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How To Choose Size And Shape Of A Chinese Teapot

The first thing to consider when looking for a teapot is to select the right size of teapot to suit the number of people you will be making tea for most of the time. Teapots come in a variety of sizes but can be grouped in the following categories. Here is a handy way to refer to them: 

Chart: Teapot Sizes based On Number of People Served
Size of Teapot Volume (ml / fl oz) 
(approximate)
Number of People Served
#1 size
70 / 2.4
1 - 2
#2 size
100 / 3.4
2 - 4
#3 size
175 / 6.0
3 - 5
# 4 size
225 / 7.6
4 - 6
 

The size numbers above correspond quite well to the number of people being served. If you usually drink tea alone or with one other person, the #2 size for 2 persons would be a good start. If a few more people come over for tea, you can simply make more brews. If you have a favourite tea that you serve often to many guests, consider getting a larger teapot for that tea.

Shape

The different shapes of teapots allow the different types of leaves to expand in their own unique way to maximize the surface area exposed to water while brewing inside the teapot. There are basically two profiles of teapots; low profile and high profile.

Chart: cTeapot by Profile and Method of Firing

  High-Fired Clay Low-Fired Clay
High Profile Most Green/White teas 
Any tea made with “tips” 
Taiwan Oolong (High Mountain Oolong)  
Pu-Erh
Low Profile Tie Guan Yin (also called Chinese Oolong, Gun Yam, Iron Buddha, Buddha of Mercy)

Da Hong Pao

Phoenix Tea

Lapsang Souchong and other Chinese Black Teas (known as Red Teas in China)
 
 
 

Chart: Teapot Shapes by Type of Tea

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Taiwan Oolong (High Profile)
Green/White Tea (High Profile)
Tie Guan Yin (Gun Yam, Iron Buddha,  
Chinese Oolong, Buddha of Mercy) (Low Profile)
Chinese Black Tea (known as Red Tea in China) 
Pu-Erh (Bow Lay) (High Profile)
Da Hong Pao (Cliff Tea) & Phoenix Tea (Low Profile)
A Decorative Teapot (Low Profile)

Collecting interesting looking teapots can be an enjoyable and rewarding hobby but one should not confuse a good tea-making teapot with a decorative one. Notice that all the shapes above except for the decorative one follow very simple designs. The reason for the lack of ornamentation is because tea is very sensitive to heat fluctuations and the best teapots distribute heat evenly. Decorations create different densities in the teapot, which can create hot and cool spots. Another reason is that in Gong Fu Cha, hot water is poured over a teapot during brewing and the water will be deflected by awkward angles, creating further hot and cool spots on the outside of the teapot during brewing.

For a full discussion on Yixing teapots, read our guide: How To Choose A Chinese Teapot by Daniel Lui.

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