View Full Version : A little tea thread..

16th December 2003, 21:46
A continuation of a conversation Tea Guy and I started...but others please chime in if you like with any remarks concerning tea or tea preparation!

Originally posted by Tea Guy
Oh! YiXing! So, you do Gong Fu? What's your favorite type of tea for that? I have a nice carved jade tea set for Gong Fu. It has the images of fish and water lillies on it with a simple dragon as the handle.

Yes, I have prepared tea in the Gongfu manner, although as I'm the only one in the house that drinks traditional green tea (no flavors or sugar), I must admit to taking some short cuts for daily consumption. I simply heat fresh spring water in the microwave, use part for the rinsing of the pot, and part for the infusion. I likewise don't bother pouring it from the pot into a serving pitcher, but fill my cup directly from the pot after it has steeped. If I have guests that would like some, of course I make it properly. They usually find the process very interesting.

From what I understand the Japanese were quite fond of Yixing pots brought from China as well, so I tend not to be a purist on whether Japanese or Chinese tea is used..but I of course will only use one particular tea in a certain pot, as the pot absorbs the flavor of the tea used. Don't want the flavors muddled. I use the gyokuro (which is rather expensive for me) for guests, but for daily drinking I just use Dragonwell, a Chinese tea that tastes much like sencha. Of course, each has their own pot. The large one (my first) is a round bamboo design (the handle and spout look like bamboo stalks), with Chinese calligraphy on each side. On one side the script is similar to the Japanese sosho style, the other like kanji. Sorry, I don't know what the Chinese equivalent of these terms are, nor do I have the foggiest notion what it says - I cannot read Chinese. But it looks very nice. The other is quite small for personal use, and very squat and plain. There is no decoration whatsoever, but the simple coloring and design appeals to me very much..it oozes wabi and shibui. A wonderful little piece. There is a lady here locally that travels personally to China and Indonesia and obtains antiques for sale, and new teapots are also obtained for her shop. Unfortunately the last time I checked she was out of teapots - but when she returns I plan to get some more. I have an iron pot with which to experiment with other sorts of tea, but I'm partial to the simple Yixing clay - so much so that my cups are also of the same clay.

I will have to see what I can pick up in Japan when I go next month too...:)

Tea Guy
17th December 2003, 01:43
I happened to see this thread....Hm...you're just trying to draw me in, huh?
As my handle suggests, I drink tea and actually it is one of the things that consumes a large part of my free time. It's kind of funny that the beverage I consume consumes me. Hm...
I have been drinking teas my whole life, so it's something I won't ever part with.

I consume both Japanese and Chinese teas, with a usual preference to Japanese. That doesn't mean that I don't like Chinese teas much. I love them quite a bit and like the fact that there are far more varieties of Chinese teas than Japanese teas.
My preferance tends to be towards green teas, but I drink oolong every once in a while, such as when I prepare tea in the gongfu style.
Red (Also known as black) teas are not typical for me to drink. Less than one percent of the tea I drink is of that type.

Concerning YiXing tea pots...
Yeah, that's one thing about Yixing tea pots...you can only use one type of tea in it. As they're made of clay, they can absorb the flavors from other teas easily. Also the reason detergents should never be used with them. As I said, I have a jade tea pot for gongfu, so I don't have to worry about limiting it to only one type of tea.
Has anyone ever used stoneware teapots such as jade? They're quite nice and retain heat extremely well. Even after they're emptied they take longer to cool off. Very nice feature.

My typical tea pot is an affordable Japanese ceramic tea pot. Nothing fancy. There are other tea pots around the house, but this particular seems to be one of my favorites.

At one time I used a microwave just as you do, Soulend. I'm not particularly fond of using it though. At last I decided to get an electric kettle, which actually sits right in my bedroom where it's more convenient for me. It cuts down the number of times you have to get up to get water and such. Besides, when I wake up it's less than an arm length away so I can turn it on and have hot water for tea right away.

On tea...
At the moment I don't have anything truly special. I have a really nice sencha, but nothing better than that. I would get another type of tea, but for those of you who don't know much about tea, you can't just keep on "collecting" teas. Teas lose their freshness after a while and so I've got to drink the other teas I have first. My typical everyday teas are sencha and bancha. Every once in a while I'll have some Genmaicha as well. As I once told a friend, "If you can't brew genmaicha right, you're a moron." It's one of the most forgiving teas around, owing that mostly to the rice in it.
Shou Mei can be quite good as well. It has a bit of a sweetness to it and a slight toastiness that can be quite pleasant and is nearly impossible to brew wrong.
Jasmine is a favorite of many and is a typical tea I'll give to someone who doesn't have much experience with tea. Aside from that, Jasmine seems to go well with nearly everything from seafood, to dim sum, to beef. Test that idea for yourself and see what I mean.
Because I don't drink oolong as much as green I try to keep only one container at a time. Right now I've got some Shui Hsien. It's fairly pleasant with a bit of a toastiness. Rather balanced flavor. Good in the morning, I would probably have to say.

My typical drinking vessel is my yunomi. It's a brown one with "fire" color glaze and a white translucent glaze. The white has numerous tiny cracks that absorb the color of the tea. It has a nice rustic look to it, so it fits my mood at nearly any time. I have two of these, but someone else in the house always seems to have my other one. Other times, such as when I actually want to see the nice color of the tea well, I use my basic white tea cups or my tea cups that match my tea pot. It's difficult to explain...They're black, but they have a slightly reflective quality that allows you to see the color of the tea remarkably well. Puzzling.

Well, I could probably write pages upon pages about tea, but I'll stop now.
Anyone else care to add to this thread or ask Soulend and I about particular teas?

17th December 2003, 02:27
Hehe..you all may be better off asking Tea Guy, as I'm certainly no expert. Funny how we went from weapons to tea, eh? I have had a couple of tea kettles, as I'm always kind of disgusted at myself for using something like a microwave for heating water to use for a style of pot and a type of drink which is so old and traditional. It's difficult to explain, but it just doesn't seem right. Though as I drink it quite a bit, laziness wins the day. Both of the kettles I had were damaged, one because someone (not me) allowed it to boil dry, and the other was dropped. :( They were just cheap things though..I will be getting another when I think of it.

I once had some jasmine and mandarin tea, which for people unaccustomed to green tea I added just a tiny bit of honey. I gave it to my son when he was ill, and he perked up right away...he still swears that this tea has medicinal properties, though I suspect it is simply due to the warmth and exquisite aroma and flavor. Green tea is of course extremely good for you though.

I have always wanted to take part in a tea ceremony, and weirdly enough I have never had matcha, since I don't have the proper utensils to prepare it. What is the flavor like? (I get the impression that you probably have had it, Mr. Sieg :)).

As for drawing you in, well, I created this thread to avoid drift on the "home defense" one, as you had asked me some questions.

Also, how much does a jade teapot cost? It sounds like it would be unholy expensive.

Tea Guy
17th December 2003, 03:39
Indeed it is odd how we went from weapons to tea. A subject which people can sit around and be amiable with each other.

Well, I too have had experience with breaking a tea pot. I had a plain white one for bancha and broke that along with one of the cups. It was sitting on the floor (where I sit), and I happened to turn around quickly, bumped into and broke it. I stood there is shock for a minute and then tried to see if I could save it. Unfortunately it wasn't salvagable, but I got a new one a couple days later.

I don't have the proper utensils to prepare matcha either. Maybe I'll buy those next year. Matcha has a pleasant bitter taste. In case you didn't know, they are made from powdered gyokuro.

The cost of jade tea pots varies. It depends on the type of jade, color of the jade, how well it was carved, when it was carved, history, and where you buy it.
Jade is actually rather inexpensive. It seems to have gotten the reputation for being really exotic though. Some pieces are very inexpensive, while others can be outrageously expensive. If it's a modern piece, for example, it may be less expensive, while if it's a piece that has something important with history (such as belonging to royalty) it may be more expensive. If you want to buy jade more affordably, go to China. Prices are jacked up so much in the US. Of course, you have to watch out for fake pieces too. Some pieces are dyed to appear darker (beware of Hong Kong streetvendors!). You should also look at the piece to see if there are any particular markings that can help you at least tell you if it's modern. On some modern pieces you can see when an electric tool has been used to carve. There's certainly nothing wrong with modern pieces though. There are beautiful modern pieces out there. The artists are quite skilled. For example, on my tea pot there is a section of the jade that is a different color. The artist decided to take advantage of the coloration to create a flower.
I know I've seen jade tea pots on the internet before. The ones I saw were a pale jade (nearly white) and cost about $50. I haven't done a great deal of searching for prices though. I couldn't tell you how much mine was because I got it as a gift. I should really talk to my father some time and ask him about his friend in the jade business in China. He was trying to talk me into starting a jade business.

Well, one of the wonderful things about jade teaware is that jade is translucent. That allows you to see a tinge of the color of the tea. It's really quite beautiful.


18th December 2003, 21:14
Hi folks,

This is a very pleasant little thread you've started!

I am thinking asbout buying a whisk for matcha. What are the bare bones implements one needs to make such a tea? Can you recommend a fairly simple process for a beginner such as myself?

I have had matcha just once, at Take-dera in Kamakura. This is at the very place where Kawabata came up with the name for his book, THE SOUND OF THE MOUNTAIN.


Tea Guy
18th December 2003, 22:03
I don't claim to be an expert on matcha, but I'll try to help.
I drink tea like the rest of the world, being that I drink loose tea. Matcha is just something I haven't studied nearly as much.

Bare bones?
Hm....that makes it a lot easier to explain. Really. After all, some consider the kakemono (hanging scroll) important in the whole thing as well.

First, the bowl used is called a chawan .
The whisk is a chasen .
Kama is the name for the kettle used to heat the water.
Mizusashi ...a container holding water to adjust the temperature of the water if it's too hot. It's also used to rinse the chasen.
Chashaku is what the scoop for the tea is called.

I think those tools are generally what are considered the minimum. However, if you're going to be very informal...like if you're only making it for yourself and only want the drink, you can just use a chawan and chasen. I wouldn't, but that's only because I'm a rather traditional when making tea and want the full aesthetic experience.

As far as preparation, I suggest studying a bit more on the subject. As I don't practice chanoyu, I don't want to steer you in the wrong direction. I'm not entirely sure on the correct measurements of tea and water. It may be about 2 tsp of matcha to 1/2 cup of water....
I do know though that you have to whisk in a "W" type of shape rather than a circular pattern.

I hope I've been of some help though.
Anyone, feel free to ask any other questions on tea though. Matcha just doesn't happen to be my specialty (yet).