So You Bought a Yixing Teapot — Now What?

Have you taken the plunge and purchased a Yixing teapot, or maybe even two or three? (A few nice designs are shown here.) Congratulations! But now you need to do a bit of learning and preparation in order to get the proper use out of these wonderful teawares.

The first thing to know about these little treasures is that the clay from which they’re made is unsealed. Unlike ceramic and bone china, which are sealed with a glaze and therefore can be cleaned in a more rigorous manner and can also be used to steep just about any tea you want, these Yixing teapots are porous and absorb some of the tea that is steeped in them. This means several things:

  1. They need to be seasoned to allow the tea oils to penetrate the porous clay.
  2. You need to use each teapot with only one type of tea.
  3. Rinse out with water and don’t use dishwashing liquid.

No need to panic, though, since these things are not as tricky as they may seem.

Seasoning the Teapots
You can very lightly simmer the teapots but you must be sure to handle them carefully and not overdo it: they can be damaged by careless use of this process.  Or you can use the fill method of seasoning.

Assigning a Tea Type to Each Teapot
You can keep it simple here and say that this teapot is for pu-erh and that teapot is for green tea, and the third teapot is for oolong, but then you discover how many different versions there are of each of these teas. There are raw pu-erhs and ripe pu-erhs, Dragonwell (longjing) green tea, ti kuan yin oolong and ben shan oolong, to name but a few. You could end up with a lot of teapots, each one labeled in some way with the type of tea you want to use in it. How detailed you get is up to you.

“So, what do I do?” you might ask. Well, I keep it pretty simple: specific teapots for ripe pu-erh, for raw pu-erh, and for the more highly roasted or oxidized oolongs. I find that a Yixing masks too many of the nuances of white tea, green teas, and lightly oxidized or lightly-roasted oolongs. Now, you could look at this another way: perhaps, I just have not seasoned a Yixing pot long enough so that it does not mask the flavor profiles of delicate greens. Maybe I should take that on as a challenge! All jesting aside, if you are using a delicate tea, you are probably best advised to use a gaiwan.

Cleaning the Teapots
These teapots are actually pretty simple to clean:

  2. Dump out the spent tea leaves.
  3. Rinse the teapot and lid in cold water.
  4. Let them air dry completely.

Caution: do not put the lid on the teapot until both pieces are completely dry to assure that mold does not start to grow inside them.

Once you know the simple guidelines, you’ll really enjoy and get a lot of use out of your Yixing teapots.

About Janice and Stephen Shelton

Purveyors of Premium Teas
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