A Tea Addict's Journal

Entries from April 2008

Trying out a new pot…

April 30, 2008 · 1 Comment

I used my newly cleaned pot today to make Iwii’s sample 5. Originally, the thought was to see if this pot is any good for young puerh. However, I realized that I don’t know the tea well enough to really judge whether it is making it any better than usual or not, and since I used up the rest of the sample, I have no real way of comparing. One tasting does not a good impression form, I suppose, and so…. I decided that what I might be doing for the rest of the week (or even beyond..) is to use this pot to make a number of different kinds of tea, and see which one it goes the best with. I might actually brew the same tea two days in a row, except that one day it will be with the newer pot, one will be with my usual, and see if that makes any difference….

The new pot I got is really quite porous, so I am thinking it might be good for things like wet stored puerh…. but I guess we’ll find out soon enough, or at least, I’ll have fun trying.

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A new toy

April 29, 2008 · 6 Comments

Yes, many new toys these days, this one’s slightly different though

A chawan, a kuroraku hira chawan, specifically, but a chawan nonetheless.

I don’t drink much matcha, but I plan to play with it a bit in the coming days. This stuff isn’t so good for me in the winter, that’s for sure, but in hot summer days, a nice cool cup of matcha can actually be quite nice.

Meanwhile, I’m trying to decipher the artist’s seal

My first instinct is that this is a really stylized version of the word “raku” or “le” in Chinese. I tried thinking up what else it could be, but can’t. It’s a funny shaped raku, for sure…. or is it matsuraku (in which case this is upside down)? I can’t tell. Does anybody have any idea where one can go find better info on such things? Japanese books are fine…

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The power of bleach

April 28, 2008 · 8 Comments


A pretty dirty pot, if I may say so myself. I got this recently, and it hasn’t been cleaned. Time to clean it.

It took a dip in a diluted bleach bath for an hour or two. Then I dunked it in water to try to “de-bleach” the thing. I figured I’d first soak it with some water and see how it does, and then try to do some tea with it. It’s interesting to note that the water turns yellow after a while of soaking — I was using cold water at this point. There’s truth to the “old pots will brew tea on its own” theory.

The pot is now very clean

Now I’m going to let it soak some more, then probably sink it in some tea to wash away the bleach…. then it’s time to try making some tea in this thing.

Exciting, isn’t it? I should’ve taken more chemistry.

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Young aged oolong

April 27, 2008 · 1 Comment

This is some stuff I got from Taiwan early on, when I didn’t know much about things and was just getting a bunch of random teas to try out.

Now that I tried it again, it’s revealing more things to me. It tastes medium roasted. It hasn’t been reroasted much. It’s youngish — I’d say 5-7 years. It’s starting to develop that fruity taste, but that’s still in its infancy. The tea is still astringent when overbrewed, and not as sweet as can be. However, I can see how some of my teas were, once upon a time, something like this, and how this tea, if stored for another 10 or 15 years, will turn into one of the teas I like.

It’s always interesting to see what some expeirence will tell you. Teas that seem rather unremarkable suddenly reveal information that I did not previously detect. I guess that’s part of the fun.

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Thoughts on seasoning pots

April 26, 2008 · 7 Comments

My method of seasoning pots is really very simple — use it. I remember when I first started out, I’ve learned all these tricks and things you do when you get a new pot. These days, I find myself not caring so much about all that, since I now tend to think they’re mostly just myth. I do still boil my pots when I get them new, because there are gunk and things that you don’t really want that you may wish to clear out of the pot. The first time I brew a tea in it I won’t drink, because new pots can be nasty. Otherwise though…. I just use.

I do polish my pots sometimes, with a wet (very important — must be wet) towel. Dry towels can make your pot look really shiny but in a slightly undignified way. Rub the pot with the wet towel while the pot’s hot… it will give it a nice shine without that “dry rub” look.

It is important to keep the lids more or less even coloured with the body of the pot, so it is necessary to pay extra attention to the lid. It is also important to make sure that mineral deposits don’t form on the pot — those can be rather difficult to get rid of once they set in. If you have a habit of pouring water over the pot, for example, they can congregate in certain parts of the lid/pot and gradually build up mineral rings. I’ve had one pot that I had to then meticulously work out the ring by constantly rubbing/seasoning that part. Not fun. Use a brush to brush out the liquid so that it won’t happen.

Other than that….. there really isn’t much to do. I’ve found that just by repeated brewing, without even much polishing, the pots gradually will take on a bit of a shine. It’s nice when you can see it change like that — somehow there’s a sense of accomplishment. It’s part of the fun.

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The colours of tea

April 25, 2008 · 2 Comments

Well, I tried something today, but not too successfully. I wanted to take a series of picture of the changing colour of the tea I brewed, but, due to the fact that 1) I don’t have a tripod and thus the position of the camera changed, and 2) my light source was a little unsteady today, since I was relying on a sun that sometimes hid behind clouds, the pictures didn’t come out very well.

But nevertheless… this was the attempt. The tea was Iwii’s sample 1b. Hou De’s big character zhong…. rather sour in the first two or three infusions before turning a little better. This tea needs to wait.

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New thoughts on gaiwan vs yixing

April 24, 2008 · 9 Comments

As many of you have probably noticed, I almost never use gaiwans anymore. In fact, last time I touched any of them was when I sold one of them in my teaware firesale. Before that…. I don’t remember when the last time I used a gaiwan was.

I’ve found that there’s really no good reason to use gaiwan when one can use a yixing. I used to think that it is better, for the purpose of testing a tea, to use a yixing rather than a gaiwan, because, so the thinking goes, the yixing might change the way the tea taste in a way that a gaiwan would not. So, gaiwan is thus more accurate as a way to assess a tea.

I think that is still true if and when I am trying to test out a larger number of teas all in one go using the same parameters, as in a multiple sample tasting using, say, 5 minutes brewing. However, I almost never do that. Instead, I brew them normally and form my opinions based on that. If that’s the case, why should I use a gaiwan? After all, if, say, I were making a purchase decision, ultimately after I do buy the tea, I’ll be using my yixing to make it anyway. It would be foolish to use a gaiwan to test it and then never use the gaiwan again to brew it for drinking. As anybody who has used multiple pots for the same tea would probably know, teas behave differently in different pots. Shouldn’t I be testing the tea based on how I would normally drink it, rather than how I never drink it?

Of course, the other thing is that one realizes that there are so many other variables involved, one thing (i.e. vessel) doesn’t really make that much of a difference. Once I saw past that…. I’ve never used a gaiwan since, basically.

Besides, using more teas in pots season them faster. That’s always a plus.

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Having tea outside

April 23, 2008 · 7 Comments

It was nice having tea outside yesterday. The weather was perfect — not too cold, not too hot, not too sunny. Having a way of making water while outside frees you from electrical outlets and lets you make tea anywhere you want…. that’s always a plus.

The first tea we had was a tieguanyin I got from Beijing about three years ago.

You can tell it’s not that fresh anymore, and now that I’m tasting it, I don’t think it was very very good to begin with. Very average stuff, in fact, and probably not even tieguanyin — maybe this is benshan.

For the purpose though, it worked well enough. It was a tea that’s light and not too hard to make. Easy going enough.

The colours are pretty

We then had a beidou #1, also from Beijing. It’s interesting what two or three years of drinking does to you — stuff that you used to think is good no longer seems so good. The beidou is only ok — then again, it’s quite cheap. Compared to the rougui I had two days ago… it’s no match.

What was nice though was to drink outside at all — listen to birds, watching the deer walk by, etc. It’s just not the same.

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Rougui from Taiwan

April 22, 2008 · 1 Comment

Moving away a little from my aged oolongs a bit, I pulled out something else I hunted down in Taiwan — a rougui, oddly enough. This was a shop that I specifically went to before I discovered the treasure trove that is the candy store (and other stores around it). I remember this being a tiny place, and I went there quite late in the day, almost getting dark. It was a long walk from the subway to the shop, and I passed through, among other things, the big computer shopping area as well as an open farmer’s market where they were also selling tea. When I finally found this place, I was drenched in sweat — a hot, Taiwanese summer evening.

The shop was only occupied by the owner and his daughter, who was probably around five or six. She was doing her homework, and the shop owner seemed to have been making dinner or some such. I thought I was interrupting, but he asked me to go in. I poked around, as usual, and looked through a bunch of teas, mostly puerh. At that point I was still in puerh hunting mode. I did, however, notice that he had a lot of tea canisters on the wall — and all of them were Wuyi teas. I asked about it, and he said this, not puerh, was his specialty. Puerh was there just to appease people who are in the fad.

Ok, Wuyi tea. I like them just as well, so we sat down and tasted a few of these. You can probably hunt down my entry for this visit if you really feel like it somewhere on this blog (probably August 07). I remember they were all quite expensive, and I only walked away from the shop with a cake of puerh and a can of this rougui. I still have most of both.

Opening the can again today, a rush of Wuyi tea aroma immediately rushed up. It was pretty obvious and pretty strong. I like teas that announce their presence, even when dry.

I rarely get the cinnamon taste that is supposed in rougui, but today, I did. Is it the tetsubin? It’s not the pot, because it’s the same pot I’ve been using for two years now for Wuyi teas. I know I’ve been singing the tetsubin song for quite a while now, but I really do think that whatever it is, it is doing something to my water and helping me make my tea better.

Strong, cinnamony, dark, yet a bit fruity with a good aftertaste…. solid Wuyi tea. Yet, I find myself missing that sweet sensation that I get from aged oolongs. This tea is brasher, obviously younger, and less refined. Maybe I’ve gotten used to the aged oolongs, but they do have a unique calming quality that most other teas don’t. Old puerh certainly do, but only if well aged. Adolescent or younger puerh simply can’t do that kind of thing.

I brewed the tea until there’s basically nothing left in it, which took maybe 20 infusions. I realized that my definition of “nothing” is probably much lower than most other people’s… I am quite willing to go to extreme lengths to get another cup out of a tea. At least this tea is up to the task.

I wonder if I should buy more of this stuff when I go to Taipei again, and store it for myself. I think this tea should do well with age.

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April 21, 2008 · 5 Comments

I borrowed the term throatiness from Lew, who was the first person I remember using this particular term. What it is supposed to mean is a sort of feeling in the throat when you drink a tea — some sort of coolness or tingly sensation. This is the kind of thing that usually only puerh has, but some other teas sometimes will have them too. Generally speaking, only good tea will have it and the longer and stronger it is, the better the tea is.

That is until I got my tetsubin. Now, oddly enough, almost all teas give off this sensation. Mind you, better teas still do better with longer/stronger feeling, but instead of just having that feeling once in a while, now I get it all the time, or at least most of the time. Of course, it might have to do with the fact that I’ve upgraded my tea drinking. I didn’t use to imbibe 20 years old oolongs regularly. In Beijing, and to a lesser extent Taipei, I was often drinking stuff that is no good for the sake of learning or experimenting. So obviously there is a bit of a sampling bias there. On the other hand, I have found that with teas that I know well, using the tetsubin will give me a stronger sensation of throatiness.

Is it some sort of chemical reaction, or the extraction/release of certain compounds through the addition of whatever it is that the tetsubin adds? I have no idea what it is, but it’s further proof that one can’t use only one or two criteria to judge a tea’s quality. So much depends on what you use to brew that tea, it is almost impossible to tell for certain what is causing the tea to taste a particular way.

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