Learn the Truth about Yixing Teapots
While Yixing teapots are extremely valuable in terms of quality and functionality, are they safe to use to brew tea? After all, the porous clay takes on the aroma, oils, and a patina of every tea brewed inside of it from the very initial day of use. What is the mineral makeup of the clay?
Whenever it comes to using cooking utensils or serving ware, it is critical to first make sure the materials they are made from are safe for use with food or drink. Using a teapot is no different. Since many enjoy drinking tea made from their Yixing teapot every day, it is even more significant.
Precisely, are Yixing teapots safe?
Make sure your Yixing teapot is high quality
Yixing teapots have been made since the 10th century using clay that comes from eastern China. Yixing represents not an actual style of a teapot, but rather refers to the type of clay used to craft them. Yixing clay is considered to be the finest clay, but that doesn’t mean the Yixing pot you bought is made from pure Yixing clay.
A matter of taste
Inferior quality, cheaper pots sold as Yixing clay pots can ruin the taste of the tea. Some lower quality pots contain hints of a vulgar taste, a fish-like smell, or even mold.
Undoubtedly, if you do not care for your pot properly, problems may arise. For instance, if you wash your Yixing pot with soapy water, every tea you steep in it from that point forward will have a soapy taste.
Is it truly clean?
So, if you cannot wash it with soap or bleach, and it is unrecommended to put into a dishwasher, how is it disinfected for reuse? The answer is that the initial seasoning of the teapot process requires boiling water, which purifies the object. In addition to this, every time tea is steeped inside, you are pouring boiling water inside of it.
Hence long as you wipe it down immediately and allow it to fully dry so as not to grow mold, the pot is safe to use for endless amounts of tea making. If mold does collect, the best thing to perform is to start from scratch and undergo the seasoning process of boiling the pot.
Some worry that since the clay is porous enough to absorb and release the flavors and aroma of teas, what else could seep out of the clay and into your tea. For instance, could lead, nickel, cadmium be in the clay?
The answer, thankfully, is that normally these potentially dangerous components are not present. It is typically the paint used to decorate a teapot or the pot’s glazing that contains the potential of leaching lead. Part of the beauty of a Yixing pot is that it is unglazed.
Only if the clay used to make the teapot was mixed with other materials would there be a possibility of contamination. This is why it is critical to always buy your Yixing clay pots from a reputable vendor or from someone you trust.
Needless to say, if you have access to a lab for testing the chemical makeup of the pot you buy, you will know for sure what you are using to make tea. After a thorough chemical study of samples of different types of clay through ICP tests, the Worcester Polytechnic Institute found purple clay teapots are safe for tea and may better preserve the original taste of the tea solution.
A careful analysis study of Yixing clay, conducted by Laser-Excited Atomic Fluorescence of Desorbed Plumes PLEAF, has shown that the non-glazed, pure clay used to artistically craft a Yixing teapot emitted no Pb lead. Further, it revealed that the clay tested was comprised of calcium Ca, iron Fe, magnesium Mg, and sometimes aluminum Al, silicon Si, or titanium Ti.
Additional safety tips
There are a few safety measures to note to ensure you are enjoying the tea you consume free of worry.
First, make sure the tea you are brewing in the Yixing teapot is high-quality tea and does not contain harmful chemicals that would seep into the porous pot and back into future brewed tea.
In addition, don’t confuse your teapot with a tea kettle. A kettle goes on a stovetop burner whereas a teapot is intended to spout hot water into steep tea leaves. Do not place your Yixing teapot on top of a stove for cooking.
Also, be careful to use freshwater for brewing. Filtered water that free from DBPs, chlorine, fluoride, and heavy metals is the best. In addition, make sure your pot is free of cracks.
Elemental Analysis of Yixing Tea Pots - http://www.marshaln.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/01/2012.12.31-Report-of-PLEAF-analysis-on-yixing-tea-pots-1.pdf
U.S. Food and Drug Administration, lead and cadmium in glaze - https://www.accessdata.fda.gov/cms_ia/importalert_122.html
Laboratory studies - https://digitalcommons.wpi.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=7613&context=mqp-all