Quality leaf tea is, unquestionably, best made in an unglazed clay teapot, and the best teapots are made from “Purple Clay” (Zisha) which is traditionally produced in the Yixing area in the eastern Chinese province of Jiangsu. The clay’s unique mineral composition is known to produce teapots with excellent tea brewing abilities, speaking of heat distribution and flavor development.
Personally, I prefer my purple clay pot over any other brewing vessel. It’s an everyday item as it is a centerpiece on the table. Its simple but very elegant design mirrors excellently the philosophy of tea in its core, and produces without a doubt a more balanced and richer tasting tea compared to glass pots or pots made from porcelain.
Unglazed Clay Pots make better tea!
There are two big arguments for this statement:
I) Flavor build-up
The clay used for making quality Chinese teapots has a rich mineral composition. Its porous structure will absorb some of the tea oils during steeping. Hence, tea flavors are able to accumulate in the teaware, resulting in a remarkably improved, and fuller tasting cup.
Even pure water will taste somewhat smoother out of a well-used pot.
II) Excellent heat distribution
Time and temperature are critical factors when making tea as little variations can produce quite a different aroma of the liquor. I always recommend to play with your steeping settings until you find your personal sweet spot, and its a great way to train your senses.
In that regard, the little earthenware pot will become your best friend as it distributes heat quick and evenly and offers excellent heat preservation during tea brewing.
How to season a new Chinese clay teapot
Before using a new teapot, it is important to season the clay in order to prepare it for a thousand amazing cups to come. This initial “cleaning step” will remove sediments from the manufacturing process, oil residues or wax coatings that were put on to protect the pot on the shelf. It will also neutralize any scents that might have accumulated during storage.
To season your new teapot it needs to be cooked!
- Rinse and clean the pot thoroughly under cool, running water using a natural cleaning pad or better, a dried piece of loofah
- Line the inside of a large cooking pot with a cloth or tea towel, this will prevent breakage during cooking
- Place your teapot and lid separately into the cooking pot
- Fully submerge the teapot and lid with filtered water, and bring to a gentle simmer
- Simmer for 45 to 60 minutes
- Turn off the heat and allow the water to cool
- Remove your teapot, rinse with cold and filtered water, then place it upside down to drain and dry
- All done. Your teapot is ready to use.
You are likely to find various ways to prepare/ season a teapot. Personally, I am not a big fan of using abrasives such as toothpaste or other cleaning agents. As the clay is very absorbent, I can imagine they will introduce off-flavors into the clay or even damage the surface.
If you want to neutralize more stubborn smells, I recommend to follow the guidelines in the Global Tea Hut issue 09/2017; where the teapot is pre-cooked with 1 tsp of ash or 1/2 tsp of bleach powder. This issue is a great and comprehensive read on Yixing teaware in general, filled with heaps of interesting and up to date material on the subject! If the issue is not online at this point, just flick ’em a message to request one.
Is it better to dedicate one teapot for a certain type of tea?
Yes and No. The classic answer.
Well, it makes sense to dedicate one teapot to a specific kind of tea as flavors will accumulate with every brew. You even can season your teapot with tea leaves to speed up the process. To do that, prepare the teapot as described above, then bring to a gentle boil again with fresh and filtered water. This time, add about 3 teaspoons of tea leaves you will be using in your teapot. Turn off the heat and let it gradually cool down. Rinse with cool, running water, and place your teapot upside down to dry.
It is not necessary to invest a fortune in order to have a huge collection of teapots to be able to enjoy different teas. As said earlier, the more the little pot is used the better the tea becomes. I am using mostly one teapot for black teas, stronger green teas, puerh and heavier oxidised oolongs. I am using a different one for chai tea, as the spices tend to introduce stronger scents. And then I have my glass gaiwan for the delicate tea types that require less heat to steep, such as whites, gentle greens or light oolongs.
Oh, and did I mention...
NEVER wash your teapot with soap/ detergent.
NEVER put into a dishwasher to clean it.
You don’t want soapy tea, right!
Just rinse with clean water after each use, drain, and keep the lid off until the pot is absolutely dry.
"Home is where your teapots are"
…would you agree ?!
Thanks for reading. I am sure you’ll enjoy the wonders of a beautiful cup of tea that is made with grace and skill, wherever you go.
Please feel free to leave a comment below. We’d love to hear your teapot stories!