Tuesday, February 8, 2011

2001 Jin Chang Hao Yi Wu

To truly enjoy a great cup of tea, we should be there with the tea--not off thinking about the past or the future... even what we will say about the tea.   - Master Ling Ping Xiang*
(*fantastic quote pilfered from Cloud Mountain Tea's Steepster profile page)

I've been thinking a lot about this whole blogging-about-tea matter.  What's said in the quote above is something that's occurred to me often.  What am I doing sitting here writing about tea?  I'm no tea master.  My experience with tea is a little drop in a bucket compared to many, particularly many who write blogs like this.  Not only is my experience with tea very minor, my skill at brewing it is just as "beginner."  I can in no way speak with authority about tea except to speak to my own experience and learning.  Which is why I started this blog, at all.  As a way to deepen my experience and learning about tea.  As with anything, mastery only comes with a tremendous amount of practice, experience and mindfulness to moments.  So my writing about tea here is just that -- a way to facilitate my own awareness and mindfulness to the moment, and to the whole wide experience of drinking tea.  

I should also note it's not my intention to "recommend" teas.  While there might be a few I'd challenge anyone not to be impressed with, for the most part it's all so very subjective.  Even my own taste preference from one session to the next with the exact same tea is known to change.  I should probably also confess (if you haven't figured this out already), I'm prone to passionate swings toward the grand and profound.  That's just how I am, and I confess I rather prefer it this way, even though my non-dual and Zen teachers constantly warn against such extremes.  But I'm far too enamored with Life to sit back striving to quietly observe and appreciate.  I actually welcome the sometimes painful lessons borne of getting carried away.

Alright, onto my tea choice for today -- a sample from The Essence of Tea's current selection, the 2001 Jin Chang Hao Yi Wu raw puerh, served up in a lovely and humble Petr Novak tea bowl.  I was lucky to acquire a couple of Petr's bowls from a recent online sale through the Life in Teacup blog.  This one is titled "Prairie Hay teacup," though I notice Petr didn't sign the bottom of this one making me wonder if its a particularly early piece.  A rough red earthenware clay body with a beautiful glaze of cream and rusty oranges.  I love the drips around the edge and the mottling of the interior.  I'd also love to know more about this glaze.  The thought of preparing recipes of minerals and chemicals, applying these to pots, and then the resulting transformations with the right application of intense heat... well, that's yet another matter that sends me off into fits of passionate enthusiasm :)

What to say about this tea?  I'm almost afraid to start because it was one of the most nuanced and constantly changing teas I've had to date.  To tell you the initial aroma was "very nutty" (which is was) is like describing a sunset as "pink."  Sunsets are so much more than pink.  There's the constant change and mutation of colors running the full gamut of 'pink,' not to mention the important factor of time, each moment different from the next in ways that are impossible to enumerate.  "Pink" doesn't even begin to describe, let alone describe at all...  *sigh*  But I'll try and do my best...

So yes, the first aroma out of the gate was nutty and sweet, with fruit around the edges, which soon moved predominantly to fruit, and then all too soon lingered off to not much big scent, at all.  This was a pattern of this tea, it turned out.  After each infusion the aroma would articulate itself (with terrific depth and complexity, changing with each moment) for only a short time before pulling back to a certain quietness.  A first infusion of 7 seconds.. already I'm having a hard time naming the fragrance notes in this tea.  While it's certainly recognizable as a sheng aroma, it carries a fragrance that's all its own.  Dry wood?  Yes, definitely lots of wood.  I recently spent some time in a wood shop that had all sorts of exotic wood lying around and this tea takes me back there.  The taste was woody forest, as well.  Also quiet.  Serene.

I must say I like the shape of Petr's tea bowl.  This is my first time drinking out of cup of this shape, wide and open like this.  I like how it presents the tea to my lips and fills my visual field as I sip.  I also like how it requires two hands to hold it up, reminiscent of an offering.  The mottled inner glaze of creams and oranges perfectly complements the color of the tea, as well.  Very nice.

Second infusion, 10 seconds -- the aroma wakes up now with sweet plummy fruits, again articulating itself with a (dare I say?) wise presence before lingering off with hints of floral.  I actually like how this tea is not so full of talk.  It offers what it has in the moment, speaking with impressive eloquence and then quieting down to a soft whisper.  Come to think of it, I like people who speak this way, too.  They seem to know something I wish I knew as well.  There's a fruitiness in the flavor now and a lovely hui gan is filling my mouth and throat and returning on my breath, filling my head and sinuses with a floral quality that includes plum around the edges.

Third infusion, 10 seconds again -- the aroma is so complex and ever changing.  I can't pin it down to any one thing.  Moment to moment, each is different, a character all its own.  Still, my notes on this tea show my effort -- woods initially, plenty of fruit but not acidic.. more soft and almost flowery, some sugar notes show up here and there.  Ghostly shadows of camphor at the edge now and then.  A very nuanced tea.  The taste is delicious, as well.  Clean, woody, fresh.  This is truly an introspective tea (my favorite kind).  I'm loving the plummy floral return that's filling my head and carrying on my breath.  There's a nice qi with this one, as well.  Not too overpowering, but mellow and calming.  This tea feels like it has some wisdom to it and the qi almost seems to impart that to me physically.

Fourth infusion, another 10 seconds.  I'm surprised at how I'm led to keep the infusions short, and could probably even go shorter.  Clearly a powerful tea for what it offers.  It was about at this point that I gave up searching for descriptors and decided to just sit back and open to what was there.  My words and categorizations were only muddying things, it seemed.  Suffice it to say this was a very beautiful tea, both in fragrance, taste and qi, with a character all its own.  A long lasting and beautiful hui gan, and a long lasting tea that just kept giving and giving.  I never did reach the end of what it had to offer.  I finally had to get on with my day.

Examining the spent leaves showed plenty of strength and vigor to them.  Lots of large whole leaves, all of them strong with good spines.  I am blessed for having had this tea today.  Mudkip agrees, lying back in my little morning of bliss and giving her full approval next to the sample bag :)


  1. I like to think of my blogging as a way to interact with a vast tea community, willing to help, correct, and build each other up.

    As far as the tea goes, sometimes it is best just to sit back and relax while drinking it. Perhaps, when in taking notes, we lose sight of what tea truly has to offer.

    Excellent post!

  2. In years to come you will look back at "the early years" with fond memories. And actually, the early years are often the most interesting. You are discovering all kinds of new things about tea.

    Beginners can often detect the true essence of a tea easier than someone who's been involved with tea for years because we bring all kinds of baggage to the table with us. You see, we have expectations from a given tea, what it should look, smell, taste like. And if it doesn't fit into our preconcieved ideas of what it should be, we tend to reject it.

    You on the other hand has an open mind and have no choice but to accept the tea for what it is, unencumbered by the criteria that experience brings with it.

    So....enjoy your tea. There is a big wide world of tastes and aromas out there waiting for you. Just be sure to bring your credit card, your going to need it.


  3. My blog is a simple one and I am rather embarrassed to find out that people read it. I'm even more embarrassed when I see it listed in other blogs as I don't have anything really intelligent to say on the matter. But I blog anyway as it amuses me and I enjoy taking pictures in my flat's rather challenging light levels (the place would suit a hobbit).

    Just keep writing, you write well and there is always something to glean from your words.

  4. Some answers about the cup: It is named "Prairie Hay teacup" because of the glaze which is only ash from hay - similar story like in my older post here: http://potsandtea.blogspot.com/2011/01/ash-glazed.html The cup is not signed for a prosaic reason - the clay I used here it rough and it is very difficult to make any sigh on the bottom especially if you forget till it is too dry:)If you have more question feel free to ask. I am glad that you like it.

    I think that to try express our finding, feelings and thoughts about the subject (tea)can help us to learn and cultivate our relationship to it. Keep going this road:)


  5. And yes.. another reason for blogging about tea and joining the online tea community is being enriched by the company of such friendly and humble (and very experienced) voices :) May they someday invent the technology to allow us to share a pot of tea through cyberspace and across great distances. I suppose this tea-blogging thing is the closet that can be achieved for now.

    Five Elements (or "Man of Many Things?" I'm at a loss for how to address you) -- I can completely relate. I've got a few other blogs of my own that I actually prefer knowing that no one reads them! I've also had some blogs that, when they started to get readership I ended up completely abandoning them.

    Petr -- love this tea bowl. Could you tell me a bit about the clay? Is it local to where you are?

  6. I started my blog as a way to keep a record of what I was drinking and what I thought of them, and I think I've learned more from my own blog than anyone/anything else in regards to tea, especially since it's such a personal thing and tea brewing, as a skill, requires practice.

    I've called tea blogging as a "constant tea meeting", which now sounds rather silly in retrospect, but I think there's some truth to that -- in the absence of in person drinking, this is the best we can do.

  7. I pilfered the quote from a article in The- Leaf.org

    Being Expert or Beginner in matters of tea means nothing. If you drink tea with all your being you understand all things and maybe even your self. Which can finally be seen as not real at all.

    At which point you arrive back home.

    Great blog!

  8. Hi L.t.p.r,

    The clay is mixture of few Czech clays, I do not use pickax to get my clays (only time to time for some extra pieces..) but we mix clays searching for the right feeling...We are happy here to have many deposits with wide rank of clays.

    Enjoy each cup of tea Enjoy the life