齁... 誰說金錢買不到快樂？#大世界 #小確幸
Whoever said that money can't buy happiness obviously wasn't looking in the right places.
Another teapot that I've been enamoured of these past couple of months. Made from zizhuni 紫朱泥 — naturally formed and supposedly classified on its own distinct from zini or zhuni — fired to approximately 1080°C-1180°C. Shrinkage is purported to be quite high, especially contrasted against conventional hongni. Thought I'd go in for a tight shot because I want the soft granular texture and fine wrinkling to be clearly visible.
Absolutely taken by one of Murakami Yaku's latest and rarest glazes: rust iron red. The texture and detail is astounding, and the pot's pour is — as one should expect of his works — remarkably sharp and clean.
But eh, would using this lend a more "industrial chic" vibe to my tea table?
A tea plantation in Tabangu organically farmed at approximately 1,200 metres altitude. Depending on climatic conditions and numerous other factors, production here yields between 3kg to 10kg a year. Their teas are also supplied to a certain tea company in Singapore that has stores located in certain prime locations within the CBD. 😉
Spent tealeaves of a 7542-esque brew (relatively dry by HK storage standards?). Supple and possessing pretty autumnal colours!
The "Big Blue" — brimming with bitter almonds and caramel.
English text below.
Recently, while chopping wood in preparation for a kiln firing, Ichikawa Takashi sustained an injury to his right index finger, resulting in a comminuted fracture. When I heard the news, a strange mix of emotions surged in me.
When one gets used to using a piece of work for some time, one tends to start taking it for granted, often not realising that an unforeseen incident could, in a brief moment, change all of that forever.
I like wood-fired ceramics, and it's one of the reasons why I like Ichikawa's works. But what I admire even more, is the ceramicist's dedication to his craft and to the study and practice of tea. From his teapot to his tea cart, one can very tangibly perceive his love and sincerity for tea culture.
Now that this has happened, it remains to be seen how his work will be affected in the future. To me this also serves as a wake-up call, where I should remind myself never to take the creation of artwork for granted, and furthermore to put more effort into practising tea and treasure all that is before me, in the hope that one day, when all the teaware that I love most is no longer by my side, I should not feel that I have let the ceramic artists down.
A big thank-you to all ceramicists out there — because of you, we have beautiful and functional teaware with which to practice and drink tea. May the Lord and the Blessed Virgin keep you always.
A place for everything, everything in its place.
As far as pu-erh goes, the idea of estate tea (i.e. not blended across different growth sites within a larger appellation) or single-tree tea (harvested from just one tree) sounds captivating, but I've learned that such tea is not ipso facto pleasurable or good — I've had the opportunity, thanks to very gracious and generous producers and friends, to taste some estate and single-tree teas that we agreed were fun but otherwise pretty uninspiring.
Blends obviously exist for good reason, whether in the world of tea, chocolate, wine, or coffee, and the art involved in blending is an intricate endeavour compared to taking something from a single cru and throwing it all in one big bag with a trendy label slapped on it. These days I can't help but feel like we're faced with a ridiculous false dilemma where if something isn't "single-origin" (whatever that means) or "varietal", it is regarded to be less desirable or costly to produce.
The pu-erh pictured here (a 357g disc) is almost like an antithesis to this trend. Yes, it's single-origin — all the material comes from the Yiwu appellation — but it is blended from a handful of mature trees that grow in slightly different microclimates. The process of selecting raw material, and the blending followed by pressing, was carried out with painstaking (read: excruciating, agonising) attention to detail. The aim is to put together a tea that embodies the most desirable traits of Yiwu pu-erh and its typicity, marked by finesse, restraint, roundness, depth, concentration, and persistency. This time, the raw materials yielded close to 40 discs in total, so it's not exactly the most accessible tea, and it remains to be seen if this can be replicated next year. In its current state, it is fresh, young, and irresistibly sweet, but I feel it's almost a shame to drink it now, given that it will reach its true value and worth a few years from now.
In my current experience, this tea is best brewed with water that isn't too hard (90-100mg/l) with pH of around 7.4.
Day 42. After regular use, the teapot on the left is really starting to come into its own. (Both teapots are from the same batch, made from the same clay [different from those in my previous post], except the one on the right is brand new.) No pouring over, no silly tea brush, nothing out of the ordinary was done to it — just regular brewing (mostly oolongs) and cleaning after use.
In autumn 2014 I had my first opportunity to collaborate and contribute to the creation of a batch of Yixing teapots. Using jinhuang zhuni (金黃朱泥) from Zhaozhuang (趙莊), we agreed to make baotai (薄胎 thin-wall) shuiping, which produced a limited run of approximately 30 pieces that exceeded our modest expectations.
Heartened by the favourable results, we attempted another batch in summer 2015. We tried to replicate the style, shape, thinness, and lightness of the previous teapots, but instead of Zhaozhuang zhuni we used zhusha (朱砂) from Hongwei (紅衛), which we felt could perform better for Wuyi teas and pu-erh.
Along the way, we learned some valuable lessons and took some risks that, on hindsight, could have landed us in quite a bit of a pickle (I probably wouldn't want to risk making thin-walled zhuni shuiping again), but it's all been worth it.
Late last year, I had the chance to embark on another pot project, this time with @hanyunteahouse to get Yixing potters to make us a batch of siting (思亭) teapots using zhuni from Huanglongshan (黃龍山). And just a couple of months ago, the project saw its second edition. But this 2017 release is a little different: To indicate unambiguously that these teapots were commissioned by us and for us, and as a sign of our confidence and assurance in their quality, each pot bears the words 含韻 (Hanyun). It's a single run with a limited production of 25 pieces — several of them didn't make it through the firing and have since gone to pot paradise.
Siting is probably my favourite shape after shuiping; I'm particularly fond of the spout and belly.
18 more days to #SFFA2017 and #RPBA2017 happening from 18-20 July at Suntec Singapore! I'll be at the event to talk briefly about tea and the crucial role it plays in current dining trends, as well as conduct a short introductory tasting featuring a concise collection of artisanal teas. RPB Asia is the region's first and only dedicated trade exclusive event designed to bring all aspects of the foodservice and hospitality industry together for three high-powered days of focused business and networking. If you're in the trade, you can register at rpb-asia.com and speciality-asia.com. Follow the shows at @specialityasia and @rpb_asia.
Media and trade friends, see you at the show!
It's not flawless, but therein lies its beauty.
Pretty chuffed to have finally found a set of vintage pewter chataku/茶托/tea coasters that could satisfactorily match (in terms of colour, shape, size, design, proportion, and texture) with these green cups from a similar era. But I'm undecided if I should get rid of the tea stains left on the coasters from approximately a century of use? The stains lend quite a bit of character but they're also kinda mucky. 🤣
Proper tenmoku oil spots crystallising above a base of black and green... with crackle to boot! Single glaze and single fired.