Sunday, April 21, 2013

Seasoning a Yixing teapot

New Yixing teapots must be cleaned and seasoned.  Why?  Can't you use the teapot immediately after you have brought it home from a teashop?

Here are the main reasons :

a)  teapot might be dirty -  obviously sediments, oil residues, or even insects might be found in your teapot.  It is possible that your teapot had been on display for a considerable long time before you had purchase it.  So a general cleaning or sterilization of the teapot might be in order.  Some of my teapot collector friends who purchased used teapots, will usually season the teapot again - like a recalibration.

b)  teapot has a smell -  I do not think your new teapot smell because of the clay.  You must remember that your teapot does absorbs smells easily and these scents may be difficult to remove.  It is common that your new teapot had 'caught' the scent of the firing may smell horrid but should clear up with a proper seasoning session.  Your teapot may smell musty due to its storage conditions.  Shaking your head with disbelief?  Try putting a piece of garlic in your teapot for a week......No don't do that.....You will have a garlic scented teapot.

The main reason is that the tea taste better when you brew tea in a Yixing teapot -  I cannot explain the scientific reasons.....or any non-scientific reasons.  The tea just taste better.  Perhaps that is why serious testing of tea in teashops or tea competitions use only white porcelain bowls and gaiwans to brew and sample the tea.

I season my teapot 1st by brushing the teapot with a used toothbrush under running water, then placing the teapot and its cover in a clean pot of water (a liter of water) and then boiling it under a small fire for an hour.  I repeat this boiling process but include tea leaves in the water (about 20-30g).  The tea leaves used will depend on the type of tea I want to use for the teapot.  If its ripe pu, then I add ripe puerh leaves in the pot.  Rinse, air dry the teapot and it is ready for use.  Why this method of teapot seasoning?  I vaguely recalled a teapot collector teaching me this seasoning method.  He emphasized that the 2nd time of boiling the teapot with tea leaves was very important as the interior of the teapot will be coated with tea for the 1st it a base coat.  Finally, a good rub, with a dry cloth or just your thumb, on the exterior of the teapot (after every use or weekly) would help make your teapot develop a nice shiny sheen.

I also discovered an ingenious seasoning method during my travels in Guangzhou.  One of my popular teashops I visited in Guangzhou was letting me try a tea when I noticed they used a teapot as a tea jar (instead of a regular porcelain tea jar) to dispense the tea into teacups.  Normally, this teashop would brew their tea in a teapot, pour out the tea through a filter into a porcelain
 tea jar, then finally pouring the tea out into teacups.  I was told this was an easy method to season a teapot instead of the boiling method I mentioned above.  What this teashop did was - clean out the teapot with a brush under running water, then use the teapot as a serving jar.  When the customer had left or had enough of the tea, the final brew may be poured over the exterior of this teapot. This process was repeated for about 1-2 weeks before the teapot was considered 'seasoned'.  If it is for raw pu erh tea, this teapot was only used when raw pu erh is being sampled. 

There is no 'standard' technique of seasoning a Yixing teapot.  I have even seen a pure steaming method - teapot is steamed for a couple of hours.  I would advise against using detergents or any strong chemical agents that may cause your teapot to smell unpleasant.  Happy seasoning !!!


PouringTea said...

Agreed that tea just tastes better from a Yixing teapot. I like your method of seasoning because waiting 1-2 weeks to use a new teapot would not be easy for me! Quick question for you – I use bottled water to prepare tea because the tap water here is “hard” but it is all boiled in the same kettle. I notice lately that there is a white scale building up on the inside of the clay teapots. I don’t have space for a second kettle just for tea water. Any ideas? Thanks, Breda

wilson said...

hello Breda. Thanks for your comments. If u permit me to venture a guess, the white stuff building up in your teapot seem to be limescale, a residue from your water used. I would suggest a cleanup as it will not look nice and affect a tea brew. You can clean by soaking the teapots in a mild bleach (used by my good tea celebrity friend - Marshaln, or soak in water with a tablet of denture cleaning tablet, or you can consider using fresh lemon juice. Do remember to season the teapot again. Also may I suggest cleaning out the teapot immediate after every brewing session and air drying the teapot may help reduce the accumulation of the limescale. Hope it helps.

PouringTea said...

Thank you very much for the helpful advice. You are quite right about the limescale. I'll start with the lemon juice and take it from there, though the thought of bleach in my teapots scares me! Thank you again.

peter pocajt said...

Tea tastes really better in a Yixing teapot. I hoped to find here the answer why?