On clay pottery
I’ll cut this right to the chase. I purchased a clay pot from a local shop that I like (teas are ok, but I like to support because we’re a small community) and I purchased a little $30 clay teapot from them. It is your typical orange-ish tea pot, and the owner says they get them from somebody they trust. Now the owner and I discussed it, and we both know that this little guy at this price point is absolutely not hand-made by any master. Probably mostly machined, but I am not really concerned about that. I am mostly concerned with how to make absolutely sure that the clay is simply clay. I boiled this guy for 30 minutes, and the surface is of course rough. There are very teeny tiny fleks of varying color (darker brown possibly purple) in the clay, but very subtle of course. Through boiling, no colors seeped out, and there was no chemical smell. Just a gingerbread-esque muddy smell when all was dried, said and done. I like brewing with clay for several reasons, and I don’t care that it is real yixing or not. The store says that the man who sells from them is reputable/trustworthy in the vendor community, which is why they buy from this person (of course they don’t give names or anything it’s their business I respect that). They say that it is from yixing, but certainly not hand made. They don’t make any stupid claims like that. I like that clay seems to take some astringency away from certain teas, and keeps heat well, and really ads to the body and finish of tea. I just want to be able to drink from clay without worrying about anything of the weird horror stories that come from the crazy clay market that seems to be a thing these days. I’d appreciate all and any help I can get. Thank you very much!
Here are some pictures of said pot
Looks like a standard factory made pot. They are very common and don’t necessarily make worse tea than a hand made pot. I have a couple favorite sources for Yixing Clay pots and other sorts. One is Yunnan Sourcing. The other is the EBay seller Missteapots.
thanks. It just had me a little worried. When it is dry, and sitting there (even after boil, and season) it smells like…cloves or cinnamon? I’m not sure why. Only inside. and once wet the smell goes away. It’s a bit strange, but on another forum I heard some discussion about it, and most seemed un-phased by this
I got a clay pot that I know is good clay, and it smelled like bamboo smoke. I mean Its possible the person making the clay was drinking a whole heck of a lot of lapsong souchong or making bamboo charcoal or something. Good clay just pick up scents like that.
Hi Ken, thanks for the reply. I apologize, I don’t know how to reply directly. Did the scent eventually fade, or did new scents eventually take over? I bought it from a place that also sells a ton of spices, so I guess I’m not really surprised that it would smell this way. When run my Oolongs through it I have no issues though
Yup that would explain it, if the pot was stored with spices it would pick up the scent, it should fade with time. Yeah it now smells like high roast tgy.
I suppose the only other thing I see floating around the internet that perhaps you could point me in a direction on is clay and toxicity? Whether or not it’s real yixing, I don’t know if there is anything actually legitimate about worrying about toxins released from clays? Some sites will even talk about glazed ceramics having toxins etc. I guess I could just stick to a glass Gaiwan but…if there’s any info on that I could look into, I’d appreciate it. And thank you for all the help!
If you want to pick up a better quality pot the two vendors I recommend both have some reasonably priced pots. All of Missteapots are hand made although not necessarily by masters of the craft. She sends them all in a nice storage box with extras like a teapot wrap and a tea towel. I have gotten nothing but good pots from her. She is based in Yixing and in my understanding gets her pots direct from the makers themselves, not from Taobao or other middlemen. I recently bought a lot of her pots for my endeavors into tea photography. I am hoping to establish an Etsy store to sell prints eventually.
Yes I recently, that is within the last six months probably have bought twenty pots from her. This is because I need different pots for my endeavors into tea photography. My absolute favorite pot was one I got from her. A black/brown Yixing embossed with Dragon carvings. It was expensive and I bought two, a 250ml and a 450ml. I regret not buying the 190ml when I had the chance. If you are interested in what I am getting as far as photography I do post examples of it to Instagram but these are only 2mb files when the original is a 60mb 45.7 Megapixel file. It doesn’t quite translate.
What would concern me is the clay. Given the obvious non-handmade quality you noted, the chances of it being good clay are slim to none. Even decent clay is very unlikely.
Best case scenario: it is average to low quality clay from somewhere other than the “original” mine that true Yixing Zisha is supposed to come from. Worst case scenario: it is what is called 化工壶, that is, cheap clay (basically dirt) that has various chemicals added to mimic the color of good Yixing clay.
Personally, I’d avoid using it, but that’s just me. I’m on the overly cautious side.
that’s basically what I was worried about. For the price point, I was suspicious of a 化工壺, not made of real 宜興紫砂 but it’s hard to say. I do love this shop and trust the owners….but for now I think it’s best I stick to porcelain until I can prod them for more info.Good ol’ trusty 白瓷蓋杯. I agree sir, leaning towards your suggestion at the current time
Is the teapot stamped on the bottom? If so you may be able to tell more about its origin from the stamp. I also wouldn’t worry about the clove smell to much as the teapot was most likely brewed with a tea that contained cloves before your ownership. Clay teapots are best used for oolong, black and pu’er teas as they absorb the flavors of the tea and can transfer some of the flavor to the next brewing.