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I embarked on my tea journey when I studied abroad in China in 2008 and traveled around Taiwan that summer. I'm here to share my experiences and offer my own opinion, advice, and comments on tea.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Dedicating Yixing

Although I’ve heard tons of interesting theories as to which clay types/teapot shapes are best for what tea, some of which I agree with; however, I think the only postulate in this process is testing a pot out with different types of tea. The method I use originated from the folks over at The Tea Gallery, which I heard second-hand somewhere

  1. Pre-heat a yixing teapot (or two, if you’re doing a triple comparison) to account for any temperature differences.
  2. Brew 3 infusions gong fu style (I usually brew like six so I can do more comparisons if needed) using a gaiwan
  3. Pour the tea into the yixing teapot(s), removing the pre-heated water of course, and save some of the original to serve as a “control” (this isn’t exactly a control, but it’s the most neutral).
  4. After leaving the tea in the yixing teapot(s) for about a minute or so, and pour it into separate fair cups.
  5. Taste each one, and compare. I personally like to drink some water between each sample to clear the taste in my mouth.

So instead of enjoying my tea, I am doing this taste pretty much every day, trying to see which teapot is better for which tea. My friend WY let me borrow this shui ping hu.

there's something sexy about the water level-ness of shui ping

He’s pretty certain that it’s a fake, but if it is it’s a pretty good one. It has a pretty nice pour, and it even has good floating balance on water. The clay seems pretty high-fired, maybe some kind of Hong Ni IMO. The walls are medium-thick, and it seems pretty durable.

So maybe not completely balanced on water, but still better than sinking.

I thought it would go well with lighter high mountain balled Oolong, because the less-porous clay would protect the aroma better. Comparing with a gaiwan, the aroma seemed a little better, but what I noticed the most was the improved mouth-feel coming from the yixing. It’s pretty hard to differentiate between the two; it’s enough for me to only say which one is better. If you ask me why, I’d probably be a little hard-pressed.

Even though it did well with greener oolong, I thought the thicker walls might make it suitable for medium roasted oolong or lighter roasted Wuyi. For medium-roasted oolong I compared between the Hong Ni, a gaiwan and a Lin’s Purion, while for the lighter roasted Wuyi I compared between the Hong Ni, a Zi Ni and a Gaiwan. The Hong Ni failed all of these tests, so I think I’m pretty set on dedicating this to greener oolong, until I find my own, “authentic” Zhu Ni pot for green oolong and I can return this back to WY.

Of course, this presents a conundrum for my most recent acquisition, a 130 ml Hong-Ni/Zhu Ni mixture (I think), very thin and high fired shui ping from The Tea Gallery. It hasn’t arrived yet, but hopefully it’ll be here by Saturday…just in time for extensive tests. I had bought this pot with the expectation of using it with lighter roasted Wuyi, but judging from the results from WY’s shui ping, the results may not be favorable.

The Wuyi I used for the Hong Ni was more of a medium roast, but I ordered some of The Tea Gallery’s Bai Ji Guan (quite possibly one of my favorite Wuyi) so hopefully it’ll work out. If not, I might just dedicate this pot to greener oolong, and just stick to my Zi Ni pot for all my Wuyi, heavy to light roasted. (There aren’t too many light roasted Wuyi, are there? I wonder if it’s even worth it to dedicate a separate pot to it).

Anyway, the testing continues…


Zero the Hero said...

I'd say that there are plenty of lightly-roasted Wuyi oolongs out there--a number of the teas Jing Tea Shop is selling right now have a lighter roast (Fo Shou, Competition Shui Xian, Bai Ji Guan of course), and Seven Cups offers many different choices--their selection of Wuyi yen cha are conveniently labeled with roast level. It's almost getting to the point where I'm a bit worried that fashion is changing and more heavily-roasted teas are going out of style (like what's happened in Taiwan), which would be a real shame.

Maitre_Tea said...

I find it ironic, because I lament the light roast trend when it comes to balled up Oolong, esp. in Taiwan, while I'm eager to explore lighter roast in my Wuyi teas.

I'm hoping that Taiwan Wuyi (medium roast style, see Floating Leaves) is as light as it gets...because if it gets any lighter, it's going to be the mainland answer to BaoZhong.I think that a heavier roasting is the signature style of Wuyi, and hopefully that's the one tradition that they don't violate.

PS: I recently found your blog, and I'm kicking myself for not finding it sooner...because I missed the one pot I wanted from your garage sale. >.<

Zero the Hero said...

I know what you mean regarding Taiwanese oolongs--I've talked with Shiuwen at Floating Leaves many times about the issue. I've also drank the Taiwan Wuyi with here a few times; I'd say it's Wuyi only in cultivar, really. The Taiwanese processing renders it pretty much completely different from any Yen Cha, at least to my palate.

About a year ago I was really excited to explore lighter-roasted Wuyi Yen Cha too. After trying quite a number from a broad range of vendors, I've tasted some delicious teas and learned a lot about roasting and cultivar characteristics, but in the end I still lust after more traditional roasting--not overly-baked, just enough to get a nice red liquor and an aroma and flavor with equal parts tea and roast. I think one thing I noticed after trying a lot of lighter-roast Yen Cha is that many of them end up tasting quite similar--very sweet, honeyed, a bit floral, cereal grain-like, maybe even a bit creamy, but not too different from one tea to the next.

Thanks for the blog mention--I just added you to my blogroll. Sorry about the pot; there was quite a bit of interest in the ROC pot. I'm not sure why (maybe because the price is slightly higher), but no one seems interested in the Wen Ga-era zini pot; the clay is noticeably better than the ROC pot, and the lid fit/pour/finishing workmanship is on par with the other pot (not perfect, but very useable). Go figure.

By the by, I read your post about testing yixing clay types by brewing in a gaiwan--I'll have to try that. Give me a few days, I'll have to post about it! Like your blog a lot.