Chinese teapots have been regarded as the most unique and colorful teaware found anywhere in the world today. Their popularity has grown exponentially since the Tang Dynasty up to date and of course into the future.
Apparently, the Chinese teapots stand out as one of the most significant elements used to prepare tea not only in China but across the globe.
Besides their uniqueness and elegance, these teapots give any tea-maker a reason to adopt the ancient Chinese tea-making technique commonly referred to as Gong-Fu Cha or “Tea with Great Skills”. Learn more about the Chinese teapots in the following sections.
TYPES OF CHINESE TEAPOTS (MATERIAL, SHAPE, SIZE)
Chinese teapots are popular among antique collectors and those who like preparing tea in style. For the collectors, these teaware hold significant authentic value, thanks to their respected art forms.
These ceramic pieces go beyond just being decorative items to becoming the most essential elements used for making Chinese tea. That being said, there are different types of Chinese teapots on the market today and each has its unique appearance as explained below:
If you are familiar with this type of Chinese teapot, then you can easily tell that it is a feminine design. It is considered a feminine design because of the open structure that makes it suitable for the tightly packed oolong type of teas.
The reason for using the rounded teapot for oolong teas is attributed to its little space that only allows for full opening of the tea leaves during the preparation of this popular beverage.
From its name, you can easily guess that the square teapot is a masculine design. Unfortunately, this type of Chinese teapot is very difficult to make. This should tell you that a lot of care is needed when assembling it.
A small mistake can lead to the distortion of the angles making the squares. As such, the whole design will be ruined by the firing process. Anyway, the walls on this type of teapots are strong and thicker, making them suitable for the strongly oxidized types of tea.
As you may have discovered, the oxidized tea needs higher water temperatures in order to give a full desirable flavored infusion. After all, the Chinese teapots are reputed for their long-standing history of making flavored tea.
It is so similar to the round teapot but it is somehow a difficult design of Chinese teapots. This means it requires an experienced and skilled craftsperson to come up with the ribbed design that perfectly blends in the spout, lid, and body.
NATURE & MYTHOLOGY MOTIFS
For beginners, this type of teapot is appealing and quite encouraging especially during the preparation and serving of this popular beverage.
Besides, the newcomers in tea making require little knowledge about different types of teas and this teapot can help them appreciate all the steps involved. Apart from that, these teapots depict the most common animals in nature or mythology, making them more appealing to the eye.
As the name suggests, these Chinese teapots are a replica of the famous historical sets of tea. The replications are derived from various materials that had been constructed previously. For that reason, this type of teapot is mainly used for display rather than brewing tea.
CHOOSING A CHINESE TEAPOT
When choosing a suitable Chinese teapot, you need to look out for the size, shape, manufacture (design) and clay firing. Let’s look at each element and find out what exactly each one of them entails.
The size is the first factor to consider when choosing any type of Chinese teapot. The choice of the size, however, will be dictated by the number of people you will be preparing tea for. That explains why these teaware come in different sizes.
For instance the teapot size 1 is more likely to have a capacity of 70 ml and can serve up to 2 people; the size number 2 with a volume of 100ml can suit between 2 to 4 people; size number 3 with a volume of 175ml can serve up to 5 individuals and size number 4 with a capacity of 225ml can take care of up to 6 people at once.
Perhaps you are asking yourself why there are different size numbers of teapots with each having a different volume. This is to make it easier for you when looking for the right for your needs. Without this knowledge of the different sizes of teapots, you will find it difficult when shopping for teapots.
Chinese teapots come in different shapes just in the same way they come in different sizes. The difference in shapes allows the tea maker to choose the right teapot for a particular type of tea. Meaning that different types of tea leaves are placed in specific teapots to maximize the surface area that comes into contact with hot water in the course of brewing. In this regard, you should know that teapots are found in two basic profiles.
The first profile is commonly referred to as high profile and the second one is called low profile. Each one of the two is suitable for a particular number of teas. Examples of the high profile teapots include the Taiwan Oolong, Green/White Tea, Chinese Black Tea or Red Tea (as referred to by the Chinese), and many others.
When it comes to the low profile, you will come across names such as The Guan Yin( Iron Budha, Budha Mercury or Chinese Oolong), Da Hong Pao, Phoenix tea and several decorative teapots.
At this point and time, you should be able to differentiate shapes and their respective designs. Keep in mind that the design depends on how the teapot is used.
For instance, the good tea-making teapots are less decorative compared to those used for ornamental purposes. The absence of decorations on the tea-making teapots is due to the fact that tea is sensitive to various heat fluctuations which in term can alter that much-needed flavor.
Chinese teapots differ from the Western-type of pottery-making techniques. With the latter, the “earth-clays” are placed on a wheel and turned while shaping them into desired shapes and sizes.
But with the Chinese types of teapots, the Zish clay (which is rigid) is made into various parts in readiness for assemble to create a complete product. This is done in three ways, namely; hand-made, half hand-made and molded.
With the hand-made Chinese teapots, the craftsperson hand cuts different pieces before assembling them using traditional tools to come up with a complete product.
For the half hand-made, the technique changes a little bit. Here, the craftsperson uses the assembling machine-mold to come up with a finished teapot. Most of the best Chinese teapots crafted from Zisha follow this technique during their assembly.
The molded types of Chinese teapots are assembled using a mass-production process. This involves the attachment of two or more pre-molded pieces using machines.
Unfortunately, many people consider hand-made and half hand-made teapots to be more valuable than the molded ones despite their ability to brew superior tea quality than porcelain or glazed teapots.
The type of clay used in making teapots is also another factor to consider when choosing these teawares. Here, you will have to go as far as looking out for the quality, composition, and color of the clay including the firing type used in the process of making a particular teapot.
Quality of clay plays a crucial role in the structure and appearance of teapots. That’s why Yixing clay has been used for centuries to make the finest teawares found all over the place. The Yixing clay comes in many types which are grouped into two major grades based on quality.
These grades include:
- Earth-clay (made from mud)
- Stone-clay (made from rok or Zisha)
The composition of clay is another factor influencing the quality and type of Chinese teapots. There are three main compositions of clay that are mixed to come up with the desirable quality of clay.
The most common combination used comprises of the following:
- Zisha clay (Qing Shui Ni)
- Mixed (Pingni)-this is any combination of non-Yixing, Yixing and artificial forms of clay
- Artificial (colored clay)-Can be combined with mixed clay.
The color of clay gives teapots their appearance. Different colors emerge due to the combination of different types of clays. Original or natural Zisha clays are combined to make new and traditional colors seen on different teapots.
On the other hand, the color is added to the clay by use of artificial dyes to duplicate natural Zisha colors. Teapots made with artificial colors don’t perform in the same way as those made from natural Zisha clay.
Speaking of Zisha clay, this material is found in a variety of colors such as:
- Red or Hongni
- Purple or Zhini
- Green or Luni( a mixture of other clays)
Clay firing gives teapots the distinctive high quality clear ring-like sound similar to that of a small bell. You can attest to this claim by gently lifting the lid and then allowing it to drop gently back to the teapot. Nevertheless, the higher the pitch coming from the teapot, the finer the quality. This is determined solely by the type of claying firing used.
There you have it! Chinese teapots have a rich history of dictating how the tea is brewed and served. In addition, these traditional tea-making elements come in different sizes, shapes, and quality to meet different needs from different people.
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