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High vs. Low-quality Yixing teapots: What're the Differences?

Posted by Jessica Jacobson on
High vs. Low-quality Yixing teapots: What're the Differences?

Do You Know Differences Between High and Low Quality Yixing Teapot?

While Yixing teapots are ideal for tea making, their quality varies dramatically from one teapot to another. Depending on how you will be using the pot, it will make a difference as to what level of quality you will want. What's more, when it comes to using Yixing teapots, some of the value is derived from factors other than physical components to how the pot is made. The following are helpful tips on how to differentiate high and low-quality Yixing teapots.


Characteristics of quality

Some of the most important things to consider when purchasing a Yixing teapot are size, shape, how it is made, clay firing, and temperature. Another thing to look for is a good balance between the body and its spout and handle. 

The surface should have a nice finish or patina. Test it to make sure it doesn’t leak and that the spout is large enough so it pours out in a stream from the spout with ease.


It starts with good quality materials

Quality of clay includes Yixing Zisha, Yixing earth clay, or non-Yixing clay. The composition of the clay includes natural or original Zisha, non-colored and non-mixed, mixed, or artificial. Yixing clay is considered to be the finest clay for crafting Chinese teapots. Among clay, there are several types. Earth clay is made from mud, and stone clay is made from rock. Stone clay is called Zisha.


Zisha clay is referred to as natural or original clay. Earth clay’s natural color is white, whereas clay made from stone is considered to be purple clay. This doesn’t always mean the color of the clay is exactly purple. Zisha comes in a variety of colors.


Differentiating quality based on color takes a very skilled and trained eye. Generally speaking, the natural color of Yixing earth clay is white. Zisha clay, however, will come in a variety of natural colors. The most prized of these colors include Red or Hongni, Purple or Zhini, and Green or Luni which is usually mixed with other clay or overlayed.


How Pure is the Clay?

Beware to make sure your pot is pure Yixing. Of the available clay types, there are three main compositions that are frequently mixed together. Zisha clay, artificially colored clay, and mixed Pingni clay that may be any combination of Yixing and artificial clay. Yixing clay may come in colors other than purple that include red or purple. Green colors are usually created by mixing other clay types or overlays.


A test of purity

One way to tell if a Yixing teapot is authentic is by pouring water over it. If it is authentic, that water will slide down the pot evenly leaving no drops in the path. As soon as the water passes smoothly as it runs down, it will appear to be dry. If you notice any droplets of water, the clay has most likely been altered with chemicals in some way.


Strong and handles heat

What makes Zisha clay so unique and superb for teapots is that its granular structure along with its mineral composition gives it excellent heat handling properties. The mineral makes up of the clay include iron oxide and quartz, among others, which means teapots made from this clay are also durable. Zhuni teapots shrink during the firing process which makes the clay very hard and dense. Look closely, and you might see fine wrinkles from the shrinkage. Many teapots crack during this intense firing process.


Is there a ring to it?

One type of Zisha red clay is called Zhuni which comes from a rare type of rock vein. Zhuni pots usually have a very noticeable red or orange color, and they ring with a high pitched sound when you tap them. High-quality teapots that have been high fired have a clear ring when you lift the lid slightly and allow it to gently drop onto the pot. Over time and much use, a teapot will begin to be infused with tea oils and will produce a thunk sound instead of the ring.


Machine or hand made?

Of course, every hand-made teapot is going to be slightly different. If the teapot has been machine-made, you may spot lines from casting where the two halves of the mold were joined together. Also, a machine-made lid almost never fits perfectly causing them to either rattle or make a grinding sound. A hand-made pot will not have casting lines and will also have a better chance of a lid fitting to create a nice seal.


A quality relationship

The quality of a teapot is only the beginning. To those wanting to use their Yixing teapot for ceremonial tea drinking or just to privately enjoy a cup every day, there is an additional factor to consider. Perhaps the most desirable characteristic of high-quality Yixing clay is that it is extremely absorbent, which will help a Yixing teapot retain and accumulate the fragrance of every tea that steeps inside of it. It’s almost like building a lasting friendship or growing with a family member complete with so many memories.


Beyond beauty

If you are looking to form a bonding relationship of tea making in a Yixing teapot, you will probably be more interested in the patina that has been created on an older teapot. Over time, the tea steeping will create a patina of an infusion of tea oils and aroma.  Ultimately, many Yixing teapot enthusiast find the most value in a pot that has an indescribable feeling to it. Does the teapot make me feel good when I handle it? This is an important measure of quality.

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