Monday, August 03, 2009

Chao Zhou clay pots, why, what & how

What is Chao Zhou Clay Pot?
Chao Zhou red clay pots are made of clay from Feng Xi located on the Feng Huang (Phoenix) Mountain. They are hand thrown on wheels with fine grains of red clay imitating YiXing style. Walls are made very thin. The locals also call it Zhuni although not the same clay as Yixing Zhuni. 2 most famous makers are the Wu's and Zhang's families, generations of pot makers followed traditional techniques, also innovated new styles and techniques. After more than 100 years of making Chao Zhou clay pots, the outstanding current generation makers are now hired by YiXing factories as consultants. What a turn around!

Why use a Chao Zhou clay pot?
For Dan Cong teas, Chao Zhou is preferred over Yixing, because it's made to enhance Dan Cong for number of reasons:
1, clay has the same composition of minerals as the tea trees are grown
2, the wall is thin so it doesn't simmer the leaves
3, shape is also made to accommodate the leaf shape of dan cong
4, spout is medium to big that is easy to control pouring speed since dan cong is extremely sensitive to timing and temperature.
5, size of pots are small, makes 3 to 4 little cups of tea, just enough to drink it fast while it's hot.
6, it's also a timer, after pouring hot water over the exterior, when dried, the tea is also ready for the first 2-3 brews.

How to break in a Chao Zhou clay pot.
Rinse under room temp running water, scrub off the dust inside of the pot. Then soak in room temperature water for 20 minutes. You can now add off boil water to rinse. Then add teas you don't like and hot water into the pot, soak for a few hours. Change tea and make another pot to soak over night. The pot is now ready to be used. In case there is still clay smell, soak another pot of tea over night or until you are satisfied. Do NOT boil them like the YiXings!

For normal usage, soak the pot in room temperature water for 20 minutes before adding hot water. Else it can crack. (It's not always the case for every pot, but I don't think you want to take the chance.) They are very thin, so more prone to easy breaking. I cracked half a dozen pots myself, it took me that many times to figure out what to do. For speedy raising the pot, take out tea leaves and empty all the tea after brewing, leave the lid off and let it dry without rinsing. With some old bush Dan Cong daily brewing, you'll have a very nice pot in a couple of weeks.

Recommend use of Chao Zhou clay pots
1 for old bush DCs (any aroma)
1 for light roasted commercial DCs (any aroma),
1 for heavy roasted commercial DCs,
1 for aged DCs

For current year Dan Cong, gaiwan is better for maximizing the aroma, while Chao Zhou clay pot can smooth and deepen the flavor and texture of tea.

You should also try brewing young green Sheng Pu-erh with a Chao Zhou clay pot, you might find surprising outcome.


Maitre_Tea said...

Very helpful guide...Looking forward to owning one of these soon (over my tea-budget this month already). I was wondering if you could what differences are their between Chao Zhou clay and Yixing clay, in terms of the clay composition and firing temperature.

This is a topic that has been discussed on TeaChat, and hopefully we can put an end to the debate.

Imen said...

Maitre Tea,

Chao Zhou Clay has higher iron content than Yixing Zhuni, the composition of Chao zhou clay is mainly iron and quartz, hence the bright red with consistency. Firing temperature is between 1160 to 1180 degrees C. Shrinkage of CZ is barely 12% from wet clay to finished firing,6% from dried mold to finished firing. Therefore very easy to work with, that's also why cz lids are much tighter than Yixing, it's the reason why tea won't get moldy for 10 days. Small shrinkage also allow potters to make thin and large open pots, hence perfect for the size and sensitivity of Dan Cong teas.

I don't know Yixing enough to provide such information. I believe Yixing zhuni contains more varieties of mineral than CZ, that's also why Yixing zhuni colors vary a wide range of red compare to CZ.

Anyone want to buy a 80k RMB CZ pot? :D

Maitre_Tea said...

I'll get back to you on that offer in a few years or so...still a recent college graduate so I can't afford to be a high roller...

Maitre_Tea said...

I'm so sorry to keep bombarding you with questions about Chao Zhou teapots...I promise I'm buying from you the second I get my paycheck next week!

Do Chao Zhou pots face the same problems as Yixing pots, when it comes to authenticity and stuff. With Yixing teapots, there is often a debate about whether the clay is modern or old, if there are additives or if it's "pure."

Do Chao Zhou potters use additives like iron oxide or etc. to their pots, and is there a good supply of "authentic" Chao Zhou clay left? Thanks for being so helpful with my line of questioning.

Imen said...

Maitre Tea,

Well, CZ pots are usually copied for it's shape, but not the clay.

Today, the common ones are red clay and red clay mixed with sand from the same mine. There are abundance of CZ clays, mixing of other clay is not necessary. The more expansive ones are made of sandy clay, won't crack with temperature fluctuation. The styles are slightly coarse. The fine clay ones are more common and less expansive, more prone to crack, but much better refined looking.

From what I know, CZ clays are cured, not necessary vintage. Some clay makes smoother pots not because it's mixed with other clays, but the curing process or formula is slightly different.

Most of pots I know are authentic in terms of clay, maker on the other hand is a different story, since the Wu's pots go as high as 10s thousands dollars each. Wu's are more desirable by collectors.

Steven Knoerr said...

I'm with Maitre-Tea: I'll be buying a CZ pot at some point, as well. Which, for me, is a big deal, because I've not purchased Yixing yet and need to get started somewhere.

Tea Geek said...

What are the characters for Chao Zhou? Is it the same as the city? Is that what makes it different--that the clay comes from Chaozhou area, not the traditional Yixing area?

Imen said...

Tea Geak,

Yes, it's the same as Chao Zhou city.

You are correct again with the origin of the clay.

krapivina said...

Hi Imen,

Could you please help. I was hoping to buy a tea pot from Zhan's family. It seems that Master Yanming Zhang does not produce tea pots any more due to his health, but pots from his son, Haiyuan Zhang, are available. The price is not astronomical, but still it is rather a lot. How could I know that what I buy (and I am buying from an online dealer) is what I think I buy, and is it even worth buying from a younger generation, so to speak? I am told that the prices on son's work are bound to go up...Are there any signs and clues to spot? anything to look at, at least when it arrives? anything to ask? I am a bit confused with all this... could you please let me know what you think..
Thank you in advance,