This is an authentic teapot made from clay produced in Yixing, Jiangsu Province, China. It has been created in the XiShi style (slightly rounded face) with ZiSha ZhuNi red clay. The capacity is 6.3 ounces or 180 milliliters, and is considered a normal size for brewing tea in the Gong Fu style. The reason for the small size compared to a western style pot is that the small amount of water allows the tea leaves to infuse quickly. This lets the taste of the tea become strong but not bitter, and it is assumed the leaves will be re-infused additional times. This teapot traditionally is used for oolong, puer, and black tea, but of course can be used for any brewing preference.
Chinese artisans have been making "yixing" style teapots for over a thousand years, but it wasn't always the preferred method for tea brewing. Around 500 year ago, yixing teapots grew as a symbol of rejection and resistance to the overly ornate vessels of the wealthy ruling class. The beautiful simplicity then replacing the gold, silver, jeweled, and other decorated teapots. As teaware trends continue to come and go, yixing has remained solidly admired. They hold an official place in tea ceremonies across China that are also practiced around the world. The reasons for this is that they not only look extraordinary, but also brew teas with a strong aroma and a more lively feeling on the palate, making yixing the preference for serious tea brewing and drinking.
Special mixtures of rock with high iron content are mined from designated regions within Yixing area of China and crushed into a fine powder. This powder is mixed with water in large troughs and allowed to sit and rest. The water and rock form a clay mixture that can be used alone, or mixed to achieve a specific color, consistency, and luster by adding other clays or minerals to the clay. Some yixing artists do their own gathering, scouting for the right rock deposits, while others work with trusted specialists. The most expensive yixing (hundreds of dollars or more) are precisely created only by hand by famous craftspersons. More common and less costly yixing, yet still carefully done, are assembled in layers using hands, tools and molds, but not machines.
The entire teapot is then filled with sand before firing to help protect it from warping and cracking under high heat. If the measurements were perfect and the pressure and humidity of the day in line with acceptable variation, the piece will come out unbroken and fit together with its lid. A perfectly fitting lid is nearly impossible to correct for, so it is a sign of care and precision to find on any handmade teapot. When the lid is removed, the pot should not wobble on its base or when upside down. Tea should flow nicely through its spout with filter holes when poured.
Many people will use their yixing for only one style of tea, or even only their most favorite tea. They will have more than one pot if there is a different tea to brew. The unglazed and porous clay inside a yixing absorbs aromatic tea oils, dissolved solids, and flavor during every brewing session. The inside as well as outside the pot creates a type of patina that builds up. A teapot used for many years will impart flavor and texture to hot water from previous brewing sessions, even without tea leaves. The texture that a well seasoned teapot gives to a tea allows that tea to express its flavors with greater intensity than it could on its own. All this is a critical reason to only wash the pot with hot water, and never use soap. A brand new yixing should undergo a seasoning process before use.