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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.

Saturday, August 15, 2009

Wen Xiang Bei

Hobbes has an excellent article here on wenxiangbei (smell aroma cup), which I first stumbled across when I was looking over Tea Nerd's tea ware guide here. I had come across wenxiangbei when I was sampling tea in Taiwan, and I fell in love with the practice. I like to judge food/drink by smell, because touching doesn't really do anything (and for drinks it's a social faux-pax), and if you taste something bad...well, it takes time to spit it out. If something smells bad, you can immediately turn away. Anyway, that's not the point here...

I told myself that I would buy a set of wenxiangbei, but more "important" purchases came in the way: tea ware, tea, even more tea ware. I was serving tea to my mom and grandmother, and in force of habit, after I poured the tea liquor into the faircup, I took it up to my nose and sniffed. My mother looked a bit appalled, saying that it looks out-of-place and would be impolite in front of company. I told her I did this because I didn't have any wenxiangbei. She said, "oh, I think grandfather left a set up in the attic."

I love being part of a Taiwanese family, especially one with a tea-drinking grandfather. It means free tea-related stuff for me!

I'm not usually a fan of blue and white porcelain, but I like this because it's very subtle and simple in design

Painted with standard blue-and-white motifs, the porcelain is quite translucent. If I hold it with cup facing me, I can see a faint outline of the painted chop on the other side. I've been using my porcelain-lined Zisha cups, but I like these much better. They display the tea's color so much better.
This is a terrible picture, it's actually more translucent than I make it seem

My Sencha looks more vibrantly green than it usually does. I love the concentrated aroma from it, and I'm able to pick up some of the higher notes (beidixiang "cup bottom scent") which were often elusive to me beforehand. I'm particularly fond of longer-lasting scent of lengxiang ("cold scent") which happens when the wenxiangbei cools down. I read a hypothesis someone put forth that the beidixiang is the water-soluble particles, while lengxiang is the water-insoluble particles, which might include things such as essential oils. I think I agree with this theory.

Anyway, I've been practicing the motions of using the wenxiangbei. Is it considered improper if I use two hands when flipping it? I can do it with one hand but it looks clumsily awkward. I thought I would grow tired of using wenxiangbei after a while, but after a week I'm still loving the ritual of it all.

On another note, I just received some of Just4Tea's roasted TGY, which I was thrilled to trade for via TeaChat. I had actually wanted to buy some myself, but when the opportunity came up I swooped in on the offer. I'll write a comparison review later, but The Tea Gallery's Classic Roast TGY wins...hands down (but the Just4Tea version puts up a nice fight for the price)

*Note* I just realized that I really need a few of those wooden tablets to hold these things...hmmmm


Bret said...

If I were you I,d be tearing the attic apart looking for more treasures. Very cool set of cups you got there. If you were to buy them it would probably cost a pretty penny.

Salsero said...

You are soooo lucky, even if your grandma does use your wuyi teapot for Taiwan oolong once in a while!

Steven Knoerr said...

I just purchased a couple wenxiangbei myself, and I'm sure I'll buy more as finances allow.

And on the found treasures front: as an inheritance, I have a bunch of very old (and some, not so old) teacups that were collected by my German forebears, as well as a hundred-year-old Japanese porcelain teapot. I use the teapot pretty regularly, but the teacups, not so much. They're quite "girly," and just don't fit the aesthetic of the tea I'm drinking. However, on occasion, when parents come over, I yank them out for company.

I'll have to go through them and find the box where I found one cool thing: an unusual teacup that was very well used by a great-great grandmother.

Lovely post, and I'm happy to be reading your blog now.

Anonymous said...

Pretty sure the photos I've seen of these sets shows a single handed smooth but quick flip to turn it over.

Lovely sampling set. Lucky you!