Those in the tea community, when they hear of clay teapots they immediately think of the Yixing Zisha teapot! A well appreciated Chinese model. All clay teapots have the so-called memory, meaning that the clay will absorb the aroma of your tea. They say that if you use a Yixing teapot for many years you will arrive at a time when you could make some tea with just heating plain water in it.
Introducing The Yixing Zisha Teapot
This is called a low profile Yixing Zisha teapot.
What is so special about Yixing teapots?
Not only good looking but also functional, Yixing teapots (yeeshing) are of a superior quality. They are made from zisha clay, rich in iron and quartz, a clay that is found only in Yixing parts from the Chinese province of Jiangsu.
Yixing clay doesn’t contain lead, arsenic, cadmium or any toxic materials. Thanks to its porosity this type of clay efficiently absorbs the subtle flavors of teas and it becomes more and more imbued with perfume after each use. Zisha clay retains heat very well and intensifies the taste of tea.
The story of the Yixing zisha teapot starts with the Sung dynasty period (960 – 1279), when the purple clay was first extracted from the vicinity of Lake Taihu. The art of making pots (not just teapots) evolved in the time of Ming and Qing dynasty (1573 – 1911).
Just like in the old days, they are made manually even today. They aren’t treated with enamel like other clay teapots, because of this tea tastes better and the material’s color remains bright and alive. Naturally, there are three nuances of Yixing clay, given by the concentration of iron: grayish, reddish, brown-violet. By adding various mineral pigments other colors can be also obtained.
This is the prime material from where clay comes from. In other words, this is it’s purest form.
Traditionally, Yixing teapots where small, so that every person had its own recipient. In time, a wider array of dimensions became available.
How are Yixing teapots made?
After extraction, the clay is dried then transformed into a powder that’s being passed through a bamboo filter to remove impurities. Then the powder get’s moved into a big rectangular recipient filled with water. After three days the material is being pulled out and left out in the sun to dry again.
After that, the clay is being cut into blocks from which water excess is being removed before sending them to the potters. They prepare the clay blocks by hitting them with a hard wooden hammer and sometimes adding water to obtain the right consistency.
This process lasts for about two days. The clay is ready to be processed when, being cut with a knife, the interior has a smooth and shiny texture without too many air bubbles.
The artisans process the clay block and cut out from it the walls, the bottom and the lid of the teapot (sometimes with the help of molds) and are assembled with a mix of clay and water. In the case of decorated teapots, these are burnt in the oven at a low temperature.
How to prepare the infusion in a clay teapot?
Yixing zisha teapot is recommended for the infusion of oxidated and hard teas that have a subtle taste (fried oolong, black tea, Pu-erh), but they can also be used for green, white and aromatic oolong tea. It’s recommended that you use only one type of tea per teapot.
Before using a teapot for the first time wash it well using only your hands and water. Add it to a bigger pot filled with water. If you want to better protect your teapot wrap it in a cloth. Now, when the pot is filled with water and it contains your teapot, heat it at a low temperature for 30 minutes. Set aside the pot from the fire and wait for it to cool down. After it cooled down you can take out your teapot and use it.
To prepare the tea:
Heat the teapot by pouring warm water on it and inside it then empty it.
Add the tea and pour steaming water.
Add the lid then pour water into the teapot (you can do this in your sink)
Wait until the water on the teapot evaporates and check to see if the infusion is ready. About 20-30 seconds are enough.
How to take care of your clay teapot
Yixing teapots are very easy to take care of. The general rule is to avoid washing it with cleaning products at all costs. Also, avoid washing it in the dishwashing machine.
After each use, take out the leaves and wash it thoroughly with water. Wait for it to dry out and clean it with a soft and dry cloth and make sure that it’s well dried out before putting it in your kitchen cabinet.