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Posts Tagged ‘Yixing’

Several months ago, I set out on a journey to purchase Yixing Teapots. I initially found myself unable to make a decision. Selecting and purchasing Yixing teaware did not appear as simple as going to the local department store and buying a five-piece place setting by Mikasa.  Calphalon cookware.  Or glassware from William Sonoma. All of these are brand names that I know and love.

But Yixing Teaware? I was at a total loss – style, pricing, size, etc. Where does one begin? I also became dazed when I read and/or received additional information about – pour, authenticity, seasoning and more. It seemed like a certain level of expertise was required, that mind you I did not have, to simply select a teapot.

Thanks to several of my readers, I received the guidance I needed and soon after became the proud owner of three Yixing teapots and four cups. For the time being, my Yixing journey was put to rest. That is until recently, when I received a comment from a Yixing importer and seller containing additional guidance around pricing. I found the information very helpful to assist with future purchases. Thus instead of leaving as a comment, I have turned the expert’s advice into a post. I do hope you find the insight useful as you prepare to purchase Yixing Teaware. Take a look at what Jane, the proprietor of Necessiteas, has to say about Yixing pricing differences…

“Yixing teapots are functional art. Of course there can be fake Yixing pots (non zhi sha clay) but assuming the teapots are real, there are several factors that affect the price of a teapot. In the price range of $10.00-$100.00 these are some of the variables. One is the usefulness of the pot. Before I price a pot, I check the pour and lid. If there are drips from the spout or the lid fits poorly than the teapot is going to sell for a lower price. Another factor is the finish. If the finish is fine and smooth it will fetch a higher price. Red Zhu Ni ( one type of Zhi sha) clay will fetch a higher price. This clay provides a nice sheen on the surface of the pot. These pots are often small and often reserved for Gong fu or cermonial tea. The design of the pot is also a factor. Some are just more appealing than others to US buyers.

Once you get into the higher priced pots, the talent and the reputation of the artist will set the price. A pot created by someone without a craftsman designation may be beautiful, but generally will not garner a higher price. Among the artists, there is no shame in copying a master’s work. So you may see two pots that look very similar and one will be priced at $20.00 and the other at $20,000. A higher priced pot that is made by a contemporary artist will almost always come with a certificate of authenticity.

So, there isn’t necessarily anything wrong with lower priced Yixing teapots. They are great for everyday use. The higher priced pots tend to be more for collectors than for everyday use. It’s really a matter of personal preference.”

I have fallen in love with my Yixing teapots. While not a collector, I look forward to acquiring more. They are beautiful pieces of functional art whose beauty adds something special to every use. Thanks again Jane for sharing.

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In response to my question about seasoning techniques for Yixing Teapots, I was pleasantly surprised by a comment left by one of my readers. In an earlier blog post entitled “Seasoning Your Yixing“, I listed several techniques found via Internet research. Since that time, I received various responses that have been helpful and full of insight. 

Jo, the proprietor of YaYa House of Excellent Teas, provided another seasoning technique as well as some additional tips. I hope these posts are useful resources for other Yixing Teaware newbies like myself.

“On a basic level, all of the mentioned methods (in my prior post – Seasoning Your Yixing) do the same:
– rinse teapot to remove dust
– fill with tea and let sit for a while (or submerge the whole pot in tea)
– rinse and let dry

The main difference is in time and whether to submerge the whole teapot or only season the inside.

I’ve seasoned quite a few yixing pots over the years and believe, the pot should definitely be submerged in tea for a longish (1 hour to overnight) time. When people speak about seasoning and patina, not only the inside but also the outside of the teapot is important. I’d also recommend to use an old toothbrush to clean out dust particles from the inside.

My steps usually are:

  1. Place new yixing pot into a pot of cold water ((take lid off the pot and place in pot separately).
  2. Bring to a boil and simmer for 10 minutes.
  3. Remove yixing pot and lid from pot, rinse with warm water and scrub with toothbrush.
  4. Place teapot plus lid in a pot of fresh cold water and bring to a boil.
  5. Remove yixing pot from water.
  6. Add a decent amount of tea leaves into pot and put back in hot water (some of them will float out, most will stay in pot).
  7. Simmer for about 1 hour.
  8. Let yixing sit in pot over night.
  9. Remove all tea leaves (you might need to rinse with the tea from the big pot) and let the open yixing dry out of direct sunlight (note that I DON’T rinse the pot with water!)

At the end, most of the patina comes from frequent use. There’s different approaches to creating an even patina, but I usually don’t use just water on my teapots except to preheat before brewing tea. After a gong fu session, I brew an extra infusion that I use to clean the teapot with. I pour this infusion off into a faircup, then remove all leaves I can and rinse the inside of the yixing with some of the infusion to remove the rest of the leaves. If I want to build up a patina quickly, I rinse the outside of the teapot with the rest of the infusion, rubbing it in my hands to spread the tea over the whole surface of the teapot. This way, you can create a nice patina in about 2 month time for teapots you use 3-4 times a week.

Keep in mind, there’s no science to this. As long as you clean your teapot and give it an initial seasoning with tea (whichever way you chose to use), you should be on your way.”

Thanks again Jo, for sharing your knowledge.

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Now that I am a proud owner of Yixing Teaware, I felt it important to learn more about these precious, handcrafted teapots. In preparation of the first use, I thought it important to determine if the teapots required special care. I must admit, albeit a little sheepishly, that in my excitement I used one of my new teapots prior to conducting the research. (I refuse to admit which one.) After conducting my research, I found on three different websites (Yixing.com, WikiHow, and Culinary Teas) that it is important to “season” Yixing Teaware prior to using.

There seems to be three main techniques for used for seasoning Yixing Teaware. While I am tempted to use the easier of the four, I have opted to use the technique that appeared most frequently on various websites. My findings are listed below:

Method One

  1. Fill the teapot with boiling water and allow it to sit for ten minutes.
  2. Drain the water.
  3. Fill the pot with boiling water again and add one teaspoon of your favorite loose tea leaves. Remember, this should be the type of tea you will use this pot for. Allow to sit for ten minutes.
  4. Drain the tea. Now your pot is ready for use.

Method Two

  1. Pre-heat your Yixing teapot by filling it with hot water and then draining it.
  2. Place one teaspoon of loose tea into the preheated Yixing teapot.
  3. Fill with hot water and wait for at least one minute.
  4. Enjoy your tea either by pouring it into a cup or by drinking directly from the Yixing teapot, which is the traditional way of using it.
  5. Take the lid off the teapot and place the pieces in a vessel large enough to cover the pieces with water.
  6. Place some tea leaves in the water and bring to a slow boil (rapid boiling could damage your pot). Slow boil for an hour.
  7. Remove from the heat and let the pot remain in the water for twenty four hours.
  8. Remove the pot from the water and rinse well.
  9. Put the teapot back into the larger vessel and bring it to a slow boil again for an hour.
  10. Remove from heat and let it cool down again in the same tea water. The next day remove the teapot and rinse it in hot water. It is now ready to use.

Method Three 

  1. Pre-heat your Yixing teapot by filling it with hot water and then draining it.
  2. Place one teaspoon of loose tea into the preheated Yixing teapot.
  3. Fill with hot water and wait for at least one minute.
  4. Enjoy your tea either by pouring it into a cup or by drinking directly from the Yixing teapot, which is the traditional way of using it. 

Method 4 – The Gerenda Method

  1. Gather together 1 large water pot (the kind one uses to boil water for spaghetti), tongs, paper towels, 3-5 liters of a pure mineral water or filtered water, plastic wrap, the tea destined for your pot.
  2. Gently rinse any manufacturing dust/residue from the inside of your Yixing ware with cold water. Then, with dry paper towels wipe out the inside of your Yixing ware to make sure you get all the dust/residue. If not, this is a very unpleasant taste.
  3. Bring 3-5 liters of water to a rolling boil. The amount of water depends on the size of the teapot. You want to make sure that the amount of water is enough to completely submerse your teapot, tea set, or other Yixing ware.
  4. Cut the heat immediately after the water comes to a boil. Add 3-5 teaspoons of tea to the water, and let steep for 10 minutes. After ten minutes, with the tongs, ever so gently submerse your Yixing ware into the brew.
  5. Let stand for at least 30 minutes, or until the heat from the water pot is no longer a danger. Then wrap the top of the pot with plastic wrap to “seal” the pot. The curing process lasts exactly one week from the day of submersion. Check on the Yixing ware periodically throughout the week.
  6. Gently remove your Yixing ware from the pot and rinse with cold water on the seventh day. Never use soaps of any kind on your Yixing ware.
  7. Allow pot to dry completely. Now your Yixing ware is completely cured and ready for use!
If you are knowledgeable about Yixing Teaware and have utilized one or all of the seasoning methods listed above, please stop by and comment. I am interested in knowing which technique worked best for you. Additionally, what were the determining factors that helped you decided which method was better than another. Finally, if you utilizing a different process/technique for seasoning your Yixing Teaware, please stop by and share your technique and why you think it is the best. Until then… Happy Tea Drinking!
References:
1. http://www.yixing.com/teapotinfo.html
2. http://www.wikihow.com/Season-a-Yixing-Teapot
3. http://www.culinaryteas.com/Seasoning-Yixing.html

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I am quite embarrassed that it took me almost a month to post pictures of my beloved new Yixing Teapots. Nevertheless, I wanted to share pictures of these little gems. I must admit that at this time I think I am more enamored with how adorable they are than I probably should be. That is once I got over the initial shock of how small individual serve Yixing Teapots really are.

My teapots were purchased from Necessiteas, just click on the name to access the website. “Necessiteas is a small company that believes in the beauty of yixing teapots as well as the enjoyment and health benefits of tea.” I found the company very easy to work with and would certainly purchase more teapots from them in the future. I had such a difficult time deciding on a teapot considering there was a large variety to choose from. Once my decision was made, I even purchased the most delicate looking cups.

Take a look at my purchases:

Temple Teapot

To the left is the Temple Teapot. As seen in the picture, this teapot has a seperate infuser in addition to the strainer in the spout. A forest is etched into the front of this Yixing Teapot, while the back contains Chinese characters. This pot holds 7 ounces.

I have decided to use this pot for oolong teas. During the first brew, I noticed the lid dribbles down the spout when pouring.  As recommended, I tried to pour at slightly different angles with little success at curbing the dribble.

In the picture to the right, you can see the Chinese characters spoken about above more clearly. (I love the color of this teapot.)

I had so much fun during my first brewing experience. Feeling just like a kid in a candy store, this was the first teapot of the three that I decided to use. Too bad I didn’t have anyone to share this tea experience with.

I wanted to drink out of my little teacups with a friend who loves tea as much as I do. Okay, even half as much would do.

Now, on to my next Yixing Teapot…

Four Pictures Teapot

This little teapot was an unexpected find. It is the smallest of the three teapots, but so much fun to look at over and over again.

When brewing I did not experience any dribbles from the lid or spout. As the smallest of the pots, I dedicated its use to green tea. Of all the teas I drink, green tea is probably the one I drink the least. This is not to mean that I do not drink a significant amount – especially with my recent Green Tea Sampler purchase.

The Four Pictures Yixing Teapot holds 6 ounces.

Basket Teapot

The last teapot in my new Yixing Teapot “collection” is the Basket Teapot. I immediately loved the intricate design of this pot as seen in the picture to the right. While I have been duly 

warned that intricate designs impact the natural patina that occurs with continued use, I purchased this pot anyway.

After much deliberation, I decided to use this teapot when brewing white teas. I tend to brew more Oolong and White tea then all of the other teas I enjoy drinking, hence the bigger pot designations. This pot holds approximately 7.5 ounces.

When brewing and pouring, I found that this pot had no dribbles at all. It is such a fun teapot to brew my tea.

You’ve seen my fun purchases – what do you think?

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Many of you “agonized” with me during my journey to purchase a Yixing Teapot. As my first Yixing teaware purchase it was fraught with many unexpected dilemmas. Nothing serious, just a tea lover stumbling over her own lack of knowledge while on a quest to find the perfect teapot. I was once again reminded that there is yet still much to learn about the world of tea.

In my search for knowledge, I came across an excellent article, Ritualizing the Habit, Part One – Teapots: Yixing, Gaiwan, Kyusu and Co. on Ya-Ya’s Teaboard. I have included an excerpt of the article for your learning pleasure: 

With this mini-series Ritualizing the habit, I intend to give a brief and practical overview of some of the basic utensils used in tea preparation.

In part one, I will focus on the most important accessory for tea preparation: the teapot. Without delving too deep into the specifics of materials, etc., I’ll explain the general use, benefits and limitations, as well as give some recommendations regarding practical sizes of some common teapot types.

This article includes a lot of great information on the types of teapots used for various types of tea brewing. I would be remiss for not sharing the knowledge.  For the full story…

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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!

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Yes, I am still searching for the perfect Yixing Teapot. However, after my last post, I feel much more equipped to make an informed purchase. This is due the email I received from Jo, the proprietor of YaYa House of Excellent Teas in New Zealand as well as additional research.

Jo shared some advice from her vast wealth of tea knowledge. Many of my concerns about purchasing Yixing teaware were put to rest. First and foremost, I narrowed my concerns down to the following five questions:

1. What is my purpose for purchasing Yixing Teaware? My initial desire to purchase Yixing Teaware was created out of my love for learning – Yixing Teaware comprises traditional teapots and cups made from Yixing clay. Originating in China, Yixing Teaware dates back to the 15th century and is made from clay produced in the region of the town of Yixing, in the eastern Chinese province of Jiangsu. As a true lover of tea – how could I not be interested in the origins of my habit? Next the opportunity to partake in a traditional tea brewing technique – Gongfu style brewing. And finally, to behold the beauty – Yixing Teaware is made by artists… craftsman with each pot containing unique characteristics of its own.

2. How many people people will join in my tea drinking experience? I tend to drink tea alone therefore, I don’t need a large pot. My first mistake, according to Jo, was in the selection of a pot that was entirely too large for Gongfu style brewing. There are a few variations of the performance of Gongfu style brewing. Here is one known technique:

  • Boil water.
  • Rinse the teapot with hot water.
  • Fill the teapot with tea leaves up to one third of the height of the pot.
  • Rinse the tea leaves by filling the pot with hot water up to half full and draining the water immediately leaving only tea leaves behind. (This step, and all subsequent steps involving pouring water, should be performed in a large bowl to catch any overflow.)
  • Pour more hot water into the teapot and pour water over the teapot in the large bowl. Bubbles should not be permitted to be formed in the teapot. The infusion should not be steeped for too long: 30 seconds is an appropriate maximum.
  • Pour the first infusion into small serving cups within a minute by continuously moving the teapot around over the cups. Each cup of tea is expected to have the same flavour, aroma and colour. The nature of this procedure almost mandates the use of some form of drip tray to catch further spillage.
  • Pour excess tea from the first infusion, and all tea from further infusions, into a second teapot after steeping. It is possible to draw five or six good infusions from a single pot of tea, but subsequent infusions must be extended somewhat in duration to extract maximum flavour: the second infusion extended by approximately ten seconds to 40 seconds, the third extended to 45, etc.
Even if I were brewing for multiple people traditional Yixing Teaware uses small 2 – 4 ounce teacups. With this in mind, Jo recommended a teapot with the capacity to hold no more than 6 to 8 ounces. In addition, when brewing, the tea leaves are poured directly into the pot. It would take a lot of tea leaves to brew a 12, 24, or 32 ounce pot of tea. Not to mention expensive.

3. What types of tea do I brew most often? Yixing teapots are meant for use with black and oolong teas, as well as aged puerh tea. You can also brew green/white tea, but it is important to let the water cool down to around 85 degrees before pouring the water into the pot. Why does the type of tea matter?  Since the clay is porous, it is best to utilize one pot for a particular tea or tea group, depending on your personal preference and intention. The fine texture and porous finish allows each vessel to absorb the essence of the teas brewed within creating a character and uniqueness to each individual pot.

4. Do I plan to be a collector of Yixing Teaware? No, therefore purchasing one of the expensive teapots I found priced up to $1500.00 is unnecessary. Jo informed me that I should expect to purchase a Yixing Teapot with a price range from $20.00 to $50.00 – depending upon the intricacy of the design.

Armed with this knowledge, I am now ready to purchase Yixing Teaware. I give many thanks to the proprietor of YaYa House of Excellent Teas. Additionally, I am grateful for all of the Internet sites available containing the Yixing information for my research. Feel free to opine to this post with information of your own. With better knowledge we are empowered to make better decisions.

Happy Tea Drinking!

References: 

1. Yixing clay teapot. (2008, July 19). In Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia. Retrieved 04:33, July 22, 2008, fromhttp://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=Yixing_clay_teapot&oldid=226635019

2. Yixing tea pots differ greatly from other brewing vessels. Beth Johnston. In Learn About Tea.Com. Retrieved 04:33, July 22, 2008, from http://www.learn-about-tea.com/yixing.html

3. Chinese tea culture. (2008, July 16). In Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia. Retrieved 04:43, July 22, 2008, fromhttp://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=Chinese_tea_culture&oldid=226030124

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