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Tainted Yixing?

I went to Goodwill the other day and found a yixing teapot for $2. It’s roughly about 5oz. I couldn’t pass it up. It looks like this one here:
http://www.yunnansourcing.com/store/product.php?id_product=1548

The lid has a small crack in it and looks like it was glued back together, otherwise it’s great shape and the water seal still perfect. It didn’t seem like previous owner really tried to season it. I took it home and boiled it in a pot. The pot I boiled it in we don’t use for cooking, so it’s not contaminated. Also, we do have hard water here, but when I did this with my to other yixing’s I bought new didn’t have any problems.

So, when I boiled the new teapot for ten minutes and then took it out to dry. It ended up having a white powdery coating on it. I thought maybe it was from the previous owner using soap on it. So, I boiled it again today. I made sure the pot was super clean before boiling the yixing in it. But, again, after drying, it has this white powder coating on it and the water is funky.

Now, I know part of this is from hard water, but how bad it is, it’s ridiculous. Does anyone know what this might be from and what I can do? Here are some pictures to give you a better idea:

Teapot:
http://i1050.photobucket.com/albums/s410/feralanima/100MEDIA_IMAG0115.jpg
Pit with boiled water:
http://i1050.photobucket.com/albums/s410/feralanima/100MEDIA_IMAG0116.jpg

21 Replies

I am not at ALL familiar with yixing, but my suggestion would be to try again with filtered water and see if it does it again. There is always a possibility that the exact minerals in your water have changed just a bit from last time you tried to boil a pot. I am thinking that if the pot is clean and you filter the water first then you will know for sure that it is a problem with the clay if it happens again.

I don’t think my water would have changed that significantly in a matter of a little over a week. The amount I got on my other two yixings was minimal, but this one was heavily coated that I knew it wasn’t just the water itself.

Understood. I agree, actually. Last night I was looking at the pictures on the iPad, on the larger monitor I can really see the water goop. I think the crowd is correct, unfortunately.

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JC said

Invader, It is VERY possible (specially for $2) that what you have is a fake. Not all clay are food grade/safe. I would avoid using this ‘Yixing’ if you can.

Often you can find many ‘Yixing’ that are made partially with Yixing clay AND chemicals to either enhance their looks or just to be able to use recycled/lower quality clay. BUT, the most common practice I’ve seen is just imitating the shapes of the traditional Yixing pots with other clay. I saw this A LOT when I visited Thailand.

Some people repair their own Yixings and are really good at it, but honestly not for $2. If you like the pot, keep it as a decoration.

EDIT
I forgot to ask if you noted any unusual scents when dry and then when it was wet (the pot).

Angrboda said

I agree with this. The fact that the chalky residue seems even worse than usual for this one, I suspect could have something to do with chalk being washed out of the clay during the process if it’s a low quality clay. I don’t know if something like that is possible, but I could imagine it might be.

JC said

It is possible to have chalk or just plain chemical solidifying after being boiled. Either way it is better to avoid using it. Clean your cooking pot with detergent and rinse it several times with hot water after you get all that off you should be OK to use it again.

Rellybob said

How do you tell the difference between real yixing and fake?

JC said

Experience. Which honestly I don’t have enough of. I know basics that I’ve gathered from people who have 30-50 years of experience with tea and are seasoned Yixing enthusiasts. And even them tell me ‘by getting them from a trustworthy source’.

Basics to me are LOOKS (doesn’t look like resin based/ almost pasty), SMELL (you should only get the nature scent of the clay when dry AND when wet. you will find some real Yixing that has been ‘enhanced’ with wax or other polisher to make it look shiny. Shiny come from age and proper seasoning. There are some Yixing mixes with chemicals to make the clay easy to work on. When you pour boiling water inside you’ll probably smell more than just earthy clay, which means chemicals), FEEL (This will differ from the clay used and the firing process, whether high fired or low fired. But basically you want to feel that there’s some porosity with out feeling like you are touching a piece or garden grade clay pot) and most importantly, ‘Its interaction with water and eventually tea’ ( Pouring boiling water inside you should see no foreign material or floating chemicals on the water, nothing oily. The ‘skin’ of the pot starts to open and you can appreciate its porosity easier than when cold. When you pour boiling water over it it should COAT the pot and then slowly starts to evaporate and being absorbed by the clay. If the water just rinses off immediately it was either polished or is not porous which could mean that resin/plastic like material).

These are just basics. Yixing is WHOLE OTHER world all by itself. I’m still learning but I hope this gives you an idea.

EDIT
http://farm9.staticflickr.com/8062/8232158980_51ec79af43_c.jpg
This is a Yixing pot as the water is half way absorbed/evaporated. The left side is still completely coated and the right side, the layer is gone the clay is damp. You can see the water almost centered.

Rellybob said

Thanks for all the great info!!

That’s the thing with Goodwill, I have no idea what the original price was or where it’s from or manufactured to be able to know. It’s used and everything is priced at a few dollars, if that. I couldn’t pass it up. If it happened to be real, it would have been a steal, but if it’s fake (which it seems to be) I didn’t lose much money on it. So, I made the gamble.

It’s also very possible that it was just meant to be a decoration piece and that the previous owner did not specify that before dropping it off, if they knew at all. Thank you for the great comments!

Rellybob said

Is it normal for yixing to have little dark speckles in the clay?

I think that depends on the clay. I don’t know enough though.

JC said

Rellybob, it is. But it depends on the clay composition. It usually means that they mixed Yixing clays or they used recycled and broken down pieces of past firings (Many avoid them, but I like some of them. This usually means higher porosity which allows faster seasoning. But it also means it will take longer for it to become lustrous and form patina).

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Tamm said

My pots always looks like that if I use it more than once to boil water.

I knew I was going to get a little bit just from the hard water like I did with my other two yixings. But this thing is just so heavily coated that I know it’s not just from the water, it’s something from the teapot as well.

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Uniquity said

I personally wouldn’t use it but not because of any facts, mostly just a mistrust of what the pot may be made of and what the previous owner may have done with it.

I was worried about this too, but I felt that if I boiled it a few times it would be ok. That the boiling process would get rid of anything the previous owner had done to it.

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I was really surprised to see it there at Goodwill and I figured I had to give it a chance. Seeing it react this way has me wary though. And after reading all your comments here I think I’m going to try to boil it one more time, then I’m just going to keep it for decoration or get rid of it if it’s still a mess.

The powdery residue really has me worried. I think it is chalk. I was sitting here feeling it and sniffing at it after reading your comment JC, and I’m pretty certain that the residue is chalk. Also, the outside of the teapot is nice, but a closer look at the inside and it kind of looks like garden pottery, like terracotta almost.

Thank you for your help everyone!

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JC said

I’m sorry Invader Zim! I didn’t mean to break your heart about the Yixing, but then again it is better than getting sick or having horrible tea. Just keep it as a souvenir. I have one of my own like that and YES it resembles terracotta, in fact if I pour hot water in it I can hear it hissing very loudly same way a terracota pot would. I saved it.

It’s quite alright, I’d rather be a little heartbroken or even have horrible teas rather than getting sick from it. I did find a little pamphlet that came with it saying how to “raise your teapot.” So, apparently it is meant to be used, but I’m still not going to risk it.

I never knew terracotta hissed, but I was too curious to not try this. I don’t have any terracotta, but I poured boiling water into the yixing from Goodwill, and I could hear it hissing! Ahhh! I’m definitely not using it now!

JC said

I was going to say. Mine also came with seasoning instructions. But at least now you know for certain!

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