Tuesday, September 17, 2013

New cup for upcoming autumn

A few weeks ago I brought a cup, about which I am particularly happy. Do not be surpriced, we like to buy pots from our colleagues. There are still some people who, when visiting our studio and showroom, note "It is great, you can make for yourselfe everything you need. From tales on the floor to plates in your kitchen or even sink in your bathroom". Of course, we can. But there is certain pleasure in using pieces from another potters, another studios. And so in our house, you can find wide variety of ceramic from all around the world. Some are in daily use, some are shown just time to time as a memory to those, who we met or visit, to specific moment or place.

This cup comes from my friend Aleš Dančák aka Belin. His studio lies in small village Pržno, North Moravia, and he recently builded new wood kiln (if I am right, it is his third one). After several firings he is very happy about it. And this cup is just one (of many) proof that he can be really proud.

Made of porcelain, it is entirely unglazed. Ash have sit and melted on its face side. It makes, from this otherwise cold material, warm and very live piece. In hands, you can feel fine irregularity of handmade work, throwing and trimming. Some lines there are made wilfully some show not-plaible, tough material.

When I am holding this empty cup, I realize how important for our perception of tea ware is the balance. Thickness of walls and bottom, where centre of gravity lies. Here we have thicker bottom and walls. But top of the cup, the rim is very thin. It evokes lightness. Together with fine tea, it uplifts my daily being. And what else we would like to get from good cup, right?

Aleš is everything but active around the on.line world. His web presentation is hopelessly out-of-date. But if you would like to know more about his recent, pretty interesting, work, then try to get his attention  through belinbelinATseznam.cz. He will be surely pleased to hear from you.

Thank you for reading!

Thursday, September 5, 2013

Two teas from Lao Banzang

There were many fresh teas in my cup through the summer. Top grade gyokuro and kabuse from The Teamountain, first flashes, both green and black, from Nepal, generously given by friends from Darjeeling.cz, powerful shengs from chawangshop's and teaurchin's selections and I enjoyed every sip of them. Despite of the season, I boldly combine these with mid-aged and aged shengs. Two samples I am about to talk today were nicely sended by Peter from Pu-Ehr.sk. One fresh, one mid-aged, but both teas came from - sit down please - Lao Banzang.

When we hear Banzang, our credit cards start to shiver. It is (one of the) most expensive puehr village and when you are buying a LaoBanzang then, in most cases, you are buying a fake. According to Lui Ying Yin article in The Art of  Tea magazine no.6, price of spring maocha rise up from 8RMB in 2000 to 1800RMB in 2007/8.  Another article I would recommend to read is this William's post on his (great) BannaCha blog Despite of that or maybe just because of that we are (ok, I am) tempted and curious to try such famous/expensive leaves. Especially when it comes through trustworthy seller. Few years back I had very nice sessions with sample of 05 Gan En Lao Banghzan from EOT, but it is already sold out. Unfortunately it was too much for my wallet at that time. Unfortunatelly...

First I tried tea from 2004, which was pressed in bamboo tube...

Pictures of dry leaves are from Peter's eshop. With my small, cheap camera and my poor photographic skills  I can not compete. And one more reason for using borrowed pictures- somebody (me) have stolen (get lost) all pictures from that banzang session from my computer and let me just one, which you can see on the bottom of this page - and that picture is saying nothing about that tea...

It was 7g sample and I hesitated for a while - should I use the whole sample or just half of it? For my 60ml teapot, I have finally cut the piece in two. How would my life look like if I had use it all?  Let it be mystery for now...

The aroma of wet leaves, as well as first two brews, are here as a proof of Taiwanesse storage. I have heard some complaitns about such thing, but I, in most cases, do not mind. After those two, in third brew the leaves already talk in Banzang-bamboo language. Probably thanks to my light dosage, I did not find there the renowned bitterness of LBZ, but bamboo sweet taste was combine with calming energy, calming Qi performance, if you wish.

When I put my expectation of powerful bitterness aside, I like that tea a lot. My short note says "bit like aged oolong - mouth are full of complex, sweet taste". I just promised myself that if I will have a chance, I will try to make it in "more leaves- shorter times" fashion.

Second sample was fresh one and labeled as Lao Banzang 2013.

Pictures are from today morning and I can still evoke a clear memory of its aftertaste in my mouth.

What you can see on the picture above are half broken leaves from bottom of the sample bag. But originally leaves were very long, nice looking spaghetti style (as I call leaves, which have to be soak first to fit into my small pot). Hairy, greeny-grey and clean - It is fancy tea indeed.

Wet leaves are full of citrus aroma. The first brew is bright, yellow-green and I know what is going to happen...

Young, strong, bitter...why I am drinking such thing? To paraphrase The Verve's song "Couse it's Bitter Sweet symphony, this life tea..." When assocations like wormwood or dardelion are crossing my mind, I am enjoying thick liquor. Especially from fourth brew, when the first power steps back a bit, I found the mouthfeel to be very pleasant. And my empty cup is full of flowers....How is that happened?

Long-lasting aftertaste is what I remember from this morning most. Maybe you know that feeling: Your mouth and mind are so coated in tea that you don't want to drink even water. You don't want to lose that moment...then you know: The aftertaste is good!

Notes and wonderful picutres from session with this tea you can find also here

When I am wondering now, which of those two LBZ teas I would like to have more in my collection, I would say The 04 bamboo version. I know, the fresh 2013 cake is probably better tea - stronger, cleaner and more noble. But the age and most importantly its medicinal impact on my body and mind talk for small leaves stored in bamboo tube.

When I talk about teas from Lao Banzang I can not miss prices...As you can expect, those teas are expensive. I also just find out that they are already sold out. Peter told me that he is trying to get more of the 04 one. He has offered this tea for around 60USD for 100g. The fresh cake was much more expensive, if I am counting right then 160USD for 100g. Most of us are not going to buy a tong of such tea, are we? But good thing is, that Peter (and others) gives us opportunity to buy small samples. A chance to try expensive and rahter rare teas in middle of Europe, a chance get a bit more experienced. Few grams of tea leaves can make a difference in our day, in our live, in our world. Thanks for that.

New waste water bowl during trial...

Thank you for reading!