Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Ceramic Tea Kettles- in process

I still owe you, my patience readers, next episode of this story. I working on that, gathering new experiences from both creating kettles and stoves as well as using them. I hope to share my findings soon. In meantime, please take a look at four kettles which are drying in our studio right now. All pots still need some polishing before moving to bisque kiln. Pictures from inside studio are not perfect but rather authentic.

Four custom ordered kettles for four customers.

  First one shoudl hold more than one litre. Second requirement was tall, ceramic hadle. My friend, who ordered this one, feels that it is more comfortable this way. As challenging was to create openning wide enough for small hishaku (size of that opening after firing should be, at least, 9cm) and with spout in right position to pour right, without pouring over the rim.

Second one is also around one litre and with tall, ceramic handle. This one will serve for more Japanese way. It will share the stove (which you can see on the bottom of this page) with ceramic kettle, kama-style. I look forward how the kettle will finally sit and work with that Mirka's stove.

Third kettle is with classical back handle and should holds something around 800ml. The customer who ordered this one asked me especialy for back handle. The drawback of such handles for kettles is that those can get pretty hot. One have to be watchful and for a) always put the handle out from the fire to shadow side of the stove and for b) if the handle get hot, then use piece of fabric when brewing. And that is what my customer is going for- the kettle which will train ones awarness.

And finally fourth kettle is going to be even smaller, around 600ml and with rattan hendle. Compare to back handle is rattan very comfortable. I am always a bit afraid how long such handle will last, especially on kettle where one has to count with steam. But my customer, who have ordered it, is right- rattan is quite easy to replace. The broken ceramic handle is bigger problem.

I am not sure if all of them are going to survive the firing. Then I will test them all. And before sending them to my supporters I will be glad to share some pictures here. If you are interested, please stay tune.

And as I have promised, at the end, new Mirka's stove...

Thank you for the reading!

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Testing Mao Cha

I am glad that I don't live on selling tea or sell tea at all. When I choose tea just for myself I feel free. There are no worries. Usually when I got samples it is wider selection of different teas, different origins, years, prices. It is fun to get to know them and quite easy to choose what to buy and what to pass. Recently I got three Mao cha to try. All from spring, last year harvest, Yiwu villages. Thanks to Eugene and Belle of TeaUrchin, I got a chance to try to taste leaves before pressing to cakes. Just three, already well selected, teas and how difficult is to choose the one. How it will change the pressing? And how few years of storage? Thanks to all those sincere and capable tea merchants for doing this job for us.

I have leaves for from Man Zhuan, Luo Shui Dong and Gao Shan Zhai. Reading several articels, and especially talking to friends, who have visited the area, I know how complicated is to buy good maocha in such famous villages. Stories about rich people buying whatever with label LuoShuiDong on it are not just myths. Prices are growing much faster then skills of farmers, sometime faster then leaves themselves. Cakes from Tea Urchin are not cheap either but I believe that they have ways how to find the real stuff.

Each bag have enough leaves for several tea sessions. I started with side by side testing. It is good way for comparing smell and look of leaves, both dry and wet. It also help to compare tastes and aromas how it goes through brews. It is very hard to draw a comparison of aftertastes this way and I am even not talking about Qi.

All leaves are wonderful. Hairy, green-gray, long and tight.Man Zuan looks to have a bit smaller leaves but it can be just the batch. Smell of dry leaves is also pleasant. Smell of LuoShuiDong (LSD) is strongest but of similar origins. Same apply to wet leaves, just in ManZhuan I find light smoky notes. GanShanZhai (GSZ) stays clear and light.

All soups are naturally yellow-light green. I used 3g of tea to each of my 70ml shiboridashi and all brews are quite strong. In color, fragrances as well as taste the LSD is the strongest one. And it stays like this for all brews I make. The Man Zhuan is sharper, but the smokiness is getting stronger (still rather light). I am wondering if it is good thing for cakes and storage or if it even matter.

To see some bitterness of live I make the third brew stronger. And here it is! Fresh leaves from old threes. LSD is, again, the most bitter and the strongest one. The GSZ stays still and clear, and I am starting to fall in love with it.

When I take a look at spend leaves all looks nicely green. In every of them I find some partly oxidized leaves, two or three of them. I did not find any sing of "reddening" in taste. Some people say it is fault of Puer some that it is quite natural and it is petty to pay attention to it. I don't know.

If you are asking, which of those three MaoCha is winner then, for now, it will be Gao Shan Zhai. But I will try them also separately to enjoy aftertaste and energy, the nature of each of them. Look forward to it.

Thank you for reading!

Saturday, February 9, 2013

Gem number thirteen- The Charm

The first firing of the 2013 was full of pleasant surprices. As usually there were pieces which will not be put on any tea table- cracked pieces, glazes running down and sticking pots to shelves or fallen and melted shreds of isolation in cups. Not welcome, but well know occurrences. More important is what have survive.

I have to admit, to choose the gem was not easy this time. There was so many, which I woudl like to share with you and keep home for a while. Finally I decided to go for small shino teapot. It is very small and in its shino clothes it looks like a necklace charm, real gem. Unglazed inside, it will bring more then just shallow beauty.

Before looking at new pot, please say goodbye to Gem number three, to "Lilly of the Valley". This set, with teapot made of Yixing clay and translucent porcelain cups and fair cup, is now making happy one Czech tea lover. And that is good.

For more pictures of this new piece, please visit this page. If the Ten Gems of Ten Kilns project is new for you then please read this first.

Gem Number Thirteen: The Charm

Thank you for reading!