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Now that I am a proud owner of Yixing Teaware, I felt it important to learn more about these precious, handcrafted teapots. In preparation of the first use, I thought it important to determine if the teapots required special care. I must admit, albeit a little sheepishly, that in my excitement I used one of my new teapots prior to conducting the research. (I refuse to admit which one.) After conducting my research, I found on three different websites (Yixing.com, WikiHow, and Culinary Teas) that it is important to “season” Yixing Teaware prior to using.

There seems to be three main techniques for used for seasoning Yixing Teaware. While I am tempted to use the easier of the four, I have opted to use the technique that appeared most frequently on various websites. My findings are listed below:

Method One

  1. Fill the teapot with boiling water and allow it to sit for ten minutes.
  2. Drain the water.
  3. Fill the pot with boiling water again and add one teaspoon of your favorite loose tea leaves. Remember, this should be the type of tea you will use this pot for. Allow to sit for ten minutes.
  4. Drain the tea. Now your pot is ready for use.

Method Two

  1. Pre-heat your Yixing teapot by filling it with hot water and then draining it.
  2. Place one teaspoon of loose tea into the preheated Yixing teapot.
  3. Fill with hot water and wait for at least one minute.
  4. Enjoy your tea either by pouring it into a cup or by drinking directly from the Yixing teapot, which is the traditional way of using it.
  5. Take the lid off the teapot and place the pieces in a vessel large enough to cover the pieces with water.
  6. Place some tea leaves in the water and bring to a slow boil (rapid boiling could damage your pot). Slow boil for an hour.
  7. Remove from the heat and let the pot remain in the water for twenty four hours.
  8. Remove the pot from the water and rinse well.
  9. Put the teapot back into the larger vessel and bring it to a slow boil again for an hour.
  10. Remove from heat and let it cool down again in the same tea water. The next day remove the teapot and rinse it in hot water. It is now ready to use.

Method Three 

  1. Pre-heat your Yixing teapot by filling it with hot water and then draining it.
  2. Place one teaspoon of loose tea into the preheated Yixing teapot.
  3. Fill with hot water and wait for at least one minute.
  4. Enjoy your tea either by pouring it into a cup or by drinking directly from the Yixing teapot, which is the traditional way of using it. 

Method 4 – The Gerenda Method

  1. Gather together 1 large water pot (the kind one uses to boil water for spaghetti), tongs, paper towels, 3-5 liters of a pure mineral water or filtered water, plastic wrap, the tea destined for your pot.
  2. Gently rinse any manufacturing dust/residue from the inside of your Yixing ware with cold water. Then, with dry paper towels wipe out the inside of your Yixing ware to make sure you get all the dust/residue. If not, this is a very unpleasant taste.
  3. Bring 3-5 liters of water to a rolling boil. The amount of water depends on the size of the teapot. You want to make sure that the amount of water is enough to completely submerse your teapot, tea set, or other Yixing ware.
  4. Cut the heat immediately after the water comes to a boil. Add 3-5 teaspoons of tea to the water, and let steep for 10 minutes. After ten minutes, with the tongs, ever so gently submerse your Yixing ware into the brew.
  5. Let stand for at least 30 minutes, or until the heat from the water pot is no longer a danger. Then wrap the top of the pot with plastic wrap to “seal” the pot. The curing process lasts exactly one week from the day of submersion. Check on the Yixing ware periodically throughout the week.
  6. Gently remove your Yixing ware from the pot and rinse with cold water on the seventh day. Never use soaps of any kind on your Yixing ware.
  7. Allow pot to dry completely. Now your Yixing ware is completely cured and ready for use!
If you are knowledgeable about Yixing Teaware and have utilized one or all of the seasoning methods listed above, please stop by and comment. I am interested in knowing which technique worked best for you. Additionally, what were the determining factors that helped you decided which method was better than another. Finally, if you utilizing a different process/technique for seasoning your Yixing Teaware, please stop by and share your technique and why you think it is the best. Until then… Happy Tea Drinking!
References:
1. http://www.yixing.com/teapotinfo.html
2. http://www.wikihow.com/Season-a-Yixing-Teapot
3. http://www.culinaryteas.com/Seasoning-Yixing.html

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Many of you “agonized” with me during my journey to purchase a Yixing Teapot. As my first Yixing teaware purchase it was fraught with many unexpected dilemmas. Nothing serious, just a tea lover stumbling over her own lack of knowledge while on a quest to find the perfect teapot. I was once again reminded that there is yet still much to learn about the world of tea.

In my search for knowledge, I came across an excellent article, Ritualizing the Habit, Part One – Teapots: Yixing, Gaiwan, Kyusu and Co. on Ya-Ya’s Teaboard. I have included an excerpt of the article for your learning pleasure: 

With this mini-series Ritualizing the habit, I intend to give a brief and practical overview of some of the basic utensils used in tea preparation.

In part one, I will focus on the most important accessory for tea preparation: the teapot. Without delving too deep into the specifics of materials, etc., I’ll explain the general use, benefits and limitations, as well as give some recommendations regarding practical sizes of some common teapot types.

This article includes a lot of great information on the types of teapots used for various types of tea brewing. I would be remiss for not sharing the knowledge.  For the full story…

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As I continued by search, to find the best Gongfu or Kungfu cha brewing technique, I found this detailed description outlined on WIKI-How. A portion of the instructions are similar to those in my last post; however, there is a great deal of additional information that I previously did not consider. There seems to more “ceremonial” actions involved as well as more emphasis on tea types. But, you can be the judge.

 

Brewing Technique #2

  1. Appreciate the tradition. In the Chinese traditional tea culture, Kung Fu tea has a certain etiquette that goes along with it, a procedure that drinkers follow. Each different place adds various details. Study the various ways in which Kung Fu tea is served and enjoyed, and eventually you will develop your own unique way.
  2. Get a tea set: This will include a tea tray (hollow tray with a container inside which can contain all the water that will be spilled during the process), teapot, fair cup (a separate tea vessel), tasting cups, and aroma cups (sniffer cups).
  3. Prepare the tea leaves in advance, so that they are ready to be placed in the pot as soon as it has been warmed. A tea caddy, or “tea presentation vessel,” is recommended for this purpose, as is a proper set of tea tools. Approximately one to two teaspoons of leaves is a good quantity to begin with and is easily adjusted to taste after the initial infusion. Keep in mind that due to the many variations of tea processing, some leaves are a lot more compact than others. For instance: in terms of volume of leaves, you will need less Tieguanyin than Yan Cha or Formosa Oolong.
  4. Rinse all vessels with hot water. This signifies that the ritual of tea making has begun by purifying the pot, cleaning it of dust and residue and making it ready to receive the tea. It also warms the vessels since the hot water is then poured into the serving pitcher and from there into the tasting cups. This is done because at room temperature ceramic teaware is usually quite cold and unsuited to brewing fine teas whose temperature must be carefully controlled. After rinsing, the water should be discarded into the draining tray or a waste water bowl.
  5. Before infusion, pour hot water over the leaves and then quickly pour it off. This removes any dust from the leaves and begins to open them up—-releasing the tea’s aroma, which should be savored prior to infusion. This set prepares the palate to appreciate the full flavor of the tea.
  6. Use pure or mineral water to brew the tea. Tap water should be avoided, since its chemical treatment imparts undesirable flavors and odors which interfere with the delicate aromatics of tea. (Home filters and other water purification systems can minimize and, in some cases, eliminate these problems.) The best water for tea brewing is spring water with a natural mineral content that’s neither too hard nor too soft. Since T.D.S., “total dissolved solids”, or mineral content measured in parts per million, varies greatly from water to water, you may want to do your own taste-test of waters available in your area to determine which one has the best flavor, body and compatibility with the tea you drink.
  7. Fill the pot to the top with hot water and cover. Pour water over the top of the pot, drawing the stream over the air hole until a little water comes out the spout. When this occurs, you know the pot is full and heated to the right temperature.
  8. Pour the water into the fair cup to heat it. A fair cup allows the tea to be poured from the teapot into a holding vessel. Sometimes these fair cups use a filter to trap unwanted tea particles that may have passed on from the teapot.
  9. Add tea leaves and let steep.
    • Oolong Tea: For light oolongs, such as Bao Zhong & Imperial Green, use 70°-80°C (158°-176°F) water and an infusion time of 3 to 5 minutes. For darker styles, including Tieguanyin & Yan Cha—between 80° and 90°C (176-194°F) again steeping 3 to 5 minutes.
    • Black Tea: You will probably find that water between 85° and 95°C (185°-203°F) and a three minute infusion works best for black tea. You may want to experiment with lower temperatures and longer steeping times.
    • Puerh Tea: Use water that’s just come to a boil and infuse 3-5 minutes.
  10. When the leaves have infused their essence, pour the tea out into the pitcher (fair cup). This intermediate step between the teapot and the individual cups allows the tea to be mixed while pouring (the first tea coming out of the teapot will be less strong than the one on the bottom of the teapot). Moreover, it allows to precisely adjust the brewing time in the teapot (all the tea comes out quickly, instead of being slowly poured in the individual cups).
  11. From the fair cup, distribute the tea in the aroma cups, keeping the pitcher close to the cups and pouring slowly. This reduces the movement of the tea, maintaining its temperature.
  12. After the aroma cups are filled, position one tasting cup, upside down, over each aroma cup. After tasting cups are positioned, take each cup pair and quickly flip it: this is a very delicate step since the cups are becoming hot on the outside. Notice that the tea will not spill out because no air can enter the aroma cups. After this is done, each guest will simply lift the aroma cup from the tasting one.  Another option to this step is to give each guest the aroma cup and separately the tasting cup. The guests will then simply pour the tea from aroma to tasting cups and proceed by smelling in the same manner.
  13. At this point, the aroma cup can be brought near the nose to receive the fragrance of the tea by inhaling the steam.
  14. After smelling, drink the tea from the tasting cups. Drink by taking small sips that allow to fully enjoy the taste, aromas and qualities of the tea.
  15. A good green tea will allow up to four or five brews. Add water to the teapot and start again from point 10 to your will.

This is a call to experienced Gongfu or Kungfu cha Brewers. After reading each technique, which of the two do you prefer. If neither, please submit your preferred Gongfu or Kungfu cha Brewing Technique either as a comment to this post or via email: teaescapade@yahoo.com.

I look forward to your responses. Until then… Happy Tea Drinking!

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As you know, I was on the prowl for Yixing Teaware, that fortunately ended in a purchase of multiple teapots. This all began from my quest to understand different brewing techniques. Over and over again, my search directed me to Gongfu or Kungfu cha brewing. Thus my search for Yixing Teaware. Backed by a successful purchase – guided by Jo of YaYa House of Excellent Teas and Jason, author of Bearsblog – I am now on the hunt for a recommended Gongfu or Kungfu cha Brewing Technique.

First, I believe a little history is important. There should always be purpose and understanding behind our actions.

According to Wikipedia, Gongfu or Kungfu cha is a tradition of the Minnan and Chaozhou or Chaoshan people. Kungfu cha teapot brewing, also know as Kungfu cha ceremony uses small Yixing Teapots of about 4 or 5 fluid ounces to enhance the aesthetics, and more importantly “round out” the taste of the tea being brewed. Yixing teapot brewing leans towards the formal, but is used for private enjoyment of the tea as well as for welcoming guests.

Now on to the actual brewing technique. The following steps are one popular way to brew tea in a form considered to be a kind of art.

Brewing Technique #1

  1. Boil water.
  2. Rinse the teapot with hot water.
  3. Fill the teapot with tea leaves up to one third of the height of the pot.
  4. Rinse the tea leaves by filling the pot with hot water up to half full and draining the water immediately leaving only tea leaves behind. (This step, and all subsequent steps involving pouring water, should be performed in a large bowl to catch any overflow.)
  5. Pour more hot water into the teapot and pour water over the teapot in the large bowl. Bubbles should not be permitted to be formed in the teapot. The infusion should not be steeped for too long: 30 seconds is an appropriate maximum.
  6. Pour the first infusion into small serving cups within a minute by continuously moving the teapot around over the cups. Each cup of tea is expected to have the same flavour, aroma and colour. The nature of this procedure almost mandates the use of some form of drip tray to catch further spillage.
  7. Pour excess tea from the first infusion, and all tea from further infusions, into a second teapot after steeping. It is possible to draw five or six good infusions from a single pot of tea, but subsequent infusions must be extended somewhat in duration to extract maximum flavour: the second infusion extended by approximately ten seconds to 40 seconds, the third extended to 45, etc.

Later today, I will publish the second technique found during my reaserch. My purpose… to find the best Gongfu or Kungfu cha Brewing Technique.

This is a call to experienced Gongfu or Kungfu cha Brewers. After reading this and subsequent posted techniques, which do you prefer. If neither, please submit your preferred Gongfu or Kungfu cha Brewing Technique either as a comment to this post or via email: teaescapade@yahoo.com.

Until Then… Happy Tea Drinking!

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One of my recent posts “Yixing Teaware – How Do I Decide?” spawned great conversation between more experienced tea drinkers than myself. Kudos to their knowledge of tea and teaware. Jason Fasi the writer of Bearsblog identified several other key points one purchasing their first Yixing teapot may want to consider.

Jason recommended that purchasers match the teapot to the tea it is intended for. The physical traits of the teapot, including shape, type of clay, thickness of its walls, size of the opening of the lid, and pour time all influence how a tea brewed in the pot will taste. As a Yixing novice, I never considered these things.

The basis of this consideration surrounds the characteristics of the tea being brewed. Jason contends that one should consider what happens to the tea when brewed too hot or too cold, if the tea is finicky about brewing times, etc. This is a lot to take in, especially since I don’t know how each of the pot’s physical traits impact brewing and taste. However, Jason wasn’t done giving sage advice yet.

“Also, you should consider your tea aesthetics when considering how decorative or simple you want the pot. Decoration can make seasoning the exterior of the pot more difficult, insomuch that more texture means more difficulty in achieving an even patina, if that’s any concern. Some people prefer an uneven patina, because the pot looks more used and loved. Lighter-colored clays are also difficult to season evenly.”

Lastly, be sure to know how to tell the difference between real yixing pots, chaozhou clay pots, Taiwanese clay pots, or else that perfect “yixing” may not be what you expected. This may not matter, as long as it brews good tea and seasons well. But, be aware that Taiwanese and Chaozhou clay pots are generally very cheap compared to Yixing.”

WOW! Jason has given me a lot to think about. I have already purchased two Yixing teapots with coordinated cups. Aesthetically, they are beautiful and I cannot wait until their arrival. Yes, I will post about them including pictures. However, until they arrive I will continue my research. The first question, I would like to pose is “How do you tell the difference between real yixing pots, chaozhou clay pots, and Taiwanese clay pots?”

I lool forward to your answers as we all learn together. Until then… Happy Tea Drinking!

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Yes, I am still searching for the perfect Yixing Teapot. However, after my last post, I feel much more equipped to make an informed purchase. This is due the email I received from Jo, the proprietor of YaYa House of Excellent Teas in New Zealand as well as additional research.

Jo shared some advice from her vast wealth of tea knowledge. Many of my concerns about purchasing Yixing teaware were put to rest. First and foremost, I narrowed my concerns down to the following five questions:

1. What is my purpose for purchasing Yixing Teaware? My initial desire to purchase Yixing Teaware was created out of my love for learning – Yixing Teaware comprises traditional teapots and cups made from Yixing clay. Originating in China, Yixing Teaware dates back to the 15th century and is made from clay produced in the region of the town of Yixing, in the eastern Chinese province of Jiangsu. As a true lover of tea – how could I not be interested in the origins of my habit? Next the opportunity to partake in a traditional tea brewing technique – Gongfu style brewing. And finally, to behold the beauty – Yixing Teaware is made by artists… craftsman with each pot containing unique characteristics of its own.

2. How many people people will join in my tea drinking experience? I tend to drink tea alone therefore, I don’t need a large pot. My first mistake, according to Jo, was in the selection of a pot that was entirely too large for Gongfu style brewing. There are a few variations of the performance of Gongfu style brewing. Here is one known technique:

  • Boil water.
  • Rinse the teapot with hot water.
  • Fill the teapot with tea leaves up to one third of the height of the pot.
  • Rinse the tea leaves by filling the pot with hot water up to half full and draining the water immediately leaving only tea leaves behind. (This step, and all subsequent steps involving pouring water, should be performed in a large bowl to catch any overflow.)
  • Pour more hot water into the teapot and pour water over the teapot in the large bowl. Bubbles should not be permitted to be formed in the teapot. The infusion should not be steeped for too long: 30 seconds is an appropriate maximum.
  • Pour the first infusion into small serving cups within a minute by continuously moving the teapot around over the cups. Each cup of tea is expected to have the same flavour, aroma and colour. The nature of this procedure almost mandates the use of some form of drip tray to catch further spillage.
  • Pour excess tea from the first infusion, and all tea from further infusions, into a second teapot after steeping. It is possible to draw five or six good infusions from a single pot of tea, but subsequent infusions must be extended somewhat in duration to extract maximum flavour: the second infusion extended by approximately ten seconds to 40 seconds, the third extended to 45, etc.
Even if I were brewing for multiple people traditional Yixing Teaware uses small 2 – 4 ounce teacups. With this in mind, Jo recommended a teapot with the capacity to hold no more than 6 to 8 ounces. In addition, when brewing, the tea leaves are poured directly into the pot. It would take a lot of tea leaves to brew a 12, 24, or 32 ounce pot of tea. Not to mention expensive.

3. What types of tea do I brew most often? Yixing teapots are meant for use with black and oolong teas, as well as aged puerh tea. You can also brew green/white tea, but it is important to let the water cool down to around 85 degrees before pouring the water into the pot. Why does the type of tea matter?  Since the clay is porous, it is best to utilize one pot for a particular tea or tea group, depending on your personal preference and intention. The fine texture and porous finish allows each vessel to absorb the essence of the teas brewed within creating a character and uniqueness to each individual pot.

4. Do I plan to be a collector of Yixing Teaware? No, therefore purchasing one of the expensive teapots I found priced up to $1500.00 is unnecessary. Jo informed me that I should expect to purchase a Yixing Teapot with a price range from $20.00 to $50.00 – depending upon the intricacy of the design.

Armed with this knowledge, I am now ready to purchase Yixing Teaware. I give many thanks to the proprietor of YaYa House of Excellent Teas. Additionally, I am grateful for all of the Internet sites available containing the Yixing information for my research. Feel free to opine to this post with information of your own. With better knowledge we are empowered to make better decisions.

Happy Tea Drinking!

References: 

1. Yixing clay teapot. (2008, July 19). In Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia. Retrieved 04:33, July 22, 2008, fromhttp://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=Yixing_clay_teapot&oldid=226635019

2. Yixing tea pots differ greatly from other brewing vessels. Beth Johnston. In Learn About Tea.Com. Retrieved 04:33, July 22, 2008, from http://www.learn-about-tea.com/yixing.html

3. Chinese tea culture. (2008, July 16). In Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia. Retrieved 04:43, July 22, 2008, fromhttp://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=Chinese_tea_culture&oldid=226030124

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Intrigued by my recent experience with Darjeeling Goomtee (2nd Flush), I wanted to know a little more. In my abbreviated research I found:  

“Darjeeling Tea” means tea which has been cultivated, grown, produced, manufactured and processed in the 86 Tea Estates also known as tea gardens in Darjeeling, India.  Only teas coming from these estates can be called Darjeeling Tea.

Tea planting in the Indian district of Darjeeling began in 1841 by Dr. Campbell, a civil surgeon of the Indian Medical Service.  Interestingly, Dr. Campbell, who had been transferred to Darjeeling in 1839, used the seeds of tea plants from China. Thus the actual Darjeeling taste originated from the Chinese black tea plant.  The “Darjeeling taste” simply refers to the soil in which the tea is cultivated. Experimental tea plantation by Dr. Campbell and others occurred during the 1840s. During that same period, the government established tea nurseries. Commercial exploitation began during the 1850s.
 
Traditionally, Darjeeling teas are classified as a type of black tea. However, the modern Darjeeling style employs a hard wither (35-40 % remaining leaf weight after withering), which in turn causes an incomplete oxidation for many of the best teas of this designation. Technically this level of oxidation makes them a form of oolong. The experts say that many Darjeeling teas also appear to be a blend of teas oxidized to levels of green, oolong, and black.

There are several varieties or flavors of darjeeling teas. These varieties are described as follows:

  • 1st Flush is harvested in mid-March following spring rains, and has a gentle, very light color, aroma and mild astringency.
  • In Between is harvested between the two “flush” periods.
  • 2nd Flush is harvested in June and produces an amber, full bodied, muscatel-flavored cup.
  • Monsoon or Rains tea is harvested in the monsoon (or rainy season) between 2nd Flush and Autumnal, is less withered, consequently more oxidized, and usually sold at lower prices. It is rarely exported.
  • Autumnal Flush is harvested in the autumn after the rainy season, and has somewhat less delicate flavour and less spicy tones.

The Darjeeling Goomtee (2nd Flush) tea from Tea Logic, I recently tasted and reviewed is characteristic of the above description. I cannot wait to try some of the other Darjeeling varieties. If there a Darjeeling that you recommend feel free to comment.  Until then… Happy Tea Drinking!

References: Darjeeling tea. (2008, June 24). In Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia. Retrieved 03:54, July 4, 2008, from http://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=Darjeeling_tea&oldid=221497850

Darjeeling tea history. In Darjeeling News. Net. Retreived July 7, 2008, from http://www.darjeelingnews.net/darjeeling_tea.html

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