Jul 13, 2014

Anhui Long Stem Tea (杆尖)

You know, when you send a nice gift to family or friends, and when they enjoy it very much, you would feel so proud of yourself for finding such a wonderful gift. I like gifting friends with green teas, and would feel so proud for being able to send them great teas before their friends start drinking green tea for that year. A even better scenario is, when they enjoy it very much and can't even figure out what it is. In the past several years, I tried to introduce some rare and unique green teas to America, including Orchid Fairy Twig, White Plum Flower Peak and some others. These teas are not only new to Americans, but rarely seen in China either out of their home region.

A few months ago, I sent this "long stem" tea to a friend, who is a Chinese from the hometown of Xin Yan Mao Jian (信阳毛尖) and a very enthusiastic green tea drinker. Later he told me that he asked quite a few tea friends and didn't figure out what this tea is. And I told him "don't bother", and besides him and me, probably few people, if any, in our friends circle have had this tea before. To be honest, this is the biggest source of happiness in gifting others - you make them happy, you make them woo- and wow, but more importantly, you make them wonder and wonder and wonder what on earth this is :-D

This is the first year that I had this tea, and it's one of my favorite greens of the year. I just made up the English name "Long Stem Tea" to make it easy. The Chinese name has only two characters, but it involves a big chunk of technical history of green tea processing and there is no way to "translate" it.

So this tea has long stems. Obviously, the stem grows faster on this tea. This is an early spring first day harvest, and the stems are already so long. Somehow when this tea was invented, the producer chose to harvest with the stems. Rarely any green tea with such long stem is seen as a high grade tea. Historically Chinese green tea has very strict visual standards. Besides, most of the time stems are seen as tasteless parts that add to the weight of the product. So I guess it must have been a bold decision to harvest with the stem when this tea was first made. And probably there were technical reasons for it.  In spite of everything I've learned about Chinese green tea aesthetics, I like the long stem looking very much!


I almost want to tell everybody who drinks high mountain green tea from Anhui (in fact I've already done it for many times) - could you do me a favor and not use cooler water for it? High mountain tea deserves very hot water (as long as not covered by a lid)!



  
 


This is a typical Anhui tea, and a "relative" of Tai Ping Hou Kui. I sent it to my friend along with Hou Kui and a couple of other "relatives" of Hou Kui. It would be very interesting comparison. Besides, nowadays, Hou Kui has been largely mystified. A comparison of Hou Kui with its "cousin" teas would make us understand it better and appreciate it better. 

May 11, 2014

spring time tea

Perfect green tea season now!

I had a tea gathering with my friend Bin and his wife. Obviously my friends are of the Facebook generation. Bin took photos during our tea drinking and post them on WeChat (which is used more than Facebook by a lot of Chinese). All the photos below were taken by Bin.

I asked Bin to select tea to drink and the order of drinking. It was a challenge because we could just drink so much tea no matter how much more are available. We ended up tasting 5 new green teas, which turned out a good amount. The types of tea and order of drinking were casually determined by Bin on the spot, and they turned out excellent choices.

In our drinking, we used a very small teapot to share the tea, in attempt to save our tummy space for more types of tea. But this is not a typical Chinese way of drinking green tea. If it were not for the purpose of multiple tastings, I would serve people tea in a glass or a tea bowl, or a personal gaiwan for each person, for them to drink directly from the gaiwan. I would use one of these method.

We had Shi Feng Long Jing first. I sort of pushed for it, as a way to show my hospitality :-D Although I believe each tea has its unique strength, in China, treating guests with Long Jing is a way to express that the guests are taken very seriously.


We then had Tai Ping Hou Kui, which is another showy tea that a host would be happy to serve the guests. We didn't have my favorite vessel of brewing Hou Kui on the spot. But we managed to brew the tea nicely.




The third tea was An Ji Bai Cha. It turned out we used more tea leaves than the most desirable level. But luckily for An Ji Bai Cha, it's usually ok. This tea is featured with high nitrogen contents and low carbon contents, compared with many other green teas. Therefore this tea doesn't usually get bitter even when over brewed.




The next tea we had was Orchid Fairy Twig. We brewed it in a yixing teapot that's not very absorptive. And I figured that next time I would rather brew it in a shibo, or glass. This tea has very floral aroma, and it could get lost in a teapot with certain height.






The last tea we had was Lu Shan Yun Wu, this one made by Uncle "si shu" again. This time again, we used more than usual amount of tea leaves. But for Lu Shan Yun Wu, I often intentionally make it stronger, first because the tea wouldn't be harsh on stomach even when brewed strong, and secondly because the tea has very nice liquor texture, which is more prominent when the tea is made strong.




Overall, we had a good time, enjoyed the tea, and exchanged quite a bit gossips :-D I'm glad that we started with Long Jing and ended with Lu Shan Yun Wu. Among all 5, these two both have very long lasting sweet aftertaste, and their flavor is of lower tone compared with the others. In Chinese tea aesthetics for green tea, the lower tone types of aromas (such as the so called "chestnut aroma" of Long Jing) are often valued more than uprising aroma (such as floral aroma). Drinking several teas in a row somewhat helped me understand such traditional aesthetic. Somehow, among the 5 teas, Long Jing and Lu Shan Yun Wu became more impressive than others. They are both very good statement teas. But maybe it would also be a nice idea to put Long Jing later in the sequence. When we had Tai Ping Hou Kui after Long Jing, we felt that the aftertaste of Long Jing was reaching into our Hou Kui tasting, and could be a bit distracting.

Tea always tastes better when you share it with friends!

May 8, 2014

RIP, Lu Yun, father of modern puerh

Last week, a very important figure in puerh history, Lu Yun, passed away, at the age of 57. The name of Lu Yun is less mentioned in recent years, although he was one of the most recent and one of the youngest "godfather" of puerh.

To a lot of younger tea drinkers, Lu Yun may not sound a familiar name. However, many people are very familiar with his lifetime work, without even realizing it. He was the head of Menghai Factory, and then CEO of Dayi. He was the leader of the developing team of Dayi 7262. He was involved in research and development of some of Dayi's most popular products including 7542, 8582, 7572, etc. He was the founder of Dayi trademark. He was a co-author of Puerh Yunnan Province Standards, which were the bases of the current Puerh National Standards. He was respected as "father of puerh" by many puerh gurus. 

Unfortunately, in the last stage of his career, Lu Yun became a controversial figure. He was involved in some big financial scandal (mixed with personal life scandals) in 2008. Many of his friends see him as an "innocent offender", and many believe the incidence was a tragedy outcome of the 2007-2008 puerh crisis. He was also condemned by many people. He disappeared from the social scenes, and his name was rarely mentioned since then.

But at the end of his life, when the news of his death spread, it turned out he is still very well known and well remembered. With good wishes, many tea drinkers choose to remember the best part of his life and let go the dark side. Personally I feel a lot of sympathy towards him. His career was not perfect, and most of the rest of us aren't perfect either. Thinking of all the tea he created, I just can't get mad at him. Sometimes I say, we are in an era of too many masters. In today's tea world, there are many tea masters and tea celebrities. Most of them will be forgotten by history. This one will be remembered as part of puerh history, as he created a big chunk of puerh history.

Apr 26, 2014

pictures of some popular Factory #1 teapots




More pictures are here.

The pictures are rather small and are mainly for the purpose of style identification. These pictures could be found in quite a few Chinese tea websites and teapot websites. So far there is no copyright concern. I guess some non-Chinese yixing lovers would be interested in these pictures as well, and therefore put them in the above public album.

I have a few other series of Factory #1 teapots pictures and will put them together in a folder soon.

These are not inclusive of all Factory #1 teapot styles, but cover most of the commonly seen styles. There were large amount of custom order teapots that were not included in Factory #1 catalog as those in the pictures showed here. In the market, the "cataloged ones" are usually more expensive than the uncatalogued ones, when qualities are similar in all aspects. This is largely for identity reasons, as it's easier to identify and authenticate the cataloged teapots. I'm not sure if it would still be the case in the long run, as some of the cataloged styles were made in much greater amount than some of the uncatalogued styles.

For people who are interested in more detailed and artistic documentation of some Factory #1 yixing styles, I would recommend this book: 钰壶雅集 Yu Hu Ya Ji

Some pictures of this book can be find on this page of Wu-Shing Books. This is one of the three "bibles of yixing teapots" named by some Chinese yixing lovers (another one of three is the Gu Jingzhou book).

As far as I know, this book is still being sold in Taiwan for about $60-80.

And here again is the question, if you have $100, would you spend it on a good but not fabulous teapot, or a picture book of splendid teapots? 

Apr 12, 2014

The last bit of 2013 green tea

I'm sitting in a room full of 2014 new green teas, while drinking this last bit of a 2013 green tea called "wild orchid bud". By the way this is a very unimpressive green tea name, as there are so many "orchid this", "orchid that" tea in China! This is one of my favorites in recent years. Amazingly, this tea still tastes very good. Sometime ago, when I wrote this blog post about shelf life of green tea, I was thinking that among all green teas well made and well stored, some teas simply last longer than others. For example, quite a few Anhui green teas (such as huang shan mao feng and this "wild orchid bud") seem to have much longer shelf life than teas like bi luo chun.

I tasted a few samples of this tea in 2012 and immediately fell in love with it. In recent years, I've decided to introduce at least one or two "new" (I mean new to American market) green teas to America. For example, in 2011, it was Orchid Fairy Twig. In 2012, it was Bai Mei Hua Jian. Up till today, not many people have heard of this latter tea (but the knowledgeable barbel carp tea lexicon has included this tea, impressive!), either in China or else where. But it's not less tasty than many very famous green teas. Last year, my "new" tea to bring up was supposed to be this "wild orchid bud". But unfortunately, a whole shipment with this tea and a few others were lost in transition, and eventually I only got a little bit of this tea as a gift in an order of other teas. But this year, it will come again!


Why would I drink old tea while the new tea is already here? There are a few reasons.

First, I'm very thrifty. Got to finish the old tea, no waste of tea!

Secondly, no matter how good the old tea remains, once you start the new tea, under the comparison, you will immediately switch to new tea and won't want any of the old tea anymore. You all know it.

Thirdly, it's ok to wait for a while. Traditionally, it was recommended that the new green tea should rest for 2-4 weeks before usage. It was for several combined reasons, including the flavor development of the tea and the traditional Chinese medicine theories. Whether or not the tea is healthier after a couple of weeks' resting, there isn't any evidence-based conclusion yet. But I do believe it and wouldn't mind waiting for a big longer. In the old days, one wouldn't even think about whether the green tea needs to be rested for 2-4 weeks, because nobody could get it any time sooner anyway. It used to take weeks for a green tea to be transported from its hometown to the province next to it. Nowadays, it takes several days for a tea to be transported from its mountain to another side of the earth, and it is possible to drink a new tea very soon. But it wouldn't be too much pain to wait for a bit longer. So, try to finish your 2013 tea first! ;-)

Mar 30, 2014

blog sale - some tea wares

Similar to the previous blog sales - 

If interested, please contact me at gingkoheight @ g m ail . com before April 11, 2014.  I will try to get all packages prepared before April 14.

Shipping is included for US addressees (with a $5 shipping refund if one buys two items), shipping to be estimated for other countries.

Shipping could be combined with Life in Teacup orders. 

All prices are lower than market prices and not correlated with our web store prices. Some of the items may be offered in Life in Teacup web store in the future, and the prices will be higher.


1. Small special shape red clay shui ping by Qian Hongfen, made in Yixing Factory #1 in 1990s for export. $52. There are 5 available for this blog sale. There will be some more available in future in our web store.

More photos are available here


It's made of red clay. The volume is about 60ml. This was a mass-export products made by Yixing Factory #1 in 1990s. Qian Hongfen is a very well known Factory #1 worker. In my impression, her works, even the commercial level ones like this teapot, are relatively well made. The craftsmanship of this teapot is not great, but generally better than mass-export products of that time. The lid fit isn't perfect, but generally not bad. And I would select the relatively better ones from the batch for sale.


A drawback of this style is that this type of stainless steel strainer would be too big to put on this teapot. This wouldn't be a problem if one prefers single hole strainer. I personally don't. If it has to be a single hole, probably large leaves are better for it, as the leaves tend to leave some space for the water flow through the single hole, so to avoid plumbing work while drinking tea. There are DIY strainer ideas that could work for this little teapot. If you do want to DIY a strainer (it's actually not that hard), this and this are some ideas (the above two aren't the right size and just serve as reference). For a slightly more complicated DIY strainer, you could refer to this webpage (probably translation is not necessary as the pictures say it quite well).





2. Special shape purple clay shui ping. Author unknown. Made for Taiwan market to mimic an earlier style (in terms of shape and stamp). $98. There are 3 available for this blog sale. There will be some more available in future in our web store.


More photos are available here.



This is a purple clay teapot, about 100-110ml. Rumors are this was a 1980s customized order. To be conservative, let's just think of it as a 1990s order. I think this is a very impressive little teapot. I currently don't have the information about who made it, but it was definitely somebody who did good work. The clay quality matches the very high quality found in pre-1990s teapots. The craftsmanship is great. The lid fit is perfect or near perfect. The shape and the square stamp are cute (I think).






3. Jingdezhen porcelain gaiwan. $18. There is one available.

More photos are available here.




The usable volume (not filled to the rim, but filled to the level of the lid rim) is about 110ml. The diameter of the bowl is 9cm (3.5 inch). For my hand size, it would be a bit large for gongfu brewing - after seeing a lot of discussions on how to use gaiwan for gongfu brewing without burning your finger, my final conclusion is, the number 1 tip is that the gaiwan is small enough relative to your palm size, and everything else is easy to handle :-p

However, I would feel comfortable using it for green tea brewing like this (this style is suitable for males too!).

The pattern is not hand painted but mimics hand painting. The painting is quite nice and the color is good. It takes a very close look to tell it's not hand painted. 




4. A xishi teapot with a broken lid, or may we call it a fairy pitcher. $24. There is one.





This poor little thing was one of our beloved 100ml di cao qing xi shi. The knob was very unfortunately broken off. It could still serve as a fairy pitcher though, if you just need one. I would send along the lid and the knob piece as well, in case you would like to do some repairing work. It's possible to stick the knob piece on with rice soup, and it could be very sturdy as long as you don't use the teapot for tea brewing (water or steam dissolves the rice "glue"). This way, you may use the teapot for tea storage. I personally use some teapots for storage of puerh and roasted oolong, with their spouts and knob holes plugged with tissue paper. It's an odd view, but works well! If you really want to glue the knob back on and use the teapot for normal brewing, you will need to be very careful about whether the glue is safe enough.



Free stuff:

1. Assorted yixing cups.
2. Small porcelain cups (about 30ml) of the similar painting style of the above gaiwan.
3. 2014 Frosty Spring Yunnan Roasted Green 7g sample.
4. 10-25g packs of 2013 green tea
1400m Huang Shan Mao Feng
750m semi wild Huang Shan Mao Feng
Jiang Xi Tribute Tea
Frosty Spring Yunnan Roasted Green
etc.

Mar 14, 2014

praying for MH370 and praying for Kunming

A pair of 2006 sheng and shu custom made for Malaysia Puerh Association, symbolized with Twin Tower of Kuala Lumpur.
Mourning on the 7th day memorial of Kunming Railway Station terrorism attack, at the square of Kunming Railway Station.

This has been a month of terror so far. The terrorism attack at Kunming Railway Station on March 1st left behind 29 dead bodies and 143 people injured. And now, after almost a week out of radar contact, the status of Malaysia Airlines flight MH370 remains "missing." It is just my speculation, but at this point, I don't believe the flight is really missing, and probably all our governments have already known what happened, without letting us know (just speculation here...). I'm afraid it's another terrorism attack, although it's unclear who is behind it and which country/countries are targeted. I hope I'm wrong, but with time being, hope dwindles for the 239 passengers and crew of MH370 to survive. I wonder what really happened to MH370, and wonder how much of the truth would be released to us people eventually. But at this point, it seems that we could do nothing but praying for the 239 people on MH370.

Life moves on no matter what. Yunnan green tea has already been harvested at the 1500m site. Other green teas are coming soon. But while we move on to enjoy our lives, we shall not forget those who lost their lives.

Mar 8, 2014

2005 Xia Guan Jia Ji Tuo "green box"

Xia Guan changed the design of its green box for this Jia Ji Tuo in 2005. This is the older "green box" produced in the first part of the year. It's widely believed that this version is better than the newer "green box" produced later in 2005. I sort of agree with it.


 


Most Xia Guan tuo drinkers know there are often "gift with purchase." This time it's a little piece of clay (right in the center at the top). 


This tea has been stored in Zhuhai, Guangdong for several years. The guardian of this tea has tried all they could to lower the humidity of the storage environment, and Zhuhai is a subtropical coastline city. So the outcome is a clean storage with ample humidity.



The tea still has some hint of the signature smokey aroma of Xia Guan tuo, but not a lot of it. The liquor has become quite mild and a bit soupy. Overall it's a quite enjoyable tea, and a tea that I could drink a lot without worrying about my stomach.

In my mind, Xia Guan routine tuo products are the stars of inexpensive puerh. I generally don't drink them when they are younger than 5 years old. But after several years, when some puerh that was born in the same year with the cheap Xia Guan tuo becomes trash (you know that happens, not due to storage), Xia Guan tuo is enjoyable, and remains inexpensive, compared with other teas of the same age. On the day that I had this 2005 green box tuo, before and after this tuo, I had several samples of other 7-10 years old puerh teas that were star products since they were born, and made by celebrity tea people. Some of them are fantastic, and some are, not so great, to put it in the mildest way. And all of them are way more expensive than this Xia Guan tuo. Although this Xia Guan tuo is currently over 10 times more expensive than its own price in 2005, it was a lot cheaper than many star products in 2005, and it is a lot cheaper than most of the 9-year-old puerh today. This, I think, is something very interesting about Xia Guan routine tuo products. They are not the greatest tea. They aren't meant to be. But after some years, they become nice tea, and they could beat many teas 3 times of their price, hands down.

Feb 8, 2014

preparing a new yixing teapot (1)

This teapot has a cute nickname, "little dumb"
This includes preparing a new teapot or a newly obtained vintage teapot, whether is new vintage (some people use the term "vintage virgin") or used vintage.

Here are some methods that I could think of at this moment, including some methods that I'm reluctant to use but being used by a lot of experienced yixing collectors.

All the methods mentioned here are for legitimate yixing teapots. They are not useful to detect any harmful chemicals in the teapot or "cure" the teapot from any permanent harmful contents. Some of the methods may help to reveal the clay quality to some degree, but this is not a practical aim of preparing teapots. Whatever flaw that could be reflected in these method, could be detected in other observations before hand.

As usual, I know I will be too wordy to control the reasonable length of the post. So I would divide the contents in 2 posts. Part one is about the routine and popular methods. And part two discusses some more controversial method and some "queer" methods. 

1. To judge if a yixing teapot is ready to use.

To judge whether a newly obtained yixing teapot is ready to be used for tea brewing, other people may have more decent ways, but to me, there is a very important test, which doesn't sound very decent ;-) This very important test to me is... Sniff Test! Basically I would sniff a teapot around to decide whether it's ready to be used for tea brewing or it would need more "preparing" work.

The purpose of the sniff test is to see if there are dust residues hidden in the pores of the clay texture. This is not a test for any additive harmful chemicals, though, because many harmful chemicals are odorless.

The key to the sniff test is to sniff the teapot when it's moist but not holding water or having a lot of water on the clay surface. When the clay is moist, the dust odor is most prominent, if there is any. But when the teapot holds water, a lot of the odor is dissolved by water and can't be detected as easily. For a new pot, it's almost ready if it still has some hint of pleasant, aromatic odor of clay (shouldn't be strong though). It wouldn't be good if the odor is heavily soil-ish (need more rinsing, or the the teapot didn't have enough firing in the kiln).



2. Simple rinses may work sometimes.

In the most ideal situation, "preparing" work is minimum to none. For some high quality, high fire modern teapots of certain clay textures, the only thing needed in preparation work is to rinse it for a few rounds with tap water and then with boiling water. It takes 1 minute and the teapot is ready. Some vintage teapots could be ready with some simple rinse too, but considering the time the teapot might have spent in a dusted warehouse or an unknown place, probably more preparation work is necessary.

If the user would like to have some fun to go through more tedious preparing work, as described in this blog post, it is fine. But it's not always necessary.

In my experience, a lot of zhu ni teapots, ben shan green clay teapots and red clay teapots would get ready with such simple rinses. High-fired purple clay and duan ni teapots with relatively smooth surface may belong to this category as well. Usually, after simple rinses, if I don't see tiny piles of clay dusts inside the teapot, and if the teapot passes sniff test, then I would start using it if I'm very eager to start using it.



3. Rinsing with boiling water.

For most of my new teapots, I would rinse them with boiling water for many times. I don't spend extra time rinsing a new pot, but just rinse it when drinking tea. The teapot is filled with boiling water, and then rinsed some time later, and filled with boiling water again, and rinsed again. This could last for a few dozen rounds and a few weeks. I would give the teapot a "sniff test" from time to time, to judge how ready it is. But usually the rinsing time is more than the teapot needs to get cleaned. The rinsing helps to season the teapot anyway, although it's just plain water. So I wouldn't mind over do it.

I like this method much better than boiling a teapot in a pot of water, which is also a popular method of preparing the teapot. This method takes longer time, but it's fun anyway, and for many of you who've already got more than enough teapots (admit it!), you are not in a hurry to get a new teapot ready anyway.

Some new teapots has small piles of clay inside the pot, semi powder and semi clay, but removable. Many high end teapot makers would be careful enough not to leave such small piles, or remove them in the quality control step - that's partially why teapots from high end makers are often very easy to prepare and method #2 would be enough. But having left over clay powder in the teapot doesn't necessarily mean the teapot is low quality. Sometimes a relatively careless potter is even more skillful than a relatively careful potter. For teapots with left over clay, I think multiple rinsing would work much better than boiling the teapot, because it takes both hot water and repetitive rinsing to get rid of the left over clay.

Many commercial grade factory-made teapots in 1990s and before would have tiny piles of dust and clays inside when they are new. Many higher grade of factory-made teapots in 190s and before would have piles of white, fine sands or even aluminum powders (both used to file the teapot opening) inside when they are new. In these cases, repetitive rinsing with hot water would work more effectively to remove the dusts and powders than boiling the teapot just once.  

Sometimes, I would put some spent tea leaves in a teapot with water, and let it sit over night. This is because tea leaves are very absorptive, and could help to remove dusts hidden in the pores of the clay. I would prefer spent tea leaves to unused tea leaves, because the purpose is to use the absorptive feature of the tea leaves, and not to let the tea leaves "scent" the teapot - such scenting may disguise any residual dust odor and interfere with "sniff test".


4. Boiling the teapot in water.

Compared with method 3, boiling the teapot in water may get a teapot ready sooner (sometimes repetitive boiling and rinsing are probably necessary). It could work well on most new teapots (although many of the teapots don't need it), as long as carried out with caution. There are a few things that help to keep the teapot safe while being boiled:
a. Put the teapot in cold water before boiling starts;

b. Let all parts of the teapot completely submerged in water;

c. Leave lid off the teapot;

d. Use one or two towels to cushion the teapot in the boiling pot;

e. Use low heat when boiling;

f. After the heat is turned off, let the pot of water naturally cool down before taking out the teapot;

g Boiling the teapot for 30 minutes and 3 hours may do just the same work on the teapot, while 3-hour boiling induces more risk;

h. Some yixing teapots are waxed on the outside surface. Boiling (combined with scrubbing afterwards) could remove the wax relatively efficiently (compared with rinsing with hot water). But in such cases, you may need to spend extra time cleaning your boiling pot afterwards to get rid of any residual wax. If you are not sure whether the unusual shine on a yixing is caused by wax, you could try to scratch the teapot surface with fingernail and see if there is white wax accumulated.

When boiling a teapot, besides taking all above cautions, one should also be ready to take risk and, sometimes, take the consequences in following situations:

i. A high quality, well made zhu ni teapot may still have one or two  tiny crackles (sometimes invisible by naked eyes or hidden in some invisible corner inside the teapot) that could be extended into severe damages by boiling

ii. Some older teapots could have tiny crackles or other tears-and-wears that could be extended into severe damages by boiling.

iii. Very often, boiling would remove a lot of (although not all) the "patina" on  an older teapot. If your goal is to thoroughly remove all patina, boiling is not enough (harsher methods will be introduced in Part 2). On the other hand, if you don't want to lose a lot of the patina (given that it's known to be clean patina), then hot water rinsing would be better than boiling.

Chances of damage of the above two types could be minimized by taking cautious, but can't be completely avoided.





In part two, I will discuss:

4. rinsing cloth, luffa scrubb and tooth brush

5. tough detergent - bleach, hydrogen peroxide and other commonly used detergent for... toilet bowl...

6. relatively friendly detergent

Jan 5, 2014

another teapot

Last time on the "most hated teapots", Emmett of Cha & Kung Fu said, "is there an opposite version (to the breast teapot)?" And I recalled seeing a teapot with "combination of male and female spirit." Last night, when sorting out my book shelf, I randomly glanced through some books and saw this picture again. So here you go, Emmett :-D






It's called Fu Xi. Fu Xi (male) and Nv Wa (female) were the parents of all humans in ancient Chinese myths. So they were supposed to be "source of life" :-D This teapot was made by Lv Yaochen, one of the few living gurus of yixing arts. It's included on many yixing picture books. This picture is from a book called Palace Museum Collection: The 200 Pieces of Yixing Works that You Should Know of (《故宫收藏•你应该知道的200件宜兴紫砂》), and this Fu Xi teapot was collected by Palace Museum (although the main purpose of the museum is to curate antiques from the Ming and Qing emperors living in the Forbidden City, it also collects small amount of contemporary arts). 

I think this this Fu Xi teapot is more bearable than the very much "naturalism" "life of source" teapot that I hated. But I can't help wondering if it was only made in one copy, and whether anybody tries to brew tea with it ;-)

The above-mentioned book, by the way, is a pretty good one. It's mainly composed of pictures of yixing arts, so there won't be much of language barrier for anybody. Compared with numerous other yixing picture, this book is unique in a way that all the pieces presented are from the royal palace, so the overall styles are quite different from private collections that dominate most yixing picture books.

This book was published in 2007, by Forbidden City Publishing House, which specializes in Palace Museum pictures and literature. This publisher is one of those that have the highest publication quality in China, in terms of paper, printing, photography and literature of antiques. Even now, this book is sold at amazon.cn for ¥60. That is so cheap!

Jan 1, 2014

blog sale - yixing teapots and some tea

Similar to the previous blog sales - 

If interested, please contact me at gingkoheight @ g m ail . com before January 14, 2014.  I will try to get all packages prepared before Jan. 20.

Shipping is $4 (tea only) or $7 (teapots) flat for US, shipping to be estimated for other countries.

Shipping could be combined with Life in Teacup orders. 

All prices are lower than market prices and not correlated with our web store prices. Some of the items may be offered in Life in Teacup web store in the future, and the prices will be higher.




1. Purple clay teapot, made by Yixing Factory #1, in 1992 or 1993, by Chen Huifen. $. There are 5 available for this blog sale. There will be some more available in future in our web store.

The volume is 80-85ml. It has single-hole strainer. The shape of spout is a type of fast and fluent pouring. In early 1990s, oolong was trendy in Korea (and puerh started getting trendy). So I would guess that's how this teapot shape was selected for the Ceramic Arts Festival.

I don't remember seeing this style in the Factory #1 catalogs (I only have a few incomplete versions that I plan to show in future blogs). It's probably modified from some gourd style teapots. I've been calling these teapot "mantou 馒头 (bun)" style, unofficially, but it does share some similarities with some mantou style teapots in history :-D



These teapots were custom order by some Korean tea merchant for the third Yixing Ceramic Arts Festival (which took place in 1993 1992 correction: it's 1992, not 1993). The clay and firing are great. Craftsmanship is pretty good - better than the average level of craftsmanship for regular styles (such as shui ping) in Factory #1 at that period, I think. Water seal is not good. Lid fit looks fine from the appearance. I've selected all these teapots that have relatively good lid fit and don't have major flaws.

I've found these teapots interesting because I think their current price is pretty good (and I believe they are more affordable now than future). Besides, I sort of like teapots made for special events. The bottom seal says "The Third Ceramic Arts Festival Souvenir" and there is a lovely Korean character. It seems one of the characters in Korean word "teapot" (not sure of it, I just did a google translation).

More pictures are available here. The stainless steel strainer showed in the Please doesn't come with each teapot. Please let me know if you need one and I will manage to send one along with the teapot. But if you are in a big city, it's possible to get better strainers than this one.





2. Black clay teapot. Same shape as the previous one, by the same author, from Yixing Factory #1 during the same period. There is one available, with some minor appearance flaws, no function flaws. $.

Volume is 100ml. Single-hole strainer. 

More photos can be seen here

The surface flaws include a little dent on the surface (could be seen in the above photo right in the front) due to "sand explosion" - a sand grain was melted and "exploded", leaving behind a tiny dent. Besides, there is some uneven color of the clay (especially on the lid, but overall not very obvious). This could be seen in other photos. The white color on the lid is not dust, but uneven color. Both flaws happen mostly when the clay is authentic and firing temperature is high (both are features of Factory #1). But after all they are flaws. We all prefer good clay and good firing, without flaws.

I wouldn't mind keeping this one for myself. Please let me know if you would prefer to get a relatively perfect teapot from the same batch, as I'm getting some more of these teapots.

I've found this teapot interesting because it's a "brother" of the previous teapot. This one was also made for export, but not specifically for the Ceramic Arts Festival. The bottom seal is the author's name "Huifeng studio".


It looks like the above #1 and #2 are made with the same shaper (the semi-manual yixing teapots have a type of iron shapers for the craftswoman to sculpt the teapot body and spout). Their shapes overall look highly similar. The purple clay teapot (#1) is slightly smaller than the black clay teapot (#2) in volume. But interestingly, their weights are almost exactly the same. So it seems the volume difference is due to the varied degrees of shrinkage of their clays.









3. Yixing "shibo" set. There is one available. $.







Volume is 120ml (usable volume, not volume to the rim). It's the best for large leaf tea (oolong, puerh with whole leaves, etc.), as small debris could escape under the lid.



More pictures are available here.


The clay texture is very good and very similar to this and this.


This type of tea set seems more and more popular in China these days. This one is my favorite of all "yixing shibos" that I've seen. I like it very much, but I'm not sure if it could get popular in America. In China, few tea drinkers saw shiboridashi before, hence this style looks very novel and unique. But many American tea drinkers have already owned shibos from Japan and Europe. I very much enjoy using shibo-ish and hobin-ish tea ware for various types of Chinese teas, such as this, this and this. As much as I like this set, it didn't hit me as a "novel" style.


What I like about this specific one is that it reflects a sense of humor from its creator. The bottom seal is "China, Yixing" made very similar to the seals on those Facotry #1 teapot. And there is a number stamped under the lid. As many of you know, some Factory #1 shui ping teapots have a number stamped under the lid (said to be the number of each QC worker), usually a single-digit number. However, the number stamped under the lid of this "shibo" is 88, same number on every teapot this person made and not a QC number. I didn't have to ask her why - 88 is a very good number in China, often seen as a number of fortune.





4. Yan cha set, 15g 2013 Shui Xian and 15g 2013 Rou Gui. There are 5 sets available for this blog sale. $ each set of 30g.

Since dry tea of most yan cha look similar, I will be lazy and omit taking pictures.

Both tea are high mountain tea from central Wuyi region (zheng yan 正岩). The Shui Xian is from trees planted in early 1970s. Both are the relatively heavy roast type, but not the "tasting like fire" kind of heavy roast.



 5. Liu Bao produced by Guang Wu 广梧 (this is the same company that produced Guang Ya 广雅 puerh tea). There are 5 packs available for this blog sale. $ each pack of 15g.

This is mainly for people who are curious about Liu Bao (and probably those who are interested in examining it under microscope). I don't think everybody will like it, although the tea looks really pretty for a fermented tea. "Pretty" including "golden flowers" on the tea leaves, so it may not even be pretty in everybody's eyes. The tea leaves have rudimentary tiny golden flowers (smaller than those found in fu brick and not as many, not sure if it's exactly the same species, very possibly it is).

The tea offered here is one of the three promotion products that Guang Wu issued this year, as this is the first year that Guang Wu Liu Bao has been in the market. All three promotion products are quite inexpensive (especially compared with other Guang Wu products and products of Guang Ya), yet they look very nice (I haven't drunk a lot of them yet, so most judgment so far is based on appearance). The tea offered here is #1 and 1st tier in the promotion series. I think these are truly promotion products as they are really good deals. This #1 was out of stock in most places in no time. For selfish reasons, I almost wish liu bao doesn't get too popular too soon, so that they will offer more promotion products like these ones in future years :-p

It looks like this picture. The photo is from one of the sales agents, and is on the #3 of the promotion series. The tea offered in the blog sale is #1 of the promotion series, with more refined leaves and more golden buds. But the overall style is similar. It's not a "sheng" liu bao like this one. It's not the commonly seen style of Liu Bao either. Instead, it's a light-fermented liu bao with relatively whole leaves. The producer claims the tea is made with the traditional "double steam" technique. But since this technique almost disappeared in the last several decades, many tea drinkers feel there isn't enough knowledge base to judge it. But it's an interesting tea anyway. (That being said, the tea still has a basement-like smell and ideally should be aired out for a while before use.)







Free stuff:


* Small porcelain cup (40-45ml)


* Yixing teacups of red clay, di cao qing or jiang po ni, limited to 1 cup per person. There are few cups of each type. Please let me know your preferred type. The di cao qing and jiang po ni are made of same clay type as used for some teapots at Life in Teacup web store (the firing outcome will be slightly different each time, due to the size and shape).





* tea ware wrapper, similar to this one:


* Yixing red tea - if you are interested in tasting the red tea from the hometown of teapots. This is the most popular "teapot-seasoning" tea in yixing.

Dec 21, 2013

2005 Chang Tai Gold Bamboo Mountain

This tea is from Bret at Tea Goober blog (many thanks!).

In my impression, most of Chang Tai's tea of those a couple of years named after "mountains" are quite enjoyable. At that time, Chang Tai was the leader of "mountain tops" teas, and was probably the only private company that could share the same table with Dayi and Xiaguan. Gold Bamboo Mountain is one of the relative stable series of Chang Tai and was offered in most of the years since... around 2002?? (I remember the starting year of Gold Bamboo Mountain is a big puzzle and hot spot of Chang Tai gossips...) It's in medium price range and a style I like very much. Just last year or early this year, I learned that Gold Bamboo Mountain (金竹山) is actually the same as Bitter Bamboo Mountain (苦竹山). Bitter Bamboo Mountain is a series that I like very much from another tea producer. And I didn't know these two "bamboo mountains" were actually the same mountain! It looks like that Bitter Bamboo Mountain was the original name, and Chang Tai (or somebody else around the time) renamed it to Gold Bamboo Mountain. You have to admit, in a commercial market, the latter one sounds more upscale and romantic. And indeed Chang Tai is good at this kind of things ;-)

Gold Bamboo Mountain is in Jing Gu (景谷) region, one of the home bases of Chang Tai. Although Chang Tai established their fame mostly with Yi Wu tea, some of their Jing Gu teas are very good, such as these twins.


Lovely dry stored leaves!



Sometimes when I get a chunk of tea, I would be reluctant to further break it. Then I would ended up using too much tea and regretted... I've been working on "not to use too much tea."


This is really too much tea... But this tea is very nice. It tastes like some arbor tree tea that doesn't get too harsh even when highly concentrated. But still, I think using too much tea is not a good situation and very often too wasteful. I brewed many infusions out of this tea. But later on, when I could taste the "straw-like" flavor from the top layer tea leaves that's typically found in a puerh near the end of brewing, I knew the leaves in the middle layer hadn't completely release all their flavors yet. I would rather brew these leaves in two different sessions instead of confining so much tea in such a small space. That's the number 2 reason I object brewing too much tea in each session - the number 1 reason is too concentrated tea polyphenols and too much caffeine all at one time is not very healthy, at least not healthy for my little subtle stomach :-p



This is the type of tea broth that I like very much!


In recent years I tasted quite a few samples of Gold Bamboo Mountain around 2003-2005, most of which are Guangdong dry-stored. Bret's Texas stored is one of the tastiest (and I guess Bret got his tea from a US source, likely from a dry enough place), along with a few other dryer stored samples. Many Guangdong dry stored teas I've tried are clean enough, but the humidity takes tolls on the aroma of the tea. And I think the unique aroma is the signature strength of Gold Bamboo Mountain. In contrast, some other teas I've had seemed to benefit some level of humidity (all of these are still within dry storage scope), such as the 2004 Xin Yun Cheng, and the Guangdong version in the 2003 Yi Wu twins (I will finish the report on the twins soon).