Monday, November 16, 2009

This one for distant Friends and Family

Sunday, we milked the sun for all it was worth with a few friends.  Just a very pleasant day.
 Evi and Shara, on their way to the party:…. 
Ben looks for the Tennis ball, as Ben (on all fours) walks off with it!DSC00489c
Friends and Family … Life is GoodDSC00493c DSC00498c
Shara inspects the bolt tightness, what a charmer. DSC00496c

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Reading the Tea Leaves

The new batch of TGY;  Hand Picked, Hand Process, Hand Packed and Hand Delivered. Da Xia and her family are superb craftsmen and artisans of Ti Guan Yin. The father is an amazing person that will talk endlessly about the subtleties of his craft, I only wished my understanding of their dialect (a variant of Hokkien) would let me follow him directly without translation.  His passion needs no translation.PIC-0038Dry leaves  have a dramatic appearance, Rich Full Colour, uniform shape lacking deformity, Clean, no dust or cuttings.  The rolled leaves don’t have that tight compact shape typical of machine processing.  These are hand manipulated at every step of the processing.   The Dad will explain how he can manipulate aromas and flavors from various plantings by how he he kneads the leaves in the large drying woks.DSC00461cThe texture and handling of the dry tea is a pleasure, the subtle and complex aroma only add to the anticipation of what is to come.DSC00461caThe full leaves yield their captured essence in the pot, look at the large full leaves.DSC00484cDSC00483 These examples only underscore what is possible when time is taken and care is given to the picking and processing of leaves.DSC00485c

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Auspiciously designed to please and preserve

Personal observation over the years in China, I have seen genuine improvements in the retail packaging of tea.  China has a great history of exotic, elaborate and expensive packaging for gifts.  The recent trend in Moon Cakes ( yuèbing  月饼 ) given and received as gifts during the mid-autumn festival is a classic example.

The contents remain modest and the packaging, as beautiful as it is, does naught to preserve the contents,  rather they promote the “Giver” (in their mind) providing additional status as a wealthy person capable of such an extravagant gift.   I like this festival time in China and enjoy going to the various sales outlets (mostly hotels) that try to trump their neighbors in the presentation and packaging of Moon Cakes. There is no subtlety here; hotel – large KTV – drunk businessmen – buy expensive gifts ..
On to a development that, I feel, exemplifies the ability of presentation packaging to convey all the aspects of: beauty, extravagance and practicality. Inside the  matching carry bags are the presentation Boxes.
DSC00481cWhen emptied, in themselves they don’t yield to an after use as container for collectables or Knick-knacks.
DSC00482c They are purpose built, proudly announcing  the contents and house the same.  In the RED, a set of SIX (lucky number sounds like wealth)  small tins/caddies. containing NINE  (an auspicious number, sounds like longevity) small individual tea packages. The BLUE set has THREE  (lucky, sounds like Growth-Alive)  caddies with Nine packs each
Inside each pack there lies another surprise:….
DSC00479 Inside each vacuum packed foil pouch the tea is housed in an inner clear bag.
DSC00476 All of this ties to a very harmonious gift that also serves to keep the treasured tea at its best.

Monday, November 09, 2009

Tiě guān yīn, as good as it can get

My colleague, Kevin just retuned from WuXi .. Last Wednesday he visited my friend Da Xia’s tea shop .. I came into my office Monday morning to find this cornucopia of   Tiě guān yīn chá 铁 观 音 茶
The gem in this package is the accompanying note:
“This is the gift for the coming Christmas Day. Wish you enjoy it.  Da Xia”
DaXia Despite his many visits to China /WuXi this was Kevin’s first visit: in his words “To a real China tea house, a truly memorable experience, this was with genuine people, an experience of the true China”  So much so he forgot to take pictures!!  Earlier in the day one of the folks form our Wuxi office called the shop number I had given Kevin. The number was still good, but they have moved to a new location in WuXi city. Da Xia’s little brother met them outside and guided them to the shop.  Now I can't wait to see the new place and old friends.
After thanksgiving my friend Jeff will go to Taiwan and Wuxi .. he can be my mule to take an early present to Da Xia, making tea in Dongguan shop
The tea we are talking about here is only the VERY best Fujian TGY, from Da’s family plantation.  I just had to open one of the small sampler packages sent.
DSC00461c Liquid nectar .. this I’m going to enjoy … 
DSC00462 The presentation packaging is in its self is a work of art … again thx to Kevin for bringing this back ... I seldom bring back the beautiful packaging,  just the tea. 

Saturday, November 07, 2009

Da Yu Xiao Hu, Saddleback College Art Gallery

Robbie is a registered student at our our local JC, about 7 mls for our home. This notice just came across the transom: Local name: UCLA (University California Left on Avery)

  image002Big Fish Small Pot

Da Yu Xiao Hu 4
Fourth International Small Teapot
Competition and Show  
Saddleback College Art Gallery
28000 Marguerite Parkway
Mission Viejo, California USA
Entry deadline: 11 DEC 2009
Exhibition:  11 FEB through 11 MAR 2010

Pity, a few years back we disbanded all the pottery stuff and small kiln, unfortunately we not the Tardis, and a very little, home made pottery goes a very long way ….especially with a house full of “rug-rats”

Would be an interesting challenge to attempt crafting  a couple of YiXing inspired Teapots…. Picture 018 Picture 020

Sunday, November 01, 2009

The value of a “Prototype” + update

Looking  to build a pair of small stools that will augment our tea room, I set about trying to scale them to the room, design a style that pleases, stores easily and provides comfort to the sitter.  I will incorporate  a Japanese influence to a style that I see in many of the construction sites around Dongguan …  On the job-site they double as a small work bench, step stool, flip it over and you have a cradle to bundle fire wood, a 101 uses …

Thinking in three dimensions: step one, build a prototype that approximates the end goal.  Saturday morning, Robbie is off diving with Gerald,  I enjoy a 30 min fling with some left over “Doug-Fir” 2"x6"..  cobbling  together a 1:1 scale model.

Height: 15 ½", seat length 22",  legs set at an 8º  splay angle.   Observations: it’s about:  ½" too high .. seat; 2" too long, 5 ½" (nominal width of a construction 2x6 stud) too narrow. Overall 1 ½" material is just a tad thick .. maybe sculpt a curved seat, no, in this I want horizontal flat surfaces.DSC00418 Not to worry this will be re-purposed as kindling .. cold nights approach. DSC00416Using leftover Oak and Poplar from previous projects, I fashion stool No.1 .. most likely I should have it completed mid Sunday afternoon.  The core is jointed and enjoys a squeeze.DSC00421 On to Sunday: … What design for No.2?  similar but not the same …. I’ll rummage and see what lumber is left.

A couple of hours: some finish joinery and a protective coat and we can put this one into service .DSC00425The finish of the finishing .. time to commission this “cutty stool” (colloquial humor) DSC00431By 3:30 pm No.1 is complete. This works, a design I’m comfortable with.DSC00432Unobtrusive when not in use.  Not much change in the tea set up .. Pu-erh and more Pu-erh this weekend …..DSC00433Raise your hand if you like this design.   image003 By 4:30 pm the second cutty stool is 80% jointed (had to buy some more Poplar) DSC00440 I made the stool a little wider, reduced the bulk in the legs .. creating  the desired difference but with similarity and balance .. should have it wrapped up mid-week. Both in place .. finished up on Sat 11/7.DSC00457 By the by: changed or clock back an hour, my least favorite .. dark too early!!

Definition: cutty stool (noun) (Historical Term  in Scotland)  the church seat on which an unchaste person sat while being harangued by the minister.