Wednesday, December 14, 2011

2006 ZhangPing Shui Xian

This morning I opened two new bags - first with tea I got some time ago from Chawangshop. Second one arrived yesterday - new charcoal as food for my "water heated on charcoal" project. Both tea as well as charcoal would deserve more space than this short post. I can promise that as my experiences with charcoal will grow I will happy to share with you more.

Zhangping Shui Xian is rather rare oolong tea. Maybe I was not looking dutifully but I know only about Life in Teacup where you can purchase such tea on the "west". Reading description on Chawangshop and going thru posts on blog of Life in Teacup you can come to know about origin of this interesting oolong. I have not tried it yet so I was exited to see what is inside the very nice package.
just wet fingers and ink is smudged...

I cut this five years old small square brick in half, and put it in to my 90ml teapot. It was maybe too much tea for it. I don't mind to drink strong tea. But as I was enjoing it in my cup I was aware that behind its full body there are covered fragrances. So next time, the second half of the "brick" will be cut again in to the half.

Although brews were strong, let's say powerful, there ware still many flowery and sweet, fruity scents. Roast of this tea is not so strong like with traditional Wui ShuiXian but you can still feel it. Probably those five years of age, created it the tea heavier hints of plums and dry apricots, which this tea has left in my mouth.

If I would like to sound romantic I could say that this tea reminds me "taste of old China". From its package, thru look of dry leaves to sweet aftertaste. But this is just my personal impression - what do I know about it? But it was pleasant mixture of misty, quiet morning and tea leaves what made my day. Hot water in my kettle was slowly gurgling - just one step to happiness. It is decent and interesting tea worth to try. The seller says that "this tea is very good for long term storage". Who knows? But even now there are signs of (semi)aged oolongs and that is good thing.

For those who are interested in to my new charcoal experience I have, for now, just few words and couple of pictures. I have tried few different charcoals and, till today, as the best work coconut briquettes. Today morning I used "single kind", high quality, Czech oak charcoal. Ok, producer labeled it as "high quality". But truth is that there are rather bigger, nice pieces and chunks. Charcoal is clean and without dust, which makes smoke and smells during burning.

For lighting it up I used gas burner. I leave charcoal in original, bigger pieces and I was afraid how it will work. After five minute on gas and another ten, waiting, if " the light up" was sufficient, I have my first cup in fifteen - twenty minutes. It was faster then I was hoping for!

 Having still enough hot water I have enjoyed six infusion for another forty five minutes. Everyone who uses charcoal for heating water for tea, talks about impact on quality of the tea itself. I like how it works! But I have to make the whole process of preparing charcoal, heating water and brewing tea more calm and get routine. Then I will be more free to see and feel how it improves my tea. For now I can say: It is way worth to be started.

Thank you for reading.

Note: To everyone who would like to learn about heating water by using charcoal fire I can recomment to read and stay tune to Mattcha's blog.

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Comparing two CNNP Shu from 2002

I find a comparing teas as good opportunity to learn. Few tea samples putted in to the line always strain my senses. I use to have troubles to assort my observations. Sometime when I received pile of samples I got lost - drinking them thru several days or even weeks brought to me many great and inspiring tea sessions but also some confusion. My gustative memory is not so perfect and it is not easy to compare tea in my cup with another which was there few days ago. So I have decided to create few, more or less the same, testing sets. I know about standard competition sets, of course. But for my nature, testing with those set was always somehow cold or too laboratory to me. So I have made an attempt to create an alternative.

Sets I have made are quite small...
Shibo can hold about 70-80ml of water...
 Created from technical porcelain and glazed just by Czech feldspar, those small shiboridashes and cups reflect fragrances in the way which makes me happy. Brews are softer then from most of hard, white porcelain competition sets I have tried. I have taken them out of the kiln in "tea arrival days". In days when couple of boxes with many teas in them have arrived to our doors. Great combination - I have used those testing sets many times since that !

Two teas, which have urged to be prepared next to each other, were from Gingo of Life in Teacup. Both are from 2002, both produced by CNNP. The 7581 brick is like old familiar friend to me. Like someone who I like and enjoy to be with. In the sample pouch was hidden its brother, piece of The Golden Brick. So let's put them next to each other...

Big difference between those brothers you can already find when looking on dry leaves. The French Export 7581 brick is made of bigger, thicker leaves and stems make it look wild or disheveled. The Golden Brick Shu fulfils its name - small leaves are nice looking and streaked by golden leaves.
The Golden Brick                                                             The 7581 French Export Brick                                                                                                                                  

The difference between leaves is even clearer on pictures of wet leaves. Dark, almost black 7581 compare to brown gold Golden Brick. Smelling to those wet leaves, I have found the basic personalities which went thru the tasting like a fiber. Lighter, fruity and flowery Golden Brick in one shiboridashi and more dry, woody - nutty, like green almonds fragrances of 7581 in the second one.

After first quick infusion...
The Golden Brick                                                             The 7581 French Export Brick     
After fifth infusion....
The Golden Brick                                                             The 7581 French Export Brick       

                                                                                                                                If this comparing should be a competition or race, then during first two infusions The Golden Brick was the leader. But as I said before, I knew what is inside of 7581! Leaves of The Golden Brick show its beauty - brews have full body and strong fragrances. My mind was still looking for names of flowers to link those fragrances with. Chrysanthemums? Honey orchids ? Very tasty, that is for sure.

As you can see here, colors of those teas in cups are very similar to each other. But not smells, tastes or mouthfeels...

 Cup with 7581 started to captivate more attention in second infusion. In third and later brews it become strong but smooth potion. Dry, woody mouth feel with green almonds tastes and long after taste. Hints of resin and forest flowers. On other hand The Golden Brick started to loose its power. Maybe it is just judgment originated from my personal love for character of 7581 brick. I can also imagine that there is a million tea lovers who will always pick The very nice Golden Brick. And I enjoyed it too. But my heart belongs to Shu from 2002 produced under CNNP and labeled as 7581 French Export.

Thank you for reading!

As addition I have released here one more (imperfect) picture of my new testing sets. Here with this year's shengs which I enjoyed yesterday, together with my friend. Tea and water, charcoal and teapot, cups and friendship...

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

The "French Autumn" sets II -after firing

We were again very busy in our studio and I couldn't found few minutes to take pictures of those new "French sets". Today I finally did it...

This post will be again more about pictures then about words. I hope you will enjoy them. Every question, observation or comment is welcome. For now just let me say that the French clay, which we have brought from our trip, is not only very nice to work with but also wonderful in the fire. I like the almost black -rusty color. But as I have expected it is not for the hottest parts of our kiln. We fire pretty high and also in quite strong reduction. And this combination is usually crucial for high iron clay bodies. We use several clays with similar iron base like this French one and we have to fire them in colder parts of our kiln. You will see on few pictures below what may happen if such clay is over fired in heavy reduction. It is walking on the edge...

Without glaze...

 Seeing pieces like this I often recall a Masakazu Kusakabe's exclamation during unlouding kiln with him " Look, look - such a wonderful crack! So natural"

Thank you for reading.

Monday, November 7, 2011

The "French Autumn" sets - part I.

Sharp reader of my blog has probably caught promise I have made here. I have mentioned my plan to share with you journey of the red stoneware clay from Dordogne River to our kiln. At first, I thought about to make few tests, then create few teapots and share with you the "best of" it. But then I realized that it could be interesting for some of you to see those first tea sets before firing. And so I dicided to show you those unfired pieces without knowing final results. Kiln has been lighted today and will be preheated overnight. The firing should end during tommorow night. Pictures, which you can see here I took (still with red fingers) a week ago.

If those cups will survive each will hold around 50ml of tea...

Here you can see drying white clay. I got chunk of this white clay together with the red one from Meyssac potter Laetitia. This one is kind of majolica clay (for low temperature) from Limoges region. I decided to use it as a white slip - an under glaze decoration. Dry clay has been crushed, than mixed with water and sieved thru very fine sieve.

Two teapots were "painted" with Limoges white clay. I left the third one "naked" - without slip and without glaze, just clay and fire.

No matter how many firings I already have done - pure excitement - I still like it.

Thank you for reading.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Misty morning with raw coin from 80'

Autumn is here, and it is getting already cold. We had white frost every morning last week. But today morning was a bit warmer. When I went out there was mist walking around and also some brave bird tried to sing. Being aware that this can be one of the last chances, I have took my tea table outside.

 With basic equipment and mist around I decided to open one of the treasure bags which arived from Taiwan a month ago.

Stephane Erler write to me this note: "The puerh coin is probably made of plantation buds. What's interesting is that they were stored inside a real bamboo stick. Nice packaging! Quite smooth, but by far not as powerful as the mid 80s loose raw puerh I've described recently. (I have only 1 coin left in my inventory!)"

Raw puerh which is about 25 years old is not common visitor in my cup. These, to coin shaped leaves, are brown, small with very light flowery scents. Pressing is rather strong and I was glad to realized how it fits to my small yixing pot.

First quick infusion (after one rinse brew) was very light, alive and pure in my mouth. I have put lid on the side and sniffed a bit. When steam reached my nose I smiled. It is like start to read a new book and after first page you know- I am going to enjoy this adventure. Scents of nuts mixed with resin and woods are intense and force me do sniff again and again. This repeat after each infusion but after fifth it getting to be more subtle. And I started to believe to my mind which found there also fragrances of sweet flowers. I found the complex of fragrances surprisingly similar to scents I know from much younger LiuBao I have.

Second brew was already full bodied and also darker in color. Mouth fell is rounded and smooth. On taste profile participate tints of coffee chocolate.

...and fourth cup
After six infusions I have taken a break. Energize but calm I went to studio to get back to this tea during evening. 

The boiling teapot still works...
This tea fits to autumn colors and moods very well. I also feel that drinking and learning from really aged, mature teas is quite important. Important for me as someone who like puehr tea and who would like to make my tea sessions deeper. It is good to have the experience to know where our young teas can go. I always become aware that the magic of good aged puehr tea is not in its look, taste, smells or mouth feel. All of this can be great but there is something more why we love it.

Have a sun in your cups, no matter how misty or rainy your morning is!

Thank you for reading.