Saturday, August 29, 2009

Sel Young Jin's Zen Tea Pots: Same Form, Different Finish

If this pot looks familiar it should. It is identical in form to a pot posted a few days ago. As you can see, this particular form is a signature of Sel Young Jin.

In the tradition of Korean pottery, the same form is replicated tirelessly until one reaches a meditative state. Potters create hundreds even thousands of similar works.

Only when the conceptual mind is transcended will the best works be produced. Master Sel Young Jin is one of the purest meditative ceramicists. It truly shows in the spirit of his art.

The beautiful pot stand is the work of a very innovative Korean potter, Kim Kyoung Soo.

One particularly enjoys how his rugged stand complements the look of the very glossy pot resting atop.


Friday, August 28, 2009

2009 Makaibari Standard Organic 2nd Flush Darjeeling

In a sleeper berth from Calcutta to Siliguri a young enthusiastic Indian man raved on and on about Makaibari Estate and its famed owner/manager, Rahja Banerjee. He boasted, “The silver tips grown at Makaibari fetched the highest price in the world.”

Yes, Indians are quite proud of this one, and so they deserve to be. Mr. Banerjee is a celebrity in this neck of the woods, pioneering organic methods of farming back when most didn't know what 'organic' even meant.

Months after that enthusiastic conversations with that Indian gentleman clearly excited about tea, one drinks not the famed sliver tips first flush, but the classic more rounded standard 2nd flush. This sample came in a sampling pack from kind Mr. Lochan of famed Lochan teas. One recommends ordering the free sampler as it is filled with a diverse offering of teas from the top Darjeeling estates.

This is the first of two 2nd flush samples from Makaibari. It's dry leaves, with a good density of hairy buds, flaunt light, playful musketal with a distinct oxidized, light raisin odour.

When prepared in long infusions the result is a tea with a flowery musketal taste that is whisked away by touches of sweetness followed by an oxidized fullness. Mouthfeel is dry and all coating. Oxidized raisin notes trail off after a short time on the breath.

Another long infusion waters things down a bit. It offers a quick glimpse of juicy fruit before soft notes of oxidized raisin pair with fullness in the mouth.

Pushing it too a third long infusion, the initial blast of flavour is merely a flicker under gritty, dirty, dry suppression.

When one brews this tea using shorter infusions, gong fu style, the evolution of flavour can be better appreciated.

In the very early hours of the morning, one brews it this way...

The sound of water abruptly coming to a boil breaks the dark morning silence. Leaves go where leaves go. Hot water where hot water goes.

The first sips point at a raisin taste that evolves into grape as sweetness pulls through the mouth. As that sweetness retreats, the raisin taste comes into prominence once more. The feeling in the mouth moves from juicy to dry in aftertaste. The qi is darting, but as gentle as black tea is capable of.

Later infusions bring much sweeter, round flowery grape. The raisin is gone, if not just faintly noticeable in the aftertaste. A mild musketal develops but is felt throughout the taste progression.

Slowly as the session progresses, that dry musketal tone begins to eclipse gritty grape. The gong fu session is short but rewarding and it doesn't take long before this tea winds down with flavour that gradually tails off without offending.


Thursday, August 27, 2009

A Teapot by Master Sel Young Jin

The material of this pot- the texture and colour is woodsy.

The texture of the pot in ones hands feels soft and rough. It is wet, rough beach sand between the fingers. The texture of this pot makes one smile.

Especially beautiful is the blotching covering the handle and the area where it attaches which inevitably becomes the initial focal point of the piece.

One attention is sustained by this pots carefree high looping handle. This capricious handle is cleverly balanced by the downward looping spout on the opposite side.

The form of this pot suggests action from the upward motion of tilting the handle to the downward motion of pouring tea. The middle bulbous body of the pot harness this movement, centering and concentrating it on the water and tea which embrace each other as tea steeps inside.

The flow of tea from the spout, and the peace from which its slow pour suggests, is like no other. A perfect pot for enjoying Korean Greens.

Like the soft trickle of a sparse mountain stream, ones mind flows free once more.


Wednesday, August 19, 2009

2006 Autumn Yi Wu Yah Cha of Chen Guang-He Tang

One received a sample of this cake currently for sale at Hou De Fine Tea from generous ol' Hobbes. One always enjoys the feeling that good autumnal shang puerh conjures up. On a chilly, grey summer morning that looks and feels much like the fall season to come, one thought it appropriate to revisit this tea.

The stone pressed, full, dry leaves have a silver-grey luster about them. As one widdles them free from the sample the smell of deep, cloudy, musty fruit and metallic tobacco linger about in the air.
The first infusions invite a subtle, deep musty earthiness which quickly move to sweet creaminess. As the liquid makes its way down the throat it leaves a light, metalic-bland coating and there is even a delicate berry fruitiness that is thrown into the complex mix. The berry flavours in the first infusions are sometimes lost but, today one really stuffed the pot with leaves and this flavour seems to show up earlier than usual.

A few more infusions go by and the chaqi is felt. It is weak and widening- pushing out from the sides as one sits in contemplation with this tea. The feeling in the mouth is satisfying. The flavour lingers at a distance and doesn't stick around for too long- a dry, tart, fruitiness.
As infusions push on this tea really comes into its own. The sweet fruity flavours are more pronounced, if only in the first few seconds in the mouth. The qi solidifies and now pulls one up into a calm mental spaciness.. The mouthfeel is fuller than ever an ensures that this tea is enjoyed late into the tea session.
After too much hot water has passed through these branch invested leaves things slowly start to decline. Ones mind and soul however is heightened as this tea carries one through this chilly summer afternoon.

Sunday, August 9, 2009

An Erabo Style Tea bowl by Master Jung Jum Gyo

Behind a large tea dealer shop in Daegu, South Korea is gallery in a hanok (traditional Korean House), behind the gallery in this house is a tea room. This tea room, tranquil and natural, has shelves filled with priceless erabo style tea bowls by Master Jung Jum Gyo.

This bowl in particular draws one in...

Most eye-catching is its very natural, asymmetrical form. Viewed from the side, this deviation is made even more apparent because of the bowls steep side walls. Steep side walls are a characteristic of this bowl's 'tong hyung' shape which is not so common among erabo pieces. This bowl's beauty is akin to an old leaning tree.

Viewed from above, the warped shape of its 'san ak hyung' rim (translates to 'mountain edge rim'), which circumnavigates the most superior edge, resembles the outermost bark of an old tree stump.

The rough, rocky erabo style clay under such shinny gloss only adds another layer of beauty to this piece. Holding the piece in ones hands leaves a sensation of rocky clay under soft gloss that one will not soon forget. The roughness of the clay and form compliments and augments the beauty of the elegant lustrous gloss which shimmers thick over such ruggedness. Like a rain soaked, old rugged stump shimmering under the bright beams of the setting sun, penetrating through the branches and shadows of the underbrush.

The bowl seems to teeter on its grounding 'dal paeng e' style foot (snail foot). The foot is just anchoring enough as not to take away from the uneven form of the piece.

The effort of this bowls foot to resolve the conflict of balance and imbalance, symmetry and asymmetry, roughness and elegance is challaged by the small details found on the foot.

The prominent swirling, smooth, centering, grounding movements which the snail foot conveys is undercut by one large crack that runs though such deliberate attempts at balance- the final act of clay and kiln, beyond the touch of man.


Tuesday, August 4, 2009

2008 Yong Pin Hao Lan Xiang Wild Arbor

This sample that one recently finished came in an old box from Hobbes.

Its dry leaves- large, furry, diverse, and incredibly healthy- smell of high sweetness that drops off into a deeper licorice tone. These diverse leaves easily separate and tumble onto yixing.

Rinse. Breathe.

The first impression in the mouth is very nice. Sweetness reveals itself fast then takes a quick turn into soft peppery pungent spice which tickles the nose like black ground table pepper would. This sensation trails disappears under more characteristic, but welcoming, creamer notes but starts off the very involved mouthfeel. Actually this sensation is more like an overarching sinus, throat, nose, and mouth- feel. To call it simply a mouthfeel doesn't do this tea any justice. It is much more.
The chaqi doesn't take long before slowing body and mind.

The dichotomy of smooth, sweet, creamy and soft, pungent, peppery creates a balance of flavour that truly pleasures.
As the tea takes a few more dousings it suggests more of a grittiness and somewhat of an earthiness. Minty notes seem to almost noticeably shadow peppery notes. The aftertaste at this point is an uncomplicated event, unraveling with just enough to appreciate.

The chaqi coxes one into unequivocal relaxation. Ones heart beats slower, ones vision perforates the periphery, ones breath widens. Peace.
A few more floodings of hot water bring out a very soft bitterness paired with more familiar sunny, leathery, puerh tastes. The peppery notes at the start of the session have turned into a more general earthy spice.

This tea really transforms over the course of the session although it seems to lack stamina. Before too long it is simply sweet minty puerh- full in the mouth, full in the soul.