Wednesday, October 17, 2018

The Celadon Tea Jar by Michel François

1999 Hung Shui Oolong
The tea jar is the most overlooked tea ware in our modern times. Teapots, cups and (most) kettles have not been replaced with plastic and we, rightly, pay attention to the quality of the material they are made of. For storage containers, plastic foils are dominating the field because they are very cheap, light to transport and can be easily vacuum closed. They provide a very cost efficient protection against air and outside scents. (Not all are fully opaque, though. But the foils I use for my samples do also provide a protection against light).

Their drawback is that plastic isn't as natural a material as porcelain. My tests in 2010 have shown that porcelain jars better preserve and refine roasted Oolong leaves than plastic foils.
But all porcelain jars are not created equal! This test in 2011 showed that industrial porcelain didn't preserve the leaves much better than plastic foils! That's why I have tried to find ancient porcelain jars or have cooperated with modern ceramists (Petr Novak, David Louveau) to create jars made from high quality and natural porcelain.

And now, for the second time, Michel François has created some celadon tea jars for us. (See the first time here).
The jars find all their 'raison d'être' on a Chaxi! Their round shape protects the leaves in a very feminine way. The jar contains the leaves, which are like seeds of our pleasures to come! It's not just a bright protection against air, moisture, light and heat (porcelain is cool), but it's also a place where the leaves can slowly evolve in a natural environment. It's clean from all those micro particles that plastic slowly releases as it decomposes. That's one reason why there's this 'decanter effect' with Oolong placed in a jar even for a little while: it breathes freely and becomes smoother.
For this effect, Michel François is using the best kaolin from New Zealand and volcanic feldspar from England. His glaze contains some animal bone ash that adds a special pearl like glow.
And finally, this tea jar adds beauty and elegance to the Chaxi. Since it's hand made, each jar has its own personality. But with this plain glaze, I like the restraint it shows. This makes it easier to fit the jar on a variety of Chaxi. (Wood fired ware often displays too much personality and can be more difficult to pair).   
Spring 2017 Qilai shan Oolong
I have tested this jar with various Oolongs and found that it works very well with Hung Shui Oolongs, jassid bitten Oolongs and even with high mountain Oolong! It reduces and smooths roasted aromas. It sweetens high oxidized Oolongs. It keeps the freshness of the high mountain even as the tea evolves faster than in a vacuum sealed foil.
What has amazed me most is that even very little amounts of tea are well preserved over several weeks/months in these jars. And since the inside is glazed, it's possible to reuse a jar with different teas (provided you've cleaned it and aired it well).
Michel François also makes wonderful tea bowls and cups, but jars are his real passion. That's why he named his blog Tea Jar! Michel François is in South Korea right now to continue to learn jar making with a local ceramist. With his talent, there's a risk (for us) and chance (for him) that he'll become so famous that his prices will soar in a few years. 
Without a tea jar, no Chaxi is complete!


le disciple du thé said...

Bonjour Stéphane,
Pour ma part j'y ai mis l'un après l'autre un de tes hungshui oolong jin xuan et ton alishan jin xuan d'avril 2018. Le hongshui, qui était puissamment torrefié s'est retrouvé incroyablement adoucit après seulement quelques mois. L'alishan à, jusqu'à aujourd'hui, gardé toute sa fraîcheur, voir gagné en arômes... cela ne convient que confirmé ton article mais je souhaitais partager cette expérience. Comme toujours très bon article, a bientôt !

TeaMasters said...

Merci pour ton témoignage. Tu avais pu faire l'acquisition d'une telle jarre il y a plus d'un an lors de ton stage de thé en Alsace avec moi. Je suis heureux qu'elle t'a donné satisfaction et que tu confirmes son utilité même pour du Oolong de haute montagne.

le disciple du thé said...

Effectivement ! J'ajouterais aussi que pour moi la présence d'une jarre sur un cha xi est très précieuse. Quand je ne n'en ai pas je sens mes feuilles comme abandonné... pour les pièces quittent au feu de bois tu as raison de souligner leur puissance. Pas facile à harmoniser avec des thés où l'on recherche la finesse et le raffinement.