Why is China teapot a luxury?


Cover Image via: 新茶网

Chinese has a long tradition of tea drinking culture. While the benefit of drinking tea is slowing gaining attention from the western medical studies, the youngsters are slowly starting to embrace china’s tea drinking culture too. That said, even non-Chinese and foreigners are starting to learn about tea drinking for its’ health benefits. With the widespread understanding about the appreciating value of tea leaves and tea set, people nowadays are starting to enjoy tea appreciation and tea collection more than before.

While good tea leaves and water are both essential to make a pot of good tea, the tea pot itself is very important too. The key to great tea brewing lies with the tea leaves proportion, water temperature, pot’s temperature and period of brewing. Different tea pots possess different heat retention characteristics, and thus, are suitable for different types of tea leaves. With the abundance of teapot choices out there, we can generally differentiate different teapots based on their material. Glass teapot, porcelain teapot, ceramic teapot and cast iron teapot are the four most common types of China teapot found in Malaysia.



Glass teapot – best for green tea

The development of china glass teapot origins in the Tang Dynasty. Glass, at that time, was referred to as liuli and most glassware during Tang Dynastic were made using the exotic kind of luxury glass – liuli. The contemporary glass production largely lowered the cost of glass making and hence, lowered the appreciation value of glassware collection.

The fact that glass disperses heat quickly lends itself to brewing lightly oxidized teas such as Longjing Green Tea. For these lightly oxidized tea (especially green tea), the tea leaves will be overcooked and thus ruining its original tea fragrance if the brewing water is too hot or the pot remains to be in high temperature for too long. On another point , glass pots allow us to admire the beautiful tea colours of green tea too.


Ceramic teapot – the exquisite zisha

The most representative type of teapots among the ceramic teapot would be zisha teapot. A good zisha teapot is usually very expensive as they are now produced in very limited quantities. Mainly produced in the city of Yixing in Jiangsu Province, only national qualified teapot makers are allocated the top grade zisha clay. As the process of producing handmade zisha teapot is very complicated, even experienced teapot artist can make only 30-50 teapots in a year. That explains the shortage of supply to fulfil increasing demand for zisha teapot. The price of zisha teapot relies heavily on the quality of zisha clay and how meticulous is the teapot detail. Teapot prices around RM200 will probably get you a “commercial teapot”, those that were made using lower quality of zisha clay using ready molds template.

Zisha teapots are prized because their heat retention characteristic and their “breathing function”, making it perfect for highly fermented tea leaves like Pu Er, Tie Guan Yin, Shui Xian, etc. The zisha teapots are unglazed clay teapots with open pores . This allows them to absorb some of the tea’s essence during brewing and develop a character of their own over time. Since this build-up of tea essence is highly desirable, used zisha teapots are generally more expensive than a new zisha teapot. Thus, zisha teapot is seen as a collectable teapot valued for its appreciation value over time.


Porcelain teapot – assurance of smooth tasting tea

China is the origin country of porcelain, with porcelain first appeared during the Shang Dynasty, close to 4000 years of historical existence. Porcelain ware is made by heating ceramics and is usually glazed. There are many types of porcelain ware, including white porcelain, black porcelain, celadon porcelain and coloured porcelain. Of all, Ru Kilns tea-set is my most loved type of porcelain tea set.

The development of Ru Kilns porcelain ware started from Song Dynasty, and was regarded as the best of celadon porcelain ware during the Southern Song times. Hence, Ru Kilns porcelain wares are very expensive too. Generally comes in 3 colours – sky-blue, moon-white and powder-green, the sky-blue coloured Ru ware is the most popular amongst all. The sky-blue colour in Jay Chou’s track “Qing Hua Ci” – “天青色等烟雨,而我在等你” , is referring to the sky-blue colour of Ru ware.

Ru ware also prized its translucent glazed from one of its prime glaze ingredients – Agate. During the firing process, crackles form naturally. After using it for some time, the colour of the crackles will get darker, making the crazing more obvious. Since these crackles are seen as merits rather than defects, Ru Kiln teapots also appreciates in value over time.

You may think that porcelain teapot is only prized for its beautiful detail, you may be surprised by the smoothing taste from the tea brewed using porcelain teapot. A good porcelain teapot will make an originally strong tea flavour tastes smooth to the throat (the opposite goes for a ceramic teapot – tea flavour will be enhanced). Thus, if you prefer something light and smooth, go for porcelain teapot. As in comes in different variants, thick porcelain teapot is used for tea requiring heat retention and thin white porcelain cup is used for brewing green tea.


Iron Cast Teapot – best for heating water

Generally, iron cast teapot is not used for brewing tea, but rather for boiling/heating water. Unlike the usual electric kettle where water is heated in parts by the electric coil, iron cast teapot allows water to be heated evenly. Iron cast teapot allows water to reach its boiling point at 100 degree Celsius (not achievable by aluminium electric kettle). Thus, this is also best for tea leaves requiring high heat, such as Pu Er.  By bringing the water in direct contact with the iron, there is an exchange of iron-ions: bad iron-ions attach to the edge of the kettle and make a layer called yu-aka. This layer releases good iron ions to the water, thus is very good for improving water quality.


After reading all this, you shall know a thing or two the next time you walk into a tea-set shop right?


Translated from: 5分钟了解中国茶的茶具,搞懂什么是陶瓷、紫砂!

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