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Yixing Teapots 

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 as well.


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