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A real Yixing teapot is valued for its craftsmanship and clay quality. Although all Yixings are created with the same zisha clay, they are made by several different artisans. This results in different components being added to the clay and can make it difficult to identify.
How Can You Tell If a Yixing Teapot Is Real?
If you’re not familiar with Yixing teapots, it can be hard to indicate if it’s authentic or not. You don’t have to be an expert to recognize one. You can clearly check by the look, smell, and feel of the pot. There are also other things you can do to test if it’s real.
Look at the Color
The color of a Yixing teapot is often dull and has a smooth look to it. It is not shiny or bright. It may have slight reflection spots from sharp light; however this does not mean that the clay should be glossy or glaring. This also pertains to old Yixings; the dullness will not change over time.
Feel the Zisha Clay
Although it may look smooth, the texture of a Yixing has more of a sandy feeling due to the grainy material. It shouldn’t feel soft or polished. Sometimes, you can even feel the tiny bumps that make up the clay.
Listen to the Sounds
There is a specific sound to listen for when sliding the lid open across the top of the pot. It should be a very distinct grainy or sandy sort of sound.
Smell the Natural Essences
A pre-used Yixing teapot will smell significantly of tea. This is due to the fact that real zisha clay contains tiny pores that soak up the aroma of the tea with constant use.
A new Yixing teapot will have an earthy scent. It should also smell faintly of burnt clay and dust.
Test the Teapot
When water is poured over an authentic Yixing teapot, the water will slide down the pot evenly and leave no drops in its path. It will look dry as soon as the water passes smoothly down it’s surface. If you see droplets of water, the clay has most likely been altered with chemicals, meaning it is a fake.
Another method you can try is to put your teapot in boiling water. Zisha clay has no added coloring or dyes. If the water stays clear, then it is a genuine Yixing teapot.
If your teapot has at least two of these qualities, you can trust that is made from pure zisha clay making it an authentic Yixing teapot.
How are Real Yixing Teapots Made?
Pure authentic Yixing teapots are completely handmade. This is what makes them so expensive and sought after.
The zisha clay is made up of minerals such as quartz, mica, and kaolin. These minerals are hard and have to be broken down and then mixed with water. The clay is then stored for a long time to allow it to age. This process helps it become elastic and easier to manage.
Once the clay is ready for use, it’s then cut into several pieces and flattened with a mallet. These pieces are molded together without the use of any machine. The artist must create the perfectly shaped pieces of the teapot using only their hands.
Yixing Teapot Spots
Due to the mineral content in Yixing clay, you might have some tiny marks or spots on your teapot. This is also a good way to identify if you have a real Yixing pot.
- Mica spots. These are tiny white spots that you may find scattered along the surface of your pot. Mica does not evaporate when heated. This is why they stay visible depending on the color of your teapot.
- Tierong spots. These are tiny black spots that appear when the iron melts and separates from the clay. They are usually scattered far apart from each other. If you see too many on the surface, this may mean that your clay is not top quality.
- Tiaosha holes. When closely examined, you’ll be able to see tiny circular indents. These holes happen when the clay is burnt, shrinking the size of the zisha. This makes large grains pop off the clay leaving behind tiny holes. This is an important sign to tell if your Yixing is authentic. This means that it was mostly made from zisha clay.
- Baozi bumps. These bumps are created the same way Tiaosha holes are. Instead of the grain popping off the pot, it pushes outward enough to create a bump and is blocked by the surface clay.
These signs are all rare ways of knowing that your Yixing is real. You won’t find a lot of teapots with these markings. If you find at least one of these spots in your pot, there is no need to doubt the authenticity of it.
How to Tell if a Yixing Teapot is Fake
A fake Yixing teapot usually consists of Taiwanese and Chaozhou clay. It does not contain pores to soak up the tea aroma which is what makes zisha clay so unique. Fake Yixing pots will have either some or all of the mentioned qualities below.
- Glaring polished or shiny surfaces
- Bright colors or colors not similar to Yixing clay
- A chemical smell
- Smooth texture
Also, check the authenticity by testing the pot as mentioned above. These are sure signs that your Yixing teapot is fake.
Be cautious about where you buy your Yixing teapot from. When purchasing one you can use some of the sensory indicators stated above to check if it’s in fact made from pure zisha clay.
Scott is the founder of TeaMinded. He enjoys tasting and discovering teas from across the globe, with green teas and ceremonial matcha from Japan being among his favorites. He’s grateful to be immersed in the tea community, always learning and sharing along the journey.