Tuesday, December 23, 2008

高麗青瓷茶碗 Korai Seiji Chawan

This is a tea bowl of Kourai Seiji (高麗青磁 Korean Celadon) made in around 130 years ago. It has a small but rather tall foot, which makes it a cute looking. The tall foot, called koudai (高台 tall-stand), is a feature of tea bowl intended to provide a comfortable hold of the bowl when hot tea is made inside. The crackle glaze (ao hibi 皸) is attractive, and almost invisible raised decorative lines can be found around the lower body, on both inside and out.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

My first bowl of whisked tea in a new raku-yaki

A kuro raku-yaki (黑樂燒) tea bowl is usually used for koicha (濃茶) or "thick tea" in Japanese tea ceremony. However, I'm experimenting the Sung Dynasty style of whisked tea with a deep appreciation of the wabi (侘) teawares developed in Japan. With that in mind, the first tea execution with Ai-oi was in usucha (薄茶) style, or as I would call it: dian-cha (點茶)!

It was nighttime, and rainy and chilly outside. I held the bowl this way so I could see both the pale green froth inside and the red glaze flowing on the out-wall of the bowl...

then I drank the tea to the bottom! The special design at the inside bottom allows remaining liquid to be collected there, thus it projects another fascinating scene!

One thing that I was missing is a ceramic ewer for pouring hot water...

Friday, November 7, 2008

Ai-oi - A Raku Tea Bowl by Ko-raku

I just acquired a Rakuyaki (楽焼) tea bowl. The artist is Koraku (光樂).

It caught my eyes the first second I saw it, and I believed I was looking at a great master piece of a Raku ware, specifically, a Kuro Rakuyaki or 黒楽焼. The seller revealed that this bowl is made 40 years ago. A famous monk named Gensei Miyanishi, the superintendent priest of a Rinzai (臨済) temple, signed the wooden container box and gave the name Ai oi (相生) to this bowl. The meaning of the word Ai oi is rather ambiguous - as it is always for an Eastern mind! One way to render it could be "(the two) living in harmony." However, the Japanese seller gives "wooden root is divided into two truncks"! and therefore, suggests that this teaware is best to be used in Spring season.

Myōan Eisai (明菴栄西), the founder of the Rinzai School of Zen in Japan during 12th century wrote the famous 喫茶養生記 Kissa Yojoki, Treatise on Tea Drinking for Health. That was the oldest tea specialty book in Japan.

A similiar item by the same artist can be found being bid currently on Yahoo Japan (for 15,000円).

(茶道具 黒楽茶碗 光樂造 銘 庵の友 箱書 表 桐共箱)

Sunday, July 20, 2008

5 Oolong Teas (2): Dahongpao

As Bill mentioned in his comment on my last post, there was a confusion whether the container marked by him as "1980's Dahongpao" is indeed a Dahongpao, or not?! "When I had placed the tea in the container, I was abrubtly taken away to attend to another matter. As a consquence, I forgot what I had given you!" Uh uh...

But, is this a problem? Not for me. My strategy is to test this tea with a benchmark, a real Dahongpao that I bought at Malian-dao, the biggest Tea shopping center in Beijing, last summer!


(1980's dry leaves)

(2007's dry leaves)

Yes, it is very important to smell the dry leaves -- this will reveal a lot of information: How the tea is processed and stored; where it came from; and together with the shape of the leaves it often tells what the tea IS! My Dahongpao releases a rather strong tosted and pleasant aroma; Bill's is much lighter, which made me think that it must have gone through a long period of dry storage; but my nose still tells me that this is not a Dancong or a Oolong from any other region. It is of Wuyi. The leaves of these two tea also bear quite a lot of similiarities.


(1980's infusions 1 to 5)

(2007's infusions 1 to 5)

The 1980'S
There is a saying "天下茶喝膩了還有武夷巖茶" or "if one is sated with teas he can still resort to Wuyi Rock Tea"! The beginning of the 1980's infusion was pleasant, though I could sense a slight oxidization taste in the liquor. It is a kind of stopping-ness on the tongue, especially on the upper part and two sides. Also, the color of the liquor went out gradually but noticeable. Upto the 5th infusion, the color became much lighter than the first three infusions. [Comments] A good and aged Wuyi Rock Tea. It won't last many infusions, before the drinker is getting satiated with his tea!

The 2007's
I wasn't as much paying attention to the tea as in the test of the 1980's. At the 3rd round, I was distracted by something else and when I returned, the liquor already became quite dark! And as a consequence, I guess, the 2007's got exhausted quickly after that as well... The tea tasted no sign of oxidization, just its spent leaves could tell below. [Comments] A good beginner's Wuyi Rock Tea.


(The spent leaves of the 1980's from Bill)

(The spent leaves of my 2007 Dahong Pao)

Many leaves are still greenish in the 2007's; in contrast with the 1980's complety aged look ---

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

5 Oolong teas (1): Feng-huang Dan-cong

A Chinese version is posted on 覺香山居.

Bill, the author of Ancient Tea Horse Road, sent me five Oolong tea samples. They are
  • 1980's [Wuyi Cliff] Da-hong-pao

  • 1983 Anxi [? not appeared to be Tie-guan-yin]

  • 1986 Feng-huang Dan-cong

  • 1994 Feng-huang Dan-cong

  • 1980's Taiwan Paochoung

There are two things noticeble here. First, these five teas have included representatives of all 4 oolong tea producing regions, namely, North Min, South Min, Guangdong, and Taiwan; secondarily, they are all aged oolong teas dated back to 15 or 20 years. Having realized these, I was very impressed by Bill, as an American tea drinker, for the depth of his tea knowledge and experiences.

regionsNorth MinSouth MinGuangdongTaiwan
representativesWuyi Da-hong-paoAnxi Tie-guan-yinFeng-huang Dan-congPaochoung

Also based on these understanding, I decided to start the reviewing process by first grouping them into pairs. The first round would be, of course, for the two aged Feng-huang Dan-cong! This was done in last weekend.

[Method] Gai-wan
  • White porcelain gai-wan, thin-walled, 100cc

  • Glass pitcher (to decant the infusion in whole)

  • White porcelain cups paired w/ wen-xiang cup

  • Stainless kattle and electric single burner

  • Amount of dry leaves used: 3.6g

  • Water: when boiling, move away from burner and stand alone for a few seconds

  • Pouring the water in a slow circling motion along the inside rim of the gai-wan; at the last second, raising the kettle a bit higher and pouring straight to one side of the wall so that the leaves can be rolled in water (for better infusion)

  • Awaking the tea leaves at the beginning by pouring boiling water into gai-wan, then immediately empty it.


Dry leaves: Impressive, entire and long twist (3-4cm); dark purple-brown with white frost-like appearance. Some still has a tint of green.

1st infusion: Decant after 1.5 minutes. Red-brown with tint of orange.

2nd infusion: Color darkened. Taste slightly astringent. The astringency was felt especially at the back of tongue and its touch with the back teeth.

3rd - 4th infusions: The tea behaved quite ordinary... but

In the 5th infusion it started to taste better. There can be two reasons: (1) I waited longer for this infusion; (2) the tea might require a longer period to awake, and it was just about the time at the 5th infusion. This pleasant moment, however, went on to only one more infusion, and after that, the leaves seemed exhausted...

[Comments] This Dancong has a subtle floral aroma, though I could not identify which category it belongs to. It is said that there are at least 8 types of Dancong according to different fragrances, but obviously I'm too less experienced to distinguish! --- I need more Dan-cong. Did you all hear me? ;-)

(1994 Dancong, 1st infusion)

(3rd infusion)

(spent leaves)


Dry leaves: Long and thinner twist (3 cm), a little broken. Dark purple-chocolate color with some brown leaves.

Infusions: When the hot water just poured in, the leaves immediately released a kind of dark orange to red color. The taste of the first infusion reiminded me with heavy-fried Tie guanyin or Dong Ding. So, for a moment, I doubted that a mistake was made on the label. However, the coming infusions proved the tea not a member of either Anxi (Southern Min) or Taiwan groups.

This well aged tea went on for quite a few infusions -- I kept pouring and decanting and forgot how many infusions I actually went through. The color of liquor lasted as well as the taste of the tea. These were mostly done with rather quick decantations, though. I did extend the infusion time once, and interestingly, the tea tasted a little bitter at that time, I remembered. In general, the taste is much more smooth or subdued than that of the 1994's.

The review on the 1994s was done indoor at my tea table. For the 1986's, I moved out to the patio to enjoy the evening breeze...

(1986 Dancong, 2nd infusion)

(at about the 6th infusion)

Having poured down so many cups of aged oolongs, I felt a little dizzy and seriously hungery! So, I went to look for some snacks and found out this chocolate cookies the best match with a cup of aged oolong tea (considering both color and taste)!

(spent leaves of 1986 Dancong)

[Final comparison]
Though the color and liquor of the 1986's surpassed the 1994's, I personally prefer the 1994 one. I just liked the light astringency in the latter, but felt the 1986's a bit too smooth. Both no doubt are good aged Dan-cong. -- I feel lucky because (don't know why) Bill doubled the amount of the 1994 Feng-huang Dan-cong in his samples, so there is still quite a bit of it left! I will certainly bottom them up later ;-)

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

洛杉磯-安那翰短訪(3): 吃與逛

公曆6月28日這一天是個吉祥的日子, 因為是農曆五月廿五日, 月下半弦, 所以晚上我與L君一同在她家的佛堂裡修習了《上師供養法》(藏文: lama mchod pa'i cho ga; 梵文: gurupujasya kalpa) -- 把這件正事放在下面這些吃與逛的閑事之前 -- 這樣, 我就稍微心安理得了!

Now, action! ----【吃】
6月29日 -- 在家吃L君燒的菜

(除了最近側的的兩盤是接風那晚飯店帶回的以外, 都是L的廚藝)

(注: L吃素, 所以這盤是給俺特炒的, 也是由俺獨吞地...)

此前一日(6月28), L君大姐帶俺去了帕薩迪那(Pasadena)老城. 本來要請我去吃那裡一家有名的意大利餐館叫IL FORNAIO, 但因我說喜歡日本料理, 於是去了「壽司六」(Sushi Roku)--這家餐館據說是美國電影明星尼古拉凱其與日本人合作開的. 我們吃了
  • 昆布沙拉(Seaweed Salad)

  • 炸豆腐排(Tofu Steak)

  • 柚汁煎蘑(Sorted Mushroom in Ponzu Juice)

  • 味噌鱈魚(Chilian Sea Bass in miso sauce)

  • 味噌茄子(Eggplant Dengaku: 將茄子在Miso和Mirin調的汁裡泡一天)

  • 壽司: 海膽(Uni)、甜海老(Ame Ebi)、素食壽司卷

[...... 沒有照片 ......]

6月30日, 小東京的千羽鶴:



Now, action! --- 【逛】
比華利山莊(Beverly Hills)名店街(Rodeo Drive):

!!! 下面的圖片8-16歲青少年建議由父母或其他授權成年人陪同觀看! ~~~ (其他年齡段者看後若出現任何不適、反感、興奮等等狀況, 本人概不負責!)



右邊這個很詭異 -- 它是在地面上的, 透過矇矓的彩色玻璃, 你能隱約看到一個模特兒 -- 放大看一下吧:

一輛明黃色法拉利(Ferrari)赫現街頭, 成為一道亮景. 吸引了一些過路人的目光:

這段俺看上去覺得並不很起眼的飯店區竟然就是當年李察‧吉爾和朱莉亞‧羅伯拍《風月俏佳人》(《麻雀變鳳凰》, Pretty Woman)的地方!

這一部分名之為"逛"是完全符合實際情況地! 因為俺在此地一個銅子兒也沒花 -- 當然了, 就是把俺口袋裡所有銅子兒都掏出來, 也買不起這裡任何名牌店裡的東東 -- 所以俺也就沒掏! 這就叫大飽眼福

其他去的地方和見聞由於時間與篇幅的關係, 不能在此一一描述了...

--- 感謝L君大姐的全面招待和安排 使俺的洛杉磯-安那翰之行豐富多彩!


Friday, July 4, 2008

洛杉磯-安那翰短訪(2): 參觀西來寺

A Short Visit to Anaheim - Los Angeles (2): Visiting Hsi Lai Temple

洛杉磯可玩的地方很多, 且不說在安那翰會議中心(Anaheim Convention Center)的對面就是迪斯尼樂園(迪士尼樂園, Disneyland), 還有海濱公園、好萊塢、環球影業(Universal Studios).... 就是那些走不完看不盡吃不掉的美街美景美食也夠你消受的了. 但是這些地方我都沒去. 一方面時間太緊, 另一方面我也不大愛湊熱鬧的(類似的地方看過了, 也就那麼回事兒). 不過當我和L姐商量後決定抽出一個上午去參觀西來寺時, 我倒是很歡喜雀躍.

西來寺為佛光山創建者星雲大師在美國加州洛杉磯東南的哈森達崗興建, 1988年落成, 佔地90餘畝(15英畝). 寺宇宏偉, 道場莊嚴. 我們去的那天是週一, 恰逢寺院職員休息日, 雖然寺院本身照常開放, 但本想參觀該寺圖書館和會見那裡的圖書館員的想法無法實現了. 在大雄寶殿和值日的師傅問訊、禮佛後, 我們就去看旁邊的寶藏殿, 然後繞寺觀賞殿宇及周邊景致. 聽到齋堂的敲板, 但卻沒有在寺裡參加過堂, 因為下午還有其他活動...