August 12, 2010

Up for Air (Dong-Ding & More Teaware for Sale)

Wow, another two-month hiatus! The time has sure passed quickly. Music is again responsible for my retreat from the tea blogosphere; finishing recording, mixing, mastering and designing the album has taken nearly all of my spare time (and a large number of my sleep hours). It's been a good kind of busy, though. Very fulfilling and engaging on a level that few other things can match. I've still been drinking tea, of course, though I've been buying less of it in order to fund the upcoming CD release. I've also been keeping up on my favorite tea blogs, though after a few years of doing this it seems like summer is generally a slower period for tea blogging and tea vendor releases. A bit surprising, I guess, considering the summer is when almost all of the fresh tea is finally available! Maybe everyone is just too busy drinking to write.

Today I'll consider my most recent yixing purchase as well as one of the most recent tea purchases I made (all the way back in June!). The pot comes from Jing Tea Shop (who still has at least one identical pot still in stock). Good quality duan ni clay; ~100ml capacity. The lid opening is the largest out of any pot I've ever owned, which makes getting leaves in and out extremely easy. I don't recall seeing a lot of duan ni teapots around on blogs; though a fair number of vendors sell them, they aren't often lauded by consumers. Well I'm here today to do just that. I think people are often a bit worried by this clay's porosity. Yes, it is quite porous--usually not high-fired and with plenty of potential to draw something out of your tea. It's probably that characteristic that worries some people: "Well it'll just suck the flavor out of my tea." Yeah, maybe if you're using it with green gaoshan oolong or young sheng pu-erh. After a fair bit of experimentation, I've found this pot makes certain teas taste better than any other pot I own--teas where something NEEDS to be drawn out. For example, heavily charcoal roasted teas like Wuyi Yan Cha, Taiwanese oolongs like Muzha Tieguanyin, Dong-Ding, etc., or aged sheng and cooked pu-erh. In addition to merely rounding out the actual flavor of the tea, I find more porous clays can smooth and thicken the mouthfeel to an astounding degree.

However, pots like this do take some seasoning before performing at their best (probably another reason why people are a bit tentative about trying this type of clay). When I first started using it, this pot only brewed one tea ideally--a very heavily charcoal-baked Dong Ding that I'm saving for a couple of years. After some patient seasoning, though, this pot produces mouth-wateringly smooth, full-feeling sessions from most Dong-Dings and now expertly handles teas with higher floral notes like Muzha Tieguanyin and traditional roasted Anxi Tieguanyin. I won't lie--I had to sacrifice a couple of teas to the seasoning of this pot--in particular a decently machine-roasted competition Dong-Ding from Hou De, which was just a bit too green to overcome the porosity. All in the name of an awesome pot, though.

Needless to say, I've been drinking a whole lot of Dong-Ding lately. The aforementioned heavily charcoal-baked Dong-Ding and a less heavily charcoal roasted Dong-Ding both came from Floating Leaves Tea. Although I've been tea friends with Shiuwen for a couple of years, I haven't bought much tea from her because I consume very little of gaoshan oolongs like Baozhong, Lishan, etc., and those are her speciality. This spring, though, she bought some really tasty aged teas and small quantities of a few Dong-Dings. I apologize for being part of the reason that these teas never made it to her website! I'm hoping Shiuwen continues to expand into the arena of charcoal-roasted teas, because with her seasoned palate she picked some really good ones that exhibit both skilled roasting and solid tea bases. The lesser-roasted of the two gave me constant companionship through my final recording sessions--a week of 10-12 hour working days--so it's got a special place in my heart, not to mention some really solid seasoning for its pot. Those two teas and the success I had with my new duan ni pot inspired me to crack open a charcoal roasted Dong-Ding purchased from Hou De about a year and a half ago; unsurprisingly that one's now nearly gone!

Well, I owe a couple posts--one on a handful of tea samples that Stephane at Teamasters was kind enough to send me quite a while back, and another on the brand new Essence of Tea sheng pu-erh cakes that recently completed their long voyage from China to England and thence to Seattle. Until then, those interested can have a look at my TEAWARE FOR SALE page; it's time to thin out the tea shelf again and there are 3 very nice yixing pots available (one rather old) and 2 Xu De Jia cups (originally from Hou De). Best wishes, and I hope everyone is enjoying their respective summers. Weather in Seattle has been, to be blunt, piss-poor. Luckily, though, cool weather is better for tea drinking!