Japanese Clay pairings with Chinese/Taiwanese teas

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S_B
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Wed Mar 25, 2020 11:39 pm

I'm not sure how much action this thread will really see, but here we go!

I am very interested in what pairings of Japanese clays folks out there have tried with Chinese/Taiwanese teas. I am excitedly waiting for a Kobiwako hohin to come in to do some experimenting myself - even if it doesn't work out, I guess I'll just have to get my hands on some gaoshan or Japanese greens, because the clay looks so beautiful!

From reading other threads, it seems like there has been a success from some members with a few parings so far:
Kobiwako and high-quality gaoshan, as well as hokujo clay. Hokujo clay has been reported to play well with some roasted dong dings. I intend to try various Japanese clays (over some extended period of time no doubt) with teas that I normally drink. I am very interested to see how they play compared to my limited range of clays at home.

I will most likely start with comparisons to a mid 70's hongni and porcelain. I'm sure other members have much more interesting clays they can compare with, but this will be my most familiar starting point.

The next two clays I am most interested in after this Kobiwako - based on 0 experience by 100% the aesthetic joy they bring me - are Hokujo and Shigaraki rough clay. The later I have not seen any reports on for pairings beyond "greener" teas. I also understand that some Japanese clays may not pair well with teas that require very high-temperature water. My experiments will likely start with a range of boutique pu'er from the mid 2000's (YQH, XZH, BYH productions) as well as Taiwanese oolongs of various roast levels. I am particularly interested to see how heavier roasts might fare. I will probably start with some 2016 spring heavy roast foshou, and roll back roasts a few notches to see what really sticks. My reasoning here is that I want to start with teas I have drank plenty and have had more experience with before branching out. The idea isn't to force the clay to play nice with my favorite teas, but those are a good familiar place to start.


I would love anybody who has experimented with pairings themselves, or is willing to try, to post their experiences here. While we will all have our own subjective outlooks on what works, I am very interested to hear more - should you be willing to share!

And should this turn out to be a wild goose chase....well so be it. Some pieces are beautiful just to look at! Let the fun begin~ :D Obviously, I will slowly update as different combinations are tried. Cheers!
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Bok
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Thu Mar 26, 2020 12:14 am

After reading a lot about Hokujo and its suitability for roasted Oolongs, I tried those initially, but for me there was no noticeable improvement. Hokujo however, did also fare well with Gaoshan – only until being de-throned by Kobiwako, which is way better at it.

Now Hokujo is back to where it came from – brewing Gyokuru :mrgreen: for this I find it perfect, not only in taste, but also in the way the pot is designed to pour and handle those tiny leaves. My 90ml pot is the perfect one cup pot (only filled half or two thirds for later steeps.

Many other Japanese clays I found to have issues due to higher heat requirements of Oolong teas.

Old Tokoname Shudei is another clay worth mentioning, does a very good job with most teas through the bank. It performs a bit in between Zhuni and Hongni. I have confirmed this with Jozan II, III and un-named artisan old Tokoname clay pots. I have no experience with the contemporary Shudei though, visually already they do look different (maybe others can comment? @Baisao)
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S_B
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Thu Mar 26, 2020 12:59 am

Old Tokoname Shudei is another clay worth mentioning, does a very good job with most teas through the bank. It performs a bit in between Zhuni and Hongni. I have confirmed this with Jozan II, III and un-named artisan old Tokoname clay pots. I have no experience with the contemporary Shudei though, visually already they do look different (maybe others can comment? Baisao)
This is great information! Would definitely love to hear more about this if others have any experience or information either old or new clay.

On a separate note, I'm curious how accurate people find Hojo's pairing recommendations. I have much respect for how much effort he puts into experimenting with different kettles, clays, (as well as their firings/compositions) and teas, but at the same time, a lot of it seems almost "too" extensive. I would definitely put much more value into his evaluations initially, due to my lack of experience with these clays, but there are lots of them that he claims work with MANY teas, or specific teas like Oolong, Pu'er, etc.
faj
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Thu Mar 26, 2020 7:24 am

S_B wrote:
Thu Mar 26, 2020 12:59 am
On a separate note, I'm curious how accurate people find Hojo's pairing recommendations.
If you want to get one pot, I guess it matters whether his recommendations are good or not. I do not feel I am experienced enough to answer this. Maybe you have preferences similar to his, maybe not.

But if you expect to get a few teapots, then the question becomes whether his various clays are different enough (from each other and from what others offer) to offer opportunities to match with different teas based on preference. I have purchased two pots from Hojo, and find them to be clearly different one from the other. To my taste, they pair well with different teas (often hard to predict for any given tea). Maybe Akira Hojo would pair them with different teas than I do, but that is unimportant to me.

I read somewhere he will sometimes choose the clay based on the time of day and how he feels so... it's not like his opinions are meant to be understood as hard rules about pairings.
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Baisao
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Thu Mar 26, 2020 2:50 pm

Bok wrote:
Thu Mar 26, 2020 12:14 am
Old Tokoname Shudei is another clay worth mentioning, does a very good job with most teas through the bank. It performs a bit in between Zhuni and Hongni. I have confirmed this with Jozan II, III and un-named artisan old Tokoname clay pots. I have no experience with the contemporary Shudei though, visually already they do look different (maybe others can comment? Baisao)
To me I detect different textures in the liquids that pour out of these clays rather than differences in aromas. Textures and aromas are probably related as they pertain to clays but I tend to experience Japanese teas in my mouth more than my nose, opposite for how I experience other teas. Anyway...

I agree with older shudei being like a cross between zhuni and hongni. In general, shudei produces a rougher textured tea than mumyoi and reduction-fired clays (even wood-fired shudei from Konishi Yohei and Taisuke Shiraiwa).

I own two contemporary shudei kyusu (Jozan Yamada IV) from 2006 and approximately 2018. Both produce a very slightly rougher texture to the liquor than the shudei used by Jozan Yamada II and III.

Personally, I prefer wood-fired clays and mumyoi for Japanese teas because they generally produce a smoother feeling liquid. While the craftsmanship of Jozan III is superb, I will go ahead and be a heretic and say that Emu and Sou have produced more enjoyable kyusu.
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S_B
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Thu Mar 26, 2020 4:34 pm

To me I detect different textures in the liquids that pour out of these clays rather than differences in aromas. Textures and aromas are probably related as they pertain to clays but I tend to experience Japanese teas in my mouth more than my nose, opposite for how I experience other teas. Anyway...
Very interesting writeup and note on textures and fragrances in Japanese teas vs other teas, thank you! I guess that's what I'm really interested to see: How other teas handle this phenomenon, and if it was enough of a fit, how brewing parameters would need to change to create the ideal cup.
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Thu Mar 26, 2020 7:15 pm

S_B wrote:
Thu Mar 26, 2020 4:34 pm
To me I detect different textures in the liquids that pour out of these clays rather than differences in aromas. Textures and aromas are probably related as they pertain to clays but I tend to experience Japanese teas in my mouth more than my nose, opposite for how I experience other teas. Anyway...
Very interesting writeup and note on textures and fragrances in Japanese teas vs other teas, thank you! I guess that's what I'm really interested to see: How other teas handle this phenomenon, and if it was enough of a fit, how brewing parameters would need to change to create the ideal cup.
Though it’s done in the West I think most serious tea drinkers in Taiwan and China would consider it heresy to make their teas in Japanese kyusu.

However, the inverse was not true. The Japanese made tea (from Japan and Taiwan) in Yixing teapots.

Ignoring feelings for what is “correct”, I think the largest inhibition to making Taiwanese and Chinese teas in kyusu is that the great majority are side-handle and really difficult to hold at the temperatures used for Taiwanese and Chinese teas. However, you can find kyusu that have a rear handle. They can just be more difficult to find outside of a few retailers like Hojo.

Rear-handle kyusu start making an appearance in the 1850s I believe, about 100 years after GFC as we know it starts to be practiced in Southern China.

Side-handle teapots are much older and side-handle vessels in general are probably prehistoric.

During the 20th century there was a change in Japan towards making teas with less heat so we see side-handle kyusu designs predominating. The use of rear-handle kyusu seems relegated to a facet of senchado in the 20th century where it was fashionable to have something “Chinese” in the arrangement of things.

I could be wrong about the above but I am piecing it together from many different books, discussions, and paintings.

So, now we are at the present...

And ignoring family-style or work tea...

You have Yixing chahu that are made for a certain style of tea: one that is made at high temperatures, fast brewing times, and special clay properties for attenuating teas based upon a list of different things (accentuating or hiding certain aromatics, textures, heat retention properties, etc.), and aesthetics being modestly less important than the formerly mentioned items.

And you have Japanese kyusu that are made for a certain kind of tea: lower temperature, more forgiving brewing times, frequently made for groups of people, with almost no thought as to what clay is being used, and more focus placed on aesthetics than capturing the flavorful essence of tea.

[I hope no one gets in a wad about this as I am generalizing and know & appreciate the gorgeous aesthetics of LQER Yixing and the flavor of well prepared Japanese teas!]

Ok.

So now you can see that we have two different kinds of vessels that have evolved to make two very different kinds of tea.

Making yancha in side-handle teapot is like taking a Prius off-roading. You can probably do it but you won’t be as successful or comfortable as you would in a purpose built 4x4.

You could make gyokuro in a rear-handled Yixing teapot and depending on the clay you might be pretty successful. Just like that purpose built 4x4, you might be more comfortable commuting to work in the Prius but the 4x4 will get you there.

To me it seems Hojo is trying to fit a square peg into a round hole. Kudos to him and all who try but I think it is worth mentioning that it difficult to twain the two tea cultures. But certainly not impossible.
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Baisao
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Thu Mar 26, 2020 7:24 pm

TL;DR

If you like smooth texture tea and want a Japanese teapot that can take the heat and not burn your fingers, get an antique rear-handle kyusu made from mumyoi.

This is a fine example, mislabeled as Jozan Yamada (Jozan Miura, actually):

http://www.marshaln.com/2011/02/yamada-jozan/
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S_B
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Thu Mar 26, 2020 7:42 pm

Making yancha in side-handle teapot is like taking a Prius off-roading. You can probably do it but you won’t be as successful or comfortable as you would in a purpose built 4x4.


This gave me quite the chuckle! Interesting that (If I'm understanding correctly) Japanese tea brewing generally does not get as wrapped around the axel in regards to what clay is being used and the "right parings" in the same way Yixing does. That fact alone is rather refreshing to someone who feels oppressed by all of the choices that are out there in the Yixing world.

All that makes me want to explore more in the world of Japanese greens. I love them when other people brew them for me...I've always enjoyed the incredible mouthfeel of Japanese greens, however I guess my mind was trying to take my 2010 Honda Accord out into the desert :D

I'm sure that if it were meant to be, others would have tried it before and we'd have heard about it. Not sure why I thought reinventing the wheel was a good idea here :P Cheers! @Baisao
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Thu Mar 26, 2020 7:55 pm

S_B wrote:
Thu Mar 26, 2020 7:42 pm
This gave me quite the chuckle! Interesting that (If I'm understanding correctly) Japanese tea brewing generally does not get as wrapped around the axel in regards to what clay is being used and the "right parings" in the same way Yixing does. That fact alone is rather refreshing to someone who feels oppressed by all of the choices that are out there in the Yixing world.
Yixing or clay pairing in general can be frustrating as you say, but it is also fun to explore. The above mentioned three clays are definitely worth trying if you are looking for a noticeable change in flavour (good and bad).

But – always get a pot that you also like visually, it might not work out with the tea you had in mind for, but there will be a match out there! Use a pot long enough and it will at some point bend to the will of the tea :mrgreen:
.m.
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Thu Mar 26, 2020 9:14 pm

Baisao wrote:
Thu Mar 26, 2020 7:15 pm
Ignoring feelings for what is “correct”, I think the largest inhibition to making Taiwanese and Chinese teas in kyusu is that the great majority are side-handle and really difficult to hold at the temperatures used for Taiwanese and Chinese teas.
This depends greatly on the style of the pot and how one holds it. The two japanese kyusus i own, i find them to be equally as good, if not better, in handling high temperature than any yixing pot i have. Both of them have short conical handles attached in an upward angle, that i hold between the index and the middle finger. In fact, i find the mechanics of pouring from these pots much more graceful than rear handles: no need to break the wrist or raise the shoulder or the elbow, just a slightest rotation of the hand does the job. :)
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Thu Mar 26, 2020 9:47 pm

.m. wrote:
Thu Mar 26, 2020 9:14 pm
Baisao wrote:
Thu Mar 26, 2020 7:15 pm
Ignoring feelings for what is “correct”, I think the largest inhibition to making Taiwanese and Chinese teas in kyusu is that the great majority are side-handle and really difficult to hold at the temperatures used for Taiwanese and Chinese teas.
This depends greatly on the style of the pot and how one holds it. The two japanese kyusus i own, i find them to be equally as good, if not better, in handling high temperature than any yixing pot i have. Both of them have short conical handles attached in an upward angle, that i hold between the index and the middle finger. In fact, i find the mechanics of pouring from these pots much more graceful than rear handles: no need to break the wrist or raise the shoulder or the elbow, just a slightest rotation of the hand does the job. :)
I’m jealous of your asbestos knuckles!

You’re on the money about body mechanics. I have mechanical issues with rear-handle teapots that I never have with side-handle teapots.

It sounds like you use grip B, like I do.
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.m.
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Fri Mar 27, 2020 9:22 am

Baisao wrote:
Thu Mar 26, 2020 9:47 pm
I’m jealous of your asbestos knuckles!

You’re on the money about body mechanics. I have mechanical issues with rear-handle teapots that I never have with side-handle teapots.

It sounds like you use grip B, like I do.
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Image
Yes, a variation on the grip B. Btw. that kyusu of Taisuke Shiraiwa is really nice.
The right proportions are important: handle too short and one burns knuckles, too long and have trouble to hold the lid. Steeper angle of handle that was used in the older days also helps in this respect: it positions the thumb right above the lid in a natural manner, while with a more horizontal one there is a need to extend the thumb more to reach the knob.
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Baisao
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Sat Mar 28, 2020 12:05 am

Taisuke Shiraiwa makes some really nice pots. I especially like his wood fired ones. It’s no wonder since he is a student of Konishi Yohei.

On that note I took a sencha that is highly aromatic— Shizu 7132— and made it twice today in two different teapots: mayake kyusu by Sou Yamada and an unglazed wood fired kyusu by Konishi Yohei that has a rough and open texture.

More aroma came through in the Sou Yamada kyusu (unknown clay but quite vitrified) than the Konishi Yohei kyusu (unknown clay with an open texture).

Put another way, the Yohei teapot was muting.

Yohei’s teapots are so variable and unique I have no reason to assume all his teapots are muting, just my example.

I’ll reserve it for a particularly animal-like kamairi-cha I like, and use other teapots for the highly aromatic teas.
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Sat Mar 28, 2020 1:26 am

@Baisao “animal like Kamairicha” sounds intriguing!
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