Saturday, December 31, 2011

2011 Jukro Jungjak Hwagae Valley Green Tea

This tea was purchased directly from Korea but is also available for purchase at CoreaColor.  CoreaColor offers this tea in its extensive original, and fittingly festive, packaging for the Korean shelf price- a good deal outside of Korea.  This jungjak grade tea comes from famous tea producer Jukro and, as usual, is a completely hand produced affair.

The dry leaves give off a deep, musty-evergreen, forest note with sweeter grain layers presenting first.

The first infusion is prepared and a sweet and clear roasty-forest note presents first.  This note fades into a sugary sweetness- a sweet, deep foresty taste is left in the mouth.  A slippery mouthfeel with a soft, numbing, cool fullness continues on the lips.

The second infusion displays a roasty nut taste in the mix with deeper soupy-thick forest notes that are somewhat sweet.  Slight floral and raspberry notes spring up in the aftertaste along with grain cerial notes.

The third infusion has more of a rich forest start with dry wood and wheat grains filling out the profile.  These tastes slowly traverse to sweet deep green forest.  Hidden in here are fruity, barely sweet, notes appearing later on the breath.  The mouthfeel is heavier in the mouth now.

The fourth infusion flashes dry wood and deep forest.  The dry wood taste quickly vanishes leaving sweet forest notes that develop into that sweet, light floral berry aftertaste.  The qi is vibrant and clear.  It opens the chest and calms the mind.

In the fifth a sweet clear taste emerges initially with woody-forest and wheaty-grain tastes now becoming a bit dry in the mouth.  A fresher, almost menthol, forest aftertaste is apparent.  The sweetness of this infusion is weaker but still makes an appearance with a very faint fruit taste.  The sixth infusion is much the same with woody-bark notes also sharing the aftertaste.

The seventh infusion flashes dry wood then a light, clear, sweet, forest taste stretches across the profile with the aftertaste remaining relatively sweet, soft, and long.  The eighth infusion is more dry and woody.


Monday, December 19, 2011

Korean Tea Pages New and Old

Before there were any English books on Korean tea, or even mention of Korea in tea books, there were two really great sources of Korean tea information in English. In fact, in 2007, before MattCha's Blog even existed, these two sources were pretty much the only English information of Korean tea info on the internet. This information was in the form of web pages authored by Anthony of Taize and David Mason. Over the years they have significantly updated these sites to include a growing amount of Korean tea information and are still excellent free sources by two knowledgeable and kind pioneers of Korean tea culture in the English speaking world.

A few days ago one stumbled on a 49 page English research paper on Korean tea. It is basically just a combination of English sources and at times is a bit repetitive. Don't know who compiled the info, by the looks of it a German, but it probably took a lot of work. See here for a link to this paper:

Happy reading.


Monday, December 12, 2011

2009? Wild Lapsong Souchong

Zhengshan Xiaozhong (aka Lapsong Souchong) is one of only a handful of teas that can improve with age although most outlets that sell this tea don't age it. The lack of aged lapsong in the market likely indicates the use of artificial smoking or poor production techniques. This sample was gifted by Pedro of Dao tea, he aquired it from the owner and highly recommended I try it. It is from an online store called Wild Qi Tea where the site claims that it is 2/3 years aged.

Lapson Souchong has an abundantly warm thermal nature. Although all hong cha has qi that is warming, lapsong's heat is even more warming. This is because it takes on the essence of fire as it is smoked with pine during its production. One of the reasons why this tea is aged is to remove some of the smokiness and bring its energy into a more harmonious state.

Very sweet smooth grape smelling odours emit from these very small tippy mixed black and gold dry leaves- not the typical zhengshan xiaozhong leaves one remembers. Its been a while. A wood pine chalkiness welcomes then slowly transforms into sweet caramel transferring back to subtle smokey wood in the mouth. The transition between these tastes is slow and smooth, the mouthfeel full, wide, and chalky.

The second infusion starts with a sweet, open-watery taste which is filled with caramel then slowly fills the mouth with pine woody notes as the chalky mouthfeel slowly encroaches on the edges of the mouth. The aftertaste has a strong cooling undertone that is noticed with each in-breath. The chest heats up like an oven and the head feels light, the mind and eyes clear, and then focus ensues.

The third infusion starts with a taste that is less sweet and has a longer blank-empty-watery taste with each resulting infusion. The wood pine note is noticed under the whole profile. The aftertaste here is woody and more dry in the mouth. It has subtle hints of soft, smoky currents and is still quite cooling.

The fourth infusion has an even longer empty dry wood pine taste which slowly encroaches upon this emptiness. Sweet woody-gummy-grape aftertaste comes out in the aftertaste which still carries a coolness- the subtle smoky pine base is present throughout. The qi seems to heat the chest, heart, and imparts coolness to the head and limbs. The stomach and digestive organs are energized and softly vibrate. The fifth infusion is much the same but is considerably weaker.

The sixth and following infusions are reduced to dry wood and soft fruit. It is enjoyed like this for a few more pots.


Wednesday, December 7, 2011

2011 Kim Jong Yeol (Butea) Jungjak Hwagae Valley Green Tea

This tea is available for purchase from Martin at Tea Mountain. This 15 gram sample was kindly gifted from Pedro of Daotea. This is another tea from the hands of Kim Jong Yeol, this one was produced on the second week of May- a Jungjak grade. Interestingly, this tea was prepared with the usual amount of dry leaves and yielded quite unexciting results. The second time preparing this tea a very liberal amount of dry leaf was used and the results were quite nice. The following notes are from this second attempt at these dry leaves on a cool fall late afternoon...

These soft sugary-sweet smelling, longish, darker green dry leaves are prepared and the first infusion is enjoyed. It pours a pale green with very light sweet foresty taste which presents first and finishes with a very soft sugary sweet bean finish. The mouthfeel is dry and soft and covers the mouth and throat.

The second infusion has that same very light intial taste, this time it seems slightly creamy this lighter presentation moves into a forest base. There is a very soft, faint, forest-creamy, sugary-sweet finish. The mouthfeel is a touch dry and moves the saliva away from the surface of the tongue but at the same time makes the mouth salivate- the effect is subtle.

Infusion number three offers vivid, crisp, soft and creamy-sweet greens. These tastes fade into a very soft frosty sweet sugary orchid aftertaste.

The fourth infusion is even more crisp and fresh but still relatively soft and mild. There is an undercurrent of sugary sweet notes under the whole taste profile. A barely fruity sweetness is detected just under the surface of these sweet notes. A sugary wood taste holds the base of this tea steady. This tea is very pure tasting and when steeped right can be refreshing especially for a jungjak grade.

The fifth infusion is similar to the last infusion but with deeper, dry, woody-forest notes starting to increasingly sneak into the fray. The fullness and depth of this tea is realized here in these later infusions. The aftertaste is of sweet, long, fruity notes.

In the sixth infusion drier wood notes now dominate with very little fresh vibrant green left- instead deeper forest notes reside in each sip. A dry, barely fruity aftertaste lingers before fading away. The tea is drying in the throat. The qi ascends to the head and softly releases as it climbs softly into the mind.

The seventh and eight infusions offer somewhat bitter, dry, gritty wood with flashes of muddled long forest fruit taste that disappears fast as it arrives. The aftertaste is light but is of a deeper forest taste. The mouthfeel is dry and descends deeper into the throat.


Saturday, December 3, 2011

Fire, Water, & the Art of Charcoal: Part 1- Introduction

There is little to no literature in English on the use of charcoal to heat water for tea, yet it was done this way for hundreds even thousands of years before. It is quite humorous that one English site claims that there once was an Tao of Charcoal- although this is meant to be a joke there is a measure of truth to it. There is a traditional Way of Tea that sees the use of charcoal as an essential component to harmonize the energies of the tea room while imparting the best possible taste to the water. Few people who have tried tea made with water boiled over charcoal heat deny that it creates the best possible water for tea. Current scientific research in Japan suggests that the benifits of infrared heat might have something to do with slight changes in the water's structure under infrared heat (see comments section here).

Fire is thought to be the most yang of the elements. Fire is active, vibrant, hot, and ascends- this is natures law. Water is thought to be the most yin of the elements. Water is passive, nourishing, cool, and descends- this is nature's law. In the traditional movement of the Five Elements, Water is thought to control or balance Fire. When Fire becomes relatively more abundant Water can pacify its energy. Conversely, an overabundance of Fire can pacify Water. When we make tea, the goal is harmony between these Elements.

Wood also plays an intermediate roll between Water and Fire. Wood is nourished by Water. Water's nourishment is necessary for Wood to grow and become strong. In this way it is said that Water is the mother of Wood. Wood generates Fire. Wood acts as fuel which is necessary for Fire to burn and become powerful. In this way it is said that Wood is the mother of Fire. This is the way of nature and the way of the Dao.

Throughout early tea history wood was likely used as the primary source of heat for making tea, old images and poems describe the use of wood when making tea while enjoying the vast beauties of the outdoors. It is important to note here that the heat given off from wood and traditional charcoal are energetically different- traditional charcoal burns as pure infrared where as wood heats with the gases released from the wood itself as well as infrared. As a result burning wood and burning charcoal each impact the boiling water and the resulting tea infusions slightly differently.

Over the years wood was slowly refined into higher and higher quality charcoal. Charcoal had an advantage over wood in that it could burn longer and more controlled. Gradually charcoal was refined to the high quality traditional grade that is used today- reaching its zenith only 300 years ago.

Due to the convenience and consistency of modern heat sources, the use of traditional charcoal in the preparation of tea has declined dramatically. The use of traditional charcoal has always been to create harmony in the tea room and within the teapot. It should be noted that in today's world the use of charcoal is often not appropriate and could create more disharmony in the tea room especially if not used mindfully.

In the following weeks and months this series will focus on how to achieve harmony when using traditional charcoal to boil water for tea. It will cover topics such as: the different cultural traditions of using traditional charcoal to boil water for tea, determining the quality of charcoal, making your own charcoal, methods and theories of starting a charcoal fire, safety issues when using traditional charcoal, and the energetics of traditional charcoal.

So, as the chill of Winter sets in, gather round and feel the penetrating warmth as we discuss in detail the harmony that traditional charcoal brings to the preparation of tea.


Disclaimer: Using any flammable substance such as charcoal comes with some level of risk. MattCha's Blog takes no responsibly for any harm done by readers of this blog. Please use common sense and take reasonable safety precautions when using charcoal. Always make sure there is adequate ventilation if burning charcoal inside.

Double Peace

Thursday, December 1, 2011

2008 Chen Sheng Hao "Nannuo"

This sample has sure made it around the block. It was given to Hobbes and now makes its way to this stained ceramic tea table. This cake is available for purchase from Red Lantern.

The brown hairy dry leaves smell of distant creamy sweetness. As the first infusion is prepared on this cold and wet late fall day ones mind unwinds with this tea. It pours a browny-orange-tinged yellow. As these colours make their way into the mouth and down the throat, dirty, gritty, smooth pear-like tastes come and go before ducking into a fritty, not that sweet, wood taste. The base flavor seems to be this gritty, dirt tasting, wood flavour. The aftertaste leaves a faint sweetness on the lips. It feels chalky and somewhat gritty in the mouth.

The second infusions starts off with a thick malty and goopy taste that still carries a dirty underlying base. This initial taste has very faint spicy-pear like sweetness in its return. The mouthfeel reaches deep into the throat and heavily coats the mouth, tongue, and lips.

The third starts off similar with a malty tastes but this time it carries cool menthol notes that then turn into that gritty bark base note. The finish is of that malty-dirty taste with notes of cherry fruit underneath creating a nice balance.

The fourth infusion starts to smoothly transition the tastes together in a nice broad balancing kind of way. The malty taste has softened considerably and the taste profile feels more rounded as it moves from grittier malted tastes to sweeter higher tastes of cherry even soft florals.

In the fifth and sixth infusions the dirty woodier notes seem like they are starting to slowly overpower the slightly sweet cherry fruit tastes. The mouthfeel is nice at this point and is especially nice in the throat. The chaqi is mild and seems to act more on the mind than body- the mind seems clearer than usual under the influence of this tea.

The seveth infusion turns a new leaf as this tea now seems to be slightly more sweet and cherry. The balance between sweet juicy malty flavours now present in the initial taste. It does carry a some gritty notes but smoothly transitions to barely fruit notes in malted wood.

In the eighth a distinctive fresh, cool, menthol taste mixed with subtle fruit suggestions passes under the woody, gritty base. This flavour profile almost becomes more distinctive in the ninth, tenth infusions.

The infusions that follow contain a nice subtle cool fruity taste that is most noticeable in the aftertaste the woody base continues to hold but is not as distinct or noticeable as the sweeter more motive higher tastes.


Monday, November 28, 2011

Appreciation & Wear of Kim Kyoung Soo's Grey and White Style: The Serving Pot

Hot water gets passed from the cooling bowl to the teapot, from the teapot to the serving pot, then from the serving pot to the cups. After the serving pot is preheated and the tea steeped, the serving pot is the first to receive the gift of infused tea from the teapot. It is the first to receive and the first to give. It reminds us that the tea ceremony is about giving and receiving- about host serving guest.

The serving pot contains the same yin and yang motifs as the cooling bowl and tea pot. Its most noticeable feature is its shape and form.The shape and form of this grey and white Kim Kyoung Soo serving pot reflects both its practical and energetic function.

Warm infused tea passes from the spout of the teapot and through the relatively narrow collar of the serving pot. This opening at the top of the serving pot is a bit smaller than the opening of the cooling pot. The smaller opening is to retain the heat and the qi of the infused tea. The serving pot also has a more distinct bulbous interior than the more open interior of the cooling pot. This more bulbous shape acts to amplify the sound of the pour and give it more of a beautiful echoing reverberation- a feeling of closeness, of being grounded and held, a feeling of safety. More importantly this deeper bulbous shape acts to contain the warmth and qi (taste and smell) of the tea inside. It also reminds us that host should always retain warmth and feeling in every tea meeting.

There is beautiful contrast from the wear of this Kim Kyoung Soo serving pot. The inside of the pot was once as white and pure as the cooling bowl. Now only the crackled top collared rim shows evidence of what was. The choice to leave it covered in tea oil obscuring its pure white inside is simply to not remove qi that has accumulated from all the green tea that has passed through this vessel manifesting as this brown, terracotta coloured layer. Some feel that the presentation of purity to the guest is more important than accumulation of qi- you will see both in Korea.

The most stunning feature of this interior is no doubt the contrasting white flecks on the interior's bottom. These were made by a guest who doubted that there would be white under the thick coat of tea oils. They scraped their finger nail on the bottom of this serving pot, only when the white ceramic was exposed did they believe that such drastic change had taken place. These exposed white flecks remind one to experience that which is beyond the senses when enjoying tea poured from this serving pot.

The form of this pot looks as if it is reaching, stretching from handle to spout a little bit. This represents the relationship between the person preparing tea and their guests. On one end, the maker of the tea has his hand around the looped handle. This looped handle is almost identical to that of the teapot. It too contains ghostly faint, cloud-like globs of glaze.

On the other end is a long reaching spout. It is a bit longer than that of the teapot. It truly gives the impression of stretching from host to guest- of reaching out, of touching with warmth, with tea.

The tea oiled insides interconnect with the oil stains that descend down the exterior of the pot. They reaching down the long spout connecting almost flawlessly to the exposed clay of the pot's base. What is inside is out and what is out is inside. The green tea within connecting with Earth, with the host, with the guest.


Sunday, November 20, 2011

2011 Ssang Kye Jungjak Semi Wild Hadong Green Tea

Although this tea was brought in directly from Korea, it also is available from North American retailer Shan Shui Teas. Shan Shui Teas brings in some Sang Kye (Ssanggyae) and Goryeo (Koryeo) green tea in the original packaging, for a reasonable markup.

Sang Kye, like other Korean tea producers, also specializes in a variety of wild crafted herbal teas as well. Korean's tea history has a strong relationship with herbal teas. During the Choson (Joseon) Dynasty the popularity of herbal teas surpassed that of green tea, this was in part to Choson's Confucian government distancing themselves from the Buddhist practice of drinking green tea. Even in traditional Korean tea shops today, most people actually still order more herb teas than green tea.

Today we will be having a closer look at Sang Kye's jungjak grade green tea a later picking than the previously posted saejak grade.

After shedding the dense layers of packaging, the dry leaves reveal a greyish-silver green leaves which smell of wheaty-grains and dry wood. They carry a very faint foresty base and vary in size from small to large dry leaves.

The first infusion is prepared on this cool autumn day and delivers dry bark woody light grain initial taste. It turns to a deep forested base then returns with just a bit of tangy berry sweetness that was not afforded in the initial taste. The aftertaste is left in the mouth is a touch grainy and woody with a faint traveling chalky, tangy, berry sweetness. The mouthfeel offers a full chalky coating in the mouth, tongue, and throat in a painting of slight dryness.

The second infusion presents a bit different with more of a deep dry wood and subtle anise-licorice start which is long and stretches into a dry wood and almost (but not quite) sweet forest base. There is still that tangy berry sweetness that turns up in the aftertaste along with dry woody-forest tastes.

The third presents very similar as the second infusion, with the sweeter more subtler notes being more suppressed by dry robust, woody forest notes. The initial taste has strawberry tastes mixed with the soft anise-licorice. These subtle tastes linger for minutes under the dominant dry wood aftertaste among the dry-sticky mouthfeel.

The fourth infusion starts off with dry, almost metallic, wood bark tastes that are in some ways almost floral. This taste is stretched through the taste profile. The subtle nuances that were found in the first infusions are nowhere to be found only to reappear minutes later very faintly in the aftertaste. This aftertaste is primarily dominated by foresty tastes.

The qi of this tea is uplifting absent in the mid and lower body and somewhat more active in the upper body.

The fifth has less of that metallic-wood inital taste but is otherwise much the same as the fouth infusion. It seems to present creamier forest notes than the forest notes presented before. This very slight creamy taste makes the transition to the aftertaste much more smooth in the mouth.

In the sixth infusion more subtle anise sweetness is squeezed out under a bit longer infusions. Overall this tea offers profoundly dry-wood base taste with subtleties that float underneath which make the rather plain taste somewhat interesting.

The seventh and eighth infusions are about as far as this tea goes. Here the woody, dry, and sometimes cereal taste doesn't have much left but a thick dry mouthfeel and maybe a quick glimpse of anise.

As the leaves fall outside
Under cool autumn winds
One enjoys this pot of tea.


Double Peace

Monday, November 14, 2011

Harmonizing Water and Tea: Part 13- More Of My Personal Experience With Water...

Please see my previous post here before continuing to read...

I am not really a big fan of water additives. I have experimented with bamboo charcoal both in an induction kettle and in a clay tang gwan (kettle) as well as in a water storage container before the water is boiled (see article and comments here for my opinion on these things). I have also experimented with silver beads in a friend's kettle, but still have not played around with salts yet. If you have good water to start with there is little need for such things- if it isn't broken, then don't fix it.

When I arrived on Vancouver Island I was surprised that there are actually not that may local options for local water. With a bit of research I found three local companies- B.C. Artesian Springs Water, Mt Doug Springs, and Salt Spring Water Co.

Mt Doug Springs comes from Mout Douglas within the city limits. It was the closest source of natural water but was very, very light- too light for the tea I drink.

Salt Spring Water Co. is from Salt Spring Island, an island between Vancouver and Vancouver Island. They offer a very light soft round water that would be great for lighter teas such as green teas, matcha, and lighter oolong. They also offer water in glass 18.9 L jugs as opposed to plastic. The problem is that they don't ship off Salt Spring Island. I have considered traveling there to get water in the Spring and early Summer to harmonize their lighter, softer water with the lighter seasonal teas I drink at that time, but Summer came and went and I never made the trip.

The water I have used since coming to Victoria has been B.C. Artesian Springs Water. This water is gathered naturally from an artesian well on the edge of a provincial park outside the city. The qi of this water is both somewhat heavy but vibrant. It was once laying deep in the earth but springs forth in activity as it is violently forced out from its dormancy- nature's emotive force. This is the nature of artesian water.

The side of the 18.9 L blue water jug states the following:

Ca 38.20 Parts Per Million (PPM)
Mg 6.06 PPM
Si 10.90 PPM
Na 8.95 PPM
Mineral Salts 165 PPM
Fluoride 0.12 PPM

This water has moderate mineralization and heaviness and has a full mouthfeel. As a result it harmonizes nicely with most teas and is especially nice for moderate to heavier teas, the majority of the tea I tend to drink most of the year.

The guys at B.C. Artesian Springs Water are very nice and appreciate my enjoyment of their water. They drop off fresh water in blue plastic 18.9 L jugs weekly. They insist it comes from the ground just days before. After using the water for a while I found out that a local tea shop located a short walk away called Special Teas also use the same water to prepare the teas in their shop.

I have a ceramic crock which is used to dispense this water. I considered bringing some ceramic water storage containers back from Korea but they are quite expensive, cost lots to ship due to their large size, and the risk of breakage was too high in my mind. However, I do store water in a Kim Kyoung Soo ceramic ceremonial kettle called a "su ju" (pictured above right). I use this as both a collecting jar and a storage container.

Generally I place the su ju quite low and dispense the water from the ceramic crock so as to induce some activity in the water. Water rests in the lidless su ju overnight near the window where it not only absorbs the essence of the night sky but also is softened by the interaction with the ceramic and the open air. I also store water in my ceramic Kim Jeong Hoon tang gwan (pictured above left) overnight as well. I generally fill it no more than half full so it can reach a relatively quicker boil on the hot plate the next morning. Leaving water in the ceramic tang gwan (kettle) also softens it ever so slightly.

When boiling water is removed from the tang gwan with a pyo choo bak I usually use a medium to high pour from the su ju to replenish the water in the kettle. This is done to oxygenate the water and make it a bit softer and more vibrant which is beneficial for the moderately heavy water I use. Of course, all of these pourings of water will be slightly adjusted as the type of tea that one is brewing will always be considered.

This is how one harmonizes water with tea.


Thursday, November 10, 2011

Harmonizing Water and Tea: Part 12- My Personal Experience With Water

Early in this series on water Bev of Listening to Leaves asked about my personal experiences and journey with water. I had promised her to address it in a post, the last of this series on harmonizing water and tea. As I began typing I realized that the post was quite long and will therefore be separated into two sections that will be posted within days of each other...

In Korea the bottled mineral water called "Sam Da Soo" is considered the standard for tasting tea. It is a very light rain water that is naturally filtered through the natural volcanic soil on Jeju Island. This water is very soft yet still has a subtle soft mouthfeel. It is great for harmonizing with very subtle green teas, the tea I was consuming the most at that time. I used this water for years before switching to a local source that was bottled in those 18.9 L blue jugs from a mountain spring near my residence (they can be seen here in an early post on water and tea). This local water was moderately heavier and had a broader mineralization.

The reason for the change was threefold. First I was uneasy with the amount of waste that I was creating as I went through many 2L bottles of Sam Da Soo weekly. Secondly, I hoped to consume water from a more local source that would be much fresher and vibrant than the bottled water from Jeju Island and would also harmonize best with the local climate. Thirdly, I started drinking more deeper, darker, heavier teas that harmonized better with heavier more mineralized waters.

The heat source I use to boil the water is taken from the teamasters I had learned from in Korea. The most serious city dwelling tea masters generally have at least two sources of heat. The first is induction heat. It is quick and brings water to a vigorous and rapid boil without depleting its essence. The second is infrared charcoal heat or electric heat from a braizier. The third is often a glass kettle or stainless steel kettle that is heated on a gas range stove.

In Korea, life is fast and often people drop by with little notice. A quick boil is often required so that guests are not waiting hours for a cup of tea. So in many instances in real life induction heat creates more harmony among guests and is a good option. My experience with induction heat is that it retains much of the vibrancy of the water because it brings water to a very quick boil and then automatically turns off as to not deplete the essence of the water. Often other methods boil too slowly or end up over boiling the water which leads to water that lacks vibrancy. Although induction kettles likely deplete or alter some of the natural properties of water, the benefit of the quick boil and auto stop outweighs the loss.

Currently, I don't use an induction kettle since my last one broke earlier this year. All of the induction kettles that I have gone through in Korea and the one I purchased in Canada have been glass kettles with a stainless steel base. The last one I bought in Canada was a Black & Decker JKC660BC 1.8L Glass Kettle- don't think it lasted a year. The glass kettle has the benefit of being able to see the stage of boil which is beneficial when deciding when to remove the kettle from boil.

I decided not to replace the induction kettle for five reasons. First, I am somewhat concerned about the constant exposure to its electromagnetic field. Second, I want to utilize the benefits derived from the use of my ceramic tang gwan (kettle). Third, I hope to slow down the pace of tea drinking so as it is more reflective and meditative, more true to its original form. Fourth, I seem to go through one induction kettle every few years and it is beginning to be wasteful. Fifth, I have a normal, run of the mill, stove top glass kettle that I heat over my gas range which I use if I need a quick boil.

It is pretty much unanimous amoung teamasters that infrared heat generated by natural hardwood charcoal gives birth to the most optimal water for tea. My experience with the use of charcoal heat confirms this classic observation. It generates water that is vibrant and full of Qi, that is deep and penetrating in nature, but is also very soft. I continue to use charcoal heat when time permits or when having guests. Getting the charcoal to Canada has proven expensive and difficult though.

I use an Uh Sang Myung ceramic stove and since its matching tang gwan got destroyed when shipped to Canada it has since been replaced by one by Kim Jeong Hoon. The ceramic tang gwan gives the water properties that I have stated in this article and generally harmonize best with the tea I normally drink and matches the aesthetic of my tea space. Because I drink a variety of different teas, I feel that this is the best option as it benefits both lighter and heavier teas. I have experience with iron tetsubins as well, I feel they are also a great option- especially if you are drinking more heavier teas. I sometimes feel that I could get a little more out of my old puerh tea if I had one of these. My experience with silver is limited as I have only had tea made for me in silver and have not played around with it myself. Stay away from stainless steel as it always carries a bad taste even after years of use.

The type of heat source that I use the most nowadays is from a hot plate. I purchased a Cadco Portable 1500w Electric Single Burner Hd Cast Iron Range (note the warning about using containers constructed of ceramics or glass... hahaha). It is nice because I can either use my glass kettle or my ceramic tang gwan (they haven't exploded yet!!!). It gives off nice heat that creates a natural ambiance which I feel is invaluable to my tea experience. It also adds a touch of metal to the feng shui of my tea space which is otherwise lacking. It takes a bit of time to bring water to a boil- this is both good and bad. It is good because it cultivates patience and a more natural tea experience. However, if not used properly it might exhaust the water a bit.

I have found that to maintain the vibrancy of the water a few simple steps can be followed. First if less water is placed in the kettle it will boil relatively fast and will retain its vibrancy. Then simply add more water to the kettle every time you pour some out. This way the water always remains vibrant. Make sure that you always have water in the kettle if you are using this method else you will damage your kettle. Remove the kettle from the hot plate if you are not using the water to ensure that the water isn't over boiled.

(to be continued...)