A Tea Addict's Journal

Entries from March 2009

My cup is bleeding!

March 31, 2009 · 2 Comments


Well, ok, maybe not. This is one of the two cups that my advisor gave to us when we got married. It was a very nice gift from Korea, and very well made. They are in the same style as Japanese Hagi ware. In fact, the original founder of Hagi ware in Japan was a Korean who was kidnapped to Japan during the first Japanese invasion of Korea at the end of the sixteenth century. The same is true for many other famous Japanese styles, most notably Raku-ware. Korean ceramics were always prized even before the invasions, so it makes sense that the daimyos would get potters from Korea back to their homes to make them nice bowls and cups.

There’s a thread on teachat right now for all Hagi ware, so I figured I’d take them out and picture them.

And I noticed how much one has changed compared to the other. Since I usually am drinking and my wife only joins in on occasion, one of the cups sees a lot less work than the other. This has created a real disparity in the colour of the cups, even though they have only been in use for less than a year.

Compare the one on the left, which is the bleeding cup, with the one on the right

I usually make wet stored puerh in these cups, so the tea is quite dark. It literally seeps through the cup and onto the other side, staining it in the process. I think I might stop using that other cup for a while to keep a “control” to see how far this coloration process will go. It’s quite interesting when pieces change in front of your eyes like that.

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And the winner is…

March 29, 2009 · Leave a Comment

Well, time’s up. Nothing like a little prize to entice people to post response on this blog, it seems. It’s usually pretty quiet around here. I blame Xanga and hope to move at some point, sooner rather than later.

Anyway, the winner of the little competition is….. Theo. His guess was “the fourth pot has been seasoned the longest/the most, hence its shininess compared with the other pots?”. That is more or less correct, although not 100% spot on in the details. There’s no way he or anybody else would know, however, because the other four pots were just cleaned through intense bleaching of their rather heavy layer of patina/dirt/whatever buildup. I was brewing some puerh that day in pot #4, and have the rest of them drying out after the soaking/cleaning process, and all of a sudden I noticed how much shinier it was than the other ones.

Pot #4 hasn’t always been shiny, however. I can’t quite find the oldest post that features this pot, but I do remember that right after I cleaned it the first time, it was very dull — and I remember feeling somewhat disappointed that it looked so dull. Well, it’s not quite so dull anymore. It’s looking a lot better than it did when it came out of the bath.

This post is somewhat similar, chronicling me cleaning my current young puerh pot.

Anyway, Theo, you should email me your address so I can send you your cup. Email is marshaln at gmail

Thanks for playing!

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Spot the difference game, part 2

March 27, 2009 · 12 Comments

Well, nobody has the right answer yet, and I think it has mostly to do with the fact that the picture yesterday wasn’t so good. So, I took them again, and here they are, in no particular order. Since Toki asked, why not, let’s throw in a prize. Let’s get that out of the way first.

This is a Japanese Bizen-ware yunomi guinomi that I have, but never used, and would love to send it to somebody who will actually use it. It’s a waste sitting on my shelves, and I have way too many cups as it is. The first person who gets the right answer (if there is one) gets the cup, worldwide. Polls close midnight EST tomorrow.

Here are the five pots again, in no particular order. A short hint — it has nothing to do with size and shape, and none of the theories in the last post are what I had in mind. They are, in fact, valid (i.e. one of them is a decorated pot while the others are all classical shapes, etc). They just aren’t what I was thinking when I first posted it up. Maybe this is an impossible guessing game and it’s all a bit of a waste of time. Anyway, here we go.

Now, enjoy 🙂

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Spot the difference game

March 26, 2009 · 8 Comments

Which one does not belong to this group, and why?

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First impressions are deceiving

March 25, 2009 · 4 Comments

I’ve said this before, but I’m reminded of this issue again today. I think one of the easy mistakes that newcomers to tea make is an over emphasis on the first few infusions. This is especially true of puerh, particularly the aged or wet stored type. I am reminded of that today as I drank some supposedly 30 years loose puerh from Hong Kong. It starts out a little bitter, wet stored, with a strong taste of some Vietnamese tea mixed in. After a while, however, it mellows out, turns sweeter, and gives a rounder body to the taste. Then, even later (we’re talking 10+ infusions) it turns very sweet, mellow, and still very fragrant, with an almost perfumy taste/smell.

It’s very clear that the best was at the end, not the beginning. My friend has told me how puerh drinking really only STARTS at the fifth infusion. Everything before can be discarded. This applies mostly to her stuff of 30 years old or so. While it’s certainly a waste to, say, dump five cups of Red Label down the drain, it is equally wasteful to stop too fast because of either a lack of immediate interest or a lack of stomach.

This is true also for the evaluation of newer teas. While it is not the sole criteria for determining the quality of a tea, how long it lasts and how fast it dies is an important indicator. I drank some younger puerh recently that will always yield an extra cup no matter how far I’ve gone, while some others completely give up after maybe 10 infusions and give you nothing but water. Longer lasting tea is always better than the ones that die. If it’s weak now, what does it have to give you after aging?

Which also brings into question the size of the vessel you use to make tea. If the pot you’re using is too big, for example, so that you can’t drink more than say 7 cups before feeling totally exhausted by the tea, then you should perhaps consider something smaller. This is a particularly acute problem in the non-Asian world, as the norm is to drink alone, not with company, making a long session of tea harder to achieve. If your pot is too big (say, 150ml) you might be drinking a litre or more of water and still be nowhere near the end of the tea if you’re on your own. It’s definitely something to consider.

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Adagio oolong #40

March 23, 2009 · Leave a Comment

Some of you may remember I bought my wedding favour from Adagio, which meant a lot of free credits for free tea, so I got a few things. Oolong 40 is one of them.

I find the naming scheme to be slightly annoying. Even though I understand that they have a music theme going on there, Oolong #40 really doesn’t tell me anything about the tea whatsoever. The product page says it’s “Formosa oolong”, which still doesn’t say much. Upon inspection, it’s some sort of Oriental Beauty type tea, highly oxidized stuff. I am personally not a huge fan of Oriental Beauty — I find them to be rather boring and expensive for what they are, but heck, this one’s free.

I’d normally brew such things in my black tea pot, since I consider them to be closer to black than a real oolong. I do have some fancy new teaware to use though

A nice gaiwan I got through Ebay, of all places, and which matches the cups I bought, also from Ebay, a while ago

The gaiwan is very wide, much wider than a normal one, and flat. If you have small hands it’s really not a very good one to use. These were made probably for sipping rather than brewing, as it comes with the base ring that works very well to hold it up. It’s not a saucer — there’s a hole in the center where the gaiwan itself sits. The shape of the lid makes it so that when you dip the lid into the gaiwan, it really pushes the leaves away. But anyway, enough about the wares.

The tea itself is pleasant enough, like any OB, with clean flavours and no astringency whatsoever, which to me is very important. It also isn’t bitter, which is good as well. Some throatiness, which in my experience is usually enhanced when I use my tetsubin to make water. I did use a healthy amount of leaves

All in all a pleasant enough tea even though it’s not something I would buy, but that’s probably my personal bias because OBs are really not my kind of thing. I’d take it if it’s free, but probably not if I have to pay for it.

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March 21, 2009 · 7 Comments

I need some advice here. I know the chemists out there might say “lye” while others might say “scrub” and more will say “just ditch it”

Here is the pot in question

With my smaller pot (the one I showed last week) in tow for scale. Upon closer examination, the two pots have rather similar clay. They both fizz when I pour hot water over them, and the colour/texture of the clay are very similar. The smaller pot is a bit darker, but that is most likely a product of me having used it for a lot of tea.

This is by far the biggest pot I own. It has some issues

Minor damages, I think you can say. A chip here, a little crack there. I don’t intend to use this pot much, but I do hope that I will be able to use it occasionally for some black tea… some keemun, for instance. However, there’s one tiny problem

I can’t get rid of this stuff, whatever it is. The white is partially what’s left of the citric acid salt, which will eventually wash away, but underneath that is a very stubborn layer of black stuff that simply won’t disappear. I’ve bleached this pot before. It’s already much cleaner than it was, way back when. The darker shades seems to be some residue of whatever it is that was deposited at the bottom of the pot. I’ve tried scrubbing, with minimal results.

So….. how do I get rid of this rather nasty stuff? Thoughts?

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The power of acid

March 20, 2009 · 5 Comments

Yup…. same pot, soaked in much citric acid and after some scrubbing

Still not perfect — there are some black stuff stuck in the grooves on the inside of the pot, and it still smells a bit like a dirty old sock. However, the grim, dark matter that was stuck to much of the pot has been eliminated. I used cotton swabs to clean the inside — must’ve used at least a dozen to scrub it down, but it worked pretty well and most of it is gone.

For those who are not happy with the idea of using bleach to clean your pots, this might be a more palatable alternative. However, I think bleach is more effective at eliminating foul odors. Right now I am putting dried tea leaves in them (spent) to try to soak up some smell, but I don’t know how well that will work. I might try to soak it in tea and see what happens. If it still doesn’t work…. a bleach bath may be inevitable.

Tomorrow, I’ll post about another nasty cleaning job that I started a few months ago but stalled and have not finished. Stay tuned.

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Cleaning job

March 18, 2009 · 4 Comments

Another pot awaiting a big clean

Yes, it’s very dirty. The pot is covered in stains of some sort or another, and the inside of the pot is filthy

This is, supposedly anyway, a Tiehuaxuan pot from the Republican period. Is it authentic? I can’t say for sure (few things are “for sure” in the teapot world). I can say though the little lion on top of the lid is much better done than most of the other ones I’ve seen. I usually am no fan of this design, but this pot caught my eye.

For the cleaning this time, I’m going to try something new

Yup, you read that right. Let’s see how it turns out.

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The guts of a pot

March 12, 2009 · 2 Comments

Since the pot in the last post has generated some interest, I thought I should post some pictures of what’s inside. Let’s start with the lid

If you look at the third picture, you can see evidence of how the whole band of clay was wrapped around. For the entire pot, no effort was made to conceal any of these worksmanship edges — they are all there for you to see.

Same thing for the inside of the pot.

You can see how the edge is not smoothed out. Neither is the joint line

And of course, for a pot like this, only one hole will do

A knowledgable friend said that Yixing pots didn’t start concealing/smoothing out joint lines until the late Qing. Does that make my pot very old? Maybe. It was well used when I bought it (complete with lots of stains — it was very, very dirty). Whatever it is, you’re unlikely to find another pot that looks like this anywhere.

Taking pictures of the inside of a pot is always a difficult thing. You have to have good lights. I don’t have very good lights right now, but maybe I’ll try some more pictures later tomorrow or something.

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