Wednesday, May 11, 2005

Various techniques to prepare a new Yixing teapot

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.

Good luck!


Anonymous said...

I'm happy to have stumbled upon this post! I'm new to tea and have purchased a few yixing pots to dedicate to the various oolongs I've come to love. I was going to season them with the boiling technique, but have now decided to follow Stephane's suggestion. However, by "cold" water, do you literally mean cold or room temperature? I want to treat my pots in the best way possible.
Many thanks in advance!

TeaMasters said...

I mean room temperature. You're right to ask for this clarification. A too cold water could be dangerous for the teapot. Especially antique teapots may need some time to stand big swings in temperature.

Anonymous said...

Again, many thanks. I had a hunch that hot/cold could be detrimental but what do I know? It's nice to have ones instincts confirmed.
I had visions of sewing pots into washcloths to protect them from being jostled in the boiling water, letting them sit for days, etc. This advice is MUCH more reasonable. Now I have to figure out which teas I should assign to them!

tieguanyin said...

Hello Stephane,

I have a follow up question regarding Teaparker's advice that boiling a new teapot may clog the pores in the clay. What would the pores be clogged by?

Admittedly, I know little about clay pot chemistry. Assuming the clay of the teapot has been fired at a very high temperature, shouldn't it be able to resist boiling water?

Additional insights would be great :)!

Have a good tea day!


TeaMasters said...

Some (many) people recommend boiling the pot with tea to 'season' the pot. It's for this technique that Teaparker says that the pores may be clogged by the tea boiling together with the teapot. Of course, if you boil the teapot in water, there would be nothing to clog.

Anonymous said...

Great post! I was researching the same last night and posted several techniques I found on my blog as well. A reader directed me to this post on your blog. I will have to try this technique as I now "know" more than one person utilizing it.

Thanks again for sharing your knowledge.

funky gibbons said...

A second hand apparent or purported Aisha pot I bought here in Taipei seems to be imparting a noticeable sharp, bitter taste to the brew. Concerned the pot may have been mistreated in some way to bring this about... Any thoughts?

Pilgrim said...

Hello Stephane,

I would love your opinion on changing teas brewed in yixing pots. My circumstances include a 100ml pot I've been using for three years for sheng puer (cakes used so far 2-6 yrs) that I would like to try to now use for yan cha mainly because the shape and pot opening are ideal. Similarly, I have a pearl-shaped pot I've been using for yan cha for three months that I would like to dedicate to rolled wulongs. A bit of yixing musical chairs, really, due to my growing knowledge and changing needs. I haven't been able to see much discussion on this. Perhaps, it's not a good idea to change teas?

TeaMasters said...

Hello Pilgrim,
If you don't feel satisfied with your current teapot and tea pairing, it's OK to change. You could boil the teapot in water or rinse it several times with boiling water in order to remove the remains of previous tea sessions.
Good luck,