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Feb 8th 17 4:21 am
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Are these cups worth it?

by stevorama » Feb 8th 17 4:21 am

These 5 cups went for $146 plus shipping on ebay. Are they worth it? I know that's a subjective question. And yes, my bid didn't come close! :wink:

http://www.ebay.com/itm/F499-Chinese-wh ... 7675.l2557

Feb 8th 17 4:38 am
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Re: Are these cups worth it?

by steanze » Feb 8th 17 4:38 am

as you say, subjective. I would not get them.

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Re: Are these cups worth it?

by stevorama » Feb 8th 17 5:11 am

steanze wrote:as you say, subjective. I would not get them.
what do you think would drive value in this case? i don't know the vintage of these, i was guessing late 1800's. but just a guess.

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Re: Are these cups worth it?

by theredbaron » Feb 8th 17 6:39 am

It's difficult to say. They are definitely very good cups, right shape for a good flow of tea into the mouth.
Prices of old cups have been rising steadily. I remember when such cups cost a dollar or so a piece in street markets in China, or South East Asia. But those days are long gone and won't come back.
Good cups are quite important, and i would suggest to anyone to get some before they are no longer available for reasonable amounts of money.

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Re: Are these cups worth it?

by .m. » Feb 8th 17 3:07 pm

They look very lovely and old, and $30 for a good cup isn't a crazy bad price. However the very edge of their rim seems unglazed, which might be a bit unpleasant in contact with lips. Some of the eggshell thin porcelain cups that was imported to Europe in late 19th century are like that, and they are just not pleasant to use.

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Re: Are these cups worth it?

by stevorama » Feb 8th 17 4:54 pm

Yes, I thought these cups looked good. I'm not always a fan of low and wide cups, but I liked the proportions of these. Although I did wonder about the rim too. I've seen similar per cup prices via vendors. I suppose I do enjoy a good bargain. Redbaron, a dollar a piece sounds great! :D

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Re: Are these cups worth it?

by steanze » Feb 8th 17 5:02 pm

For use with tea, I don't see how they would improve over standard $0.2-1 thin porcelain cups, the shape is similar and the porcelain does not interact with the tea anyway. That money would be better spent on a good pot unless you already have plenty. As a complement to the $0.2-1 ones, I'd rather look for the mid 20th century eggshell thin ones, which IMO do improve the experience for subtle teas like dancong.
For aesthetic value, they are pretty coarse, I'd rather get some cups from a contemporary artisan (although not many make cups of the right size and shape for gongfu cha).
Unless you are collecting cups and these are of a specific "type" that you don't have in your collection, I don't much see the point of spending ~$140 on them...

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Re: Are these cups worth it?

by theredbaron » Feb 8th 17 6:31 pm

stevorama wrote:Yes, I thought these cups looked good. I'm not always a fan of low and wide cups, but I liked the proportions of these. Although I did wonder about the rim too. I've seen similar per cup prices via vendors. I suppose I do enjoy a good bargain. Redbaron, a dollar a piece sounds great! :D

sometimes i feel really old ;)

But yes, in those days ( ;) ), early 90's, walking around Chinese towns people sold all sorts of stuff on the streets, and i bought loads of old tea cups which i still use. Also in Penang and KL you got many late Qing blue and white export cups for almost nothing, stacks of them in the shops.

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Re: Are these cups worth it?

by theredbaron » Feb 8th 17 6:37 pm

steanze wrote:For use with tea, I don't see how they would improve over standard $0.2-1 thin porcelain cups, the shape is similar and the porcelain does not interact with the tea anyway. That money would be better spent on a good pot unless you already have plenty. As a complement to the $0.2-1 ones, I'd rather look for the mid 20th century eggshell thin ones, which IMO do improve the experience for subtle teas like dancong.
For aesthetic value, they are pretty coarse, I'd rather get some cups from a contemporary artisan (although not many make cups of the right size and shape for gongfu cha).
Unless you are collecting cups and these are of a specific "type" that you don't have in your collection, I don't much see the point of spending ~$140 on them...

I am sorry, but i have to disagree there. Cups are another factor that make a difference (less though than water, heat source or pot). The best cups i have ever drunk tea from were Lim Ping Xiang's Ming dynasty cups. And we did make side by side comparisons. The inner shape of the cup and the shape of the rim especially dictate the flow of the tea into the mouth, and where and how the taste develops first (tip of the tongue, back of the mouth, etc). There is a reason why old cups (Ming, Qing) are so highly coveted, and it's not just aesthetics.

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Re: Are these cups worth it?

by steanze » Feb 8th 17 7:49 pm

theredbaron wrote: I am sorry, but i have to disagree there. Cups are another factor that make a difference (less though than water, heat source or pot). The best cups i have ever drunk tea from were Lim Ping Xiang's Ming dynasty cups. And we did make side by side comparisons. The inner shape of the cup and the shape of the rim especially dictate the flow of the tea into the mouth, and where and how the taste develops first (tip of the tongue, back of the mouth, etc). There is a reason why old cups (Ming, Qing) are so highly coveted, and it's not just aesthetics.
I agree that the shape (and thickness) of cups matters. But 1) even today artisans and factories make cups of all kinds of shapes, and 2) during Ming and Qing artisans made cups of many different shapes too. There isn't a common "Ming" shape, or "Qing" shape, which is no longer made today, and makes the Ming and Qing cups particularly good. Therefore, the fact that cup shape affects the tea experience does not argue for the superiority of Ming or Qing cups in terms of performance. In terms of material, we are talking about porcelain cups, that don't really interact with the liquid. This is a very different case from yixing pots (different clays used in different periods, plus different clay processing techniques resulting in coarser vs finer grain, and different firing techniques: dragon kiln/oil kiln/gas kiln).

Aesthetic/historical value can contribute in important ways to a tea session, so a utensil that contributes to the aesthetics of the session can be well worth it even if it does not improve the tea itself. This is where the judgement becomes most subjective, and it is up to one's personal judgement to decide whether something is worth a given sum.

So is there a reason why old cups are highly coveted other than aesthetics and historical value? Perhaps, placebo effect, or some widespread belief that they are "better" - there are many such magical beliefs in the world of tea, and the view that older things are better is quite rooted in Chinese culture. However, in the case of cups I do not see any foundation for holding this view. I am always happy to change my mind in the presence of evidence to the contrary (better performance in blind testing of multiple Ming/Qing cups of different shapes as compared to multiple contemporary cups of different shapes), or if someone can propose a mechanism by which older cups in general would be better than contemporary cups. But saying that they are sought after by many people is not really evidence that they perform better, it could be evidence of a popular aesthetic taste, or of successful marketing.

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Re: Are these cups worth it?

by Psyck » Feb 8th 17 8:06 pm

stevorama wrote: . . . Are they worth it? . . .
No

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Re: Are these cups worth it?

by .m. » Feb 8th 17 9:16 pm

steanze wrote: In terms of material, we are talking about porcelain cups, that don't really interact with the liquid.
It's not the porcelain, but the glaze on the porcelain that matters. And there are different glazes. The extent to which the difference matter in terms of taste, i don't know.
I have two pairs of the white ROC cups with blue rim: on one of them the glaze is much smoother and feels nicer then on another (maybe due to different firing temperature or different composition, i don't know). It may not make difference in a blind testing, but it definitely makes a difference in handling them.

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Re: Are these cups worth it?

by steanze » Feb 8th 17 11:37 pm

.m. wrote: It's not the porcelain, but the glaze on the porcelain that matters. And there are different glazes. The extent to which the difference matter in terms of taste, i don't know.
I have two pairs of the white ROC cups with blue rim: on one of them the glaze is much smoother and feels nicer then on another (maybe due to different firing temperature or different composition, i don't know). It may not make difference in a blind testing, but it definitely makes a difference in handling them.
This is a great point - these glazes usually don't interact with the liquid much (hagi is a different story), but the feeling of the glaze texture has an impact on the tea experience. The feeling of a smoother cup also matters when it comes in contact with the lips when drinking, and it can affect the perceived texture of the tea.

I am just not very convinced that this depends on how old the cup is - as you say your two ROC cups behave in different ways in this respect. The standard cheap porcelain cups usually don't feel very smooth, I have some ROC cups that feel a bit smoother, but then among my cups those that give me the smoothest feeling are made by Xu Dejia, just a couple of years ago.

I am not opposed to old cups in general - I appreciate old teaware and its historical and aesthetic value (there's a beauty just to thinking of how different the world was when these things were made, and who might have used them). I just don't think that in this particular case the linked set was worth its cost.

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Re: Are these cups worth it?

by .m. » Feb 9th 17 1:14 am

I totally agree.

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Re: Are these cups worth it?

by Chris418 » Feb 10th 17 1:04 am

steanze wrote:
.m. wrote: It's not the porcelain, but the glaze on the porcelain that matters. And there are different glazes. The extent to which the difference matter in terms of taste, i don't know.
I have two pairs of the white ROC cups with blue rim: on one of them the glaze is much smoother and feels nicer then on another (maybe due to different firing temperature or different composition, i don't know). It may not make difference in a blind testing, but it definitely makes a difference in handling them.
This is a great point - these glazes usually don't interact with the liquid much (hagi is a different story), but the feeling of the glaze texture has an impact on the tea experience. The feeling of a smoother cup also matters when it comes in contact with the lips when drinking, and it can affect the perceived texture of the tea.

I am just not very convinced that this depends on how old the cup is - as you say your two ROC cups behave in different ways in this respect. The standard cheap porcelain cups usually don't feel very smooth, I have some ROC cups that feel a bit smoother, but then among my cups those that give me the smoothest feeling are made by Xu Dejia, just a couple of years ago.

I am not opposed to old cups in general - I appreciate old teaware and its historical and aesthetic value (there's a beauty just to thinking of how different the world was when these things were made, and who might have used them). I just don't think that in this particular case the linked set was worth its cost.

What is different about Hagi glaze, i'm curious.

best,

Chris