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.