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A Commentary on Teapots

Posted on 11/04/2021

Over the centuries the teapot, which is the dearest companion of any serious tea drinker, has been forged from a variety of different materials including stone, metal, ceramics (both porous and glazed) and, perhaps most famously, porcelain. But how do these various materials influence the tea that fills your cup? While more stain-resistant glazes may be suited to whatever tea your palate desires, some of the more porous materials strongly prefer to commit to only a single type of tea. For example, Yixing, a city in the Chinese province of Jiangsu, boasts the most famous porous, unglazed ceramic teapots, which are made of "zisha" (purple clay) and are specifically amiable to the repeated steepings of Oolong or Pu-Erh teas. Materials like this tend to enhance and deepen the flavor profile of certain teas when the teapot is properly cared for and cultivated to a specific leaf or leaf variety.

Teapots themselves are the subject of countless thousands of published words devoted to their practical, historical and collectable nature. Teapots also carry centuries of tradition as heirlooms and tokens of honor, esteem and appreciation. But what do these centuries of tradition offer in connection with the modern tea drinker?

Two main points of care and procedure link us intimately with tea drinkers throughout the ages. First, your teapot should be carefully rinsed after each use, but only with clean water, never with soaps, solvents or abrasives. Nothing should ever be introduced to your teapot that could affect the purity of the water or the taste of the tea.

Second, your teapot should be warmed with hot tap water before being used. This preheating helps maintain the longevity of the teapot and prevent any heat stress that may occur from boiling water hitting a material at room temperature. While this point may not be so urgent with many of the sturdier teapots available today, warming your teapot also allows for better steeping as more heat remains between the water and the tea leaf when less is absorbed by a cool or room temperature vessel. This stage of preparation can also be taken as a process of mindfulness that contributes to the stimulating and relaxing properties of a cup of good tea, akin to the drawing of a warm bath as opposed to leaping into a quick shower.

Regardless of how you take your tea, the loving attention that you pay to your favorite teapot is returned in the pleasure of every sip.