With great excitement last week, I purchased my first Yixing Teapot and teacups. After a great deal of research as well as conversations with Jo from YaYa House of Excellent Teas and Jason from Bearsblog, I discovered that I still have a lot to learn.
Jason sent me some great information to use as a guide when purchasing Yixing Teaware. In addition, he provided supplemental information for use as guidance to determine if previously purchased Yixing Teaware is fake or phony. I give Jason all of the credit for the remainder of this article. It is his wisdom and knowledge reflected below.
I asked the question… “How do I know if my Yixing Teaware is authentic?” To wit the response, while quite detailed, provided clear guidance…
Many pottery traditions exist in Taiwan, some homegrown, some imported from China and Japan. Beware of Taiwanese synthetic stoneware pots that resemble the classic shapes and colors of Yixing pots. These pots are not to be confused with shino/anagama pots (resemble Korean and Japanese stoneware), homegrown Taiwanese volcanic stoneware (which come in colors not similar to Yixing clay), or soft-glazed new long-quan-style celadon, which is usually sky blue, white, or green.
Taiwanese and Chaozhou clay teapots tend to look very similar. Rather than hand-building with stamp-cut patterns, most Taiwanese and nearly all Chaozhou potters wheel-throw the teapot body, resulting in many small concentric circles on the inside of the pot, much like the interior of clay kyuusu. This is probably the easiest way to tell that a pot is not yixing.
Additionally, most Chaozhou pots are heavily burnished/polished on the exterior; they look ultra-shiny, almost like they were shined with wax; this is sometimes the case with Taiwan pots, but they also come in a more matte finish. The walls of Taiwan/Chaozhou pots are much thinner than most yixing. Their red color is often similar to that of terracotta, rather than the purple-red or black-red of Yixing. Their green is darker and more synthetic in appearance than the natural green lu ni yixing clay. Often, Chaozhou pots are scraped into black relief, creating floral or dragon patterns.
Lastly, Taiwan/Chaozhou pots often have elaborate, machine-made company stamps on the bottom, often displaying small-font raised text in a big circle around the company chop, rather than the simple chinese chop stamp usually found on yixing. Yixing chops generally have sunken letters instead of raised type.
Yixing pots have thicker walls, often show signs of being scraped with wooden tools–but not concentric throwing lines–and when new contain a fine dust of quartz and mineral at the bottom of the pot. They’re generally not as burnished or shiny, but there are exceptions. Because they’re thicker-walled, they tend to weigh more.
To simplify the matter, a simple test can be conducted to aid in determining the authenticity of Yixing Teaware.
First, pour boiling water in the empty pot and then put the lid on. Next, pour boiling water over the pot. Finally, lift the pot to your nose and smell: sand clay teaware (Yixing and natural stoneware) should smell like hot rocks or hot sand. Chaozhou pots smell like earth. Taiwanese pots smell synthetic, unless made from natural stoneware clay.
This test can also be used to figure out the pour time and make other observations about the pot that can affect which tea you use it for and how you raise it. Is it airtight? Does it dribble? If it does dribble, does pouring slower or changing how you tip the pot (pour from the wrist or the elbow or both) stop the dribble? Does the water collect on the outside of the pot or lid? Dribbling can cause a seasoning stain line from the spout to the bottom of the pot. Where water collects, the seasoning will be heavier. If you want an even patina, wipe the dribble after you pour and wipe the areas where water collects over the pot with a tea-wetted towel after each use.
I am very thankful to Jason for providing this information. I officially have three new pots which I am dedicating one to my Puerhs, one to my white teas, and one to my oolongs. Or maybe one to my green teas. Definitely not my black teas as I don’t drink them as often. WOW! I can’t decided – perhaps I should order two more Yixing Teapots. Until then… Happy Tea Drinking!