There are many ways to brew up your favorite loose leaf tea, but one of the most meditative and relaxing ways is using a clay gongfu (or “yixing”) teapot. These Chinese teapots allow you to brew seemingly endless pots of tea while chatting with family and friends. And the brewing method involved with using a gongfu teapot is considered to make the best-tasting tea. But, like any finely crafted tool or cooking utensil, there are some specific recommendations for preparing and caring for a brand new gongfu teapot. Check out our steps below on how to cure / seaon one before use.
When you get your shiny new clay gongfu teapot, you may be tempted to give it a quick scrub with soap and water and start brewing. But not so fast! Most pots should be cured before first use, and you don’t want to contaminate it with soapy residue that will remain inside the porous walls of the pot. In Chinese, preparation of a new teapot is called "開壺" or "open pot". This infuses the clay with tea residue so the pot can be ready for brewing tea. If you do not cure the pot, the first brews may have a bit of a clay-like flavor.
Another big reason for curing is to remove any wax coating that may have been used to make the pots look shinier or more presentable. Hot water will remove this wax, along with any added polish, in the curing process.
Curing your Chinese gongfu or yixing teapot is very simple. All you need is a big pot that can accept your teapot, loose leaf tea leaves or already brewed tea leaves, and some hot water.
Rise the pot(s) with tap water to get off any major dust and lightly scrub them with a dish sponge (without soap!) if needed. Then put the pot(s) in room temperature water in a large soup pot. Be sure there’s enough water to completely cover the pots. If you’re curing more than one pot, be sure there is room between them for the water to circulate.
Add enough loose-leaf tea to cover the surface of the water. You can also use already brewed tea leaves. The type of tea used will subtly infuse the teapot with that particular flavor.
Bring the water to a full boil.
Let the pots soak for several hours, preferably overnight.
After soaking, take the pot(s) out and allow to air dry. You can then rub the pots with a cloth or tea towel to remove any extra residue.
After your pot is dried and rubbed, you can start using it to brew tea! Enjoy!
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We recently visited Mr. Liu when we hosted a visitor from Italy who was keen on experiencing the local tea culture. Our guest was truly elated to be served tea by a true artisan of the trade. Mr. Liu served us three different teas that were all locally harvested this past spring. They varied only in their degree oxidation and roasting. And the one that was sufficiently oxidized, but only lightly roasted, immediately impressed us.