Tea culture in Chao Zhou, province of Guang Dong China has a long history known to be the oldest form of tea art in present days.
The following is one of the local tea ware of must have when making a good cup of fabulous Phoenix Dan Cong oolong. Clay pot made of local red clay for boiling water, a little portable clay stove made to retain heat within, and the last but not the least important element is Olive pit charcoal. Rustic style, coarse texture, however works wonders!
The clay pot for boiling water is made extremely porous, water can sip through the wall slowly. When heated, vapor is visible from the outside. Water quality is significantly improved after boiled in this pot. Metal tea kettle makes flat and hard water. This clay pot makes sweet, round, full body, and soft water that greatly enhances the flavor of tea. Tea liquid slips down from tongue to throat smoothly like ice cream. The texture is so full, it makes you feel as the space between upper mouth and tongue has increased.
Portable stove is made with thick wall all around, a small opening at the bottom ensures airflow. Thick clay wall serves as an insulation layer which keeps heat within the stove, heating only the bottom of clay pot. A sliding "door" can be move left or right for control of air flow, in turn controls temperature.
Olive pit charcoal is a miracle, in my opinion at least. This is a local black olive varietal from Chao Zhou, unlike Italian Olive, it's low in oil, hence soot free when burning. These charcoal releases an aroma when burning, the aroma burns through the porous wall of clay pot, further enhances the water flavor, hence enhances tea flavor.
Tea culture of Chao Zhou is extremely comprehensive. The region not only produces the best oolong tea, its natural resources made it possible to expand tea experience beyond agricultural. The Chao Zhou Zhu Ni clay pots, the unique floral aroma of Phoenix tea, the olive trees, the wisdom and accumulated experience through out the centuries, together give us this magnificent gift of tea culture. I feel extremely lucky having such exposure and access. My own tea experience has elevated to a level where I truly feel content with what I have to make a great cup of tea. Of course, I will not stop here. My final stop would be to retire in the mountain of Phoenix for part of the year, soak in the pure mist nourishing the soil and tea trees, drink century years old tea and watch sunrise from top of the clouds.