It’s easy to see a teapot as a little magical being. They have tremendous personalities. Adopting the right new teapot you are more than likely making a lifelong friend. Of teaware, it is the teapot that most displays the craft of the artisan—and most accentuates the principles of gongfu cha.
The way the teapot works is like an oven, it wraps the tea in heat, as you even pour hot water over the lid and the whole pot to seal in the heat. Potters pay attention to the clay used, the porousness, the firing temperature, the thickness of the clay, the flow of air through the pot, the speed of the pour, and other factors all to bring the best of a tea. Equally, they take great care to make the pour easeful, beautiful, and without dripping. You may take time to acquaint yourself and become masterful in using a pot, or a masterful pot may just work its magic on you.
When you are matching a pot to a certain tea, the most obvious factor is shape. With shape, you want the leaves to be able to grow and inhabit the pot. Tea’s that grow up need taller, egg and pear shapes. Twisted teas, which are long and straight, need flatter wider shaped pots. Something in the middle, curled or scrunched, might love a shape equally tall and wide. Experimentation takes care of all of the unknowable factors. I like to try the pots out and so that I can make informed recommendations to my customers. Finding the right pot for the right tea is how you bring out a teas full potential.
Collectors are happy to use one pot for one kind of tea, the oils collecting in the pot over time enhance the flavor of the tea, and would distract from a different tea. If you varied too often the flavor would get muddy. For most people, sticking to a general flavor profile works well. Taking my favorite teas for example, you could have one pot for high mountain oolong, another for roasted teas, and another for Phoenix teas. You then might be able to get away with the occasional green, red, tieguanyin etc, mixing in with the profile it most closely matched.
In caring for a pot, never wash it with soap, just rinse it with water. And of course never use it for something like Earl Gray or Jasmine. When you first get the pot you can season it, and you can also reseason it at any time, by boiling the teapot in the tea leaves of your choosing.