Sitting at the table ready to brew tea. These little teapots sit in front of me. Why are the pots so small? Even a tiny teapot can brew up quite a bit of tea.
Some days I like to sit and drink pot after pot of tea. In this type of scenario, the best practice is to have food near at hand so that mealtime can be given a priority (this is best accomplished in Taiwan where exceptional street food is plentiful). Tea and food are connected. Tea was first used as a medicine to help the stomach; I’ve found that it aids in digestion. Consequently, it’s no surprise that the type of tea I want to drink correlates with the types of food I've been eating.
The small teapots are not used just for making an individual serving of tea. They are made to accentuate the characteristics a particular tea has to offer. Remember, a tea has a range of flavors it can express. The same tea can be either bitter or sweet, but the most interesting teas are both bitter and sweet. In terms of flavor, there is no right or wrong, it really is a matter of preference.
Here's the real reason for the Yixing teapot. Teas such as oolong and puer are special, and have an amazing range of flavor. But to really get these flavors to come out, Yixing teaware is critical.
The Yixing teapot evolved side-by-side with oolong tea and dates back to between 1400 and 1500 (if we are to believe Wikipedia). The Yixing teapot has the following characteristics: Its small size is ideal for a higher leaf to water ratio and its small surface area means there is less room for the heat to dissipate. The small size also reduces the time it takes to decant the tea, resulting in a tighter control of the time variable. Yixing teapots lack glaze so eventually the pot becomes seasoned with tea. This, in turn, enhances the flavor of the tea. Additionally, the clay used has a high iron content, which keeps the water temperature higher. This is favorable for oolongs with a higher level of oxidation and a strong roast. These types of teas require a high temperature in order to extract the magical flavor within.
In summary, the Yixing teapots are small, but they are badass, much like the honey badger.