08 June 2009

Tasting from Wood-fired Porcelain

                  -more tea with Daniel of Arts De Chine-

I like to visit Vancouver once in a while, it's a beautiful city.  Daniel's shop is my favorite place to get teaware, as I find him to be knowledgeable, honest, and to have good prices.

I went to him needing good porcelain.  My Dehua cups and pitcher that I bought in Taiwan earlier this year showed me that the clay - whether in porcelain, earthenware or Yixing-style pots - could significantly enhance my tea.

I showed him my Blanc de Chine cups made from Dehua clay.  Daniel admitted that he's not particularly sensitive when differentiating the tastes between different types of porcelain, but Peter- another tea friend that had joined us that day - said that he could not only taste, but smell, the differences between a normal cup and my Dehua ones.  He said that given the quality and the flavor balancing, the pricing of my pieces was good.

This got us talking about porosity of teawares again.  Daniel added that it's not just porosity, but also the physical attributes that contribute to the enjoyment of each cup.  A smooth finish with a nice cupped edge may be more pleasing to people than a rough, thick cup made of dull and unshapely clay.  The way a cup's shape retains heat or more-quickly cools a brew, or how it is shaped to trap or release fragrance, also change our tea-drinking experiences.  His comments are definitely true about the tea-drinking experience, but what I was looking for was more discussion on how, in a qualitative way, the properties of a vessel would improve the actual taste and smell of a brew.  I told Daniel that I didn't care if my gaiwan was ugly and misshapen as long as it made better tea than what I currently had (and that it's within my budget, of course).

Except for my celadon teaware, I gravitate towards whatever makes my tea taste smoother and more refine.  Daniel said that kilns that are wood-fired, versus gas and electric-fired, produce teaware that many find to be superior.  One reason may be that the gradual heating up and cooling down of the kiln takes more time and allows the porcelain to transform more completely.  In nerd speak, if we were to graph kiln temperature as a function of time, we'd see that wood-fired kilns would be more of a bell-shaped curve, and gas and electric-fired ones would be more of a v-shaped curve.

I got a basic, contemporary gaiwan that is a reproduction of a Qing-dynasty design.  It is not particularly impressive to me except for the fact that its wood-fired nature is supposed to provide me with better results.  I'll get into the experiments later, but I'll tell you that it is indeed superior to my daily-use gaiwans.  For significantly more (but still a bargain for what it is), Daniel has an actual mid-Qing period gaiwan that is the style, size and shape that I'm looking for.  I know that piece will be far superior to all of my current gaiwans, but that purchase will be for another time.




  1. Your post is very informative with solid facts. Thanks for sharing.

  2. Thanks James! I like to find methods and products that enhance the teas that I enjoy drinking. By sharing my findings, I hope that others may find new and exciting tea experiences as well.