I’d like to start this post by saying that I’ve only been really devoted to gongfu tea for just over a year now. I’m not going to be telling you which pot goes with which tea, and I’m no expert, but I really have spent an immense amount of time this past year learning about tea, and teapots have been the most fascinating part of this journey for me. There’s a few things I’d like to discuss about unglazed gongfu teapots, because I feel that almost everything out there is just wildly misinformed.
Teapots are meant to be beneficial to our tea, and a fun and exciting thing to spend time with and to explore. They are like our friend which will grow with us. But people focus on all of the wrong aspects; everywhere we read about how they will develop patinas and how with time our tea will taste better, but at first it’ll steal some of your aromatics. If they get better with time, then great! But I haven’t been using mine long enough to notice it at all, but I’m here to tell you none of it has to be like this.
People seem to think of teapots as a one-size-fits-all type of situation. This simply is not the case. When I started my humble collection, I was purchasing pots with the intention of the type of tea I would be brewing in them. My third ever teapot was a Qinzhou Nixing teapot, which I immediately dedicated it to younger Sheng pu’erh, when I was just learning about sheng. Doing this almost made me give up on sheng entirely, but the truth is, the pot was just a bad match for young sheng! This pot is now dedicated to liu bao and it’s a great fit. I have not seasoned it, or done anything special to it and even in the very first session with liu bao it was fully flavourful, with a great body and everything I wanted in my liu bao cha.
I see people everywhere asking how specific they need to be with dedicating their pots, and you probably really don’t need to be too specific if all you’re worrying about is contamination of flavours. I plan to (or already do) have one for each of: Shou, younger/brighter sheng, older/humid sheng, dancong, yancha, tieguanyin, Taiwan oolong, liu bao, and black tea. Maybe others if a pot works really well with something else, but I’m not really dedicating these because of the patina that’s going to eventually maybe develop. I’m doing this because these pots work best with the type of tea they’re brewing. Plus .. I just really love teapots. This is really what people should be doing with teapots. Experiment with them.
Finally, I just want to say something about the pretentiousness surrounding Yixing. I have pots from Qinzhou, Chaozhou, Jianshui, and Yixing and frankly the pots from outside of Yixing seem to be preforming better. I can’t help but feel that maybe Yixing was once the best place for teapots, before some clays went extinct, and the dragon kiln got shut down, or perhaps because they have the history and the name, they’re more expensive for the same quality. Maybe Yixing teapots have the capacity to be the best, but at some insane cost, and for me this is not something I would buy over my diverse, growing collection of pots.
Your teapot is just as important as the tea you’re using, and finding a good match is a big step towards making great tea.