Earlier last month, we wrote a little bit about the history of the teapot. While kettles for brewing tea have existed for millenniums, teapots as brewing vessels didn't appear until the Ming dynasty (1368-1644). This was around the time when loose leaf tea started gaining popularity over powdered tea. Thanks to the teapot's evolution, today we have not only many shapes, but also many different teapot materials to choose from!
Yixing Clay Teapots
Yixing clay teapots are perhaps an integral part of every gong fu tea journey. Even if you don't happen to own one yourself, you've undoubtedly been served tea out of Yixing teapots at cafes or gong fu cha gathering.
Small clay teapots, which we now associate with gong fu cha, were created in Yixing city, Jiangsu province, sometime in the 1500s. The teapots were created using the region's vast clay deposits.
There are different varieties of clay found in the Yixing region. Each one pairs differently with various tea types.
We do not recommend using purple clay teapots with green tea, light oolongs, or white teas. Their delicate flavors and aroma should be emphasized and not muted.
Zusha red clay (or zhuni clay) pairs better with green teas, white teas, and light oolongs. However, this clay type is rare and demands a higher price. We recommend sticking with a gaiwan when brewing these types of teas.
Whichever tea type you chose to brew in your Yixing clay teapot, it is preferable to stick to that tea type only. The porous nature quickly absorbs oils, tastes, and smells of the tea leaves. Using one tea type will add dimension to your future tea brews. This quality is highly prized in Yixing teapots. Tea sommeliers will practice keeping their teapots for decades, carefully watching how the brews transform with time.
Yixing teapots come in a wide variety of sizes. They could be anywhere from 60 ml for solo tea sessions to 400 ml for big group sessions.
Chaozhou Clay Teapots
Chaozhou teapots are explicitly made from the red clay of the Phoenix Mountains of Chaozhou, Guangdong province, China. This concept is similar to Yixing clay teapots, where "Yixing" refers to the clay and not the style of the teapot.
Chaozhou teapots are sized almost exclusively at 180ml and smaller. Compared to Yixing teapots, the walls are thinner as they are made by wheel and not hand-built like traditional Yixing teapots.
Pure Silver Teapot
Although not a typical guest of the gongfu tea table, the pure silver teapot has gained popularity among some Chinese tea sommeliers.
A silver teapot is a small teapot designated for gong fu style tea, made entirely out of 99.9% silver (pure silver) inside and out.
In comparison to clay teapots, silver will not alter the pure taste of tea. A silver teapot brew is more accurate to the authentic taste of the tea leaves.
The most exciting teas to brew in silver teapots are light teas with intriguing characteristics, for example light oolongs. Raw pu-erh and aged white teas also show an unusual side with silver teapots.
If you have teas where you experienced interesting tastes or aromas gently peeking through, and you would like to see if they can be brought more to the surface — try brewing them in a silver teapot!
A kyusu is a traditional Japanese teapot made of clay with one side handle. The word kyusu is used to refer to all teapots. However, in the west, specifically Japanese side-handle teapots are called kyusu.
A standard kyusu can be anywhere from 100 - 300 ml.
Tetsubin and Tetsu-kyusu
Tetsubin are Japan's iconic cast iron teapots. Compared to Yixing teapots and kyusu, they are heavy and large. Tetsubin as a household staple started appearing around the same time as kyusu, with the rise of sencha tea-drinking culture. They are used in most households for boiling water.
Nowadays, a teapot variety called tetsu-kyusu has gained popularity amongst Japanese tea drinkers. While the outside is cast iron, the inside is enamel coated. This makes the teapot ideal for brewing Japanese teas and keeping them warm.
However, water should not be boiled directly in the tetsu-kyusu as not to ruin the inside coating.