This is a project for a book club I am in. We read the essential tea book, Puer Tea: Ancient Caravans and Urban Chic. For this project I took photos of every tea session I had for a couple weeks. I tried not to do anything special and just take a quick photo – these sessions were not set up to be special for these pictures. I will then see if there’s any patterns or observations about them that link to ideas in the book.
Thanks for reading! Remember, tea never ends… I’m having more right now!
Same tea, different teapots, different results. Hopefully this is interesting to you! I find clay to have an enormous effect on the taste/texture of a tea.
The first teapot is a 90 ml Jianshui teapot from crimson lotus tea. I’ve found it to work well with young sheng and emphasizing sweetness.
The second vessel is an unglazed shibo from Miroslava Randová. It has very sandy coarse clay with a red tone. I wonder how this will compare!
Tests were done with 5.4g of w2t 2019 snoozefest in the jianshui and 5.7g in the randová shibo.
Immediately on the first steep after the rinse there is a difference. From the jianshui it is soft and sweet. In the randová shibo there is more of a robust character. It’s still sweet, but more mineral and tart also. I would consider the shibo to taste more complex but less smooth. But this is just the first infusion!
I’m very surprised how restrained the tea is in jianshui. Sure, there’s a little bitterness, but the infusion is more quiet. There’s some fruitiness and a lot of sweetness. In the Randová the tea is more expansive with more astringency to coat the mouth. There are more vivid notes of powdered sugar and frosting.
Third infusion, in jianshui it’s quite strong with nice sheng gasoline notes, better aftertaste in the shibo. Starting to be more similar.
Fourth infusion on: jianshui is more rounded, contained and cohesive. Randová is emphasizing more of a rustic taste profile with a lot of focus on the sides of the tongue. The temperature of the tea seems hotter from the shibo. Very satisfying from the shibo, really potent. Much more leafy/astringent in the shibo, and mouth cooling, thick and smooth in the jianshui. Mouth cooling also shows up in the shibo. Still astringent in jianshui on a pushed steeping, but it doesn’t show up until the tea is in the mouth for a long time. I would say the randová shibo has much more flavor up front. It also produces tea with more character.
I’m very surprised how much of a smoothing effect the jianshui has despite being very dense and having a low porosity. For a tea like snoozefest, which is a very characterful sheng, I think I prefer the randová shibo with its mineral-rich taste and emphasis of the outlier character of the tea. For a more comforting, soothing brew, I would reach for the jianshui.
In terms of aesthetic feel, the shibo is quite bulky and natural, where the jianshui is smooth and shiny. They correspond to different moods. I’m glad to know that both of these teapots “work” for young sheng but emphasize different aspects of the tea. You can still taste the wild fruity character of the snoozefest in the jianshui, but it’s deeper within the core of the tea rather than at the forefront.
Let me know if you want me to compare two other clays/vessels with different tea. Thanks for reading!
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
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.