Jump to content
  • Welcome to the eG Forums, a service of the eGullet Society for Culinary Arts & Letters. The Society is a 501(c)3 not-for-profit organization dedicated to the advancement of the culinary arts. These advertising-free forums are provided free of charge through donations from Society members. Anyone may read the forums, but to post you must create an account.

Sign in to follow this  
cherimoya

Chinese Yixing Clay Tea Pots

Recommended Posts

I just succumbed to the hype and bought a purple clay tea pot. My tea still tastes the same :huh: Does anyone else use a purple clay tea pot?

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Are you referring to a Yixing clay teapot?

There are a bunch of contributing factors to the flavor of tea, and the teapot plays a part, but the quality of the tea and the brewing technique are more important.

The advantages of Yixing ware are more about its ability to retain heat (compared to porcelain) than anything else, though some people praise the low shrinkage of the clay during firing. I like both tetsubin and yixing ware for the heat retention, and Hagi ware (from Japan) when it comes to glazed earthenware. Heat retention does affect the quality of brewing; for yixing ware, you will probably want to pour hot water into an empty pot to warm it up before actually infusing the tea.

If you have a small Yixing pot you may also be able to improve the aroma of your tea assuming you use a relatively high ratio of tea to water, and short infusions, but for the most part, the result can be accomplished with a small gaiwan, porcelain or otherwise.

The other perceived benefit comes from the long term "seasoning" of the pot as some molecules of tea are apparently absorbed into the very porous clay, but you wouldn't notice that immediately, whether it improves the taste or not.

The real benefit of having nice teaware is that good teaware improves your overall sensory experience. The visual appeal of the pot and your servingware has a real impact on your perception of the flavor of the tea, and on the sense memories triggered while you're drinking the tea.

This is part of the reason why Japanese food tastes better when presented carefully on attractive, appropriate tableware, and at the other extreme, why blind taste tests for Cola don't have much affect on sales; people's perception of flavor is affected by their visual experience, including brand visuals, and what memories and thoughts that triggers.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
I just succumbed to the hype and bought a purple clay tea pot.  My tea still tastes the same  :huh: Does anyone else use a purple clay tea pot?

I own several Yixing pots (a few of them can be seen here My Tea Service) and I find that it more of a cultural attraction than anything else. The heat properties are supposed to be supperior however it more art in my mind. Will it make you tea taste better today, probably not, but it is said that if you brew ONLY the same type of tea in the pot it will develop a seasoning and character of it's own.

________

Mike Petro

Pu-erh, A Westerner's Quest

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

It takes some years for the seasoning to take place. One word of advice is to brew the same type of tea in a particular pot. Oolongs are usually recommended.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I own several Yixing pots (a few of them can be seen here My Tea Service) and I find that it more of a cultural attraction than anything else.

Mike Petro

Pu-erh, A Westerner's Quest

This is certainly an attraction---I've spent the last several hundred breaths admiring and reading. This is just the most beautiful thing I've see in many a long while.

Your corner is so smoooooth and contemplative, with all the green promise of soft breezes, the carefully-arranged utensils and the table's far-seeing landscape.

The use of breaths for measuring steeping time sets the stage for a quiet, relaxing moment or hour with a calming cup, and the description is soothing, before the first drop is poured. What is in the little stoppered cruet? And is there a little fish-companion in the vase?

I've never seen a more beautiful tea-tray---you seem to have harnessed a glossy wolf to hold your treasures and do your bidding. Amazing.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
What is in the little stoppered cruet?  And is there a little fish-companion in the vase?

I've never seen a more beautiful tea-tray---you seem to have harnessed a glossy wolf to hold your treasures and do your bidding.  Amazing.

Thanks for the kudos. The cruet is a good balsamic vinegar, not for tea but for snacks. Yes there is a Beta (Siamese Fighting Fish) in the vase. The plant and the fish form a sort of symbiotic relatonship. The waste from the fish is food for the plant, feed the fish regularly and the plant thrives too.

Cheers,


Edited by mikepetro (log)

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
I just succumbed to the hype and bought a purple clay tea pot.  My tea still tastes the same  :huh: Does anyone else use a purple clay tea pot?

I think you have it backwards - the tea enhances one's enjoyment of the fine pottery :wink: - but I love ceramics.

Seriously, it is the whole experience - kind of like a restaurant with good service and good food. I'm not compulsive about it or anything (I use a lot of tea bags) but using a nice tea pot or drinking out of the perfect (for you) mug is satisfying.

The Yixing teapots do age. A friend pointed out how a well used one had developed a softer surface sheen. This may well affect the flavor. Even glazed pots are said to get better as they develop a thick tea-stain. I think this would be more pronounced with an unglazed stoneware. So give it time and enjoy your teapot.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Wholemeal Crank asked this question in another topic:

How can I tell if my little clay teapot is Yixing ware?

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Ok, here is the pot in question, profile

http://www.flickr.com/photos/debunix/3806243025/

bottom stamp

http://www.flickr.com/photos/debunix/3807062878/

and the box that it was put in after I picked it off the shelf--no idea if this is the original pot or not

http://www.flickr.com/photos/debunix/3806246481/

I paid just $20 for it. It was one of the simplest designs available. And it makes wonderful tea.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Yes, I know Wing Hop Fung. I have bought a few tea canisters on their website. Do they have more tea and tea-things in the store than on the site, as most b&m stores with a website do?

It is incredibly difficult to say whether a clay pot is actually made of any of the Yixing clays, especially without being able to see and touch it. There are a lot of fakes using other clays, and other good clays passed off as Yixing because they have the name and get a better price. But for $20, yours may well be an inexpensive Yixing, slip cast or made on a wheel, rather than half hand made using a mold (but even the latter is possible). I have several in that price range and they are perfectly suitable for brewing Chinese Oolongs and Pu-erhs. You would have to spend two or three times that much to do better.

So, what's the capacity of your pot?

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Yes, I know Wing Hop Fung. I have bought a few tea canisters on their website. Do they have more tea and tea-things in the store than on the site, as most b&m stores with a website do?

They have a tea tasting are with about 50 different teas in bulk, and that might be an underestimate, plus many tinned teas, pu-erh cakes in plain wraps and fancy packages, and a large selection of teaware--relatively few gaiwans in simple styles, quite inexpensive, and lots and lots of the small pots like mine, though most were more decorated, may fancier presentation sets and lots of japanese cast iron pots, and more. It is quite amazing.

And my little pot holds about 160 mL.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Lot of clicks for what should be a simple job, but here is the pot in question:

gallery_16931_6727_23017.jpg

gallery_16931_6727_26641.jpg

gallery_16931_6727_13641.jpg

The box--again, not sure if that is specific to this pot or not--says in english 'association of ceramic arts masters' and 'traditional family of ceramic arts'.


Edited by Wholemeal Crank (log)

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I am loving the little pot just posted above, and understand that traditionally these are kept one per type of tea.

To what level of detail do most of you try to go with that--

would the same teapot for green and white teas be stretching it too far?

what about green/white vs yellow teas?

and should the light Taiwain oolong we just tasted be ok in the same pot as some basic anxi ti kuan yin?

green tea with green tea with jasmine?

Just curious.

And then, how do you keep track of which pot is which?

I can easily see keeping track of 'plain pot with dots on the spout' is for oolong, 'decorated pot with dragon on side' is for pu-erh, but beyond that, they might need to be labelled or a photo key posted inside a cabinet to keep track of them.


Edited by Wholemeal Crank (log)

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
I am loving the little pot just posted above, and understand that traditionally these are kept one per type of tea.

To what level of detail do most of you try to go with that--

I have enough Yixing pots and other brewing vessels to divide things up quite a bit, but I think the basic divisions for Yixings are one each for shu,  young sheng and aged sheng; one for Oolongs ( you could have two - one for lighter and one for darker); one for red teas. While there are all sorts f theories about matching clay and pot shape to a particular category of tea, I have found that it's a matter of trying different teas in a pot to see what one shows the most improvement over brewing it in a gaiwan. The more you brew, the clearer and fuzzier all this gets. Of course, many people would say just get one for pu-erh and one for Oolong and be done with it. And that's not unreasonable either.

would the same teapot for green and white teas be stretching it too far?

what about green/white vs yellow teas?

In general, it's better not to brew green teas in a Yixing, because if you accidentally over-brew the tea will become bitter and that's what will be absorbed into the clay. Better to use a gaiwan or your glass teapot. There are Yixings that are okay with white teas, but not many and I don't know how to identify one that would work; I rely on tea pot merchants I trust for that kind of advice. For all three I would stick to a gaiwan or a glass pot.

and should the light Taiwain oolong we just tasted be ok in the same pot as some basic anxi ti kuan yin?

I think so. I had been thinking about trying it in a Yixing that I have dedicated to greener TGYs.

green tea with green tea with jasmine?

Again - gaiwan or glass pot. I suspect the jasmine will cling to any clay.

Just curious.

And then, how do you keep track of which pot is which?

I can easily see keeping track of 'plain pot with dots on the spout' is for oolong, 'decorated pot with dragon on side' is for pu-erh, but beyond that, they might need to be labelled or a photo key posted inside a cabinet to keep track of them.

A photo posted is a clever idea. I may do that, but so far I have placed a little card next to each pot. This really has been helpful only for those I don't use regularly. And things can get confusing anyway, because I continue to try new teas on old pots to see if there is a better match. In fact, I found a better match for Dan Congs just the other day, in the form of a Yixing that I had been using for sheng pu-erh.

I also wanted to mention that you did well selecting a simple shape Yixing. The fancier ones are interesting but typically made of the lower grade Yixing clays. The complex designs are more likely to break by the time they come out of the kiln and potters do not want to sacrifice the scarce quality clays that are valued for tea making. The fancy designs are usually meant for display, although any number of tea merchants sell them anyway.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

good point about the bitterness of green teas and unglazed pots--I was pretty sure that would be the answer for the jasmine, but not about the greens in general.

For work I will stick to my glass pot(s), as simplest and most practical.

But may play with some more simple yixings for pus and oolongs at home. It will add some fun to my next trip to the tea shop.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I'm in London for a conference and stumbled upon a shop called Dao in the Greenwich Market with a lovely selection of Chinese teaware, particularly gaiwan and Yixing teapots (they play a bit off the connection between the Cutty Sark, which is just around the corner, and the history of the English tea trade with China). I was actually planning to come back to New York with a proper English teapot, but I didn't know when I'd again see such a nice selection of Yixing ware, so I bought a Yixing teapot, which I think I'll dedicate to oolongs. I only brought a film camera with me, so I can't post a photo at the moment, but I'll make some digital photos when I get back to New York.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Congratulations on your teapot, David. I'm always interested in seeing pics of Yixings and will look forward to seeing them.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

gallery_64820_6661_390214.jpg

Here's my new yixing pot, about 300ml. The owner of the shop explained that they generally came in four basic colors, and this color is fired at a higher temperature than some of the other clays. The text, she said, is the Heart Sutra.

gallery_64820_6661_335171.jpg

The inside perforated where the spout attaches.

gallery_64820_6661_49095.jpg

Here is the maker's stamp on the inside of the lid, also showing the airhole in the lid.

gallery_64820_6661_57837.jpg

And this is the maker's stamp on the bottom of the pot.

The shop had a selection of around 40 or 50 yixing pots and tea sets with matching cups on display in various designs, colors, and sizes as well as other Chinese teaware. They don't have a full website yet, but you can find their contact information at http://www.daolondon.co.uk/


Edited by David A. Goldfarb (log)

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Yes, the recommendation from the shop was first to fill it with boiling water and to pour boiling water over it, letting it sit for about a half hour, and to do this three times. Then to season they recommended to brew three pots of strong tea of the type to be dedicated to that pot using enough tea that the leaves would fill the pot, each time letting the pot sit until cool, and generally not cleaning the pot with a brush or with soap either during seasoning or afterward. I've done that using the Imperial Gold China Oolong from McNulty's in Manhattan, and I've made a few pots of the same tea in it since, and I've been very pleased with it.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Richard,

You mentioned in a post on this thread that there are a lot of fake Yixing pots made from clays passed of as Yixing and to buy your Yixing pot from a source you trust.

Can you recommend a few sources for Yixing pots?

I have already checked out the pots at Tea Source since I was on their site reading about the tea you had today. Are they a reliable source for pots as well as tea?

TIA,

Diane

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

And if I can add to that, what is a reasonable price to expect to pay for a real Yi Xing pot?

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Richard,You mentioned in a post on this thread that there are a lot of fake Yixing pots made from clays passed of as Yixing and to buy your Yixing pot from a source you trust. Can you recommend a few sources for Yixing pots? I have already checked out the pots at Tea Source since I was on their site reading about the tea you had today. Are they a reliable source for pots as well as tea?TIA,Diane

And if I can add to that, what is a reasonable price to expect to pay for a real Yi Xing pot?

I have not bought a Yixing from Tea Source, but would not be interested in those I see on their site. The clays do not look good for brewing tea to me. This is not just Tea Source - few tea merchants know much of anything about Yixing pots and often feature the more decorative ones because they are cool looking and people are more attracted to them than the simple, plain looking traditional ones. One problem is that the decorative ones are much, much more likely to be made of lower grade clay because many designs require a lot of clay and the breakage rate on these fancy ones can be high. Potters don't want to sacrifice their good clays this way. So it's best to think of the artistic ones as display pieces.

Buying a Yixing without seeing and touching it in person is tricky. You can buy a useable Yixing teapot for as little as $12 plus shipping. This is modern Zisha clay of good enough quality to brew tea. If you are brewing gong fu cha for one or two people, I suggest one of about 90 - 100 ml as optimal, but no larger than 150 ml, which could serve as many as four people. Simple, traditional styles. No cute decoration. There is good reasons for not spending more than, say, $50 on your first two or three Yixings. It's a learning experience and we all pay some dues. Those dues are cheaper at $12 - $50 than at several hundred.

I have had the good fortune to see in person hundreds of Yixing tea pots of awful ($4) to good to very good quality since one of the largest importers of Yixings is here in Dallas. Robert Bo at Chinese Teapot Gallery on eBay. There is not anything in his eBay store I can recommend right now, but he should have a lot more stock in later this year or early next year. Don't consider anything in his store less than $12 and only traditional, simple styles. No appliqué, no open work. When you see something you like in the store, just email him and tell him you want a Yixing for brewing tea, not as a decoration, and ask if it has good clay for brewing. Ask for alternate suggestions in the 90 - 150 ml range.

Scott Wilson at Yunnan Sourcing on eBay is another tea merchant I can recommend for inexpensive Yixings in the $12 - $50 range. Again, simple styles in the 90 - 150 ml range. People almost always start larger and end up later with smaller (100 ml or less) pots. Scott is not a Yixing expert and the clays used in the pots he has listed may or may not be accurate, but regardless they are good clays and his prices are fair.

Older Yixings made of better clays that are "extinct" (no longer mined) usually start in the hundreds of dollars, go into the many thousands and are another subject entirely. And are not a reasonable place for most people to start.

All this said, my strong suggestion these days, which I am sure is usually ignored because of some intrinsic appeal of Yixing tea pots, is to forget about Yixings for now and learn to brew Chinese teas with a gaiwan. Spend time learning what teas you like in this neutral vessel that will not appreciably change, impact, improve or negatively alter the aroma and taste of the teas. I didn't do that, of course, but Robert Bo and I probably spent a weeks worth of hours over several months, squatting on the floor of his shop looking through hundreds of pots as he gave me my basic Yixing education. But today, I often try a new tea in a gaiwan before brewing it in a Yixing.

Gaiwan first. Yixing later.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Sign in to follow this  

  • Similar Content

    • By liuzhou
      I have just returned home to China from an almost two week trip to Ho Chi Minh City (Saigon), Vietnam. To get there I first travelled by train to the provincial capital, Nanning. The local airport only does domestic flights, whereas there are direct flights from Nanning. The flight time required that I stay overnight at the Aviation Hotel in Nanning, from which there is a regular direct bus to the airport.
       
      The trip to Nanning is about an hour and a half and passes through some nice karst scenery.
       
       
      After booking into the hotel, I set off for my favourite Nanning eating destination. Zhongshan Night market is a well known spot and very popular with the locals. I had forgotten that it was a local holiday - the place is always busy, but that night it was exceptionally so.
       

       

       
      It consists of one long street with hundreds of stalls and is basically a seafood market, although there are a few stalls selling alternatives.
       

       

       

       

       

       

       

       

       

       

       

       

       

       

       
      Filled myself with seafood (and some of that blood sausage above), slept soundly and, next morning, flew to Ho Chi Minh City.
       

       

       
      The rest of my trip can be seen here:
       
       
    • By Lisa Shock
      Years ago, when I visited Tokyo, I ate in a small but fascinating restaurant called 'It's Vegetable' which is now, unfortunately, closed. The chef was from Taiwan, and he made Buddhist vegetarian and vegan dishes that resembled meat. During my visit, several monks wearing robes stopped in to eat dinner. The dishes were pretty amazing. I understood some of them, like using seitan to mimic chicken in stir fry dishes, others used tofu products like yuba, but, others were complex and obviously difficult. One very notable dish we enjoyed was a large 'fish' fillet designed to serve several people. It had a 'skin' made of carefully layered 'scales' cut from nori and attached to the surface. Inside, the white 'flesh' flaked and tasted much like a mild fish. Anyway, apparently Buddhist fake meat meals are very popular in Taiwan and many places, cheap through to fine dining serve them. Yes, if I worked on it for a while, I could probably refine one or two dishes on my own, but, I am wondering if there's a Modernist Cuisine type cookbook for skillfully making these mock meats from scratch? (I have heard that some items are commercially made and available frozen there, much like soy-based burgers are in the US.) I am willing to try almost any offering, even if it's entirely in Chinese. And, I know how to use remailers to purchase regional items from the various local retailers worldwide who do not ship to the US.
    • By liuzhou
      Note: This follows on from the Munching with the Miao topic.
       
      The three-hour journey north from Miao territory ended up taking four, as the driver missed a turning and we had to drive on to the next exit and go back. But our hosts waited for us at the expressway exit and lead us up a winding road to our destination - Buyang 10,000 mu tea plantation (布央万亩茶园 bù yāng wàn mǔ chá yuán) The 'mu' is  a Chinese measurement of area equal to 0.07 of a hectare, but the 10,000 figure is just another Chinese way of saying "very large".
       
      We were in Sanjiang Dong Autonomous County, where 57% of the inhabitants are Dong.
       
      The Dong people (also known as the Kam) are noted for their tea, love of glutinous rice and their carpentry and architecture. And their hospitality. They tend to live at the foot of mountains, unlike the Miao who live in the mid-levels.
       
      By the time we arrived, it was lunch time, but first we had to have a sip of the local tea. This lady did the preparation duty.
       

       

       
      This was what we call black tea, but the Chinese more sensibly call 'red tea'. There is something special about drinking tea when you can see the bush it grew on just outside the window!
       
      Then into lunch:
       

       

      Chicken Soup
       

      The ubiquitous Egg and Tomato
       

      Dried fish with soy beans and chilli peppers. Delicious.
       

      Stir fried lotus root
       

      Daikon Radish
       

      Rice Paddy Fish Deep Fried in Camellia Oil - wonderful with a smoky flavour, but they are not smoked.
       

      Out of Focus Corn and mixed vegetable
       

      Fried Beans
       

      Steamed Pumpkin
       

      Chicken
       

      Beef with Bitter Melon
       

      Glutinous (Sticky) Rice
       

      Oranges
       

      The juiciest pomelo ever. The area is known  for the quality of its pomelos.
       
      After lunch we headed out to explore the tea plantation.
       

       

       

       

       
      Interspersed with the tea plants are these camellia trees, the seeds of which are used to make the Dong people's preferred cooking oil.
       

       
      As we climbed the terraces we could hear singing and then came across this group of women. They are the tea pickers. It isn't tea picking time, but they came out in their traditional costumes to welcome us with their call and response music. They do often sing when picking. They were clearly enjoying themselves.
       

       
      And here they are:
       
       
      After our serenade we headed off again, this time to the east and the most memorable meal of the trip. Coming soon.
       
       
    • By liuzhou
      Today is 元宵 yuán xiāo, the Lantern Festival marking the 15th day of the first lunar month and the last day of the Spring Festival (春节 chūn jié) which begins with the Chinese New Year on the 1st of the lunar month.
       
      Today is the day for eating 汤圆 tāng yuán, sweet glutinous rice balls.
       
      I was invited to take part in a celebration ceremony this morning in what is considered to be the city's most beautiful park. I half agree. It lies in the south of the city, surrounded by karst hill formations, but for me, the park itself is over-manicured. I like a bit of wild. That said, there are said to be around 700 species of wildlife, but most of that is on the inaccessible hills. There are pony rides for the kids and some of the locals are a bit on the wild side.
       

      Park Entrance
       

      Karst Hill
       
      Although the park has beautiful flower displays and great trees, what I love most is the bamboo. Such a beautiful plant and so useful.
       

       
      They had also hung the traditional red lanterns on some of the trees.
       


      The main reason for us to be there was to be entertained by, at first, these three young men who bizarrely welcomed us with  a rendition of Auld Lang Syne played on their bamboo wind instruments - I forget what they are called. They are wearing the traditional dress of the local Zhuang ethnic minority.
       

       
      Then some local school kids sang for us and did a short play in English. Clap, clap, clap.
       
      Then on to the main event. We were asked to form groups around one of four tables looking like this.
       

       
      Appetising, huh? What we have here at top is a dough made from glutinous rice flour. Then below black sesame paste and ground peanut paste. We are about to learn to make Tangyuan, glutinous rice balls. Basically you take a lump of dough, roll it into a ball, then flatten it, then form a cup shape. add some of each or either of the two pastes and reform the ball to enclose the filling. Simple! Maybe not.
       

       
      Some of us were more successful than others
       

       
      These are supposed to be white, but you can see the filling - not good; its like having egg showing all over the outside of your scotch eggs.
       
      Modesty Shame prevents me telling you which were mine.
       

       
      At least one person seemed to think bigger is better! No! They are meant to be about an inch in diameter. Sometimes size does matter!
       
      Finally the balls we had made were taken away to be boiled in the park's on-site restaurant. What we were served were identically sized balls with no filling showing. They are served in this sweet ginger soup. The local pigs probably had ours for lunch.
       
       

       


      The orange-ish and purplish looking ones are made in the same way, but using red and black glutinous rice instead.
       
      Fun was had, which was the whole point.
       
    • By liuzhou
      Today is 小年 (xiǎo nián) which literally means 'little [new] year', but is something more. It takes place approximately a week before Chinese New Year (February 16th this time round - Year of the Dog) and is the festival for the Kitchen God
       
      In traditional animist Chinese thought, there is a god for everything and the kitchen god is responsible for all aspects of, you guessed, the kitchen. Once a year (today), the kitchen god pops back  to report to the god of heaven on the happenings of the last 12 months. Therefore we have to placate him so he makes a good report.  My neighbours are busy preparing offerings of sticky rice and assorted sugary confections for the god, so that when he eats them, his teeth and lips will stick together and he will be unable to report any bad behaviour. An alternative theory suggest the sugary stuff will sweeten his words. Then we'll be OK for another year!
       
      This is  the fellow


  • Recently Browsing   0 members

    No registered users viewing this page.

×