This Christmas my generous friend and mentor Mr. Chen gave me a very special gift. It is a small tea tumbler lined with yixing clay.
As is often the case with Chinese gifts, this tumbler came in a very handsome silk-lined box. The package also included a pretty little booklet providing some history of Yixing clay and some information about the company that produced the cup. The design is titled bai jia xing (百家姓) and features over 500 golden words printed on a red background. For me it was love at first sight.
I've never used a cup like this before. On those rare occasions when I take my tea-to-go I usually just use a mason jar. Mason jars get the job done but the tea gets cold so fast and they will not fit in my car's cup holder. I also have a polycarbonate Chinese tea tumbler (seen here) which I use during longer trips or vacations but I was never crazy about that plastic teacup.
Since Christmas I have used my clay lined tumbler many times. It has become my vessel of choice when I take my son to preschool on these cold winter mornings. First I brew my tea in a small teapot, usually it will be a Chinese black tea like dian hong, qimen, or bai lin gongfu but I've also tried it with dong ding and shui xian oolongs, then I decant the liquor right into the cup. To me, the flavor from this cup is much better than tea drunk out
of an all metal tumbler. It is noticeably smoother, richer and sweeter.
Right now I'm not overly concerned about mixing different types of tea in this cup. I realize the clay will continuously change and that will affect the flavor of the teas, but as long as it tastes good I'll be happy.