The experience of Chinese Tea is more than merely consuming the liquid, as gratifying as that may be. There are so many facets to this wonderful experience that it often becomes intimidating, especially to the first-timer.
If you have been to a Chinese Tea appreciation course or a demonstration, very often you will walk away impressed, fascinated but also bewildered and mystified at the sheer scope and span that the act of tea brewing entails.
This is more a subject for another post but I will say this, the experience should be like what Nintendo envisaged with their Wii: ‘Easy to pick-up, hard to master’.
Ever played Mario? Whether it is Super Mario Brothers or its spin-offs?
The controls are simple and intuitive that anyone can start to play literally within seconds. But to beat the game or get into the top echelons of geekdom, hundred of hours are not an exaggeration.
In many ways, the Chinese Tea experience should be like that. With a bit of knowledge, anyone can start brewing Chinese Tea but to master the full spectrum can easily take you decades,
Which brings us to the subject matter of this post:
‘Nurturing’ a pot
What does it mean to ‘nurture’ a pot?
Simply put ‘nurturing’ a pot is about using it over a long period of time and allowing it to absorb the taste of past brews, thereby enhancing the taste of new brews.
In other words, it’s like gaining experience points in an Role Playing Game: the same act yields greater effectiveness.
Of course, like a RPG, there are certain ‘rules’ or guidelines to follow for enhancing your pot.
How to ‘nurture’ a pot?
Image taken from http://www.sxc.hu/browse.phtml?f=view&id=858725
1) Choose the right material
‘Zisha’ or purple clay, a type of clay taken from Yixing village in China is by far the most suitable for this purpose.
This is due to its porous nature which means it ‘absorbs’ tea oils and hence its taste.
2) Brew with the same type of tea
Linked to its porous nature, ‘Zisha’ pots retains the flavor of its previous brews.
Hence, you should stick with the same type of tea for each pot to avoid your tea tasting like an amalgamation of your entire tea drinking experience.
3) Brush the pot with leftover tea liquid or leaves
Tea leaves emit oils which add to the luster and shine of the pot. Tea lovers will then pour leftover liquids or use the residual leaves to brush the ‘Zisha’ pot which absorbs the tea oils.
Hence, a well ‘nurtured’ pot looks more shiny than a new one- instantaneously showcasing the efforts and affection of the owner.
4) Avoid other oils coming into contact with the ‘Zisha’ pot
The two-edged sword cuts both ways and the same applies to the absorbent nature of the ‘zisha’ clay.
If it comes into contact with other oils like food oils, it ‘blocks’ the pores and prevents future absorption of tea liquids.
5) Hand wash it with water only
It is an expensive utensil and should be treated delicately as well. In addition, detergents and other washing liquids will damage your pot and among other things, you end up with a weird taste in your tea.
What are the advantages of ‘nurturing’ your pot?
1) Tea takes on a fuller flavor
As mentioned, a ‘zisha’ pot retains the flavor of past brew. Hence a well-nurtured pot will emit a faint but distinct taste even if you merely add plain water.
Naturally, when you are brewing the same tea again, it adds on to the flavor giving it a stronger taste and stronger aroma.
2) Chronicling your tea experiences
Nothing screams ‘experienced tea drinker’ like a shiny, well-nurtured ‘zisha’ pot.
You derive the satisfaction and you see and taste the results of your past brews unfolding before your eyes.
There is no short-cut round the process, experiencing and enjoying Chinese tea is a long but ultimately rewarding journey.
Just like nurturing a tea-pot.