by Cassandra Vincent
As this is a section of tea with deep history, specific materials and methods the choosing of a teapot can feel overwhelming. I felt that just deciding to start was better than getting lost in the details completely. So I am learning as I go and sharing that experience with you. Join me down the rabbit hole, luvvies!
I ordered my first Yixing teapot from a Chinese vendor online, but I admit that I am not familiar with the artist’s stamp (which appears on the bottom of the teapot) nor have I been able to verify its authenticity. To my knowledge, the clays in modern Yixing teapots are often mixed, called Pingni, blending natural clays (Yixing earth clay and zisha clay) and even artificial colors. Some pots touted as Yixing have very little Yixing clay in the mix and may even include lead.
I suggest that you do your research if that concerns you and be as informed a consumer as you can be in this aspect of tea culture. Price is an indicating factor and the range is wide. I’ve seen these teapots everywhere from $10 to thousands for vintage ones or those from famous artists. I even saw some being sold online that were from a discovered shipwreck dating back to the 1800s.
You have many options on what to spend and where to purchase. If you have a local tea shop that sells Yixing teapots ask them for more information on the pots they sell prior to purchase.
I stopped by Wing Hop Fung recently. They have displays of Yixing teapots with placards including details on some of the artists. The placards were entirely in Chinese though so you may need to bring a Mandarin-reading friend with you on your Yixing teapot shopping trip if you, like me, cannot read Chinese.
The teapot I ordered online was a fanciful dragon teapot with a dark purplish-brown colour. I noticed this tone was referred to as ‘black’ in other places.
There are many variations in color of Yixing teapots. Plain Yixing earth-clay is white while zisha comes in a variety of colors, though artificial colorants are also used. Even the temperature of firing will affect the color. The high-temp fired ones I have seen look brighter. Low fired, rougher textured, darker pots often using inferior clay are said to be better for the dark teas like black and puerh. Higher temperature firing of finer clay is touted as best for the less processed tea categories like oolong, green and white.
These teapots tend to be smaller and designed for gong fu style tea (aka kung fu or gongfu) steeping where more leaves are used in a smaller amount of water than in Western style steeping. In this style steeps tend to be short, like a 10 second initial steep for example.
With gong fu in a Yixing teapot you can enjoy multiple steepings of good quality tea where the flavor evolves pot after pot. The leaves release their character gradually as the pot absorbs more and more of the tea’s essence.
I encourage you to check your local tea shops, trusted online vendors or even just find a teapot that makes you smile when you look upon it and begin this satisfying journey. I look forward to sharing more posts on Yixing as my experience unfolds. Check out my first post on Yixing for curing and basic info and feel free to share it and share your Yixing experience with us on Facebook and Twitter.
Note: The non-Tea Deviant links in this post are not affiliate links and this is not a sponsored post. These links are included because I feel they support the further understanding and exploration of the subject in this case.
by Cassandra Vincent
I have my first of what I hope to be many yixing teapots and I am eager to share what I am learning. The experience and detail of what it is to have tea in a yixing teapot is complex and ever-evolving for many reasons. Let’s start with a base: Yixing is an area in eastern China and the clay for yixing teapots, if they are authentic, is mined there. Zisha is the purple clay used for yixing teapots, though in the end they can appear anywhere from yellow to green to terra cotta to brown to deep purple (what?! ). This zisha clay is special in that it is porous and holds heat well. Therefore the oils of the tea brewed in a yixing teapot leave behind some of their essence and, over time, the pot becomes infused with more and more tea flavor such that it is an ever changing experience to drink from it. Very unique. Very cool. This is one of the reasons it is common to dedicate a particular yixing teapot to a particular tea or at least a particular category of tea i.e. “I will only drink oolongs from this teapot”(I don’t think you need to make a solemn vow as such. Just whatever pact between you and your pot that works for you).
The teapot is to be cured before use, kind of like a cast iron skillet, but the teapot is cured with water and tea not oil. It is a bit of a process dipping into boiling water first then steeping in tea, but as a yixing teapot is something to be enjoyed for years to come, for the tea drinker this ‘ceremony’ can be a fun one. I found multiple resources on curing yixing teapots, with minor variations to each so I did a blend of what felt best:
Some important points:
Another conclusion I came to was not to use any flavoured teas – there is such a range of quality with these and not all use natural flavourings that I am inclined to just plain leave them out. I am dedicating my first pot to the oolong category (no flavoured ones) but not one particular oolong tea. Perhaps I will save that for later in my tea journey when I discover one I feel so passionate about.
This is just the beginning of what is a deep aspect of tea with a long history. I’ll be doing a series of posts on my exploration of the yixing tea experience because it is so deliciously detailed. Grab a pot of your favourite tea and join me. If you have a yixing pot you love, share a picture of it with us on Twitter, Facebook or Pinterest. Cheers!
All Classic Tea Flavored And Funky For Love Of Tea Herbs Infusions Lifestyle And Health Recipes And Uses Specialty Tea Brands Spices Tea Accessories Tea Adjacent Tea And... Tea And A Laugh Tea And Art Tea And Holidays Tea And Music Series Tea And TV Tea Around The World Tea Cocktails Tea Events Tea In Film Tea In History Tea Innovations Tea Pros Tea Shops/Shops With Tea Tea Types Teaware