Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Wake up, wake up, wake up!

This is wake up call. It is not addressed to you dears, but this blog was asleep for far too long. And what can be better for waking up then few cups of upright, good sheng!

Autumn is here...

I would like to share with you the newest addition to my pu-collection, tea which I am particularly happy about. It is 1 kg of tea leaves pressed to impressive brick. Yes, 1 kg brick. One thousand grams means also at least one hundred and fifty tea sessions together. 150 tea sessions in front of us! Lets start.

Brick by brick, 1000g of tea next to 100g of tea

Silent Mountain or White Whale, ambient or jazzy, I take them both. 

At first, good friend Tomaš gave me a piece of this brick with his personal label "The Silent Mountain". He added "You might like this. It is from Mengku area and if this is not from wild threes then I do not what is" He was right, I like it. I have to actually admit, it was love at first sip. Pressed in 2006 it is far to be mature, but already far to be called young. Even some time lived in humid Guangzhou does not left much in it, it is clean and bright. When Tomaš told me that he have few of those bricks left for sale, I did not think twice. Now, it is heaviest brick in my tea cabinet.

What to say, what is so special about it for me. It is both light and heavy. In some aspects sweat like some heichas are, but with undisguised power of old yunnan trees. At first, you would not say that it is "punchy" sheng. But with every cup, its vibrant energy is more and more obvious. It is slowly spreading from throat to the whole body, stopping in palms which starts to sweat. Flying mind slowly ease off, becoming quiet. Beautiful.

One of the firsts infusions. Is it just me or it looks silky even on picture?

It is different from most of puehr cha I know. The difference which is obvious on your tongue but how to describe it? I can give a try: Most of puehr cha (of similar age/area) I know can be in taste and fragrance describe as "apricots with flowers around" And this is, well, more like "molasses with blackcurrant fragrance" Ye, it is a bit really clumsy description. I have had just few teas with this character. From what is online on the market I know just about two teas like this. This strapping brick- about availability and price you have to ask Tomaš (his page is still just in Czech but feel free to ask there). Second tea, which I had sample some months ago, is this cake from EoT. This cake is rather costly but try at least a sample, it is absolutely beautiful. I will have to order at least sample of it too, I would like to see those two teas next to each other.

I love this new Mirka's brazier, which I "have to" test. Simple, quiet and working well. 

I hope, we successfully woke this blog up, I look forward to the rest of those one-hundred-and-fifty  tea moments with this tea. And I belive that there will be a chance to share it at live with some you,

 Now small lure for the next time:

Four teapots made from clay which I brought from Sun Moon Lake, back with my from my Taiwan travels. They are going to meet fire this weekend. Exiting.

Thank you for reading!

Friday, July 11, 2014

Stoves, Braziers for heating water

Some of my more aged readers (or patient, or persistent ones) may recall my previous entries on this topic. In post cut in two, I was already sharing my premature experiences on this field, I was trying to encourage tea folks to go ahead, to experiment with charcoal and water. You can find those posts here (part I) and here (part II). After another year and half of playing with fire, I am not sure if I am really qualified to play a wise man here. Nevertheless, there are some new findings to point out. I arranged those in three chapters, stoves-kettles-charcoal, and I will be glad if you find there something interesting. I am not going to talk again here about how great it is, when you use charcoal fire for heating water for your tea. You already know it, right?


Well, here is something new what we can be proud of. And it is this:

Iron cast basket, bottom up...

What is it? Iron cast basket, which works as kind of grate in our ceramic stoves. Idea of this was born in Mirka's head after few cracked baskets in our stoves and many tests with different clays, shapes and designs. We wanted something, what would be easy to use even for beginners, without permanent worries, if the stove will survive another fire or not. Iron cast basket looked as a simple solution. How it is often in life, idea is one thing and reality another and it took us over a year to receive first pieces of iron cast to start with. After Mirka has made design of the basket, we search for iron cast company to make it for us. From thirty contacted just three were able to make the shape and details we asked for. And after some more discussion we start to cooperate with small iron cast factory and first prototype reach us last fall. I started to test it and I found out that there are changes, which have to be made. More holes, thinner walls, to lower the shape. Iron cast mold had to be rebuild...

Finally, after the New Year, Mirka was making first ceramic stoves with iron cast baskets. First, some testing pieces for me and our friends. Now it is growing, new shapes, clays, surfaces. Inspired by tea community, she is using her creativity to make functional stoves, which will be adornment of your tea session and yet, are not too distinct, screaming from behind your tea table.

Eventhought most rules of usage are the same as with whole ceramic ones, I still would like to mention them again:

- as iron cast is thermal shock resistant, you can more freely start fire directly in the stove. Using wood chips, playing scoutboy, or using gas spray gun is not problem anymore. Just don't forget to use common sense. Starting fire indoors this way is for example not good idea. Also, if you use wood or charcoal from bone fire to light up charcoal inside such stove, you will need later on to clean holes in the basket from ash. Some kind of iron chopstick works here.

-be aware, that iron cast keeps heat for very long time. It is good thing when you are boiling water, you will find that even hour after your tea session, it can be still hot. So don't leave it without supervision. Do not pour water over iron cast to cool it down, it might crack!

-Mirka's stoves are suitable for all kind of kettles. Tetsubins, glass, silver or ceramic kettles, all will work on such stove. Just when the bottom of the kettle is really flat and wide, the heating of water can be slow. If you are not sure, let us know sizes of your kettle and we will check if it would work.


There is no such revolution in kettles as there is in stoves. No miracle clay around, which would handle every fire, every wild treatment. It is ceramic and as such it have to be approached. All rules basically fall in the "using common sense" category and I don't want to scare you. But I think it is better to write them down. So basic rules are as follows:

- My ceramic kettles are meant to be used on charcoal stoves. I am giving full guarantee for my ceramic kettles, if used over charcoal fire. If you use it on gas or electric stove then you are on your own. Sometime it works even on gas/electric but there are some bad experiences. Recently, I am using several kettles for my everyday tea on our electric stove (the one with glass on the top) with steel diffuser. It works, no more cracked kettles! But it is still too soon to tell with certainty so just please be aware, it is more risky.

-Do not refill hot kettle with cold water. Especially when the kettle is empty, wait at least ten minutes. If you don't have two, three kettles to heat them after each other, then it is better to refill kettle when there is still about 1/3 of hot water

-Do not let empty kettle on the stove. It will crack.

-Do not forget the boiling kettle on hot stove. When it is full, it will slosh out, either on iron basket or ceramic stove. Both pieces are hot and can crack under thermal shock attack. If the kettle is almost empty, it can boil out and you already know what will happen to empty kettle on fire.

-Find some soft, warm material to put your boiling kettle on. Do not put it directly from fire on cold, wet surface

As you can see on pictures above and bellow, there are some new designs. Especially those top ceramic handles are very comfortable to use. When for smaller kettles, up to 750ml, I still make side handle kettles for bigger one I recommet top ceramic handle.


I have tried many different charcoals over the years. Mainly focusing on how easy and comfortable each charcoal is. After visiting Taiwan and seeing and trying some charcoal there I am aware of big differences between charcoal there and here. Hardwood fareast charcoal is much more dense, last longer and burn with higher temperatures. But I still prefer to use local products, looking for the best ones, then to import it from far, far away.

There is one rule, which I already said in my first post, but now I see it as crucial. More dry charcoal is better then not so dry. It sounds and it is logical. But it really can make big difference. Dry charcoal means less smoke/smell (or not at all), it is easier to light up and gives more heat.

Also mentioned before: If you have time, wash your charcoal. It will give you also opportunity to sort it out. Especially if you use some cheaper, mixed charcoal, usually the bag will contain some, let say "unwanted" items. Three bark, dust and fragments, pieces, which too big, and very smoky un-carbonized pieces of wood. All that you can sort and clean, wash with shower. Then dry, dry, dry!!!

If you have any  stoves, kettles, charcoal related questions,  feel free to ask in comment section bellow or via email.

With burning charcoal around or without, enjoy every sip of your everyday live.

Thank you for reading!

Monday, May 26, 2014

Gems twenty two and twenty three

As I have mentioned in my last post here, there are two new gems for my Gem Collection. The one piece is from end of February, second from March kiln. The kilns, which we have fired before my Taiwan trip. They were patiently waiting here for me and my camera. Actually, ceramic do not mind to wait. If it is good now, it should works even after years. Ceramic shards talk about ancient civilizations. Two months is nothing, right? But I feel, I need to apologize to you, my readers, and thank you for your patience.

As you can see bellow, both new gems are light in both color and form. Maybe it was upcoming spring, calling for something more thin and shiny.

The teapot is made of translucent porcelain. It is quite tricky to work with and much harder to fire. There are several teapots on our "pots cemetery" from this material. In high heat the porcelain is moving, warping, cracking, sticking to shelfs, glaze is running down. But when teapot like this Gem n.22 survive, I know why I am still using it. It is calling for high fragrant tea!

The bowl with the saucer is born from imperfection. It is like gaiwan but lid is missing. There is a lot of cracking on the glaze. There are "fingerprints", unglazed spots from my fingers. But there is elegance, it is graceful. The saucer is lifting up the form in both figurative and literal sense.

Before taking look at new gems, say goodbye to gems number twelve and thirteen. The small Cockerel is already in Shanghai, the Charm then will be on the road soon. I know that both customers love tea. Those pots are in good hands.

Note: Yes, both new pieces are light in color and shiny. It means that to take live, real pictures is task from mission impossible category. For sure, if the photographer is un-trained me. Anyway, here we are...

For more pictures of those new pieces please visit this page. If The Ten Gems of Ten Kilns project is new for you, then please read this post first.

Gem number twenty two: Clean Fragrance

Gem number twenty three: Touching The Moon

Thank you for the reading!

Thursday, May 8, 2014

Back in Clay

Hello everyone! It have been a while...I am back from The Taiwan trip for a bit more then week now. All experiences are still alive in my veins, but my fingernails are already clay dirty. Tonight, we close and switch on our bisque kiln. We are going to fire our woodkiln next week. The best from that firing is going to be with us "on show" in tearoom in Wroclaw, Poland, next weekend. And I would like to write here about all of it, at least a bit. But step by step...

-I still have two gems to photograph and share. Two pieces from two "before Taiwan" kilns for my gem collection. I hope to post it here in a week.

-There is also selection of "the best of" pieces for potsandtea club. I am going to take pictures and share them with members of the club in few days. Many of you are interested in being in, unfortunatelly the blogger does not work as smoothly as I thought it will be. And many of you have a trouble to open that page. I have a solution and it will change with the new post.

-Then, there are some notes and pictures from the Taiwan roads, which I would like to put it together in some kind of article or two during upcoming weeks. From refined Wistaria teahouse to Tea Sage Hut light. From fragrant cups in Taroko gorge to sweetness of tea brews in Shan Lin Shi bamboo forest. And potters, we can not forget potters out there! And people. New friendships are most precious treasures we bring from our travels. 

Leaves for Sun Moon Lake hong cha are tasty...

Organic tea bushes in Pinlin area...

Leaves for baozhong are resting, the pickers are just having lunch time...

Withering on public road of Pinlin

Bugs on tea leaves are good sign.

Kiln openning near Yingge...

- We have new ceramic stoves, braziers for heating tea water. With iron cast grate inside it is quite special. So yes, blog post about those is coming soon as well.

-And many other pots_and_tea related things to share. Teas I drink, cups I drink from. From Taiwan, I flew with Emirates airlines and they generously allow 30kg luggage + carry on. Well, I was almost 10 kg overweight. And believe me, there was not much of "not pots and tea" stuff.

Spring is always intense season, and probably not just here, in the middle of Europe. But this time, for me, there are many strong inspirational impulses. For both my work in clay and personal, everyday live. I feel gratitude. I do what I love to do. We can call it happiness. Thank you for being part of it.

Back home...
Thank you for reading!

Thank you for reading!