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.
In her book “Puer Tea: Ancient Caravans and Urban Chic” author Zhang Jinghong details her travels in Yiwu, where she meets a certain Mr Zheng, who’s first mentioned in page 55 and who also appears in her supplementary videos. Later in page 140, Zhang notes that Mr Zheng “had little interest in aged Puer tea, preferring the raw tea that he produced and tasted every day in Yiwu, which he found full of fresh aroma. He did not care that his clients were counting upon the transformation from the fresh to the aged.” Intrigued and curious as to how Mr Zheng’s tea would develop anyway, I pulled out a piece of his 2008 pu’er and brewed it over a few sessions. (It would be fun to try the 2007, which was when Zhang went to Yiwu and interviewed Mr Zheng, but the situation that year was pretty messed up, so perhaps 2008 might be a fairer representation?) Although there’s much to be desired in terms of material selection, a decade of ageing has somewhat worn down the rougher edges. At its core, it displays maderised traits hinting at dried jujube and wet forest over a bed of bitter almond rounding out on a dusty finish. Not a terrific Yiwu pu’er by any means, but it makes for a fun and easy drink especially while rewatching Zhang’s homemade video of Mr Zheng!
「孟臣」款, across a couple of centuries.
I can probably count on my fingers the number of times I brew green tea at home (which also means this Yixing pot is often left sitting out in the cold, literally 😔). This Longjing was a thoughtful gift from a friend in the local wine/food circuit — it’s really nice to know that many of the wine peeps are also thirsty for tea. Thanks NL, this is tealicious!
Masanobu Ando, silver glaze.
Revisited a Wu Yuan Jian rougui this afternoon only to find, to my surprise, that it now stands head and shoulders above a Hui Yuan Keng rougui from the same season. A Ma Tou Yan rougui turned out to be enjoyable too, until it pretty much gave up its ghost by the fifth steep (we were admittedly pushing it).
Chanced upon this kettle whose overall shape, craftsmanship, and finish I took to after a couple of hours. Trying to capture its elusive purple sheen with a phone camera is proving to be an impossible feat. Happily, it looks better now that I’ve started to break it in and gear it up for a sesh this Saturday. Yay!
Just hangin’ out.
Of the numerous varieties/cultivars we’ve had so far, capri and black thorn were two that stood out for me.
Catching up on this year’s durian run before it draws to a close in approximately 20 days.