Zeitzeugen

A while back on a bicycle tour around the Dingshan area whilst [re]searching zisha clay and clay related items near here
Yixing ceramics city signwe came across a lot of “old stuff” as some might call it. I call it Zeitzeugen.

mill stoneNot many of those old mill stones are still in operation these days as heavier machinery took over, so most of them seem to have found their way here somehow. Not all of the stones in the pictures below would have been used to crush clay rocks but some where also popular for food and all other kinds of things that could be crushed with some benefit.

For the occasional private moonlight clay sourcing on HuangLongShan some seem to occupy themselves with mill stones like above might still be used today. Privately. Like on Facebook

2011 Yixing HongCha – homemade

For all of you who ever wanted to know how to make some homemade HongCha I’ll share today how it’s done. Well, in principle at least, improvements pending. 😉
What you need first is to find some tea-plants at the right time of year where you can pick without getting into trouble. Either be it your own plants, wild ones or an abandoned tea field like this one:


and you start picking

and some more

take some water and a big hat, as it can get hot and if you convince your pregnant wife and mom and grandma to pick too

you’ll end up with an respectable amount in no time

Although for simple HongCha less equipment is needed than for various green tea varieties, still a lot of manual work is to be done (if you don’t have any machines or want it handmade anyways).

After you placed the tea you just picked in the sun for a while to soften the leaves, otherwise they’ll break in the next step, you start massaging them gently.

The softer the leaves get, the harder you can squeeze them

and still some more, as grandma said if the back of your hand doesn’t get wet, it’s not enough.

Please mind this way your hands are likely to get very stained and you’ll have to live with brownish-yellow hands for a while. I didn’t mind, but be warned!

When you’re done, it all goes in an airtight vessel and is being left alone in a warm place until the tea itself starts to produce some fermentation heat. You’ll feel the bowl getting warmer to roughly know when its ready.

You can of course vary the time you massage the leaves and the time you ferment them according to your taste and desired outcome. If you like your tea stronger, massage more. If you like it to produce more infusions, massage a bit less. Just experiment a bit to find out what you like.

The batch in the next picture is a bit on the oolong side and produces a lot of infusions.
Out it comes, to dry in the sun

until it looks like this

and then you store it in a fancy jar if you have oneor in a plastic bag in the fridge or wherever you usually like your tea stored. Like on Facebook

chance find

This afternoon we went to visit grandma and buy some fruit in the market and since an acquaintance asked me to see if I could get him a gaiwan I also had a look around the pottery shops nearby. Because they do mostly sell Yixing clay products I had no luck today finding any jindezhen I was looking for, but i saw some beautiful things.

little yixing pots

little yixing potsI placed them on a 10元 note just for size comparison, they are of course not available anywhere near that range. Despite their dirty appearance and imperfections they where locked away in a cabinet and I could not have them on my available fruit budget… or on an impulse buy budget at all for that matter.

In a shop next door I found some pots made more recently:

little yixing pots, new little yixing pots, new little yixing pots, new

unsurprisingly, also over my fruit budget. Like on Facebook

wild tea

It’s QingMing 2011 and we went out to have some fun. We visited a water-reservoir and walked around enjoying the sunshine. All in all a nice day already, but on our way back I was thinking about tea. To have been at Chái Lín Jūn’s 2011 harvest was already very exiting, and having stashed away some of his pre-qingming BiLuoChun for myself even more, but today … that was something different!

We stopped on the side of the road, just about 10km or so from DingShan and went up a hillside into the forest to see if we get lucky. Guess what, we did!

Did you notice the little plant near the path?

few steps further in a bigger one already, and yes, indeed, they are wild tea plants.

and more… 🙂

We intended to find some wild tea when we entered the forest, but I would have never thought it’d be so easy.

so we started picking of course.

and the leaves we found where fine. Very fine.

It was already past our usual lunchtime and we didn’t have too much time to spend, but within an hour we managed to pick this much.

Back home I had to figure out what to do with all the goodness, and so I gave it a go. My first time homemade tea. In theory I do of course know how it’s done and I have also seen it being done live but doing it myself at home was a first. Now, where to start? Shāqīng of course, to stop the leaves from oxidizing any further. That one is not too hard actually. Just in the dry wok, …..

…. and there we go.

Now after that was done, how to proceed without equipment?

Blow-Hairdryer and a kitchen strainer? … not really. I started to activate my mad MacGyver skills and invented.

I was a bit worried that the sticky-tape will give out some smell and ruin the tea, but luckily those worries where unfounded.

And in a box it went. Not all that much, so this time I can’t share any, but I am already planning to cycle out again in the next few days and pick some more. The result of my first attempt at making green tea closeup looks like this:

I handled the leaves a bit too rough I feel but all in all I’m rather pleased with myself.

THE SMELL, THE AROMA! Not that bad for a first timer.

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