You may know that Chinese culture considers tea a suitable drink for every moment of the day. So it may seem weird that traditional Chinese teapots (like Yixing’s) rarely contain more than 100ml of water, despite the large amounts of tea in China. For those of us who are familiar with Western traditions, the small size of Chinese teapots can seem unusual, if not impractical. But in fact, there are several very logical reasons to use small teawares, even if you are not Chinese.

Small teapots have the following advantages:

  • They are more practical
  • You have greater control over the drawing time
  • More influence on temperature
  • The jugs have a social aspect when drinking tea

Why is this so you can find out further down! Here are 4 reasons why Chinese teapots are so small:

1. For everyday use

While the European teapots were intended for aristocratic parties, Chinese teapots were popularized by ordinary workers. These Ming Dynasty workers carried a small jug or pot for their daily tea breaks.

Previously, tea was a scientific occupation, powdered and whisked with artful technique, similar to the modern matcha. But as whole tea leaves became the new standard (thanks to an imperial decree), teapots facilitated brewing with built-in filtration. Ordinary people, too, began to integrate tea into their daily lives. Small pots fit comfortably in a bag or shoulder bag and are ready for use at any time.

Chinese teapots made of different materials
Small Chinese teapots.

2. Multiple infusions

Despite its growing popularity, tea was still a precious commodity, and whole leaves released their taste more slowly than powdered teas. In an effort not to waste valuable taste, Chinese tea drinkers simply began to pour the tea leaves several times. Many teas tasted even better after the second or third infusion! By the way: Japanese teapots are also smaller, so that they can make several infusions from the tea. The Japanese teapots are called Kyusu and have a handle on the side of the jug. That’s why we often call the jugs “one-handed” !

Instead of creating a large batch of bitter and braised teas, the tea drinkers stowed the leaves in their portable teapots. During the day, they simply gave hot water over the leaves during the tea breaks. Short infusions limited the bitterness even with teas of the lowest quality, and several infusions made it possible to maximize the cost of the tea leaf aroma.

3. For better temperature control

Small amounts of water also allowed for more careful temperature control. Short brewing operations in the Chinese teapots ensure that the tea is still hot when watering, while small amounts allow the tea to cool quickly to drink. In many ways, small pots simply allow for more precision in the brew, as the water is mixed with taste faster than with a large jug.

All this additional control helped to reduce the bitterness in the finished tea and maximize the taste. All this culminated in the gong-fu-cha style with which we taste teas today. In small pots, a concentrated infusion (similar to an espresso) is prepared. This helps to taste subtle taste differences and to determine the overall quality of each teas.

Chinese teapots at the tea ceremony
A Chinese tea ceremony with small clay cups.

4. For an excuse to make contacts.

Today, many Chinese tea drinkers have their leaves drawn in a modern travel thermos or a large mug, just like many Westerners. But the small teapot lives on in the gong fu-cha bridal method, where it is used for several small cups. Those who are accustomed to a European tea service may find the small quantities impractical or even stingy. But on further consideration it becomes clear that the invitation to sit and chat is not in drinking, but in watering.

Due to the small size of the pots the whole group is invited to stay. and to revive the conversation about several short infusions. Small cups are replenished immediately after emptying. Every guest as much or as little tea as he likes. In addition, the small jug gives the host more control over the individual infusions. The taste and profile of the teas can be better controlled. A guest likes his tea a little stronger? No topic, the next infusion will simply be let pull a little longer!

Ironically, the small teapots that have fueled the daily brew for centuries are now often seen as a niche tool for tea connoisseurs. The large teapots of the aristocratic tea parties of the time, on the other hand, are regarded as a standard tool. Luckily, as a modern tea drinker, it’s a privilege to determine the size of your pot!

Fancy a tea ceremony?

Of course, there are many other ways to enjoy tea! In our article about the preparation of Oolong Tea we have even more useful tips for you! How do you like to drink your tea? Let us know!

If you now feel the desire for an exciting tea ceremony – we go you covered! In our online shop you will find many delicious teas,which are best suited for a Chinese tea ceremony. We look forward to your visit!

This post is also available in: Deutsch (German)