You know you have reached a certain level of “being into tea” when you start to ask, “How many Yixing teapots do I really need?”
Not that long ago I asked myself, and a few other people in the tea community, that question. After going through the information online, and the answers provided by people I approached, I thought it would be a good idea to try and write a post that puts all the information I have together.
As always I ask that anyone reading this keep in mind that I’m far from a tea expert, and if I’ve made any mistakes I really do appreciate it when people take the time to correct me in the comments section, or contact me directly to and fill me in on what I got wrong.
~Part 1 – Yixing Pairing Overview~
If you are already familiar with Yixing teapots, and the concept of pairing them to a particular tea, you don’t need to read this section. Just skip to the Part 2. However, if the term Yixing teapot is not something you’re very familiar with this section might be helpful. Lets start off with what an Yixing teapot is, and what makes it so special…
YiXing (pronounced ee-shing) teapots first appeared during the Sung Dynasty (960-1279) in the YiXing region of China, located in the Jiangsu province, about 120 miles northwest of Shanghai. The Jiangsu province is the world’s only source for the unique clay from which YiXing teapots are made, called purple or red clay. YiXing teapots were relatively unknown for many years until the late Ming Dynasty (1600s) when their use and production began to flourish. Demand from Europe and throughout China fueled an active industry in which many artists developed their craft to high levels of mastery. For the next three hundred years, YiXing teapots attained renown throughout China and Europe. Although the Europeans strove to imitate the YiXing teapots, they could not compete with the unique purple clay only found near YiXing, China. [Source]
What makes an Yixing such a high quality item is that each time the teapot is used the porous clay absorbs some of the oils from the tea that is being brewed. Over time the Yixing will develop a coating from those oils. This coating will enhance, or compound, the flavor of the tea being brewed in the teapot.
The process of getting an Yixing teapot to assume this coating is most often called “seasoning” here in the West. After several yeas of use a “seasoned” Yixing teapot will be able to create a high quality brew which no other brewing vessel will be able to copy.
~Part 2 – Pairing Categories ~
Avid tea drinkers will often have extensive Yixing collections because they like to pair a specific tea with a specific teapot. When the Yixing is used this way it can really enhance the flavor of the specific tea that it is paired with. The more the Yixing and the tea get to know one and other the more the tea drinker will be rewarded with very flavorful brews.
When I first heard about Yixing teapots, and pairing, my questions was how many Yixing teapots should I have? The most basic research reveals that it would be a good idea to have about three different pots. One for oolong tea, one for black teas (AKA Chinese red teas) and one for pu-erh teas. However, after spending only a little time digging around online, and talking with other more experienced tea people I found that such a broad categorizing was far too overly simplistic.
After much looking around, and asking around I came up with a pairing system that I think works for me. I believe that it allows for several different categories of teas to be paired up with a Yixing.
- Sheng (AKA Raw, Aged) Pu-erh which is younger than ten years old.
- Sheng (AKA Raw, Aged) Pu-erh which is ten years old or older.
- Shou (AKA Ripe, Cooked) Pu-erh
- Wuyi (AKA Rock Tea, Yan Cha, Wu Long)
- Dan Cong (AKA Guangong)
- Medium roast oolongs from Taiwan and Anxi China
- Taiwanese high mountain oolongs (AKA Geo Shen)
I think this system is decent, but it is a far cry from the best one out there, so if you know of ways that it could be improved please leave a comment, or contact me directly.
When I’ve shown the system above to people their eyes tend to get a bit wide. Sometimes it’s because they don’t think that so many Yixing teapots are really necessary, and sometimes because they don’t want to invest all the money into buying several different small teapots.
Below are a list of questions I’ve gotten from people about Yixing tea pots.
Q: I’ve heard people say that you have to be careful with Yixing teapots when you first get them because the teapot will be “thirsty”. What does that mean?
A: A new Yixing teapot is going to suck up a lot of oils from the tea, and so the first few times that the teapot is used the clay can actually “drink up” some of the flavor of the tea. The more you use the teapot the less thirsty it will become, and if you stick with the teapot you will be rewarded down the road when it creates a truly satisfying tea, which you will know is unique to your teapot.
Q: Is it always better to brew tea in an Yixing teapot?
A: This is just my opinion, but I don’t think so. There are many teas that I think will be better if brewed in a glazed vessel of some sort. These tend to be green teas and white teas, which I think taste better when brewed in something that lets them showcase their more delicate flavors.
Q: What if I don’t want to spend lots of money on these things?
A: You don’t have to spend any money. I you would like to just brew your tea in something else go right ahead. However, if you don’t mind spending some money I’d recommend that you buy an Yixing for your favorite tea / teas.
Q: Don’t you get sick of spending money on these things?
A: Not really. Tea is my hobby, and I’ve found that I like finding cool Yixing teapots (and other teaware) to add to my collection. I did not really expect to to acquire lots of Yixings, it just sort of happened over time.
Q: Where do you even find Yixing teapots for sale?
A: There are TONS of places on the internet where they can be bought, and most tea shops that deal in fine tea will sell them as well.
Q: How much should I pay for a Yixing teapot?
A: Like anything collectible Yixing teapots will range in price. The more rare Yixings will cost more than those that are commonly available. However, if your looking to get a nice starter Yixing teapot you are looking at spending about $30.00.
~A Big Thank You~
I want to say thanks to Brandon from Wrong Fu Cha for being one of the most helpful people in the tea community when it came to explaining Yixing teapots to me. This post would not have been possible with out his patience and help.