February 16, 2011

This is your pot--on tea.

Lately I've been enjoying watching my teapots accumulate patina--it's the perfect hobby for a lazy nogoodnick like myself.  Here's some photojournalism with the help of a long-overdue new camera.  Yippee for close-ups!


This is my newer hei ni pot.  I've been using it for aged oolongs.  The shape is accommodating for just about any tea and the pour is great.  In my experience, hei ni, despite being classified as a tender clay, tends to brew pretty bitter greener oolongs, so it's a better match for something that's mellowed with a diminishing roast, or an oxidized low-roast oolong with little remaining bitterness.  I've been enjoying a light pot of aged oolong in the afternoons as I haven't been drinking a whole lot of tea during that part of the day.


One of my favorite features of this shi piao is the bottom--it's ever so slightly concave, with slightly rounded edges.  It feels great in-hand.



I've been using this pin zi ni pot for yancha for just over a year now, and it's certainly showing its use.  My unstated goal with this pot has been to get it as filthy as possible--I don't pour much tea over the top of my pots, but it definitely shows where the tea drips.  The tea stains are obvious, but what's pretty interesting is how the overall color begins to darken over time.  The only polishing I occasionally do is to gently rub off the water mineral deposits that build up around the opening and spout.


One of the enduring mysteries of yixing has been the accumulation of patina on the lid skirt--for some reason it builds up fastest there, to the point that it's completely covered, then the thick patina will start to come off in patches as you can see above.  It's already happened to several of my pots.  Is it friction?  The thick patina getting looser when the hot tea contacts it?  Who knows why?  Surely not I.


The inside of the pot seems to build patina at a much slower rate--the inside of the lid here shows graded evidence of patina, and the more-difficult-to-photograph interior is somewhere around that color.  It's hard to believe the photos I took when the pot arrived are even the same pot--it looks like plastic!  Hopefully I'll be able to hold off breaking this pot for a while so I can see just how dark it'll get.  It still makes great tea.


Here's another one I've been using heavily for quite a while.  It's about in that phase where the skirt is covered in patina.  We'll see if it starts to come off like the others.  This pot also makes awesome tea--roasted Taiwan oolong, especially Dong Ding.  I can tell that the more porous duan ni clay soaks up the patina more than hard clays, and the seasoning has resulted in more balanced brews.  The mouth feel is still velvety.


The bottom of this pot is flat, so there's some interesting build-up there too.  The huge lid doesn't fit too tightly, so there's some nice drip trails between the lid and spout and down the spout.  It seems like the more porous clay types tend to actually soak up the tea more than have it pile on top.  I feel like if I tried to polish this pot, the darkened areas would stay dark, but on a zhu ni pot the patina would probably just come off.  At the time of this writing, Jing Tea Shop still has one of these pots in stock...somebody's going to be happy.

Even when tea life isn't too exciting, there's still fun to be had watching the daily brews leave their marks.  You may have noticed I'm no longer posting under a pen name.  Don't get me wrong, I still love Gong, but I've decided to consolidate my blogging endeavors for convenience--my music blog is in the blogroll now if you're interested in checking it out.  I also work and blog for Seattle's Miro Tea, so it should probably be said that this blog is about my personal tea explorations and isn't affiliated with the store.  Plus, the idea of a blog pseudonym is a little ridiculous and paranoid anyway--there's not too much reason to worry about privacy violations (please request copies of my birth certificate and/or social security card in post comments) unless of course you're planning a group gathering in downtown Tehran.  Happy tea drinking...I'll hopefully be back soon with a rundown on two new traditional yan cha from Jing Tea Shop.

Elliot

4 comments:

Anonymous said...

Elliot,
How do you get such a strong patina so quickly? When you are done with a pot for the day do you rinse it with water or just leave it as is after removing the leaves? Does the tea/leaf end up sitting in the pot for several hours each time you use it?
TokyoB

Sir William of the Leaf said...

What kind of camera did you get?
And I am envious of your teapots! They are turning out fantastic! I am hoping my teapots develop such a wonderful patina as yours!

Philippe de Bordeaux said...

What a pleasure to see again your beautiful photos, and ustensils such as these teapots.

See you soon.

Best Regard.

. PHILIPPE .

Elliot Knapp said...

TokyoB,
I don't think I'm doing anything specific to build up patina quicker than usual--I think it's more an issue of regular use. I use the yancha pot probably 5 times per week and the dong ding pot probably about the same number of times--they're my most-used pots, so they've got a lot more patina than, say, the zhu ni that I use for gaoshan oolong. I think it also helps that I mostly make roasted oolong and pu-erh. The darker the liquor, the darker and quicker the patina goes on. In answer to your specific question, though, I probably do a mixture of all 3: I often rinse the pot with hot water, but depending on just how lazy I'm feeling I might dump the leaves right after the last steep (if the pot's hot the remaining tea evaporates pretty quickly), or I even might accidentally leave the spent leaves in there for a while...you have to be careful, though--any more than a few days and mold will start growing. I learned that lesson quite a while ago. There are a lot of theories on how to season pots and I don't know if anyone really knows for sure how it actually works. A theory I've often thought about is that anywhere where tea liquor contacts the clay and evaporates will build up faster--that would explain the drip areas, lid skirt (the tea evaporates numerous times during a session as the hot lid is removed) and why the inside of the pot takes longer. Really, though, I have no idea and my rule of thumb is to just use the pot regularly and let seasoning happen naturally.

Billy,
Thanks for stopping by--glad to see your blog is still rolling along! I got a Canon Rebel XS--it's the most basic Canon DSLR but great for my less-than-novice skill level and needs. Don't worry about your pots' patina--just keep using them and it'll happen all by itself. Do you have any older pics of your most-used pots? I'll bet you can already tell a pretty big difference even if you don't feel like the pot's extremely seasoned.

Philippe,
Thanks for stopping by. You've got some great tea photos yourself!