Our Tea Blog | Camellia Sinensis


Tokoname, Aichi Prefecture, Japan

24 May 2013

at 15:09 by Seb

A piece from M.Murata

On a lovely afternoon in May we arrive in Tokoname, the peaceful coastal town that specializes in the traditional artisanal craft of Kyusu teapots. In the schedule, to visit some pottery workshops for more insight into the different manufacturing techniques of teapots and the  typical firing methods in the region, the ‘mogake’ technique used to obtain an organic decoration made with seaweed from the Tokoname shoreline, and the ‘yohen’ method from which come the famous pieces of two contrasting colours, orange red to coal black.

Mr. Yoshiki Murata is one of the potters that we had the chance to meet. He has 30 years of experience in the field and in his spare time, he likes to experiment with different kinds of clays, shapes and firings. He also exercises to develop the strength he needs to do his job and to avoid being too slim: what a character! When we visited his studio, he had just completed a one week firing in a traditional wood oven for fun and showed us the results. Fascinating, each piece a universe in itself. The ash which is deposited throughout the firing becomes vitrified forming a partial glaze where different colours appear on the pieces depending on the minerals in the clay and in the wood species used in firing. Out of curiosity, we asked what might the price be for a piece derived from such a long firing, and had to simply dream about taking them home: a few thousand dollars per piece!

M.Yoshiki Murata in demonstration!

Besides his many explorations, Mr. Murata specializes in turning small teapots with various shapes and colours and of extraordinary refinement. To fashion his pieces, he uses a local stoneware clay containing high levels of iron to which he adds a pigment that also contains high levels of iron, which is called ‘Bengara’. It is this pigment which gives the beautiful orange red colour  typical of Tokoname ceramics

The pieces are subjected to two firings in an electric kiln. A first at high temperature to vitrify the clay, at 1150 ° C, and a second at 800 ° C for the decoration technique with seaweed (mogake) or the primitive method done with smoke firing husks of rice grains (yohen). For both techniques, low temperature is required.

Kyusu teapots are particular in not being  enamelled so the wall is very slightly porous and can enhance infusions over time. Mr. Murata recommends black teapots for dark teas and predominantly orange red teapots for lighter teas. We will soon have some Kyusu from Mr. Murata, pass by one of our shops to see the pieces fresh from the shores of the Sea of Japan.

Bringing the Freshness Home 2013

13 May 2013

at 21:59 by Seb

Le Darjeeling Jungapa DJ-20 choisi à la source.

This weekend, in each of our stores, we hosted the first tasting event of the Spring Teas 2013 series.  Clients flocked in to taste the fresh Darjeelings.

We had advertized the events through the website, with print media, posters and social media.  Everything had been carefully planned and we were all ready to put the kettles on Saturday morning to impress the crowd with the first teas of the new harvest we had selected for our catalogue in Asia this Spring.  All we were missing were the teas!

The previous weekend, the Darjeelings had still not left the gardens and after a week of transport strike and power cuts the tension was beginning to mount  Once they made it to Kolkata they were shipped on, travelling by plane through Dubai and then Paris where they were delayed yet another day before taking the Paris flight to Montreal.  With little time left they arrived in Canada on Thursday afternoon where they still had to clear customs.

Robert at BGL, our trusty customs brokers,  remained very patient as I called for regular updates (thanks Robert!) At last he reported: ‘They are through customs and will be with you tomorrow’ .

On Friday afternoon when the teas finally arrived, the super team in the warehouse were all set up, bags printed and boxes at the ready (thanks super team!) They unpacked the teas and rapidly prepared the thematic tasting kits for each store,

At five o’clock on Friday Jean-Philippe, our warehouse manager, screeched up in a taxi and delivered the teas personally to the Emery store then put the Québec store teas on the bus where they were picked up early Saturday morning by the staff before the shift. Though it reminded me of the romantic excitement of the Clippers racing around the planet to bring the new teas, at the time it felt more like an episode of 24 Hours!!

On Saturday morning the clients arrived, drawn to taste the freshness.  As the divine liquors charmed their senses and tingled their neurons in the calmness of our stores, they had no idea of the frantic series of events that had made it possible.

In the tea world we often discuss the relationship between stress and flavour profile and I can vouch that that day the new Darjeelings tasted particularly special to me……


Join us for our upcoming thematic Tasting Events and Tasting Kits in our stores and online……

Shou Pu Er reinvented!

6 May 2013

at 16:42 by Seb

Mr.Chan showing us the fermentation process

Developments in the Pu Er market in Hong Kong have had a strong influence in the creation of a new way of producing tea with healthy digestive properties ideal for the restaurant industry, the “shou” process. Since the 1970s, this type of Pu Er is produced by accelerated fermentation making it possible to supply an increasing demand. Though this tea, manufactured for daily consumption, does not raise that much interest among collectors of great teas, there are nonetheless shou Pu Er of exceptional quality.

Our recent visit to Yunnan gave us the chance to see the attention given, by some producers, to the different quality criteria for producing this tea. Consequently our selection will soon include a Pu Er from a plantation of tea about fifty years old, located at over 1,800 meters on the Bada mountain. Cake enthusiasts can also satisfy their collector ambitions with a Pu Er from old tea trees from the Bulang Mountains.

The meeting with Mr Chan, source of inspiration and expertise, was even more instructive in providing us some clarifications on the “shou” process, cornerstone of the characteristic taste of this type of tea. We had the honour to visit his warehouse and the fermentation room. Mr Chan was particularly pleased with the improvements introduced in his new spaces significantly increasing the quality of the final product. Better ventilation and a porous floor, limiting the excess moisture, making a more pleasant sensory environment. The smell of the leaves after only ten days of fermentation offered fruity nuances reminiscent the fragrance of certain Chinese wulongs. Hopefully our interest in these teas from the front line is echoed among those seeking new teas!


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