Brewing with Yixing Zisha Clay Pots

Brewing with Yixing Zisha Clay Pots

Don Mei : Hey teaheads! This is Don from Mei
Leaf. In this video, how to brew with a Yi Xing clay teapot. In this video I’m going
to show you the basics of how to brew with a Yi Xing clay teapot, and then we’re going
to do a taste test between the clay and brewing in glass. If at any point in time you enjoy
this video please give [it] the thumbs-up. The more thumbs in the air the more tea videos
are going to come your way. If you haven’t subscribed to our YouTube channel yet then
go click that button. Okay. So in a previous episode we talked about
an introduction to the Yi Xing clay teapot, where I talked about what you should look
for when choosing a clay teapot, and why clay teapots are so desirable. In THIS episode
we’re going to show you how to brew with this teapot. So let’s get started. I have chosen
here some fresh, raw Puerh tea. This is an autumn picked, 2015, raw Puerh from Jing Mai
mountain. I’m going to be doing a review on this tea later, so I’m not going to talk too
much about the tea itself. I’ll save that for another episode. But the reason why I picked this is because
this type of tea – the fresh, young, raw Puerhs – have a stronger tendency to be astringent,
and potentially develop bitter notes. Let’s see how the Yi Xing clay teapot holds up. First things first. I’m going to take some
boiling water – this is freshly boiled water, just before the camera started rolling – and
I’m going to pour hot, boiling water over the teapot. The reason for doing this is because
clay is a very slow conductor of heat. That’s what makes it so great for brewing, because
it holds temperature so well. But the converse of that is it needs to warm up. You can’t
just brew direct. You need to warm the teapot up. After I’ve warmed the teapot up I’m going
to put some of these lovely leaves in. In terms of the amount you would normally be
looking at about a third to half filled, but when you have wirey leaves like this, that
have a lot of air space between the leaves, you’re going to be putting a little bit more
in just because you know that there’s a lot of air sitting there. If it was a ball-rolled
Oolong then I would be putting less in. Okay. Now the tea is in a hot, or warm, pot.
I’m just going to put the lid on and then give it a smell. It’s amazing how much of
the aromatics of the tea come out just by putting it in a warm pot. If you smell a dry
tea it usually doesn’t give you too much in terms of an indication of its quality, but
the moment you put it into a warm pot it really does start to reveal some of the flavor. Okay.
So now we’re going to pour from a decent height just to get the leaves moving around a little
bit, and you’re going to pour it right to the top, just until it starts to overflow. You’re going to start to see foam bubbles
form. You then scrape it, drop the lid, [which] flushes the teapot full of the tea. Then I
like to pour a little bit more water over just to keep the temperature and rinse off
any foam there. So this is the tea wash, clearly. What we’re going to do is pour the tea wash
off into a fairness cup – or a Gong Dao Bei. All of this assumes that you have a water
catcher to collect all of your water. If you don’t you can still use a Yi Xing claypot,
but you’d have to be doing it next to your sink to avoid a mess with spillages of water.
Now the pouring action of this teapot is excellent, but you want a very fast, decisive action.
You don’t want to pour in an angle. You want to pour vertically very quickly. So hold the
lid and twist. You can see if you do that you’re not going to get any leaks. It’s a
nice, pouring action, and it releases all of the tea quite quickly. Make sure you get everything out, and then
give it another smell. Obviously now that it’s had a chance to infuse you’re getting
more and more aroma, different from the dry leaf in a dry, warm pot. You’re getting a
lot more of the aroma from the brew. Now we will pour this into our cups. You can pour
it over your tea pet. But the most important thing to do is to pour the tea wash over your
pot. The reason for that is [that] the essential oils in the tea will start to coat the teapot,
and it will start to develop – over time – a lovely lustre and shine, called a patina,
as the exterior clay starts to absorb some of the essential oils of the tea. I’m just going to pour this away. Again, give
it a sniff. Lovely. [It’s] really starting to reveal a lot more of the notes. Okay. So
we’ve washed the tea , we’ve primed the teapot, this teapot is now nice and warm, so now we
can pour the water over again. You could boil this water again if you wanted super hot water,
but this is still very hot water. Now I don’t fill right, necessarily, to the top. I don’t
think that that’s necessary. Put the lid on, and again give it another little coating of
water. This is just to, again, hold temperature; make sure that the temperature in there stays
nice and consistent. There you go. For a Puerh tea like this we would normally [be] brewing
in 5 to 10 second bursts. I’m intentionally going to leave this a bit
longer here. The reason is because I want to brew a very strong tea, and test how well
this Yi Xing clay teapot is holding up in terms of controlling the astringency of the
tea. So I’m going to leave that for a little bit, and I’m going to quickly – while the
water is still hot – put the remainder of this tea into a glass teapot, [and] give it
a quick rinse. So what we’re doing here is testing the difference between brewing in
clay and brewing in glass. Right. Leave that aside for a second. Again, quick movement
– very decisive movement – that way you’re not going to get leaks. If you pour too slowly
what’s going to happen is that the tea is going to start to drip down, and you’re going
to get a stain. You’ve got a hole here on the top of the lid, so you can stop the pour
and continue it. So if you wanted to pour direct into cups you could do that, but we’re
pouring directly into a Gong Dao Bei here. Again, make sure you get everything out so
there’s no liquid left in the teapot. Have a sniff. This is part of the appreciation.
You get so much of the aromatics. If you just go for the tea you’re losing out on a lot
of the aromatics. Make sure that you leave the lid off. You don’t want to leave the lid
on. You want the leaves to start to cool down [and] release the steam that’s in here so
it doesn’t stew. Now you’re ready to taste, so I’ll give this a quick taste. This is a
little bit stronger than I normally would brew, just to test out the Yi Xing clay. It
is quite remarkable how smooth, and how lacking in astringency, this is. I mean, you want
– with raw, young Puerh – SOME astringency. It would be terrible if there was none. But
it’s just got a lovely, thicker, more smooth, texture than you would expect for such a strong
brew with so much leaf. Okay. What we’re going to quickly do is brew
this up in a little bit of water, not too much. I’m going to brew that quite strong.
I’m going to rinse out these teacups here so that they have been cleaned. And now we’re
going to do a litte taste test – I’m going to put that to the side – to see the difference
between brewing in clay and glass. Now remember, there are two reasons why the material of
clay can change the flavor of your tea. The first is that it starts to absorb the essential
oils of the tea. So it starts to SEASON the teapot, and therefore over many and many of
infusions – hundreds of infusions – it starts to build up extra flavor that it reveals in
subsequent brews. But that’s quite a long process. Really, the
quicker – and almost instant – process is the reaction of the tea with the clay. Now
remember, this clay – this Zisha clay – has a lot of minerals that will react with the
tea, because this is a unglazed pot. So it will react with the tea, and change the tea.
So what we’re going to do now is take a different Gong Dao Bei, so that there’s no influence
here – and I’m going to staring off this quite strong tea here, and I’m going to strain off
this quite strong tea here into the Gong Dao Bei. You can do this at home if you want to
taste the difference and the effect that the clay has. I’m just going to warm this teapot up a little
bit, because this is a fresh teapot and you want to open up the pores and start to let
the teapot expand. So I’m just going to pour that off. This is now nice and warm. Right.
So I’ve got two teacups here. I’m going to pour some of the glass-brewed into a porcelain
Gong Dao Bei, so there’s no effect on the flavor that’s happening, because these are
all glazed pots. I’m going to pour that into one cup. Then I’m going to pour one cup’s worth into
the clay pot and instantly the tea is reacting with the clay. I can immediately pour it out.
So now I have two cups in front of me, one of which has not touched the clay, and one
has. Let’s see if we can discern a difference between the two. Still remarkably smooth.
This is excellent tea. I’m getting a slight catch and dryness in the throat. The difference
is there, absolutely. Try this at home. What I hope you’ll notice – it’s not a HUGE
difference – is that the tea from the clay pot has just got a slightly thicker, more
viscous feel to it. It’s got a smoother finish, so it doesn’t catch. You don’t get this kind
of tannic grip in the throat as much. Of course you get some. This is tea we’re talking about.
You don’t want tea that doesn’t have astringency. But when I swallow this tea all of my tongue
starts to pucker up, and I get a slight dryness in the throat. Much, much less in the clay.
That is one of the main reasons – if not THE main reason – why brewing in a Yi Xing clay
teapot is so desirable. You can brew stronger. You can brew more astringent
teas. You can brew hotter. You can extract more, and you still have a lovely, smooth
tea that doesn’t have EXCESSIVE astringency or bitterness. Try this at home. I’m sure
that you’re going to notice a difference. That’s it, teaheads. If you made it to the
end of this video then please give the video the thumbs-up. Check out our playlists and
let us know if there are any videos you’d like us to make. If you’re ever in London,
come and visit us in Camden to say “Hi!” and taste our wares. If you have any questions
or comments then fire them over. Other than that, I’m Don Mei from Mei Leaf. Thank you
for being a part of the revelation of true tea. Stay away from the tea bags, keep drinking
the good stuff, and spread the word, because nobody deserves bad tea. Bye.

17 thoughts on “Brewing with Yixing Zisha Clay Pots”

  1. Do you have an email that I could ask you a question on? I would like to send you pictures of a set that I found at a goodwill. There is a Taiwanese set on display in my school library and it has narrow cups like the ones in the set that I found that I believe is for smelling the tea

  2. I'm new to Yixing teapots but recently became fascinated with them after watching the Sherlock episode, The Blind Banker, and doing a little research. I'm interested in the pot used in your video. Do you have a link as to where I could purchase a pot like it? Also, I'm an oolong virgin…Would you have any suggestions of a tea for a first timer? Wonderful informative videos by the way. I've learned so much. Thank you!

  3. Does that still works for small leaves?
    I mean, won't they will leave the pot while serving?
    Yeah I have weird questions ;p

  4. I bought a yixing teapot that looks hand made from your previous video. However, it has a very weird taste. I wonder if that would be chemicals? Does a normal yixing have a weird strong taste at first use? Thanks a lot for your help!!

  5. Man, you are awesome. I really love tea…. but you take it to such a lovely next level. Watching you speaking and teaching about tea means watching a person who has found his destiny. So much passion, happiness, love. It makes me euphoric to trink tea. The world really does need more people with this special gift and attitude. Thank you so much. Greetz from a fanboy in Germany. 🙂

  6. Hello Don, first of all I would like to thank you and everyone that is a part of Mei Leaf, this videos have helped so much with my tea obsession. Well, I've bought a Yixing Clay Pot from you guys (at and it came so well packed and fast, no problems and it is BEAUTIFUL. But I have one question that is bugging me, the speed of the pour is definitely not as fast as in this video, from my tests the tea takes about 40 to 45 seconds to leave the tea pot, using mainly big leaves. Since I'm trying to brew gong fu style, times must be really quick. I am brewing raw pu erh that is not so old (10 years) so I think astringency can get high, and I believe that the slow speed of the pour may be in my way of a perfect brew! – I hold the tea pot vertically and turn it in a fast movement… Also, just to be sure, I've tried to pour with just water, no leaves, just to see how long it took, and I got about 21secs every time, isn't that a bit much? – I was worried that there might be something blocking the holes inside the pot, so I got a paper clip and tested the holes, out of the nine holes, only 5 were actual holes, the other 4 ones don't lead anywhere! – Am I doing something wrong? Are the fake holes normal?

  7. Really been loving your videos. I have been a tea lover for some time now but have always brewed western style, recently I was exposed to gongfu style and then discovered your channel when looking for more info on it. I now have decided to switch from western to gongfu when I have the chance to get myself more teaware. Great info in your videos and I hope to one day visit the shop in London. Also quick question, does chinalife ship to the U.S.?

  8. Hi Mei Leaf, I have a generic bamboo tea tray and was wondering if you had any advice about cleaning it after use, care long term etc. Do you think it's necessary to wash with soap etc after each use or will rinsing it do? Thanks for your help.

  9. I picked up a vintage xishi yixing pot at an estate sale Of a well-traveled woman, I bought it because it was beautiful but didn’t realize it’s true beauty Came from being used. This is the first video I’ve watched on how to use it. I didn’t think it was a viable teapot because of its small size. Is there a website to identify the artist marks? Really enjoyed your knowledge and enthusiasm. Looking forward to my new serendipitous tea adventure.

  10. Dear Don… I would like to know how shape of the pot may affect the taste of tea… Also what shapes of pots are recommended for what classes of tea… I have a nice collection of pots that I have inherited and would like to dedicate a pot for each type but have a hard time choosing which to use for what… HELP! 🙂

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *