Saturday, April 27, 2013

2006 Xinghai Green Peacock Ripe Cake

I only bought one pu erh tea cake this year (no typo error).  A local purchase, this is the 2006 Xinghai Green Peacock ripe cake.  For my readers who had been following my blog, I would at this time of the year be overseas and would have returned with a luggage of tea.  The recent bird flu in China, had me 'chickened out' from traveling to China.  I am glad that my China friends are ok and are taking the necessary precautions to be safe.  I look forward to a tea trip this year, hopefully soon.

I am not being pompous by saying that I prefer to buy my tea overseas than in Singapore.  Let me explain -  Chinese tea drinking culture in Singapore is small.  A couple of Chinese tea shops do ply their trade locally but the selection of pu erh tea and higher end oolongs are extremely limited in choice, and the prices of tea are much higher (standard of living in Singapore is among the highest in the world).  Travelling overseas to Kuala Lumpur, Hong Kong, Taiwan and mainland China gives me a wider selection and lower prices due to competition.  I can also enjoy the passion of the Chinese tea drinkers and get to share their experiences and stories about Chinese tea.  

Xinghai tea factory's pu erh are regarded as 'traditionally' made as I was told...... the owners of Xinghai tea factory believed in the old school of producing pu erh tea.  I had consumed a Xinghai cake in 2011 (see blog) and had remembered good things about the tea.

This 2006 ripe cake brews a pretty strong tea.  I would suggest using 7-8g on a 180-200ml teapot.  The tea is aromatic and has a nice hint of a sweet finish.  I had a satisfying tea session as I realized I finished my tea session (about 6 infusions) quite quickly whenever I brew this tea.  If you are a ripe pu erh tea drinker, buying a cake from Xinghai tea factory may be a very good idea.  

Sunday, April 21, 2013

Seasoning a Yixing teapot

New Yixing teapots must be cleaned and seasoned.  Why?  Can't you use the teapot immediately after you have brought it home from a teashop?

Here are the main reasons :

a)  teapot might be dirty -  obviously sediments, oil residues, or even insects might be found in your teapot.  It is possible that your teapot had been on display for a considerable long time before you had purchase it.  So a general cleaning or sterilization of the teapot might be in order.  Some of my teapot collector friends who purchased used teapots, will usually season the teapot again - like a recalibration.

b)  teapot has a smell -  I do not think your new teapot smell because of the clay.  You must remember that your teapot does absorbs smells easily and these scents may be difficult to remove.  It is common that your new teapot had 'caught' the scent of the firing may smell horrid but should clear up with a proper seasoning session.  Your teapot may smell musty due to its storage conditions.  Shaking your head with disbelief?  Try putting a piece of garlic in your teapot for a week......No don't do that.....You will have a garlic scented teapot.

The main reason is that the tea taste better when you brew tea in a Yixing teapot -  I cannot explain the scientific reasons.....or any non-scientific reasons.  The tea just taste better.  Perhaps that is why serious testing of tea in teashops or tea competitions use only white porcelain bowls and gaiwans to brew and sample the tea.

I season my teapot 1st by brushing the teapot with a used toothbrush under running water, then placing the teapot and its cover in a clean pot of water (a liter of water) and then boiling it under a small fire for an hour.  I repeat this boiling process but include tea leaves in the water (about 20-30g).  The tea leaves used will depend on the type of tea I want to use for the teapot.  If its ripe pu, then I add ripe puerh leaves in the pot.  Rinse, air dry the teapot and it is ready for use.  Why this method of teapot seasoning?  I vaguely recalled a teapot collector teaching me this seasoning method.  He emphasized that the 2nd time of boiling the teapot with tea leaves was very important as the interior of the teapot will be coated with tea for the 1st it a base coat.  Finally, a good rub, with a dry cloth or just your thumb, on the exterior of the teapot (after every use or weekly) would help make your teapot develop a nice shiny sheen.

I also discovered an ingenious seasoning method during my travels in Guangzhou.  One of my popular teashops I visited in Guangzhou was letting me try a tea when I noticed they used a teapot as a tea jar (instead of a regular porcelain tea jar) to dispense the tea into teacups.  Normally, this teashop would brew their tea in a teapot, pour out the tea through a filter into a porcelain
 tea jar, then finally pouring the tea out into teacups.  I was told this was an easy method to season a teapot instead of the boiling method I mentioned above.  What this teashop did was - clean out the teapot with a brush under running water, then use the teapot as a serving jar.  When the customer had left or had enough of the tea, the final brew may be poured over the exterior of this teapot. This process was repeated for about 1-2 weeks before the teapot was considered 'seasoned'.  If it is for raw pu erh tea, this teapot was only used when raw pu erh is being sampled. 

There is no 'standard' technique of seasoning a Yixing teapot.  I have even seen a pure steaming method - teapot is steamed for a couple of hours.  I would advise against using detergents or any strong chemical agents that may cause your teapot to smell unpleasant.  Happy seasoning !!!

Thursday, April 11, 2013

"Yi Tiao Long" - Dragon teapots

Produced in the 1980s, this is the 12 teapot dragon set known as 'Yi Tiao Long' - literally meaning one whole dragon.  These teapots were produced in China and came in either red or black clay.  I only have the 'black clay' version ones.

This 12 teapot set is interesting in that this 12 teapot set came in sizes from small to large.  Smallest size is about 20-25ml while the largest teapot can hold about 200ml of tea.  No.....the set is not made of of 12 different size teapots but I could detect (by just looking) about 8-9 different sized teapots in a each set - meaning there are a few duplicate sized teapots in each set.  (hehe....I have a few sets).

And.....the teapots only came in one design.  Traditionally called 'shui ping hu', which literally means water container or pot, this design was popular back then and even today.  This design is very visually appealing but I would like to warn my readers that such teapot design can be quite delicate to maintain as a tiny knock on the spout of a 'shui ping hu' teapot can  easily caused a chip to the mouth of the spout.    Last 2 pix shows the chop marks 'Zhong Guo Yi Xing' - translated as China Yixing.  All the pix shown above are the dragon teapots which are unused and 'new' in box.

I had also observed that the quality of the teapot in general was good.  Let me explain.  For Chinese tea drinkers who use teapots for their brewing, buying and using a teapot is very important.  Chinese teapot collectors are even more particular, paying attention to things like straight line alignment of the teapot from handle to spout (if you look at the teapot from a top view), the fitting of the teapot cover and the overall finish.  This 'Yi Tiao Long' teapot set is generally acceptable but I did observed that this teapot set does not have that 'collectible' finish of new teapots today.  It is slightly more rough in the finish, a less refined feel.  My guess is that these dragon teapot sets were manufactured and sold to the tea drinker for tea brewing in the 1980s, where teapot collection as a hobby was not the rage then.

The highlight of this "Yi Tiao Long' teapot set is the clay.  As I only own the black clay versions, I found that this black clay was very pretty, in that the teapot develops a beautiful sheen after a few sessions of brewing.  I had also noticed that the teapot literally sparkle, like there were bits of diamonds in the clay (yes...I wish), but I was told these were minerals that were found in the black clay.  Holding this teapot under a light..... the 'diamonds' on the teapot.....a happy sparkling exercise .  

Time to season a teapot.