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?!
Though it is impossible to establish perfect and complete historical accuracy, we have nonetheless adopted an evidence-based historically informed approach in our interpretation and reconstruction of classical gongfucha. This of course entails more than just tangible objects, but such objects are intrinsic to an authentic interpretation, understood as a working set of parameters defined and laid down by extant literature on the subject.
Using materials dating from the reign of Wanli up to the mid-20th century — as well as speaking and learning from experts who have also conferred with contemporary leading authorities — we are able to piece together how classical gongfucha was practiced. The difficulty, however, is in capturing the “spirit” behind the practice, which is much harder to convey through words and images.
Luminaries in the field have shown us unmerited favour by highlighting some matters that previously did not occur to us. To them we are eternally indebted, for it is on their great stature that we are lifted up.
Covfefe leads to a fun little oddity: Here’s a pair of neiziwaihong xishi/bianpu (西施/扁蒲) turned out by F1 around the same period, but the one on the right sneaked through production and escaped without being branded with the「中國宜興」seal.
This probably happened more often than we think!
After seeing the gaiwan, @anmo_art_cha said I’d probably need baby cups. #ChallengeAccepted.
On a more serious note though, these lilliputian douqing cups are more suited for drinking wine rather than tea.
@soiwatter, just thought you might be interested in seeing the size of the cups I use with the gaiwan! It’s just about ideal for three small cups.
Among the finds on our recent trip is an extremely modest batch of this dink of a gaiwan. We grabbed whatever we could, and we’re chuffed that they now assume a major supporting role at our intimate tastings!
I have zero resistance when it comes to accessories that look rough, rustic, and weathered. This silver bangle from @thepolskatraveller is totally my kinda thing — it’s warped, it has holes in it, and it’s got various shades of pink, blue, and purple as the patina continues to develop. And it fits nicely with my personal tea aesthetic! Head over heels with the details up close.
The「荊溪南孟臣製」seal appears on pots from the 1940s up until the 1960s. Some experts maintain that although the clay used during this period originated from the same ore site, pots from the 40s typically contained a higher percentage of shihuang 石黃 (which, depending on who you ask, yields zhuni), whilst those of the 50s and 60s exhibited considerably finer workmanship. In the case of the pot pictured here, observable traits suggest that this was made in the 50s/60s (personally I’m leaning towards the latter).
If Apple made a tea-brewing vessel, would they call it the iPot?
This 黑蘋果 black apple — as it is colloquially known — dates from the 60s. I’ve been wanting a black (or dark-coloured) pot to match a few black-glazed jianzhan/tenmoku tea bowls, and I didn’t really want to settle for the black apples of the 70s/80s (mostly because I don’t like the clay on those), so this pretty much fits the bill.
That said, it’s pretty clear from the photos that, despite its name, this pot isn’t really black, but a very dark chocolate/mocha instead — it’s 紫泥 zini after all, which I prefer over the 黑泥 black clays in later productions.
Whisked tea, based on the practice and customs of the southern Song. Complete historical accuracy is unfortunately not attainable, but in the teaware and method used, we strive to get as close as possible to the real thing.
@bo_fei_li, as you requested: A side view of the LQER hongni pot!
A hongni pot from the late-Qing/early-ROC, which I’ve used exclusively for brewing yancha. I must admit that I mostly prefer zhuni over hongni (of the same era), although on a few occasions this has shown to outperform the Qing/ROC zhuni pots, which I provisionally deduce has to do with the style and age of the tea. Anyway for what it’s worth, this pot has never been a letdown, and in a certain sense has been relatively more forgiving than a few of its contemporaries.
Pardon the terrible photos — the lighting and environment really weren’t by any means conducive — but this pu’er is touted to be a piece of Hong Tai Chang 鴻泰昌 from the 1960s, and therefore every bit worth a closer look.
As far as provenance goes, there‘s little to dispute its veracity and the authenticity of this tea. The first brew opens with a nose of dark wood and cooked fruits, leading to a richly textured palate that evokes chestnut and dried fig before rounding out on a bitter almond finish. Subsequent brews displayed similar characteristics, and by the eighth or ninth brew it pretty much gave up the ghost.
Much could be said about this pu’er, so it’s a bit of a shame that it has (unavoidably) seen some less-than-immaculate storage conditions, but that perhaps is a minor quibble in the grand scheme of what this tea has to offer.
It’s astonishing how quickly the Yuan Yi He 袁義和 pot takes on a gorgeous, gorgeous sheen, considering it’s been used fewer than 20 times the past month (after “resetting” the pot and starting ”anew”). The pot has seen nothing but yancha, with which it has a natural affinity.
Late-Qing/early-ROC zhuni limao 笠帽 pot, but it seems fairly certain that this pot is more likely ROC than late-Qing, if the seal is anything to go by.
Song-style whisked tea. This time, I’m fairly happy with the stability and fineness of the foam!
Following up on the late-60s/early-70s flat base shuiping, here is a 60s 「荊溪惠孟臣製」version for comparison.