Yixing Teapots Centuries of Beauty and Functionality

From the town of Yixing (pronounced e-shing) near Lake Tai in China’s Jiangsu
Province, comes the beautiful, yet functional Yixing teapot.
Dating back to the Ming
dynasty (1368-1644), some
Yixing teapots were on the
original tea ships enroute to
Europe, with thousands having survived over
the centuries.  Sought by collectors, these
priceless antique teapots can fetch prices
upward of $100,000.
Yixing pots are made from a rich purple clay
found only in the town of Yixing, where many
devoted collectors travel to purchase directly
from the centuries old factories that still
manufacture these amazing

teapots.The colored ore pigments found in the clay
used to make Yixing teapots comes in a
range of naturally-colored earthtone shades

ranging from a terra cotta red and purple-brown, to black, ochre, and teal.

The most sought after color is dark brown (called zisha or purple
sand), but the most common color is the terra cotta red.  “Zisha”
has been used to describe all colors of Yixing clay, but collectors
and connoisseurs only use Zisha to describe the prized dark
brown color.

It should be noted that the teal pots are oxidized to brighten the
colors and should not be used for brewing, however, decorative
teal details are harmless.  Also, some teapots are painted rather
than getting their color from the ore.  But to tell the true color of the
teapot you need simply look inside.

The “Brown Betty” English style teapot has been compared to Yixing teapots for the similar type
of red clay used to make them.  Both the Yixing teapot and the English Brown Betty teapot have
excellent heat retention, porous permeable clay, and high plasticity.  And although the clay used
to make the Brown Betty style teapots may be similar to Yixing clay, the Brown Betty has been in
existence for far less time than the centuries old Yixing teapots.

What to Look For When Buying
a Yixing Teapot

                                                      Whether it is whimsical, elegant, or contemporary, if you are
buying a teapot to use rather than as an addition to your
collection, you need to first consider its functionality.  Ask the
seller how it pours, as some whimsical shapes and figures
may not be practical for brewing tea.  Also, the lid should fit
snugly, so when steeping the tea leaf is exposed to the
beneficial heat and steam from the water.
Yixing teapots may look fragile but they are actually pretty
sturdy and practical to use for brewing and can withstand
near boiling water without cracking.  The color won’t fade or change and the zisha clay has
no odor.

Most Yixing teapots are rubbed with a piece of water buffalo horn to smooth and polish the
pot both inside and out.  Also be sure to look for the chop mark of the potter located both
on the bottom of the teapot, as well as on the lid, as the price of the pot is usually deter
mined in part by the fame of the potter who made it.

There are four levels of price for Yixing
teapots, depending on how famous the
potter is who made it, the intricacy of
the design, how fine the clay is and the
color, and how much surface polishing
the teapot has received.

The first level, which is the largest cate-
gory of Yixing teapots produced, are the
simple, basic ones that sell for about
$10 – $15 in

 China.  Second are the
standard pots, also a fairly large cate-
gory of production.  These teapots are
a little more stylish and detailed than
the first level and sell for around $35 –
The next level are the collector teapots, made by well known artists with traditional or
modern designs selling anywhere from $150 – $800.  Lastly are the antique Yixing teapots
that can sell   for $3,000 up to $100,000 or more.

The intrigue of a Yixing teapot is that over time it absorbs the flavor of the tea brewed in
it.  Yixing teapots don’t have an interior glaze, so when purchasing one for brewing tea ou should always get one for each type of tea, using one for brewing black tea and another for green tea, etc..  And
you should never brew scented or flavored teas in your Yixing teapot as it will absorb the odors and flavors and
contaminate any other tea brewed later in that pot.

Yixing teapots can be found in many unique shapes and designs, from whimsical animals and flowers, to sleek, stylish,
contemporary designs which make them not only enjoyable to collect, but fun to use as well.

Seasoning Your Yixing Teapot

The Yixing teapots found today are made in much the same way as they have been for centuries.  Sometimes the pot
has a thin layer of paraffin wax covering it, which needs to be removed before using.
To do this simply place a terry cloth or linen towel in the bottom of a deep cooking pot and add a few inches of cold
water.  Remove the lid and place the teapot on the towel and the lid beside it (not touching), and cover both
completely with cold water.

Bring the water to a boil, reduce heat to medium and let simmer for 15 – 30 minutes.  This will
remove the wax and also sterilize the teapot.  Carefully remove the pot and lid and let them
cool down a little.

The next step is to

season the pot with the type of tea you will always be using with it.  Brew a
fairly strong pot of tea using loose leaf tea (or 
tea bags – whatever you would normally be us-
ing), leaving it in the pot until cool.  Empty the teapot, discarding both tea and leaves (or tea
bags), rinse with water and brew a second pot of tea, letting it again cool.
Again discard the undrinkable tea and leaves.  Rinse pot with water, dry carefully and allow to
completely air dry with the lid off (do this each time after use).  Replacing the lid too soon after
rinsing could encourage mold to develop.

As Yixing teapots are unglazed and porous you should never use dish soap or put them in the dishwasher.  Only use
warm or cool water to rinse your teapot.  With careful use and cleaning, you should be able to enjoy your Yixing
teapot for a lifetime.