Ever wonder what a Jian Shui Purple Clay teapot is? Ever wonder how Zi Tao pottery differs from Yixing? Do you know which is best for you?
If these or other questions have crossed your mind as you explore the world of fine and unique teawares, then this is the post for you. Like Yixing, Jian Shui pottery hails from Yunnan, and it too has a rich history that dates back hundreds of years. Sometimes known as “red jade,” the artisans who produce these wares devote countless hours to creating a single piece.
When using propane or kerosene in a kiln, approximately one out of five pieces will fail, and when a kiln is wood-fired, the failure rate can double or triple. Given the higher probability of losing a piece during wood-firing (as well as the longer firing times), these pieces are often sold on the market at double and triple the price. This is also why you will see different pricing tiers for Jian Shui teapots, as not all of them are wood-fired.
But another factor that influences price is the prestige of the artisan. Generally, younger artists who have not yet earned their renown will still create some outstanding teapots, but their relative anonymity entails that their pieces are not sold at the premium commanded by master artists, especially those recognized by national governing authority, such as Tian Jing.
Much of this comes down to simple supply and demand as well as the amount of labor required to produce a piece. In short, young artisans create many more teapots than master artists, who spend much of their time perfecting each and every single piece. Fewer teapots and more demand? You probably get the picture.
This helps explain the varying prices you can find in the market when perusing Jian Shui wares, but what, exactly, is a Jian Shui teapot, and how is it different from Yixing?
It is well-known that much of the clay around Yixing has been overused, and as a result, it has become increasingly difficult to produce an authentic, true origin Yixing teapot. This means, unfortunately, that many counterfeit pieces are created, traded, and sold—a risk especially for those new to these wares. To be sure, you can still find excellent, authentic Yixing wares. It’s just difficult and expensive.
This background is important because all of the problems that plague the Yixing market are mostly absent from the Jian Shui market. There’s still plenty of local clay available, and many artists use traditional methods and craft masterwork teapots consistent with those made during the Qing Dynasty.
What this means for the teaware collector is that, dollar-for-dollar, a Jian Shui teapot is often the better value.
Think of it as the difference between choosing an entry-level luxury car (Yixing) or the premium-level economy brand (Jian Shui). Obviously, the luxury car is really nice and has a wonderful reputation, but some of us might prefer to have all of the bells and whistles for the same price, even if it comes without the name recognition.
Like the luxury car, there are some important and distinct advantages to Yixing.
True Yixing teapots are made from much stronger clay, and so these teapots can have thinner walls or better heat resistance, making them suitable for brewing all kinds of teas. The tradeoff in savings with a Jian Shui piece is a thicker, heavier clay, a teapot best used with higher temperature teas such as dark oolongs, black teas, and puerhs.
For many, this won’t make any difference in everyday use.
Most practitioners in the west use their Yixing wares for darker, heavier teas in the first place, and so in many ways, a Jian Shui teapot is more economical and practical. Much like a Yixing teapot, its purple clay is also porous, requiring seasoning before use so that it can absorb the flavors of the tea and enhance your brew with every infusion.
In short, both wares are excellent, offering similar advantages while differing in relatively minimal ways. If Jian Shui purple clay is the Toyota of teawares, then Yixing is its Lexus counterpart. You obviously cannot go wrong with either, and to a degree, it comes down to your personal preference and budget.
For these reasons, we’re pleased to offer both of these beautiful wares to you, and if you have any questions at all, do not hesitate to reach out to us!Happy holidays!
Ever heard of a fire-roasted puerh?
This gem hails from the Bulang Mountains in Meng Hai, Yunnan, made available from a highly respected puerh producer. The first production run of this style of tea came in 2008, and though widely acclaimed, this tea did not see a second edition until 2017! We consider ourselves fortunate to be able to source some of this amazing tea for you, as it is not easy to procure.
So what makes this tea special?
In the puerh making process, where Mao Cha is sun-dried before being pressed into the cakes we all know and love, this particular Sheng puerh from Long Yuan Hao factory is wrapped in a local, leafy plant and lightly roasted before it is pressed. This imparts to the tea a very subtle roastiness to it that you will not find in other puerhs. If one of the reasons we enjoy our puerh teas is for their depth, the roasting element adds a whole other variable, introducing even veteran puerh drinkers to something fresh and exciting.
With this tea, it’s all about that zhang, a special flavor (樟), a woodsy, cooling sensation as you take each sip, reminiscent of a pine-, camphor-, or cedar-like quality. This transportive sensation makes you feel as though you are walking through a secluded forest peppered with towering evergreen trees.
In tasting Long Yuan Mark puerh, a distinct aromatic profile jumps out as soon as the leaves are dampened from a splash of hot water right off of a boil—mint chocolate chip! To be clear, this isn’t your usual mint chocolate chip ice cream with bucket loads of sugar, but fresh mint leaf with dark, bitter chocolate, a classic combination of flavors. These aromatics are the result of the zhang characteristic of good, young sheng puerh and the roasting process with this particular tea.
With each subsequent steep, the zhang remains a staple but the flavors slowly become increasingly herbaceous, displaying prominently an oregano note with hints of apple peel, cedar, and sage. The richness of these flavors makes this tea just absolutely perfect for enjoying over a hearty meal, especially since puerh aids in digestion.
One should be aware, however, that this is not a puerh for the faint of heart. This tea has a sharp, complex flavor, one suited for puerh tea drinkers who are accustomed to sipping teas with a lot of depth. So if you’re looking to expand your palate and stock of tea, then this is the puerh for you!
In case you missed, be sure to take a look at our holiday gift guide (parts I and II), and though time is running out to ensure delivery by Christmas, there’s nothing wrong with a little post-Christmas surprise! Just remember that our office will be closed from December 27th to January 3th, and so you’ll want to place your orders beforehand!
Happy Holidays from MeiMei Fine Teas!
In continuing our guide from last week in which we presented to you some of our favorite stocking stuffer teas especially suited for that beloved tea enthusiast in your life, today we’re showcasing some of that tea hardware.
Whether you’re looking for that teaware item that proves resilient to the uses and abuses of everyday life or whether you feel like finally taking the plunge and investing in some top-quality wares that will adorn your display shelves, putting an exclamation point on your collections, we’ve got a little something for everyone!
The Tea Travel Set – There’s simply no question that every tea lover of all stripes could use a top-notch travel set. The convenience of this set just can’t be overstated. Not only does the aesthetic signal that you’re passionate about your tea, it looks great everywhere from the dorm room to the dining room or even a day at the park! As an added bonus, it comes in too very different flavors: the modern open spout look or the traditional teapot spout.
Indeed, it’s the versatility that makes this set so wonderful. There’s no question it can work as your daily driver, whether you want to enjoy some tea for yourself or invite some friends, and with the convenience of the travel bag, you are even free to take your favorite teas with you on day trips, weekend getaways, and lengthier vacations.
Jun Kiln Charcoal-Fired Tea Cup – The Jun Kiln—one of the five famous kilns that fired and produced some of the most beautiful teawares in all the world during the Song Dynasty! It is with so much delight that we offer authentic Jun porcelain wares to you, giving you the opportunity to hold in your hands a tradition that stretches back more than 1,000 years!
What makes Jun porcelain so distinctive are the glazes used that, when finished, appear to melt colors together as if a mad scientist pulled strands down from the rainbow and decided to melt them in his cauldron. Jun artisans tend to favor thicker, heavier clays, doubling down with some heavy-handed glazing. This technique results in dynamic, living glazes that look as though they’re still fresh and flowing right off of the cups and bowls.
A Gaiwan – If you or your favorite tea friend have ever entertained the idea of trying to prepare tea gongfu style, there’s no better time to give your first gaiwan a try than the holidays! The gaiwan is such an amazing piece of tea hardware that we’re pretty sure it’ll quickly become your preferred way of preparing tea once you get used to it.
Some people are weary of using a gaiwan out of fear that they’re clumsy and will end up breaking it. Unfortunately, even the best of us on our bad days might end up chipping or cracking our teaware, but that goes for any kind, even a teapot or mug. So that, in itself, isn’t a very a good reason to keep yourself from experimenting and working on your tea techniques. Fortunately, we’ve got this lovely, inexpensive cream white gaiwan! This gives you the perfect opportunity to use a gaiwan, guilt-free!
But let’s say that you’re experienced, you’re a pro, you’re looking for a teaware upgrade. What do you do? We’ve got your covered there too! If you’re trying to find a truly special gaiwan, we invite you to consider our Song Painting Landscape Gaiwan! Using fine porcelain from Jindezhen, this gaiwan features a relief that serves as a replica for a famous Chinese painting by Song Dynasty artist Wang Ximeng, active in the 12th century. Considered a prodigy in his craft, Wang Ximeng only lived to be 23. Fortunately, he left us an amazing treasure, a 39 ft. painting on a scroll, A Thousand Li of Rivers and Mountains (千里江山), and though not 39 ft. in size, this gaiwan set at least brings that spirit home.
Jian Zhan Tea Cup – This is it, the crème-de-la-crème of teaware, the perfect union of function, form, and aesthetic!
Jian Zhan ware is some of the most prized teaware throughout the world, often imitated but never quite the same without the use of the local clays and glazes. Beginning during the Song Dynasty, the aim was to create an exquisite, yet simple form with the clay. The magic occurs during the firing, after a glaze has been applied to the clay. Due to a chemical reaction from the iron content during the oxidation phase of firing, stunning crystalline patterns would spontaneously emerge, glowing when shone in the light.
Simply put, there is no better gift for the connoisseur and collector than a Jian Zhan tea cup. It both enhances the look and flavor of the tea, inviting one to marvel in its beauty as you gently swirl the tea around the cup.
We hope you find some inspiration from our holiday gift guide, and the window is still open to get a last-minute gift in time for Christmas. And if you do pick up a tea or ware, you may want to consider adding a fun little tea pet to complete the package!
As always, we’re here to help answer any questions you might have!
Happy Holidays from MeiMei Fine Teas!
Do you need to shop for that beloved tea connoisseur in your life? Maybe you’re just determined to share the gift of tea with someone new to the lifestyle? Of course, you might just be interested in treating yourself after taking care of everyone else?
No matter the reason, it’s not always easy to find that special gift for the holiday occasion. While purchasing a gift card is certainly always an option, some prefer to open a wrapped gift and experience the surprise that comes with it. Rather than take your chances, we’re here to help lead you in the right direction with our ultimate holiday gift guide!
Shi Feng West Lake Dragonwell - This stunning pre-ming green tea hails from West Lake, Huangzhou, specifically the highly coveted Lion’s Peak, the true, original home of dragonwell. As expected from a true origin tea, this dragonwell does not disappoint.
Most dragonwell teas on the market feature a flavor profile that is predominantly chestnut, and some even taste grassy and astringent. Not the case with our Shi Feng Dragonwell. With no astringency whatsoever, this pristine tea showcases that characteristic dragonwell nuttiness and complements it with delightful floral notes and a sweet, spring honey aftertaste.
Wuyi Bai Rui Xiang Rock Oolong – It’s not uncommon for tea vendors to offer Wuyi oolongs in the market these days, and for good reason. Given their level of deep oxidation and natural minerality from imparted from the soil in the Wuyi mountain region, these teas are quite distinctive relative to other oolongs. Any seasoned tea drinkers knows a Wuyi when she tastes it.
But there’s a disappointing dark side to Wuyi oolongs — some vendors and distributors don’t quite know what to look for, assuming these teas should have a charcoal or some other strong, roasty flavor. We’re on a mission to redefine the experience of tasting a Wuyi rock oolong, and so we source only those that are expertly roasted, that is, roasted in such a way that their natural fragrance and flavor profiles are not suppressed but enhanced.
Indeed, every one of our rock oolongs thus have their very own unique tasting notes, often tantalizing the tastebuds with roasted and ripened fruits of varying kinds. It’s no wonder our Floral Shui Xian and our Horse Head Rock oolongs were award winners in tasting competitions! Although those two teas are amazing in their own right, for the holidays, we’re recommending one of our entry level rock oolongs, Bai Rui Xiang. It’s great for those new to the world of rock oolongs, boasting a bright and clear golden liquor with precisely those good Wuyi roasted fruit notes in the nose.
2007 Xinhui Mandarin Gongting Puerh – There’s no question that puerh teas have been trending up in the western world for over the past decade, and there’s no sign that this trend is slowing down any time soon. The world of puerh tea is unquestionably rich, introducing tea lovers of all stripes to exotic flavors and appearances not tasted or seen before in the west. In fact, puerh as a class of tea on its own might very well eclipse the diversity of all other kinds of tea combined. That’s just a testament to how much depth there is.
For these reasons, it’s always amusing to hear someone insist that they do not like puerhs. With so many different teas out there, there’s bound to be one that pleases, and we’re happy to do our best to help those interested pick the right one out.
Puerh veterans especially like their sheng tea bings, and so they might gravitate towards something like our Mengku Ba Nuo puerh. An authentic Teng Tiao cha (rattan tea), one of our customers likened it to the tea equivalent of an Old Vine Zinfandel from California, and we couldn’t agree more.
But for those new to puerhs, unfamiliar with the terminology and the flavors, we find our 2007 Xinhui Mandarin Gongting puerh to be an appropriate gateway into this wonderful world. Whether you’re a novice or a bit more experienced, the authentic Xinhui mandarin shell in which this tea was aged gives it an extraordinarily pleasant sweet citrus flavor, like a candied orange. As a bonus, it also doubles as an excellent sipping tea when feeling unwell, an unfortunate, common occurrence during the winter months.
Of course, if you’re still unsure of what to purchase or just plumb prefer to try many different kinds of teas, there’s always the convenient sampler packs. Not only do they make excellent stocking stuffers, they’re also perfect for sharing at the office!
Don’t forget that we’re here to help answer any questions you might have! Stay tuned for next week’s post that continues our holiday gift guide by featuring some of our favorite tea wares!
Happy Holidays from MeiMei Fine Teas!
With Thanksgiving behind us, the holiday season is officially underway. It’s the time of the year synonymous with traditions, rituals, comfort, friends, and family. While we certainly have quite a few favorite things that this season brings—pine-scented potpourri, gingerbread cookies, peppermint mochas—if there is anything that is a holiday staple, it is that delicious, oh so creamy drink known as eggnog.
Given the perpetually empty shelves at the grocery stores, it’s clear that we all love our ‘nog dearly. In fact, we love it so much that local cafés even now regularly offer the highly coveted eggnog latté. For some, however, the consistency of the eggnog is a little too thick for one’s tastes, and while that gets cut down in an eggnog latté, we’re not always in the mood to settle for coffee.
So what’s the alternative? The eggnog tea latté!
That’s right! You can craft your very own, in-house eggnog tea latté, and we’re here to help!
Let’s assume that you were lucky enough to pick up a carton of your favorite eggnog, what’s next? The key to a good eggnog tea latté is the tea. Some people like to pair their eggnog with an already spiced tea, such as a chai, but we think it’s better to have more control over the level of spice in your drink. For this reason, we recommend beginning with a simple, cost-effective black tea, such as Keemun Imperial.
With Keemun Imperial as your base, you can elect to punch up the spiciness by infusing your tea with your own spices, such as a cinnamon stick or whole clove. However you elect to do it, be sure to brew your tea as you normally would (at 205°F / 95°C for approximately 60 seconds). Since you’ll be mixing this, only make half of the amount, whether it’s a half of a mug, half of a cup, or half of a pot.
While you are preparing your tea, be sure to gently warm your eggnog in either the microwave or over a stovetop. Just be careful not to overheat it. It doesn’t need to be piping hot; we only need it to be room temperature or slightly warm. You’ll want equal parts eggnog to equal parts tea (although, if you want your drink thicker or thinner, you can increase or decrease the ratio of eggnog to tea, respectively).
When both are ready, carefully and slowly pour your tea into your eggnog, first aiming for the center before spiraling outward in tight concentric circles. As soon as you’re finished, give your drink a gentle stir. If you wish to make it even more seasonally appropriate, you may want to consider adding a cinnamon stick for good measure and a dash or two of cinnamon or nutmeg.
You’re all set with your very own, hand-crafted eggnog tea latté!
With that said, keep in mind, too, that you are certainly welcome to experiment with your eggnog tea lattés as well. For example, while Keemun Imperial is the safe choice, an exciting alternative would be a good, dark tea, such as Lao Liu Bao. This earthiness from this tea complements the rich, sweet, and spicy character of the eggnog without accentuating it, leaving a really complex drink.
Another solid alternative tea would be the Xinhui Mandarin Gongting puerh. A full-bodied tea with a strong citrus flavor, unlike Lao Liu Bao, this tea would amplify the sweetness of the eggnog with a pleasant, slight acidity.
Lastly, for those who fancy the adult version of this beverage, you can use any of the above recipes, taking care to add a small, half ounce of spiced rum for taste. In fact, if you’re feeling especially adventurous, you may even want to try using our authentic Lapsang Souchong with the adult version! After all, a touch of smokiness with a pinch of spiced rum in your eggnog just might make for a winning combination!
Whatever you decide to try, be sure to tweak to your liking appropriately, and it’d be wonderful to hear about your results below!
Today, we want to tell you about our other award-winning tea: Wuyi Rou Gui, a special rock oolong geared towards the connoisseurs.
Nestled within a small valley within the Wuyi Mountain region, a valley marked off by a famous natural landmark known as “Horse Head Rock,” Rou Gui is one of the most beloved and widely grown all Wuyi rock oolongs in Wuyi Mountain region. This is due in large part to the unique terroir of the surrounding area.
We’ve discussed before some of the features that make this region special. There’s the ancient volcanic activity that resulted in an especially mineral dense soil, and there’s the nearby sea that whips up a steady supply of humidity and rainfall.
And yet, even in the perfect home, one can still find some rooms more inviting than others.
This is no less true in the Wuyi Mountain region, where the area within the Wuyi Mountain World Natural and Cultural Heritage Site that prove to be the best terrior to grow rock oolong teas, the locals call it Zhen Yan, meaning the core rocky area. The small area surrounding Horse Head Rock proves quite exceptional for growing rock tea, especially famous for Rou Gui. After all, so much goes into the flavor of tea than just the mineral composition of the soil and the amount of rainfall. There are other influences as well: the amount of sunlight exposure and the rainfall, the mist and the stream running at the foot of the mountain, the nearby vegetation, the indigenous wildlife, the altitude, the temperature, etc. It just so happens that right around Horse Head Rock, so many of these environmental variables seem to have been perfectly calibrated by nature herself for the sake of the tea bushes.
Indeed, Rou Gui oolong (sometimes translated as Cinnamon Rock Oolong) proves just how much terroir contributes to flavor. True to its namesake, it possesses a distinctive cassia fragrance, and when infused, this tea produces a warming, velvety texture complemented by a flavor profile reminiscent of everything we love about the holidays—mulling spices, toasty grains, dark cocoa, and baked stonefruit, and tropical fruits.
Another feature, unique to authentic Rou Gui, is its lingering sweetness accompanied by a cooling sensation after each sip. It’s believed that these qualities are imparted from the surrounding rocky mountains and the minerals in the soil and water, absorbed by the tea bushes, and they give this tea a character unlike any other.
We think it’s pretty easy to see why this special tea could become an award-winner, and we’re excited to inaugurate it into our circle of champions. Whether you’re a seasoned tea drinker or an experimentalist who just wants to try something different, we cannot recommend Wuyi Rou Gui Rock Oolong highly enough!
It’s no secret that we take a great deal of pride in the teas that we choose to source.
We travel to China at least twice a year, visiting the most historically famous tea-producing regions; working very closely with tea masters, farmers, and artisans; and meticulously examining the production process from beginning to end. We refuse to cultivate relationships with anyone who uses pesticides or fails to implement sustainable farming practices, and we take pride in those who still craft teas using traditional techniques and methods.
In the end, the culmination of these efforts comes out in your cup, brimming with nutritional goodness, intoxicating aromas, and unforgettable flavor profiles. The latest fruit of these efforts bears out with two of our teas that we were pretty excited to source: Long Jing Dragonwell Green Tea and Wuyi Rou Gui Horse Head Rock Oolong. It is with great pleasure that we announce that both of these special teas were recognized in their respective categories at the Spring Loose Leaf 2018 Global Tea Competition.
So what makes our Long Jing Dragonwell so special?
For starters, we have two Dragonwell green tea offerings, one from the true origin of West Lake. Any tea connoisseur who is familiar with the Dragonwell market, however, knows that securing true origin Dragonwell can prove to be quite an expensive ordeal, and so tea vendors will sometimes look outside of the West Lake region for interesting variations on this green tea.
In this case, we happened to find a gem from Xincang, and while it’s not quite comparable to West Lake Dragonwell, it’s not intended to be. We were determined to find a Dragonwell that was not merely an imitation of true origin Dragonwell, but one that could stand on its own, that offered something different to the market.
And that’s exactly what we found.
Our Xincang Long Jing has the same stringent standards demanded by the highest quality West Lake Dragonwells—one bud, one leaf, hand pan-fired, flat spear shape—but whereas Lion’s Peak Dragonwell (the best of West Lake) features floral notes in its flavor profile, Xincang Dragonwell has this fulfilling chestnut quality to it, making it one of those rare green teas that is fitting to drink during the holidays.
At this price point too, it’s quite the steal.Stay tuned for next week’s post as we introduce you to the wonderful world of Wuyi Rou Gui Rock Oolong!