Electric Boiler - Clay Boiler - Gawain - Clay Pot: Roshambo

The Contestants:
Standard 100mL Porcelain Gaiwan: https://www.chawangshop.com/tea-hardware/gaiwan/white-porcelain-gong-fu-gaiwan-125cc.html
100mL Pear Shaped Clay Pot, Some seasoning: https://www.taiwanteacrafts.com/product/small-pear-shaped-purple-clay-teapot/ (note that this pot is different from the gaiwan not just in material, but also in shape and wall thickness)
Epica Electric Kettle, with 7 months daily use: https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B01G7OL9ZW/ref=oh_aui_detailpage_o04_s00?ie=UTF8&psc=1
Anata Clay Boiler, Unused: https://taiwanoolongs.com/collections/anta-pottery/products/anta-pottery-clay-boiler-black

19 Replies

First Trial – 2004 Wet Stored Raw Brick from CWS: http://jakubtomek.blogspot.com/2015/04/reggae-tea-2004-dehong-brick.html
Setup: Metal+Gawian (MG) vs. Clay+Gawian (CG) vs Clay+Clay (CC); 3g/vessel; no rinse

Round 1: 1min 30s
MG: Undrinkable; mostly disgusting storage
CG: Passable (this tea normally gets a rinse) with fullness and stronger good flavor contrasting the storage.
CC: Mostly undrinkable; less flavorful than CG, some unpleasant sourness
Sidenote: The combined lingering aftertaste was mostly pleasant, in spite of the strong storage in the initial taste.

Round 2: 1min (compressed bits have opened now)
MG: Less bad, but still hard to drink due to primarily being storage taste
CG: Nice! Just a touch of storage; mostly a full, rich flavor
CC: Sharp unpleasant bitterness, some storage, ok flavor

Round 3: 22min (pushed, obviously)
MG: Undrinkable. Storage. Bleeech.
CG: Great. Rich, chocolaty, yummy.
CC: More bad bitterness; still a touch of storage, relatively weak flavor.

Overall Winner: Clay Boiler + Gawain. No contest. Interestingly, the clay pot may not have actually removed the storage flavor, as much as it accentuated other flavors. No, I am not affiliated with Yunnan Sourcing. More trails forthcoming.

Also, note that my expectation was that CC would be best, which suggests that the results here cannot be explained by some sort of placebo effect.

Rasseru said

really that noticeable? Ok, that was very interesting

Yup. I was surprised. I was expecting a milder effect.

I think your experiment is inherently flawed since it tests a $35 yixing pot. But hypothetically speaking, I think it makes sense that clay + clay could have the least flavor since there would be the most chances of flavor absorption.

Good point Shine Magical. Maybe a different pot would preform better. In the past, I did an experiment (with a mellow raw in this case) comparing a gawain vs three different yixings. In this case, the yixings all tasted roughly the same, while the gaiwan was markedly better. The Gaiwan had more astringency, which in this particular tea was a pleasant, lively feature. Maybe some mythical forth pot would have done even better with that tea; I don’t know.

These kinds of experiments are right up my alley! The interaction between tea and different materials are profoundly different sometimes. There are no universally best drewing device, it all depends on the tea.

The only thing I am missing from your test is obviously MC (metal + clay).

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Second Trial – 2009 Yongde Da Xue Shan Raw from Finepuer: https://teadb.org/2009-yongde-daxueshan/

Setup: Identical to the First Trial, with the change that El Cheapo Pot was exchanged for Le Fancy Pot – https://www.teachat.com/viewtopic.php?f=70&t=21290 (Le Fancy Pot does not get fed stanky teas, but El Cheapo Pot happily attempts to wrestle with them).

This tea is far fancier that the first tea, so there is no need to microcomment over the sub-rounds, as there is no funk to leave over the successive brews. Actually, my first thought on sipping MG was “now that’s the stuff”; mellow (but not weak!), powdery, obvious immediate qi, dried fruit, clear hou yun (throatfeel). There was some mild difference between the three, but all were good. The MG had a touch of dryness, and was the least flavorful, but not in an unpleasant way. CG had some pleasant bitterness throughout, while CC had none without an obvious loss in flavor. I think the real winner in this trial was the tea, but if you wanted to be picky you could say CC > CG > MG.

Rasseru said

Interesting again.

Seems this is on a per-tea basis,but the clay pot hasn’t been badly matched with the tea (so far), but the brewing vessel could be changed depending on if the tea suited it.

Yeah, it seems the Clay Boiler is adding some “Oomph” to the tea’s flavor, which may be crucial if you need to mask a flaw like funk, but not so much if the tea is “clean”. Brewing vesel success looks more variable.

Rasseru said

Got any dancong that has a strong bitterness? i’d love to know if that part can be controlled better. I have some nice stuff but it goes wayyyy off the mark into not-so-good bitter territory quite quickly.

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Third Trial – 2014 Spring “Wu Dong Shan Dan Cong” from Yunnan Sourcing: https://yunnansourcing.com/collections/dan-cong-oolong-tea/products/2014-spring-wu-dong-shan-dan-cong-premium-oolong-tea

There was a request for dancong, and this is one that I have on hand. I can’t remember if it can become bitter per say, but I remember that you wouldn’t want to over-brew it. Of course, time may have mellowed out this tea; we’ll see. In the spirit both of finishing off the bag and pushing the tea, I’ve gone with 4.9 grams per vessel. We’ve got some bottom of the bag broken up bits/fannings to strengthen things up as well. Le Fancy Pot continues to report for duty.

Round 1: 45sec (Unlike our previous trials, there are no chunks to open up)
MG: A bit dry, some puckering; thick; bitterness throughout the taste, of the pleasant variety.
CG: Bitterness is only noticed when the brew reaches the throat, like a puer; the bitterness is more pronounced.
CC: Softer; practically devoid of bitterness, Interesting flavor shift when the brew hits the throat.

Round 2: 1min
MG: No bitterness, still a bit dry.
CG: Still bitter at the throat, in a good licorice-like fashion
CC: Soft; some bitter in the throat, along with a baked bread-like taste
Sidenote: Really feeling the energy here

Round 3: 1min 15s
MG: No bitterness, still a bit dry.
CG: Still bitter
CC: Still softer; no bitterness

Rasseru said

Nice one, thanks for that! looks like its worth it for serious brewing of fussier teas

Sure seems that way. Of course, your results may vary.

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I would like to try a clay kettle, but I am too reliant on the ease of my metal kettle’s temp controls.

I can see that. Personally, I rarely brew greens, and hit everything else with boiling water. I prefer my teas on the stronger side of things, so if a tea can’t handle boiling water, then I’m generally not as interested in it.

Yeah. I drink greens about 15% of the time, but that is still a good amount over the course of a year. There’s also still something nice about testing an oolong in a gaiwan at 190F before putting it in a yixing with boiling water.

Perhaps there is a setup that would allow for a clay kettle to heat water to a certain temp? Something like those flat warmer plates perhaps.

t-curious said

I’ve never used one of these, nor advocating for this particular model but an induction burner might work:


But according to this link clay doesn’t work with induction:


You could pour into a fairness pitcher first. I’m not certain what the net temp change would be, but it should lower it a bit.

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