After setting up the Cloud's Tea Diary, Cloud often receives e-mails and private messages with questions related to Puerh tea. Those questions are good questions. Beginners may also have similar doubts when they start their Puerh tea journeys. Thus, Cloud decides to gather these Q&As to the Cloud's Tea Diary so that the later comers may make reference to my answers.
A Puerh tea lover, AY, asked, "Is it the best way to brew Puerh tea by purple clay teapot? If yes, what kind of purple clay material is good for such purpose? Should I choose the one with thin wall or thick wall? (The reason why I asked these questions was that I read some articles about the temperature of infusions inside the teapot and the problem of loosing heat, etc..)"
Generally speaking, the followings are the tools for brewing tea with Gongfu style:
- Tea bowl (a.k.a. Gaiwan)
- Purple clay teapot
- others (such as porcelain or glass teapot)
In fact, both tea bowl and purple clay teapot are suitable for brewing Puerh tea. However, they should be used under different circumstances because they have their unique properties which suit for special purposes. Therefore, we need to understand their natures.
Tea Bowl (a.k.a. Gaiwan)
Tea bowl (a.k.a. Gaiwan) is mainly made by porcelain (except those purple clay tea bowls). After decoration, the porcelain will be glazed with a transparent glaze. After the glaze has dried, the porcelain will be undergone the final process, sintering. Then, the transparent glass-like substance will be formed on the surface of the porcelain for protecting the porcelain itself.
This transparent glazing is a high dense impermeable layer. The tea broth particles will not attach or make through this layer. This means that the tea bowl will give and reflect the original status of the tea brewed inside. There will be no modification or any interaction between the tea broth and the tea bowl. In short, there is no gain or no loss when we use porcelain tea bowl to brew our teas. (P.S. Antique tea bowl could possibly improve the texture of tea broth slightly).
Therefore, when a tea connoisseur is going to taste a sample tea and to judge its quality, using a porcelain tea bowl is a must. The reason is that only the porcelain texture will fully give all the aspects, both good and bad, of the trial tea as there is no interaction between the tea broth and the utensil.
Purple Clay Teapot       Purple clay teapot is pottery. There is no glazing before and after sintering. With its special structure, purple clay teapot can be directly used for brewing tea without any glazing. The minute holes within the clay still function after sintering. This provides a relatively good air permeability which is specifically good for brewing tea. This helps enhancing the tea tastes and flavor.
Since there are minute holes in the structure of purple clay, the teapot will accumulate the unique flavor of tea after hundreds of brews. This also enhances the appearance of the teapot.
Many tea connoisseurs understand that the purple clay teapot should only be used for brewing the same or similar kind of tea in each teapot. For example, Oolong tea and Puerh tea should have their own teapots. In the world of Puerh, the tastes of raw tea, ripe tea, aged tea and wet storage tea can be very different from each other so that these Puerh teas deserve their own teapots. If these teas are brewed by a single teapot, the tea tastes will be affected in the next occasion and mixed up.
As the purple clay teapot can enhance the tea taste, if tea connoisseurs are not tasting sample teas but appreciating the precious aged Puerh vintages, especially the Masterpiece Puerh Vintages or even an older one, they will definitely choose purple clay teapot. To be serious to the precious antique vintages, a precious grade antique purple clay teapot shall be chosen as well (e.g. an antique Zhu Ni teapot [古董朱泥壺] is the best companion) in order to brew the best tastes and flavor.
Regarding the clay material, Cloud is of the view that pure purple clay and Zhu Ni (朱泥) are good for brewing and enhancing the tastes of Puerh tea. As the size of Puerh tea leaves is relatively larger than other kinds of tea leaves, choosing a purple clay teapot with large volume is suitable for tea leaves expansion inside the teapot. Generally speaking, a 200cc purple clay teapot is good enough for one's general use.
Besides, Puerh tea (in particular, the aged Puerh vintage) needs boiled water to infuse the good tastes. Therefore, the wall of the teapot should not be too thin. The thick wall of the teapot can keep the temperature high during infusions. It seems that some very thin wall purple clay teapots are not too suitable for brewing Puerh tea.
25 September 2008 wrote in Chinese
31 October 2008 translated into English
Cloud (Hong Kong)
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