On time, reset, and forgotten teapots
These times are strange and stranger.
Maybe it is for the Saturnian push to reorganize, or the Uranian desire to disrupt and liberate. Or it may be the square between the two that has been challenging our daily routines since 2021. I have been going through a peculiar reset of my own tea experience. The fact that everything is in a constant change does not surprise me. The flow of the changeable dynamics of fragments in caleidoscopic chaos creating order is something I have observed ever since I soaked my finger in the art of gong fu cha, realizing that I can never brew the same tea the same way twice as, put simply, the second day it is not the same tea anymore and I am not the same person either.
As life made me move houses and countries recently, I have been rediscovering the old stuff I had purchased years ago and then stashed it somewhere, forgetting I ever got it. For example, a teapot I bought exactly eleven years ago just for its shape and size. I never really thought of the clay impact at that time, I just loved the shape of it. When it arrived, I felt so disappointed that it ended up sitting on my shelf for quite some time. Was it too small actually? Did it smell funny? Who knows why, the suspicious side got the better of me and the teapot ended up in one of my old Xiaguan tuocha box only to be discovered a decade later when I was moving my things to another place. It smelled even funnier now after so many years in the old Yellow Crane box. Interestingly enough, eleven years later it didn't look so small at all! Recently I have read that the more one cultivates their passion for tea, the smaller their teacup becomes. I find it to be accurate.
After taking a series of photos of this tiny vessel and putting them online to inquire about its origin among the expert on Yixing, I have learnt that the pot seems to be handmade having the necessary seal inscriptions at the bottom, the lid, and the handle that authenticate the potter Deng Chun Lin 鄧春林.
The quality is not very persuasive as there is a small crack at the upper part of the handle that might have been the result of the firing. The clay also is hard to be defined, probably some basic level of purple zini clay. Nevertheless, the group approved the teapot as a decent piece and so, after eleven long years, I finally decided to give this 50 ml princess a try.
When I started my tea journey some twenty years ago, I fell in love with Oolong tea, Shou puerh and Heicha in general. Then I discovered Sheng and my tea experience narrowed down to Gushu, "alleged" Gushu and Xiaoshu only, and I almost completely forgot about the rest. The extremely hot summer 2021 I spent in Northern Spain sampling some 2021 spring Sheng and the overwhelming young raw chaqi somehow made me crave some really good aged Liubao. I do not remember where such taste memory came from but suddenly I could recall the taste of the tea I used to drink, again, eleven years ago, in 2011 when I started this blog.
I ordered some Liubao and dedicated this tiny pot to this wonderful liquid gold. The 50 ml volume seems to be perfect. As I have observed drinking such earthy tea, if I consume too much of it at once, it converts me into a mole. At least this is how it makes me feel. The seven hole spout is also very useful, as some of liubao teas can have very tiny or even broken leaf and in a single hole teapot they would often clog it. In comparison to my 1990's hongni Shui Ping that poooours soooo slooooow, this tiny pot is a champion.
Today I brewed some 2006 Zhong Cha Duoteli Shan Shui Liubao in a small 60 ml gaiwan and then poured a small part of the brew into a cup. The rest I shared between my old-new tiny purple teapot and a 1990's F2 zini Shui Ping, just to taste the difference of the brew. It is interesting to compare how both of the teapots similarly round and mute some of the edgy earthiness. Despite the tea being quite aged, the taste is smooth already in the gaiwan. However, the further difference between the cup and the clay is noticeable. Have I been not sensitive enough to be able to assess the difference in taste before? Maybe.
Eleven years later and I find myself reseting old teapots as I am becoming aware of not having them used properly. Or have I? Is there a norm of the proper use or isn't? The more I read about someone else's experience, the more convinced I am that there is nothing like "proper use of a teapot", nor "proper way of brewing tea". Just sit and try for yourself. Perhaps your taste will change and develop in time and one day you might realize that the tea you loved all those years tastes different today. It could be the water, the day, your mood, the tea itself, or just the way things are.
Today I enjoyed the way of experiment. It made me feel as novice again, thinking of change, the only constant there actually is. My frustration from not being able to repeat the best session I had some time ago now seems funny. Why would I even need the hunt for repetition? And so I conclude my today's contemplation with timeless wisdom:
When a mindful practice converts into a mindless routine motivated by particular results, there is no more joy nor life in it.
I do not know yet how to pair my newly re-set old hongni teapot. I know, however, that it is the teapot that chooses the tea. I am here to provide the tea for her to make that choice.