Thursday, December 09, 2004

Why do Chinese tea pots often look alike?

The pot designs are used over and over again. The most famous designer was Cheng Man Sheng. He created 18 designs that are still used today. If you find a tea pot with his stamp on it, it is likely to be one of those 18 designs, but unlikely to be one he made himself. In the 18th century, the manufacture of teapots was very similar to the Ford's so called invention: specialized. First a designer, then one worker for the body, one for the handle, one for the mouth, one for the top and then one for oven. Today's teapot makers are doing it all themselves (like I did in July!)

Teamaster Chih taught us how to appretiate a teapot and not not believe the chop or name carved on the teapot. Important things to observe:
- the cover and its fit to the pot,
- a bottom that is a little bit elevated,
- the thickness of the pot,
- the quality of the clay...

Below is an exemple of teapots with similar/same design.

2 comments:

Imen said...

Stephane,

Would you like to elaborate on the subject of what constitute a good teapot, what are the important elements to look for when choosing a good clay teapot?

After reading your blog for the first time today, I find your knowledge of tea is well thought and extremely articulately described. Bow to you tea master!

My first Zhisha tea set is by Lu Yu, a subsidiary company own by Ten Ren Tea. BTW, my tea master is the nephew of the founder of Ten Ren Tea. I am spoiled by the quality of Lu Yu’s product for a couple of reasons that made it distinctive from many others out in the market.

First is the smoothness of the interior, while majority of the tea pots I have seen both in China and the US have an unpolished interior. I haven’t done any testing to compare the taste of tea brew by a smooth interior pot and an unpolished interior pot, therefore I can’t say whether it has an impact on the flavor. But from a craftsmanship stand point, a polished smooth interior is definitely more superior than not.

Second is the quality of clay. Even though the purple clay is imported from YiXing, China, the process of filtering large particles is so fine, the result is a buttery smooth surface, beyond silky. The difference is like holding hands of a young maiden whom has never worked a day in her life, and hands of a carpenter with 30 years of work experience.

The above claim is my own observation and/or preference only. These refined elements add a nice touch, but not limited by. I have seen $10k USD prize winning tea set that is not polished internally.

Imen

Stephane said...

Imen,

Thanks for your appretiation of my blog. But, please don't call me tea master (yet!) The name is in plural, because, as a lucky student, I make this a place where I share the teachings of the tea masters I meet in Taiwan and add my own experience.

As for what is a good teapot, it's a pot that makes good tea. And the best way to tell is through experience and tests. Maybe it sounds too simplistic. Some think it must be from an famous artist, or have smooth lines or a rare clay. As tea lovers, our only concern should be to have the teapot that maximizes the tea's taste and fragrance.

Teaparker gives following advice to find a good teapot:
- The shape of the pot should let the tea open itself easily,
- The clay should be pure,
- the other parameters (temperature of firing, thickness of the walls, size...) should be in harmony with the tea you intend it for.