Monday, September 26, 2011
The tea jar 'magic trick'
Elevation: 1500 meters
Cultivar: Luanze (qingxin) Oolong
Hand harvested on April 25, 2011
Process: charcoal medium roast
This High Moutain Hung Shui Oolong is best brewed after it had time to rest after its roasting. In the past, before trains and planes, this helped preserved the freshness of the leaves until they arrived (by boat, horse carriage...) to the customer. Now, they arrive vacuum packed within days of ordering and without having really rested. When the foil is opened, the fragrance of young roasted Oolong is much less pleasant than that of a fresh High Mountain Oolong.
Teaparker's storage book, confirmed by my experiments, showed that a good jar is key to good Hung Shui. Unfortunately, industrial porcelain doesn't improve the tea very much (that's why I stopped selling those jars when I realized this). Antique porcelain jars can have excellent results, but are difficult to find and quickly expensive. That's why I have worked with David Louveau, Michel François and Petr Novak to produce traditionally made tea jars.
What is truly magic and amazing is that just a few minutes inside such a jar will change the fragrance of the tea, and, ultimately, even its taste! The plastic, unnatural smell goes away very quickly and a sweet, refined fragrance appears. Teaparker likens this effect to a wine decanter: a young red wine will open up much faster after being poured in a decanter.
3 jars in early 2010. This gave me the opportunity to test which clay and glaze reacted best with tea. Later, he sent more different jars and one made with the same clay, glaze that I liked best, and with this simple shape: roundish with a single cover on top. And since this jar had the best results, I asked him to make more.
The clay is technical porcelain (not 100% pure, but more natural). Petr has thrown and trimmed these jars by hand on the wheel. After a first bisque fire in electric kiln to 1000°C, Petr glazed the outside and the inside with Czech soda feldspar with a small amount of white clayand. Then he fired the jars in a wood kiln for 20 hours to around 1300°C.
Made in June 2011, I have already washed them once. However, I recommend that you do it again after you receive one: immerse in clean water, wipe the surface with a clean cloth and let the uncovered jar dry under the sun.
(The problem with most -all?- industrial porcelain jars is that even if you clean it well, it will continue to have an unnatural smell inside.)
The jar fits approximately 150 grams of rolled Oolong. (More or less, since each of this handmade jars is a little bit different). The price of such a jar by Petr Novak is the same as Michel François' jar in my current list. And, it includes a well padded cloth with belt to protect the jar like seen below!
The tea tastes well balanced and mellow from this cup. The color is darker than in the ivory white cup, as the glaze is a little darker and the cup is deeper. It's not a small gongfu cha cup, but one that would well suit a little bit more casual drinking style.
It weighs approximately 100 grams and costs the same price as a white porcelain competition set in my selection.
So, how does this Hung Shui Oolong perform after being subjected to a short stay in Petr's jar?
The dry leaf fragrance in the jar smells like a light, but powerful bouquet of spring flowers. This natural smell doesn't irritate the nose (like artificial flavors do) but stimulates the palate and makes me salivate. It's so pure and refined!