Chinese Yixing Teapots
Yixing Teapot Origins
The town of Yixing (pronounced E-shing) is located in Jiangsu Province, about 100 miles west of Shanghai. Fine pottery has been made at Yixing since 2,500 B.C. The first Yixing clay teapot was made in the early 1500s by a monk from the nearby Jin Sha temple, using the famous purple sand clay (zisha) found in the region. Highly prized by the scholars and artists of the Ming Dynasty (1368-1644), Yixing teapots were perceived to bring out the best flavor of fine Chinese teas and collected for their whimsical designs and elegant beauty. Traditionally, many pots were made for individual use and the owners would drink the tea directly from the spout.
How the Clay is Processed
Yixing clay contains natural minerals such as iron, quartz and mica. When fired, these minerals produce a variety of beautiful colors from terra cotta to deep, purplish brown. After digging, the clay is dried and then pounded into powder. The powder is then passed through a bamboo sieve to remove any stones. The powdered clay is then placed in a 5-foot deep tank filled with fresh water. After three days, the clay is removed to a pit and dried out under the sun. It is then cut into blocks and sold to the artisan potters. The potter takes the blocks and pounds them with a heavy wooden mallet, adding water from time to time, in order to make the clay the right consistency for shaping. This process usually takes about two days. The clay is ready when it is cut with a knife and the cut is completely smooth and shiny, with no trace of air pockets.
Benefits of the Yixing Teapot
ixing teapots are usually unglazed in order to allow the natural color of the clay to shine through. This also helps to keep the tea hotter than porcelain, making the Yixing teapot a perfect brewing vessel for oolong and black teas, which benefit from a higher water temperature. Since the Yixing teapot is fired at lower heat, it can withstand sudden temperature changes without cracking, making it especially durable.
The porous nature of Yixing clay makes the teapot very absorbent, which helps to bring out the best flavor in fine teas. Over time, the lining of the pot will acquire tea deposits and this seasoning will enhance the taste, color and aroma of the tea. Additionally, the appearance of the pot will change as it is used and the surface will become more glossy and the color more intense
Note: Because the Yixing teapot is so absorbent, it is recommended that only one type of tea be used per pot, to avoid contaminating the taste of the tea.
Care of Your Yixing Teapot
Do not use the Yixing teapot on the stove. Heat water for tea in a teakettle.
After using, empty the leaves and rinse with cool water. Invert the pot and let air dry completely. Do not wipe dry with a towel. Do not use soap or dish detergents, as this will contaminate the flavor of the next pot of tea.