For those into Chinese teapots

This is my dad’s Chao Zhou Hongni (Red Clay) teapot. Chao zhou red clay is similar to Yixing zisha red clay. There is something wrong with this teapot’s appearance. My question for you is what is it and what causes it?

Link to picture of the teapot:

The first person to give the right answers to both questions gets to receive 2oz of any tea of your choice from our online tea shop for free, with free shipping to USA or Canada. Anyone from other countries are welcomed to join the discussion and are entitle to the same free tea offer. But I won’t be able to ship outside of USA or Canada for free.

Choose your free tea at our online tea shop We offer free samples too.

I will post the correct answer on Friday night (Oct 7, 2011, around 9pm PST).


24 Replies
Meeka select said

This feels like a shot in the dark, but is the problem the line down the middle through the spout caused by the slipcasting/moulding process? Not sure if that counts as something wrong though.

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AJ said

It doesn’t look like the lid matches the pot. The pot itself curves in and then begins to curve sharply upwards, and it looks like it should have that very large dome-like lid. (something like this:

Also the lid and the pot seem to be textured differently.

This and the teapot in your link are two different styles. So the curve is not it. But you have very good observation.

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Ellen said

It looks like the lid might not be made of yixing clay

The entire teapot is made with the same material. This is a Chao Zhou red clay teapot. Chao Zhou is the other less known place that makes red clay teapots. Chao Zhou red clay is slightly different from Yixing red clay.

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Izak said

lid is not the same, cause is heat, or erosion by water. the tea pot it self has to be washed out after every use to remove tea, this water also passes on the outside and has cause the the pot to become smooth. the lid is almost never washed and is handled far less then the pot.

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Hmmm. To me, the teapot appears to be glazed or waxed, which could also just be an artifact of the picture. Unglazed allows the absorption of flavors, while glazed does not.

Curious, a great deal of Chinese clay pots that I have run across (quite possibly all of them) do sport an exterior waxed finish while the interior is raw clay. Is this not the norm?

Oh no! That is not the norm. :(

Yixing pots that are meant to be seasoned over time should not be waxed or glazed. Period. Waxing or glazing on the outside is supposed to mimic the effect of years of careful use. When one wants to “yang” a teapot (take care of it, feed it, grow it), you of course make tea inside the pot, which seasons the inside and gives flavor back to the tea. The first steeping is a wash, however, and this should be poured over the tea pot. This enhances the color and (eventually) natural sheen from tea oils, and it also heats up the pot to the right temp. so that it doesn’t act like an ice cube.

It is common practice to save a bit from each steeping to keep pouring over the pot. Other folks will often have more than one pot dedicated to a kind of tea. They take out both teapots, and pour any left overs over the one not steeping like you might a tea animal/charm/pet. Or (what we do at home) you use one pot to steep and the other as a pitcher. This way, both pots can be yang-ed inside and out; using a pot as a pitcher also keeps the tea at a nice warm temperature.

Over time, the outside of the pot really will acquire a glow that makes it look like it has been waxed. This happens naturally over the course of months and years (depending on how often you use it and how well you “feed” and take care of the pot).

Pots that have been waxed or glazed are simply mimicking this had earned effect. Ultimately, these pre-psuedo-yang-ed pots are less fun for me. Because they have been waxed or glazed, the “pores” of the pot are pre-clogged, which means the pot’s growth will always be stunted. It’ll grow on the inside where it matters, I suppose, but a lot of the fun of yixing is having a beautiful pet rock to take care of and watch change over the years.
Also- if a tea-pot maker pre-glazes a pot, it raises a red flag about the quality of their tea pots in general. If they didn’t care enough about the pot to make it yang-able, then they probably didn’t make it by hand and with great care. Might not be true in every case, and it might still make for a pot that will make nice tea, but still.. it’s a red flag.
Yixing pots are such an investment of your time and tea.. they’re storing memories and flavors that span years of your life. From my perspective, you might as well invest in something really nice and worth that time.

Interesting and thanks for the information, could you provide me with links to unwaxed or unglazed pots? Preferably pots for sale but pictures would work too I reckon. As most of the pots I’ve seen have a glossy finish, if this isn’t the norm, than there must the more “raw” pots out there than “waxed”, so I want to make sure were talking about the same thing and if so I’d love to find some available for purchase.

Thanks again.

Thanks @Spoonvonstup you provided some very good information for our tea community. Thank you very much for sharing. We need more of this kind of sharing so everyone becomes more informed.

@The Seattle Tea Snob I’ll post a picture tonight showing a brand new yixing zisha teapot without wax/glaze, and the exact same teapot after it acquired a natural glow.

I am missing something, I am fairly certain of this. So I just checked out verdant tea and tea habitat, who I respect as carrying quality items. And all of there pots seem to have a waxy sheen to them. So what am I missing? I’m sure I’m not quite understanding and not on the same page, never claimed to be an expert in pottery but I thing I am missing something obvious.

@DeRenTea thanks for being willing to post look forward to it.

Hey! Sorry this took so long for me to get back to- I’ve been away from the net.

So here are a few examples that might better explain what I mean visually. These come from the tea blog of an incredible teapot and antique dealer and collector I was lucky enough to meet with in Qingdao, China when I taught English over there (also, lucky enough to drool over his beautiful things and get to learn about them.. wish I could go back and spend a year apprenticed to him!). His tea shop is called Yi Yan Cha Tang (one word tea company).

He’s got this blog post specifically about how a teapot is yang-ed over time.

The first picture is of three identical teapots he acquired.
The first one has not been used at all:
As you can see, it does have some reflection, but when you see these in person, you’ll see that this is both an artifact of the light you took the photo in, and the fact that clay will reflect some small amount of light, even if it’s unglazed.

This second teapot was used for half a year- six months:
As you can see, there is a real difference to the shine. It’s starting to get a lovely glow and patina, and the color is beginning to change just a bit.

This third teapot has been yang-ed consistently for one year:
Doesn’t that look like someone has rubbed wax all over the pot? This happens naturally as a result of using the pot and feeding it well. Look at the color and shine! The glowing patina! droooool

Now, be aware that when this fellow yang-s a teapot, he does it seriously. I’ve seen several folks bring their teapots to his shop for him to baby-sit and “grow” the pots for them. He uses all of his in-progress teapots every day. He then has his assistant(s) take out all of the leaves, rinse the pot thoroughly with boiling water, and then fill the pots with boiling water again. He then leaves the pots to sit with this water until the end of the day. At this point, everyone empties the teapots, and takes these special buffing cloths (usually made out of suede). The buffing cloths are all very clean. The cloths are dipped in boiled spring water, and each pot is rubbed and buffed with this cloth until they are completely dry, inside and out.
Use like this will get your teapot looking like pot number three in about a year! I wish I could do that for all of our pots at home, but I am never really as thorough as I wish I could be. As a result, we’ve got some pots that we’ve been yang-ing for just over a year now, but they are about at the 6-month mark (pot example number 2).

For more excellent yixing, you should check out Yi Yan Cha Tang’s page on Taobao! Many of the cheaper pots (300-600 rmb) are new pots that have never been used. Take a look at how they are missing the luster and “waxy” finish. Some of his more expensive pots (9999999….999RMB) seem to glow. This is because they have delicious clay in some cases (which reflect light to some extent naturally), and because they have been used well by him in others. If you take a look at his gallery, you’ll see what I mean.

As for other English sources? Even the wikipedia entry for yixing clearly states that yixing is “typically unglazed.” And this “typically” I feel only reflects the generally lower quality or imitation yixing that makes it into most American tea shops.

If you like Verdant Tea, you could also reference his posts on yixing clay tea pot make-up and care:
The pots in Verdant’s gallery might appear to have a shine to them, but they are also nowhere near a shine that would come from having a wax coating applied to them. Again, this is an artifact of the photos and of the fact that clay will naturally reflect some small amount of light. I’ve had the benefit of seeing the pots in person at some of Verdant’s tastings (I live in the Mpls-StPaul area), and they are not glazed or waxed. The glow is a dull, natural kind.
The one exception in Verdant’s gallery might appear to be the Burnished Gears pot, but as he explains in the pot’s description: The clay is entirely hand-burnished (not glazed) for the shiny effect. The pot will continue to take on more depth to its sheen through use." burnished- ie: rubbed with a clean (probably suede-ish) cloth.

Many other teapot guides warn to stay away from wax on the outsides of teapots: yixing-teapot
etc, etc… I did a simple google search for yixing, wax, fake, coating and came up with pages of hits.

This person below says that “most teapots come with a wax coating to make them look shiny on the shelf”:
To me, this implies that the writer is very optimistic and has not had much experience with reputable yixing dealers. They are giving their dealers the benefit of the doubt. However, I am not as optimistic as they, and do not think that the wax could be removed with a simple boiling.

One final example:
This blossom pot is extremely widely available. I’ve seen it in Teavana but also at local kitchen supply stores like Kitchen Window. The pot is glazed (in fact, the color might even be applied with some sort of paint, but I haven’t taken a close look at this particular pot in several months):
Take a look at that particular kind of shine. That is a very white, bright glare.. almost like a lens flare or something.
Compare the way the clay looks to one of Yi Yan Cha Tang’s house-branded pots (he has these commissioned, and so the seal on the bottom is his Tea Club’s seal if you’ll notice). These are pretty affordable in China, and this one is definitely new. It’s not machine made or mass-produced in the sense we might use in America, but it is hand-made for him on a larger scale:
Scroll down to see good, big pictures.
Compare this natural, dull shine (you can still see through it to the clay, even) to the blossom pot.

Wish I could do more for you- the easiest way to share this kind of knowledge is actually in person, handling the real things. Because of the nature of photography, there will always be some degree of reflection.

Hope this has clarified somethings. Your local tea houses are another good place to turn to- you could even ask the owners about their experiences with pre-waxed yixing and the natural, traditional kind, and if they’re good folks and not too busily packed, they might take out some pots to show you some different examples and levels of craftsmanship.

Happy drinking!

Geoffrey said

@Spoonvonstup – Great info and examples! Inspires me to be even more diligent about yang-ing my teapot. I’ll try to remember to save some tea from every steeping for my tea pot going forward. Thanks!

@spoonvonstup Sorry for the late reply its been crazy, anyways thanks so much for all of the information, pictures definitely don’t do it justice but it help get your point across, that will a couple visits to local shops I think I understand it much better. Went back through my collection and saw that some of mine were waxed and some where not, but now I have a better idea of what I’m looking for in a quality pot. Thanks!

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My knowledge of clay is not what I’d like it to be but alas there is so little time and so many books for me to get lost in.

So my unedumacated observations, I tend to agree with Meeka, I’m not sure I would count that as something wrong with the pot nor does it imply that it is a slipcast pot but probably is indicative of a low quality pot where not much attention was given to workmanship.

A lot of attention has been directed toward the lid, which is probably not even close to what you are looking for, but to follow the lemmings; it does look like the lid has lost its waxed finish and it is wearing away faster than the pot, if this is the case I have no idea what would cause that (unless hot water poured on the pot is poured directly onto the lid wearing away the finish). More than likely though I’m just talking out of my butt now.

Interested to hear what the answer is.

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Not a clue, sorry.

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wheatpond said

Chaozhou red clay pots are made with a certain amount of “zhu ni” mixed with hong ni (not sure about the english for zhu ni, its also a reddish clay but with different properties than hong ni)

The excessive roughness in the lid indicates an excess of zhu ni (which contracts more upon firing, producing wrinkles/roughness) in the lid.

My guess, anyhow :D

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jamielynn said

Is it the shape of the spout?

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Cannabuzz said

I am stumped _

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