Tea is a very popular drink and has been consumed since approximately 500 years AD, however, the teapot – a utensil commonly used to prepare the drink – was only invented a thousand years later. The red clay teapot was one of the first to be manufactured.

Origin of the teapot

The yixing teapot was the first recorded invention, originating in the province of Jangsu, China, located 193 kilometers south of Shanghi. To make the teapot, you need to use zisha, a purple clay found only in Jangsu province.

Zisha is a clay rich in minerals and is ideal for making teapots as it allows the retention of the tea flavor. In addition, clay gives the teapot a color that can range from ocher to red and purple.

This teapot was created for personal use and the Chinese could use it both to prepare tea (one to two servings) as well as to drink it. During the Qing dynasty, which ruled China between 1644 and 1911, the simple design of the clay pot was modified, becoming a real work of art, with the painting done by artisans on the outside.

The yixing teapots were imported by the Japanese, who also hired Chinese artisans, with the aim of learning the art of ceramics, helping to develop the technique of painted teapots with themes from nature.

Clay teapots also arrived in Europe, when they were imported by the tea company from East India in the 17th century. The appearance of these utensils with thin layers of decorated porcelain also inspired the creation of the European porcelain style in the 18th century.

When they became better known in the Western world, clay teapots gained much admiration and became collectible due to the art of their exterior, during the 19th and 20th centuries.

Characteristics of the clay teapot

The traditional clay pot yixing is made with clay, a characteristic called zisha, which is made up of kaolin, quartz and mica. This clay is distinguished by having a high percentage of iron oxide and silicate.

See below for other characteristics of the “Yixing clay” or zisha:

  • It has an oxidized brown color, due to the predominance of iron;
  • Zisha has a high alkaline content, which makes it impossible to cook at 1,200ºC, contrary to what happens with porcelain;
  • It maintains the porous character of the material, which leads to an “oxygenation” of the tea prepared in the teapot and, as a result, we have an intensification of the aroma of the drink;
  • With a different preparation process, the clay teapot is very resistant and waterproof;
  • So that the flavor of the tea is not affected, each pot should be used to prepare only one type of tea;
  • Clay teapots should not be used in the microwave or placed in the dishwasher.