Learning the sophisticated art of gong fu cha, we begin to understand the subtleties involved. First, we learn that tea is alive. And only by treating tea properly, preparing it the way it deserves, we are granted an impeccable, sweet, and aromatic brew.
Then we learn about teaware. We understand how to take care of the teaware — with care and never using dish soap. Gently drying after each use. We also learn that teaware is alive, particularly the clay from which the teaware is made.
Many tea sommeliers and teaware enthusiasts prize teaware made from popular Chinese porous clays like Yixing clay and Chaozhou clay. It is easy to find machine-made Yixing pottery. However, it is a whole new level when you obtain handmade Yixing ware. Naturally, the price tag goes up.
A Yixing teapot is not just about the clay's porosity, the way it looks, the name, or even the way it makes your tea taste. It is all about the way you take care of it. If not correctly taken care of, a Yixing teapot is just about as useful as a run-of-the-mill ceramic teapot.
What is Yixing Clay?
Yixing teaware is named after the clay used, which comes from Yixing city in Eastern China. There, teapots made from this clay have been crafted since the Song Dynasty (10th century).
The clay is harvested from the delta of the Yangtze River. It has exceptional porosity and heat retaining properties, which significantly improve the taste of tea. The clay is made of the mixture minerals like kaolin, quartz, and mica, with a high iron oxide content.
Interestingly enough, Yixing clay teapots were initially used as a way of protesting the lavish court ceremonies. Their value only grew with years, and now they are some of the most expensive teaware items in existence.
Antique Yixing teapots are especially valued, so taking proper care is crucial.
How To Properly Take Care Of Your Yixing Teapot
Luckily, taking care of a Yixing teapot is easy! As long as you follow these five simple steps, you and your teapot will enjoy a long, happy life full of delicious tea brews.
Season the teapot before use.
Follow these instructions.
Use the teapot often.
Even if you have multiple teapots, try to use all your teapots frequently by alternating them. Different types of clay are better suited to different kinds of tea. Use the one intended for the tea you are about to drink. Read more.
Clean the teapot carefully.
You shouldn't use dish soap on your Yixing teaware, but that doesn't mean you shouldn't clean it. A simple way to clean the teapot is rinsing out a few times with boiling water. Make sure there are no tea leaf particles left in any of the teapot's crevices.
*Be careful to use metal tools when cleaning your teapot.
Dry the teapot.
Leave the teapot on a towel to air-dry. Afterward, if you still notice some damp spots, dry the teapot very well using a clean towel. We recommend keeping a towel just for your teaware, so it doesn't absorb any unnecessary smells. Make sure the teapot is thoroughly dry before storing it away. Since the teapot is porous and not glazed, it can easily retain moisture and even develop mold. Once this happens, it will be tough to clean. It is easy to keep the teapot dry and a sure way to keep it mold-free!
Store in the shade.
Once the teapot is clean and dry, store it out of direct light.
Notice your Yixing teapot starts to develop a beautiful oily luster with use. If your teapot is becoming shinier, it's an excellent sign! It means you have been taking proper care and drinking heaps of good tea. With time you will even notice the taste and aroma change. Well-used Yixing teapots can be filled with boiled water alone, and the water will already have a good taste as if it's actual tea. This process, however, takes many years of constant use.