I would like to summarized what I've learned about Yixing clay for the past 1 week from a teashop (TC). Previously I know nothing about Yixing clay, and I hope what I've learned is correct, so correct me if I've learned wrong General Info
Yixing is the name of a place where it is famous for producing clays for teapots, there are other places which produces those similar clay out of Yixing such as Chao Zhou, Sado, etc. Place to mine clays are usually from Mountain or Mines.
Some of Yixing clay is getting depleted/extinct, where new teapots are made based on previous harvested clay which was mined and stored long ago. Government has even prevent some of the mining from certain area and not releasing new license to mine them.
Back then, there is this Factory No. 1. It is the main factory that produces Teapots. The Factory is no longer operational but there are many sub studios in it that is making teapots. There are also many artist and freelancer who are doing it too out of the studio.Types of Clay
The word Zisha is the general word for the clay. There are 3 sub categories of Zisha:-
-Zini (Purple clay) - Also known as Zisha
-Hongni (Red Clay)
-Duanni (Green Clay)
There are many sub categories for the 3 types of clays too, Eg, Zini has a subcategory called Di Cao Cing, etc, Hongni has a subcategory called Zhuni, etc.
In general in order to make a teapot, the clay is mixed, cause by itself it is too soft to form the shape. It is a matter of what they mixed. Mixed with own kind of clay / cooked clay? Mixed with sand? Mixed with chemical to produce/mimic certain kind of clay? The level of mixture?
Firing method/temperature for baking the teapot will also differ the colour of the teapot of the same category. And for some kind of teapots, some chemical are purposely put in to make it become black, other colours and glossy.So in terms of functionality how does it defers?
-Smoother feeling on the throat
-Reduces bitterness, astringency
-Retain heat lesser
-Produce lesser smooth feeling on the throat like Zini. The feeling is more on the tongue and mouth area
-It will beef up the aroma and flavor of the tea compared to Zini. Bringing the higher note of the tea
-Retain heat better
-Not as smooth as Zini
-Not as aroma and flavor as Hongni
If the tea itself is bitter, Hongni will boost it up so it would be better to go for Zini that is able to absorb it better it is more porous. But if the tea itself is the kind of roasted (oolong) or has weaker aroma and flavor, using Hongni would be good as it improves it.
Choosing which clay for which tea can differ from one person to another depending on how the person likes his/her tea. So there is no rule for what can go in or not in the pot, or what is better or lesser good for the pot. So trial and error till you find yourself what you liked. But it is always best to dedicate the pot for a certain kind of tea and not mixing too much.Modern vs Old clay
People usually say Old teapots are better as it is better/purer clay. It may be true, but workmanship and firing techniques used back then may be of lesser quality and consistency as Modern teapots. And clay no matter Modern or Old are still clay from thousands of years old from the ground. Clay did not come out of yesterday.How to check a teapot?
-The front spout and the back handle should be aligned
-Look out for hairline cracks. This is usually more obvious after the teapot is rinsed with hot water and cooled down
-Pour some hot water in, let it sit for a while. Pour out the hot water. Smell the inner pot for any weird chemical smell
-Holding and pouring of the water should be smooth. There shouldn't be a lot of leakage from the cap
-The shorter the time for it to pour the water out, the better it is for not over steeping the tea leaves
-Tilt the teapot 90 degrees and cap should not fall off. Be very careful
-Depending on the design of the teapot, while pouring, cover the hole on the cap and the water should stopped instantly
-If the hole is not reachable, put in some water (3/4 full), while holding the hole on the spout, turn the pot upside down and the cap should not fall off. Be very carefulHow to open a new teapot
Traditional method is to boil it, then put in some tea leaves you want for the pot to be dedicated, and cook it. But this method may be dangerous as it may clog the pores of the teapot and also may cause uneven glossiness next time.
This was recommended instead:-
-While washing the teapot with water, use something soft and wipe the inner and outer part of the teapot
-If it is dirty, you can use a toothbrush and gently scrub it
-Once done, fill up the teapot with normal temperature water and let it sit for a while
-Pour hot water on the outer side of the teapot
-Then pour hot water into the teapot which has the normal temperature water in it and let it overflow
-Pour out all the water, and fill it up with hot water on the inner to the max and wetting the outer pot. Repeat this step couple of timesTeapot Maintenance
While using the teapot for brewing, use a brush and brush away the leftover water on the outer teapot so that it will not be stained on the particular area
After cleaning the teapot (just remove the leaves, rinse with hot water, don't use soap), open up the lid and leave it to dry. Leave the lid open for couple of days. It may look dry on the outside, but inner side may be still wet.
Whether or not to polish the teapot, some say it is not advisable as it will make the teapot look too glossy or unnatural glossy.