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Last Updated on July 28, 2022 by Scott
The size of a Yixing teapot is often joked about in western culture. What some people don’t understand is that there are certain reasons why these particular teapots are so small. If you’ve ever brewed your tea in one, you’d know that the small size makes this an excellent vessel for brewing good tea.
Why Are Yixing Teapots so Small?
Some Yixing teapots can easily fit in the palm of your hand, while other sizes are even smaller than this. So, why are these teapots made so small?
There are 6 reasons why Yixing teapots are small:
- They are made to brew one type of tea. The small design is purposely made for one kind of tea. That’s why you might see people have many of these “tiny teapots.” Each pot they have is for a different flavor of tea, as the teapots are commonly made from porous materials such as clay. This means that the flavor of the tea soaks into the pot, over time “seasoning” each cup of tea.
- Travel size. The size of Yixings are convenient. Some teapots are small enough to fit in pockets and purses. This was great for older generations, and some people in this era still use them for this reason.
- Stronger taste. Because these teapots only hold around a cup of water, you don’t need too much tea to have a strong taste. The smaller ratio of water to tea means that the subtler flavors can come out, something which you will rarely experience in a larger teapot.
- Reusing tea leaves. The small water quantity won’t take the full flavor out of the tea. This allows you to reuse your tea leaves by just adding more boiled water to your pot — the best of teas can be brewed up to eight times!
- Cools down quicker. A smaller quantity of hot water cools down in a shorter amount of time. You won’t have to wait so long to drink your tea.
- Decorative. You can’t deny that a Yixing teapot is pleasing to look at. They add so much tradition and beauty to the atmosphere.
Maybe you’ll be able to appreciate the size of a Yixing teapot now that you’ve learned the reasons why it’s so small.
How Big Should a Yixing Teapot be?
The size of a Yixing teapot should only hold between 3 to 13 ounces of water. This means that these teapots are about the size of a regular cup; some being much smaller. It’s hard to imagine that people would want to brew such a small amount of tea, but making them any bigger would change the method of how these pots brew tea.
If Yixing teapots were any bigger, the tea would have a bitter taste. The reason behind this 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.
Leaving your tea leaves to brew too long will add bitterness to the taste. When you have a larger amount of water, you have to brew it longer. Letting your tea brew for a long time allows the tea leaves to release all their flavor. This includes the bitter taste that most tea leaves have.
With smaller teapots, you only need to leave the water in for about 1 minute and then serve immediately. This will give your tea a strong and sweet taste, as opposed to a strong and bitter taste.
What are the Sizes of Yixing Teapots?
Yixing teapot sizes range from:
- 1-5 inches in height
- 3-10 inches in length
- 100-400 milliliters in capacity
What are some Disadvantages of a Small Yixing Teapot?
If you’re not familiar with Yixing teapots, you might initially see a disadvantage in the small amount of tea being served from them. The size of these pots is more about quality than quantity. Getting better flavor is more desired than getting more tea when using a Yixing teapot.
The other disadvantage is that with such a small capacity of water, you have quicker heat loss. This means that you have to drink your tea as soon as it’s brewed. This is also one of the reasons why a Yixing is small to begin with, so many people don’t really see this as a drawback.
The only real disadvantage is if you want to serve multiple people at once. Because of the size, it is really meant for an individual person. The solution to this would be to have a collection of Yixings. That way you can prepare several cups of tea at the same time.
Alternatively, you could introduce a Gaiwan to your teaware. This is a small, usually ceramic, lidded bowl, which can be used to pour the brewed tea from the teapot in order to serve larger groups of people.
A large benefit of using a Gaiwan is that you can add several different infusions from the same teapot, adding the first, second, and perhaps even third brew to the bowl. This means that drinkers can enjoy a blend of the same tea, as the first infusion is usually weaker, and the third usually stronger. This evens out the flavor profile and can make for a more enjoyable experience when serving larger groups of people.
Where Did Yixing Teapots Come From?
Yixing is a small area located to the west of Taihu, the Great Lake in Jiangsu Province, and pottery has been made there since the 16th century. It is the perfect place to create these teapots, due to the fact that Yixing is full of rich clay deposits which are ideal for teapot-making.
Around the small towns of Dingshan and Shushan, the majority of these Yixing teapots are made. Now known collectively as Dingshuzhen, the ‘pottery capital’ creates zisha, meaning ‘purple sand’, teapots.
The best teapots are handmade, with three basic techniques being used for all of the teapot bodies. Square teapots are made with the slab method, round teapots are paddled, and teapots which are segmented are press-molded. You will find an abundance of wood, bamboo, and horn tools in teapot workshops across Yixing. There are also ways to ensure your Yixing teapot is real.
What Clay Is Used in Yixing Teapots?
There are three main types of clay used to create Yixing teapots. These are zisha, the purple-brown clay, banshanlu, the buff-colored clay, and zhusha, the orange-red clay. When mixed with one another or with mineral colors, potters can create a wide range of earth tones.
The most modern Yixing teapot colors are dark green and black, which are created with the addition of cobalt oxide and manganese dioxide.
Typically, however, you will find that the small Yixing teapots used in the tea ceremony (called “gong”) are the zhusha cinnabar clay.
Frequently Asked Questions About Yixing Teapots
Q. How Do I Know If a Yixing Teapot is Good?
There are several things that you should look out for in a good teapot. These are:
- The lid fits properly and doesn’t move around too much
- The water comes out in a clear stream and does not leak
- The surface is well finished
- There is a good balance between the handle, spout, and body of the teapot.
Q. How Do I Care for My Yixing Teapot?
Luckily for you, your Yixing teapot should last a long time with proper care. To begin with, it should be stored away from direct sunlight, damp, or any strong scents. Then, when you put it away, a thin piece of tissue should be placed between the pot and the cover.
Q. Why Are So Many Yixing Teapots Made By Women?
If you are already an avid Yixing teapot collector, you will have noticed that the majority of the artists seem to be women. This is because Yixing pottery is a craft, and women in China often partake in crafts.
You can find out who created your Yixing teapot by looking at the name of the maker which has been imprinted on the pot. From this, you may be able to find out who created the teapot, the place it was created, and the family who produced it.
If you’re asking the question of why Yixing teapots are so small, remember that to others, these teapots are normal sized. Their small size can help brew better flavored tea and they are perfect for individual servings.
Not just that, but small Yixing teapots can make a great decorative item and truly show off your love for tea. Pair it alongside a small tea bowl, a Gaiwan, or Gongfu cups, and you’re ready to impress all your friends!
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.