Monday, June 4, 2012

Steeping Clay - Experiment # 1

I once read that if you poured boiling water into a well-seasoned yixing clay teapot, without tea leaves, you would still get a little tea flavor and color. I don't think I have any teapots that would qualify as "well seasoned" but three of my pots, El Greco (aged puer), Sandy (heavily roasted oolong), and Sam (high mountain Taiwanese oolong) have each been used dozens of times to brew great teas.

El Greco (top left), Sandy (middle), Sam (bottom right)

For today's experiment, I filled each of these three teapots with freshly boiled water, covered them with a thick towel, and then waited 1 hour before pouring the water into three separate tea bowls.

Each cup of warm water had the faintest hint of yellow color. Sandy's cup had one tiny speck of old leaf in it.

I started with Sam's water. It had a subtle sweetness and the water felt soft and creamy. There was also a hint of citrus in the water but it hid in the back of my throat and peeked out only when I exhaled.

Sandy's water was soft and thick in my mouth. It had a lick of nuttiness and a floral-mineral aftertaste that reminded me of Tie Guanyin oolong.

El Greco, like Sam and Sandy, also yielded delicate sweetness and substantial mouth-feel. It had a "brighter" taste than the other two pots. While Sam had citrus in the back of the throat, El Greco had an up front lemongrass note.

I was pleased with the results of this casual experiment and plan to repeat it in a few years using this blog post as a baseline. Next time I'll include a few other tea lovers in the tasting to "blind taste test" the water in hopes of limiting the possible effects of "power of suggestion."

Please let me know if you have ever tried anything like this or if you have any other ideas for ways to improve this experiment.


Trevor said...

My single yixing is no where near ready for something like this, but maybe in a year or so. I have always been a little skeptical of this idea, but maybe there is something to it.

Steph said...

I've often wondered about this. ;-) Thank you for trying it! I need to name my teapots, I'm inspired.

Branislav Boda said...

Ive tried something similar, but with a new unused Duan Ni teapot. We compared "plain" boiled water and boiled water we left in the teapot for a few minutes. The water from teapot was much better, more sweet and with better mouth feel. Same tea tastes different from Duan Ni and Zhu Ni clay, so the clay has to do something with the water.

Alex Zorach said...

This is fascinating to me.

One thought I had though, if you let it sit for an hour, that's a pretty subtle flavor (or other quality) that is being extracted. Would there be any influence on the flavor, aroma, and mouthfeel of the brewed cup of tea, as produced in typical Gong Fu style brewing, with infusions usually of less than a minute?

Nicole Martin said...

I definitely think I'll be trying this with my oldest yixing soon :)

The Tea Enthusiast's Scrapbook said...

Hi Alex,

Great post!

I have been fixating on Yixing pots lately. It really is amazing to experience how they can enhance the taste of tea.

Time to season some pots! :)