Kingston began experimenting—with tea, water, different wares. First he brewed humble supermarket tea in several teapots and compared the results. He found that some pots suited one tea but did poorly with others.
“So I bought some books and learned about the different clay,” Kingston recalls. “And I continued comparing and started to like the experimental part. If you’re serious about tea, you should try everything. If you want to taste good tea, you must taste what’s bad. Comparison makes it obvious.”
At the same time he was exploring all the variables in the tea equation, Kingston picked up the pace of his collecting. “I started by collecting new teapots. Then I met people specializing in older Yixing ware, and it just opened the door to a whole new world. The history, the literature—it’s amazing . . . It’s a way to maintain and deepen my identity as Chinese.”
Despite the depth of his motivations, Kingston has suffered the same ills that universally beset collectors. There are stories of contemporary collectors selling houses and businesses to buy a single famous pot. While Kingston never sank to these extremes, he wryly recalls his own case of “Collector’s Disease.”