13 September 2008

Meiguo Hao 0801 "Mansa Yuan Ye Xiang" of Puerhshop

2008 Meiguo Hao 0801 "Mansa Yuan Ye Xiang" liquor

Puerhshop has posted notice over the past few months regarding its special order cakes, which they sell under the label "Meiguo (American) Hao". As far as I know, these cakes are perhaps the first commercial offering of a custom blended pu'er cake ordered by an American tea retailer under its own label.

2008 Meiguo Hao 0801 "Mansa Yuan Ye Xiang" dry leaf 1It's very tippy, as you can see. even the interior of the cake shows lots of silver buds. Silver tips can make a pu'er very astringent, even after aging. In my experience, most become bitter and bland with time. Some however, seem to age well. The Guang Yun Gong and the buds-enhanced cakes of the 1970s don't seem adversely affected by the high amount of tips in their recipes, though these appear mostly on the face of those two cakes. The tips in the Meiguo Hao make it rather astringent now, and give it a sort of silver pu'er taste that the other larger leaves can't compete with--yet.

The liquor even has a light color. There was some concern on teachat regarding the clarity of the liquor, but mine brewed clear.

2008 Meiguo Hao 0801 "Mansa Yuan Ye Xiang" dry leaf 2

On the whole, this mansa cake is sweet and easy to drink, with no smokiness. It's a bit salty (weird) and a bit herbal. Despite its thin flavor, it left a nice aftertaste on the root of my tongue that hasn't gone away and has a stronger warming effect than most young sheng. I still feel a bit woozy from it. I have little experience with Mansa leaf, so I can't elaborate on the characteristics of this region's tea and if this tea fits the description.

2008 Meiguo Hao 0801 "Mansa Yuan Ye Xiang" spent leaf

Like most sheng pu'er, the tea wouldn't end. I'm going to brew again soon with more leaf; I think the bland character might stem from fewer large leaves inhabiting space where normally broken or smaller leaf would fill to the same volume.

2008 Meiguo Hao 0801 "Mansa Yuan Ye Xiang" setup 1

12 September 2008

A new cup...

Brown under straw brushed cup Brown under straw brushed cup interior

The white speckling is cool, but unintentional. The studio really needs to start mixing their glazes better...

05 September 2008

2007 Taidong Si Cha Oolong

Teaware in use, 2007 Taidong Si Cha Oolong
Some of my pottery items in use...

I bought this oolong from Hou De Asian Art many moons ago. It didn't impress me the first few times I brewed it, and others felt similarly disappointed: at a tasting with a few members of the LA Tea Affair, nobody preferred it.

However, it appears that over the last year, the tea had the opportunity to breathe and change, and I really liked when I brewed it tonight. The roast/charcoal flavor has softened into a richness, and orchid floral notes similar to dancong have appeared. This oolong was a good companion during this long night of study.

01 September 2008

Mystery Xiaguan Tuo...

Jadecicada on the Puerh Livejournal kindly sent me a sample of a "mystery" Xiaguan factory tuo cha. She wanted some users' thoughts on the tea, its age, etc. So, here are my thoughts, with many thanks to the cicada, whose six little legs did a great job posting the sample.

Mystery Xiaguan Tuo, dry leaves

The tuo underwent some wet storage before making its way to California, where it was supposedly sourced. Visually, the thin strands of white fluff on the leaves detail the wet storage:

Mystery Xiaguan Tuo, dry leaf closeup

Despite its appearance on the leaf, the mold left no trace in the flavor of the tea and only a residue in the aroma. Sweet, smooth, woody, and with a long aftertaste in both early and late infusions, I was impressed. Wet enough to have aged the tea significantly, but dry enough to maintain a complex flavor profile and the floral elements of younger Xiaguan teas, the storage seemed on target: the tea was balanced. Better yet, it was easy to brew and a charm to drink.

Mystery Xiaguan Tuo - brewed leaves

I shared it with two others, and all of us began to sweat. One had never had aged sheng pu'er before, and drank his portion even faster than the two of us who knew what it was, and we hadn't told him a thing. His novice enthusiasm for the tea was a good sign of its quality.

All in all, you can't buy a better aged pu'er for $8 anywhere. A great find, and I hope the retailer stocks more, cuz I'd like to have the Cicada ship me a whole tuo...

My guesses: Early to mid-1990s sheng tuo, mildly wet stored.

First batch of Jie Sen Pottery

Three cups/bowls

Roughly a month in the making, my first pottery pieces sat waiting for me on my shelf at the studio this afternoon. I'm jazzed! The photos and descriptions are below.

Some of them delight me, others disappoint me, but I learned several valuable glazing lessons with this first batch.

Stoneware shallow bowl and tea caddy (glaze error)Here are two pieces. Atop the clear-green glazed shallow bowl is a tea caddy I glazed with a tenmoku approximation. Because I layered the glaze too thin, a black/brown glaze turned eggplant, and has the look and actual texture of mussel shell. It's a neat effect I didn't intend. It does a look a little like a witch in this color...maybe I should add a warted nose?

The shallow bowl was meant for use in Taiwan-style cha xi. I envisioned it holding a small pot, proud to be the bland background that made the pot's clay pop. However, the clear glaze was contaminated with some green glaze, and I got this yellow-green bowl that also shrank too much to be used with any but the smallest of pots. I don't know what to do with it now, but it's pretty.

2-Glaze shallow bowlThis shallow bowl has a lip. It's also a little useless, except maybe to hold olive oil and spices for bread dipping, or some other sauce/dip use. A clear-green glaze coats it, and brown line is a streak of tenmoku. The glaze interestingly crackled, as is seen in the detail photo.

I like the idea of this piece, and I think I'll repeat the effect with a thicker application of tenmoku on the exterior for more drama. I do like the ghost-under-the-glaze feel it gives the bottom of the interior of the bowl, though.

2-Glaze Shallow bowl interior

The two pieces below are two teacups, one in a thin brush of white glaze and the other in a combination of clear and straw glazes.

Two teacups: white and straw glazes Teacup, brushed white glaze Teacup, straw glaze

I'm happy with both of these. The white brush design is impromptu but balanced, and the straw glaze's uneven application complements the uneven finger lines on its cup. Both say "organic", but the white cup speaks to organic decoration while the straw cup speaks to organic form. UPDATE 9/2/08: The white brushed cup has found a loving owner, one of my coworkers who called it her favorite of the batch!

Chawan with impromptu decoration, interior and lip glazed

This chawan is probably my favorite piece. I made the decoration without thought, and when the pressure from the circular indentations threw the piece off-center, I was annoyed. But in the end, I think the lines display the clay's nature despite the unintentional imbalance.

The piece below is yet another small bowl, thrown by me and decorated by Davin. He used two glazes like paint and covered the whole piece in a third glaze, the clear contaminated with green. The result was the slight ripple at the lip you see on the piece. I like the way the clear glaze shows off the specks of iron in the clay. I've also shown you a closeup of the lip, which Davin chose to leave bare, so your bare lip touches the naked clay.

Small bowl with three glazes Small bowl, three glazes, detail of unglazed lip

I made three other pieces. One suffered an odd fate: a lidded jar, the jar expanded in the kiln, dropping the lid to the bottom, where it stuck. Two other pieces I glazed using a thick coat of the white, but the glaze developed pinholes and looked gross.

More photos when they're ready...for now, here's my current signature: