Puzzled wannabe Yixing buyer

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faj
Posts: 96
Joined: Mon Oct 14, 2019 6:45 am
Location: Quebec

Fri Oct 18, 2019 7:37 am

I am a newbie here, hopefully I am not breaking any community standards by posting this, please be kind if I do... Sorry for the somewhat long post, I promise there is a real question at the end.

I am interested in purchasing a first Yixing pot. I have never tasted tea infused from a Yixing pot, and have no on-hand access to Yixing pots or anyone knowledgeable. Online is my only option. I would like a pot that works very well with some teas, but not as well with other teas, so that I can taste the difference and learn. It should be of high enough quality that I will later on dedicate it to a more specific use and keep happily using it for a lifetime.

Being inexperienced and having a preference for not getting ripped off or poisoned, the world of Yixing does not offer a very reassuring purchasing experience. I have perused many forums and vendor recommendations always feel kind of hollow. There typically are two paths suggested.

The first one is buying a modern pot. "I purchased a pot from X, and I like it". You check the website, with claims about clay that cannot be verified, name of studios or artists you find no independent information about. I have seen beautiful websites that seem to show real dedication, with blogs, great pictures, lots of information and claims that are written not to sound exaggerated. But if you want to fool me, that's how to do it, so the doubt remains, especially in the absence of independent reviews of products and supply chains.

The second path is buying an older pot. Clay was better then, with no chemicals to worry about, but fakes abound. You often read "you get what you pay for", but to me, this means "expect to pay full price for your fake". Some vendor names are often cited (ex: Essence of Tea). But what if recommended vendors are trusted because everyone recommends them? I would like to understand how a vendor can have access to a non-stop flow of authentic older pots and has the knowledge and incentive to weed out the fakes (if that can even be done), not just sending the good ones to their more knowledgeable or renown customers.

So now, my question is this : can you recommend vendors of quality pots, either modern or older, with an explanation that a newcomer like me would not perceive as circular or ex cathedra reasoning ?
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Baisao
Posts: 512
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Location: Austin, TX

Fri Oct 18, 2019 4:31 pm

Everything you said above is true in regards to Yixing teapots. With old teapots, you are often paying a premium for handmade fakes. With modern teapots, you risk getting clay with undesirable additives.

Some sellers on this forum offer Factory 1 teapots either in the For Sale section or have their own small shops. These are worth considering as the clays are known to be of a good quality, even if the workmanship is merely good enough. There's pretty good documentation of them so you are less likely to get a fake. Expect to pay more the older they are. The clay and craftsmanship are better the older the these teapots are. Prices range from $120-$700 (I think that is still accurate) for a shuiping shape, depending on rarity.

I purchased a modern Yixing teapot from a new vendor. He runs a shop for his mother and her students. I purchased a teapot from him last month not expecting it to be very good in how well it worked or in the quality of the clay. I was surprised on both counts. The pot I received was entirely handmade and the clay was quite nice. I doubt the lower priced teapots are fully handmade, but the owner communicates well so you could ask him.

Gao's site is really new:
http://yinchenteapot.com/YixingTeapot.html?pgid=676165

Gao has typically done buisness via Instagram messages:
https://www.instagram.com/yinchen_teapot/


In general, I would:

1) Avoid heavily adorned teapots
2) Dismiss the notion that ALL modern clays are bad
3) Stick to a teapot between 80-120ml
4) Choose a teapot that is more tall than wide, more round than square
5) Avoid conspicuously colored clay
6) Disbelieve outlandish claims
7) Not buy from vendors who show impoverished potters posing with teapots and certificates
8) Not expect miracles

I hope this helps
Last edited by Victoria on Fri Oct 18, 2019 6:39 pm, edited 1 time in total.
Reason: Mod edit: cleaned up quote
faj
Posts: 96
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Location: Quebec

Fri Oct 18, 2019 5:06 pm

Thanks for the information.
Unfortunately, this website does not seem to be working right with the browsers I have on my computer.

Out of curiosity, how did you build trust in your own ability to judge clay quality/safety? I don't mean to sound doubtful or disrespectful, I am just curious to understand. Is this a process where, having been exposed to a great many teapots, you develop an implicit understanding of what "good clay" means, or rather something more "scientific", where there are specific features you know about that good clay exhibits but that are difficult to fake?
Baisao wrote:
Fri Oct 18, 2019 4:28 pm
3) Stick to a teapot between 80-120ml
4) Choose a teapot that is more tall than wide, more round than square
Are these recommendations having to do with the quality of the pot (i.e. less likely to be of poor quality), or how practical and effective it will be when infusing tea? Could you please explain a bit more?
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Shine Magical
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Fri Oct 18, 2019 5:46 pm

Based on my understanding of your post, I don't think you will get what you want. :(

I don't think you will be able to get a high quality yixing pot as a Westerner from an online store, and especially so if it is your first yixing teapot purchase. I also don't think most people use the first yixing teapot they bought if they end up getting serious about clay and teaware, because it often isn't good quality regardless of what they thought at the time. I'm not even using any of the first 10 pots I purchased. Sold them all because with experience I realized they were meh, although when I first bought them I was quite happy with some of them. I had a lot of money to blow and even I am not too pleased at the tuition I've paid and will pay in the future to get better clay pots. Unless you have someone more knowledgeable to guide you and connect you to the right people, I would stay away from buying a yixing teapot.

You wrote that you often brew in glass, and I would suggest you try brewing in porcelain for better tasting tea and focusing on buying better quality tea in general and continue going down that path instead. Even just buying high quality tea is difficult and pricey. Also experimenting with the kind of water you use. However, I can understand the allure of owning a yixing teapot and you can plenty of so-so ones from the popular vendors you listed that will still give a different effect on tea than porcelain, and that’s quite fine too if you’re not a perfectionist. I’m still using a 90’s EoT pot for most puer because I think it’s fine enough and I’m waiting for a good opportunity to present itself to replace it.
faj
Posts: 96
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Location: Quebec

Fri Oct 18, 2019 6:40 pm

Thanks for the information. I do have several additional question to better understand what you are saying.
Shine Magical wrote:
Fri Oct 18, 2019 5:46 pm
I don't think you will be able to get a high quality yixing pot as a Westerner from an online store, and especially so if it is your first yixing teapot purchase.
I get the part where my inexperience would prevent me from choosing a good teapot. This is fair. If you mean that no English-based website sells good Yixing pots, while that would seem a bit of a stretch (though I understand the best stuff is only sold through other channels), that is also fair. Someone in Asia could not buy good Yixing from these websites, either. But if you mean that there are good pots available to me, but I cannot chose them because I am a Westerner (still fair!), I would point out that someone more knowledgeable (you for instance) could point me to good vendors and pots. This goes back to my question : are there vendors (available to me) that you would trust to sell quality Yixing?
Shine Magical wrote:
Fri Oct 18, 2019 5:46 pm
I also don't think most people use the first yixing teapot they bought if they end up getting serious about clay and teaware, because it often isn't good quality regardless of what they thought at the time.
You are right. Hence the reason I am seeking guidance. Now, if you are of the opinion that "serious teaware" means teapots costing in the thousands USD, and anything below ends up being set aside later on, then yes, you are right, this is not what I would purchase first. I do not know how much money you consider is the budget one should expect to pay for a keeper.
Shine Magical wrote:
Fri Oct 18, 2019 5:46 pm
Unless you have someone more knowledgeable to guide you and connect you to the right people, I would stay away from buying a yixing teapot.
Should I take that to mean that all vendor recommendations made on forums lead to products you would consider to be of quality insufficient to make a purchase worthwile?
Shine Magical wrote:
Fri Oct 18, 2019 5:46 pm
You wrote that you often brew in glass, and I would suggest you try brewing in porcelain for better tasting tea
I understood glass and porcelain to be neutral. Can you explain a bit more the difference that would make?
Shine Magical wrote:
Fri Oct 18, 2019 5:46 pm
However, I can understand the allure of owning a yixing teapot
I am really not doing of for the allure. I have no one to impress with a teapot around here. I am only concerned with the effect on taste. Obviously, a teapot that would not really help with taste is of no interest to me. Now, I certainly am not an expert, so my first concern would be to try to taste a nice difference, then see if it is worth it for me to pursue further.
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Youzi
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Fri Oct 18, 2019 7:09 pm

faj wrote:
Fri Oct 18, 2019 5:06 pm
Thanks for the information.
Unfortunately, this website does not seem to be working right with the browsers I have on my computer.
Gao's site only works on mobile yet. Check his instagram instead at yinchen_teapot or yinchen.teapot.

As a first teapot I'd suggest Zini, Lao Zini, Dicaoqing or Lao Dicaoqing where Lao means aged at least 10+years. Zini is a good all around clay which gives you enough difference from porcelain, but not too much, like Duanni or Lüni.

Another clay I'd recommend is Jiangponi. It's a natural mixture of Hongni/Zini/Duanni. Based on the ratio of Hongni/Duanni its either Hong Jiangponi or Huang Jiangponi (red/yellow). Jiangponi is a newly discovered subtype of Zisha and the resources are plenty, so it's cheap, and not faked, however it's performance is really good. I'd illustrate it like this: Hongni <-- Hong Jiangponi --> Zini <-- Huang Jiangponi --> Duanni

Personally I love this pot from Gao's store: https://www.instagram.com/p/B0lUlEBAdft/ (however it's a bit large and seems to me the pour would be slow)

You can also get good new clay from Mudandleaves, however it seems their store is empty now. :D
faj
Posts: 96
Joined: Mon Oct 14, 2019 6:45 am
Location: Quebec

Fri Oct 18, 2019 7:48 pm

Youzi wrote:
Fri Oct 18, 2019 7:09 pm
Gao's site only works on mobile yet. Check his instagram instead at yinchen_teapot or yinchen.teapot.

You can also get good new clay from Mudandleaves, however it seems their store is empty now. :D
Thanks for the pointers. Mud and leaves, which I had stumbled upon, seem to have many items in their store when I checked a couple of minutes ago. Or do you mean they have fewer products than before?

Those are good examples of vendors that "look good" from an outsider's perspective. The products are expensive enough that it might not be junk clay and craftsmanship (no disrespect intended here, just saying I would not be fooled by a 10$ pot). Mud and leaves, which I checked out before, has a quite extensive website, with much information. How reliable is hard for me to tell due to inexperience. How can I know the products are good, and the nice website is not just a nice coat of paint over a shady business?

I would like to understand what makes you comfortable to recommending their products as safe and worthy of the claims made. Once again no disrespect meant here, just trying to learn.

Your statement that Jiangponi is cheap enough to not be worth faking is something I find interesting. I do not know if this is a statement that would be widely recognized as fact (seems plausible prima facie), but it has the merit of relying on disincentives to faking, not chains of trust. In other words, if this is true, then there is a factual basis, even for an uninformed person, to think that a product using that clay is less likely to be unsafe or with chemical additions.

Maybe, as Shine Magical said, it is hard for a newbie without help to purchase something decent. I could be sold something worthless or dangerous, and unless it smells funny or looks obviously very low quality, there is no way I would know. It is easy to think that good fakes probably fool knowledgeable people who would probably think of themselves as (almost) immune to scams.
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Baisao
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Fri Oct 18, 2019 8:15 pm

@faj, I spent 30 minutes writing a carefully constructed reply to you but the website refreshed on preview and deleted it.

@pedant, this is hardly the first time this had happened.

I’ll get around to replying to you later but I’m not going to spend another 30 minutes doing so.

In the interim, you may take the advice or @Bok, @Youzi, @pedant, and @OCTO on these matters.

As recently as a month ago I would have agreed with @Shine Magical that you can’t get good modern Yixing teapots online. I was wrong and so is he. Jiangponi is a surprisingly nice clay that has neutral characteristics.

Regarding your questions about shapes and volumes: these relate directly to performance.
faj
Posts: 96
Joined: Mon Oct 14, 2019 6:45 am
Location: Quebec

Fri Oct 18, 2019 8:47 pm

Baisao wrote:
Fri Oct 18, 2019 8:15 pm
faj, I spent 30 minutes writing a carefully constructed reply to you but the website refreshed on preview and deleted it.
Regarding your questions about shapes and volumes: these relate directly to performance.
Sorry for the time you lost...

I would be interested in understanding your "tall rather than wide" recommendation. I have seen shapes being recommended based on tea types, but you seem to make it a rather general statement. Just to get an idea where you dray the line, would you consider a shape like a xishi to fall on the wrong side of your recommendation?

Is your conclusion that modern Yixing can be purchased online due solely to that yinchenteapot.com website, or are there others you would feel safe recommending?

The workmanship I easily understand one can evaluate with enough experience. But clay quality is a bit of a mystery to me. Are there characteristics of the clay that are so difficult to fake that an expert can tell for sure that a clay is "genuine" (meaning not chemically altered to look like something it is not). Or do even experts, at the end of the day, conclude that a given clay is "real" when it gets to the point that they tell themselves "If it is a fake, it is a really good one!".

Thanks for your kind help.
faj
Posts: 96
Joined: Mon Oct 14, 2019 6:45 am
Location: Quebec

Fri Oct 18, 2019 9:00 pm

Youzi wrote:
Fri Oct 18, 2019 7:09 pm
Another clay I'd recommend is Jiangponi. It's a natural mixture of Hongni/Zini/Duanni. Based on the ratio of Hongni/Duanni its either Hong Jiangponi or Huang Jiangponi (red/yellow). Jiangponi is a newly discovered subtype of Zisha and the resources are plenty, so it's cheap, and not faked, however it's performance is really good. I'd illustrate it like this: Hongni <-- Hong Jiangponi --> Zini <-- Huang Jiangponi --> Duanni
@Youzi, just to give me a reference, would you say these Jiangponi teapots are of the "Hong" or "Huang" variety?

https://www.mudandleaves.com/store/p418 ... 40ml_.html
https://www.mudandleaves.com/store/p574 ... 180ml.html

Many thanks,
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Baisao
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Fri Oct 18, 2019 10:40 pm

faj wrote:
Fri Oct 18, 2019 8:47 pm
Baisao wrote:
Fri Oct 18, 2019 8:15 pm
faj, I spent 30 minutes writing a carefully constructed reply to you but the website refreshed on preview and deleted it.
Regarding your questions about shapes and volumes: these relate directly to performance.
Sorry for the time you lost...
Thank you. I’ll see if I can add these thoughts as we go on this thread.
faj wrote:
Fri Oct 18, 2019 8:47 pm

I would be interested in understanding your "tall rather than wide" recommendation. I have seen shapes being recommended based on tea types, but you seem to make it a rather general statement. Just to get an idea where you dray the line, would you consider a shape like a xishi to fall on the wrong side of your recommendation?
I think zishi is a very desirable shape owing to how spherical it is but not many of them are alluring. I think shui ping is also an excellent shape, for the same reasons, and I personally find it more attractive despite being the most common shape. Both are very predictable and ideal for most teas.

It will be hard to quantify this since it involves a sense for what is happening in an enclosed space but it seems to me like flat edges and angles create less refined (harsh or edgy) aromatics and shallow teapots don’t seem to gather the aromatics as well as more spherical teapots. This is my opinion after 15 years, more or less, of making tea in different shaped teapots.

I also feel that glass vessels create an effect similar to angular teapots for whatever reason. I can’t explain why it would be different.
faj wrote:
Fri Oct 18, 2019 8:47 pm
Is your conclusion that modern Yixing can be purchased online due solely to that yinchenteapot.com website, or are there others you would feel safe recommending?
It is. I was completely surprised. But if there is one good shop then there are more. Prior to this I encouraged people to not mess with Yixing but to buy Taiwanese teapots which often have much higher craftsmanship and are a fraction of the price. The rub is that finding Taiwanese teapots can be difficult unless you’re looking for the tacky ones with the wood handles.
faj wrote:
Fri Oct 18, 2019 8:47 pm
The workmanship I easily understand one can evaluate with enough experience. But clay quality is a bit of a mystery to me. Are there characteristics of the clay that are so difficult to fake that an expert can tell for sure that a clay is "genuine" (meaning not chemically altered to look like something it is not). Or do even experts, at the end of the day, conclude that a given clay is "real" when it gets to the point that they tell themselves "If it is a fake, it is a really good one!".

Thanks for your kind help.
Ultimately it comes down to “If it’s fake, it’s a really good one”. We evaluate from experience, of course, but we look at textures, inclusions/precipitates, firing, colors in various light sources, porosity, and affect on flavors/textures.

We also look at craftsmanship to help us identify what era the clay is from. For example, modern vs lao zhuni. The clays can be very closely approximated but details in the craftsmanship often tell what era the clay belongs to. In my experience, this isn’t necessary with duanni as the differences are readily apparent.

It’s worth noting that F1 teapots are a benchmark for many of us since they are so well documented.
Chadrinkincat
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Fri Oct 18, 2019 10:50 pm

@faj


“You get what you pay for” Expect to pay full price for fake? Your interpretation is way off. Dont drink the fear of fakes cool aid!! Keep in mind that these late 70-90’s pots were mass produced and are far from rare or hard to come by.

“You get what you pay for” In reality it just means that quality doesn’t come cheap so don’t expect your $5 pot to be anything but a $5 piece of junk. Only time this doesn’t always apply is when you stumble across a $5 yixing at a flea market, junk shop etc. but this usually requires a fair bit of knowledge and experience to spot these deals.

Spend some time researching yixing before purchasing anything vintage and stick to vendors that have a good reputation among serious western collectors.
-A few trustworthy vendors for older pots
Essence of tea
http://zishaartgallery.com/
https://emmettsteas.weebly.com

I have little advice for buying modern pots other than to just disregard most claims from vendors.
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Bok
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Sat Oct 19, 2019 2:19 am

@faj
I would like a pot that works very well with some teas, but not as well with other teas, so that I can taste the difference and learn. It should be of high enough quality that I will later on dedicate it to a more specific use and keep happily using it for a lifetime.
You are asking for a fast track way to get to know Yixing, which is impossible. As any acquired knowledge and skill, in general that involves a lot of time and effort, wasted money and disappointments, no advice of us can get you there faster. Finding a lifetime pot is not something you can achieve at the first or even 10th try. Think how long it takes most to find a lifetime partner :).

That said, nonetheless a few tips.

For a pot that is supposed to last longer, invest rather more money than less. So so quality pots that you find out not to like later are more difficult to resell and get rid off.

In terms of clay, I recommend a hongni, rather than any of the others. Hongni is more of an Allrounder and a good match for many teas. Thin walled and in a round shape is best. Most useful volume in my experience is 80-100ml.

If you go for the vintage road, I do recommend to look for anything up to green label, 1980s. Afterwards, additives where used, if you’re worried about those. I have nothing to say about modern ones, there might be good ones, but I wouldn’t know how to tell, as no one has tested any them (not to my knowledge).

Ideally, I would get a 60-70s Hongi shuiping, can’t really go wrong with that. If I’m not mistaken @Brent D has one for sale. If you have the budget, that is what I would get, at least you can be sure to be able to sell it at the approximate same price if you don’t like it. Any modern pot has little resell value.
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Bok
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Sat Oct 19, 2019 2:24 am

For ease of search, that is the one for sale here: viewtopic.php?f=28&t=1147

Disclaimer: I have no affiliation or interest in the sale! It looks authentic and fits the bill. Price seems ok as well.
swordofmytriumph
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Sat Oct 19, 2019 5:10 am

@Baisao, what kind of clay was the pot you got from Gao?
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