Hou De Tea Blog

Wednesday, February 21, 2007, 03:18 PM ( 479 views )

Here let's explain one of the most commonly used vocabulary in descriptions of yixings: Shui Pin. Some people think Shui Pin means this style/shape only, but in fact it can mean several different styles that all follow the same concept.

Shui Pin: the original meaning is "water level". It's the tool we are still using nowadays to check if a plane or line is perfectly parallel to the ground. In yixing, they use this term to refer to the concept that "three points on one line". Which three? The top of spout, the top opening of the body, and the top of handle. The picture below illustrates the Shui Pin Line best :

The importance of Shui Pin is that it gives the teapot the most comfortable balance when holding and pouring. Because of the shrinkage of clay during firing, to keep a good shui pin line is usually considered as one of the measures of craftsmanship of a piece.

Sometimes people confuse the word "Shui Pin" and "Biao Zhun" teapots. Simply speaking, Shui Pin is a concept. But it later become widely used to refer to a family of yixings that No. 1 factory started to produce since 60's: the "Biao Zhun" teapots.

Biao Zhun: the original meaning is Standard. Yes, these were "standardized" teapots that No. 1 factory produced in great quantity. It was inspired by the shui pin teapots in Early R.O.C. (pic source: No. 2, Hu Yi magazine of Wu-Shin Publ. Co.) :

No. 1 factory standardized the clay/size/shape/seal based on the highly-functional early teapots and rolled out the series of Biao Zhun teapots.

Later the Biao Zhun family were joined with five unique members (Wu-Shin teapots): Bai Le, Xi Shi, Bian Deng, Rou Bian, and Tai Jian. Some of them are quite familiar to us: Bai Le and Xi Shi. Some are rare to see nowadays, especially Rou Bian and Tai Jian.

So you may hear people calling "Xi Shi Shui Pin", or "Bai Le Biao Zhun". So now you won't be confused by them : )


Thursday, January 18, 2007, 06:37 PM ( 25 views )
The "Making of Formosa Oolong" was a project my partner, Mr. Wu, and I planned last year. With the help of another friend who carried a video camera next to Mr. Wu for two days (jeezz... how annoying is that ^_^), they managed to record a complete Formosa Oolong processing.

We decide to make the whole content available for free for the public, in the hope the more people will see and appreciate the genuine Formosa Oolongs. So... click to enjoy (12 mins in total)!


Wednesday, January 17, 2007, 11:00 AM ( 907 views )
Here I collect some information about Cha(tea) Ma(horse) Gu(old) Dao(road) for the convenience of future reference:

Map of the Old Tea Horse Road - latest archaeology research has found the network of Cha Ma Gu Dao was starting to form in as early as Western Han Dynasty (206BC ~ 9AD). The earliest name was "Shu Sheng-Du Dao". Shu menas now SzeChuan province, Sheng-Du is the ancient name for now India. The network of Cha Ma Gu Dao has been evolved for such a long time that archaeologists now believe it is more spreading and complicated than the famous Silk Road.

China director Tian Zhuang-Zhuang filmed a documentary in 2005, DeLaMu, to record the livings and works of people and animals, called Ma Bang (Horse Gang), that still rum Horse Service along the Cha Ma Gu Dao. Two clips here:

You can see the grandiose mountain scenes and the treacherous road conditions in the clips. For thousand-years, our ancestors and their horses silently and humbly walked step-by-step on this Road to transport goods such as teas, fabrics, sugars, salts, etc. from SzuChuan or Yunnan to Tibet, Mongolia, to Nepal, to India, to Afghanistan. Goods were changed hands from Chinese to Indian to Persian, and even to Europeans. How Heroical!

Now with the surge interest and trading of pu-erhs, companies and local government finance to run Horse Service to bring pu-erhs to Beijing, GuangZhou, and even talking about Taipei... sure, it is good for marketing pu-erhs, but I also feel sad once almighty Corporations' money coming to it, another thousand-years old tradition is twisted and "re-packaged" and ... somehow, it is not the same anymore.


Tuesday, January 9, 2007, 03:01 PM ( 40 views )
Jan 09, 2006 - The third day morning to prepare Hong Shui oolong for aging. Woooww... my neighbor was walking his dog in t-shirt and short pants! Where is my Winter, hum?

After last night's 6-hour roasting, the Hong Shui oolong sat quietly in a corner of the dinning room. Time to do a taste comparison against the original Hong Shui.

I measured 3g of both teas (original and the re-roasted ones). Here is how they looked:

>> Or click here to see Closer Images of them.

Little difference on the dry teas' appearance.

Let's brew them side by side to see the difference:

The liquor of the re-roasted one is clearly more amber than the original Hong Shui.

Taste-wise, it's surprisingly like a good Dong-Ding, with a good ripe fruity aroma. Less sweet than it is originally. I am happy to find there is little sharpness, or "edges", in the taste/aroma. An overnight quench seems to work well to smooth out the teas.

Overall, I am satisfied with the 2 day's roasting. It is still considered a medium-roasted oolong, but I am confident its quality is stable enough for aging for 3 to 5 years in a jar.

Now I am ready and confident to prepare several lbs of Hong Shui for aging, by using the large roaster:

I believe everybody can DIY roasting your teas. Even without the special roaster, I would think any small oven (buy a new/clean one; used ones have too many strange aroma. You don't want your teas to smell like a piece of fish!) can work. I will try a small oven to see how to get it work properly for tea-roasting and report back : )


Sunday, January 7, 2007, 11:23 PM ( 11 views )
Jan 07, 2007 - A lovely day in Houston! So lovely that I have to point my finger on Global Warming: "hey, it's you, bringing such a nice Spring Weather to us in the Winter time!"

I had planned to choose some oolongs to age (as for pu-erhs, yes I've had hundreds of kilos!). The 2006 Hong Shui Oolong seems to be a very good candidate: it's medium-high oxidized, light roasted (this I have to fix myself as shown later), the tea is full of juice with a good consistency and great clarity in liquor quality. As for roasting, before I can seal the tea into jars, I have to increase the roasting so (1) the tea quality is stable enough, (2) the mellowness will increase and improve over time.

To do the roasting, I use the Mini Roaster to do the first experiment. Once I am confident with the way to handle the roasting, I will use the large tea roaster (can handle 10lb at a time, at least) to finish all teas.

So, I started the mini roaster at 10:30AM, set dial to 80 and pre-warm for 5 mins. Then, changed the dial to 60.

Places about 4 oz of Hong Shui onto the metal mesh and spread evenly. Let the roaster ran on "60" and we left home for brunch at 10:45AM.

Came back around 12:00PM. The house was full of the aroma of oolong! I checked the condition of the teas; they looked OK. So I let the roaster ran another hour.

From 1:00PM to 3:00PM, the roaster was off to let the teas cooled naturally to room temperature. Then, turned on the roaster on dial "60". Roasted for another 2 hours.

5:30pm, turned off the roaster and let the teas cooled to room temperature. Once cooled, I tried a brew of the Hong Shui...

GREAT! I could detect the roasted feeling, a little sharp still, but it was natural as the teas had not been quenched/cooled enough. The original fruity and sweet aroma became more mature. The roasted feeling added a bit more depth to the body. No burnt smell so it is good.

Tomorrow I will do another 4~6 hours roasting job, and the tea will have even more significant difference. Will see how it come up after tomorrow to determine if I will do a third-day roasting.

Jan 08, 2007 - Finished 5-hour roasting in the evening ("60" X 2 hours, "80" X 1 hour, "60" X 2 hour). The roasted tea aroma filled up our house; I could smell the aroma in the second floor. After the 2nd-day roasting, the teas had a sweet and "rice-y" aroma. Will let them quench to tomorrow morning and do the brewing comparison to the original Hong Shui.