Sunday, April 18, 2021

Boiled Tea in Sidehandle teapot


Boiling tea is one of the oldest ways to prepare tea. As almost every book on tea starts with “Tea was used as medicine in ancient China for thousands of years”, there are also legends as well as researchers by historians which talk about boiling the tea leaves, both with other herbs and ingredients as well as boiling tea alone to get the healing, medicinal liquor. These methods are not forgotten but compare to other tea preparations, boiled tea is almost unknown.



Over the past couple of years, boiled tea has become more popular and to the tea lover’s ears, the idea does not sound so exotic anymore. I was amazed by the idea of boiling from the first time I heard about it, there is something archetypal in the process of boiling plants. So I naturally started to develop some teaware for such magic. In this short article, I would like to share with you my sidehandle teapots which were created for boiling tea, few tips on boiling in such pot, and how to take care of them.



A Guide to Boiling Tea

If you would like to know more about the boiling method itself, I would recommend reading this issue of the global tea hut magazine Global Tea Hut Archive - April 2018 Issue 

I if you would like to dive deeper, I would really recommend taking the Boiling course from Global Tea Hut There will be everything you need to know :)




Flameproof clay


First: Not all teapots are for boiling! I received this picture from my customer with kind of “what I did wrong” question. The pot he purchased from me a while ago was not made of flameproof clay. Actually, most of the pots are not suitable for boiling. So be careful.




BEFORE YOU START, PLEASE MAKE SURE THAT YOUR POT IS MADE OF FLAMEPROOF CLAY AND MEANT TO BE USED FOR BOILING. ASK THE MAKER OR YOUR SUPPLIER IF NOT SURE. If it is the pot from me, send me a picture and I will confirm


It took me a while to develop the clay with the proper composition. Literally a few dozens of cracked pots and tons of testing. As you can maybe see from the pictures, it is the same clay (or variations of it) which I use for making kettles. It can handle charcoal as well as gas and electric heat sources.




To give you a better idea how such pot works, here are few lines from the user manual I sending with my flameproof teapots:

------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
THIS TEAPOT:

....was created for boiling tea or herbs, but can also very well serve as a kettle, for heating and boiling water

......can be used over electric, gas, alcohol as well as charcoal heat sources. If used over infrared (IR) or gas, please use it together with the flame diffuser I send together with the pot. Flame diffuser protects clay from the too intense thermal shocks. You don't have to use the diffuser when heating over the charcoal or using an alcohol burner to maintain the heat

......I recommend filling it up to around 3/4 of its volume . Boiling tea creates foam and bubbles and can easily overflow if the pot is full. Low fire is usually enough for maintaining the boil.

....over stronger heat sources, the ceramic handle can get a bit of the heat as well. Be aware of it and keep the handle away from the direct fire/heat. If the handle get hot, use a tea towel to hold and pour comfortably

.....if empty but still hot from boiling, please let it cool down for couple of minutes before refilling with cold water

.....When the tea session is over, empty the teapot while it is still warm, clean well with hot water and let it dry. Before closing and storing the pot, be sure it is clean and dry.


--------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

I do them mostly unglazed inside. On one hand, glazing inside would make it more smooth, and easier to clean, more user friendly. But I found out the glazing create more tension in the clay and the thermal shock resistance is better if the glaze is not used. And I am choosing resistance over confort :) If you would like to keep your pot clean and without aromas stuck in the clay, I recommend to clean it after you finish your tea session right ahead, and boil inside clean water for a bit, pour it out and let it dry. It works for me very well.



If you went through the videos I shared or you are learning from GTH boiled tea course, you will receive tons of tips on how to boil and what teas are great to prepare this way. What I could recommend is not to be afraid and experiment with what you have right now. You can boil literally any tea after you brew them in your regular way. More the leaves from your teapot, shiboridashi or gaiwan you are using to any clean pot suitable for boiling, glass, or stainless will do. And you will see. Sometimes just heating up to 100°C and a short boil will release an unexpected flavor, sometimes you can boil it for 30min or more. Some teas will be terrible or hardly enjoyable. But some will show their full potential under the longer boil and open their magic for you.











Monday, March 8, 2021

Making big pots...


Water Storage Jars



Pottery is a field with a wide range of skills, and you don't have to master all of them to be a great maker of some particular ceramic objects. Sometimes it can look like two potters are masters in two different crafts. I see some techniques, shapes and finish and I really don’t have any idea how that was made. And even one skill, like throwing one the wheel, can have different focuses.


You are becoming really good at certain forms and with certain clays after repeating them hundreds of times. So it happens that even after two decades behind the wheel, I am really not so great at throwing big pieces, it always takes me a while to get into it and work with elegance and grace. After all, I am spending most of my time behind the wheel within the 0,1-1kg range, sometimes a bit more for kettles or bigger teapots. And here are the water storage jars... This is the beginning of one of my bigger water storage jars. For a ten litre jar I use ten kilos of clay. I like and enjoy very much feeling that extra weight, using forgotten and learning new techniques, listening between my fingers what the clay actually needs.



 

So much admiration for all those skillful potters who do huge pots, vases, jars, plates and bowls with the lightness of skilled dancers.

 

Here are a few of those jars fired. Woodifred to around 1300°C, tenmoku glaze inside. Outside I use either simple black glaze which, at the end of the firing cycle is partially covered with charcoal for local heavy reduction effects or tenmoku ash mixture (those brown ones on the first picture)










Thursday, February 25, 2021

Ceramic Kettles on Fire

 
Ceramic Kettles on Fire


                                 

Many of you, outdoor tealovers, have been asking if you can use my ceramic kettles over an open fire, particularly on the raw, back to the cave familiar bone fire. (Bone fire, like that English expression since the first time I heard it). Not wanting to dive into long explaining emails and messages, my answer is usually a bit shady. In short, I answer something like:



“Yes/well maybe, but you should be careful, please use common sense”


But as this is not saying much and you want to try it anyway, here are my thoughts on using ceramic kettles to heat tea water on the open fire. I hope it will give you all that you need to avoid disasters or some unwanted surprises.


Heating water on an open fire has its depth and beauty and we all know, or at least have some idea how cool that can be. So I will not talk about all the “good stuff” and benefits of that raw energy in our tea experience. But what are the risks and challenges? What to avoid and do I really want to go there with ceramic in the first place?



Let’s split the theme in half. First, take a look from the clay/kettle point of view and then I will also do a few points to be aware of from a “tea point of view”. Here I also want to remind you that I am talking about my ceramic kettles made of flame-proof clay. If you are not sure what clay is your pot made of, then rather don't go there at all. Most of the clays out there are not suitable for boiling at all, pots will crack and be lost forever.


So you have my ceramic kettle, made of flame-proof clay and you want to use it over a bonfire? Well then...


For the kettle sake



-use it rather on burning embers, leftovers of the fire rather than on strong long flames. Rather no flames or very low flames, the strong heat of the burning pillow is what you are looking for.

-use an iron tripod or hunger so you can regulate how high your pot is from the heat. You can create a tripod from stones if necessary

-use not smoking, clean fire. Wood full of resin or wet pieces rather be avoided. Hardwood is a better choice

-even without the smoking wood, the bottom will get carbon deposits. Your pot will get dirty, be ready for that. Not all those marks will be washable.

-never let empty or close to empty pot on the fire

-let the pot cool down a bit before refilling with new cold water

-clay is porous, smoke and flame gases will get in the clay and so will be noticeable even in your future tea sessions. For that reason, I recommend dedicating one kettle of these flame sessions and having other kettle(s) for your more refined teas and sessions


And now, for the sake of the tea..




Having an open fire at the tea session is magical but a real bonfire is not ideal, for several reasons the clean charcoal is a better choice. First of all, re-read the last point above. You can literally taste the fire/smoke in your cup. And if you are using a porous clay kettle, the smoke will get in the clay and through the clay. But if you decided to go for it anyway:
- you might want to choose a tea that can handle a bit of smoky flavor (dark shou puerh, or strong red would be my first choice),

-take with you the fitting teaware. Not fancy Yixing or porous pots which you use for your finest teas.

-if you are preparing in a ceremonial way, pay attention to the whole tea setting before you start. It is difficult to feed the fire, without smoking on your guests and pour gracefully while overboiling water is spilling into the burning hot ash. Sit there and try a few times before inviting guests over.


I love heating the water on an open fire and I honestly feel that I don't do it often enough. I have one pot dedicated for that occasion, the one you see in the first picture. There is unmistakable magic in it. But if I want the occasion to be about tea, and offer the best for my guests, then I choose even for outside charcoal or gas stove. Making a small bone fire later if the mood is there.










Tuesday, February 23, 2021

Sidehandle Teapot Making

 

Creating a teapot has many steps, and those are spread over a few days. If we will count the firing as well or the clay preparation before it even starts, then we are talking months. But that's another story. Here on this speed up, video is a few of those steps captured, two days in three minutes. It was my regular clay creative days, not special arrangements for the video making. And so not all is shot from the best angle and not all are visible or clear. But I enjoyed the flow, and next time will be better. If any questions, feel free to leave a comment, I am happy to share.