Jun 212012
 

Choosing a Yixing TeapotA.   Size / Shape

Size / Shape

i.Size

In buying a purple clay teapot, determine how many persons you would be serving tea so that you can get the right size.  The teapots come in many sizes, as shown below :

    Size Approx. Volume Persons To Be Served
       1 70 ml./2.4 fl.oz      Max 2 persons
       2 100 ml / 3.4 fl.oz      Max 4 persons
       3 175 ml / 6 fl.oz.      Max 5 persons
       4  225 ml / 7.6 fl.oz.      Max  6 persons

You will notice that the teapot size numbers actually indicate the number of persons that can be served. If you generally drink tea by yourself or with just one other person, then teapot size 2 would be a good choice.  You can always brew an extra pot if you have the occasional few guests to entertain.  You can also think of getting a bigger pot for when you need to entertain some guests and would be brewing more than your usual quantity.

The teapots come in various shapes to allow various types of tea leaves to maximize the surface exposed to water when you boil your tea in the teapot.  There are generally two profiles for teapots, high and low.

ii.Shapes

How to Select Teapots Using Profile and Firing Method

How to Select Teapots Using Profile and Firing Method

Shapes of Teapots Based on Tea Types:

 Taiwan Oolong (High Profile)  Green/White Tea (High Profile)
  Taiwan Oolong (High Profile) Green/White Tea (High Profile)
Tie Guan Yin  Chinese Black Tea
Tie Guan Yin (Gun Yam, Iron Buddha,
Chinese Oolong, Buddha of Mercy) (Low Profile)
Chinese Black Tea (known as Red Tea in China)
Pu-Erh (Bow Lay) (High Profile)
 Da Hong Pao (Cliff Tea) & Phoenix Tea (Low Profile)  A Decorative Teapot (Low Profile)
Da Hong Pao (Cliff Tea) & Phoenix Tea (Low Profile) A Decorative Teapot (Low Profile)

 

iii. Body

  • The most efficient for convection and infusion are sphere-shaped pots such as bell-shaped, pear-shaped or bowl-shaped pots.
  • Flat pots, despite round bottoms, are best for short infusion time only when using plenty of  tea leaves. Smaller ones are actually better than the large ones.
  • Tall ones, especially those that are rectangular in shape, are best only when the pot’s  body is thick  and made heat resistant.
  • Tubular situations make for less effective convection
  • The best ones are those whose designs have thicker material in the bottom area while the top has thinner material.   The thicker bottom allows retention of  heat, while  speed of lost heat is more at the top which encourages a complete and smooth convection current with the water inside the pot. The current allows maximum infusion body and texture.

Secondly, thickness distribution is best when even throughout the pot’s body.

iv.Handle

  • You should have an easy but firm hold and good balance when you lift the pot.
  • The wrist should be comfortably able to tilt the pot when pouring
    .
  • The spout should be perfectly aligned  to form the main axis of the pot so the balance horizontally and position when pouring are both easy and convenient.
  • It’s size is decided by visual balance as well as leverage balance of weight of the teapot’s body.

v. The lid and neck

  • Ordinary or commercially available teapots only require for the lid to affix comfortably on the neck or body without rattling too much during  the pot handling.   It is also standard to expect for it not to fall off when the pot is tilted for 45°.  Better lid quality, though, will  fit quite tightly yet comfortably to allow for better hear retention.  A truly serious tea enthusiast’s teapot lid requirements is much higher than average and this will be discussed in more detail.
  • The lid must be close-fitting with the  opening just enough  to allow  the leaves to be used to be accommodated.
  • A big opening would let the aroma escape. Therefore, rolled tea leaves or small ones and highly  fragrant ones such as Green tea, White tea and Oolongs will get maximized benefits from a small opening. A bigger opening works best for tea with big leaves and little fragrance such as Black tea and Pu-Erh tea.
  • The standard design of  dome shaped pots creates air insulation on the water’s surface which has an effect in infusion quality.
  • Commercially produced pots are provided a neck since the lid would not be able to hold back the water once tilted even just a little. The neck is the point to where water stops accumulating. It also minimizes reduces water that is exposed to air to reduce loss of heat.   It was designed originally to enable the lid to be closely fitting.

vi.Spouts

  • Spouts are an important feature of the pot. It determines how conveniently and neatly the tea can be poured out and more importantly, the efficiency of the infusion of the tea as it is poured into a cup.
  • The spout must be big enough to enable  the tea to poured from the pot easily.  Chinese method of tea preparation referred to as Gong Fu Cha requires minimum brewing time therefore the spout needs to be sufficiently large to allow the taste of tea to develop even with just a short brewing time. If the spout is not big enough, it would constrict the free flow of tea being poured and would thus require longer brewing time.  It is good, therefore, to check that the spout of the teapot is in proportion to its size  May new designs also have a built-in strainer as an added feature.

single hole yixing teapot

half ball style spout

mesh style spout  The date when a Yixing teapot was made can be determined from the kind of spout holes.  There are three kinds of spouts :

  1. Single hole spouts are popular in Ming Dynasty and Qing Dynasty.
  2. At the end of the Qing dynasty, majority of Yixing teapots’ spouts are mesh style and  can have 6 or more holes.
  3. To meet the export requirements of Japan in the 1970s,  half-ball mesh design came out which allows water to flow out more freely and filters the tea leaves much more efficiently.

Some teapots whose capacity (Xiaopin)  is less than 150 ml were made single-holed
teapots because of two considerations:

  • The teapot is too small and a mesh spout will restrict the free flow of water during pouring
  • These small capacity teapots (Xiaopin) are difficult to make and making mesh style spouts would only double the work.

A.  Manufacturing

These teapots are manufactured In 3 ways :

  • Handmade
    These teapots are molded by an artisan by hand , cutting and shaping the pieces and assembling them using wood picks and paddles.
  • Semi-handmade
    These teapots are moulded by machine and then assembled by hand using the same traditional tools. Majority of good quality Yixing teapots are manufactured using this method.
  • Moulded teapots
    These teapots are mass-produced using pre-moulded parts with a machine, including attaching the teapot body and lid, its spout and the handle.  While moulded teapots are not as highly valued as those that are hand-made and semi-handmade, a lot of moulded teapots are made with zisha clay and are excellent in quality compared to the regular porcelain and glazed kind.

Watch the video of Zhou Gui Zhen ,who has been named a National Living Treasure of China, as she demonstrates how a teapot is made using a traditional Yixing method:

http://ceramicartsdaily.org/pottery-making-techniques/handbuilding-techniques/poetry-in-motion-a-yixing-teapot-master-creates-an-exquisite-handbuilt-teapot/

C.Clay

i.Clay Quality

There are various kinds of Zisha clay but there are two general groupings of quality/grade:

1.  Earth Clay

Ideally used to make second-grade quality teapots which are commercially available in
various designs and are quite affordable. The natural color of this type is white.

2.  Stone-clay” made from rock (Zisha).

This is a  superior  clay  known as Zisha or “Purple Clay” (it comes in various colors and not
necessarily purple).  Zisha Clay is also called original or natural clay.

Yixing “Earth” Clay ( sample of an artificially coloured pot to imitate Zisha  Black Clay) Yixing “Earth” Clay Yixing “Earth” Clay
   Yixing “Stone” Clay
(Zisha or “Purple” Clay, natural or original clay)
    Yixing “Stone” Clay      Yixing “Stone” Clay

ii. Clay Composition

The 3 standard clay constitutions  which can be mixed in a multitude of combinations are :

  • Zisha Clay. (Sometimes called “Qing Shui Ni” when not mixed or has colour
  • Mixed (Pingni. May be a combination of Yixing, non-Yixing and artificial clays
  • Artificial (Coloured clay) Can also be mixed together
Yixing Zisha “Purple” Clay. This sample has not been mixed cand can be called Qing Shui Ni Yixing Zisha “Purple” Clay  Yixing Zisha “Purple” Clay
 Mixed Clay (Pingni)   Mixed Clay (Pingni)   Mixed Clay (Pingni)
Artificial Clay (Coloured)   Artificial Clay (Coloured)  Artificial Clay (Coloured)

iii.Colour of Clay

  •  Different types of clay when mixed is called Pingni.   Zisha clay (also called natural or original clay)  is often mixed together, resulting in many different colours.
  •   By adding artificial dyes, “Artificial” clay (Yixing “earth” clay and/or non-Yixing clay) often replicate real colours of Zisha.  These teapots are not as efficient as authentic Zisha teapots.   They will also lose their colour  over time unlike  Zisha clay teapots which do not lose their natural colours even after prolonged use.
  • You can know more about Chinese teapots from their colours with the following tips:

Yixing “earth clay” is naturally white.  Zisha  or purple clay has many natural colours, including the following which are the most valuable :

  • Red (Hongni)
  • Purple (Zhini)
  • Green (Luni) – usually mixed with other clays
  • Zhuni  is  rare Zisha red clay  that can be obtained from the vein of a rock .  These teapots are produced in larger than usual sizes and are fired at a very low temperature for a prolonged period compared to other teapots.  They shrink during the firing process and this makes their clay very hard.   Zhuni teapots  have a uniquely  red or orange and emits  a sound that is  high pitched  when tapped.  These are rare and expensive teapots. It is no wonder that  many sellers proclaim their tea ware as authentic Zhuni teapots  but  never buy any of them without having an expert authenticate it first.

              Colours of Zisha Clay

Hongni (Red)  Hongni (Red) Hongni (Red)
Zhini (Purple) different from  Zisha (“Purple Clay”) which describes the entire class of natural colour,  Yixing clay made from stone  Zhini (Purple) Zhini (Purple)
   Luni (Green)  Luni (Green)  Luni (Green)
Duani (Yellow Clay)  Duani (Yellow Clay)  Duani (Yellow Clay)
Heini / Wuni (Black)  Heini / Wuni (Black)  Heini / Wuni (Black)

 

Zhuni  Zhuni  Zhuni

iv.Firing Type

Some types of  teapots are produced from various types of clay which are fired over low or high temperature :

1. Teapots that are from absorbent clay are low-fired and are made thicker to retain heat longer which works best for  Black Tea (also called Red Tea) and Pu-Erh Tea.

  • Low-fired Zisha clay are usually brown in colour
  • Low-fired teapots  are more permeable and are used for less fragrant teas.

2. Teapots for teas like Green, White and Oolongs  are high-fired and use finer, thinner clay and will lose heat  faster, preventing over infusion or over cooking in the pot.

  • High-fired Zisha clays are generally coloured red
  • Teapots that are high-fired  are less permeable and retain fragrance compared to  teapots that are low-fired

Types of Firing

Example of High-Fired  Zisha Clay  Example of High-Fired  Zisha Clay  Example of High-Fired  Zisha Clay
Example of Low-Fired  Zisha Clay  Example of Low-Fired  Zisha Clay  Example of Low-Fired  Zisha Clay

I. Yi Xing Teapots Characteristics

II. How to Identify an Authentic Yixing Teapot

III. How to Choose a Yixing Teapot

IV. Styles of Yixing tea pot that best suits your personal style and needs

V. Four levels of price for Yixing teapots

VI.Seasoning the yixing teapot

VII. Steps to prepare your new Zisha Yixing Pot

VIII. Yixing clay teapot’s color

IX. Yixing Teapots : Facts you should know

 

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