Sunday, July 06, 2008

Tea, Pen, and Paper

Today I enjoyed some lovely Taiwanese "Wuyi" baozhong. My notes for this tea are already posted, so I won't bother repeating myself; instead, I wanted to talk a bit about stationery.

Teapot preheating
Pouring out the preheat rinse.

I've posted pictures of pens and paper before, but I haven't really written (typed?) much about either. Writing with a good pen on thick, smooth paper is really quite fun, and is the most enjoyable way I've found to take notes while tasting. It was Hobbes who originally gave me the idea to use pen and paper instead of a computer while drinking tea. I bought a Moleskine notebook, and started logging my notes with a regular ol' ballpoint. It was a nice change of pace from typing, which was the norm during my college career.

Waterman HemisphereAfter a long chain of unrelated events, I eventually picked up my first fountain pen. It was a pretty big change; most fountain pens don't lay down the razor-fine line that ballpoints do, and they require a bit of a learning curve. One thing I learned: Moleskines feather like mad, and most fountain pen users dislike them for their low-quality paper. As soon as my lovely new Waterman Hemisphere hit that paper, the ink spread out and left a muddled, ugly, thick line. Great. Some of this was related to the pen I was using; different pens, papers, and inks have unique interactions with each other. Still, I was committed to my new pen, so I abandoned the once-beloved Moleskine and looked for better options.

Rhodia pad and Lamy VistaMy current favorite pad is made by a French company named Rhodia. Rhodia pads come in a myriad of shapes, sizes, and rulings, but most importantly, the paper is to die for. It is lusciously smooth— fountain pens glide on this stuff— and does not feather at all. Mmmm. Some other brands I like are Apica and Black and Red, but they don't make staple-bound, reporter-style notebooks with perforated pages (gosh I'm picky, aren't I?) like Rhodia does.

Lamy 2000 Nib
Lamy 2000Lamy 2000 close-up

My Lamy 2000; note the "hooded" (and messy) nib. Click on the bottom-right photo for a close-up of the makrolon texture.

But paper is only one part of the equation— what about the pen? I have a bunch of relatively cheap pens, but my two favorite pens are my Lamy 2000 (shown above) and my Lamy Vista (the clear one, two pictures up). The Vista is just a good pen, not a great one (though very good for the price), but it has an italic nib, which is a lot of fun. The 2000 is my "best" pen by far, though; it has a smooth, fine, semi-flex nib. Both italic and flexible nibs introduce attractive line variation in one's pen strokes (you can tell how they differ by the text shown with the two pens), which makes chicken scratches like mine look a little better and makes good penmanship look spectacular.

Rhodia pad
Close-up of my "improved" handwriting.

Lastly, there's ink. I have just begun to explore the immense variety of inks out there, so I don't have much to say. The two inks shown in the pictures here are Noodler brand; Ottoman Azure, the blue ink in my Vista, and Heart of Darkness, the deep black ink in my 2000. A great resource for checking out inks (not to mention pens, paper, etc.) is the Fountain Pen Network— there are tons of ink scans and reviews posted there.

Sorry for the long post! I suppose I should have split this up into a few posts, but as they say, strike while the iron's hot! Thanks for reading, this blog will return to its regular (tea) programming shortly.


Brandon said...

Congratulations on acquiring the best gong fu cup on the planet :)

Brent said...


Out of all the lovelies here, you chose to comment on the $1.50 cup? :) It is a great cup though. I didn't see it the first time I went to Daiso, but they had one left when I went back so I snapped it up.


~ Phyll said...

Hey Brent, I'm a bit of a pen lover, too. I am partial to Caran D'ache fountain pens.

A few months ago I bought a Noodler's ink (color: "Beaver", dark brown). While I like the color, it takes a long time to dry, even on good cotton paper. Are the Ottoman Azure and the Heart of Darkness quick to dry? For standard black, I use Pelikan Brilliant Black, and for regular blue, I use Caran D'ache Blue Sky.

Rhodia pads are nice to write on. Have you tried Clairfontaine notebooks/pads?

Brent said...


Heart of Darkness has an average-ish drying time, but Ottoman Azure is pretty slow. It's not as bad as I hear Noodler's x-feather inks are (I've heard those can take minutes to dry), but I wouldn't rely on Ottoman Azure for fast note-taking. It's such a lovely color, though!

Blue sky is on my list of blue inks to sample (Have you heard of Pear Tree Pens, by the way? I love their ink samplers). I have read great things about Pelikan Brilliant Black, but as I still have quite a bit of HoD to go through, it will have to wait. :)

I haven't tried Clairefontaine paper yet, as I don't really like any of the pad styles I've seen so far, but I may throw a little notebook in with an order sometime.

Thanks for the comment,


~ Phyll said...

Have you heard of Pear Tree Pens, by the way?

That's where I got my pads and inks from. I think they have a great variety of ink brands and color spectrum availability.

Lewis said...

I rather enjoyed seeing your powers of description applied to pens, papers and inks. :)

Brent said...


Yes, they have a pretty neat store. I'm surprised more companies don't do sampler packs like they do; it's kind of a no-brainer.


Powers of description, eh? I'm sure my family would be interested to hear that, as my powers of observation are pretty poor; I have gone weeks without noticing, for example, a new piece of furniture. I guess this just means I'm making everything up. :)


Anonymous said...

Well, you're a guy. You're not supposed to notice things. I bet you could describe the new piece of furniture really well if asked to, though. ;)

Anonymous said...

Ugh. That's supposed say Lewis, not Multiple Infusions. I'm still trying to figure out this OpenID / ClaimID thing.

Anonymous said...

You might be interested in the Japanese fountain pen Namiki. It comes in a choice of nib including utrafine and has a point which is retractable.

Brent said...


I have looked at some of the Namiki/Pilot capless models, and I do like them. Sadly, I can't justify buying any more pens at the moment. :)


Kaitlin said...

I love this blog. Great posts. It seems effortless and natural. A great read.

Brent said...

Thanks Kaitlin!

I wonder, though, would it be better for me to put effort into something that looks effortless, or effortlessly make something that looks like it took a great deal of effort? :)

Thanks again (also for putting up with my smart-ass response, haha),

Sie Whange said...

It is a nice blog.Congratulations on acquiring the best gong fu cup on the planet.I like green tea of China.So about some idea in this tea.

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