Thursday, April 06, 2006

Yixing pot, Old and New

To carry-on my quest to Yixing pot's knowledge. I had chosen to shared my traditional Kung Fu pot. This pot was produced during the Chinese Culture Revolution in late 70's. And was one of the first tea pot which teaches me about traditional Cantonese / Fujian High Fire Kung Fu tea.

Using only Anxi North Cliff TGI, re-roasted and fired by Fujian tea master resides in Hong Kong, the liquor is one of the most intense and "Intoxicating". This traditional "Real" Kung Fu tea dated back more then 100 years ago in South East China: Hong Kong, Canton, Fujian and Chaozhou. The procedure to make 4 small cups are so complicated, people named it "Kung Fu Cha".

I had attached a step-by-step of my own simplify interpretation:

1. A 4 cups pot, thicker wall and lighter fired Zisha with a deeper/longer lid's footer.

2. Preheat everything with rolling boiled water.

3. Traditionally the amount of tea should be 3/4 full. Some elder tea aficionados even make 1:1 ratio of tea:water, which considered "Toxic" to me. I am using half a pot to suits my own tolerant.

4. Separating the bigger pallets to smaller in 2 piles.

5. Partially crushing the smaller pile by hand into powder and set aside.

6. Gently fill up the bottom with half the medium pallets, then center with crushed powder and topped with bigger pallets. There are many different methods to "build-up" the inside, but I found this one as my favorite and much easier then the traditional.

7. Hitting the water at the rim of pot, not directly into the center.

8. Rinse. Pouring in a circular motion into the cups and jerk 3 times at end of the pouring.

9. First infusion. Around 30 sec. Always pour water around the rim with low-arching position to avoid disturbing the tea configuration. Pouring back the rinse to "Kept" the pot and age the exterior.

10. I usually only do 3 infusions, and the last one is the most savored.

11. Using a "kept" pot brush to distributing the liquor evenly.

You can see this teapot wasn't so well maintained or "kept" over 30 years of usage. But it does has it's own character. I have another one which was made in the same period of time, using the same clay and quarry without any usage, because I dropped the lid! You can see and compare the aging process.

This style of pot is called "Aquarius" or "Balanced" pot. It is the most fundamental style which every good potters had to mastered before moving on. Only number were stamped inside (rarely) and "Made in Yixing" were stamped at the bottom. Also there are only one hole from the inside of the spout. During the Culture Rev. there are no potter's name stamped, and the factories are divided by numbers: 1. 2. 3. 5. etc since. Until recently, they started to become independently owned.

Sunday, April 02, 2006

"Sichuan Black" Tea from Imperial Tea Court

With my last order (3/22/06), I purchased a small amount of the Imperial Tea Court's Sichuan Black Tea, which the website describes as "golden buds" and "twisted black leaves" in a tea from "historic Sichuan province." It is further described as a "limited hand production" of black tea. This is not a thick and earthy China black tea experience. It remains a rather medium-light amber in color. The aroma is very full and nuanced. Not easy to describe. It seems to combine fruit/floral/toasty/honey/spice but in very lightly nuanced and balanaced doses. There is actually a fruity-spicy note that makes me think of the DJ-124 Castleton 2nd Flush Darjeeling from Upton Tea Imports, yet the tea has not the Darjeeling pungency. Instead, it veers off into a more mellow range.

As I made it today, that is just the immediate impression I have: a Castleton 2nd Flush Darjeeling in fruit/honey/spice but without the pungency and dryness of a Darjeeling. Instead, we meander off into the more mellow character of a China black tea but without that distinctive earthy signature.

Very interesting tea. I've never had a China black tea that reminded me this much of a Darjeeling. The tea has a nice balance as to equality of aroma and flavor.

I've had Sichuan Zao Bei Jian in the past multiple times from Upton's. That tea, while sometimes having a level of fruit/spice/honey/cocoa, always had a signature earthy note as well, something this ITC Sichuan black tea does not have.

Yixing pot

There are a lot of conversations on seasoned pots, old pots, new pots and long instructions on caring and using Yixing. A lot of information and detailed facts.... Maybe we should have more in-depth personal conversation on our own pots to start with? How do they behave, what do we use them for and how? How many broken-lided pots we have and the stories behind them? I would like to know what Yixing pot's fans and tea lovers use for their daily enjoyment. Hoping to learn from others' experiences, so we can improve the knowledge on these precious and mystic treasures we use daily.

This is my daily 500 ml. puerh pot. Made by a Chaozhou tea potter for the family 17/18 years ago. The old craftsman used 4 different types of ZiSha clay to made this pot: Lu Ni (Green), Zhu Ni (Red) which is the yellow, Zi (Purple) and Hong ni (Red). The coloring of pictorial images is not by dye, instead it is from different Zisha clay crafted by his hand and pressed onto the surface before firing. You can still see the finger prints on the wings of the chicks and on the red peony.

This style of pot is under the category of "Flower" pot. Flower style flourished and brought to collector's attention in the last 30 years by the living legend Master Jiang Rong.

Although this style of pottery began from or earlier than the Ming Dynasty, her influences on the new generation potters are undeniable.

I use it almost daily in the morning for my "morning puerh" for the past 8 years. Using loose cooked big leaves, l drink up 2 full pots (1 liter!) of tea before heading for the day and pour the last one out and cool it down for the evening. I did not follow much text book directions on cleaning and wiping it dry while it is still hot for the shine etc., or any of the master's "keeping" instructions. The only thing I do is cleaning out the leaves daily, using boiling hot water to cook the pot for 2 mins and pouring boiling water over it, until the clay sucks the surface dry then I will let the lid uncover and air-dry for the next use. This takes 3 mins max.

You can see the stain on the bevel of the lid and I don't have a problem with it. Since I broke my last daily big pot for a usage of almost 2 years, while I was wiping, cleaning and polishing every time after or during usage. Until one day I dropped the lid while laboring on rubbing the bottom to shine and cracked the lid and my heart.

I believe there are fine pots to be used on occasion for high-graded teas, but they are not comfortable pots to use. Not that they are badly made, but just the pressure of using something I am not familiar with, and cost an arm or leg. And if we do use them, and cause an accident, what can we do? Can we mend them? I have many pots that have broken lids and have been sitting on shelves since.... What do people do, professionally or domestically?

Saturday, April 01, 2006

Da Yu Ling 2005 Fall Harvest

2005 November Harvest. Da Yu Ling Oolong, 2200 meters, lightly roasted.
A generous gift from Stephane over in Taipei.

The production of Da Yu Ling is so limited, even local Taiwanese might not have a chance to purchase it. This is considered one of the most sought after among Taiwan's Oolong lovers.

We used a 6 oz gaiwan / 8g of tea (We have 6 people to share). Over at T-Gallery.

Dry Leaves:
Medium size pallet, 2 leaves and a bud rolled with thinner* stem sticking out.
*Usually the high mountain oolong has thicker stem and larger pallet size.

Wet Leaves:
Lively richness of greens. Gentle sweet roasted aroma. Mild nectar and floral.

Liquor color:
Clear, pale olive green and light yellow

Brewing steps:
Instant rinse (fish eye) 212F sit covered 15s
Following constant crab eyes temp. for every infusion.

INF1: 10s
Mild floral and hint of toast, balance, with no bitterness/sharpness. Smooth and full body mouth feel. Leaves are not awaken yet.

INF2: 10s
More floral and nectar. High mountain aromas a hint of dry sea weed, is this interpreted as terroirs aromas? Different layers of characters.

INF3: 15s
Still mild and full rounded body. Terroirs aromas intensify. Giving me a different aroma than the previous. Floral and honey aroma, sweet drying taste with hint of caramel and caraway seed finish.

INF4: 10s
We shorten the time to accommodate the unusual amount of tea to water ratio in this brew.

This is like a fine Bordeaux, not intruding, mellow but full. So far every brew gives a new dimensions. My mouth is drying rapidly, intensifying the aftertaste in a dry, brut way. It did not quench thirst like the comparing spring 05 DYL with an unknown elevation, which we brewed up in the meantime. Instead of "moisturize the throat", it "dries up the throat".

INF5: 20s
Full body and brut, smooth to the throat and drying afterwards. Hint of caraway still exists, followed by clean / light floral, very sweet finish. I am enjoying the mouth feel more then anything, round and coating.

Not tired/bored by the experience, which so often happens to me. Tasting unknown teas with robust flavor troubles me. With anticipation of surprising notes, I try to look for different layers, which most of the time the tea does not deliver! But sometimes one of this fine tea comes along and hits me with joy and satisfactory. The hope of enjoying tea reinstated.

INF6: 30s
Much, much more brews to deliver, not enough time to enjoy.... This tea can at least brew for another 10 plus servings. Nectar and refreshing clean floral still flourish, fruits of different peaches appeared.

Overall this is a gem of Taiwanese High Mountain Oolong. Complex flavor unfolded by every infusions, layer by layer like a good novel.
I am very pleased with the elegant, consistent mellow presentation, without overpowering the pallet in the first few brews and dying down like most of the others. A very scholastic, mandarin's tea. Must have at least 2 hours to savor. I can not imagine and wait to try the differences between the 2650 meters one!