Brought this kuro raku chawan out of its long dormancy in its tomobako to prime it for a session. An utsushi of one of the works of 長次郎 Chōjirō, the tea bowl is named 勾当 by its maker 佐々木昭楽 Sasaki Shouraku, third-generation scion of his Kyoto-based family of raku artisans.
Recently I’ve been trying to acquaint myself with the Kankyu-an chasen in an attempt to obtain less froth on my tea. I think I prefer the flavour and texture of less frothy matcha — it seems like the bitter savoury sweetness comes through a little clearer.
“Don’t deliberate over it. The hand naturally knows. Listen to the hand and act on it.”
This line left a particularly deep impression. In the course of one’s tea practice, one comes across a host of techniques, routines, and mystical methods. I occasionally stop to ask myself: Have I heard what the tea itself is saying?
If one could give one’s intuition a chance, perhaps one might discover something he or she hadn’t noticed before.
Where should one start?
The hand naturally knows.
Photo credit: @forthx
To complement the atypical nature of the session tomorrow, we’ll be offering two 蒔茶 shicha that are diametrical opposites of each other. In terms of technique and flavour, they couldn’t be more different, but I like to think there’s an interdependence between the two. Playing on the theme of duality, they share the same root in that they are both 蒔茶, but one tea represents light and the other dark; one soft and the other tough; and one active and the other receptive.
One more sesh before we break for the New Year’s on the traditional calendar, with plans to resume regular programming by the third week of February.
Given the warm winter, it might be an opportune time to explore dongcha 冬茶 vs. “dongcha 冬茶”. In fact, we’ve been feeling pretty chuffed by a 杉林溪 winter tea that recently fell into our hands, and we’re hoping for a chance to introduce it properly at a comparative tasting. If all goes well, it should be possible to hold it in the latter half of next month. Fingers crossed!
Photo credit: @yingq_photography
I’m not sure if it’s a direct consequence of ageing the tencha, but this 壺切抹茶 tsubokiri matcha is exquisite in its flavour and balance. It has a familiar umami character that’s much more present on the palate than on the nose — the latter appears relatively greener than how the tea actually tastes — but as you drink it, you discover that it’s sweet, savoury, almost “chewy”, and yet so restrained and layered.
The matcha was prepared in 水上勝夫 Mizukami Katsuo’s raku chawan, traditionally handbuilt (pinched and carved from a single block of earthenware), applied with a glaze derived from Kamogawa stone, fired to approximately 1100°C, then brought out of the kiln and dunked in water. The imprint left by the tongs used to pick the chawan out of the kiln is visible in the second photo.
Thanks Shawn for this marvellous tea!
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?!