January 26, 2010

Good--New Acquisitions.

It had been about 4 months (not very long, but it seems like a long time) since I'd purchased any teaware. Sometimes impulses take over, though, and something has to be done.

These two pots came from Jing Tea Shop, one of my standby vendors. I love this seller because they've always had solid quality, but since I've started purchasing from them they've continued to get better--their Dancongs were really great this spring, they always have a good yen cha selection (now with lots more info for each tea), they often offer aged pu-erh, and they just recently added a "Xiao Pin" section to their yixing shop. Alright! Having spent some time dabbling in the expensive and baffling world of vintage and antique yixing, I actually now feel more confident purchasing recently-made yixing ware. The primary selling point for antique yixing is often clay quality. The most obvious example is zhuni, which is probably best bought as antique, in my opinion. With other clays, though, I've found that I can't detect as much difference between recent and old examples to make it worth the 3x or more price increase. What I've found is that volume capacity, lid fit, pour, and general performance are more important to me than age or a modicum of clay quality improvement. Even if a pot is Qing dynasty and gorgeous zhuni, if it's 200 ml and has a leaky lid, it'll drive me crazy and end up sitting on the shelf.

The first pot is an 80ml 1980's pin zi ni shui ping. What strikes me about this pot is the crispness of the edges. In hand it feels so sharp and precise. It operates flawlessly; quick pour, dripping only when vertical, and the lid hole doesn't get filled with water too easily. I also really like that the lid is completely flat; it'll be interesting to watch how it seasons differently from the other pots I have. Both pots have interesting chops--this one has a bunch of extra characters in addition to the central stamp, a style I haven't really seen before.

The second is a 2006 Ben Shan lu ni shui ping. It's actually the first really traditional-style shui ping I've owned, which is fun. The clay on this one is really cool--a deep forest green which, because of the "yao bian" intentional over-firing, has taken on a bit of a red tint on the outside and a much redder color on the inside. The color looks different depending on the type of light that's hitting the pot (you can see the difference even in the three pictures here); it looks really cool in sunlight, but unfortunately the clouds rolled in by the time these pictures were taken. This one is not quite as ideal operationally; though the lid fits very well, there's a bit of a drip when pouring. I don't mind screens in a yixing spout (especially for fragmented teas like pu-erh and yen cha), but I'm not entirely sold on the efficacy of a bubble/golf ball style; I think it might slow down the pour a bit and could contribute to leakage. If the biggest problem with a pot is a little stream running down the outside of the spout, I don't really mind too much, since I often just stick the pot into the fair cup to empty it. Another interesting chop--this one is dated. Since this one is dated 2006, it's pretty believable (who would forge a date on a 4 year-old pot?), but I wonder just how reliable this type of thing will be in 20 years...it seems like the forge-ability of the original artist's chop is still the issue.

Aside from the re-awakening of my pure collector's spirit, I've been looking for a back-up yen cha pot (aside: The pot that titles this blog, despite now being beautifully seasoned, has had a couple of injuries and now has a hairline crack in the lid. I'm heartbroken at the prospect that someday soon it might be unusable, but it's made me a lot of good tea) and a smaller pot for sheng pu-erh, so I've had fun over the past 2 days testing out teas in these pots. I don't usually detect a huge difference between clays, but these two pots have surprised me. Both produce a rounder mouthfeel than more dense clays, and the lu ni seems to soften and round the most. The high notes in the flavor are better-preserved by the pin zi ni, and the walls retain heat a bit better. I think either could make good yen cha or pu-erh, but the pin zi ni pot's faster pour will be more conducive to making yen cha. I'm going to spend some time seasoning the lu ni pot to see how its effects on flavor turn out, but I think it might have a future as a good aged sheng pot. Either way, I'm excited to have some well-working tender clay yixing pots back in my collection; up until now my most porous pots have been hong ni, which is only porous compared to zhu ni!


Maitre_Tea said...

so you were the mysterious person who quickly snatched up those pots from Jing Tea Shop!

I had overlooked Jing for a while as a source for pots since their selection was too large for my needs...then I was completely blind-sided by their selection of small pots! By the time I found myself enamored of that 80 ml 80s shui ping it had already been bought up!

This has only caution me to always exercise constant vigilance, especially since there are tons of yixing hounds out there

Bret said...

Those are really nice additions to your collection. Congratulations! I kinda like the ball type filters, my theory is that the ball shape helps to prevent any leaves laying flat against it (as in a flat filter so often does) Ive never noticed any clogging issues with the pots that I have with a ball filter. Im sure you got some nice teas to go along with your new pots so, enjoy.

Zero the Hero said...

I know what you mean. Up until last month it had been over a year since JingTS had even had a pot at a size I would use. The Xiao Pin shop is a business goldmine, in my opinion--Xiao Pin is what pretty much everyone wants; Hou De can't keep them in stock Nada/Essence of Tea sell out even when the pots are $500. I'm super excited to see that JTS is selling a really high-quality but affordable selection.

It is a bummer when pots sell out, but they've actually updated their selection a few times within the last month--I watched a couple batches of pots sell out before caving in to my weakness (there are at least 6 on their gallery that I might have bought if I hadn't been restraining myself). It's almost against anyone's best interest to draw more attention to the site...BUT--here's your saving grace--you can email them and set up a special order. You might even be able to find another of the exact same pot you missed out on (more on that and my sudden craven lack of willpower in a future post....what happened to my November resolve??).

You're probably right about the flat leaf problem. My pros and cons are as follows:

SINGLE HOLE: Can be bad for pellet oolongs; before they unfurl one can shoot into the spout and your brew is screwed unless you do something quick. Great for yen cha and pu-erh for the fast pour, usually rogue tea bits will just shoot out with the first couple of pours. The pour is fast and clogs way less than you'd think. The most hardcore option

FLAT FILTER: Medium fast pour, no real negatives (other than the flat leaf thing) except leaf bits will regularly get stuck and you'll have to tweeze them or wait until they dry. Not as badass as a single hole.

BALL FILTER: Already mentioned in this post my gripes, but it's real tough to clog them, and they'll keep almost all of the bits out, which isn't as hardcore. I think Imen at Tea Obsession thinks it's harder to get that "last drop" out with a ball filter, which she claims can ruin a pot of Dancong. I tend to be a bit more flexible on that issue, but I can see the logic. I WISH I got some nice teas...I went off the budget grid for the month with this one, so the pots were all I was allowed...