- by vinux
Tea sets come in a variety of styles, sizes, and materials. The most common types of tea sets are porcelain, ceramic, bone china, metal, and bamboo. Porcelain is a classic option that comes in a wide array of designs and colors. Ceramic tea sets have a more rustic look and can be decorated with intricate designs and patterns. Bone china is an elegant choice that features intricately detailed designs. Metal tea sets are mostly made of silver or brass, while bamboo is typically used for Japanese-style tea sets.
Types of Teaware! Nowadays, popular, widely used teawares or those that have occupied an important position in the history of teaware development are introduced according to their main production areas.
Metal Tea Sets
Metal utensils refer to tools made of metal materials such as gold, silver, copper, iron and tin. It is one of the oldest daily utensils in China. As early as 1500 BC, before the unification of China by Emperor Qin Shihuang in 221 BC, bronze ware was widely used. Our ancestors used bronze to make a plate to hold water, make a jue and pour wine. These bronze wares can naturally be used to hold tea. Since Qin Han Dynasty to the Six Dynasties, tea leaves have gradually become popular as beverages, and tea sets have gradually separated from other drinking vessels. Around the Northern and Southern Dynasties period, metal utensils including tea sets appeared in China. By the Sui and Tang Dynasties, the production of metal utensils reached its peak. In the mid-1980s, a set of gilt tea sets offered by Emperor Xi Zong of Tang Dynasty unearthed from Fumon Temple in Shaanxi Province can be called a rare treasure in metal tea sets. But since the Song Dynasty, ancient people had different opinions about metal tea sets. After the Yuan Dynasty, especially from the Ming Dynasty onwards, with the innovation of teas, changes in drinking methods and the rise of ceramics tea sets, metal tea sets including silverware gradually disappeared, especially those made of tin, iron and lead for boiling water for brewing tea were considered as making “tea taste differently”, so few people used them. However, it is not uncommon to use metals to make containers for storing tea such as tin bottles and cans because they are more sealed than paper, bamboo, wood , porcelain or pottery with better moisture-proof and light-proof properties which are more conducive to preserving loose-leaf teas . Thus even today there are still popular tin products for storing teas .
Ceramic tea sets
There are many varieties of porcelain tea sets, including blue porcelain, white porcelain, black porcelain and colored porcelain. These tea sets have all had a brilliant page in the history of Chinese tea culture.
The best quality of Qingci teaware is produced in Zhejiang. As early as the Eastern Han Dynasty, Qingci with pure color and translucent glow had already begun to be produced. In the Jin Dynasty, Yuyao, Wuzhou and Ouyou in Zhejiang had already reached a considerable scale. In the Song Dynasty, Qingci teaware from Longquan Ge Kiln, one of the five famous kilns at that time, had reached its peak and was exported to all parts of the world. During the Ming Dynasty, Qingci teaware was more famous for its delicate texture, dignified shape, blue-green glaze and graceful patterns both domestically and abroad. At the end of 16th century, Longquan Qingci was exported to France and made a great sensation in Europe. People compared it to the beautiful green clothes worn by Shela in “The Shepherdess”, which was popular in Europe at that time, thus calling it “Shella” and regarded it as a rare treasure. In contemporary times, Longquan Qingci has undergone new developments with new products emerging constantly. This kind of tea set not only has many advantages over porcelain ones but also makes green tea tastes better due to its dark green color. However, when used for brewing red tea or white tea or yellow tea or black tea, it tends to make the soup lose its original appearance which might be seen as inadequate.
White porcelain teaware has the characteristics of dense and transparent texture, high firing temperature, no absorbance, clear sound and long rhyme. Due to its pure white color, it can reflect the color and luster of tea soup, moderate heat transfer and insulation performance, as well as colorful shapes, which is a treasure in teawares. As early as Tang Dynasty, white porcelain utensils produced by Xing Kiln in Hebei were “used by everyone regardless of wealth or honor”. Bai Juyi of Tang Dynasty also composed poems to praise the white porcelain tea bowls produced in Dayi County, Sichuan. In Yuan Dynasty, Jingdezhen White Porcelain Tea Utensils were exported abroad. Nowadays, white porcelain teawares are more refreshing. This kind of white glaze teaware is suitable for making all kinds of tea leaves. In addition, the shape of white porcelain teawares is delicate and elegant. Its outer walls are often painted with mountains and rivers, flowers and plants in four seasons, birds and beasts as well as stories about people or decorated with calligraphy from celebrities. It also has artistic appreciation value and is therefore widely used.
Black Porcelain Tea Sets, beginning in Late Tang Dynasty, flourishing in Song Dynasty, continuous in Yuan Dynasty and declining in Ming and Qing Dynasties. This is because since the Song Dynasty, the method of drinking tea had changed from boiling tea in Tang Dynasty to brewing tea. And the popular “Dou Cha” (a kind of brewing way) during the Song Dynasty had created conditions for the rise of black porcelain tea sets.
In the Song dynasty, people measured the effect of Doucha by looking at the color and uniformity of tea soup first, with “fresh white” as the priority; secondly, they looked at whether there was a water mark where the soup flower and the teacup were connected and when it appeared, with “no water mark in the cup”. Cai Xiang, then serving as a Three-Minister’s clerk, made it clear in his book on tea: “Look at its fresh white color and no water mark on the cup as perfect; for Jian’an Cup Test (a type of test for evaluating tea quality), those who have water marks appear first are negative while those who last long are winners.” As for black porcelain teaware, just like what Zhu Mu said in his book “Fangyu Sheng Lan” (A Guide to Wonders), “the tea is white and enters black cups; its marks can be easily tested.” Therefore, black porcelain teacups became the largest variety of porcelain teaware in Song Dynasty. Fujian Jianyao Kiln, Jiangxi Jizhou Kiln and Shanxi Yuci Kiln all produced large amounts of black porcelain teawares which became their main production areas. Amongst these kilns producing black porcelain teawares, Jianyao Kiln’s “Jian Cups” were particularly famous. Cai Xiang also said so in his book on Tea: “…the ones made in Jian’an are most essential; those from other places are either thin or purple-colored which cannot compare to them.” The unique recipe used in making Jian Cups created rabbit hair stripe pattern or partridge feather dot pattern or Sunday dot pattern during burning process which added charm to Doucha once the tea soup poured into the cups with brilliant colorful light spots radiating out. Since Ming Dynasty began due to different cooking methods used compared with Song Dynasty,”black porcelain Jian Cups seem inappropriate for use” as only kept for backup purposes.
There are many varieties and colors of colored tea sets, among which the blue and white porcelain tea set is the most eye-catching. Its characteristic is that the pattern blue and white contrast interesting, have pleasing to the eye feeling; The color is delicate, elegant and lovely, with a power of grace without being gaudy. Combined with the glazing on the colored material, it appears moist and bright, adding more charm to the blue and white tea set.
By the late Yuan Dynasty, the mass production of blue and white porcelain tea sets began, especially in Jingdezhen, which became the main production base of blue and white porcelain tea sets in China. Due to its high level of painting technology, especially the application of traditional Chinese painting techniques on porcelain, it can also be said to be a great achievement of Yuan Dynasty painting. In the Ming Dynasty, Jingdezhen produced more and more kinds of blue and white porcelain tea sets such as teapots, teacups and teacups. The quality was getting better and better. No matter in shape, modelling or decoration, they were all first-class in the country and became objects for other kilns producing blue-and-white teacups to imitate. During the Qing Dynasty, especially Kangxi, Yongzheng and Qianlong Periods, blue-and-white porcelain tea sets entered another historical peak in the development history of ancient ceramics surpassing previous dynasties and influencing later generations. The blue-and-white porcelain wares baked during Kangxi period are known as “the best” in Qing Dynasty.
In the Ming and Qing dynasties, due to the improvement of porcelain technology, social and economic development, expansion of foreign exports, and changes in tea drinking methods, blue-and-white tea sets experienced rapid development. In addition to Jingdezhen production of blue-and-white tea sets, Ji’an and Leping in Jiangxi Province, Chaozhou, Jieyang and Boluo in Guangdong Province, Yuxi in Yunnan Province, Huili in Sichuan Province, Dehua and Anxi in Fujian Province were influential. Moreover, many other places throughout the country also produced “local blue-and-white” tea sets for use by the general public within a certain region.
Purple Sand Tea Utensils
Purple sand tea ware, which developed from pottery, is a new kind of ceramic. It began in the Song Dynasty and flourished in the Ming and Qing Dynasties and has been passed down to this day. It is said that when Su Shi, a great poet of the Northern Song Dynasty, taught alone in Yixing, Jiangsu Province, he loved to drink tea. In order to be able to make tea when on trips, he fired a purple sand pot designed by him with a lifting beam for testing and tasting tea. Later it was called “Dongpo Pot” or “Lifting Beam Pot”. Su Shi’s poem “Silver bottles pour oil floating ants wine and purple bowls put millet plates dragon tea” expresses his admiration for purple sand tea ware. But according to precise written records, purple sand tea ware was created during the Zhengde period of the Ming Dynasty.
Today, Purple Sand Teaware is made from a special kind of clay buried in the south of Yixing, Jiangsu and its neighboring area in the north of Changxing, Zhejiang. This clay contains high iron content and has good plasticity. The firing temperature should be around 1150°C (2102°F). The excellent raw materials and natural color lay the material foundation for firing high-quality Purple Sand Teaware.
The reason why Yixing purple clay teaware is favored by tea drinkers is not only because of its various styles and shapes full of cultural taste, making it stand out in the world of ancient teaware, but also because its texture is suitable for making tea. People later called the purple clay teaware has three major characteristics: “it does not lose flavor when making tea, does not change color when storing tea and does not easily become sour in hot weather.”
Currently in China, the best quality of purple clay teapots is produced in Yixing of Jiangsu province, with its neighboring Changxing of Zhejiang province also producing them. Through continuous innovation by tea masters throughout the generations, it has been praised that “no two alike in shape and no two alike in roundness”. It is generally believed that a perfect purple clay teapot must have three beauties: beautiful shapes, beautiful craftmanship and functional beauty.
One of the inventions of our ancestors is to extract sap from natural lacquer trees, mix it with the required color material, and make gorgeous and eye-catching utensils. Lacquer ware in China has a long history. As early as the Hemudu culture about 7000 years ago in Yuyao, Zhejiang Province, there were wood-based lacquer bowls that could be used as drinking vessels. Nevertheless, as far as lacquerware for drinking and dining purposes, including lacquerware tea sets, no large-scale production had occurred during a long period of historical development. Especially since Qin and Han Dynasties, there were few written records about lacquerware and few surviving items were found. This situation did not begin to change until the beginning of the Qing Dynasty when the de-waxed lacquerware tea sets made in Fuzhou, Fujian began to attract people’s attention.
The making of detached lacquer tea ware is delicate and complicated. First, according to the design requirements of the tea ware, a wooden or mud mold should be made, and then covered with summer cloth or silk fabric , followed by several layers of lacquer ash. Then the mold should be removed and followed by multiple processes such as filling ash, lacquering, polishing and decoration to finally form an antique and elegant detached lacquer tea ware. Detached lacquer tea ware usually consists of a teapot connected with four teacups, stored in a round or rectangular teaplate. The pot, cup and plate are usually in one color, mostly black; while there are also yellow-brown, dark red and dark green colors incorporating Chinese painting into them. It is light-weighted yet beautiful with bright color that makes it like a mirror; in addition it is not afraid of water immersion and can withstand temperature changes as well as acid-base corrosion. In addition to its practical value , detached lacquer tea ware also has high artistic appreciation value which is often collected by appraisers.
Bamboo and Wooden Tea Utensils
Tea sets made of bamboo weaving consist of an inner liner and an outer cover. The inner liner is mostly ceramic tea ware, and the outer cover is selected from soft and delicate bamboo silk made through several processes such as splitting, loosening, kneading and smoothing. After roasting, coloring and dyeing, the bamboo silk is woven into shapes that fit the inner liners in size and shape, making it an integral part of the tea set. This kind of tea set not only has a harmonious color tone with a beautiful appearance but also can protect the inner liner from damage. At the same time it’s not easy to burn your hand when making tea, and it also has artistic appreciation value. Therefore, most people purchase this kind of tea set not only for its practical use but also for decoration or collection.
Glass, anciently called “fluorite” or “glaze”, is actually a kind of colored and semi-transparent mineral. Tea sets made of this material give people a sense of bright colors and shining light. Although the technique of making glaze in China started early, it was not until the Tang Dynasty when more cultural exchanges between China and abroad occurred that Western glassware began to be introduced. The pale yellow glaze teacup with a simple ring foot and the pale yellow glaze tea tray offered by Emperor Xizong in Fufeng Famen Temple in Shaanxi Province are genuine Chinese glazed teaware. Although they are primitive in shape, simple in decoration, impure in texture, and low in transparency, they still indicate that the production of glazed teaware had already begun during Tang Dynasty, which was considered valuable at that time. In modern times, with the rise of glass industry, glass teaware has become popular quickly due to its transparent texture as well as shiny luster. It is also highly malleable so there are various shapes for different uses. Furthermore, it is inexpensive and convenient to buy, thus earning appreciation from tea lovers.
Famous for being strong and durable with fresh patterns and lightweight yet corrosion-resistant, enamelware originated in ancient Egypt and spread to Europe. However, the cast iron enamelware used today began in early 19th century Germany and Austria. The process of enamelware was introduced to China around the Yuan Dynasty (1271-1368). During the Jingtai period (1450-1456) of the Ming Dynasty, Chinese people created blue enameled teaware called Jingtai Blue which later flowed from royal households to ordinary households during the Qianlong period (1736-1795) of the Qing Dynasty. This can be considered as the start of Chinese enamelware industry. The production of teaware made from porcelain didn’t begin until early 20th century and has been around for over 70 years now. Among numerous kinds of teaware made from porcelain, there are white and delicate teacups that look almost like those made from porcelain; lattice teacups decorated with net or colorful pattern; light and unique drum or butterfly shaped teacups; insulated thermos cups that are convenient to carry; trivets that can hold both a tea pot and teacups; all these are popular amongst many tea lovers. However, since it transfers heat quickly, it may be hot to touch when used as well as damaging to tables if left on top a table surface, along with its relatively low price, so it’s limited in use and generally not suitable for home entertaining.