Blog 41: Choosing Teaware: Gaiwan or Yixing Pot(Purple Clay Pot)?

Updated: Oct 19, 2018

In the world of tea, there are many types of teaware that have different designs, colors and sizes. However, those differences are more about the aesthetics and the practicality. What matters the most is the material of your teaware. Normally, the most common materials are ceramic/china and clay. The most common ceramic/china teaware is Gaiwan, and the most common clay pot is Yixing pot (purple clay pot). We’ve seen many discussions online on which type of teaware is better. Unfortunately, most answers are incomplete or subjective. Today, let’s talk about teaware that are made of ceramic/china and clay.


For the purpose of this blog, we’ll ignore the differences in purchasing prices and collection value. The reason is that many tea lovers simply assume Yixing pots are better for tea because they believe Yixing pots are more expensive. Instead, we’ll focus on how teaware material affects the taste of a tea. In general, ceramic/china Gaiwan can better release all essence of tea, and a clay Yixing pot reins the temperament of a tea.


A Yixing Pot (Purple Clay Pot)

To understand why they can affect the taste of a tea, first, we need to understand what a “Yixing pot” (purple clay pot) really is. Interestingly, its name in Chinese is pronounced “Zi-Sha” pot (Chinese: 紫砂壶, Zi-sha means purple clay), and Yixing is actually the city where this type of pot was first created. If you tell a Chinese that you want to buy a Yixing pot, he/she wouldn’t be able to understand you immediately because it’s called “Zisha” pot in China. A Yixing pot has 3 features. First, Yixing pots have a “double-pore” structure (a characteristic of the clay, not to be confused with the airhole on the lid, see pic above). This structure is very adaptive to rapid temperature change. Second, Yixing pots are not glazed. This gives Yixing pots great absorbing power and breathability while stay impermeable. Third, Yixing pots have better heat preservation. With these 3 unique features, Yixing pots can smooth out some strong flavors and sharp aromas of a tea. Even Rou-Gui, a Wu-Yi oolong(Yancha) famous for its sharp aroma, becomes mellow and mild in a Yixing pot. This is why some tea lovers say that Yixing pots make tea less fun.


Like Yixing pots, ceramic/china Gaiwan (we have another blog discussed the meaning of “Gaiwan”, please click here for more) also have 3 features. First, Gaiwan are glazed so that Gaiwan don’t absorb fragrances. Second, the same glaze ensures that Gaiwan don’t absorb flavors as well. Finally, Gaiwan is better at steeping control. Tea lovers who use Gaiwan can get a more original and unaltered tastes and smells of a tea.


In general, Yixing pots have a dominance over tea. The characteristics of a tea are usually overshadowed by this dominance. On the other hand, if you like a smooth and mild taste for every tea, a Yixing pot is great for eliminating some strong and sharp characteristics of a tea. If you prefer original and untouched tastes and smells, a ceramic/china teaware like Gaiwan is better at preserving the essence of a tea.


Although Yixing pots and Gaiwan are different, they’re still designed to make tea. Since Yixing pots absorb flavors and aromas, they’re better at making aged dark tea and aged Pu’er tea. For example, dark tea are over-fermented tea. The making of it involves molds. But because of molds, dark tea would gain a strong smell similar to that of an old book in a library or a dark attic in an ancient castle. Most people find this smell unpleasant, and a Yixing pot is ideal for absorbing this smell. However, for other tea that emphasize the fragrances, such as Wu-Yi oolong, Yixing pots are detrimental to their characteristics. Gaiwan, however, is good for most types of tea. As long as a Gaiwan is clean, it can make green tea, black tea, oolong tea, white tea, yellow tea and dark tea(Sheng Pu-er).


Ceramic/china Teaware are glazed

In the world of teaware, Yixing pots are more unique because good pots have a potential to appreciate in value. But only pots that are well-maintained, top quality and handcrafted by renowned masters can appreciate, and these pots are usually sold for more than at least thousands of dollars (some can even reach a 6 figure price tag). If you decide to buy a Yixing pot because of its collection value, you should be very careful and conduct a thorough research to make sure you pay the right price for the right pot.


At the end of this blog, we’d like to suggest that when choosing a teaware, you should always consider what kind of tea you drink and what kind of quality of tea you want your teaware to deliver. After all, all teaware are designed to make tea in the first place.


I hope you enjoyed today’s blog. As always, if you have any questions or suggestions, please leave a comment, tweet us @valleybrooktea or email the author directly at zhang@valleybrooktea.com. Please also follow us on Instagram @valleybrooktea and join our mail list to get our daily tea updates and our latest promotions! Finally, we have a semi-annual SALE on black tea products! Use code: semiannual and save 20% on all black tea products! Deal ends 8/14!