How to Season an Yixing Teapot

May 31, 2011

Yixing Teapots are extremely rewarding. Treat them well and they will give back the best tea possible, as well as grow in luster and depth of color. High quality hand-crafted teapots are investment objects, and increase greatly in value if they are used properly.

Watch the video for a step-by-step guide to seasoning an Yixing clay tea pot.

Otherwise, read on for a quick reference guide to using your yixing.

Click to watch

1. Prepare a very clean pot and boil water in it. If you have hard water, filter it or use bottled water, or the sediment will get into the tea pot.

2. Using a slotted spoon with no smells or stains, lower the tea pot, and separately, the lid into the boiling water. Allow the yixing to rest on the spoon, and not the bottom of the pot, otherwise it vibrates too much with the bubbles.

3. Boil for 3-5 minutes. Remove pot and lid and allow to dry completely.

4. Choose a tea whose flavor you want the pot to absorb. Steep tea in the pot, pouring each 10-15 second steeping into a larger bowl until the bowl is full.

5. Remove tea leaves and let pot soak in the bowl of tea with lid soaking separately.

6. Remove when tea has cooled completely and let pot dry.

7. Pot is ready to use. The first few steepings will still be light because good clay keeps absorbing for a while. After 3 sessions or so, you will notice the flavors getting more complex, and the tea pot becoming more lustrous.

Other info: Never use anything but water to clean an yixing pot. Soap will be absorbed and create a permanent soapy flavor in the tea you steep. Always allow your yixing pot to dry completely between uses, and before replacing the lid and storing. A teapot stored wet with the lid on will mold. If your teapot molds, reboil for 10-15 minutes and re-season. Take a picture of your pot when you start using it so that you can compare in a year to see how it has grown. Have fun!

26 Responses to “How to Season an Yixing Teapot”

  1. Hi, I’m in Xiamen and I am a tea addict. I found your site and love it!
    I have many Yixing pots now and I want to know if you have learned any secrets on how to get them to become dark and beautiful. Thanks! S

    • How fun! I really want to visit Xiamen soon. I have lots of friends there who tell me that it is the best place on earth. As for yixing, the best method is to use every pot, every day. Be sure to pour tea over the pot with each steeping, and then let a final steeping sit in the pot for 20 minutes or so before pouring out and over the pot. Clean the pot out at the end of each day with hot water, and rub with clean hands and a cloth. Allow it to dry completely between each use. The speed and nature of the changes will also depend on the quality and color of the clay, the quality of the teas used, and the kind of tea you devote to the pot. Better tea seems to age pots more quickly, perhaps it has a more potent concentration of tea oils? Just venturing a guess to explain my observations. Have fun!

    • Lily Duckler

      Hi Robert,

      It sounds like you haven’t used your pot too many times, so you should be able to re-season it. Simply re-boil your pot, just as you would do if you had a brand new pot. You may need to boil the pot for a little bit longer (between 30 min and an hour), depending on how much your tea pot has already taken on from your previous seasoning.

      Check after boiling and cooling by steeping hot water in the pot. Compare the taste of water simply boiled and water “steeped” in your pot. If there’s still a distinct taste of pu’er, you’ll need to boil the pot again. If not, you pot is ready to re-season, as outlined above.

  2. Hello, I just boiled my new pot for about 30 minutes. The water color turned a light translucent color of the pot, but the pot itself didn’t fade. I heard the color of the water shouldn’t change, so I’m concerned I got something artificial or unhealthy. The pot was bought in China for 180 rmb . The craftsmanship is quite good and it looks and feels real based on what I’ve learned, but the water changing color has me concerned. Could you offer any comments or suggestions about my situation. Thanks!

    • Lily Duckler

      The most likely scenario is that coloring agents were used in the clay or that the pot was sealed / cured to look nicer on the shelf.

      Thorough boiling will reduce the presence of these if they are indeed there. However, if dyes or other chemicals were used, there’s no guarantee that some trace amount won’t steep into your tea.

      If you like the pot, do a second round of boiling. If the water comes out clear the next time, you know that most of the residue has been removed. If you do not feel comfortable steeping tea in your pot but you still like the pot itself and want to use it, you can always use your tea pot as a pitcher or as a tea animal.

      • Hi Lily, I found the problem was actually the cloth that I placed on the bottom of the boiler to avoid rattling. I boiled the cloth and teapot both separately and the pot water was clear while the cloth water turned the same color as the very first boiling together. I’m guessing the high temperature released the dyes in the cloth. Not sure how a blue cloth gives off a brown color but that’s what happened.

        Anyway, thanks for your response. It was still informative.

  3. Averia

    I’ve been told to boil the tapot wrapped in a towel to prevent cracking but something terrible happened: the towel released the laundry detergent and the teapot now smells of it! I did not think about it and now I feel really stupid. I’m desperate: I wanted to do the seasoning with so much care and instead I made a disaster! I am about to cry… If there is something to do to repair the damage please let me know, I’m so sad.

    • Lily Duckler

      Dear Averia – please do not worry! My apologies that this response was a long time coming. Your pot should not be ruined.

      The best solution would be do reboil your pot again. If you et the pot boil for a nice long period of time (at least 30 minutes) in a clean pot without smells, you have a good chance of regaining your pot and removing the fragrance of the detergent. It is possible that it will take a few rounds of boiling, but it should work.

  4. Don Baker

    Hey I know this an old post, but I was wondering if you could answer a question I had. I just recently purchased a yixing pot of my own, but no one told me about seasoning it or using only one tea. I’ve used it with jasmine oolong and puer already. If I were to season it now and choose just one of those teas, would I still be okay?

    • Lily Duckler

      Hi Don – go for it! Your pot will probably be fine. An yixing pot is an investment, a relationship you build over a long period of time. Seasoning is a great first step in that relationship, but it sounds like you should be okay with what you’ve used already.

      Just take care not to use soap – the porous clay will absorb that flavor and aroma. If you need to, you can also always reboil your tea pot and reseason. Over time, this will become less effective, but at this early stage I would recommend boiling and seasoning the pot as if it hadn’t already been used.

  5. Yixing question for you guys… I just purchased two yixing clay tea cups and aroma cups this week. Do I break them in the same way? And… do these also grow in taste? Should I stick to one type of tea in them or do they not grow in flavor like the the pots? I asked the girl selling them but her English wasn’t very good and she said she didn’t know the english word to answer my question. Thanks for any advice!

    • Lily Duckler

      In the strictest sense, yes – they should be seasoned with one type of tea after being carefully boiled.

      However, we are finding with David’s yixing mug that since it is not an enclosed brewing vessel, it is less sensitive to specific tea flavors as long as we keep scented teas and blends out of it. The important part is to get a general patina, as it steals tons of aroma initially.

      The aroma cups could probably do with a thorough soaking in tea so that they are not sucking the volatile aromatics in all the time, otherwise they don’t really do what you need them to.

  6. Ingrid M. Amundsen

    Hello. I bought a small thin yixing pot some years ago (of unknown quality, but looks ok). I’ve now started using it a bit but have not seasoned it yet since I’m not sure which tea I want to choose. Today I discovered a thin crack alongside the pot, a super thin dark line… Could it be caused by puoring near boiling water inside the cup without warming it up from the outside first? Or by impact? Anyway, can I still use it? How can I use it without it cracking further, or breaking? Please help!

  7. My husband got me a yixing pot years before i raised my enjoyment of tea into true enthusiasm. Thanks to your reply to an earlier comment, i know how to attempt to reseason it, but i was wondering if the restriction to a single tea for best flavor is as specific as Ceylon only, or if all black teas would be alright.

    • Lily Duckler

      Hello Elle – that’s a great question! Personally, we have an yixing tea pot dedicated to black tea, and we tend to use it for all kinds of black teas (Jin Jun Mei from Wuyishan in Fujian, Dian Hong golden teas from Yunnan, Laoshan Black tea, etc). If you have a very large collection or a great passion for a specific style of tea or region, you can always dedicate the pot to that – for example, we have an yixing pot that we tend to use just with younger sheng pu’er from Qianjiazhai, and we have another sheng pu’er pot that we tend to just use with our sheng pu’er that’s over 10 years old. It’s not a hard and fast rule, but we’ve found that we tend to use these pots for certain kinds of tea within a broad category more often than not. Do we sometimes end up brewing younger sheng pu’er in that “older sheng” tea pot? Definitely! And the teas brew in that pot taste very different than they do when we brew them in a gaiwan or in another yixing pot because of all of the older sheng pu’ers we’ve already brewed in it.

      On the other hand, we have a large pot that we use for a wide variety of teas, but mainly Wuyi oolong, Shu pu’er, and black tea. As David’s said before, if you wouldn’t mind a drop of one tea splashing into the cup you’re drinking (if you wouldn’t mind mixing a bit of Wuyi oolong with your black tea), then you could probably brew them in the same pot. It mainly depends upon your own preference!

      As a general rule, we just tend to avoid dedicating pots to teas that seem very different (for example, white tea and shu pu’er).

      I hope that is helpful!

    • Lily Duckler

      Yes – technically, you should be able to boil them together. However, if you have the time or the space, I still personally recommend boiling each tea pot separately. More pots boiling together is a little riskier. The extra number of pieces may be a little more difficult to juggling getting into or out of the boiling. Boiling water makes things tricky enough, and it would be a shame if one of the pots or lids dropped during the process!

  8. hello, I was wondering if there is a specific reason why we season the teapots? I’m thinking of acquiring one soon, and wanted to know what I am getting myself into before I make the big purchase

    • Lily Duckler

      Great question – seasoning the pot before use has a few different purposes. While artists and potters will sometimes boil their pots before making them available for sale, this isn’t always the case – sand, etc can remain in the teapot from firing, and so boiling the pot thoroughly before use helps remove that (or dust from sitting on a shelf, for example) from the interior of the pot and the “pores” of the pot. You don’t necessarily have to then steep the pot in tea afterwards. If you immediately begin using your pot to brew tea, it will become seasoned more slowly over time. However, because a new and unseasoned pot takes so much flavor from teas when it is just starting out, seasoning is usually recommended to speed up this process.

  9. Sarah Regan

    Hello, I purchased one of your magnificent Yixing teapots years ago and am just now getting ready to season it. The pot has a wooden handle. Could you please advise on how best to season this pot? I seem to remember that one does not want to submerge the wooden handle but cannot remember. Many thanks in advance for your time and expertise!
    Best wishes for health and happiness,

    • Lily Duckler

      Thank you so much, Sarah!

      You are right – if your pot has a wooden handle, then you will want to avoid submerging the handle in boiling water. I often recommend wrapping your hand (to protect it from the warm steam rising from the pot), and then carefully dip the pot, holding it by the handle and keeping the handle out of the water. To season the inside, focus on brewing many brews of hot tea and pouring them into a bowl. Remove the leaves from your pot, and then fill it back up with your brewed tea, and allow it to stand until everything has cooled.

      The outside of the pot may not get to bathe in the brewed tea for this initial seasoning, but it is an easier method when working with a wooden handle. The interior will get the “bath” and “first meal” that it needs. Then, you can brew as normal, and feel free to pour hot tea over the exterior of your pot in later sessions. It’s ok if the handle gets a little wet; just be sure to allow your pot to dry completely between sessions (usually overnight is fine, if you leave the lid off or ajar).

Leave a Reply