70s 中國宜興 hongni shuiping, bottom seal in the second photo. Fun little pot, mostly used for brighter oolongs.
While tea practitioners (or “tea masters” as they are broadly known) are in certain ways regarded as the tea equivalent of sommeliers, I tend to think the role they play is somewhat closer to that of chefs:
1) Unlike sommeliers, they don’t source and serve a finished product. Instead, through their own input (i.e. methods of cooking/brewing), they directly determine and shape the final outcome of their ingredient(s) of choice.
2) They possess specialised knowledge and skills in creating the final product, taking into consideration various factors such as length of time, the required equipment and ingredients, temperatures, yield, flavours and textures, and so on — they work with recipes, in other words.
3) They have the freedom of elevating or downplaying certain ingredients or elements in their finished product by manipulating processes and/or equipment.
Relatedly, I think this is also what defines a good tea practitioner — he/she adds value to someone else’s tea experience. We go to restaurants to enjoy culinary artistry from those who dedicate their very lives to it. I like to think that tea practitioners provide value much in the same way, contributing artistic qualities to what is otherwise an everyday necessity.
This of course may just be an oversimplification that requires more time for refinement. Meanwhile, if you have any thoughts on this, I’m more than happy to hear them!
Fishing up the few remaining teabags left in my tin of Uniquely Yishun chrysanthemum tea from @pinteaonline. I now half have a mind to add a pinch of pu-erh to make it 菊普, one of my favourite 茶樓 offerings.
The product description is actually pretty amusing: “Whether it’s bovine visits or feline villains, high speed car chases or underground vice rings, there’s nothing a cup of tea won’t fix. You do you, Yishun.”
Also: “Do good do together.”
Gold glazed teapots and teacups at Tea Bone Zen Mind. It is of course easy to go all Rikyū on these and declare gold to be too flashy and 土豪. But it truly does take a more balanced and inclusive sense of aesthetic to recognise the beauty in things that aren’t all about rusticity, austerity, and roughness, but about opulence and luxury. Toyotomi Hideyoshi’s golden tea room cannot be further from the popular idea of “wabi-sabi”, but it is no less beautiful and awe-inspiring. And for all the Song potters’ restraint and preference for seemingly simple understated shapes and glazes, they did not shy from the dramatic effects of oil spot or hare’s fur jianzhan/tenmoku, or the vivid splashes of purple and blue on Jun wares. It appears to be a common affliction of modern man where we seem to have to make mutually exclusive choices. Beauty, in my mind, is a single precious gem, but it is multi-faceted. I, for one, hope to see it from every angle.
“回來安份的做自己，是最美的一個可能。” — 蔣勳
“Coming back to a state where you can devote yourself to being you, is the most beautiful circumstance that can possibly happen.” — Jiang Xun.
A 1960s Yixing hongni shendeng on a not-quite-as-old pewter tea boat — perhaps a slight anachronism here but we can always excuse it on the pretext of artistic license, right? 😉 The second photo shows the bottom seal 荊溪惠孟臣製 in detail, while the third photo offers a closer look at the grooves left behind by the tool used on the inner side of the pot to smooth out the joint where the base meets the body.
Antoine de Saint-Exupéry left us with many wonderful quotes, one of which has become somewhat of a guiding principle in how I conduct my my tea affairs: “Perfection is achieved, not when there is nothing more to add, but when there is nothing left to take away.”
Cute little hand-pinched Yixing duanni pot with a capacity of approximately 90ml, one of two made by a kind elderly gentleman 祥伯 who’s since retired to let his son take over the reins of the studio. The overall uneven texture is so arresting. 😍
Charcoal roast was carried out on this Gaolengsiji from a winter 2017 harvest. Compared to previous releases that did not see any charcoal, this current collection is considerably more voluminous and mellow, while maintaining much of the structure that carries the varietal characters of ripe fruits and flowers across the mid-palate and especially on the finish.
Of all the materials available to us, it seems that a round sheet of loofah (luffa) is still the most preferred option when it comes to making tea mats (or teapot mats if you prefer). Its absorbency, toughness, durability, suppleness, as well as its trait of not developing strange odours are just some of its greatest draws. It’s also very affordable and fun to DIY, and I especially like how it ages with use — it takes on a rich dark colour, serving almost as a wordless diary of all the teas that one has drunk. 潮州茶經 Chaozhou Cha Jing, published in 1957, sums it up thus: “茶垫之底，托以垫毡，以秋瓜絡為之，不生他味，氈毯舊布，剪成圓形，稍有不合矣。” Roughly translated: The mat that is placed beneath (the teapot) should be made of loofah, for it does not produce foreign odours; rugs and old cloths cut into round pieces are not quite as suitable.
Preliminary panel tasting was fruitful — it seems like everyone’s pretty much on the same page. But I’m still undecided if the next panel tasting should be carried out double blind; it doesn’t seem like a terribly good idea to sacrifice context for the sake of pure organoleptic evaluation.
Do re mi fa so la tea... hey we’re starting off the year on the right note.
Yixing F1 pot users, why do/would you choose F1 pots over any other pots on the market? Is it a question of reliability? Quality? Collectibility? Authenticity? Assurance? I’d love to hear your thoughts!