28 November 2008

The Teapot priming method - Part 1

I was at Vancouver's Arts de Chine last weekend. Its proprietor, Daniel, is a tea guy that knows quite a bit about Chinese arts and teaware. I bought a yixing teapot made from Zhuni clay, probably about 20 or so years old, and he taught me how to correctly prep it for use. His procedure is by far the longest that I've ever heard about, but it's worthwhile for a serious tea lover looking for a better brew. His instructions have been posted here as intact as I can recall. I did an abridged version of his cleansing procedure that I believe achieves a similar level of cleaning with no harsh chemicals and less time; my procedure is outlined in Part 2.

The first step is to take hot water and fill the pot, placing the lid on top and pouring water all over the exterior. Let this sit for a few minutes.

toothbrush and paste I used a Sonicare

Next, take a toothbrush and toothpaste and scrub the teapot well inside and out. Take a thin chopstick or skewer and move it around the spout area to dislodge any dirt. Then take a kitchen pot and place a small towel on the bottom, on top of which you'll place the teapot and the lid. Fill with enough water to cover past the top of the teapot, but leave at least 2 or 3 inches of space from the top edge of the pot.

pots in boiling water 
Bring the water to a boil and then reduce. Now add 8-10 tablets of effervescent denture cleaner. They come in tablets and can be found at many drugstores. Strange? I thought so too, but it does make some sense. Good pots are porous and effervescent products are like cleaning bubbles. If you'd like to make a substitution during this cleaning phase, that should be ok. I'd rather use a milder cleanser, like pure baking soda.

If you choose to go with the cleanser, let the pot simmer with the tabs for an hour or two before pouring out. Rinse the pot and teapot with warm water. Put the towel, teapot and lid back into the pot and fill with water. Bring to a boil and let it slow boil for a few hours. This step is meant to remove any leftover taste from the tablet cleanser process. Pour the water out and rinse everything with warm water again.

tea and pot
For the 3rd time, bring the pot of water with the towel, teapot and lid inside of it to a boil. Add a handful of quality leaf, the kind of tea that you intend to use in the pot. I'll use an aged tea for this process. Leave the teapot in and boil it for another hour or two.

After this, remove the teapot, rinse, and then use a toothbrush and toothpaste to clean it thoroughly again.
Once this process has been completed, you'll have a blank-slate teapot. Daniel mentioned that it may take 8-10+ pots of tea before the teapot starts to take on the correct brewing characteristics for that tea.

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