About Me

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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, September 19, 2009

The End of a Phase

As of today, I've reached a crucial point in my tea journey. I finally have a dedicated yixing for every tea I drink on a regular basis (at least once every two days). It might be surprising to some that it's taken me this long (a whole year into the journey!) but I've made some bad tea-ware purchases along the way. Well, not bad per se, but just not good in the long run. I had thought that shape = most important factor, but I think now I'm beginning to think that clay is more important.

I've also learned that matching teapots to teas is mostly a personal thing, but as a result of many personal experiments, here's what I like: for roasted/harsher teas I like to have a softer, more non-porous clay such as Zi Ni. Softer clays round out these roasted/harsh notes that I don't really enjoy in excessive amounts. Duan Ni, in my opinion, can sometimes be too rounding, and should be reserved for the really roasted/harsh stuff. For more lighter roasted or delicate teas, I like to use a more non-porous clay, such as Zhu Ni or Hong Ni. I do this because non-porous clays bring out the "sharp" flavors of a tea. This is just what I like, and you're free to do whatever you want. I've actually "broken" some of these rules myself.

Here's a photo of the family:

From left to right, from top to bottom, these pots will labeled as 1 - 6
  1. Chao Zhou Pot: 120 ml, from Tea Habitat: I bought this about two months ago, and I've been using it for (surprise surprise) Dan Cong. Even though Imen recommends multiple CZ pots for the different types of Dan Cong out there...I don't drink enough Dan Cong to justify multiple Dan Cong pots. I might upgrade to one of the more expensive Wu pots, at which point this will be dedicated to young Sheng Pu'er. Some hairline cracks have developed at the bottom of the pot, but so far these cracks are only on the outside, so I'm trying to be a little more cautious with this one...Very thin walls, excellent lid fit, and a fast-medium pour.
  2. Modern Zhu Ni/Hong Ni Pot: 130 ml, from The Tea Gallery: I bought this a month ago, and it's first purpose was to be filled with medium/light roast yancha. It's now been dedicated to lighter balled-up oolong, and it's done wonderfully. I love Shui Ping, and I immediately had to buy this one out of all the ones Winnie showed me. The clay is very high-fired, and it has the best sounds of all my pots. It sounds closest to the Early R.O.C. Zhu Ni in this video here, courtesy of Guang from Hou De. It's a contemporary pot, and it was made on special order by Bill Lee from China Flair Tea. A very fast pour and excellent lid fit. Balances perfectly on water w/lid on.
  3. Late 70s/Early 80s Sand-Blended Zhu Ni: 100 ml, from Hou De. My newest purchase, which just arrived today. Even though I haven't used it yet, it's going to be dedicated to light roasted yancha. I was looking for a pot for light roasted balled-up oolong, but I realized that the Shui Ping would be perfect for that, and this would be perfect for light roast yancha. Even though this is my first "authentic" Zhu Ni piece, it's sand-blended so maybe it doesn't count. I theorize that the sand-blended nature, which increases porosity (?) would help soften (just a little little bit) the roast, while the Zhu Ni portion would help protect the flavor/aroma. It has very thick walls, and a pretty thick base as well, which is also perfect for keeping in heat.
  4. 90s Zi Ni: 80 ml, from Nada. My newest purchase also, also arrived today (daily double for me!), will be dedicated to high fired balled oolong. The previous pot I had dedicated to high fired oolong was also a Zi Ni. Why did I decide to change it? Well, the pot was cumbersome to pour (for me at least), and it wasn't really easy on the eyes. The lid fit is excellent, and the pour is medium-slow, but that's fine for me. I love the silver lining on the lid and spout. It's as if the pot is "pimped-out." Very thick walls too, and quite solid/heavy for its size.
  5. 80s/90s (?) Pin Zi Ni (?): around 80 ml, fished from my grandmother's house in Taiwan. It seems to be an authentic piece from Zisha Factory #1, since the potter's name is stamped under the lid. The clay is very soft, and maybe it's just me, but it seems quick to absorb tea oils. The lid is kind of loose and there's a chip on the lid (not my fault, but my grandmother's). This is probably one of my favorite teapots, sees usage at least once a day. It's dedicated to medium-fired balled oolong. The clay, while not high-fired, seems more high-fired than #4, and this has been "proven" with personal experimentation. Balance is very good, would be perfect if there weren't a chip on the lid, IMO.
  6. 00's Zi Ni (?): around 120 ml, from Ching China Cha in Washington D.C. My second tea-ware purchase, I actually haven't used this until the last few months. I had originally used it for Dan Cong, but between the thick walls and something...it just didn't brew right. I had it sit in the corner, thinking that it would be dedicated to Sheng Pu'er when I start getting into that. I tried it (on a whim) with high-fired yancha, and it did very well. I had previously used a Duan Ni pot with high fired yancha, but the Duan Ni rounded out the flavors a little too much, IMO. It's got thick walls and excellent lid fit. Surprisingly, the lid between this and #2 are interchangeable, and the fit is perfect too! The heaviest of all my pots, it looks like a modified version of the classic Shi Piao shape. I like to call it "the tank."
And actually, this is a distant cousin of the family. He's a little weird and shy...so he had to take a picture by himself:

This is the one pot that I don't use on a regular basis. I bought it from Yunnan Sourcing about a year ago, and I've been drinking shu pu'er with it. I drink shu pu'er with my meals, so this fits with that perfectly. The clay is now a nice dark color, and the pour/lid fit is really nice as well. It's one of the cheapest pots I have (if you count the slip-cast knock-offs I bought from China), and it exceeds well beyond its price. I think if you want to buy a good modern pot at excellent prices, you can't go wrong with Yunnan Sourcing.

I don't have the kind of money or space to be a collector of pots yet, so this is it for me for the time being. I don't like making tea-ware purchases unless they fill a void that exists or it's a noticeable improvement on what I have now. So maybe in the late future I'll buy more pots, but I like to focus on raising a few pots than having to juggle between tons of other pots. I might pick up a pot or two for aged oolong, but I don't have much experience with that yet, so it can wait.

I recently decided that the CZ clay was too stifling on my DC, so it's been re-allocated for young sheng pu'er. I decided that it's too complicated (IMO) to have two pots for wuyi, so the ZiNi pot is now dedicated to whatever aged sheng I happen to come by...

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