Yixing (pronounced “Yee-Shing”)
teapots are very special teapots made from zisha clay, a
rare type of purplish clay made of iron, quartz and mica. It
is found only in Yixing, China; a town located roughly 120
miles north west of Shanghai amidst rolling hills. Zisha
clay is so unique in fact, that Yixing is the only place in
the world where it can be found. This very rare material
gives the Yixing teapot special properties that make it one
of the most sought after teapots in the world, for both
collectors and tea enthusiasts alike.
Yixing teapots originated during the
Sung Dynasty (960 – 1279) where they were first handmade
on a potter’s wheel. As they continued to be produced
through the 17th, 18th and 19th
centuries, their simple design and unpretentious beauty
began to mature. As Yixing teapots grew in popularity,
scholars made and collected them with fervor, improving on
their designs and craftsmanship.
Traditionally, Yixing teapots are
small enough so that an individual can have their own.
Interestingly, the teacups that are used with a Yixing
teapot are proportionate to the size of the pot itself.
Therefore, someone with a very small Yixing teapot could
easily drink 100 cups of tea a day.
Zisha clay comes naturally in blue,
red and purple colors. When mineral pigments are added to
the clay, new colors can be created. For example, mixing
blue clay with cobalt oxide creates black teapots. Years of
experimentation and development have created a massive range
of Yixing teapot colors. Perhaps the most famous type of
Yixing teapot is called Zishayao. The clay in this teapot
contains a high amount of iron, which creates a deep
purple-brown, similar to the skin of a pear.
Besides the Yixing teapot’s beauty,
it is also considered to be one of the finest tea brewing
pots in the world. It is said that if you pour hot water
into an empty Yixing teapot that has been in use for many
years, you can brew tea without any tea leaves. Zisha clay
is extremely porous and will absorb the flavor of tea,
making each brew better and more flavorful every time it is
used. Another special quality of zisha clay is its ability
to retain heat. It has a low shrinkage rate when the clay is
fired in a kiln, and potters can create a tightly fitting
lid that will decrease oxidization and further increase tea
flavor. What’s more, zisha clay comes free of any toxic
materials like lead, arsenic and cadmium, which can found in
some other types of clay.
Yixing teapots are arguably among the
finest teapots in the world. When evaluating a teapot’s
brewing quality, four factors are taken into consideration:
The color of the tea produced, and the levels of phenol,
caffeine and aminophylline. The Yixing teapot’s
performance has been found to be superior to that of
standard teapots in all four areas of testing.
Not only are Yixing teapots an
important part of Asian culture and sought after by tea
enthusiasts and collectors across the world, but they are
unique and valuable works of art. Each one is a
simplistically beautiful tribute to the Asian arts, and each
one brews a healthier, superior, more flavorful cup of tea