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Modern Yixing

November 10, 2008

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For me, a large part of the enjoyment of tea culture is in the appreciation of design and artistry of teaware. Teapots and accessories must always be well suited for the task that they perform on a technical level, but they should also be attractive. Of course “attractive” is quite subjective, and fortunately the enormous range of styles available allow for quite a bit of personal expression in one’s choice of teaware.

Narrowing the topic to yixing tea sets for Gongfu, there is quite a lot of variance in cost and in design. The absorbency, seasoning and aging of yixing clay dictate that each pot may only be used for one type of tea. This can be a handy justification for assembling a collection of different teapots. It can also allow for a wide range of options ranging from the more traditional to the contemporary, adjustable to fit mood or weather or tea varietal, or whatever you like.

One of my favorite Gongfu sets is the one illustrated in the accompanying photographs, purchased a couple of years ago from a seller on eBay. I really like the look of it, but it is also very well designed and a joy to use. The extended side-handles provide a very comfortable, completely cool and secure placement for the fingers while pouring. Ideally the teapot would be available in right-handed or left-handed versions, but this isn’t an enormous compromise. I’m right-handed, but I pour with my left hand fairly often without disastrous consequences. Both the teapot and the pitcher pour quite smoothly.

The porcelain-lined cups pictured came as a part of the same set. I like using them because they display the lovely hues of the tea liquor so nicely. I have seen this set in a couple of places, although only by mail order, not in shops.

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