
2. A bronze tabletop brazier for keeping the water in slow/small boiling stage.
3. Pair of Lacquer braziers, one for starting and keeping the charcoal lit and the other for boiling water if I am not smoking.

Starting the charcoal is not that hard, using 3 pieces, place them on the gas stove to start, then pile on top of the well lit pieces with more charcoal in the brazier. Good ventilation and air flow is a must. To burn hot and be ready for boiling, will take around 20 mins. Solid oak charcoal is recommended.

So, all these troubles went into making my first green tea of this year. Thanks to Salsero from TeaChat, a very generous gift of Guo Bin Li Cha Mao Feng from teaspring and 2 other 2009 new harvests.

Floral! Nice light sweetness and Jasmine like aroma. Meaty and fresh like spring blossoms, a cross between Korean Jiri tea and Jade snail spring with some hint of malt/rice in the body. The Tetsubin iron which I believe in this case took the veggie and astringency out, replacing it with a sweet finish.

Building the fire for boiling kind of put me into a meditation, and prepare my mind and body to enjoy a tea moment. Happy Green Tea Season everyone. Enjoy!

Tetsubin source courtesy of hojotea.

Friday, April 17, 2009

Mang Sheng pots and The Silver Lotus Cups

Back in the days, cups with floral pattern inside were used for tea. Wine cups are mostly pain or with abstract patterns.
So these silver lotus cups are for the enjoyment of tea as Scott and Trent pointed out, the silver quality adds brightness to the steeps. It's interesting to know, back in Tang (618-907) Dynasty or even earlier, tea connoisseurs already studied the changes of vessels’ materials effecting tea characteristics.

The more interesting discovery is, the cup on the left hand side is an imitation of the right hand side. Right side is an original Silver Lotus sets with hand hammered patterns from Tang, and the Left side is a Ming (1368-1644) dynasty replica.

Ones must wonder, how could one vessel be copied and reproduced the same way for over 700 years and 3 main dynasties? By closer examination, even though the Tang's were made much earlier, the craftsmanship and techniques are much more refined and delicate than the later one.... Could these theories be applied to our beloved Zhuni MangSheng pots, or just older zhuni pots in general?

Real MangSheng in the early Qing dynasty was unique, small, refined and detail oriented. Every curves and proportion contrast are to perfection. The later Qing's copies were even more unified as mass production began, and the interiors of the pots were even cleaner (finishing). But imitations from later periods are coarse, rough and pretentious. Specially showing off muscle lines of the mixed clay. In my personal opinion, it's very juvenile.

Drawing back to these lovely silver lotus cups, I wonder, could I find another set of this made in the modern times? And would it be of a higher quality or even more commercial? Will keep on searching the answer....

Thanks you so much for all your participation, I do learn a lot from all of you, specially Ms. J's aesthete investigations. And I do believe in the ancient world, China was already a metropolis and melting pots of many culture: Western, African, Middle-Eastern. It's much more complex than a paragraph in a History text book or a google search for sure.

So, Congrats to Scott, who got the period and usage right. Please email me your address.

Wednesday, April 08, 2009

The Red Cliff III

Here are the movie clips from Red Cliff which inspired me for this series:

And the real relics from the Han dynasty:

A Set of 4 lacquer ears cups, which the foundation could be silk or cloth. Even over nearly 2000 years old. The black lacquer color and it's cup shape still holds the form, which is quite amazing.

Oval ear-shaped cups had been a class drinking vessel before the Han dynasty (25–220 A.D.). Most of the tea cups in this shape were made out of lacquer ware, since tea are made and consume at a temp. closer to modern days Japanese green, or Korean Jak Sul Cha. The ways to use these wares are very formal, both hand should be holding each side of the ear, tilting forward while you are drinking to block the view of your mouth. These 2000 years old cups are from the actual period, but made out of clay, with glazed surface to imitate jade.

So, the answer to the quiz is a Song dynasty (960-1127) imitation of a Han style cups, made out of bronze. With a warming brazier as an unit/set. Dave got the closest functional answer and Trent got the closest time period. Kindly pm/email your address to me gentlemen. And thank you all for chipping in : )

The teas served in Song were made differently than the Hans. New style of tea emerged. Brewing temp. increased so is the serving temp. Most of the period, even Mid-Qings (1644-1911) serving vessel comes in sets. Like wine cup with stand, serving plate with brazier or charcoal stove warmer with stand etc... One thing I learned about this experience is, many of our modern day tea vessel designs do borrow the pervious period for inspirations. Not only the design, but the materials as well. Perhaps we are just borrowing and adopting the customs of what people were using 50-100 years ago?

Now, the second quiz:

What are these silver items for, why and what are their differences? The closest winner will be given a Ddok-cha from Korea.
(Period hint. Wudong DC for Song dynasty. Ddok-cha for....)

Will have the answer by Wed. the 16th. Happy Holidays!

Friday, April 03, 2009

The Red Cliff II

I was watching the new movie Red Cliff directed by John Woo the other night. Besides the great Actors and Actresses, big battle scenes, love, hate and world domination.... The Tea Porn was hardcore! Could not stop thinking about it. Since I am obsessed with Han style tea, and it's great that this movie really goes into the vessel details on how people drink tea 2000+ yrs ago.

Recently, there are good bundles of quizzes on tea blogs and chats. I would like to go with the tides:

So what are these genuine relics in the picture? What period? Of course it's tea realated.... but how to use, and what are these for?
Learning from MarshalN, what interest will there be without a prize.... The closest guess will have a good sample of the best Wudong DC (a hint) I have.

Hope this will inspiring and be educational too, more relics to come....

Just some more hint pics. Will have the answers Wed. the 8th. Happy Quizzes.
Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 United States License.