The life of a yixing teapot
Yixing teapots, the original once, are useful and beautiful vessels to steep our tea. Work of art in all respects, the best way to keep it is using it. But what shall we take care of?
I recently purchased two Yixing teapots; a good opportunity to share my experience with these lovely tool.
When you buy a new teapot you should prime it before use. Pictures here: https://www.flickr.com/photos/[email protected]/sets/72157651839751757/
PRIMING: Rinse the pot in fresh water. Put it in a cooking pot filled with water. Bring to a boiling and boil for five minutes. Rinse the teapot, put it back on the stove. Fill the pot with water and add leaves of the kind of tea you will use the pot with. You are basically cooking the teapot in a tea soup.
Yixing teapot retains odors and shall be use with one kind of tea only! E.g. white, green, green oolong, dark oolong, black, sheng pu’er, shou pu’er.
Upon boiling, remove from the stove, cover, and let the teapot resting in the teasoup over night.
The day after rinse it and start using it!
SEASONING: When you use the teapot, take care of pouring some hot water not only in the teapot, but also on it. From time to time, gently polish the teapot with a clean cloth. You can also do it while the tea is steeping, like in this video: https://www.flickr.com/photos/[email protected]/17149628849/in/set-72157651839751757
Before putting away the pot, fill it with hot water a last time and leave the water inside until the next use. You can leave the leaves and water inside the teapots for several days, but avoid several weeks. During this time the clay will slowly absorb the fragrance of the tea. Over time, the taste of the tea steeped in the teapot will increase.
The first use might be disappointing. The taste to weak and much less sharp than in the gaiwan. The Yixing teapot demands patience. Give it time, and your tea will taste better then ever. Just take care of steeping always the same kind of tea. A white will be be no good if steeped in your shou pu yixing teapot.
However, I would advise against leaving leaves and water sit for several days….mold could happen and that’s hard to get rid of. Maybe you meant to leave it for several hours?
Agree with the Fairy. I’m not too weirded out by drinking tea leaves that have sat out in the pot for a day or so, but I won’t go much beyond 24 hours. Because I’ve had mold grow on leaves in a yixing and it was bad. I had to boil the pot and it didn’t get the mold taste or smell out. I had to bake it in the oven at a high temp and it ruined my seasoning. I was sad.
I would also be cautious about a rolling boil for the pot – those precious pots can break at full rolling boil if you aren’t careful. I bring my water to a boil and if I decide I MUST boil the whole pot, I turn it down some. But mostly I rinse out a new clay pot with boiling water and make sure all the grit is gone and then I proceed to start steeping in it. I like for my pots to season over time, but that’s just the way I do it.
+1, I season the same way cause I’ve been lucky to buy good quality clay…but i understand Why some folks would proceed to a full seasoning, but that’s just not my way. I love to witness my pots naturally season over time.
I stopped seasoning mine too after one cracked during the process. Also, if the pot has appliqués, like little frogs or snails or flowers, any clay pieces that are applied on top of the clay pot separately, boiling the pot can cause these to crack and fall off. One should be careful too not to pour a ton of boiling water over pots with appliqués.
I start mine at a boil and then use clean bamboo on the bottom of the pot (on the stove with water inside) to separate the clay from clinking the metal. I also begin at a boil then lower unto a light simmer for awhile. I’ve seen bad things happen to pots from rapidly boiling.
Mold might be an issue, sure. But actually I never had problems in keeping the leaves for several days. However I use my Yixings quite often and never exceeded a week.
In Chinese teashops, is common practice to leave the leaves in the pots for several days. I have seen shops with tens of pots all filled, and they were not using all pots every week.
I can imagine though that if you live in a humid and hot area molding might quickly occurs.
Concerning cracking risk while boiling, I take care of keeping the pot at a simmering; no turbulent boiling. And use wide pots to avoid the contact between teapot and cooking pot.
Using Bamboo to prevent direct contact is a good idea. One could also wrap the pot in a cloths before dipping it in the water. Even a sock would do.
Concerning temperature, 100°C is no concern for the clay. Also when the temperature change is very abrupt. The bottom of the cooking pot reaches higher temperature, but since these teapot are fired in kiln at more than 1000°C and the ceramics notoriously very heat resistance and feature low thermal expansion, I don’t see any risk of cracking the teapot with just high temperature.
However cracks due to contact with the cooking pot is definitely an issue. Ceramics is a very fragile material.