Know Your Teaware: Yixing Clay Teapots

yixing

The last teapot we discussed is the brown betty. Today’s teapot also has a brown hue, but is very different! You may have seen these teapots in specialty tea shops and online. They are usually small, because they should be used with large amount of leaves in a small amount of water.

Yixing is a county in China, that has a special type of clay that cannot be found anywhere else. The clay has special minerals that make the teapots porous, so it absorbs the flavor of your tea. If you use one particular tea with your yixing teapot, it will ‘season’ the pot and develop a beautiful patina. It is thought that using one type of tea in a yixing will create a pot that produces an exceptionally nuanced cup of tea. The best teapots from Yixing will either be of purple stone clay (zisha) or clay made from yixing mud. They build up the essence of the tea you steep in it so you should only use one type of tea in the pot.

True yixing pots are very expensive because they are crafted by skilled artisans using true yixing clay. These days with a quick search you can find yixing teapots everywhere online. There are many that are faked, and also cheaply made. It’s of course absolutely fine to get a cheap yixing teapot, but beware if you are looking for an expensive handmade pot. There are many that are called handmade but are actually fake machine made pots. When you are buying online make sure it’s from a reputable source. If you are unsure, you shouldn’t purchase it. The best way is to examine the pot up close. Here are some important things to look for in a good yixing pot:

Check the lid: wiggle that lid around. It should fit perfectly and not move around. When you spin the lid around in the pot, it should feel smooth, and not stick or grind. It should also fit securely.

Check the inside: Look at the inside of the pot- does it look handmade? There should be evidence that it was made by hand and not through a machine or poured into a mold. You might notice slight fingerprints or dimples where fingers formed the pot. There are many good pots that are assembled with machine made pieces but finished by hand.  So try to keep an open (but critical) mind.

Check the color: Yixing pots can vary in color but they should never be shiny. If the color is too bright or shiny, it could be a painted or treated pot.

Because these pots change with every use, you can watch your pot evolve over the years. The color will slowly change, and the flavors it absorbs will enhance your tea. These pots are usually quite small, because they’re made for quick infusions with generous portions of leaves. This is the traditional Chinese gongfu way of tea preparation.

As I mentioned, you need to choose one type of tea to use in this teapot. This way you’ll properly season the pot and have a truly exceptional cup of tea. The best teas to use in a yixing are Puerh, certain oolongs, or black teas. You want to stay away from green and white teas in your yixing, the pot retains too much heat and could ruin the taste of your tea. If there is one type of oolong, puerh, or black tea that you love most, season your yixing with it, and the pot will be your teatime companion for years to come. There are many different ways to season a Yixing pot. This is the way that Kat seasoned her little pot, and she was very happy with the results.

Yixing pots date back to the 15th century! When Kat uses one of these pots she says she can feel the history in every special sip. Dearies do you use a Yixing teapot? Where did you get it? What tea do you steep in it? I’d love to learn more.

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