Wednesday, July 25, 2012
Yixing Zisha teapots • 宜興紫砂壺
»a basic intro to Yixing Zisha teapots«
When it comes to brewing gong fu cha, an authentic Yixing Zisha teapot is usually preferred. Yixing is a district in eastern China and zisha, "purple clay", is the clay mined in the area.
The reason these teapots are exclusively desired is the supreme quality of Yixing zisha clay for infusing tea leaves. The porous quality of the clay retains heat and also absorbs the tea's essential oils, eventually curing it until the pot itself takes on the fragrance of the teas brewed in it. For this reason, a true gong fu cha master will only use one particular type or family of tea in one pot, as the build up of oils will enhance the same or similar tea but may not harmonize with other teas. One should also never use soaps or detergents to wash a pot, as they would remove the precious oils from the pores. It also explains why tea enthusiasts may develop an obsession with collecting teapots, in search of the perfect pot for each type of tea.
An Yixing teapot's form is typically elegant and very simple. The beauty of an Yixing pot is in the smooth lines of its contour and balanced form. For brewing gong fu cha, simplicity is essential as a uniform pot will distribute heat evenly while steeping, ensuring a proper infusion.
Yixing teapots are small, by western standards, usually between 3-7 ounces (90-200 ml), or even a single ounce, and vary in thickness and firing temperature. Generally, a thick walled, low-fired pot (about 1100ºC), will retain heat longer, making it suitable for teas requiring boiling water, such as a fully fermented puerh tea. The low firing also leaves them more porous, allowing them to absorb more of the tea's oils, helping to soften the taste of stronger tea. A thin walled, high-fired pot (about 1200ºC), is less porous, and absorbing less of the tea's oils, is suitable for fragrant, delicate tasting teas, such as Tie Guan Yin or high-mountain oolong.