A Yixing Clay tea vessel (pot or cup).
I just finally got my first (of many), and I am so thrilled to start using it.
What is Yixing Clay
Why, you ask, is this clay so vital to your tea experience?
Because, I answer, the yixing (pronounces ee-shing) purple clay is very porous and traditionally unglazed. This means that through continual use, the tea pot or cup will become "seasoned" with the flavour of your tea, enhancing each and every cup you drink.
It has been said that eventually, you don't even need to use tea leaves; the vessel will have enough flavour that you can just pour in some hot water. There are however plenty of people out there saying this is untrue, and it is too early in my Yixing experience to tell for myself.
Now since this clay absorbs flavour, you are supposed to only use one tea in it, or at least one sub-type of tea (black, green, Oolong, white, etc.). Otherwise your different teas may mix with disastrous consequences!
Extremely Brief History
Now, I've lost my book I was going to look up the origin from, but I faintly remember the facts.
The clay comes from a province in China called Jiangsu. It used to be made for creating artistic pottery, until one day some brilliant man thought,
"Hey, that would make a great tea pot!"
Of course, these teapots can still be called works of art. Each one is made by hand, and the artist leaves his "chop," or basically signature, on his creation; usually on the bottom of the pot, inside the lid, or both.
You can of course still buy these today, either old or new, cheap or expensive. Online and in certain brick and mortar stores, you can buy a yixing pot in just about any price range; from $20 up to... well, I don't know the most expensive ones, but I've seen plenty over $10,000.
My New Yixing
Now, since I'm way too on the go these days, I have not bought an actual pot yet. But I did just purchase a travel cup with the precious clay!
The outside is brushed steel, as you saw in the first picture, and the inside is made from Yixing clay.
Since I'm hooked on some Milk Oolong right now, that's what I've been using. Which works, because this cup is from Teavana and that dragon is their symbol for Oolong anyway.
Oh also, this cup comes with a stainless steel strainer, for those who want to use it. I don't need it though; I just keep the leaves in the cup, drink all the tea, and pour more water over the used leaves. Oolong is good for multiple steepings, plus it sinks down to the bottom so it's not like I'm getting mouthfuls of leaves.
Have any of you ever heard of these teapots before? I think the ones in BBC Sherlock's "The Blind Banker" were Yixing, but I'm not sure.
I love Sherlock