The teapots are works of art. They are made by hand, so each one is unique. The clay is left unglazed for the sake of beauty and also for the sake of brewing a superior tea. The artists who create these special teapots have to go through a lengthy apprenticeship period. Some of the teapots take traditional forms; others are made in a more modern style. All of them are collectors' items.
The older pots are considered antiques and are not allowed to be taken out of China. Some of them have been passed down through the generations of a family and have become treasured heirlooms. However, plenty of new pots are still being created for the modern collector.
A Yixing clay teapot needs special care. It should never be washed with soap, or else the tea will taste like soap. It should only be cleaned with plain boiling water. The pot should then be allowed to air dry thoroughly so that it does not develop mold.
At first, tea brewed in the pot will taste weak because the pot is absorbing the flavor of the tea. It will be necessary to brew several cups of tea in the pot before the tea starts to retain its flavor. As more tea is brewed in the teapot, more of the tea flavor is absorbed by the pot. As time goes on, this absorbed flavor imparts a full, rich taste to the tea that is subsequently brewed. The color and patina of the teapot also change with time, adding to its beauty.
True Yixing clay does not contain lead, cadmium or any other toxic substances. The clay does contain benign minerals, such as quartz, iron and mica, which give the pots the distinctive flecks of color that characterize Yixing pottery.
The pots are usually small, designed for one person. Traditionally, people would carry their teapots with them when they visited their neighbors. Today, though, the teapots can be obtained in a variety of sizes.
There are certain colors associated with Yixing clay: light yellow, dark red and brown. Other colors can be created by mixing in various pigments. A special deep purplish brown color occurs when the clay contains a very high concentration of iron, and this color, called zishayao, was traditionally considered especially valuable.
Collecting these beautiful Yixing teapots can be a wonderful hobby. They only become lovelier with time and use.