The soft lighting this grey morning made this zhuni appear more supple than it normally seems. Even the wrinkles were more apparent.
Pot dates from the late-Qing/early-ROC.
It’s generally held that the flat base shuiping was a product of the late-60s and early-70s, turned out over a period when the factory was transitioning from the six-character seals to the 中國宜興 seal. It goes without saying that the six-character 荊溪惠孟臣製 version of the pot fetches higher prices, but this pot here offers an insight into one of the earliest 中國宜興 seals introduced from the late-60 onwards.
Trialling a few 70s hongni pots fired to different temperatures. If all goes according to plan (who are we kidding?!) we should be able to draw some conclusions in a couple of months, in time to throw ourselves into the CNY revelries!
Snuck into CÉ LA VI this afternoon for a preview of Nederburg’s Auction Exclusive Collection. The Chenin Blancs were lovely for their purity and elegance, and the Two Centuries Sauvignon Blanc made a lasting impression for being remarkably polished and pristine, but my favourites were a couple of the reds.
I’m still fairly ambivalent about the 2003 Private Bin R163 Cabernet Sauvignon — I quite like that it’s draped in mint/eucalyptus but the fruit’s already quite evolved at this stage — and the tannins were so exceedingly grippy I thought I almost heard them screech. But I imagine this would be incredible with a serving of rare sirloin, perhaps sided by some lovely mushrooms.
The 2009 Motorcycle Marvel (Grenache, Carignan, Shiraz) stood out for its really pretty fruit, depth, and persistency. And I think the only wine in this collection that can possibly outdo the Motorcycle Marvel is the 2009 Private Bin R181 Merlot — virtually everything about it is so neatly framed, from the sweet succulent flavours of black currant and cherry to the fine tannins and the gentle embracing acidity. It’s so neat and tidy it should be a “library wine” (ha ha). Oh the 2012 late harvest Chenin Blanc was of course the showstopper; in fact, it was the only wine I had two glasses of, and I indeed had to stop after that. Bright, vibrant, immaculately balanced, and so ridiculously delicious, it is probably rivalled (but not surpassed) only by the very tears of your enemy.
When you put two pretty pear-shaped teapots 梨式壺 together, do you call it pair-adise?
Both are produced by the studio of Yuan Yi He 袁義和, and date to the late-Qing/early-ROC.
They perform beautifully and consistently across various tea types, but it has led to the neglect of a few other pots for which I now feel contrite.
The more pots you have, the less you use each of them — a cruel pear-odox.
Japanese potter 徳永榮二郎 Eijiro Tokunaga’s most iconic technique is said to be 炭化燒成 or “carbonised firing”, which yields intriguing results. At one end of the spectrum, it has a fuzzy, dreamy nebula-like lustre with purples and blues (and even some pink), while on the other end it is dark, metallic, frigid, and grey. I find this co-existence of seemingly opposing extremes extraordinarily appealing, almost as if the bowl is caught in a preternatural struggle frozen in time, except this “struggle” is not of strife and discord, but of interdependence and duality.
I know it sounds kinda silly to say this but I’ve always taken a fancy to dollarweed because its little round leaves remind me of Totoro’s cap and umbrella. For a while, I even briefly considered “adopting” some of the wild dollarweed I typically come across while fishing on the water’s edge. But by way of a serendipitous encounter, I learnt of a plant that has similar-looking leaves but on the whole a lot more bizarre and cute! It’s the stephania pierrei diels, which is a climbing plant that grows out of a tuberous rootstock. So, essentially, it’s Totoro’s umbrellas that sprout from a strange potato-like thing in the ground! NEED.
What I really like about stephania is that it doesn’t like to have its feet as wet as dollarweed, so in that sense it’s relatively low-maintenance. It’s got a really weird-looking caudex (or rootstock), and in the case of stephania pierrei the leaves can be quite small and sparse, giving the plant a raw “wabi” 侘 aesthetic.
Best of all, I got mine from @miniaturland010818 who planted it in this extraordinarily beautiful pot. It’s rough around the edge, and it’s cloaked in a blue-green glaze that features fine beautiful crackle, reminiscent of old broken pieces of celadon that date back hundreds and hundreds of years, all of which add to the overall sense of it being weathered and worn through the ages.
From that which is broken, new life springs forth.
A 1970s Liubao — an unmerited treat from a gracious host, with whom I had the great pleasure of conferring on pre-20th century tea brewing customs. It seems that his findings are entirely in accord with mine, although in practice we observe slightly different styles and methods. But that to me is one of the most beautiful features of Chinese tea practice, that there’s both congruity and diversity, without having to suffer the burden of sameness or monotony. Piteous is one who follows a particular tea practice and discounts the rest — I can’t imagine anything sadder than that.
One of the most incredible and profoundly moving events of 2018. A 茶事 chaji dinner hosted by 半澤鶴子 Tsuruko Hanzawa. It’s the first time the 75-year-old 茶事懷石料理 chaji kaiseki master has ever held a 茶事 chaji event outside of Japan — a cultural milestone not just for everyone involved but also for Singapore’s tea scene at large.
一無名，二思亭，三逸公，四孟臣, goes the old dictum, where pots bearing no name or seal are held in highest esteem, followed by 思亭, 逸公, then 孟臣.
Of the notable Yixing studios of the late Qing such as 袁義和、福記、and 昌記 etc. 袁義和 ranks as one of the older producers. Its seal, 義和, can be seen below the handle on this late-Qing(/early-ROC) zhuni pot. It’s worth noting that this pot features a bent spout, which is appreciably unusual given that the overwhelming majority of pots of its era tend to have straight spouts instead.
A partial recreation of a style of tea brewing as seen in the late-Qing, based on information gleaned from historical records by writers and poets who lived during that era. The washer/dish for the teapot is a Longquan ware from the Yuan dynasty, the Yixing zhuni teapot is from the late-Qing/early-ROC, and the dish for the teacups is a Ge ware from Zhangzhou produced in the mid-Qing. Only the teacups are later replicas of Qing ruoshen cups.
A millennium has passed since the creation of the jianzhan, yet it continues to inspire and enrapture with a beauty so magnificent and transcendental that the human tongue cannot express but only feebly liken to a world that extends beyond ours. It is but one of the finest testaments to the enduring aesthetic of the Song, which continues to influence the appreciation of beauty in our time.
If the conventionally exalted regions like Wuyi, Yunnan, Lishan, and Da Yu Lin are the tea equivalents of Bourgognes, Bordeaux, and the Loire valley, then Darjeeling must be the equivalent of the Antipodes. It’s not so much a question of old/new world — which I think is pretty much moot in today’s context — but that, every so often, there’s a truly intriguing offering from where you would not ordinarily expect, and it gives the big boys a run for their money.
This is a 2018 Darjeeling first flush FTGFOP1 from the Margaret’s Hope estate. Limited to less than 10kg of total production, it comprises a blend of cultivars picked from older tea trees. White florals, grapes, orange blossom, and a nuanced citric sweetness are the dominant characteristics, supported by a lush texture and admirable persistency.
Brewed using a Dehua 德化 teapot. Yohen tenmoku teacup by Koji Kamada 鎌田幸二. Chestnut chaze by Shingo Tsukuda 佃眞吾.
Attempts at recreating Song-style whisked tea using Hui Zong’s 《大觀茶論》as our main work of reference has yielded some fairly interesting results. One of the greatest difficulties encountered in this endeavour is in finding a historically accurate tool with which the tea is whisked — this would be less of an issue if we used Cai Xiang’s 《茶錄》as our primary reference, but the method of whisking tea in Hui Zong’s day was the prevalent style that was passed down before it fell out of favour in the Ming.
At any rate, it seems we’re coming quite close to the standard of “雪沫乳花浮午盞”, although I feel more work is needed before I’m comfortable with the 咬盞 standard.
Far be it from us to observe the letter of the law to the violation of its spirit.
Photo by @dressedupdreams
Loving this shot by @dressedupdreams! Among my favourite kettles, this pure silver one boasts the prettiest finish, with a purplish-pink hue that’s most visible under natural light.
A part of my work is involved in finding evidence to support certain assertions surrounding the question of tea quality and ageing, which is why stumbling on pu’er like this is an immensely exciting affair. This is a 2004 release from the Jingmai appellation, made under the supervision of 何仕華 He Shihua. There’s some information about him on the interwebs, so feel free to look it up if you like.
For a pu’er of the mid-2000s, this is truly very decent stuff, insofar as one could tell from material selection, processing, and pressing. But the most remarkable feature about this batch is its storage — it’s among the cleanest of all older pu’er that I’ve ever come across. In my opinion, the ageing on this is virtually immaculate, allowing it to develop a rich amber liquor that evokes dried apricot, almond, walnut, and baked apple with a dry dusty finish that hints at cedar/sandalwood.
The claim on the label that the tea trees from which this was made are “over one thousand years old” may be a bit of an exaggeration, but it is nevertheless a terrific example of a pu’er that up until now has seen 14 years of pristine ageing.