Water, a Wicked Problem

I’ve been working on making good water for tea for almost two years now. A recent article on TeaDB mentioned puer tea storage as a “wicked problem” where there’s so many variables and not very good or clear feedback. Water for tea has proven to be a similarly wicked problem.

Natural vs. Artificial

What’s the difference between natural spring water and artificial purified mineralized water? Obviously, spring water comes from nature, and purified remineralized water is man-made. But what is the actual difference between these two substances? Does spring water have some magic structure, or is it just a good mineral balance?

What is in water?

There are 11 substances besides water that are in drinking water in various forms.

  1. Calcium
  2. Magnesium
  3. Sodium
  4. Potassium
  5. Chloride
  6. Sulfate
  7. Bicarbonate
  8. Silica
  9. Oxygen
  10. Carbon Dioxide
  11. Nitrate

These are 11 of the variables we can manipulate in the study of water. Where do you even start?

The Challenge of Purity

Getting purified water in a small scale is extremely difficult. My tap water comes from a dirty river, so cleaning it up has been a struggle. Distilled water bought at the store commonly comes in bottles that reek of plastic, are expensive, and pollute the environment. My local supermarket’s Reverse Osmosis machine produces water with a chemical aftertaste, likely from the monthly bleach treatment.

Distillation at home can be done with a distiller, but these are full of metal tubing and leave the water tasting quite strange. Also, distillation doesn’t remove odors in water very well, so distillers come with charcoal packets which don’t quite remove the taste. I purchased a $300 unit and despite the positive amazon reviews, it produced drinkable, but obviously metallic water.

I’ve also distilled in a closed all-glass setup, but the VOCs (volatile organic compounds) are reabsorbed back into the water along with high concentrations of CO2, which makes the water taste not very nice. Basically, you can have water free of minerals, with 0 TDS (Total Dissolved Solids), but full of gross gases and non-conductive chemicals from your water supply. However smartwater gets their water, I would like that too, but it’s probably a piece of equipment worth a ton of money and bigger than my apartment.

I have a home RO (Reverse Osmosis) system, but the high pressure concentrates hydrogen sulfide into the end product, and I get eggy water. Also, the TDS is only divided by 10, so there’s some minerals left. It’s quick though and not metallic, so that’s what I’m working with.

If someone knows how to get pure water at home (or anywhere) without any metallic taste, plastic taste or dissolved grossness, that tastes like absolutely nothing, please comment on this post. It would help my research a lot, and I can share my findings with others.

Why

Probably 10% of people are getting the most out of their tea leaves, water-wise. There is so much that can go wrong with just the mineral balance of water that can ruin your tea. I also believe there are new heights in water quality and mineral content that could beat any spring water. If you disagree, please tell me why this wouldn’t be the case.

P.S. I am aware that this is a problem in coffee that has been partially solved by various companies, i.e. Third Wave Water and gcwater. These could point in the right direction, but tea is not coffee, and there’s reasons these recipes might not be optimal.

Opportuni-tea

Why do I keep drinking tea?

Sometimes there are tea sessions that just aren’t good. People don’t talk about them usually because they just aren’t notable or interesting – they are moments of failure. Usually, the explanation for these sessions is “I just wasn’t in the zone.”

During tonight’s ripe session, after a full day of water research (yes, I’m diving deep into water for tea), I was kind of bouncing back and forth between the computer and the tea table, sort of half focused. Suddenly, a song came on: Mind Mischief (The Field Remix) by Tame Impala. I have been listening to both Tame Impala and The Field for years, but didn’t discover this song until I heard it repeatedly on White2Tea’s Instagram and Snapchat stories. When I kept hearing it there, I started to wonder, “yeah, it’s a cool song, but what does Paul see in it that makes him listen again and again?

This is a pattern of thinking that I believe is central to modern tea culture. What do people see in Yang Qing Hao that makes them buy it by the tong? What do people see in old Yixing teapots that make them obsessed? What makes people buy those $130 samples of old Liu Bao from Essence of Tea? And on and on.

I closed my eyes as the song played and suddenly I was lulled into a sense of happy peaceful nostalgia (yes this reads like a bad college admissions essay but it’s the truth) where my old neighborhood flashed before my eyes, the cul-de-sac with its fresh mulch, the happy feelings of freedom so different from what I find most of the time in my young adult life.

When I opened my eyes, I saw everything with startling clarity – I mean to say that colors were more vivid, details were more pronounced. The texture of the modern zhuni teapot contrasted against the plate, the whiteness of the porcelain, the waste bowl, the chabu (tea mat), everything. I suddenly felt like I was capable of greater things, to transcend my everyday life.

When you invest time and or money into tea and or teaware, you are buying opportunity for moments like this. It’s not about always having the best tea session; that can be taken away, but nothing can take away the opportunity for an incredible, eye-opening experience.

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Beginners and Experts

In the world of tea, what do we gain with experience?

What’s the difference between an experienced tea drinker and a relative novice? I’m not an expert, but I’m closer to being an expert than I used to be. I’ve also interacted with many people I would consider to be experts, especially in certain areas. Here are a few things people seem to collect along the way.

Tea and teaware

I’ve not met any tea enthusiast who does not have a sizable collection. From people with over 100 teapots to those with entire rooms full of tea, there exist tea-fans so obsessed that they have gone beyond practicality. The more you learn about tea, and the more tea you learn about, the more temptation there is to buy it. Marketing is getting better and better, limited releases are everywhere (white2tea, pu-erh.sk, others), and the selection of teaware is unbelievable. It is very difficult to purposefully reduce the size of your tea/teaware stash over time, and the best way is a sale or swap.

The ability to relax and enjoy

In order to fully enjoy tea, one must drop everything else (aside from possibly a good book or album). I mean to say that worry and tea don’t go well together, especially not worry about tea. I see most (not all) beginners quite concerned about if they are making the tea “right.” Eventually, an expert learns to let the tea make itself. This is done partially through development of personal style and habit, and otherwise learning how to relax and make tea at the same time.

The ability to make good tea

Of the ten thousand ways to make tea, not all are good. Making good tea is about maximizing good qualities and minimizing bad ones. It is an iterative process that comes from many attempts. The more pots one has, the longer it takes to learn their nuances, and the worse the available water is, well, you gotta figure out a solution. The better the water is, the easier it is to make good tea. The point is, people usually get better with experience, or at least develop some character and style in their resulting tea.

Positive memories

Some tea sessions stick out over others for various reasons. With experience, the list of memorable tea sessions lengthens. That time I had HK Henry after a long, stressful day. The outdoor session at the pond in the woods. That six-tea marathon session. The tea masterclass where the puers just got older and older. That time the tea made me tear up (it happens to more people than you think!) That first bitter-turning-to sweet taste of raw puer. And the list goes on.

Friendship

I’ve met some people online and offline in the tea community. Some of these friendships go beyond tea, but it’s perfectly possible and okay to have deep friendships entirely about tea. There are one-sided relationships too – some people serve as the experts and others as the novices. The best way to put your own tea journey in context is to show others what you are doing and compare with what they do. This is not to say that people with more experience are necessarily correct, but that they may have reasons for what they do that you can think about as you decide what to incorporate in different ways.

Personal opinions / the (dis)respect of others

The tea culture is a generally polite place full of different opinions. Most tea-learning is confirmed by experience, and people don’t easily let go of that which they’ve learned from experience. There are usually reasons for differing opinions but they are not easy to figure out. So, there are commonly long arguments about, for example, tea storage, unglazed vs. glazed clay, vendor choices, whether a tea is good or bad, and water (this one seems especially contentious). This is what makes tea so exciting to an expert, especially one who is willing to change their mind.

Appreciation of non-tea

The more one learns to enjoy tea, the more that enjoyment spills over into non-tea elements. Whether it’s the world of alcoholic beverages, from single malts to wine to beer to eaux-de-vie, or just appreciation of nature, tea is about exploring the richness of the world to the fullest extent. Eventually, one learns to enjoy simply living and breathing.

Patience and its rewards

Patience is a virtue, and tea requires patience. Waiting for the water to boil takes patience. Waiting for the hot tea to cool a bit takes patience. Waiting for those loooong steeps at the end of a session takes patience. And all that patience is rewarded with a slow, steady adventure. It’s quite uncomfortable to wait so long doing nothing when you are a tea novice, but eventually it becomes clear that doing nothing is the gateway to a clear experience of reality, or something like that.

Learning from mistakes / Beginner’s mind

It’s easy to mess up a session, or brew a tea for a significant other that evokes the reaction of disgust, or spill tea all over your pants. It’s also incredibly common to have your most expensive tea with your favorite teaware and be completely let down by the result. This is learning, and why the best approach to tea is not as an expert, but as a beginner, open to whatever may happen in the current circumstance. The tea experts I respect the most don’t have any pretentious attitude, but simply know how to enjoy and share tea in their own way, and especially are good at listening to experts and beginners alike.

59676321265__B69833B3-DE55-4B9C-83B7-415B88B2D0EF
at puerh brooklyn

P.S. I’m doing a lot of hard, time-consuming, mildly expensive work with water, and plan to share it with the world around March 2020. Sorry for the wait, but distilling water takes many hours, and my glass lab equipment is in customs. Thanks for reading!

Five Observations

1) Bubbles on the surface of your tea are a good sign

Sometimes, when pouring tea from a pitcher into a cup, I notice a group of bubbles collecting on the surface. Sometimes, they pop or slowly move to the side of the cup, but occasionally they stay in the middle. Mgualt calls this the “jello effect” and it has to do with the saponins in the tea coupling with the right mineral balance in the water. Usually a cup of tea with jello effect will be thick and have good vitality. I have also had this happen with just water rinsing out the empty cup and pitcher, but this could be residual saponins on the teaware.

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big bubble

2) Excess bicarbonate in water leads to softer texture, but less flavor

I’ve taken a small hiatus from adding salts and other substances to my water (besides charcoal), but when I was adding baking soda (sodium bicarbonate) I noticed this trend. High bicarbonates = softer tasting water. FIJI water is known to be soft and it contains 153 mg/L bicarbonate, which is very high. Seeing that target total mineral content in my opinion is 40-100 mg/L, just the bicarbonate level in FIJI exceeds that. This is why I don’t use FIJI for tea, you can’t really taste the tea. Why this is, someone please let me know the chemistry.

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the thing on the right measures TDS: total dissolved solids

3) The difference between 60% and 65% puer storage humidity is very significant

At 60, my puer becomes pretty sour and flat; at 65%, it’s sweet and active. That’s about it, it’s an obvious difference from smelling the cakes. I still happily drink puer stored at 55%, but if I had more humid storage space freed up I would place the tea in that. 

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very mild ambient conditions in the closet
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bag storage

4) A standard 6 gram tea session is a lot of caffeine and takes a lot of time

After my week without tea, suddenly I couldn’t get through a full session without my heart racing. For me, a session is 6 or 7 grams/100 ml, but I know others easily get through 10 grams/150ml in a sitting. This isn’t crazy, but it is enough to push your tolerance so that you may need tea to function, which isn’t what I prefer. A 100 ml session is significant, and maybe a half-size session daily will keep the caffeine addiction to a minimum, and make the larger sessions that much more special. Also, a gongfu session takes me around an hour and a half, mostly spent letting the tea cool and heating water. This is a significant amount of time and isn’t advisable to do daily unless you wake up reasonably early.

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left 180 ml, right 45.

5) Slightly alkaline water is better than slightly acidic water

This is just a general trend, around 7.8 pH is nice and strong, while 6 pH like Voss is tart and thin. I don’t understand water pH, but that’s just something I noticed.

Thanks for reading and feel free to discuss with your tea friends.

-teaboy

One week without tea

If you’re getting tired in the evenings, consider how much tea you drink. I just did one week with no caffeine, when usually I would have around 9 grams of tea per day. Now, with only two grams of gyokuro I can reach my caffeine limit, where I have a sufficient buzz and my heart tells me “no more, that’s enough.” I noticed that now when I have my sessions, since I am more sensitive I am enjoying the sessions so much more. When tea is not necessary in an addictive sense, it is much more of a joy.

Today I had YS 8891 red label in a YS Hei Jin Gang clay yixing. I used to think the pot was terrible (too porous, no flavor) but actually it makes the tea so soft, the notes that are left over are very enjoyable and on average the tea is thicker than in porcelain. Speaking of porcelain, look forward to a post on comparing different porcelain cups.

Since I am so sensitive, I just ordered a 45ml (tiny) yixing so I can enjoy a strong, yet tiny session with only 2.5g of sheng. I have a 50 ml shibo from stefan andersson but it burns a bit when holding it and I’m beginning to see the deep benefits of yixing.

I have yixing pots and european clay pots and it will be interesting to note the similarities and differences. Overall, to refresh your tea experience, go a week without it. It’s the best thing you can do.

My Top Ten Favorite Teas: Part 2 (#5 – 1)

Continued from the last post:

#5:

White2Tea 2002 Little Yellow Mark ($269/357gr, $.75/gr)

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20202B

I’ve said I would get a full cake of this once I’ve accomplished a major life goal. I haven’t yet, but it never stops motivating me. This tea proves that cakes with Zhongcha wrappers come in all different varieties. I’ve had another yellow mark private order (from teas we like) that’s completely different in material and storage. The white2tea little yellow mark is an all-around powerhouse. It’s got honey sweetness, deep fresh woodiness, and everything in between. High notes, low notes, it’s just deeply satisfying. It’s one of those teas you have to stop and appreciate for it’s yun and its balance. I would consider it the standard by which I compare aged raw puer.

Score: 8.2/10

Other reviews of this tea: http://jakubtomek.blogspot.com/2015/01/2002-little-yellow-mark-white2tea.html

https://steepster.com/teas/white2tea/48327-2002-cnnp-little-yellow-mark-private-order-aged-raw-puerh

#4:

Yunnan Sourcing Lao Cong Mi Lan Xiang ($12/10gr, $1.20/gr)

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walden pond session

In regards to tea, I go by this maxim: the deeper, the better. Mi Lan Xiang means Honey Orchid aroma/flavor, but they do not all come the same. Many Mi Lan Xiangs give you just honey and orchid flavor with nothing else special about it. But this one had a deep almond note in there as well as rich wood incense tones that made it obviously next-level.

I had two sessions with it, including one at walden pond. During that one, a little girl yelled, “look mommy, he’s having a tea party!” It made me pretty happy. I could think of few more magical places to drink tea. Circumstances aside, this tea has a lot of depth and yun.

Score: 8.4/10

Other reviews of this tea: None

#3:

O-Cha Gyokuro Tsurujirushi ($30.60/50gr, $.61/gr)

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The partial sticker is my fault

My first gyokuro from O-cha, and so far the best. I’ve also had the suigyoku, the yame and the shirakawa, but they’re not nearly as good. I purchased it in August 2017 and finished it rather quickly.

What makes it stand out is its long-lasting electric sweetness; a sweetness that you can’t get to the bottom of. Some teas are nice and sweet for a bit, but the length of the sweetness here was notable. This taste balanced out the overwhelming umami so that they played off each other.

Tsurujirushi is so intense that whenever I shared it with a friend, they became stunned silent, almost confused. While drinking this tea, it’s impossible to have any other thoughts; it overloads the palate in a very arresting way.

Compared to other gyokuros, the yame is too one-dimensional umami and a bit astringent, the suigyoku was not vibrant enough for me, and the shirakawa was nice but more mellow.

Score: 8.5/10

Other reviews of this tea: http://theartofjapanesegreentea.com/tsurujirushi-gyokuro-tea-review/

#2:

Pu-erh.sk 2018 Lao Man E ($7.90/7 gr, $1.13/gr)

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behold the glorious flag of bingdao

This tea is so powerful it once made me feel like I was on a whole other existence. I consider all pu-erh.sk productions to have some sweetness, so it’s not like this is just a bitter bomb. The aftertaste is usually around ten minutes long. Lao man’e is not always that easy to find. This having the characteristics of older trees makes it interesting to have a tea that is extremely bitter, but not harsh. Anyone could get some young factory tea to be bitter but this is a different world. It’s got textured bitterness that evolves over time and one of my favorite intense qi profiles.

Score: 8.8/10

Other reviews of this tea: https://puerh.blog/teanotes/2018-lao-man-e-prsk

#1!:

White2Tea 2017 Pussy ($92/200gr, $.46/gr)

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my cat looks just like the one on the right

This was kind of a life-changing tea for me. It was the first nice raw I ever tried, and a good choice for that. It’s a really sweet tea with a bitter backbone, which provides for an awesome depth. It’s nice having your first qi experience along with that taste, very fun and happy. A couple years later, it still delivers pure joy.

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In food science, there’s a term called the bliss point which usually refers to how much added sugar is the perfect amount to maximize pleasure. In this blend, the honey-pollen sweetness is just perfect, while you can still taste the woodiness, high florals and deeper richness. I’m on my third cake now, my first two purchased in early 2018 and the new one bought just recently in mid 2019. You can taste some aging on the new cake, where it’s a little deeper and less bright. It’s exciting to taste the transformation, but the peak time for this tea is six months to a year after pressing, and then probably many years later, depending on the storage. I would buy the 2018 to get an idea of that, or the 2017 if you want the original.

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up close and personal

Score: 9/10

Other reviews of this tea: http://mattchasblog.blogspot.com/2017/09/why-this-tea-will-sell-out-first-2017.html

https://mgualt.com/tealog/2017/09/02/2017-white2tea-samples/

http://oolongowl.com/2017-white2tea-puer-90-100-bracket-feat-pussy-bellwether-happy-anniversary-baby/

https://www.theoolongdrunk.com/single-post/2017/07/26/Pussy-By-White2Tea

https://steepster.com/teas/white2tea/80091-2017-pussy

 

 

My Top Ten Favorite Teas: Part 1 (#10 – 6)

Hello from Tennessee! I’ve had a couple hundred teas or so in my life, so I thought it would be cool to reflect on which ones I enjoy(ed) the most. Comment with your top ten if you want. Doing this exercise taught me a lot about my personal taste, so it could be revealing to you also. All these teas are highly recommended!

#10:

2011 Dayi Jia Ji Tuo ($27.99/500gr, $.06/gr)

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The cheapest tea on the list. Cheap, but with a deep flavor that you only get after 7 years of Guangdong dry storage, no more, no less. The Dayi house taste is good, and it’s here. The range of flavors in the blend is very wide, and the amount of flavor (and caffeine) is wonderful. As long as I would not steep it for more than a second, the tea was not harsh. The smoke was well integrated, and I think this is a product of the storage. It makes me just as happy to drink as any expensive cake out there. Frequently, tea can surprise you.

Score: 7.6/10

Other reviews of this tea: https://steepster.com/pflipp/posts/360867

#9:

Hojo Tsukigase Zairai Sencha ($9.37/50gr, $.19/gr)

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bag of joy… now empty

It’s a sencha that tastes like high mountain oolong. Significant throaty bitterness, spicy note, really deep qi, tea drunk feeling. Umami is absent here because there is no nitrogen fertilizer used. Goes nine steepings easily. Thanks to pedant for recommending this, it really made me realize that tea can absolutely surprise you. It’s not a novelty-only tea, as the dry potency of the tea is satisfying.

Score: 7.6/10

#8

Living Tea Being and Time ($32/56gr, $.57/gr)

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on a moving box (I recently moved to TN, and brought my tea with me)

It’s unusual to find quite aggressively stored tea that still has power to it, but this tea has small traces of white mold and a dark liquor, and I can get it whenever. Supposedly from Kunming Factory (now closed), serious qi experience with very intense thickness and a sort of coffee throatiness occasionally. Very relaxing and energizing, it’s quite therapeutic to drink. Living tea is offering something here that is actually tough to get; quite decent quality leaves that are well-aged for an affordable price.

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the tin is half full, half empty

Score: 7.9/10

Other reviews of this tea: None

#7:

Leaf of the East Charcoal Roasted Dong Ding ($6.99/56gr, $.12/gr)

Leaf of the East’s Charcoal Roasted Dong Ding: Review #1

Score: 8.1/10

Other reviews of this tea: None

#6:

Teapals Mengku Rongshi 2003 Da Xue Shan Wild Brick ($39/250gr, $.16/gr)

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came without wrapper, so I rewrapped it myself

Now sold out, this brick has a very soft taste. It’s a really powerful tea that you have to be careful with. This tea is a favorite because it revealed how subtlety and power are not mutually exclusive. The malaysia storage isn’t really that wet, quite dry actually. If I didn’t know it was da xue shan, I would assume it was a Yiwu because of the sweetness. It’s subtle but it hits all areas of the mouth and has a full profile with some savoriness. Tastes much fancier than its price.

Score: 8.2/10

Other reviews of this tea: https://medium.com/@wongki/2003-mengku-rongshi-da-xue-shan-brick-250g-%E4%BA%8C%E9%9B%B6%E9%9B%B6%E4%B8%89-%E5%8B%90%E5%BA%93%E6%88%8E%E6%B0%8F%E5%A4%A7%E9%9B%AA%E5%B1%B1%E7%A0%96-ba82ebca9e7c

Taste as Meditation

A lot of people make a separation between those who “nerd out” about tea and those who are spiritually connected to the tea. The zen people say “don’t think about the taste of the tea just make it and drink it” and the tea nerds say “don’t worry about stories about zen monks and health benefits just make it and drink it.” The “just make it and drink it” is common to both approaches, of course.

For a very long time, I have been just making and drinking my tea, with a sort of soft focus and presence: I pay attention and relax. But recently, I have been consciously analyzing my tea as I drink it, like some kind of sommelier searching for flavor notes. Now why would I do such a thing?

The level of focus required in order to determine what kinds of flavors are present in the tea is surprisingly deep. The fact that taste is subjective doesn’t change the fact that the tastes are there waiting to be uncovered. Perhaps they don’t need to be labeled, especially because I can’t tell my longans from my gardenias, but at least you can group your raw tea-drinking sensation into different dimensions of flavor. For example, low notes vs high notes: you can think “this taste, although I haven’t a clue what it resembles, is low.” Also, does it last a long time? When does it arrive, and when does it leave? Do the successions of notes have a rhythm?

Yun

Yun is a term that, according to chinese tea lexicon Babelcarp, means “literally Rhyme, but in a tea context, Aftertaste, or more generally, the elusive essence of experiencing a given tea.” It’s used as Yan Yun when it refers to a Wuyi rock oolong’s “rocky” taste/aftertaste. Now why would it be called rhyme?

My personal view on Yun is that it occurs when the succession of flavors has a rhythm. In poetry, a rhyme only happens with a rhyme scheme, which is essentially rhythmic:

I drank my tea alone today

It seemed to me sublime

For when I focused deep within,

I found a splendid rhyme.

The rhyming words go in a specific place rhythmically: if they were anywhere else in the poem, it would feel different, and probably not rhyme at all.

I sipped a tea with a friend

She hated it because

It didn’t have a rhyme at all,

It wasn’t a very good time.

See, that’s awkward and bad. So, when a tea has Yun, or rhyme, it is because the interplay of flavors over time is rhythmically structured. By focusing and bringing these flavors to consciousness in real time, you can experience the essence of the tea as if it were a poem and a song. This strikes a perfect balance between the meditative and the enthusiast approaches to tea, which usually oppose each other. I used to look for qi more than yun, but perhaps they are two sides of the same thing!

Leaf of the East’s Charcoal Roasted Dong Ding: Review #1

 Hello!

I am back. Sorry for not posting in a long while, I have a lot of interests and sometimes I just want to drink tea and not blog about it. But today, I do.

Leaf of the East is probably not well known throughout the blogosphere compared to other vendors. It feels cool to know that there is good stuff that isn’t well known, but hopefully I can help spread the word.

Clean-ness

The goodness of a tea is very subjective, but I think clean-ness is rather objective. You can look for grime and residue as a sign of a tea that isn’t clean, or a feeling of pinchy-ness in the throat, or a feeling of unrest and anxiety. There’s a lot of “organic” tea out there, but organic is just a certification. You don’t need a label to tell you if a tea is clean and pure or not.

Full disclosure, I know Markham, the man behind leaf of the east, through his tea. This doesn’t influence my review, but it’s why I have the tea, because I like his tea and I know him. Ok, moving on.

The dry leaf in the pot smells immediately like someone is baking something. It’s very intensely aromatic. I like dong ding because it’s commonly roasted, and you get that depth. I think the more in-depth tea market is craving some darker roasted stuff now, since everything has trended so green in the past decade. This one isn’t that roasted, but it’s about perfect, kind of lighter dancong level of roast.

It’s bright like a dancong too, with bright fruity tones. But it’s also deep. I’m still talking about the smell of the tea.

It’s clean, pure, it rings like a bell. I don’t know, I like it a lot, it makes me happy to drink it. What’s it taste like, honeysuckles, mango, baking chocolate, how’s the body, thick yet refreshing, but beyond that, it feels good to drink. Like an amazing meal feels to eat, made by a passionate team of cooks. This tea has good karma, or something. It’s so clean.

Very very good vibes from this tea.

I got a Lin’s kettle recently, and it makes gongfu a lot better. You get to hear the wind when it gets up to temperature, it performs well with just one hand, and there’s no metal or plastic involved. It’s out of stock now at camellia sinensis, but they have a purion clay one still.

Only the finest

My water today is Foodtown brand spring water. Bought on a whim at $1.09 a gallon, I was floored from the first sip. It comes from a company called fox ledge, and it hits all the marks. 100%. Refreshing, thick, carries flavor well, clear, clean. And it comes in a big plastic jug! For $6.99 an ounce or so, this dong ding and this water are similarly pleasant surprises.

Does this tea have any flaws? Not to me! It’s quite balanced and has many good qualities.

Score (out of 10): 8.1 (blown away)

https://leafoftheeast.com/shop/wulong/charcoal-roasted-dongding-wulong/

The Genius of Jiri Lang’s New Pots

A little while ago, I accidentally broke my favorite sheng pot, which was made by Jiří Lang and purchased from pu-erh.sk. I saw an Instagram post saying there would be new teaware from him in a couple months, so I waited. When they came out, I bought two – one for young sheng and one for all-purpose. With new designs and a new clay, I anticipated that his new work would be something special. I have noticed nobody has really been buying these pots, maybe because Jiří Lang is a bit lesser known, but they are some of the most ingenious and beautiful objects I have ever come across. Here’s why I like mine:

Style and Substance

Notice a few things. First, the body of the pot goes above the lid. This actually prevents tea from spilling down the sides of the pot when you put the lid on or pour. Second, there are three finger indentations on either side of the spout. I am not sure what they do, but they go all the way in to the inside of the pot, so maybe it prevents clogging. Third, it’s wood-fired to stunning effect. It looks like tiger skin or something, and feels rough and smooth at the same time, as if it were coated with varnish, which it is not.

The Lid

What is this lid? Usually lids are convex with a short cylinder going down into the pot. This one is just a concave disk with a hole in it. You can see the underside of the lid in the picture. It’s very simple, but Jiří (or Jura, as he is also called) obviously got creative with this. Not only is it creative, but it makes sense with the design. The body of the teapot, rising above the opening, holds it in place.

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The Clay

This clay is some of the lightest I have ever seen unglazed. It’s white with many black spots. I knew how this clay would interact with the tea the moment I saw and touched it. Basically, it’s like porcelain, but porous. In a regular glazed porcelain gaiwan or pot, the tea can end up “slippery” if that makes any sense. Here it comes out mild, smooth and natural. The taste is pure and front-focused in the mouth. There is not much muting going on. It is just clear, but superior to glazed porcelain in roundness and texture. It’s not like the other Jura shibo I mentioned in the Veins post. That one was more typical European coarse clay. This is unique, and every new unglazed pot by Jura has this clay.

Tilting the concave lid

Showerability

With that lip all around the lid, you might ask, how can I pour water over the pot; wouldn’t it pool in the top above the lid and spill everywhere? No, I tried this, and it blew my mind. Watch the video below.

Yeah. The water drains through the spout! You lose a little bit of tea, but not too much, it actually pushes some cooler water out to make way for the hot.

The Pour

Because of the lid design with low center of gravity, you don’t need to put your finger on the lid until the very end of the pour. I know this works with some other pots, but this lid stays on even though it has no inner ring.

Hidden Value

From the description of Jura’s work on the site: “It’s pieces has a special character and hidden value that will come up during their use.” Hopefully I showed you some of these hidden qualities. You can get one for yourself here if you scroll down as there are plenty in stock. Let me know if you have any questions about the pot in the comments.

I wrote this post not to show off my teapot, but rather because Jiří Lang is underrated. From what I gather, he is very humble, but underneath that humility is an emerging genius, and I can’t wait to see what he comes up with next.