Building a Yixing Collection for Oolong


Owes its flavors to oxidation levels between green & black tea.

Building a Yixing Collection for Oolong

Postby Herb_Master » Nov 16th, '10, 18:50

Someone has pm'd me asking my advice on pairing yixing pots and oolongs.

Humbly, I decline to give my answer behind closed doors, I know an enormous amount more than I did 4 years ago, but still know relatively little, so am starting this thread for a variety of input.

Various commentators remark on advice and guidance they have gleaned from their 'Teamaster'. It seems comparing these 'rules' that there are great discrepancies, but often they are comparing tea from different regions - Anxi, Fenghuang, Taiwan and Wuyi. In addition to Region many other differences come into play:The local water; the level of oxidisation; the level of roasting; the shape of the processed leaves and the age of the tea. In many cases the so named 'Teamaster' may be playing with relatively few of these variables and may have different personal preferences to some of us.

I think the combined weight of all teachatters will provide a more comprehensive recommendation than any single teamaster, as long as you can sift what you want from the answers.

There are also 'Claymasters' who know their yixing clays and may be willing to go to excessive lengths to match clays and teas. There also exist other 'Claymasters' who know the wonderful benefits of Banko, Shigaraki and Gaiwans. I do not believe this chatter wants advice on anything other than Yixing, so the usual chorus of 'Just buy 1 gaiwan' would be wasted. I also feel from what little I know of this teachatter that they won't be shy of buying several, even many, good quality yixing pots over the next year.

The problem I see is size, shape, thickness, clay and tea regions - how many variations do you need?

1. Size
Unless you are of Northern Chinese extraction and need 300ml to 500ml pots for 'family brewing' anything over 200ml should probably be rule out.

50 - 100ml are favoured by diehard Oolong (and pu) fans and have the advantages that you can use less leaf to get a heavy brew, you can more frequently extract every last drop of goodness from the leaf at 1 session, and if you have more than 1 you can manage side by side comparitive tasting easily.

150 - 200ml are great for group tastings where several of you can get a decent sample from each infusions, and are also great for leisurely infusions when you don't want to keep running back and forth ftrom brewing station to drinking location. It can be great for large gatherings but can be wasteful on leaf when drinking alone.

100 - 150ml is in someways a good compromise, good to share infusions with just one or 2 companions, the openings will usually give easy access to all leaf shapes, and if you are a thirsty drinker can give you plenty to drink when having solo sessions.

2. Shape
Countless variations, but perhaps can be split into 3 major types; flatter, rounder and taller. I have read that many claim the shape affects the tea tatse but am in no position to concur. I do believe that shape can be important for leaf type.

Flatter ones can usually accomodate better the long twisty leaves of certain Wuyi Yan Cha. Perhaps Fang Gu!

Rounder ones can better accomodate the pellet type leaf from Anxi and Taiwan, allowing the leaves to unfurl and decent extraction in a uniform way. Perhaps Long Dan, Xishi or others.

Taller ones - I don't know - I read once or twice but have no recall.

Compromise shapes may include Shi Pao and Shui Pin.

3. Thickness
Along with the heat retention properties of the clay, the thickness is supposed to have some bearing on the finished infusion. Though I have read so many conflicting ideas that I have not reached a favoured conclusion. But if you want for a kind of Oolong, initial very high temperature that cools off fairly rapidly long before you decant then it may be worth looking for a thin walled yixing. [others claim that even thin walled pots of certain clays retain heat well - so I am a little lost here]Thick walled are supposed to retain heat extra well, and for other Oolongs you may want a thick walled pot which helps you with extra long infusions.

In practice I think many reasonable value available yixings are medium walled - thinking how they are made from slabs of clay rather than thrown, thick walled cheap ones from clumsy inexperience potters, medium walled pots from those who have acquired greater skill, thin walled only from true masters [last sentence somewhat tongue in cheek]

4. Clay
Perhaps the most interesting part, some teapots are simply designated Zisha or Purple Clay - how much this conveys I don't know for other pots are given intricate clay descriptions not only identifying type of clay, but sub-type and source location.

Some will settle for (or even insist on) Zhuni on every single pot in their Yixing collection. Others will claim modern zhuni is not so good, and will identify other clays for a subrange of their oolongs.

Some clays are more absorptive others have better heat retaining properties. The more absorptive the pots you buy, then the more likely you are to want a larger collection initially these pots may rob you of some flavour from the tea, but once well seasoned with a particular tea type you don't want it throwing that back into another Oolong.

5 Regions
a) wuyi yan cha
I have seen that some teachatters split 2 yixings between normal and aged. I have seen other teachatters split 2 between high roast and light roast, and some that split into 3 and others that split into certain varietals. I am hoping to buy an extra pot especially for Bai Ji Guan.
For a smaller pot you may wish to give concern to the size of the lid opening.

b) anxi
There are some who want Zhu Ni but others who want a softer clay like Duanni and Lu Ni. The round shape for the pot is worth considering.
Greener TKY would probably demand a seperate pot from wuyi, but if your taste is for traditional highly oxidised TGY then maybe a common pot for wuyi and TKY would suffice.

c) taiwan
don't ask me, I have not explored many taiwan teas I use them (dongdings and alishans) in the same yellow clay teapots I use for Anxi. BaoZhongs or Pouchongs I use a seperate very cheap zen8teapot that is blue.

d) Dan Cong
I still use some unnamed brownish purple clay pots (with wide openings) that brew well before deciding where to finally allocate. I now have Chao Zhou teapots for my Dan Congs so would not worry too much about yixing. Maybe a general purpose yixing to help you on your way, but one that does not retain the heat too long (or astringent flavours will come to the fore) Though again I have heard some claim the extremely thin walled Chao Zhou retain heat well, I don't think I believe it - if the heat of the exterior is so obviously very hot almost immediately then it is transferring the heat into contact with the air and the interior must be cooling.

I think you should start with a couple of mid priced pots in your preferred size that you are prepared to NOT dedicate any further than splitting the whole of the Oolong kingdom into 2

1 for wuyi and dan cong maybe 120 ml

1 for Greener pellet shaped Anxi and Taiwan maybe a little larger like 180ml to allow the leaf to unfurl completely


Play with them, continue to observe advice and guidance on clays and teas. Then when you have decided which Oolong types you REALLY like a lot then move on to getting dedicated pots for them.

Just 2 :D
But knowing you, I hazard a guess you will own 12 within 4 months :wink:
Last edited by Herb_Master on Nov 17th, '10, 08:42, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Building a Yixing Collection for Oolong

Postby chrl42 » Nov 17th, '10, 00:38

Many thanks to great master from Stockport, England and amazing input :)

In China (at least so far my understanding), Oolong is believed to be derived from Fujian and Guangdong, a southern China with ocean to West. Traditionally, these people were at top in going to West and doing business (most of overseas Chinese too are from here). I perhaps double-used the term Oolong and Gongfu, but fact is that unseperatible.

Gongfucha is first mentioned during some Qing dynasty, four elements are what they say for Gongfucha, Yixing teapot/Wuyi tea/thimble cup/Chaozhou stove. Some size under 160ml Zhuni was often prefered to perform it, it was noticeable because the size was smaller than other Yixing teapot or teawares in general.

But being a tradition has a reason. And history proves it. Trait of being Gongfu is durability of brewing, so small size is acceptible, (actually Zhuni can't make big), also Zhuni is good at getting tea taste raw, which is very important performing Gongfu because porous clays are not good at it.

Thin, thimble cups are better at retaining heat and aroma, nonetheless its small size. Many cups used for tea competition are also that way. Wuyi tea was a mother of Oolong, TGY/DC/Taiwanese ones came after it.

Even to this day, Oolong/Gongfu/small pot/small cup/are you southerner? are kinda regarded as a doctrine, I just haven't seen any better substitution..I witnessed these day, true southern style is like filling the whole pot with leaves, using boiled water, brewing over and over.. :D
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Re: Building a Yixing Collection for Oolong

Postby tingjunkie » Nov 17th, '10, 03:32

Though I greatly admire the amount of effort being put into this thread so far, I really feel like there is no "formula" which can be relied upon to pair oolongs with a pot's shape/volume/clay/firing/thickness/opening size/etc. Yes, there are general patterns to be found, but there are plenty of curveballs thrown in too! Has your friend poured over the Yixing thread yet? Lots of great info about tea/pot pairings to be gleaned there from board members.

Ultimately, I think a pot has to be tested and paired with a tea based on the owner's own preferences.

Judging from how you have described this mystery person so far, it sounds like they are rather serious and detail-oriented about tea, so my best advice would be to save up for good quality pots, rather than buy a handful of entry level ones.
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Re: Building a Yixing Collection for Oolong

Postby Herb_Master » Nov 17th, '10, 07:57

tingjunkie wrote:Ultimately, I think a pot has to be tested and paired with a tea based on the owner's own preferences.



The person is about to embark on a journey through Oolong, and will be trying Oolongs and taking them home to brew. The question was more about how many different ones he will need to start enjoying the Oolongs at their best, or whether 1 yixing pot will do for all.

Ultimately - I agree with you, but everyone has to start somewhere.
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Re: Building a Yixing Collection for Oolong

Postby David R. » Nov 17th, '10, 08:25

Great post Herb Master. Stéphane from Teamasters also gives some good guidelines in his blog on thickness, pouring speed, filter, size, etc.

About size, there is the chinese way, as recalled chrl42, which often uses a small packed teapot. But there is also a lighter method using medium sized pots (around 15cl) and longer brews. I really like this way for light to medium roasted oolongs. It requires a good teapot to retain heat for a long time. It is said by some that if you let the leaves unfurl in a non packed environment, flavours will be better extracted. I tend to agree even though I am fairly a beginner.

I am not saying that one method is better than the other. I just want to quote my own example : I bought a tiny expensive teapot which I barely use cause I prefer the results of longer brews in a larger vessel.

My preference is to use a medium size teapot for gao shan cha and light roasted oolongs, another teapot of the same size for the medium roasted ones, and a smaller one, using more water/leaves ratio, for the heavy roasted ones.

My 2 cents.
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Re: Building a Yixing Collection for Oolong

Postby Herb_Master » Nov 17th, '10, 08:38

David R. wrote:
About size, there is the chinese way, as recalled chrl42, which often uses a small packed teapot. But there is also a lighter method using medium sized pots (around 15cl) and longer brews. I really like this way for light to medium roasted oolongs. It requires a good teapot to retain heat for a long time. It is said by some that if you let the leaves unfurl in a non packed environment, flavours will be better extracted. I tend to agree even though I am fairly a beginner.



Good point, I will edit the suggestion at the end of my post.
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Re: Building a Yixing Collection for Oolong

Postby auhckw » Nov 17th, '10, 09:03

Very informative thread :D
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Re: Building a Yixing Collection for Oolong

Postby brandon » Nov 17th, '10, 10:10

David R. wrote:My preference is to use a medium size teapot for gao shan cha and light roasted oolongs, another teapot of the same size for the medium roasted ones, and a smaller one, using more water/leaves ratio, for the heavy roasted ones.
My 2 cents.


David - I agree completely.

Image

My Gao Shan pot is very round, modern Zhuni. 120ml.

I am not very "shy" about putting medium roast tea into this pot. I feel that high fired Zhuni is not likely to absorb much.
Last edited by brandon on Nov 17th, '10, 10:17, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Building a Yixing Collection for Oolong

Postby brandon » Nov 17th, '10, 10:14

Image
Image

Both of my favorite Wuyi pots are made of aged zi ni.

Sometimes the Shui Pin has conjugal visits with very high fired Taiwanese oolong, dark aged oolong, and possibly other things that aren't exactly Wuyi Yancha.

I think your friend would benefit from 2 Yixing of good clay and craftsmanship, and a very good gaiwan.

I use both Yixing and Gaiwan for Gao Shan, Wuyi teas, use only Yixing for high fired Anxi, and use only gaiwan for Phoenix and light Anxi tea.
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Re: Building a Yixing Collection for Oolong

Postby edkrueger » Nov 17th, '10, 10:48

I usually make my light and medium roast in a 100ml zhuni pot, but I also do dark roasted teas in there occasionally. I have recently acquired a 60ml thin walled zhuni pot which works very well for light roast. I have another 60 ml zhuni with thinker walls that I use for dark roast. I recently got a 140 ml modern zhuni. I haven't used it for brewing, but It did well in the taste test when I used a light roasted hong shui oolong.
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Re: Building a Yixing Collection for Oolong

Postby chrl42 » Nov 17th, '10, 10:55

Huge pots indeed help extract tea juice more fairly, it's undeniable. For Puerh, enough space to unfurl leaves a must, too small pot bothers in pouring for Puerh. I don't say small pot is better than huge pot in brewing tea, but to say Oolong is a tea who can survive in small pot as well.

Southern Gongfu teapots are mostly rounder, which I believe all-around player for tea and practical. Grand master Xu Xiu Tang says in his book, the Chinese traditionally prefer flatter one for green tea and taller one for black tea. Which I think is very reasonable. Green tea is brewed at lower temperature, so widen space to leak the heat is necessary, a friend of mine who studies Chinese medicine says, green tea downs Qi and black tea ups Qi, so there the shape goes :mrgreen:

Cup also affects in tasting. Glazed cup helps in giving a sweet taste, clay cup will react the way porous Yixing does, it takes aroma away. Glaze is basically silica, in fact Yixing teapot is similar. Yixing clay naturally contains high amount of silica, so fired pot tends to have a richer luster than other teapots.

Many collectors say, Zhuni has similar effect in brewing no matter old or new. Which me and few unknown people beg to differ. If my tongue is not wrong, Zhaozhuang Zhuni enhances sweetness of tea (and other lustrous clays as well) than Xiao Mei Yao or Ben Shan Zhuni..but so far stated is merely my opinion.....my 2 cent
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Re: Building a Yixing Collection for Oolong

Postby David R. » Nov 17th, '10, 11:57

Brandon, I so love your pots... Your wonderful photos help of course.
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Re: Building a Yixing Collection for Oolong

Postby greenleafblue » Nov 17th, '10, 11:59

chrl42 wrote: Ben Shan Zhuni.

=黄龙山 huanglong shan?
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Re: Building a Yixing Collection for Oolong

Postby Tead Off » Nov 17th, '10, 14:57

I never use tiny Yixing for any oolong. Too girlie for me. :D 100-120ml is an ideal size for 1 or 2 drinkers.

For Taiwan teas, no need to pack the pots. 25% full of dry leaf will usually expand right to the top.

For Wuyi and high fired Anxi, those leaves are not going to explode like gaoshan so many drinkers will fill up the teapot. This will depend on your taste. Packing the pot can be a nightmare with many teas as both the jolt and the bitterness will often be inflated.

3-4 Yixing teapots can go a long way with most oolongs. I think I use 4 at the most and then Chao Zhou pot with Dancong and gaiwan with some DC, too, if I'm lazy. :lol:
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Re: Building a Yixing Collection for Oolong

Postby tingjunkie » Nov 17th, '10, 20:18

Tead Off wrote:Packing the pot can be a nightmare with many teas as both the jolt and the bitterness will often be inflated.


Now who's being too "girlie?" :lol: I have several female friends who not only fill up their pots with Wuyi and high fire TGY, but they also crush up some leaf to fit more in too! Man up and put 9g of Classic Roast in a 40ml pot Tead Off! :P
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