The 2017 Chinese Porcelain Exhibition of the Tea Institute at Penn State

Stéphane Erler has two great articles he recently published on the Tea Institute at Penn State. The first details all of the past Chinese tea exhibitions and shows how much they have grown and changed.

The second article is about the first day of this years exhibition on Chinese Porcelain. It was an amazing event, and the Institute is so thankful that Teaparker and Stéphane keep coming back to teach these esoteric topics.

The Jason M Cohen Asian Art Gallery at Penn State University

I am overjoyed to have been honored by the Tea Institute at Penn State as they announce our new new art gallery in the Chinese Tea House.

The one day I don't wear a suit....

The gallery came about because of the work of he leadership after me, particularly the 2nd Executive Director, Ryan Ahn, and the 3rd Executive Director, Zongjun Li. The two of them raised funds for the renovation of the Chinese Tea House, and included the installation of an art gallery in the new design.

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Better Beer Through AI – Podcast

This is old news at this point,
but I got interviewed back in February by the NVIDA AI Podcast on the work we’re doing at Analytical Flavor Systems.

I talk a lot about how our AI platform is now integrated deeply into new product development, and how we’re helping companies make a greater variety of niche products, which are more competitive products, which makes better products for everyone.

Give it a listen here:

Life and Work Status Update

Dear Readers,

It has been quite some time since I’ve written to you personally. As I’ve written about in the past, a small team and I have been diligently working on a startup company, Analytical Flavor Systems. I’d like to update you on how things are going and what we’re working on through the rest of this post.



Analytical Flavor Systems (AFS) has built a narrow-band artificial intelligence (AI) to quantify and predict what individuals, demographics, and populations will taste in food and beverage products. The AI is linked to the production process, allowing end-to-end optimizations in flavor profile consistency and consumer hedonic perception from raw ingredients to finished product along every step in its creation.

We (currently) work with beer, coffee, and spirits producers. We’ve also developed applications for chocolate and tea.



AFS has recently raised a new round of venture capital, and we have moved our headquarters to Manhattan, New York City. John, Emily, and Ryan, all Tea Institute Alumni, are based with me at our new headquarters.

Living in NYC has been a dream come true, with the exception taken for the lake of tea and tea education… I might have to do something about that.



For AFS, please reach out if you have an interest in the intersection of food technology, data science, and artificial intelligence for beverage manufacturing, own a beverage company, or just want to grab coffee with a founder in NYC.

For tea, I’d like to gauge interest in starting a new tea group in the city. It would be amazing to start teaching again, with a new group of tea lovers.



I am very lucky to have been this successful in my endeavors thus far; overjoyed at the continued success of the Tea Institute, and working hard to ensure the success of Analytical Flavor Systems for our clients, investors, and employees.

Luck, as they say, is 99% preparation and 1% opportunity.  I hope to do a better job of writing down what I learn and discover about tea, and to create more opportunity through connections fostered on this blog.


– Jason

Processing of Yixing Clay

The raw yixing dirt needs to be processed and refined before it can be fired into a beautiful, usable, teapot. The clay starts as a dusty, soft, colorful dirt and goes through 8 processing steps that can take up to 50 years to complete – the longer the clay is aged and rested, the higher the quality (and the less likely it is to break in the kiln from uneven shrinkage caused by impurities).

This process list only applies to higher quality yixing clay. Obviously, lower quality yixing clay (and fake or fraudulent clay) cuts corners and the aging and resting process.

The Process:

  • The clay-dirt is left out in the elements (for a long time) to dry. The particle size of the uncompressed clay is quite small, and the clay should be spread out over a wide area.
  • The drying process (and mallets) breaks down the clay into even smaller particles. This makes it easier to sift and remove impurities.
  • The Yixing continues to rest and soften for a minimum of 2+ years (usually about ~3 years).
  • The clay is dry milled into sand. (this is where the term purple sand for Zisha Yixing comes from)
  • The sand is sifted with water down to 30 microns (the laborers where respirator masks). This continues to remove impurities and pieces of yixing that haven’t broken down.
  • The artist or yixing master blends refined sands from multiple areas. The mixture is usually secret, and only passed to apprentices in their final level of training (at least in the past… the nationalization of the yixing industry changed this, and now… some yixing artists have returned to using secret blends, but how secret they are is questionable). In the past, many yixings we’re made from clay from single mine – blending was rare. Now nearly all yixing teapots are made with blended clay.
  • The clay is mixed and churned to the right consistency. Water is consistently skimmed off the top to continue removing floating impurities.
  • The clay is kneaded, hammered, and thrown into a block. It is now ready to be used for ceramics.


Remember: the clay is the single most important attribute to consider when purchasing a yixing teapot. You should be purchasing the yixing teapot for its positive affect on the flavor profile of a single type of tea – and the clay is responsible for 99% of that effect. The shape and size matter much less than the purity, quality, and firing of the clay.