Be patient therefore, teafriends, until the coming of the patina. See how the steeper waits for the precious fruit of the leaf, being patient about it, until her pot receives the early and the late rains. You also, be patient. Establish your hearts, for the coming of the patina is at hand.
Patience is a virtue, so I am told by those who have been at this game a while. Do not concern yourself with seasoning, it will come in time, and you’ll not have wasted tea trying to rush the process, they say. They have a point; consistent use of my zini shuiping has yielded (with a little buffing) a respectable shine, and attenuation of the tartness it lent to my mid-aged shengs.
But what of brother Sean, who purchased the same pot much more recently and for whom the tartness is a nugget of shit tainting an otherwise-delicious beverage? Since he’s written off his pot, I’m allowed to bugger around with it in hopes of shining it up and making it usable.
The intent here is twofold – to develop an aesthetically-pleasing exterior patina, and ensure sufficient deposition on the interior that it becomes seasoned beyond all reasonable doubt.
My process ran as follows; I can’t guarantee all steps are necessary, since I figured I’d just throw all my best guesses at it:
- Boil 10g of tea in a pot of water and strain out the leaf.
- Continue simmering the tea.
- Submerge the pot fully, holding it under until it’s hot.
- Pull it out and pour/shake off the excess liquid, allowing it to fully evaporate.
- Repeat 3-4 until the tea is reduced to a thick (but still pourable) syrup. You will need to ladle the liquid over the pot to get complete coverage as the tea reduces.
- Grab a 100% cotton cloth and dip it in the tea syrup a couple of times.
- Hit the pot and cloth with a hair-drier to remove all moisture and (perhaps) “set” the tea.
- Rub the completely-dry pot with the cloth over its entire surface.
- Rinse the pot with boiling water to remove transient stains and allow to evaporate.
- Buff the heck out of the completely-dry pot with the cloth.
The patina developed by this process almost matches the existing patina on my shuiping from 12mth of regular use – a firm success given that it took about thirty minutes. It’s worth noting that Sean’s pot smells more like tea and less like stone/clay than mine when full of wet leaf, and hangs a film of water more consistently, most likely due to more internal patina and a more-consistent accumulation than the “natural” process. I may try applying the same treatment again to both pots to see if any further improvement can be had.
I have yet to test his pot across a range of teas, but a couple of sessions with the 2004 Nanqiaowang suggests that it no longer imparts the tartness it once did. I’ll update later when I’ve tested some less-mature teas.
UPDATE: I’ve tested Sean’s pot across a range of shengs, and the tartness is almost gone. I’ve since treated my pot the same way, but taken the process until the tea liquor was as reduced as was reasonable, and it’s come up even better. The sourness is completely gone from mine, so I have little doubt that this was a matter of seasoning which should disappear completely with time.