Here is some information about buying a Yixing teapot for your tea addictions! We have already discussed the importance of clay when drinking tea, but let's go even deeper. We've noticed that for those who are fairly new to tea these are usually the steps:
Experiment with loose leaf teas. Find the teas you enjoy drinking. Get the brewing techniques right. Not over/under-boiling the water. Not over-steeping the tea etc.
And only when you feel comfortable enough with the tea might you want to start looking into buying some proper teaware.
But where to start!?
Many tea enthusiasts claim that Yixing teaware is the perfect teaware when it comes to gongfucha. Undoubtedly, they are marvelous. Unfortunately, there is still some myth and confusion surrounding these teapots.
So let’s start with the basics.
What Is A Yixing Teapot?
The name of Yixing teaware actually comes from the clay that potters use to make these teapots. Potters take this clay from around Yixing city, in eastern China. It is an ancient county (established in 221BC, during Qin Dynasty), in Jiangsu province of China, situated by the delta of Yangtze River. There, potters have made yixing teapots since the 10th century (Song Dynasty). This is one reason why sometimes the teapot may demand a very high price. Especially if it is an antique.
Yixing is not an actual style of a teapot. There are many teapots produced in other regions of China and Taiwan with the same look and feel. However, they are not made from Yixing clay so they cannot be called Yixing teapots.
Buying A Yixing Teapot
When you are ready to purchase your first Yixing here are some factors to consider:
An authentic good quality Yixing teapot should not cost lower than $50-$100 USD. Any lower and it’s probably not the best quality. Although they can go much higher in price, be careful not to overpay. Always inquire why it is of a higher price. Perhaps it's because of the artist who made it or the year of production. And remember: just because it is a Yixing teapot doesn’t mean it should cost a fortune.
It is important to make sure that the Yixing you are purchasing is of decent quality. There are many cases where a cheaper/lower-quality purchased teapot would completely ruin the taste of the tea. Some even report the newly purchased teapots to smell like mold or fish.
The Different Types Of Yixing Teaware
Yixing teaware will come in several different varieties. The most famous of them are:
• Zi Ni – purple clay with high porosity. The most common and famous.
• Hong Ni – red clay. Slightly less porous than Zi Ni clay.
• Zhu Sha or Zhu Ni – reddish-brown clay with high iron content, iconic glossy finish, and low porosity. This type of clay teaware is hard to make, and therefore, it's not so common.
• Lu Ni – green clay. Only about 2% of all the Yixing clays is Lu Ni, making it the rarest of Yixing clays. Out of the clays mentioned above, it has the best heat retaining properties.
• Duan Ni – translates literally as "fortified clay". It's usually a compound of any combination of the other four clays, and the resulting teaware can come in various colors, from golden to blue and green. The most popular Duanni teaware is of beige/yellow colors. This clay is usually high in minerals and can profoundly transform the taste of your tea.
Tea masters use purple clay with black, oolong and pu-erh teas. The purple clay is very porous and perfect for rounding these kinds of teas by muting the bitter or astringent qualities they may have. Thus we don't recommend using it with green tea, greener oolongs or white teas. This is because it's better to emphasize their delicate flavors and aromas.
For these greener teas, we favor the red type. However, it is much rarer and demands a higher price. Most tea sommeliers will stick with a gaiwan when brewing these types of teas.
Of course, you can also use purple clay Yixing teaware for these kinds of teas. However, there are some factors to consider:
High-fired teapots with thinner walls are best for the greener teas, while low-fired thick walls are best for dark teas.
Using A Yixing Teapot
An important factor to keep in mind is that because the clay is so porous, it will easily absorb any flavors. Eventually, with use, the teapot will develop a kind of “tea coating” made from the tea oils it absorbs. This oil will give off its own unique but faint scent and flavor. For this reason, we recommend using the Yixing teapot for only one type of tea and never use any soaps or detergents.
Tea enthusiasts favor Yixing clay for its porosity and its ability to heighten any tea drinking experience. Glazed, porcelain, cast iron, or glass teapots can never retain as much flavor and aroma as the unglazed clay of a Yixing teapot. When you are prepared to invest in a Yixing we recommend comparing different types of teaware and how they play with the tea first.