Wednesday, October 07, 2015

Universe tea - San Hsia 100 years tea fragrance and poetic music

The library of the National Taipei University in San Hsia is currently holding an exhibition about Taiwanese authors and artists who have contributed to the cultural life of San Hsia. Teaparker being of them, the university organized a Chaxi event with Teaparker's students and accompanied by Chinese music.

At 3 PM, we arrive on campus and we set up the Chaxi near the Heart Lake.
It's a huge Chaxi, because this outdoors stage is very big! Most of the Chaxi was thought of and set up by my friend Evon. But several students contributed to complete it and make the whole event possible.
I brought the white Nilu, my bamboo basket and the upside down Jianyang black glazed bowl (see above). The presence of the basket (and most objects on the edge of the Chabu) wasn't just aesthetic, it also prevented the wind from blowing the fabric away! The Sung style bowl served the same purpose, but also had a conceptual meaning: since we were going to use Yuan dynasty style cups, the upside down bowl would represent the overthrown Sung dynasty preceding the Mongols (Yuan).
My good friend John helped prepare the water and feed the Nilu with charcoal. (I also thank him for taking the pictures of myself at the end of this post). We would even take turns to brew, making this event a team effort!
For this special occasion, Teaparker chose 2 green teas connected to San Hsia's tea culture. This is why we used silver teapots and rather big cups for both teas.
This university sponsored tea event is a great reminder of the connection between tea, culture, history and arts. The word 'university' also makes me think of how tea is 'universal'. Each Chinese dynasty has created its own tea culture. Even different countries have their own rituals. Tea has no boundaries. On the contrary, tea is freedom and what you want to make out of it. 
This is the approach that suits me best. First, learning about the classics and then turning the tea experience into a creative process. The Chaxi is a playground for tea lovers. Everybody was taking pictures!
Red leaves for an autumn feeling.
Tea can be connected to almost any subject. Sometimes, it's like meditation.
Or it's connected to history: San Hsia started to make green tea at the request of generals of Chiang Kai Shek's army who had retreated to Taiwan and couldn't purchase their tea in Hangzhou anymore. The local qingxin Ganzhong was very suitable for green tea and San Hsia farmers started to make their own Longjing and BiLuoChun in the 1950s!
After the speeches, we had the privilege of hearing a concert of traditional Chinese music that put us in a relaxed and happy mood, ready to enjoy tea! Enjoy a few moments with this short video:
Evon started to brew a 10 year-old Xihu Longjing, the kind of tea the Nationalist generals were longing for!
You may be wondering why we would be brewing green tea that is a decade old. The reason is simple and is at the very heart of all our tea pursuit: because it still tastes delicious!
Good, dry storage and top quality are the key points. The finest pleasure then comes from finding freshness within these ancient aromas.
The tea I'm brewing is even older. It's a SanHsia Longjing from the 1970s! These are the last leaves from Teaparker's stash of this tea. It's an honor and privilege to brew them for our attendees and to have 2 pretty tea friends helping me with the service.
That's why you see me dressed up, but not wearing a costume. Even when we are performing in front of an audience, we wish to show that brewing tea with style and technique is rooted in our daily life. No need to wear a certain style of clothes. Just feel comfortable and elegant would be my advice.
Since we are outdoors and can't wash the cups and teapot properly, we decided to use a different tea set for this second tea. A silver teapot, plated with gold, Dehua porcelain dragon cups and silver cha tuo.
The smell of the tea is sufficient to trigger salivation in the back of my mouth! It seems to dance with freshness and warmth, a little bit like this day of October. It's difficult to describe the complexity of these contradictory, but pleasant aromas.
This difficulty in describing this intense pleasure of such a tea experience creates a mystery and a space for your imagination. This may lead to poetry, creativity or even spirituality. "What you do with tea is different for everybody", I remember a tea friend saying to me recently. It's rooted in culture, traditions, education.
What doesn't change is the search for quality leaves and brewing them the best possible way. This is how a partial cloudy autumn afternoon in San Hsia can turn into a tea event seen and discussed worldwide.
Tea knows no borders. Tea is universal.

Monday, October 05, 2015

Fall is puerh season

The Tea Masters Blog is now also present on Facebook! This and the start of the fall season are 2 good reasons to offer you 10% discount on all the puerhs of my selection:
C'est fait! Je me suis mis sur Facebook et vu le temps que j'ai passé dessus ce weekend, je comprends l'aspect addictif de ce support. Mon seul bémol: il y manque des beaux Chaxi, mais nous allons y remédier! Et pour fêter cela et le début de l'automne, c'est tout naturellement que je vous offre 10% de remise sur tous mes puerhs.

Saturday, October 03, 2015

The Yixing teapot Exhibition at the Tea Institute at PSU - Shaping the teapot

 After the clays and the clay making, let's examine how Yixing teapots take shape. As part of this lecture, Teaparker asked the students of the Tea Institute to draw the same Xishi teapot from where they were sitting. This exercise forces them to look at the teapot very carefully and see its details.

The actual making of an Yixing teapot can be seen on this video.

The teapots can then be categorized into 3 big categories:
1. Geometrical shape (mostly round, square, hexagonal...)
2. Petal shapes (pumpkin or flower shaped).
3. Inspired by nature. Let's see a few examples of this style. See the handle of this teapot: it looks like bamboo. And the spout looks like the branch from a tree.
 This Jianquan teapot dates back to the early 20th century. Beside the painting, we can also see that some decoration (a branch of a pine tree) has been applied on the body of the teapot.
 And on the cover, it's plum blossoms that come alive on the otherwise dead branch!
 This style of Yixing teapot, based on a log from tree, is a good example of how Yixing teapot makers have been using the same shapes for a very long time.
Sometimes, it's adapted to a certain fashion, like the coloring of some important parts of the teapot on the previous and this teapot.
 An important principle to study ancient Yixing teapots is to head to the museums where the origin and date can be most trusted. For this log and plum flower shaped teapot, I could find a very similar piece from the 19th century online from the Freer and Sackler Galleries.
The details of this younger teapot are nicely executed but the inside of the teapot still needs some brushing.
 The following zisha teapot, however, starts to shine naturally as I have started testing it.
 This clay has a chocolate color that looks so delicious!
 The plum flowers are not colored, but a different clay is used (duanni).
Plum blossoms are the rare flowers to bloom in winter. Here, the winter is represented by a log, a piece of wood without leaves. It's almost dead already (in the winter of its existence), but the plum blossoms (mei) are beautiful. They represent hope, the fact that in the hardest conditions you can still find ways to blossom.
 These classic shapes continue to be used or reinvented today.
 This zisha teapot dramatizes the handle and the wood attributes.
 The plum blossoms are also made with a different, slightly redder clay.
These nature inspired teapots have more complexity than most round teapots. They carry also more symbols rooted in Chinese culture! These wood/log shaped teapots are a nice fit for the autumn season! They bring us close to nature and into the woods!

Thursday, October 01, 2015

DYL97K, le vertige

La pente est abrupte. Il m'a fallu une bonne demi-heure pour marcher/grimper du bas de la plantation de Da Yu Ling (située au km 97 de la route No. 8) au haut de la plantation. A plus de 2000 mètres de haut, on a vite le souffle court. Grisé par la montagne, les théiers, le soleil. Vertige.
Comment revivre ces émotions fortes chez soi, en dégustant ce thé? Le caractère frais, pur et vertigineux de cet Oolong de très haute montagne est facile à définir. Le challenge consiste à l'exprimer par l'intermédiaire de l'interaction entre les ustensiles et le geste de versement de l'eau.

En théorie, pour un Oolong frais roulé, il faudrait, pour la première infusion, verser l'eau juste bouillie avec force dans le gaiwan/la théière de manière à faire tourner, danser les feuilles. Mais si l'on utilise une zhuni qui reste très chaude, il peut être judicieux d'adapter la force du versement de l'eau à cette glaise. Une zhuni fera ressortir les arômes les plus fins, mais si l'eau tourne de manière trop vive, alors l'infusion risque de manquer d'harmonie et de pureté.
En versant l'eau très doucement lors des 2 premières infusions, j'ai obtenu un résultat remarquable. Au départ, le thé se boit comme de l'eau chaude douce. Il glisse le long de la gorge sans se faire remarquer autrement que par sa pureté et sa fraicheur. Puis, la longueur en bouche se manifeste au fond du palais en se propageant par vagues successives. Un thé qui vous prend, fait battre le coeur plus vite. Et il n'est même pas nécessaire que la théière soit complètement remplie (voir ci-dessus).

Puissance vertigineuse.  
La réussite d'un thé dépend de l'interaction entre les feuilles, la théière, l'eau et comment elle est versée. Ce n'est pas juste suivre une technique, mais ressentir quand le thé est bon ou s'il est mauvais savoir ce qu'il faut changer pour le rendre meilleur.
Lors de mes cours hebdomadaires, je continue à m'émerveiller des différences de résultats entre ses élèves (et aussi comment les infusions de Teaparker sont systématiquement les meilleures). 

Friday, September 25, 2015

The grace of Fall High mountain Oolong

Cultivar: Qingxin Oolong
Harvested by hand on September 5th, 2015
Origin:Qilai mountain
Elevation: 2000 meters

The summer and fall seasons usually produces lower quality fresh Oolong, because the weather is too hot. The leaves grow too quickly, which means few buds, and less fine aromas. However, at higher elevations, the climate conditions are quite similar to spring: the nights are cool and the days short.
 I'm glad to brew this excellent example of fine autumn Oolong. The leaves are very well processed and come from a recent plantation on the lesser known Qilai mountain.
The clarity of the brew is excellent. Being very fresh and top quality, it's very easy to mistake these leaves for spring Oolong if you are not told in advance. The difference is subtle.
 And the taste is simply wonderful. Sweet and lively. Very fine taste and long aftertaste. Lots of very freshness and lightness with a hint of fall aromas. That's the inspiration for this Chaxi: lightness and purity with hints of fall colors.
This Qilai Oolong and another Fall top qualtiy Oolong from Lushan are available on my boutique!
  Have a wonderful Mid Autumn Lunar Festival this weekend!