Before today's main post, a few follow-up photographs relating to other threads in the Blogosphere.
1. On tea-trays
In a previous thread, we were discussing a small tea-tray, of the type suitable for use at work. Firstly for VL, a quick example of the little fellow in action, stowed in the corner of my office. This location near to my books has the great benefit that, on the frequent times that I'm enjoying a gaiwan of decent tea while about my work, it actually looks as if I'm being erudite and consulting a tome (which, of course, is far from the truth).
Taking a leaf out of your book, VL, I'm using a thermos of water to brew the tea. It's not quite hot enough for serious pu'er, but it's close - especially if your mind is elsewhere.
I recall a thread on the Pu'er Livejournal in which several readers had asked how their small bamboo trays, much like the one above, had warped and degraded through contact with water: the slats allow the water to drop directly down into a simple box area, which is bamboo on all sides, and thus warping results in leaking. My simple solution to this is... don't get it wet. Here's our approach:
It's a simple porcelain tray, that catches the drips from above. This does mean that one cannot indulge in the "fun splashies" that DogMa rightly referred to recently in the rec.food.drink.tea forum, but I tend to be conservative with my water usage while working, and the tray seldom gets more than half-full. This has the obvious advantage that the bamboo box doesn't get wet, and so should last a little longer than otherwise.
2. On the use of Evian Mineral Water
In a thread at Phyll's Adventures in Tea & Wine, the subject of "premium" mineral waters raised its Gallic head. To follow up the note about residue after using Evian, I snapped the following photograph of our gongdaobei after a single 6-infusion session:
Distinctly unpleasant. I don't like the idea of that being ingested - it looks roughly as bad as filtered local tapwater (but tastes much "higher"). What I couldn't capture in the image were the pronounced streaks of white residue dribbling down from the spout and sides - Evian is not recommended!