Thursday, February 23, 2006

Zisha vs Duanni clay with cooked puerh

Today, I brewed this brick of cooked puerh from the year 2000 in both my Yixing Zisha and my Yixing Duanni clay teapots. Both these recently made teapots are exactly the same, except for the clay they are made of. This is the best way to test the effect of the clay. If they were teapots of different shape, weight or age, then each different parameter would have influenced the result of the tasting. Also, I have used both only a couple of times so that the clay is relatively unaffected by previous brewings.

I had previously explained why I dedicate this Duanni teapot for cooked pu er. The reason I dedicated the Zisha to old raw pu er instead is that, in theory, purple Zisha Yixing clay is harder than Duanni and will therefore better reflect complex aromas. At the same time, Zisha clay is not as hard as zhuni and has pores of average size that will help improve and tame the bitterness of such teas to a certain degree.

This was the theory. Today I tasted and tested my hypothesis. Before I give you the result, let me add that this kind of experiment is like fitness exercise for your taste buds. The very first lesson with Teaparker consisted in tasting 4 different mineral waters. Then he gave us another 4 glasses with the same waters, and we had to find which water is which. It's by doing this kind of tastings of very similar teas or water that you have to pay the most attention to what your taste buds are telling you. The more often you do it, the better you'll become at tasting.

The first brew of puer is not very bitter and I didn't taste much difference between the two teapots, I humbly admit. However, starting with the second brew and up to the very last, the brews were quite different and the result exactly as expected:
- the duanni brewed a very round, mellow and sweet puer. The aromas were strong earth and wood. Not a very complex bouquet, but a very pleasant, simple cooked pu er. A lot of nice aftertaste.
- the zisha brewed a puer with stronger aromas, but also with some bitterness on the tongue. It had a mellowing effect and the result was somewhere between the duanni and what I had obtained with a glazed gaibei.

"Vertauen ist gut, Kontrolle ist besser" is a German saying I learned when I entered the professional world: "To trust is good, to control is better"! So, I'm quite glad I have verified that soft Duanni clay and harder Zisha clay have indeed the properties I learned from Teaparker.

One question remains: in light of this experience, is my Duanni teapot the better choice for cooked pu er? The result with the zisha teapot was not unpleasant at all. I would not say that my zisha is a bad choice. Actually, for people who like fragrant tea, the zisha teapot would be a very good choice as it achieves a nice balance between making the tea round and keeping its original fragrance. However, according to my taste and experience of older (cooked and raw) puer, the Duanni clay gave me the most pleasure with this tea. It made it taste five to ten years older than with the zisha clay. This is just how a good, simple puer is supposed to taste like.


Unknown said...


How about the firing? Do you prefer high fire or low fire?

These days the gas kiln is supposed to produce the best temperatures that they couldn't do in the past.

TeaMasters said...

Hi Michael,
Thanks for your comment on this very old article! My answer is to prefer the right fire! Neither too high, nor too low. Each clay has a different temperature that turns it right. You are correct that this is easier to achieve in a gas kiln nowadays.