cups- silver and clay

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wave_code
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Joined: Wed Nov 21, 2018 2:10 pm
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Wed Feb 06, 2019 6:40 am

While a lot of emphasis is put on pots, and for good reason, once the tea comes out of the pot or pitcher its gotta go somewhere- so I'm curious to look more into cups, particularly silver and clay. Most days I'm using porcelain or wood-fired glazed cups, making the choice of what to use either for having the color more visible or for insulation purposes if I want something to cool down quicker/slower. With clay cups my initial thought was well its the last step, whats done in the brew process is done. I'm reconsidering this now in a big way though given that with gong fu depending on where you are in your brewing the tea may actually be sitting in the cup longer than the water is even in the pot, not to mention that if you are doing a grandpa style brew with a bigger cup then that is where everything will be happening.

I recently got a couple inexpensive cups which I believe are hong ni and have been trying them out with various hei cha. After a bit of testing I think I will probably stick to liu an with them. Going from a porcelain gaiwan to the clay cup I felt like the tea tasted much sweeter and smoother than other times brewing the same tea - more date like flavors and a muting of the younger/greener notes in the tea. This is what has sparked my interest, so now I have been keeping an eye out for unglazed clay and silver cups finding quite a few options. While I'm sure used in combination with an ideal pot the effect goes much further, but I can see that clay cups also offer the advantage of a bit of muting or similar effects when you don't have an ideal clay pot for a particular tea. For some it also seems like a more affordable option to dedicate a clay cup or two to a particular type of tea than an expensive pot if there is a tea or teas you enjoy but maybe don't drink so often or as your main choice. With silver I suppose you have the advantage of not having to worry about sticking to one type of tea at all.

What are your own experiences with clay or silver cups? Do you find one or the other works best with particular teas?
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Brent D
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Location: Wisconsin

Wed Feb 06, 2019 8:28 am

I personally stick to porcelain or some sort of glazed ware for my cups. I feel that part of gung fu is the pursuit of perfecting the brewing technique. An un-glazed cup would cause the tea to continue to be effected after the brewing was done. I am a huge fan of my silver teapot. so much so that if I could only keep one pot, it would be that one. I have never used a silver cup, but I would try it.. Keep in mind that silver heats up very quickly, and the heat loss is quite fast as well. You may end up with a cup that too hot to touch, and tea that cools too fast.
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steanze
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Wed Feb 06, 2019 8:30 am

Personally I don't really like clay and silver cups, the quality of the yixing clay used for cups is usually low, and I haven't had particularly good results with silver cups. I do like to use cups of different sizes, shapes, and thickness, but they are usually porcelain or glazed clay.
theredbaron
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Location: Germany

Wed Feb 06, 2019 9:51 am

Cups is indeed a underdiscussed topic.
One of the most important things is the inner shape of the cups and lip of the cup, and how it affects the flow of tea into the mouth. Ideal is that the tea does not just hit the tip of the tongue, but flows effortless into the center and back of the mouth, leading to and supporting an upwards taste movement into sinuses etc.
As to the material, i do prefer for most Chinese teas antique porcellain cups. But for some chinese teas - mostly Hei Cha - i do actually like old Yixing clay cups as well, as i feel that they add to and suit the depth of those teas.
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Bok
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Sat Feb 09, 2019 12:12 am

As some above, I feel I do not want to further influence whatever happened in the pot before, so a neutral material is preferred, so porcelain for me it is! On glazed clay cups I am split, some do still instill some sort of effect on the tea that I dislike, very prone to this are certain Japanese glazes and some Lins Ceramics.

Although most white porcelain is still tainted in most cases, I do like that they show me the colour of the brew. Perfect white is a bit too clinical for my taste and optically stands out too much on the tea table.

My compromise is a crackled glass pitcher, showing the colour of the brew perfectly in the reflections and antique douqing porcelain cups, their turquoise tones perfectly matching most of my red-brownish pots :mrgreen:

Cup shape is indeed maybe even more underrated and discussed! Yet material matters a tad more in my book.

P.S. small antique European mokka porcelain cups are also very good and can be had for very cheap in flea markets or even shops!
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Bok
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Sat Feb 09, 2019 12:16 am

I found silver cups work much better with cold and iced drinks. Got some old liquour shot cups, lined in silver, they work best with alcohol, room temp or iced sake and the likes, hot stuff not so nice.
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wave_code
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Sun Feb 10, 2019 1:45 pm

interesting to see people's reactions so far. So if the interest of focus for many folks here is on the brew process and you would want to have the cup be neutral, do you then consider your brewing process up until things leave the pot? For example do you go straight from pot to cup, or do you use a pitcher? If so do you use glass, ceramic, or have an unglazed pitcher?

I would agree though, finding clay cups of higher quality is a more difficult task than finding pots. I've seen a few around, like the ones at TeaLifeHK and Taiwanese Tea Crafts, as well as a few Japanese artists using rougher unglazed clay - although most of the Japanese unglazed cups I see are on the smoother side. While the ones I have at the moment aren't of super high quality they did have a favorable effect mostly on liu an after also trying them with some liu bao and shou. I can also imagine for most the idea of wanting something to be slightly muting of certain flavors to be less desirable once you get to the point of the cup if you are drinking something like oolongs that aren't roasted to hell and back compared to say Hong Kong wet stored shou.
theredbaron
Posts: 66
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Sun Feb 10, 2019 4:17 pm

wave_code wrote:
Sun Feb 10, 2019 1:45 pm
interesting to see people's reactions so far. So if the interest of focus for many folks here is on the brew process and you would want to have the cup be neutral, do you then consider your brewing process up until things leave the pot? For example do you go straight from pot to cup, or do you use a pitcher? If so do you use glass, ceramic, or have an unglazed pitcher?


No pitcher for me, i don't like my tea sessions cluttered with lots of unnecessary stuff, i prefer to keep it simple. Straight from the pot into the cup/cups.

As to clay cups, when one looks around a bit good quality Yixing cups from the 60's and 70's are not too difficult to find. Especially larger cups made for the western export market with handles and saucers are still easy to find, and not expensive. They have wonderful old clay.
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