History, One Cup at a Time

Another bless­ing shared by tea lovers is the rich his­tory that has been handed down to us by our predecessors.

It is trans­mit­ted in the form of rit­u­als, writ­ings, and trea­sured objects that have been pre­served for our present enrich­ment, and to be passed down yet again.

In some cir­cles, the high­est form of tan­gi­ble tea his­tory is said to be the Ido chawan.

The Ido story begins in Korea, where pot­ters made these rus­tic bowls for every­day use. Many say they were intended as rice bowls. The wheel-thrown shapes were rough; often uneven or show­ing fin­ger marks.

Another sign of their hum­ble begin­nings are the wads of clay in the cen­ter of the bowl. This tech­nique was used to stack sev­eral tea bowls together in order to fire a larger load, with­out allow­ing the glaze on the piled bowls to fuse together.

It is not clear when this style of pot­tery first became known in Japan, but by the time of Sen no Rikyu and his dis­ci­ples, the bowls were touted as among the purest expres­sion of their wabi esthetic, and highly prized by both the tea men and their patrons.

There were other types of Korai (Korean) bowls imported by the Japan­ese cha­jin, but Yamanoue Soji is cred­ited with iden­ti­fy­ing the Ido bowl as the best among them. He even selected an Ido chawan for the col­lec­tion of Toy­otomi Hideyoshi.

Another dis­ci­ple of Rikyu, Oribe Furuta, sought inspi­ra­tion from this pot­tery in order to infuse more of their wabi char­ac­ter into his own chawan designs.

Look­ing to get even closer to this ideal, he sought to under­stand the con­struc­tion of the Korean climb­ing kilns, and recre­ate them in Japan.

Due to the ris­ing pop­u­lar­ity of the style, Japan­ese began mak­ing com­mis­sions to Korean pot­ters or send­ing their own designs for teabowls to be fired in the climb­ing kilns. Unfor­tu­nately, with the cha­jin in ser­vice of the war thirsty Hideyoshi, this vol­un­tary trade soon turned very bloody for the Koreans.

Hideyoshi had deluded him­self into think­ing that he could cap­ture the many riches of China, if only Korea would guar­an­tee him safe pas­sage through their penin­sula. When the Korean envoy rejected these terms, Hideyoshi pressed on to war any­way. He never reached China, but the Japan­ese army razed the set­tle­ments of Korea almost beyond repair. As a spoils of war, they returned with dozens of Korean pot­ters as their cap­tives, and set them to work back in Japan.

From that point on, the nation of Japan con­tin­ued to toil at extract­ing the wabi essence of the Ido chawan, but the orig­i­nal is still con­sid­ered the pin­na­cle of the form.

The cha­jin strug­gled with the idea of cre­at­ing wabi, as mak­ing some­thing that appeared to be with­out inten­tion was nat­u­rally an inten­tion itself. Per­haps the fail­ure to sur­pass the char­ac­ter of the Ido chawan is proof that no amount of force (of will or mil­i­tary con­quest) is capa­ble of coerc­ing real beauty.

Per­haps reach­ing for some­thing and never quite grasp­ing is part of what wabi is about, after all. One may never reach this state of imper­fec­tion per­fectly, but while we pon­der it, we have Ido to enjoy.

Fur­ther read­ing:
Chanoyu Quar­terly #18
Dawan, Chawan, Chas­s­bal
Toki
War­rior Tea Man (Manga)

Experiencing Tea, Part Two

In the last post, we dis­cussed some traits tea drinkers focus on when eval­u­at­ing or com­par­ing teas.

In the sec­ond install­ment — we’ll call it the lab sec­tion — we can put these con­cepts to use in describ­ing the rel­a­tive mer­its of two puer.

Visual Inspec­tion:

left: 90s meng­hai grade 2 loose
right: 80s meng­hai white nee­dle golden lotus

The White Nee­dle Golden Lotus, a leg­end of the Meng­hai Tea Fac­tory, has tiny buds coated in a del­i­cate white frost.

Its younger brother, Meng­hai grade 2 loose puer of the 1990’s has a smaller per­cent­age of buds, a more thor­ough wo dui (wet pil­ing, the arti­fi­cial fer­men­ta­tion process), and a rusty coat­ing in place of the frost.

Visu­ally, it is not easy to dis­tin­guish between the two. In fact, the younger tea is often passed off as the famous White Nee­dle of years past.

There are other rea­sons to pair these teas, how­ever. The 90s Meng­hai rep­re­sents my favorite style of cooked puer (except­ing the WNGL), and is con­sid­ered a very good tea in its own right.

First Cup:

I brewed the teas side by side in a tiny pair of match­ing teapots, using only 2 grams of each.

The WNGL (right) brewed a darker cup, with a more dom­i­nant golden rim.

This dif­fer­ence was con­sis­tent across 10 or more infu­sions, not a result of slight dif­fer­ences in brew­ing time.

 

Hui Gan:

The hui gan of the WNGL is very sub­tle, and prob­a­bly over­pow­ered by the ‘richer’ cooked puer. I have just fin­ished tast­ing the WNGL in iso­la­tion and notice a very long but sub­tle min­eral fin­ish, com­bined with the sen­sta­tion of mint and a strong reac­tion from the sali­vary glands.

The 90s Meng­hai has a much more typ­i­cal coat­ing effect with a sweet, malty fin­ish. Some­where between grains and hay.

Down The Hatch:

With the WNGL, no strong pres­ence man­i­fested in my throat, which is just fine. I could feel the warmth go all the way down to the top of my stom­ach on the very first sip.

The 90s Meng­hai coats the throat nicely, but rarely ven­tures any further.

Cha Qi:

I have tried these teas sev­eral times in an attempt to accu­rately trans­mit the com­plete expe­ri­ence through writ­ing. I am pre­pared to admit now that it just isn’t possible.

I can offer that the cha qi of the WNGL is strong, but straight­for­ward. It leads me down to a quiet, med­i­ta­tive state — far deeper than my usual rock tea. I have a feel­ing that this alone is what makes it so sought after. In fact, it pro­vides more qui­etude than many of its aged sheng contemporaries.

It pro­vided some strong pres­sure on my brow, and a gen­tle warming.

The 90s Meng­hai pro­vides a stronger warm­ing, but in the end, it does not lead the mind nearly as far towards a con­tem­pla­tive calm as its older and wiser sibling.

Ver­dict:

The White Nee­dle Golden Lotus truly lived up to its leg­endary sta­tus. The 90s Meng­hai was a good tea we can enjoy with frequency.

Now that we have some prac­ti­cal exam­ples of what sep­a­rates a good tea and a great tea, I hope we can con­tinue to refine our sen­si­tiv­ity and share in the joy that comes from expe­ri­enc­ing tea.

Experiencing Tea, Part One

For those of us who keep com­ing back to tea year after year, there is a much greater reward than a hot bev­er­age or a famil­iar taste. More than the uplift­ing prop­er­ties of caf­feine or the calm­ing effects of l-theanine alone.

You could sub­sti­tute most of these qual­i­ties in a dozen other ways. So why would some­one focus as heav­ily on tea — and tea alone — as those read­ing here are known to do?

For those most pas­sion­ate about tea, our ideal for each and every cup is to stim­u­late the mind along with our senses. This fac­tors heav­ily into how we judge tea. Some­one just begin­ning their tea jour­ney may be sur­prised to hear that some sea­soned tea drinkers rank ini­tial taste as one of the least impor­tant forms of sen­sory evaluation.

Before div­ing into what makes one tea good and another tea great, we should very briefly intro­duce some ways that tea can excite our other senses. For some peo­ple, it will take time to develop the sen­si­tiv­ity to describe these sen­sa­tions, but it helps to know what areas to be mind­ful of.

After ini­tial taste and aroma, the first thing tea drinkers are likely to focus on is known in Chi­nese as 回甘 [huí gān]. In Eng­lish, a near lit­eral trans­la­tion is “Return­ing Sweet­ness,” but we can think of this loosely as after­taste. You can expe­ri­ence this clearly in most good teas, and prob­a­bly already have. In the best teas, though, the taste can go on for hours.

The next place to focus is feel­ing in the throat. Tea here can be cool­ing or warm­ing, rough or wet. Often drink­ing good tea will give you the sen­sa­tion of a ball in your throat. It is good to con­sider how far down the tea goes — in other words, where the sen­sa­tion is no longer appar­ent. If the tea slips down with­out any notice, it is just a drink. Many good teas will stop some­where in the mid­dle of your throat. If it gives a pleas­ant feel­ing all the way down to your core, it is truly some­thing special.

A good place to first look for throat feel is Wuyi Yan­cha. This tea is often said to be unique for its promi­nent 岩韻 [yán yùn], or “Rock Feel,” evi­dent in the throat.

Pos­si­bly the most neb­u­lous of tea’s qual­i­ties are ascribed to 茶氣 [chá qì] — a tea’s “energy.” Most read­ers will prob­a­bly be famil­iar with at least some of the wide rang­ing effects it is attrib­uted with. Prac­ti­cally any phys­i­cal or men­tal stim­u­lus out­side of the mouth, nose, and throat falls into the realm of cha qi.

Some more obvi­ous man­i­fes­ta­tions of cha qi are a heat­ing or cool­ing of the extrem­i­ties (eg, sweaty palms when drink­ing a ‘warm­ing’ tea like aged puerh or heav­ily roasted oolong), a flush­ing of the face, or a mea­sur­able change in mood. In a small group, tea can either lead to deep con­ver­sa­tion, giddy laugh­ter, or con­tem­pla­tive silence.

I find that the stress of the day usu­ally accu­mu­lates in my shoul­der, and I greatly appre­ci­ate tea’s abil­ity to trig­ger relax­ation in tense muscles.

In teas with the most pow­er­ful cha qi, a per­son can feel “blissed out” and start to notice a feel­ing of pres­sure around the head. Pres­sure on the top of head, brow, tem­ples, or a feel­ing of tight­ness in the jaw are all feel­ings to look for, and are all indi­ca­tors of strong cha qi.

There are of course many other places you can find cha qi — a favorite descrip­tion of mine comes from Matt, who related that the tea we were shar­ing felt “like a warm hug around the belly.”

If any of the descrip­tions here are unfa­mil­iar to you, that is per­fectly nor­mal. Just enjoy the tea and remain mind­ful. Drink­ing with oth­ers is a good way to find out what oth­ers are expe­ri­enc­ing, and see how you can relate.

In the next post, we will put the lan­guage of expe­ri­enc­ing tea to work, to help explain the dif­fer­ence between one good — and one great — tea.

Silver Lining

For a few years now, I’ve been watch­ing the patina grow on my favorite teapot.

In the West­ern mar­ket, tea drinkers often end up buy­ing a few pots in the begin­ning that don’t quite “fit.”

Maybe the size is wrong, the clay is poor, or is sim­ply not a match to any of our desired teas. Per­haps the shape and crafts­man­ship are just not pleas­ing to us.

Own­ing bad teapots, expe­ri­enced col­lec­tors will remind you, is “tuition” that helps you start to rec­og­nize bet­ter teapots from the others.

After a hand­ful of these tuition pots, this shui ping was the first pot I pur­chased with both excel­lent clay and artistry, and it has been in con­tin­u­ous use ever since.

A few months ago, I knocked it off the table and onto the floor while rush­ing to set up for tea. I could hardly stand to look at the dam­age, let alone take a photo. There was noth­ing to be glued back together, the tip of the spout was com­pletely pulverized.

By some mir­a­cle, teachum Pamela was on the scene — with a Master’s degree in jew­elry design and a pen­chant for dig­ging up unusual materials.

Inspired by a 19th cen­tury repair, she crafted a sil­ver cap to replace the dam­aged part of the spout.

For bond­ing, she man­aged to secure a small amount of med­ical grade sil­i­cone along with a hard­en­ing agent. This is the same stuff used in pros­thetic limbs, and now, in pros­thetic teapots.

With its new spout affixed, my teapot is back in fight­ing shape, and look­ing bet­ter than ever. It seems like it might even pour a bit faster than before.

I couldn’t be more pleased to be brew­ing in my favorite pot once again.

Expectations

After drink­ing a cer­tain num­ber of puerh sam­ples, we start to develop a cer­tain set of expec­ta­tions about stor­age and dif­fer­ent recipes. Two of the most pop­u­lar –7532 and 7542 — are today’s focus.

This blog has usu­ally eschewed dis­cussing a sin­gle spec­i­men of tea. These teas are excep­tional in this regard not because they are unique or have any par­tic­u­larly out­stand­ing qual­ity, but because they chal­lenged my expectations.

When Pamela arrived at the house for tea, we started with some­thing that was a known quan­tity for me.

This 7532 copy was pro­duced in 1996 by the Fu Hai tea fac­tory accord­ing to the recipe devel­oped by Meng­hai Tea Factory.

It is tra­di­tion­ally stored, and aligns very well with my past expe­ri­ence with 7532 from this period.
(In fact, I have had 4–5 exam­ples from the very same year — it is one of my favorites.)

I thought that we would breeze through this tea and ded­i­cate most of our atten­tion to the gen­uine Meng­hai arti­cles — a pair of sam­ples from gen­er­ous tea chum Will. I had been sav­ing these for some time, wait­ing for the right moment to share them.



Want­ing to exam­ine both sam­ples in depth, but also com­pare their dif­fer­ences, I pre­pared them in match­ing teapots (40ml Yixing).

We tried 6 infu­sions of each alone, before begin­ning to brew them side by side. After 3 or 4 infu­sions both teas began to show more bal­ance and sweet­ness, but the “7532” remained a bit more robust.

How­ever, the smoke and tobacco of the 7532 sur­prised me, hav­ing come to expect some­thing thick, creamy and mel­low. Per­haps there was a dras­tic dif­fer­ence in storage.

Sev­eral infu­sions on, I started to find that the two teas tasted extremely sim­i­lar — not just in the late infu­sions, but through­out. Was my small sam­ple actu­ally 7542, or had these two teas — pro­cured in sep­a­rate shops — been stored in just the right way to achieve such a sim­i­lar result?

We decided to award the round to the 7532 — or what­ever it is — by a small margin.

But we really pre­ferred the smoother taste of the “knock off” — 7532 from Fu Hai Tea Factory.

I trans­fered it from a gai­wan to a larger teapot to enjoy the later infu­sions of this tea at a leisurely pace.

Before the cha qi of all this aged tea could send us into a deep sleep, I sent Pamela off with a pick-me-up from this win­ter har­vest Tie Guan Yin.

A bit later on, I asked Will about the prove­nance of the tea. He men­tioned that the shop stock­ing the 7532 had quite a few items that didn’t seem entirely right — but tasted good nonethe­less. “It doesn’t really mat­ter what it is … It’s just tea,” he offered.

So which teas here were real or fake? The Fu Hai? The “7532” that didn’t match our expec­ta­tions in taste? They were all deli­cious and calming.

Most of us are not exis­ten­tial enough to stop seek­ing infor­ma­tion about our tea, but as long as it is good tea, per­haps that is all that matters.

The Beauty of Yixing

“The old teapot is dif­fer­ent from the newer teapot because… the crafts­man­ship is very obvious.”

“It’s abil­ity… when it’s per­fect, but not mechanic. When it’s mechanic — it’s like you are print­ing a straight line with a com­puter, using a printer. But if you draw a per­fect line with your bare hand, that’s the beauty of art.”

Kingston teaches us about a pair of late Qing dynasty Shui Ping style Yix­ing teapots — made of Duan Ni clay — for King Rama V of Thailand.

After­wards, lead­ing lady Dae took some great pho­tos of the pots.

Green Puerh Q&A

The Green Puerh class hosted by Tim­o­thy and Michael pro­vides an oppor­tu­nity for some­thing a bit dif­fer­ent from our usual fare.

Michael began with a young, unblended sin­gle estate tea, 2008 Bing Dou. Tim­o­thy con­trasted this with a semi-fermented, clas­sic Meng­hai recipe, 2002 7352.

The duo did their best to explain the dif­fer­ences between the small batch and fac­tory teas, but hav­ing a full house of new and old tea lovers alike, a num­ber of insight­ful ques­tions arose.

Why is one cake looser than another?

Fac­tory stan­dards are most often pro­duced with hydraulic com­pres­sion, which usu­ally results in a fairly dense tea cake. The tea busi­nesser who com­mis­sions a spe­cial pro­duc­tion may request that the cake be com­pressed in the old style — the bag of tea leaves to be pressed is placed between two parts of a stone mold, and a worker stands on top of the mold. Com­pared to the mech­a­nized approach, this yields a loose cake, where one can eas­ily flake off a piece by hand.

Why not loose tea?
One guest noted that we often enjoy puerh tea in loose form as we do with oolong. So why do we see most puerh end up in com­pressed shapes?

The rea­son, as most read­ers have already guessed, is ease of trans­port. A dense tea brick takes up much less space than the same weight of loose “mao cha” and made a more effi­cient use of carts trav­el­ing on the Tea Horse Road.

Much fur­ther along on our tem­po­ral Tea Road, we have dis­cov­ered that blend­ing and com­pres­sion (now favor­ing cakes over bricks) results in a more com­plex aged tea when com­pared to loose puerh.

OK, I get the dif­fer­ent ‘blends,’ but what does this Recipe Num­ber mean?

At first sight, we often have noth­ing but an opaque num­ber and our own senses to go by when judg­ing a fac­tory tea.

I decided the best way to break down the code is in a graphic — I hope this will not offend the design­ers in the audi­ence too greatly.

The first por­tion needs lit­tle explain­ing — this 7352 blend was first used in 1973.

The “aver­age” grade of leaves I believe to be some­what sub­jec­tive. Puerh leaf is graded by size, 0–8, with 8 being the largest leaves. This is sim­ply a mea­sure­ment and not qual­i­ta­tive — that is, there is no ‘bet­ter’ end of the scale.

A cake is a blend of sev­eral grades, and the mid­dle digit rep­re­sents a rough esti­ma­tion of the mean leaf size.

Please elab­o­rate in the com­ments if you can do better!

The final digit rep­re­sents the tea fac­tory who processed the cake. Under social­ist con­trol, there were 3 fac­to­ries of note.

  1. Kun­ming
  2. Meng­hai
  3. Xiaguan

All three fac­to­ries are oper­ated pri­vately today under the same num­bers, but many other num­bers have been added. Cat­a­loging them is left as an exer­cise to the reader.

Say, what’s that other num­ber?
OK, nobody asked this, but any­one still read­ing obvi­ously has a strange fix­a­tion with num­bers, ala Lennon.

Today, a sec­ond impor­tant num­ber is printed on the face of a Dayi wrap­per. It indi­cates the year and batch of pro­duc­tion. Ex. 801 rep­re­sents the first batch of 2008, while 809 rep­re­sents the 9th batch of the same year. Some col­lec­tors seek out the 1st batch each year, while oth­ers con­tend that the qual­ity of each batch is indis­tin­guish­able from another. Quite often, the first batch is sold at a small premium.

This batch label­ing began in 2004, but the astute reader will notice that this short hand only accounts for a 10 year span, and the planet recently turned a decade older. 2010 pro­duc­tions, 2nd batch begin again as 002.

Usu­ally, the year in long form will be printed on the back of the wrap­per, so no need to worry about the sorry lives of tea anthro­pol­o­gists in the dis­tant future (after all humans are killed by poi­so­nous robo-gasses).

When did Meng­hai become pri­vate?
Meng­hai Tea Fac­tory started pro­duc­ing com­mer­cial prod­ucts in 1989 under their own Dayi brand. By 1996, all of the prod­ucts were of the pri­vate brand. Dur­ing the tran­si­tion period, for­eign tea orders (includ­ing Hong Kong) were made only via the government’s CNNP, until reforms finally allowed the orig­i­nal tea fac­to­ries to fill orders directly.

But…
Many of these details are less impor­tant than the expe­ri­enced gained by drink­ing the tea itself. The way the tea tastes, lingers in your mouth and throat, and the way that it makes you feel are the most impor­tant parts of judg­ing the tea. But the curi­ous among us sim­ply can­not resist dig­ging deep into the prove­nance and his­tory of tea.

Per­haps this short primer will inspire some­one to take a closer look at some facet of tea they have yet to uncover.

That Tea Place in New York that Brandon Likes

Tea Gallery Yixing Teapots


There have been wild accu­sa­tions around the ‘net of me being one to spill the beans. To live up to this unsa­vory rep­u­ta­tion, I offer you all a tour of the as-yet unnamed col­lab­o­ra­tion between The Tea Gallery and The Mandarin’s Tea Room.

Some­where along the way, we noticed that the phrase “The Tea Gallery slash Mandarin’s Tea Room” is a “mouthful.”



Tetsubin and HibachiShui Xian and Cups

There are still moun­tains of boxes to be unpacked, but I was invited to visit the new tea room on the twenty-sixth anniver­sary of my birth.

 

I like to keep Tim hon­est — and edu­cate myself — by con­stantly eval­u­at­ing his selec­tions. The chal­lenger this time was First Grade Tie Guan Yin ’10 from the most recent TeaChat Tast­ing Event. It com­pared favor­ably to Tim’s Selected Grade Tie Guan Yin, but we found it to be a slightly dif­fer­ent style.

Tim tells us that his esteemed Anxi men­tor keeps up a menu of no less than 20 unique TGY teas each year.

Gaiwan 3 Stamp Shui Xian

Pouring 3 Stamp Shui XianThe gang are cur­rently eval­u­at­ing a slate of even more Shui Xian teas for their new menu.

Many read­ers know that I can’t get enough of this tea, and at one point counted 15 unique styles on hand in my per­sonal tea room.

This was another high fired style, but was quite dis­tinct from the 3 Stamp already offered by The Tea Gallery. A sweet, cherry syrup added to the already rich fla­vors this tea is known for.

This might have passed as the per­fect tea for my birth­day cel­e­bra­tion, but Michael is not one to leave “good enough” alone.

1950s Shui Xian

He shocked even Tim by brew­ing 20g of his 1950’s Shui Xian in a pot of roughly 180ml. A fit­ting gift to some­one who can’t make tea too strong.


It seems cer­tain that with two dri­ven tea lovers like Michael and Tim chal­leng­ing one another, we will all ben­e­fit from a higher level of tea.

But wait, what are Win­nie and Dae up to?
Check back soon!

NYC Tea Meetup — One Year Reunion

One year after our first meet­ing, inau­gural mem­bers of the NYC Tea Club gath­ered once again at The Tea Gallery.

When all the guests finally arrived, Win­nie sug­gested a matcha to lift everyone’s spir­its. She prefers to use a new tin of matcha fairly quickly to enjoy its fresh­ness, and fear­lessly ladled sev­eral large scoops of bright pow­der into her chawan.

The ini­tial result was some of the strongest Usucha style matcha I have experienced.

Not one to be out­done, Michael stepped up to pre­pare a sec­ond round of matcha, this one even thicker than the first. The tex­ture of his tea was no less than a mousse. The qual­ity of the tea shined through here, reveal­ing no bit­ter­ness even at this concentration.

Michael brewed two rounds of green puerh to con­trast their unique char­ac­ter. The Man­darin and I goofed off for the camera.

The Man­darin got seri­ous with a 1960’s baozhong.

His source tells us that this was pre­pared in an ear­lier style for baozhong than the fresh spring greens we enjoy today.

The dry leaf smelled of honey suckle, and the tea pro­duced a strong feel­ing in the throat. Per­haps his blog will soon edu­cate us on baozhongs now and then.


I had a chance to brew next, serv­ing two aged Liu An. The first was a bit of a mys­tery, and although smooth to taste, it gave some guests a slightly uncom­fort­able feeling.

The sec­ond had a stronger earthy aroma but was already show­ing signs of sweet­ness and a com­fort­ing feel. Win­nie plans to con­tinue aging this tea, hop­ing to recre­ate the sooth­ing feel­ing of her favorite aged Liu An.

Start­ing to feel hunger pangs from all the old tea, we agreed to end with Michael’s spe­cial­ity, a Wuyi rock tea. He selected one eas­ily, but reminded us to taste first, ask ques­tions sec­ond. It was revealed to be a 2004 Tie Luo Han.

Every­one enjoyed the aged aroma of the tea, but we had to rush out to sat­isfy our crav­ings for spicy and greasy food at a Sichuan restaurant.

The group parted from there, ready to embark on our sec­ond year of tea discovery.

Evaluating Yixing Teapots — Part Two

This is Part Two in a two part series about eval­u­at­ing Yix­ing pots.
It is inspired in part by Michael Wong of The Tea Gallery.

And Now the Conclusion…

After test­ing the pot with water, the log­i­cal next step is to add tea to the equation.

The most obvi­ous thing to do might be to add some leaves, hot water, and taste some tea.

Instead, this test allows you to dimin­ish the dif­fer­ences in ther­mal prop­er­ties or pour times that might add vari­ables in such an exper­i­ment, and focus for the moment on the effect of the clay on the tea liquor.

To have enough tea for the exper­i­ment, brew two rounds of tea in a gai­wan and com­bine them in your fair­cup. Fill the pre­heated teapot with half of the tea for the pitcher, and once again leave it for a moment.

In your match­ing cups, serve one cup per guest with water from the pitcher — being brewed in the gai­wan, this has no influ­ence from the pot.

Next fill the sec­ond set of cups with tea from the pot, either directly or from a sep­a­rate fair­cup. Taste the tea side by side and make note of the dif­fer­ences. We did our test­ing with an aged Lao Cong Shui Xian, and found that high flo­ral notes were muted by the teapot. This might sug­gest that I was cor­rect in pair­ing this pot with much deeper Hong Kong style roasts.

To expand on this idea, you should of course repeat this process with other teas. But I also like to share with guests the com­par­a­tive strengths and weak­nesses of two teapots by per­form­ing this method side by side. Instead of serv­ing tea straight from the gai­wan and then from the pot, sim­ply com­pare tea left in two dis­tinct pots.

I can’t wait to hear what addi­tional exper­i­ments you come up with.

Cred­its: Pho­tog­ra­phy by Dae. Hand­some mod­el­ing by David. Nar­rated by Majel Barrett.