Aug 17, 2013

pictures of "most hated" yixing teapots...

This is inspired by a teachat discussion earlier this year at

By strict definition, most, or all of the teapots showed in that discussion are not yixing teapots - they are not made of the authentic yixing clay.

But there are many authentic yixing teapots that are hate-able. And in my eyes, some authentic yixing teapots made by famous yixing artists are also hate-able. This last kind, because of the "halo" on them, I hate them even more than hating straightly bad teapots. And of course me hating them doesn't mean any final evaluation on them. I'm an art illiterate and hate many contemporary art works - I love many of them too, but some of them really strike my nerves.

Here are a few examples. All from the famous yixing book written by Han Qilou. By the way, this is one of the best yixing books in the least expensive price range. It has pictures of hundreds of yixing teapots, both antique and contemporary, all made by famous artists. Some of the contemporaries are beautiful. Some, I hate.

This is one of the most hated by me. The title of this teapot is "source of life".

It's not that I dislike breast shape teapots. I like the traditional xishi style very well.
This is one I like:

This is another one that I like:

This is yet another one that I like:

And I like wendan, a relative of xishi style in the breast-shaped family:

But... "source of life"... really??? It's a well-made teapot and I have biased taste. I just hate it.

Another two that I hate. The one on top (left) is "cheetah". I admire the author's effort to make a yixing teapot that barely looks like of yixing texture. But I just hate it.

The one on bottom (right) is "2008 Olympics". There is a world map on the lid, Olympic logos all over the teapot, and some traditional cloud pattern on the spout and handle. This is one of the busiest teapots I've ever seen, considering how many symbols it has to carry on itself. I admire the author's effort of trying to be "inclusive", be timely and be politically correct. But I just hate it.

None of them is "bad" teapot. But they rank high on my "most hated" yixing teapots list.

Aug 10, 2013

blog sale - part 2

Part 1 is here.

If interested, please contact me at gingkoheight @ g m ail . com before August 24, 2013. 

Shipping is $4 flat for US, $7 flat for Canada, shipping to be estimated for other countries.

Shipping could be combined with Life in Teacup orders.

I aim at sending out all packages in two weeks. 

All prices are lower than market prices and not correlated with our web store prices. 

All pictures can be clicked to enlarge.

6. Tian Jian (Heaven Tip) Hei Cha sample set. $5 for each set of 3 samples.

I've planned to write more about hei cha, especially my favorite types, Fu brick and Heaven Tip. But before I could write more, here is a blog post from Walker Tea Review with a discussion that I participated in. There is also great contribution from Bill Waddington and Jason Walker himself.

** Something to note here is, this discussion was from more than a year ago, and my tea views have been changing through new experience and conversations with other tea people. When I reviewed this blog discussion, two big changes I've noticed about myself is, (1) thanks to a few great tea people, liu bao is no longer "tasteless" to me; (2) I'm currently reshaping my view about whether I believe puerh belongs to hei cha category - previously I thought no, and now I'm leaning toward yes. These are topics irrelevant to Tian Jian, and I will discuss them more in future blog posts.

There are 3 samples included. Each sample is 15g.

Heave Tip tea, especially newer ones, could be more or less smoky. It's different from the smokiness of some sheng puerh or other teas. But people who like traditional smoky style Lapsang Souchong may find it easier to enjoy Heaven Tip.

With time being, the tea would get milder and less smoky. This could be seen either as an improvement or as degeneration, depending on drinkers' preferences. Some people drink this tea in gongfu style. Traditionally this tea is brewed in a way very similar to so-called "western style" with a big teapot and mixed with milk. Although many varieties of hei cha are good for boiling in water, this tea is usually brewed in hot water instead of being boiled in water.

Of the 3 samples, (3) is the most smoky and (2) is the least smoky. (1) is closer to the "benchmark" taste for most seasoned drinkers of Heaven Tip. 

(1) Bai Sha Xi (this is one of the most famous brands, especially for Fu brick and Heaven Tip) 2012.

(2) Yi Ju Chang (this is a smaller brand) 2008.

(3) Yi Ju Chang wild tea farmer style, 2009. "Farmer style" is in contrast to "factory made". Hei cha involves complex fermentation process. So generally factory processed tea is regarded as of more reliable quality. Farmer style could be of various quality levels, usually either better than factory style or nearly a failure. Well made farmer style has prettier tea leaves than factory style. As for taste, it will largely depend on personal preference.

End of item #6.

7. Yunnan black tea samples. $2 each sample of 10g. Each 2012 version has 5 samples available. Each 2013 version has 10 samples available.
** Note that these teas are NOT suitable for people who give black tea only one infusion. One infusion would embody probably only 1/7 value of the tea, or less. Even mediocre Yunnan black tea deserves 3 infusions or more. For these teas, I would recommend at least 5 infusions and ideally more infusions (leaf/water ratio, infusion time and number of infusions correlated with each other), and hottest boiling water, as always.

There are 4 types of samples. All are equally priced.
(1) 2013 Fengqing Gold Bud
(2) 2012 Fengqing Gold Bud
(3) 2013 Fengqing "pine needle" black tea (not really pine needle, but pine needle shaped tea leaves)
(4) 2012 Fengqing "pine needle" black tea

(2) and (1) are of the same type from different years. So are (3) and (4).

All these teas are from one of my favorite tea producers, Da Dian (a few of their puerh products are available in Life in Teacup now, and some of the 2013 black tea might be put in the web store depending on the amount available).

Mr. Wu (the owner of Da Dian, and usually I just call him Da Dian) likes to give people surprises. He produced the 2012 versions of black teas, sold them, and didn't say anything special until this year. Then this year, when 2013 version came out, he made the announcement that his black teas generally taste better after resting for several month to a couple of years (but notice that he didn't say "the older, the better"), due to his choice of processing method that sacrifice some immediate aroma but benefits future aroma builds-up. I personally think he is very right on this. That's why I'm putting all these 4 teas together and I would be interested in learning what other people think of them.

So far I like the gold bud better. But it seems most of my tea friends like the "pine needle" better. It's worth mentioning that the "pine needles" were made from tea bushes planted in 1940s, very closed to the start time of Yunnan black (as introduced in this blog post).

Here are Da Dian's photos for these teas. 2012 versions look quite similar to 2013 versions.
Gold bud:

"pine needle":

End of item #7.

8. shu puerh sample set. 10 sample sets available.
8a. $8 for each set of 3 samples, or
8b. $4 for sample (2) and (3) only.

15g per sample.

The samples include:

(1) 2009 Chang Tai Wei Rong Hao Wuliang Mountain ancient tree shu. (Original cake is 357g.)
I think this tea would be recorded on history of shu puerh. I'm not sure if I'm the first one who've introduced this tea to western drinkers. If so, I'm honored.

(2)  2007 Chang Tai Wuliang Mountain shu brick. Directed by Taiwan Jing Mei Tang. (Original brick is 250g.)
This is a decent shu with a very good price. For this sample set, since I've included (1), I felt I should include this (2) as well, because these two teas have exactly the same Chinese name, from the same factory, yet they are not even remotely similar to each other. Generally speaking, (1) is of much higher level. Chang Tai is a very confusing producer, yet they made some very good tea. So I think it's less confusing if I could just put these confusing teas side by side.

(3) 2006 Jing Mei Tang small brick. (Original brick is 100g.) Directed by Huang Chuanfang of Jing Mei Tang.
This is a very nice shu with a good price. Since I've included (2) in this sample set, I felt I should include this (3) as well, because there is a lot of confusion about the name Jing Mei Tang. Most fans of Jing Mei Tang are actually fans of its "creator", Huang Chuanfang (HCF). But one thing to note here is, Jing Mei Tang is NOT the same as Taiwan Jing Mei Tang. The latter one is also a nice organization with Wu-shing Books (publisher of The Art of Tea) behind it. But HCF is not involved in Taiwan Jing Mei Tang. Instead, HCF current owns Kunming Jing Mei Tang, which is a different organization from the "old" Jing Mei Tang before 2007. But HCF's most famous products are from the "old" Jing Mei Tang era. This little brick is an example. It's not made of any fancy leaf materials and embodies the great technique of shu making.

Overall the Jing Mei Tang stories may sound very confusing. So I think it's less confusing if I could just put this 2007 Taiwan Jing Mei Tang and 2006 HCF Jing Mei Tang bricks side by side. 

End of item #8.

9. 2013 Huang Shan Mao Feng. $3 per 10g sample.

This is not a first day harvest, but a first week harvest. It's from the semi-wild Huang Shan Mao Feng producer. It's from about 700m elevation, which is already considered very high elevation for green teas. Generally speaking, this tea is not at the level of the 1400m Huang Shan Mao Feng we have each year. But this is not a comparison of producer quality. The other tea is a first day harvest and from higher elevation, so naturally of higher quality.

End of item #9.

10. Anhui green tea sample set. $10 per set of 3 samples. Each sample is 8g. There are 4 sample sets available.
The samples include:
(1) Tian Hua Gu Jian. It's somewhat similar to White Plum Peak green tea.
(2) Er Zu Zen Tea (Zen Patriarch's tea).
(3) Yu Xi Cui Lan (Mountain West Green Orchid). It's somewhat similar to Tong Cheng Small Orchid.

End of item #10.

11. Southern Fujian Sezhong oolong sample set. $16 per set of 4 samples. Each sample is 10g. Two additional free samples come with the set. There are a total of 10 sample sets available.

All 4 sample are from Mr. Liu, a Xiamen based teacher who also produces tea. He specializes in southern Fujian oolong from historical tea plantations (several of them were abandoned for reasons discussed in another blog post, and resurrected by Mr. Liu) with eco-friendly cultivation. The (2), (3) and (4) samples here are all from previously abandoned historical tea plantations resurrected by Mr. Liu.

These teas are not intentionally aged, but released when the producer thought they were well rested. 

All these teas are from Southern Fujian. They are more or less similar to Wuyi (Northern Fujian) teas but not exactly the same.

The sample sets include:
(1) 2010 Southern Fujian sezhong oolong. Cultivar unknown. The tea was collected from a traditional tea area where pesticide was reserved for Tie Guan Yin. Since sezhong isn't sold as expensive as Tie Guan Yin, it doesn't "deserve" the pesticide. That's why Mr. Liu selected high quality sezhong from this area.

(2) 2010 Shui Xian. Hundred-year-old bushes.

(3) 2011 Yong Chun Fo Shou (Buddha hands). Hundred-year-old bushes. Wuyi Fo Shou was introduced from Southern Fujian, but of slightly different style both in terms of cultivar and in processing. But Wuyi Fo Shou and Yong Chun Fo Shou share a lot of similarities.

(4) 2011 Tianma Mountain Mao Xie (hairy crab). Fifty-year-old bushes. Mao Xie is considered a very inexpensive varietal of Fujian oolong. Therefore, nowadays high quality Mao Xie is rarely seen. This tea is from Tianma Mountain of 1000m elevation. This is one of the few high-grade Mao Xie I've seen in years. This tea is made because the producer doesn't rely on tea production for a living and doesn't have to consider "cost and benefit" from making this tea.

Going free with the above sample sets are two more southern Fujian sezhong oolong from my favorite Tie Guan Yin producer. One is traditional light roast style Huang Jin Gui (golden osthanthus) and traditional roasted Mao Xie (hairy crab). These two teas are produced in plantations of nearly 900m elevation. Huang Jin Gui is from 2012, and Mao Xie is from 2009. The producer has discontinued these two teas because the plantations are too far away from major roads, inconvenient to harvest, and complicated to process in the traditional way. With increasing labor costs in recent years and low market price of sezhong oolong, it's not cost-effective to make these teas. The producer aims at going back to these teas after a few years when they are more financially stable. I got these teas at quite low price that doesn't match their quality at all. I wouldn't feel comfortable to either sell them for higher prices or lower prices. So they will go free with the sample set.

End of item #11

12. CNNP 2002 loose shu sample Y671. $2.5 for each sample of 10g. This tea tastes very clean and decent. But not super interesting.

End of item #12

Free stuff:

* Guevara shu. 10g. 10 samples are available.

This is the tea discussed here. For shu beginners, I would always recommend some least expensive tea of decent quality. Most of such shu are from large factories, as mentioned in a previous discussion. But this tea is an exception. Generally for beginners' shu, I often recommend recent year 7572, 7262 and a couple of other Dayi shu. But then very often new tea drinkers would still go ahead and get some unknown source shu that's even cheaper but rather bad representative of shu. Or some new tea drinkers would go ahead and get some expensive shu and then wonder what the point is. So instead of recommending teas that may not be available to new tea drinkers, I thought it's more convenient to put some recommended shu in their hands.

I think this tea is roughly of 7572 level. It won't be a fancy experience for seasoned shu drinkers, but overall of decent quality.

* Di Cao Qing small cups. Limited to 1 cup per person.

These are the smallest size yixing teacups very commonly seen. But they are made of much better clay than most of the teacups of this size in the market. These cups are "public relation" cups from the producer. They didn't cost me much. But marking them at few dollars each would undervalue them. So I would rather give them for free. They could serve as "specimen" for decent quality Di Cao Qing.

This one is also made by Xu Peng, whose Di Cao Qing teapots and other teapots are available at Life in Teacup. The clay used in the teacup is pretty much the same as that used for the teapots (color tone could be different due to variation of kilns and the shape and thickness of each vessel that respond slightly differently to kiln conditions; texture is generally the same).

* Taiwan oolong tea pumpkin seeds. 200g pack. It's made of melon seeds flavored with oolong tea, salt and some food flavoring. I got it as a gift but I'm not good at eating pumpkin seeds. Skills are required to eat these seeds. This is available to US addressees only due to its weight. It looks somewhat similar to this one, but the one showed below is a green tea pumpkin seeds product.

* Cut cubes of Fu brick samples. But please read this post and see the warnings before considering it.


Aug 7, 2013

blog sale - no green tea this time :-( Part 1

Unlike the blog sales in previous years, this time, no green tea... well, maybe one or two. I have plenty of green tea to drink, but not much "exotic" to share in a blog sale :-p

Similar to the previous blog sales - 

If interested, please contact me at gingkoheight @ g m ail . com before August 24, 2013. 

Shipping is $4 flat for US, $7 flat for Canada, 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. 

All pictures can be clicked to enlarge.

This blog sale will be updated over the week and weekend with more items. Things in plan include some hei cha, some se zhong oolong, a few yixing teacups and some free stuff. Generally things not commonly seen, not even routinely seen at Life in Teacup ;-)

Since I'm wordy and have to give all the blah blah blah along the sale, this post is going to be long! So the latter part of the sale will be put on a later blog post. 

1. A couple of tea posters available to United States addressees only (due to the bulky shape). All other items are internationally available.

There are two types. Three copies are available for each type. The posters are all 60cm x 90cm (about 2' x 3'). The rims of the posters are slightly creased in previous shipping but there is no obvious damage and generally doesn't affect the outlook.

$ each poster and $ for two posters shipped together. The price includes shipping by priority mail (because they supply the long tube boxes suitable for the poster).

These are some samples I ordered when planning to carry some "tea education" stuff in Life in Teacup. But I've decided not to deal with them as they are too bulky to handle if you don't want to fold them. 

The posters are not as educative as some of the great tea books. But they are nice to display, and interesting to watch from time to time. The printing is not to an artistic level, and is about the regular poster quality.

The first poster is a collection of historically famous puerh products, wrappers, inner tickets and cake/brick tickets.

Poster A: puerh poster

Taiwan Wu-Shing Books (the publisher of the magazine, The Art of Tea, which is the English version of Puerh and Teapot magazine) once issued a similar poster which I put below my two posters. Wu-Shing Books' poster is of higher quality and is more educative (and more expensive, as their other nice stuff). It has captions to explain the displays and group the images based on their backgrounds. This above-displayed poster looks more casual and has prettier image structure, in my opinion. I use it as a fancy display and think it looks nice.

Generally I'm not enthusiastic at learning about old puerh from either posters or books. It's pretty much like what Chinese say about "the skill of killing a dragon" - you could learn the skill, and then you will barely find any dragon for you to kill :-p So overall I like the poster and keep one for myself to display. But my suggestion is don't take it too seriously and just see it as a fancy display. If anybody has Wu-Shing version and no longer want it, I'm interested in buying it, Chinese version preferred but English version would be fine too :-)

The second poster is a yixing teapot poster. There are 100 yixing teapots. I would have been more educative if they are 100 most popular traditional styles, but I guess it would be hard to collect photos of all those historically important teapots (so far the only one who did it successfully was Gu Jingzhou in his yixing teapot book, which was put up in a previous blog sale and will put up for this blog sale in a few days). The teapots on this poster are all from modern famous yixing artists (including some dead ones and some living ones). Many of them are of traditional style or resemble traditional styles with some modern themes.

Poster B: yixing teapot poster

Below is the previously mentioned Wu-Shing Books posters. They are NOT mine and NOT those for sale.

End of item #1

2. Yixing teapot poker cards. $6 each. Three sets are available.

If you like yixing teapot images and don't want a poster, this poker set is another option. It includes images of teapots both from modern time and from the old time. The print quality is very mediocre. It's the regular poker image quality.

It's of regular poker size. This poker set was published by China Poker Museum in 2012 (yeah I didn't know either there was a *poker* museum...)

End of item #2.

3. Yixing picture book edited by Gu Jingzhou (you could call him the Godfather of yixing...). $, US media mail shipping included. The cake in the picture served as a paper weight and is not included in the sale :-p

The book is the same book as introduced in a previous blog sale. You can see the other post for introduction and why I think this book is probably the best yixing book ever. This time, the book is from the third print in Hong Kong in 1996. The previously introduced Taiwan first print was sold on my blog and Life in Teacup (and some copies were sold on ebay). Its price was raised later due to the increased supplying price. The books sold here (Hong Kong third print, I have two copies) are what I obtained this year. I got them for lower price because usually earlier prints of art books are more expensive than later prints. If putting the two books side by side, I somewhat think the Taiwan first print looks better than this Hong Kong third print. But the difference is rather small and I don't know if it's a "placebo effect" due to the price tag :-p The two books are all the same except for the cover and publisher page. I'm not optimistic for getting either print for the same price in future years.

End of item #3

4. Zhu Ni yixing picture book - The World of Zhu Ni. $110, US media mail shipping included. This book is new. The rims of the hard shell might be dented a bit, but not severely. The side may bear some dust (but not obviously dirty). It may have some storage smell (but not as strong as that of Hong Kong humid storage puerh). It looks like this book slept in some basement warehouse for months when nobody wanted it. And now suddenly many people want it. Similar fate to that of the Gu Jingzhou yixing book.

This is one of the best Zhu Ni books and is named as one of the three "must-reads" by quite a few famous yixing collectors (I will introduce the other two books in future blog posts but I only have this one for sale). Its page size is smaller than the Gu Jingzhou yixing book. It's mostly composed of pictures too, so is nice for collectors from various language backgrounds. It has images of about 200 historically famous Zhu Ni teapots, including clear images of their seals.

The book was published by Taiwan Hu Zhong Tian Di (壺中天地)Publishing and Malaysia Purple Cane Enterprise (紫藤集團), which are two of the most famous tea culture organizations in Asia. This book is the third edition published in 2011. The price at publication was NT. 1200 or RM. 150, roughly $45. Its current price in Asian market is around $80-100, depending on book conditions. And the earlier editions (first and second) are much more expensive.

Most of the pages with text are already showed in photos below. All the rest of the 180 or so pages are mostly pictures as showed in the fourth photo.

End of item #4.

5. Yixing teacup, Di Cao Qing clay. Approximately 80ml. $22 each.

Height is 45mm, and diameter is 70mm. Each cup weighs about 6 oz. It's made by Xu Peng, whose Di Cao Qing teapots and other teapots are available at Life in Teacup. The clay used in the teacup is pretty much the same as that used for the teapots (color tone could be different due to variation of kilns and the shape and thickness of each vessel that respond slightly differently to kiln conditions; texture is generally the same).

The shape mimics a bamboo section and is very nice to grab. It's my favorite size to match with a small teapot so that a sharing pitcher can be omitted in gongfu style drinking.

End of item #5.

Free stuff:

Small Korean teacup (about 40-45ml):

Small porcelain teacup (about 40-45ml):

Tea pack clips:

Teapot brush (no photo, it looks very much like a painting brush).

Puerh knife or needle (various types but generally all similar)

Teapot coaster - this is cheap stuff made of wood debris, similar to this one:

Starting from this year, suddenly everybody gave me a lot of these. They don't seem sturdy but could be useful to protect your yixing if you use a medal, stone or clay tea tray that could potentially hurt the bottom of yixing teapot.

To be continued.