Breaking into clay

absence
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Mon Nov 04, 2019 3:13 pm

I'm curious about, fascinated, and confused by clay teapots, and want to buy a "known good" pot so I can experience first hand what all the fuss is about. Whether or not I pursue the rabbit hole hobby of clay teapots will depend on my experience with this one teapot, so it's important that it's of a certain quality, and not a fake or low quality "tuition pot" from a random online auction. I realise that with all the variations in clay, shapes, firing, etc., one pot can only scratch the surface. Nevertheless, I can't very well buy ten different pots in order to find out if I want to buy ten different pots, so let's try to make the best out of this humble beginning.

Perhaps the most commonly attributed effect of clay teapots is that they can make sheng puers less bitter at the cost of some aroma. Such pots are apparently also good for roasted oolongs, and possibly at least passable for shou puer and black tea, so it seems like a good place to start, as opposed to a pot that is optimal for a very specific tea like dan cong. I get the impression that better pots are defined by their ability to maintain aroma while still reducing bitterness, so I don't want to end up with a teapot-shaped black hole that devours all aroma.

Can I find such a pot at Yunnan Sourcing? They seem to have mostly "modern" clays (which can be good or bad for all I know), and most of their pots are also too large for one person. There are also vendors that sell more traditional clay like Factory 1 pots, although unlike me, many are based in the USA. That doesn't rule them out entirely, it's just a bit silly shipping-wise.

These are just random thoughts, and as I have no idea what I'm talking about, I'm open to and thankful for suggestions from people who do. Note that this is all about taste, so a handmade pot with exquisite decoration isn't necessary at this time.
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Youzi
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Mon Nov 04, 2019 4:44 pm

Glad to hear from another person thinking about getting into the rabbit hole Yixing Teapots. There was a huge discussion about a similar topic a couple days ago, have you checked it out?

viewtopic.php?f=19&t=1196

Personally I'd advise you to stay away from YS. You can have much better bang for your buck from other vendors.
Usually there are two ways to go about Yixings:

Go on the old way, into the factory 1 era:
I think it could be said, that you can get the best "deal" as a starter pot, from Emmettsteas

The other way is go for modern pots:
In this category the best Bang for buck option for the west is MudAndLeaves or Chanting Pines (ignore their marketing )
OR buying directly from Yixing potters in China.

I think a Zini pot is the best clay to start with. It's a good all arounder, and you'll surely find some tea which it likes.

IF you want to learn more about Yixing clays, you can check out some of my articles about the subject. So far I haven't heard too many complaints about it. :D

(and of course there's always the option of going with Jianshui, Nixing or Japanese Clay pots)
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Bok
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Mon Nov 04, 2019 7:35 pm

I have to respectfully disagree here. In terms of Yixing a Hongni clay would be much more of an allrounder than Zini. In my personal experience I have found modern Zini (that includes 90s-today) a lot of times wanting in terms of performance. Older Zini is diverse and can be very interesting, but you’ll need a couple to find out.

What I would also through into the mix are wood-fired clay teapots (can be Japanese, Taiwanese, or European). Before going into the Yixing abyss, I used Taiwanese wood fired exclusively with good results across a wide range of teas.

I would caution when using Japanese clays, many are meant for low temperature teas like Sencha and Gyokuru and have their problems when used with high heat teas, both in terms of handling a hot object and also in how the clay reacts with the tea when hot. Some suitable clays like Hokujo and Kobiwako, Shigaraku you will find discussed on this forum elsewhere.

Also worth considering is Chaozhou clay, very good with many teas.

I have a hard time seeing how will be able to find your personal perfect match without at least amassing a couple of pots, unless you just ignore the talk and try to be happy with whatever you get, which is not a bad strategy in itself. If you only want to find one perfect pot without trial and error, buy porcelain or Zhuni.
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OCTO
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Mon Nov 04, 2019 8:06 pm

Bok wrote:
Mon Nov 04, 2019 7:35 pm
If you only want to find one perfect pot without trial and error, buy porcelain or Zhuni.
I would suggest ditching the ZhuNi and just buy porcelain.
absence
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Mon Nov 04, 2019 8:44 pm

Youzi wrote:
Mon Nov 04, 2019 4:44 pm
There was a huge discussion about a similar topic a couple days ago, have you checked it out?
Oh wow, I hadn't noticed that recent thread. Ì've read it now, including your article about zisha. Very interesting, thanks!
Youzi wrote:
Mon Nov 04, 2019 4:44 pm
Usually there are two ways to go about Yixings:
Would you recommend going the Factory 1 route, or modern pots? Why?
Bok wrote:
Mon Nov 04, 2019 7:35 pm
I have to respectfully disagree here. In terms of Yixing a Hongni clay would be much more of an allrounder than Zini.
I noticed the two of you disagreeing on that point in the other thread as well, and I'm curious to hear more. What do you think about hongni, @Youzi?
Bok wrote:
Mon Nov 04, 2019 7:35 pm
What I would also through into the mix are wood-fired clay teapots (can be Japanese, Taiwanese, or European).
What is a good place to buy wood-fired pots online?
Bok wrote:
Mon Nov 04, 2019 7:35 pm
Some suitable clays like Hokujo and Kobiwako, Shigaraku you will find discussed on this forum elsewhere.
Thanks, I'll look them up! Just to clarify, are these particular clays suitable for high-temperature brewing?
Bok wrote:
Mon Nov 04, 2019 7:35 pm
Also worth considering is Chaozhou clay, very good with many teas.
I've often seen this clay recommended for dancong. What other types of tea do you find it works well with?
Bok wrote:
Mon Nov 04, 2019 7:35 pm
I have a hard time seeing how will be able to find your personal perfect match without at least amassing a couple of pots, unless you just ignore the talk and try to be happy with whatever you get, which is not a bad strategy in itself.
That's understandable, but it's not quite what my goal is. Since I've never tried a clay teapot, I don't really know what to expect, and I don't even know if the effect of clay is something I'll appreciate. In order to find out, I just want a decent pot which can give me an impression of what clay can do. It won't be a perfect match, but I can always explore alternatives later. However, a bad first impression would likely discourage me from doing that.
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Bok
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Mon Nov 04, 2019 9:14 pm

@absence

For wood-fired online I can only refer you to a friend of mine: https://daqian.myshopify.com/
Many other Taiwanese artisans do not really have Western facing shops. Some tea brands do offer some from time to time, but I can not comment on their quality.

Peter Kuo’s (Daqian) tea ware is very good, he manages to raise the tea pots very thin, which is an important feature for brewing performance. He is in fact just firing another batch, not sure when that will be on the online shop though. A lot of it is for an upcoming exhibition in the US.


Chaozhou tea ware is obviously good with Dancong. Apart from that, I found it to work well with a lot of other roasted or aged teas, mainly oolong or black tea.


The Japanese clays I mentioned are all suitable for high temperature. Just be mindful of how some side handles are close to the body, so deepening on hand size and technique can be tricky to hold in order not to burn your hand.
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Bok
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Mon Nov 04, 2019 9:20 pm

absence wrote:
Mon Nov 04, 2019 8:44 pm
That's understandable, but it's not quite what my goal is. Since I've never tried a clay teapot, I don't really know what to expect, and I don't even know if the effect of clay is something I'll appreciate. In order to find out, I just want a decent pot which can give me an impression of what clay can do. It won't be a perfect match, but I can always explore alternatives later. However, a bad first impression would likely discourage me from doing that.
You are asking for the impossible.

All you are going to get is one result for one clay. Often also only valid for that one particular teapot. Same clays can yield very different results depending on different factors that have nothing to do with the clay itself.

There is not the clay that will show you all the best things in one.

If you want to see the extreme of a clay that will be totally obvious, I would suggest the Kobiwako clay and what it does to greener teas.
All other clays do have an influence on tea, but it will be subtle and you maybe won't even notice. Don't expect fireworks from a clay. Those exist, but it takes a lot of experience and also familiarity with one's teas to use it to an advantage.
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Bok
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Mon Nov 04, 2019 9:37 pm

absence wrote:
Mon Nov 04, 2019 8:44 pm
Since I've never tried a clay teapot, I don't really know what to expect, and I don't even know if the effect of clay is something I'll appreciate.
What have you been using so far? Porcelain, glass, metal? As I said before, do not expect too much of a difference, it is subtle and in any case to be see the difference clearly, you would need to brew side by side with a similar-sized and -walled vessel, ideally a gaiwan.

And what kind of teas do you drink? That would be the crucial point to advise you in a constructive way.
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OCTO
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Mon Nov 04, 2019 10:28 pm

absence wrote:
Mon Nov 04, 2019 8:44 pm
That's understandable, but it's not quite what my goal is. Since I've never tried a clay teapot, I don't really know what to expect, and I don't even know if the effect of clay is something I'll appreciate. In order to find out, I just want a decent pot which can give me an impression of what clay can do.
Do a side by side comparison between glass, porcelain and clay. It's almost impossible to know how clay can affect your tea if there is no basis of comparison and benchmark to compare to. It's a fun process, but now, that's making simple things complex.

Bok wrote:
Mon Nov 04, 2019 9:20 pm
All you are going to get is one result for one clay. Often also only valid for that one particular teapot. Same clays can yield very different results depending on different factors that have nothing to do with the clay itself.
Results will differ if a new pot is used. All clay pots are porous and will absorb aroma and taste in the first few weeks or months of use. Depending on the frequency of use.
absence
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Tue Nov 05, 2019 6:47 am

Bok wrote:
Mon Nov 04, 2019 9:20 pm
There is not the clay that will show you all the best things in one.
Again, that's not what I'm looking for.
Bok wrote:
Mon Nov 04, 2019 9:20 pm
If you want to see the extreme of a clay that will be totally obvious, I would suggest the Kobiwako clay and what it does to greener teas.
Thanks! Even though Yixing and sheng puer seems to be the classic combination, a different combination with a more obvious result could indeed better suit my purpose.
Bok wrote:
Mon Nov 04, 2019 9:37 pm
What have you been using so far?
Glazed clay and porcelain teapots, porcelain gaiwans, sometimes Chinese greens directly in a glass.
Bok wrote:
Mon Nov 04, 2019 9:37 pm
And what kind of teas do you drink? That would be the crucial point to advise you in a constructive way.
A bit of everything really, which is another reason why I'm looking for a pot that can give me a sample impression of how clay can affect a tea, rather than some magical one-clay-fits-all that doesn't exist.
OCTO wrote:
Mon Nov 04, 2019 10:28 pm
Do a side by side comparison between glass, porcelain and clay.
I intend to, but let's not put the cart before the horse, as I still don't have any clay! :)
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Bok
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Tue Nov 05, 2019 7:04 am

@absence where did you get the impression from that Yixing and Sheng Puerh is a classic combination???

If anything the most classic match is probably Yancha and Yixing, people have not even been drinking Puerh made in Yixing until a lot more time had passed.

Not even mentioning that Yixing clays are so vastly different in between kinds that it would be a gross simplification to all categorise them as a match for Sheng ;)

Go for a Hongni or Zini and take it from there. Bare in mind that you’ll need to use them for a while before they perform at peak. Right out of the box the result might not be favourable.
absence
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Tue Nov 05, 2019 7:40 am

Bok wrote:
Tue Nov 05, 2019 7:04 am
absence where did you get the impression from that Yixing and Sheng Puerh is a classic combination???
It seems to often come up in Western tea circles, and was just my impression. Thanks for providing more details!
Bok wrote:
Tue Nov 05, 2019 7:04 am
Go for a Hongni or Zini and take it from there.
Do you think it matters much if its new clay, like the ones from Gao's site mentioned in the other thread, or something like Factory 1? I might also go with Kobiwako to get a sense of what "extreme" means in terms of clay.
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Bok
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Tue Nov 05, 2019 8:01 am

absence wrote:
Tue Nov 05, 2019 7:40 am
Do you think it matters much if its new clay, like the ones from Gao's site mentioned in the other thread, or something like Factory 1? I might also go with Kobiwako to get a sense of what "extreme" means in terms of clay.
If you want extreme, also do consider a Duanni, the most obvious in terms of Yixing in my opinion.

Unless you go for a 60s F1 Yixing, which I would not advice as a first Yixing because of the high purchase costs, I would probably go for a modern teapot instead. If there is something available in the Swap section of our forum you might also get a good deal.
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Youzi
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Tue Nov 05, 2019 8:07 am

@absence
I'm on phone, so cannot quote properly.
If you go new or old, that's a decision for you to make, but based on what I've heard from others after the 80s F1 started to dope the clay with Iron Red Powder and Barium Carbonate, so if you go F1 or antique way, I'd advise you to get a pre 80s pot.

Regarding new ones there's lots of bad pots, colored with oxodes and other stuff. They are usually look like Yixing classic shapes, but made of clay fron some part of china, wheel thrown or machine half hand made.

The minimum price is about 100$ for a half hand. Then based on clay rarity you go up in price.

From 250-300$ you can get full hand teapots made of Benshan material.

For why I recommend zini as a starter pot is because Yixing got its fame because of Zini. A good Zini pot should keep the aroma of the tea, while rounding it, but not too much.

It's in the middle ground between Zhuni and Tuanni/Duanni.

And with time it should take up the aroma of the teas brewed in it. (no, not the taste of them)
absence
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Tue Nov 12, 2019 9:21 am

Thanks all, this has given me some things to ponder!
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