You are here: Home > Articles & Travelogs > Tea Ceremonies and Preparation > Yixing Teaware

A History of Tradition and Art

Yixing county is considered the pottery capital of China, and is situated in the southeastern province of Jiangsu. The region is renowned not only for its yixing ware and green tea, but also for its countless artisans – painters, poets, calligraphers and ceramicists – spanning the last 500 years. Since the Ming Dynasty (1368-1644), yixing teapots have long been acknowledged by tea connoisseurs as the best vessels for brewing teas.
Unique Clay 
Rich clay deposits from the region produce an array of textures and colors, ranging from purple-brown, tan to deep, orange-reds. Because of the porosity of the clay, the fragrance of the tea absorbs into the pot, thus "seasoning" it over continual use. This contributes to the enjoyment of the beverage, as each pot develops an essence of its own.

Taken from the area’s craggy cliffs and painstakingly refined, this remarkable clay is an achievement in both strength and delicacy. The clay body is dense, lightweight and can retain intricate details in the sculpt. Once fired, it undergoes little contraction, which minimizes the loss of heat and aroma.
Artistry 
Traditional yixings were different from other ceramics in China not only in its unique clay, but in the fact that they were not thrown on a wheel - they were individually hand crafted. Unique variations flourished over time in many workshops, and artists took pride in their work by signing each pot they made with a chop, or seal. The tradition of signing started during the Ming Dynasty, when potters were associating with scholars and artists in this thriving region. This created a beautiful fusion of sculpture, stone carving, calligraphy, poetry and art - all in this tiny vessel.
Choosing a teapot and taking care of it 
Generally there are two styles of pots – the decorative and the practical. The decorative ones are generally used for display purposes. Sometimes, both elements marry gracefully into one piece.

How can one know if a practical yixing is of good quality? Aside from it being aesthetically pleasing, there are many more factors to consider! The shape of the pot, along with how smoothly the liquid pours, can affect the final outcome of the tea being brewed. The lid should be a tight fit. Test this by filling the yixing with plain water. While pouring, cover the tiny hole on the lid with a finger; water flow should stop. When pouring, the flow from the spout should be direct and precise - liquid should not be dribbling onto the counter. Also, the interior of the teapot should have a smooth finish, with no cracks. 

Traditionally, a brand new pot will often contain some fine clay residue, as well as a taste produced by the final firing. Start by submerging a new yixing inside a larger pot of simmering water for at least 20 minutes. Tea leaves can be added to flavor the water. This will clean out the pores of the pot, enabling it to “breathe” in the flavor of the tea.

Tea aficionados have a dedicated pot for each type of tea, to keep the flavor consistent with the seasoning. We recommend having a pot for each type of tea category – be it oolongs, pu-erhs or black teas. 

A yixing pot should never be washed with soap; merely rinse out with cold water. Frequent use seasons the teapots, giving more depth of fragrance to the tea being prepared. The more tea brewed, the more luminous the vessel will become over time. The Chinese aptly call this "yang hu", which means raising the pot, so it can grow more beautifully in the years to come.

>> back to Tea Ceremonies and Preparation
>> back to One-Minute Tea Tips
 

Subscribe to One-Minute Tea Tips       
for articles, photos and coupons.