Photo by @yingq_photography
One of the teas offered at an upcoming tasting is this sencha produced by Kousuke Nakayama 中山公輔 using Saemidori, a relatively modern cultivar created by crossing two older cultivars, Yabukita and Asatsuyu. I hesitate to call it a favourite but I really fancy its remarkably rich savoury flavours and rounded voluminous body.
How amusingly apt that my 800th post on IG is about my final (public) tea session of 2018, where participants had a total of 8 teas.
Looking forward to the upcoming sesh!
And thank you C. for the photos!
「荊溪孟臣」— one of the rarer seals to appear on F1 pots.
Using a 2018 Baozhong processed in a relatively more traditional style, our initial findings on Seiji Ito (伊藤成二 Ito Seiji)’s Tokoname redware kyusu suggest that it trades brighter and more vivid characteristics — which we usually pick up using an early-60s Yixing hongni pot for this tea — for a gentler extraction and overall more restrained profile. That could probably mostly be attributed to the shape of Ito’s pot. With it, the tea doesn’t have quite the same tension and precision that the Yixing hongni pot affords, but the seeming lack of sprightliness and verve is made up for by a less angular expression, which is always welcome on days when the last thing a tired palate needs is even more stimulation and intensity.
Clay fetishism and age masochism aside, this julunzhu holds considerable intrigue by virtue of how it seems to punch above its weight in discharging its brewing duty.
The breezy forgiving temperament that has now come to characterise it was particularly apparent with a 2009 Mudan, which incidentally was a serendipitous discovery following a blithe little experiment that involved me throwing different teas at it to see what could work and what couldn’t. It was nice to go in without expectations. The Mudan was noticeably fuller, had a certain weight, and better textural quality that wasn’t as appreciable in pots of other makes (I experimented the same tea with porcelain, zini, and hongni). I haven’t tried using the pot with heavily oxidised teas since I’d much rather stick to lighter coloured teas — whites, greens, light oolongs, and raw pu’er — and from what I’ve been told by an acquaintance who used a similar duanni julunzhu to brew yancha, the result left something to be desired. It’s not hard to see why, I suppose, considering that this was originally made for the Japanese export market and their teas.
Based on records authored by Ao Xuan Bao, the julunzhu 俱輪珠 purportedly gained popularity around the latter half of the 19th century, corresponding to the late-Qing in China. Wrote the collector in his 《茗壺圖錄》: “近時有一種奇品，邦俗呼曰具輪珠，所謂小圓式、鵝蛋式之類也⋯⋯而其為器拙而密，朴而雅，流直而快於注湯，大小適宜有韻致，是所以盛行於世也⋯⋯不惜百金二百金，必獲而後已，至曰非獲具輪珠者，難與言茗事。” For the sake of brevity, a translation would not be offered here; suffice it to say, the julunzhu was so highly regarded by Ao Xuan Bao’s contemporaries that one considered oneself hard-pressed to engage in the discourse of tea affairs if he or she did not own said pot.
By strict conventional standards, a julunzhu 俱輪珠 must possess four defining characteristics, to wit: A rounded body; a straight spout; a foot ring; and a corresponding rim around the neck of the pot.
Pictured here is an LQER duanni julunzhu 緞泥俱輪珠。
The 70s Project continues. One of the pots that’ve offered us some notable observations is this so-called 窯變 pot in the mix. It’s not immediately apparent in the photos (I’m having a hard time trying to capture it clearly) but a closer look reveals that a portion of the pot is in a different colour — the blotch has a silvery metallic look and feel. The contrast is relatively clearer in the second photo, since one side of the lid has the same effect and we can see the dissimilarity clearer by turning it the other way.
An apple a day, they say.
Brief moments of pensiveness tend to set in as the year draws to a close. Maybe it reminds me of the people who’ve gone to their eternal rest; maybe the passage of time reminds me of my own mortality. But I have many things to be grateful for, and there’s the Feast of the Nativity to look forward to, followed by the New Year (especially on the traditional calendar). Hope everyone’s holiday preparations are going swimmingly.
On grey days like this I tend to reach out for darker teas or teas that have a little age on them. Fuelling the afternoon with a 1987 (surprisingly well-kept) Dong Ding, and now relieved that one of the last feature articles of this year have just been sent off to the editor.
Can you believe 2018 is virtually already over?!
Though it is impossible to establish perfect and complete historical accuracy, we have nonetheless adopted an evidence-based historically informed approach in our interpretation and reconstruction of classical gongfucha. This of course entails more than just tangible objects, but such objects are intrinsic to an authentic interpretation, understood as a working set of parameters defined and laid down by extant literature on the subject.
Using materials dating from the reign of Wanli up to the mid-20th century — as well as speaking and learning from experts who have also conferred with contemporary leading authorities — we are able to piece together how classical gongfucha was practiced. The difficulty, however, is in capturing the “spirit” behind the practice, which is much harder to convey through words and images.
Luminaries in the field have shown us unmerited favour by highlighting some matters that previously did not occur to us. To them we are eternally indebted, for it is on their great stature that we are lifted up.
Covfefe leads to a fun little oddity: Here’s a pair of neiziwaihong xishi/bianpu (西施/扁蒲) turned out by F1 around the same period, but the one on the right sneaked through production and escaped without being branded with the「中國宜興」seal.
This probably happened more often than we think!
After seeing the gaiwan, @anmo_art_cha said I’d probably need baby cups. #ChallengeAccepted.
On a more serious note though, these lilliputian douqing cups are more suited for drinking wine rather than tea.
@soiwatter, just thought you might be interested in seeing the size of the cups I use with the gaiwan! It’s just about ideal for three small cups.
Among the finds on our recent trip is an extremely modest batch of this dink of a gaiwan. We grabbed whatever we could, and we’re chuffed that they now assume a major supporting role at our intimate tastings!
I have zero resistance when it comes to accessories that look rough, rustic, and weathered. This silver bangle from @thepolskatraveller is totally my kinda thing — it’s warped, it has holes in it, and it’s got various shades of pink, blue, and purple as the patina continues to develop. And it fits nicely with my personal tea aesthetic! Head over heels with the details up close.
The「荊溪南孟臣製」seal appears on pots from the 1940s up until the 1960s. Some experts maintain that although the clay used during this period originated from the same ore site, pots from the 40s typically contained a higher percentage of shihuang 石黃 (which, depending on who you ask, yields zhuni), whilst those of the 50s and 60s exhibited considerably finer workmanship. In the case of the pot pictured here, observable traits suggest that this was made in the 50s/60s (personally I’m leaning towards the latter).