Friday, January 5, 2007, 12:33 PM ( 43 views )The title is a real comment from a dear customer of us. He bought quite a few "antique/old yixings" from an online auction place. When he found us, he was puzzled "Why mine have more tea stains than yous? How can an old teapot have no stain? And how could it be possible that mine, all having beautiful patina and tea stains, are faked?"
I asked a good friend of mine in Taiwan, who is also a fervent collector of yixings, to help me answer his questions - or the questions on many people's minds, as I don't have convenient access to ultrasound cleaning in Houston.
He, just like me, paid quite a few "tuitions" in the road of learning yixings. He kindly did an experiment for us: he chose one early R.O.C. zhu ni xiao pin (small piece) and one "tuition" "zhu ni" teapot which he bought in Taipei's famous Jiang-Guo Jade Market many years ago. Both have plenty of tea stains on them. And both have nice glossy surfaces.
The pictures below show the two teapots (left: genuine Early R.O.C. zhu ni, right: the "tuition" teapot) before and after ultrasound cleaning (be sure to click them to see Larger Images):
After cleaning, both were stripped off the stains. Now the result is very interesting: clearly, the genuine zhu ni still has its own beautiful almost glossy surface of glazed texture, while the other "tuition" teapot looks dull, new, lifeless.
He chose zhu ni vs. "zhu ni", because the contrast of before-after cleaning is most obvious. Other genuine early clays will also retain most of the creaminess after ultrasound cleaning, and never degrade to that lifeless/dull conditions.
You can imagine the early zhu ni, after this cleaning, will quickly improve its surface creaminess and jewelry-grade quality after some uses/seasoning. The other faked teapot, okey, it still is a real teapot, and you paid cheap for it (hopefully!), so that's it. But my sincere advice for such faked patina-loaded teapots: cleaning it very well, because those fakers are never shy to use whatever materials to produce those patina.
Huge amount of such faked teapots flood the antiques markets from Beijing, ShangHai, GuangZhou to Taipei, not to mention the popular online auctions sites. So now you see "tea stains does not necessary mean it is genuinely old".
The values of genuinely early pieces are their clays (some are extinct now), craftsmanship, and of coz rarity. Stain or not stain is almost not a concern. In fact, many old stains do not contribute to the beauty of such pieces, as you can see in the above picture. Cleaning them well and carefully re-seasoning them may actually improve its aesthetics/value.
We collect good yixings, not collect stains!
Sunday, December 24, 2006, 09:35 PM
Thanks so much for being with us through 2006. It has been a very challenging but overall fruitful year. The closing of our local Houston store in January was a heartbreaking experience. But it allowed us to spend more time with family (especially Yuan!) and focus on doing things that we really love and enjoy for Hou De online store ( - and not to worry about the store rent anymore : ).
We have probably the most passionate and professional group of customers comparing with all other tea stores. And most important of all, many of you become friends to us!
Wish we all find peace, warmth and joy in teas, and wish you and all your family a wonderful New Year in 2007.
Wednesday, December 6, 2006, 12:31 PM
Following the news of the No. issue "The Art of Tea" magazine, I was very excited to receive a copy of the issue today. I quickly browsed through the magazine, and my "woooww" just kept coming and coming : ) Nice, clean and very illustrative layout, loaded with high-quality pictures. No surprised that the ads page are just a few in No. 1 issue. Total 23 topics, covering pu-erh, oolongs, yixings, tea wares and accessories, history, and market news. Indeed a lot of interesting information.
Here I post pictures below to share with you some of the content:
Table of Content
(1) Travel to Ling-Cang, Yunnan
(2) Appreciating Pu-erh Tea with Reason
(3) 2006 Taipei Tea Expo
(4) Varieties of Formosa Oolongs
(5) The History of Old Taiwanese Tea Street (Oh, I love this article!)
(6) Deciding on an Yixing Teapot
(7) The Types of Purple Sand Ore and Clay (interview of a Yixing clay master)
(8) An Analysis of Moisture, Microbes, Storage of Pu-erhs
(9) Tea Review - Pu-erhs from 2000
I think, with some topics such as the interview of famous bamboo tea-accessory carver Ong Ming Chuan, Yixng Master Ho Dao-Hong, this magazine put good emphasis on the real "art" side of Teas. Other articles bring in-depth information about pu-erhs, Formosa oolongs, yixing and the clays. The tasting of several 2000 pu-erhs nicely records how pro-style tea tasting was done.
The width and depth of this issue are both impressive. For the first-ever try of an English Tea magazine, I believe it has done a great job! Several articles are translated from the Chinese-version magazines. Hope in the future we will see more and more original English articles in it.
Monday, December 4, 2006, 01:52 PM ( 1909 views )What makes the "88-Ching Beeng", in fact 1989/1990 #7542, be able to retain its milestone status, zealous collection pursuit and the premium price? It is not only more expensive than most, if not all, 80's pu-erhs, but its price also appreciated faster than most 80's.
The storage is the key.
An article in No. 16 issue of Pu-erh Teapot Magazine interviewed the owner Mr. Chen Kwok-Yee of Cha Yi Le Yuan (Best Tea House, HK) regarding his unique way of storaging/aging pu-erhs. Below is a picture showing the 88-Ching Beeng in the article:
You can see the healthy dark, clean and semi-glossy surface of the cake.
Mr. Chen discussed the unique "Sky Bridge" shelf design that not only maximized the total available storage spaces, but also kept the cakes in an "easy to breath" and clean environment.
Those that have to be stacked on the floor, he put a wooden support to keep the cake from contacting directly with the ground that might caused the cakes to absorb excessive moisture.
Tuesday, November 28, 2006, 11:44 PM ( 40 views )I ran across a news from China's official news Xin Hua. The news clearly pointed out the crisis that the art of Yixings is facing: The sources of clays are becoming depleted, and the traditional craftsmanship is gradually lost.
>> Click to read the original news in Chinese. <<
Here is the translation of the first several paragraphs for you:
" Yixing's Zi Sha teapots are well-known worldwide. The raw clays to make Zi Sha teapots are mined from Huang Long Mountain area, and is Nature's ir-reproducible resources.
However, the raw clay of Zi Sha is getting so rare that locals say "inch of clay, inch of gold". In the past, one ton of raw clay was worth only tens dollars(RMB), but now is increased to 7 or 8 thousands dollars(RMB). The chariman of Yixing Ceramics Business Association, Mr. Shi Jun-Tang, pointed out the current natural Zi Sha clay mines are very rare. And if a proper preservation is not started as soon as possible, the natural recourses will become depleted quickly.
The local Yixing authorities have noticed this problem. Since last year, they stopped issuing any mining license in the Huang Long Mountain area. And they promised no more mining license for the following three years.
No only the natural resources are facing crisis, the traditional Zi Sha craftsmanship are also becoming a lost art. According to the locals, driven purely by business profits, the modern machinery-process, coloring the clay with chemical dyes, and the use of gas-kilns have push the traditional Yixing craftsmanship to the brink of extinction.
So does this news ring any bell for you? I have, not once, mentioned the problems of Yixings in several places/forums. I guess some people may think I was creating the "Wolf is coming" story to justify Hou De's prices on our yixings. Now here is a good reference of the "Wolf".
Yixings locals are worrying the depleted resources and lost art, and could it be possible that we can be so lucky to find "genuine Yixings" at great online/ebay prices from kind-hearted Chinese vendors?