Thursday, May 9, 2013

Nurturing and growing a clay teapot

Aside from the preparation and cleaning of  a teapot, giving extra effort 
to seasoning a teapots is a reflection of the owner's dedication to the Art of Tea.
   The porous nature of clay gives it the ability to absorb the essence of tea. 
It take effort to allow teapots to absorb tea on both the inside and outside surfaces.
 After much use, the natural tea oils also create a beautiful luster to the seasoned teapot.  
This extra care and attention is referred to as nurturing a teapot.

One of the main characteristics of clay is its permeability and breathability.
  Because of this characteristic, trace amounts of the tea liquor 
is absorbed into the clay every time the teapot is used.
 The heating cycle - when hot water is poured into a clay teapot and cooling occurs in between each steep, this helps the liquor to absorb into the pores of the clay
Over a period of time and with regular use, the properties (amino acids, catechins, vitamin C, flavonoids, theamine, tannins, essential oils, etc) 
 from the particular tea liquor accumulates in the clay. 
This and along with proper nurturing techniques from the teapot's owner, 
will give the teapot a subtle glow.

 As long as the teapot is used regularly, this subtle glow can be maintained
However, in order for the glow to be even, the owner must be able to maintain
 it with great dedication and patience.
Teapots are personal. 
They are like the domesticated geese, will respond best with one owner only.
Sharing teapots are fine as log as all users have the same dedication and care towards to the object. 
Otherwise, expect uneven stains and glows - then all mayhem breaks out!

The lack of nurturing causes uneven glow.
To get an even nurturing of a teapot certain habits are to be maintained.
The common question is - Why is the lid of the teapot less nurtured than the body?
Well, several factors come to play:
1. The tea leaves are left to steep in the teapot overnight therefore causing the body to absorb more of the chemical constituents of the tea for a longer period than the lid - some consider this an abuse!
Remember, clay's characteristic is permeability - this is WHY the glow of a teapot can be nurtured.
This can work for or against you when trying to nurture and acquire a glow to your favorite teapot. 
Time can be your friend or enemy in this process as well.
Herein is the age old Taoist concept that comes into play - Yin and Yang.
2. Seasoning or nurturing a teapot is a direct translation of a Chinese word YǎngHú 养壶.
 养 Yǎng means to raise, to care for, to help to develop.
壶 Hú means pot.
 YǎngHú is consequently a slow process that requires patience and the right technique or skill.
It is compared to raising a child. 
A good Yǎng-ed teapot looks and feels better to the touch. 
The main secret to why a clay teapot is seasoned is because it is known 
to enhance the flavor the tea it steeps.
The teapot will "grow."
This growth comes about from the nurturing of the patina.
The most prized possession of a Tea Master or a well seasoned tea drinker is a well nurtured, seasoned teapot NOT a new one!

A new teapot would be considered more Yin 
and a well seasoned and nurtured teapot as more Yang.
Some clay teapots in the marketplace has a tendency of being waxed or glazed.
Clay teapots made from any of these clays - Zisha, Zhusha, Hong Ni or Duan Ni are peameable clays and therefore meant to be seasoned and nurtured with use.
 Therefore purchasing teapots that are waxed or glazed would defeat this purpose.
These already waxed or glazed teapots (a process done on the outside of the body of the teapot) are meant to mimic the effects of of time and use.
This glazing or waxing will clog the pores of the clay, thus inhibiting the natural pemeability and breathability of the clay, consequently stunting the "growth" of the teapot.
Generally, most of these glazed or waxed teapots are not handmade and the clay used is tainted with dyes to achieve the inherent colors that are from the Yixing region.
The quality of a new teapot is always best investigated before a financial investment is made.

To "Yang" a "Yin" teapot is to baby sit it and nurtured it from the inside out.
The "feeding" of a Yin teapot is to make tea in the teapot.
This process of making tea - the first steeping is a tea wash, this is poured over the teapot.
Every step in the Art of Gongfu Tea is a calculated step and purposeful.
The tea washes that are poured over the teapot and steepings is more than warming the vessel but it causes the dilation of the pores of the clay on the inside as well as outside.
These steps patina the teapot naturally with the active chemical constituents of the tea.
The practice of saving some tea from each steeping to keep pouring
 over the pot is greatly encouraged. 
Among seasoned tea drinkers one clay teapot is usually assigned to one particular tea.

How is it done correctly:
When the teapot is being used proceed normally with the steps of steeping
 as well as pouring the tea wash over the teapot.
Then remove all the spent tea leaves from the teapot and rinse it well with boiling water.
Then fill the teapot with boiling water.
Let the teapot sit   for a few hours.
Empty the teapot out and use a suede buffing cloth or a clean tea towel.
Make sure that the cloth or suede used is very clean.
 and begin buffing the teapot.
Dip the cloth into clean boiled Spring water and begin buffing the teapot.
Buff until the teapot is completely dry on the inside and outside of the teapot.

This process of seasoning/nurturing is best achieved with time and great patience.
The patina achieved will make it looked waxed.
The key to a glow in the patina is frequency of use - months or years and overall care.

How to prime a new teapot:

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