Evaluating Yixing Teapots — Part Two

This is Part Two in a two part series about eval­u­at­ing Yix­ing pots.
It is inspired in part by Michael Wong of The Tea Gallery.

And Now the Conclusion…

After test­ing the pot with water, the log­i­cal next step is to add tea to the equation.

The most obvi­ous thing to do might be to add some leaves, hot water, and taste some tea.

Instead, this test allows you to dimin­ish the dif­fer­ences in ther­mal prop­er­ties or pour times that might add vari­ables in such an exper­i­ment, and focus for the moment on the effect of the clay on the tea liquor.

To have enough tea for the exper­i­ment, brew two rounds of tea in a gai­wan and com­bine them in your fair­cup. Fill the pre­heated teapot with half of the tea for the pitcher, and once again leave it for a moment.

In your match­ing cups, serve one cup per guest with water from the pitcher — being brewed in the gai­wan, this has no influ­ence from the pot.

Next fill the sec­ond set of cups with tea from the pot, either directly or from a sep­a­rate fair­cup. Taste the tea side by side and make note of the dif­fer­ences. We did our test­ing with an aged Lao Cong Shui Xian, and found that high flo­ral notes were muted by the teapot. This might sug­gest that I was cor­rect in pair­ing this pot with much deeper Hong Kong style roasts.

To expand on this idea, you should of course repeat this process with other teas. But I also like to share with guests the com­par­a­tive strengths and weak­nesses of two teapots by per­form­ing this method side by side. Instead of serv­ing tea straight from the gai­wan and then from the pot, sim­ply com­pare tea left in two dis­tinct pots.

I can’t wait to hear what addi­tional exper­i­ments you come up with.

Cred­its: Pho­tog­ra­phy by Dae. Hand­some mod­el­ing by David. Nar­rated by Majel Barrett.

Evaluating Yixing Teapots — Part One

This is Part One in a two part series about eval­u­at­ing Yix­ing pots.
It is inspired in part by Michael Wong of
The Tea Gallery.


The world of Yix­ing teapots can some­times seem a daunt­ing mys­tery. Among tea lovers, few sub­jects gar­ner so many strong opin­ions. Pref­er­ences among col­lec­tors can be based on size or shape of the pot, the type or qual­ity of clay, age, or craftsmanship.

In this short series, we make no claims about the desir­abil­ity of any of the above prop­er­ties. Instead, we offer a series of exper­i­ments to aid you in eval­u­at­ing any type of teapot. We hope they will be use­ful in both eval­u­at­ing new teapots, and per­form­ing a “check up” on a well-loved pot.

  

As all tea begins with water, so does our explo­ration of Yix­ing. You should stick to the water you use most often and are best acquainted, avoid­ing things that might change the tex­ture of the water. Since I have been using the Maifan stones for most teas recently and have become accus­tomed to their influ­ence, I decided to keep them for this test.

Begin by fill­ing the teapot with water (bonus points for test­ing both cool and boiled water), leav­ing it some time to min­gle with the clay. Decant. Serve iden­ti­cal cups of water directly from the source, and from the pot. Note the differences.

Does the water have a thicker feel­ing, a last­ing feel­ing in the mouth, or any fla­vors picked up from the pot? From this par­tic­u­lar pot, we noticed both a live­li­ness in the mouth and a slight flo­ral taste. The pot is heav­ily sea­soned with Wuyi tea.

Also note any feel­ing to occur in your throat, pos­i­tive or negative.

When pour­ing water from the pot, also take spe­cial notice of two things.

First, how long does it take to empty the pot. Is it dif­fi­cult to empty all water from the pot? (I most often have this prob­lem with ball shaped filters.)

A long pour (> 10-15s) can be detri­men­tal to your brew­ing of sen­si­tive teas. Remem­ber to fac­tor pour times into your brew­ing. Also watch for drips, usu­ally from the front of the lid. It is not uncom­mon for even a well crafted pot like this one to lose a few drops when you first start pour­ing. Exces­sive drib­bles or drips after the very start of the pour could give a pot neg­a­tive marks — but some old pots are beau­ti­ful enough to use in spite of their flaws.

Take your obser­va­tions on changes in water and try to imag­ine how these qual­i­ties might be a ben­e­fit or dis­ad­van­tage to your favorite teas.

Read on to Part Two, where we exam­ine the effect of the clay pot on tea.

Cred­its: Pho­tog­ra­phy by Dae. Hand­some mod­el­ing by David.

Yixing Travel Pouches

Our friend Evan has been pro­to­typ­ing travel pouches for Yix­ing, made from fine silk (with some addi­tional padding.)

The qual­ity and con­struc­tion have advanced rapidly, and he is ready to show off.

Check them out and drop him a line — I col­lab­o­rated to fit some com­mon sizes, but they can be cus­tom made to your own spec­i­fi­ca­tions. Larger sizes are also good for your favorite chawan.

Royal Orchid Tea Museum

We made our sec­ond trip to the Royal Orchid Tea Museum, cur­rently under a seri­ous pro­gram of improvements.

The event car­ried a water theme — an exhi­bi­tion of Shui Pin Yix­ing teapots from Ming to mod­ern, and, a sam­pling of sev­eral Shui Xian teas.

I offered two pots of my own — 1970s hong ni and 1930s zi ni. Kai sug­gested my elder pot was orig­i­nally made for export to Japan.

To break up sev­eral rounds of Shui Xian, we also enjoyed a spe­cial puerh from old trees. The bun­dle of leaves was so large that we had to cut it in half to fit in the widest gai­wan we could find.

I was allowed to exper­i­ment with a Japan­ese sil­ver ket­tle — one of the most stun­ning pieces of teaware in the col­lec­tion. The freshly boiled water really punched up some 90s puerh I was brew­ing, but did lit­tle for my pot of Shui Xian, already gone flat after many brews.