Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Testing a teapot is like testing a car

The appearance of a car is not what matters most. It's how it feels being driven that counts. Similarly, for a teapot, it's the brewing of tea that decides if a teapot is good or not. But the analogy between car and teapot doesn't stop here. Car makers build different cars to fulfill different purposes. Racing cars, small city cars, SUVs, luxury cars are designed for different roads and functions. To choose a car, you first need to know how you want to use it. For exploring nature, crossing rivers a Ferrari or a limousine won't be good fits, even though they'd perform well (fast or comfortable, respectively) on the highway. What you need is a more rugged vehicle. It doesn't have to have a stylish, rounded look, since it aerodynamics don't matter much at lower speeds. But it will need power and adaptability to rough terrain.  

2003 wild Yiwu raw puerh
Different kinds of teas are to the teapot what different kinds of roads are for a car. In this case, puerh tea is like a rugged terrain. It is the most powerful type of tea, but also one that needs to be tamed or rounded on the edges. For this type of tea, I use David Louveau's Earth and Fire teapot. I'm even using his cups, the unglazed zafang bowl (for the spent water) and the shallow celadon bowl (as tea boat)!  This Cha Xi celebrates this artist whose website has been recently updated. It shows how versatile David Louveau is. In his early 40s, he produces a great range of different types of potteries. 
What makes David Louveau's wares most special is the natural origin of his clays (and then the firing with wood -except for porcelain-). This clay is all important, because it will interact with tea. It is like the engine of car, if you will. The tea feels more refined and its fragrances are completely pure. The taste is well balanced and harmonious. There has been some rounding and some absorption of the rougher edges, but the tea feels still very lively and strong. (The risk with pottery is excessive porosity where the brew looses its taste).
David Louveau is not specialized in teapots. He is guided by his love for tea, his Korean mentors and also some advice I gave him during our meetings. Last year, for instance, I had the chance to show him an antique zisha teapot (Qianlong reign). He could see and feel that the inside of the teapot wasn't smooth at all. Even the cover wasn't an exact fit. This didn't matter then. What did was the great quality of the clay. This is the kind of natural tradition that David Louveau likes to follow.  
Each handmade teapot is shaped slightly differently and comes out of the kiln with different firing marks (due to its position to the fire). But the real beauty transcends the shape and appearance. It comes from inside and let's the tea express all its good character.

3 comments:

Haan said...

Hi,
Is there a way one could buy a teapot from David? I had a look at his site but there is no mention about a potential sale or anything.
thanks,
Haan

Nick Herman said...

It's beautiful and I'm envious to some degree; but I have to admit, as far as pure enjoyment and effect of the tea goes towards one self, the longer I drink tea, the more I feel the only really important variables are quality of leaves and water (and proper storage, in so far as keeping the first). To echo MarshalN's words in a post, "the last thing I advise people to spend money on is teaware."

Stephane said...

Haan,
David will fire his anagama kiln this weekend. If some teapots come out of this firing, I will ask him to send me some for sale on my blog.

Nick,
I agree that you can learn really a lot with just one gaiwan. And it's true also that you don't need that many teapots. One for each kind that you drink is sufficient. The fun is finding the right one.