How To Brew Good Chinese Tea with One Of The Greatest Teapots of All Time – Yixing Zisha Clay Teapot
There is a Chinese saying that states that “Water is the mother of tea, while the teapot is the father.” Simply put, this means that the teapot is just as important in making the tea as the tea leaves and water. Zisha Hu, directly translated into English as “Purple Sand Teapot”, originates in Jiangsu Province and is generally recognized as the best pot for brewing tea.
We will be covering the following topics here today:
- The advantages of using the Zisha Teapot to brew tea
- How to differentiate between genuine and fake Zisha teapots
- How to Season the Teapot
- Frequently Asked Questions about seasoning the teapot
- Which types of teas are most suitable for brewing with Yixing/Zisha Teapots
Advantages of brewing tea with Zisha Teapot
In terms of performance, the advantages of brewing tea in Zisha teapots can be listed as follows:
- Preserve the tea’s original flavour, colour and fragrance
- Can make the tea more mellow and fragrant
- Zisha has good heat-resistant and cold-shock resistant properties. It can be burnt in a fire or placed in a microwave oven without getting damaged. It has an excellent ability to adapt to rapid changes in temperatures. For example the Zisha teapot will not burst if it is heated in stove and suddenly thrown into snow at sub-zero temperatures.
- Zisha teapots do not have body glazes, which is made of silica which can turn into glass if heated to high temperatures.
- The teapot can absorb some of the fragrance from tea brewed in it. If you do use it to store water instead, your water will have a slight tinge of tea fragrance.
- The colour of the teapot will be slightly affected by the type of tea brewed in it. If you brew black tea in Zisha teapots, it will change to a reddish brown colour. If you brew green tea in Zisha teapots, the teapot will change to tan brown. These slight changes in colours make the Zisha teapot interesting to observe.
- Zisha has a good plasticity and will not deform easily when it is fired in the kiln. Therefore it can be moulded into various shapes and we tend to get more interesting and creative designs with Zisha teapots.
- Zisha teapots can preserve heat and keep tea hot/warm for longer periods of time. Because there are many small bubbles formed within the walls of the teapots and they are filled with air, this serves as a good heat insulator.
- Zisha teapots can help to retain fragrance longer because they tend to have smaller spouts and tighter lids.
- Zisha teapots can keep the aromatic oil in tea volatilized when it is heated to form a sweet smell. This improves the taste of the tea, and has a sterilization effect on it as well, which extends the storage life of the tea.
How to differentiate between genuine and fake Zisha teapots
The teaware markets are often filled with fake goods, so how do we actually identify which ones are genuine and which ones are fake? Here are a few simple ways to quickly find out which ones are the real deal.
Zisha is composed of clay, quartz and mica, which gives it a delicate touch. Because Zisha teapots do not have a glazed surface, if you notice a smooth and bright surface on the teapot, it is very likely to be fake and underwent waxing and polishing.
Zisha teapots tend to have strong colours which are not too bright, with both the inside and outside surfaces being almost of the same colours. Because Zisha teapots contain quartz, mica and other trace elements, there are many fine silvery/white highlights on the teapot’s body when shone under bright light.
Zisha teapots have a high density and feel thick when measured by hand. Low quality Zisha teapots tend to feel flimsy and light.
- Reaction with Boiling Water
Zisha teapots tend to have double porosity and good air permeability. You can pour the boiled water into the pot, pour it along the pot body and cover the lid. If the water doesn’t flow down and is slowly absorbed into the pot, then it is a genuine Zisha teapot.
Here are some common ways to season a pot:
The Correct Way to Season a Zisha Teapot
Actually, the process of seasoning a teapot isn’t too complicated. The simplest method is to use warm water to rinse the pot and brew a pot of tea. After it has cooled down, use the tea leaves to rub the interior and exterior of the teapot.
A more complex method is as follows:
- Use clean water and a toothbrush to scrub the new teapot and remove any dust and ceramic scraps. Do not use any detergent or disinfectant.
- Put the teapot into a frying pan and soak it in warm water. Turn it on to low or medium heat and start boiling the water for 5 minutes. Then add the tea leaves to it. It is best to season the teapot with the same type of tea that you intend to drink. It is ok to use tea of a lower grade for this seasoning process. You should use around 1-3 Liangs (0.05-0.15 g) of tea. Put the tea leaves into the tea pot and wait for 10 minutes before turning off the fire.
- After 5 minutes of turning off the fire and cooling, restart the fire and boil the teapot again with low to medium heat. Then, turn off the fire again after 15 minutes of boiling and leave the tea inside for another 10 minutes. After that, boil it for another 15 minutes for the last time before allowing the teapot and tea to cool down together for 3-5 hours.
- Finally, use clean water to rinse the teapot one more time. Dry the body of the teapot with a clean cloth. The new teapot can be used normally after it is dried.
The advantages of seasoning the teapot this way is that it is effective at removing the earthy smell from it. This method is also effective at opening up the “pores” of the pot, which prevents the pot from breaking due to improper usage especially during winter in cold places such as the northern parts of China.
A word of caution: If you do choose to season the teapot in this way, it is possible that the tea brewed during the first 6 days will not taste as good. During the boiling process, always keep the water level above the teapot and do not let the teapot collide with the walls of the frying pan.
Which teas are most suitable for brewing with Yixing Zisha teapots?
Zisha teapots are best used for brewing semi-fermented or fully-fermented teas. Examples include Tieguanyin, Dongding Oolong, Pu’er, Dancong etc. Additionally, different specifications of teapots also have different characteristics which make them more suitable for different kinds of tea.
Selecting the Best Teapot for Different Teas
- Zisha teapots which produce a higher frequency sound are suitable for brewing heavy aroma teas such as green tea. Those that produce a lower frequency sound are more suitable for brewing heavy flavour teas such as Oolong and Tieguanyin.
- Flatter and shorter Zisha teapots with capacities of less than 200 ml are the most suitable for brewing Tieguanyin. This is because such Zisha teapots are able to reach high temperatures in short periods of time, which is optimal for brewing Tieguanyin.
- Pu’er tea and Black tea need to be kept warm for longer periods of time. The best way to serve and brew Pu’er tea and Black tea is to use a taller and narrower 250 ml Zisha teapot.
- The 250 ml wide spout Zisha teapots tend to make better candidates for brewing green tea because green tea is less suited for brewing in higher temperatures for longer periods of time. The wider spout allows the teapot to cool down at a faster pace.
Using Zisha teapots of various shapes
Pu’er tea is suited for brewing in squarish teapots. Water cannot flow as easily within squarish Zisha teapots, but they do have more striking appearances, meaning that the aesthetic appeal of such teapots tend to be their main advantages as compared to their practical functionality.
- Flat-shaped Zisha teapot
Flat-shaped Zisha teapots are suitable for brewing Wuyi tea. The amount of Zisha used to make these flat-shaped teapots is on the lower end. The flat shape gives the teapot greater stability and allows the tea leaves to slowly release their fragrance and essence into the water.
If you want to brew aged Wuyi tea, or reduce the roasted smell of tea, then the flat-shaped Zisha teapot is the ideal one for you!
- Round Zisha teapot
The round Zisha teapot is most suitable for making Oolong tea. Because the dried Oolong tea leaves are rolled into spherical shapes, the round teapot provides enough space for the hemispherical tea to fully expand. After the round teapot is filled with water, the round walls of the teapot allows the water to flow inside and blend together with the tea leaves, creating a nice mixture.