Feb 24th 16 4:27 am
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Antique porcelain teapots

by Bok » Feb 24th 16 4:27 am

My recent shopping spree of Qing dynasty cups and jars got me wondering:
Is anyone using antique (Qing dynasty or older) porcelain tea pots?

There must be loads of them out there, especially in Europe. In the UK I saw a lot of what is called Export Porcelain, Chinese made, but destined for the European market, with drawings that would appeal to that market.
For example like this one: https://p2.liveauctioneers.com/268/7349 ... 43_1_l.jpg That’s pretty neat in my oppinion!

Porcelain, as we all know is quite neutral and good to judge a new tea.
I have found that drinking from old porcelain cups brings a lot more good things than modern porcelain or any other kind of clay, wood-fired or glazed cup type.

So wouldn’t using old pots be equally beneficial to tea brewing?
And a good alternative to old Yixing clay pots?
It seems to me that identifiying old genuine porcelain is also way easier than old clay, so in the end less prone to fraud.

Thoughts?

Feb 24th 16 4:54 am
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Re: Antique porcelain teapots

by steanze » Feb 24th 16 4:54 am

I haven't found much difference between old porcelain and new porcelain in terms of the effects for the taste. Unless we're speaking about eggshell thin old porcelain, where the difference is due to the thickness rather than the age.
It could be a nice idea but at that point I'd probably go for a Qing gaiwan, they tend to be thinner.
I don't think it's really an alternative to Yixing, because as you mention the clay interacts differently with the tea. For most teas, I tend to find a yixing that IMO does better than porcelain, in some cases by far, in some cases just by a little - with the exception perhaps of dancong, young sheng, and green tea.
I am also not so convinced that identifying old porcelain is easier - there are a lot of fake porcelains too. In some cases the entire piece is faked, in other cases an old plain piece is decorated and marked to make it look more valuable. There are some tricks to identify them, for example colored porcelains tend to be iridescent, the base mark should not show much glossiness when tilted under a light source, but I don't really know enough to be confident in authentication :)

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Re: Antique porcelain teapots

by jayinhk » Feb 24th 16 5:19 am

One concern of mine with older porcelain is lead in the glaze. Lots of older Chinese porcelain available in the UK, but I've held off for fear of giving myself lead poisoning!

Feb 24th 16 5:22 am
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Re: Antique porcelain teapots

by Bok » Feb 24th 16 5:22 am

steanze wrote:Unless we're speaking about eggshell thin old porcelain, where the difference is due to the thickness rather than the age.
Could be, one of the old cups I used is really eggshell thin and quite translucent.
steanze wrote:I am also not so convinced that identifying old porcelain is easier - there are a lot of fake porcelains too. In some cases the entire piece is faked, in other cases an old plain piece is decorated and marked to make it look more valuable. There are some tricks to identify them, for example colored porcelains tend to be iridescent, the base mark should not show much glossiness when tilted under a light source
Of course there are fakes as well.
I am also not talking about the high end, nearly perfect kind of porcelain, more the day to day stuff, which tends to be rougher and has more Wabi-Sabi flair to it :D

In those pieces one can notice small inclusions, irregular and fading out colours (a bit like a water colour painting at times) and usually parts are unglazed (bottom part) and due to the age corroded and stained from use and getting passed around for ages.

It might be wishful thinking on my part, but I think the glazes of back in the days were probably not the same, so in the end the drinking experience is different. I seem to remember that Stéphane from Teamasters did a blind comparison drinking with all sorts of different cups, need to dig that post out…

But whatever makes us happy isn’t it? :mrgreen:

Feb 24th 16 5:25 am
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Re: Antique porcelain teapots

by Bok » Feb 24th 16 5:25 am

jayinhk wrote:One concern of mine with older porcelain is lead in the glaze. Lots of older Chinese porcelain available in the UK, but I've held off for fear of giving myself lead poisoning!
Uuh! Not good… :shock:

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Re: Antique porcelain teapots

by steanze » Feb 24th 16 5:27 am

Yes, the imperfect Qing porcelains are nice, I enjoy especially the cups. I did not mean to discourage you, just to understand what older porcelain can and cannot do for the tea session. I completely agree that the enjoyment of a session binds together a number of things that are difficult to disentangle (and why should we). Beautiful pieces of teaware contribute, and the imperfection of older pieces is great to create a more collected and humble tea envinronment.

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Re: Antique porcelain teapots

by steanze » Feb 24th 16 5:28 am

Bok wrote:
jayinhk wrote:One concern of mine with older porcelain is lead in the glaze. Lots of older Chinese porcelain available in the UK, but I've held off for fear of giving myself lead poisoning!
Uuh! Not good… :shock:
Yes, not for frequent use :)

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Re: Antique porcelain teapots

by jayinhk » Feb 24th 16 5:30 am


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Re: Antique porcelain teapots

by jayinhk » Feb 24th 16 5:35 am

Some believe older bone china (with actual cow bone ash) leads to a different experience than normal porcelain or modern bone china. I've never used an older bone china cup or teapot, nor will I buy any unless I get a deal I can't pass up!

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Re: Antique porcelain teapots

by Bok » Feb 24th 16 5:40 am

Seems not only to be a problem with older porcelain, but in general with Chinese ware (and cooking ware from Mexico):
http://www.foodsafetynews.com/2011/04/s ... s0-TBirCV4

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Re: Antique porcelain teapots

by jayinhk » Feb 24th 16 5:44 am

Yes, lead glazes are still common around the world. They appear to be safe unless there is damage to the glaze. Maybe I should toss all my Chinese porcelain and stick to Yixing, stone cups and Japanese ceramics! :shock:

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Re: Antique porcelain teapots

by Bok » Feb 24th 16 5:45 am

I have also encountered similar issues in Taiwan with certain wood fired teapots.

Some potters are not knowledgeable enough and use toxic glazes in their wood fired ware. Found that out first-hand (my pottery teacher told me) as I showed him a pot I had just bought – ouch – tuition fee :cry:

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Re: Antique porcelain teapots

by BW85 » Feb 24th 16 5:50 am

steanze wrote:I haven't found much difference between old porcelain and new porcelain in terms of the effects for the taste. Unless we're speaking about eggshell thin old porcelain, where the difference is due to the thickness rather than the age.
Antique Chinese porcelain and modern porcelain are fairly different. The composition of the antique porcelain and the glaze used was different than what is used today. Also Qing porcelain would have been wood fired. All this could contribute to a noticeable effect on tea that you don't get with modern porcelain. From my experience I believe this is true (regarding Qing dynasty cups at least)

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Re: Antique porcelain teapots

by .m. » Feb 24th 16 8:21 am

jayinhk wrote:One concern of mine with older porcelain is lead in the glaze. Lots of older Chinese porcelain available in the UK, but I've held off for fear of giving myself lead poisoning!
Why do you think there would be lead in the glaze? Do you mean in the colorful enamel decorations? But those would be only on the outside of the pot... Else, isnt the basic white and blue glaze high fired with the porcelain? Why use lead in it? Just wondering. Maybe someone can explain.

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Re: Antique porcelain teapots

by Bok » Feb 24th 16 8:38 am

.m. wrote:Why do you think there would be lead in the glaze? Do you mean in the colorful enamel decorations? But those would be only on the outside of the pot... Else, isnt the basic white and blue glaze high fired with the porcelain? Why use lead in it? Just wondering. Maybe someone can explain.
After researching more I uncovered some good explanations and details in this thread: http://www.teachat.com/viewtopic.php?f= ... +porcelain

It also seems to matter if there is underglaze or overglaze (of additional colours). Underglaze seems to be safer. Gonna buy one of those lead test kits to get some piece of mind… Would be a shame, those cups are quite nice, too nice to be dust collectors