One of the very first thing I learned about yixing pots is that you shouldn’t use more than one type of tea in it. They say it mixes tastes as you season the pot, and will eventually lead to a pot that brews tea with weird combinations of flavours. This is something that I’ve heard repeated many, many times, and which I myself have told others before. However, I am increasingly skeptical as to the truthfulness of this claim, and whether or not such division is truly necessary.
I should first point out that I am not saying that all pots are equally suited for all types of tea. I do notice, for example, differences in my aged oolongs when I brew it with my black pot versus my zhuni pot. However, I am no longer sure that it is truly necessary to confine each pot to one type of tea, especially in some of the rather fine distinctions between, say, Taiwanese high mountain oolong and low roasted baozhong, to name a pair that can be distinguished from each other, but whose tastes are not too dissimilar.
I own a pot that is around 300-400ml in size which I occasionally use for lazy brewing of loose puerh of one kind or another, usually some wet stored stuff or the very rare cooked puerh. I haven’t used it for anything else thus far, but last night I felt an urge to drink some darjeeling all of a sudden, and pulled out some of the black darjeeling generously given to me by Mr. Lochan of Doke tea. It’s a fine darjeeling, sweet and mellow (and I think aged slightly since last year, when I got it). I brewed it in my pot, the same one that I’ve used all along for puerh. Did I notice anything funny that I could attribute to puerh? No, not at all.
Sure, one could say that it is probably because I haven’t used the pot enough for puerh yet, therefore it didn’t impart anything to my darjeeling that I could detect. It does make me wonder though, how often do you need to use the pot before it will start affecting the taste of the tea being brewed, and how much of that effect is dependent on the previous teas you’ve brewed in the pot?
My guess is we generally overestimate the amount of work that seasoning a pot does to the taste of the tea in the pot. Seasoning the clay certainly makes it look nicer, but I’m not too sure if it really makes the tea taste nicer in any meaningful way — or at least, a meaningful way that is detectable by most drinkers. If it takes, say, prolonged use over years with one type of tea for a pot to gain any sort of meaningful “seasoning” that will affect the taste of the tea (more than the pot itself would otherwise) then is it really useful to advice newcomers to tea to buy more than one pot? I have heard before that all of this is just a ploy by pot makers/sellers to sell more pots. It sounds like a conspiracy theory, but there’s no proof that it’s not true… or is there?
Mind you, all of the above is purely speculative. Yet sometimes I do feel that when somebody is led to believe that they must buy half a dozen pots for all the teas they plan to drink…. is that a bit much?