Saturday, October 25, 2008

Gourd and Vine Yixing


I picked up an yixing teapot at A Southern Season. I'd never given much thought to the details of the teapot display, since I assumed that it was really just a display and not for sale. They should consider moving it to their tea section, because the first thing people are liable to see when they walk in the door is the coffee section with its 40-some glass jars filled with different types of various coffees, and not the teapots tucked away into a wooden, partitioned wall. I walked up and down the length of the display and recognized teapots from different tea cultures and countries. I recognized yixing easily, and I recognized some of the Japanese teaware including the distinctive teapot with a handle and their cast iron kettle.
I paused to look at the ubiquitous glazed porcelain British teapots in lime and coffee-brown when I glanced upwards to find harlequin glasses with a strangely shaped teapot. I didn't recognize this, so I read the placard to find that the tea set was part of Moroccan tea culture. This jogged a dusty memory of me being in France and seeing street vendors "pulling" tea in a rather sketchy and unattractive neighborhood, where nearby a entrepreneur was roasting corn in a shopping cart that served as a grill.
I moved back to the yixing pots. I was disappointed in them. I had no reason to doubt their authenticity, but quite a few seemed to be for the sole purpose of buying them for display or for use while serving tea to guests. And, most of them were just too big for me and meant to be sold with a gongfucha ceremony set.
All of them were at least 8 ounces, most close to 10, and didn't captivate me. I did see one that I liked, a horse, but it didn't come in a small enough size for me, and if I had a well-paying job, I certainly would have purchased the fu dog yixing teapot set that I saw. But, I decided to go with the gourd and vine yixing. It's small enough for two, and simple in design compared to the others I saw. I do wish A Southern Season had smaller teapots with less whimsical designs at lower prices to be more inviting to people who are not familiar with tea in general. I think I'll probably get a smaller plain yixing when I buy more tea online to dedicate solely to shu pu'er. But for right now I'll enjoy discovering the best way to make tea with one of these.

After some more reading online, I think the clay is actually Duanni and not Zisha based on the beige and cobalt oxide hues of the teapot. And it seems there's a small crack on the bottom handle that I didn't notice before, but I think the crack is superficial and seriously doubt that it'll cause the handle to come apart.

PS I also forgot to mention that the company I bought the teapot from certifies that it is lead free and genuine yixing. I'm not sure just how many lead-laced, faux yixing pots make their way into the US market, but I figure my recommended daily value of lead should be kept to a minimum.
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