Ancient Chinese tea sets generally refer to the tools used to pick, produce, store, make, and drink tea. The four basic elements for making a good cup of tea are quite important in ensuring both the quality and the taste of tea. These are tea, water, fire, and tools, among which a good tea set is an essential tool.
Tea sets typically include a cup, teapot, bowl, small cup, saucer, tray, and other tea utensils, narrowly defined.
The shape of a tea set is often elegant. In addition to practicality, it can improve the color, aroma, and taste of the tea. Meanwhile, an elegant tea set itself is an object of aesthetic appreciation and hence is artistically of much worth. As the saying goes, “Water is the mother of tea, and the tea set is the father of tea.”
Because the origins and materials for producing tea sets are different, the categories of tea sets can be divided into clay, porcelain, lacquer, glass, metal, bamboo, and so on. Among them, clay tea sets and porcelain tea sets are the best, followed by glass tea sets and enamel tea sets. Clay tea sets were introduced as early as 2,400 years ago.
One of a kind is the Yixing purple clay tea set, which originated in Yixing City of the eastern Chinese province of Jiangsu.
The distinguishing feature of the Yixing teapot is that it can preserve the original color, flavor, and taste of tea for a long time. Its three unique characteristics are: “tea brewed in it tastes rich and mellow; tea in it does not decay or change its color; tea in it retains its full flavor and does not easily go sour in the summertime.”
The purple clay teapot is porous and can retain the flavor of tea while brewing up tea.
The making of a teapot is very delicate and complicated, including selecting materials, making a base, painting, and then kilning. Every single process cannot be neglected and only then can one make a good teapot.
According to legend, a mason left a Yixing teapot on the roof while finishing the repairing of the house. A few years later, when he went back to the house to repair the roof again, he found that the teapot was still on the roof, and the color, flavor, and taste of the tea in it did not change at all.
The Yixing purple tea set is concise in size, simple in color, and quaint in structure. The longer it is used, the more elegant the color becomes, and the richer the flavor of the tea in it becomes. While pouring boiling water into the empty teapot, the light flavor of tea can be smelled from outside of the teapot.
The wonderfulness of the purple clay teapot is that it combines many artistic features in it such as pot mud, pot shape, pot style, pot stamp, inscription, painting, calligraphy, sculpture, carving, etc. Until today many painters and calligraphers still choose to paint and do calligraphy about teapots.
by HongDa Wu