A Tea Masters blog reader asks me what should he do with his new Yixing teapot. Most of the tea websites will give you more or less this kind of advice:
Seasoning a new Yixing teapot
1- Scrub the inside of the teapot with a sponge or a material that is not too abrasive
2- Rinse the teapot with clear water, fill it and then let it sit with the water inside overnight
3- Place the teapot in a big pot and cover it with water. Put the pot on the fire and once the water is boiling place the teapot inside and boil it for 30 minutes
4- After boiling the teapot in water, use it to brew some tea and pour it off in the pot. Fill the rest of the pot with water so that there is enough to submerge the teapot in it. Place the pot on the fire and put the teapot in it once it is boiling. Let the teapot sit for 3 minutes in the tea
5- Rinse the teapot with clear water
I heard about such techniques in the past, even before meeting tea master Teaparker. One day, after sharing some of my knowledge about wine tasting with him and other tea fans, he gave me a new Yixing teapot! (Thanks again, master.) But how should I prepare it before I can drink from it? Tea master Chih Jung Sien told us to forget the complicated techniques.
To clean the teapot, he recommends to pour hot water in the pot, pour it out and smell the teapot. You'll notice the typical earthy smell of a new teapot. Then pour cold water in and out the teapot. Repeat these three steps, hot water, smell and cold water several times until the earthy smell of the teapot is sufficiently reduced for your taste. Usually, two or four times are enough. A little warning: don't use boiling water the very first time. The teapot may be used to being cold for a long time and may not stand the sudden heat (especially true for antiques). If you want to be on the safe side, you may want to through away the first brew of the tea you'll do inside.
Teamaster Teaparker does not recommend the other methods where you boil the teapot. He thinks this may clog the pores in the clay. But such pores are essential to the 'breathing' function of the teapot. Without the pores, you may just as well drink from a glazed gaiwan/gaibei.
My humble suggestion is that this reader first clean his teapot like Teaparker suggests and drink several times the same kind of tea with it. He should compare the taste with that of a gaibei. If he is not satisfied with the result, then he may 'season' it according to one of the techniques mentioned. Finally, he could taste the same tea again and tell us if the taste further improved, remained the same or even deteriorated.
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