Friday, August 22, 2008

Duan ni Yixing Pot

This is an extra special day because I just acquired a new Duan ni yixing pot for my wuyi oolongs.

The pot is made out of Duan ni clay, "a yellow or green Zisha, literally Satin Mud." The walls are thinner than my other pots, which is a bit of a scare. I don't think this pot can take a fall. I got it from Rishi-Tea, who packaged it very well, very safe. I seasoned it very mildly. I ran a lot of hot tap water through it, shaking the water inside to disturb loose particles. Then I brewed a few steeps of Wuyi Amber in it, leaving the steeps in for longer than I would have, had I been planning on drinking it. Afterwards, I brewed a few pots of some 2005 Shui Xian, which came out thicker, more viscous, and sweeter than when brewed in a glazed porcelain gaiwan.

I think the quality of the clay is very high. When I got it, I performed the "sniff test," which is a simple test to determine quality of Yixing clay. I learned of this test through Jason Fasi, aka BearsBearsBears. It is very simple. You start by rinsing the pot out well to get leftover dust and powder from the manufacture out. Then you pour near boiling water into the pot, then back out again, and take a good whiff of the smell that the clay puts off. There are basically three possibilities. If the clay smells like chemicals, then it has been mixed with paint or synthetics. If it smells like mud, then it's been blended with low-quality clay. Real yixing clay will smell like hot rocks or sand. If it's real, then the hot rock smell will be very pronounced, so much so that it may seem a little too intense.

This pot passed with flying colors. The smell was very strong and was exactly like hot rocks. So even though it's a little thinner than I'd like, the quality of the clay was better than I expected.


Space Samurai said...

Nice pot, Wes. I should read your blog more.

Salsero said...

Sweet pot, beautifully displayed. Be sure to feed it lots of floral, ultra-green gao shan. {{read: heckling emoticon}}

Will said...

Why didn't you boil the pot first? Not challenging your method, just curious about different perspectives on curing a new pot. I am always afraid of wax on the pot to make in shiny, or some other additive. Were you afraid to boil it because it was thin, or just anxious to use it right away?

Wes Crosswhite said...

Will, because there are so many different techniques for preparing a new pot. I wouldn't say this is "my method," I've done the boiling method on two different pots. I like the way this one turned out more.

"Teamaster Teaparker does not recommend the other methods where you boil the teapot. He thinks this may clog the pores in the clay. But such pores are essential to the 'breathing' function of the teapot. Without the pores, you may just as well drink from a glazed gaiwan/gaibei."

Stephane said...

Congratulations! Nice pot. I would suggest you also test it with cooked puerh. (You can rinse it with boiling water afterwards to get rid of the cooked puerh smell).

Actually, I wanted to write about Will's comment and your reply. It seems my article may have caused some misunderstanding. I think that Will suggested to a teapot in WATER. And I agree this can be a good method to thoroughly clean a new pot. In my article, I wrote that Teaparker was against boiling a teapot in TEA (where people add tea leaves to the water).

Thanks for reading and quoting my blog! Enjoy your tea!

Wes Crosswhite said...

Ok, I see. Thanks for clearing that up.

The Ajarn said...

Just found your site as I am researching tea on the internet. This article will be most helpful when I start my yixing pottery collection. Had no idea about tea, yixing or anything else until a month ago. Read an article about the history of tea and the legend about how the first tea was planted at Mengding Mountain near Ya'an in Sichuan Province. That is only three hours from where I teach. Went there last month and, thus, my tea training has begun.

Again thanks for the input of how to tell the good from the not so good in tea pots. Oh, also, my wife and I will now plan our Chinese Adventures around teas and tea plantations. You just got yourself a regular reader!

Elliot said...

Hi Wes,

Glad to hear your pot passed the smell test--I bought the exact same pot from Rishi in June and it smelled like some sort of artificial air freshener (my guess is that they stored it next to something they shouldn't have). It took a lot of boiling and seasoning to get rid of. I too have used this pot for Yen Cha, and you'll be pleasantly surprised that it'll actually change color pretty noticeably within a few months of use (depending on how much Yen Cha you drink--I drink a lot!). I think the porosity of Duan Ni lends itself to that sort of effect pretty well. I find that this pot generally mediates the roasted character of Yen Cha so it's less overpowering and more balanced with the other elements of each tea, so it's often a good choice with traditional and un-aged Yen Cha.

I would say a word of caution about conflating "authentic" clay with "high quality" clay, though. This pot's very functional and serviceable and no doubt is made out of true Duan Ni clay, but there's a considerable amount of room to move up the ladder in Duan Ni quality--higher quality and often aged Duan Ni will usually be more tender, lustrous, and less dry-looking, and probably a bit denser too, which certainly improves heat retention, which will be beneficial for Yen Cha.

Enjoy seasoning your pot!


Bret said...

Yeah I remember when Rishi first introduced this line of Yixing I bought 3 teapots and 1 storage jar. 2 out of the 3 teapots and the jar had an odor similar to vicks vaporub to me, it took a lot of boiling to get rid of that smell. I emailed Rishi about it but they never responded. 1 of the pots I bought was dua ni, I think their made out of genuine clays but nothing special about the quality. I dont think $30.00 gets a "good" anything really. Out of the 3 teapots I bought the duan ni is the only one I still use, it brews a pretty good cup.