The beginnings of the Yixing tea pots date back to the Sung Dynasty (960-1279), in China. The Yixing teapot has the pronunciation of Yeeshing, and is said to be the best teapot known for tea brewing. It is thought that the clay that is used has superior qualities and is second to none.
The purple clay, called Zisha clay comes from the earth. It is believed to have been first mined in a place called Lake Taihu in China. Zisha clay contains minerals such as iron, quartz, and mica. These minerals used to make the Yixing teapots were free from toxic earth products such as lead, arsenic, or any other toxic materials.
The Zisha clay is porous. This causes the teapot to absorb the flavors of tea with each usage. Thus this produces a seasoned pot with layers of character, mimicking its owner.
This also meant that the Chinese had created a teapot that became highly unique.
The Yixing teapots are not only the best functioning teapots; they are also very beautiful works of art. The Yixing pots are made from the earth, and appear in earth toned colors in their natural state. The usual colors are a beige color, a light red color and a brown with purple “hue”. Black colors can be achieved by mixing a cobalt oxide; however that is mostly popular with the west and not with China.
Traditional Yixing pots were made so small they became personal teapots for one. And the accompaniment was tiny glasses. The tiny tea cup glasses resemble the size of what a shot glass is today. This made them extremely popular for each person to own one.
The artists who make the beautiful little pots study long and hard under accomplished master Yixing potters. The artist in study learns all aspects of the Yixing process. These artists in training will study the actual making of the Zisha clay (or paste). They will forge through with hands-on creation and techniques of the aspects of craftsmanship and the quality of product expected by those masters. The character of each of the upcoming tea pot makers shines through with each pot from the start to the finish.
Some of the most interesting aspects of the Yixing tea pot are very clever. Most people may not be aware that the handcrafted Zishu pots are made so that no infuser (or strainer) is ever needed. Each spout has a built in strainer in it! The Yixing tea pot is considered very strong. Unlike porcelain pots, the Zisha pots are made from natural mineral rock and the tea pots can withstand over three hundred pounds of force!
Overtime, the Yixing pot becomes more and more beautiful. As the hands of the human touch and use the teapot, the heat and oils from our hands help to “buff” the pot. The older the pot is the more shiny it will become. Naturally, the shiny pots are much sought after at auction, and can fetch a large sum of money.
While the tiny personal pots age with each usage, outside and in, the character and charm comes through. Unlike porcelain pots, the Yixing pots continue to be beautiful works of art that are highly sought after today.