Choosing a teapot from the many choices available can be a daunting task. Teapots are available in ceramic, glass, clay, stainless steel, bone china, etc. The first criteria that comes to mind for selecting a teapot is based on the visual appeal and how well it will fit with the decor, but one may also want to look at the type of tea used and how best to brew the tea leaves.
Be sure to use the type of tea that you will always be brewing in the teapot. These teapots date from the Ming Dynasty (1368-1644) and are both artistic and functional. These pots are collectibles because of their shapes that can be whimsical, animals, flowers, dragons or sleek and elegant. Natural minerals contained in the clay of the Yixing region of China produce a variety of colors when fired. These pots are unglazed, so they can absorb the tea oils to produce an amazing cup of tea. The chop mark on the bottom of the teapot denotes the artist and that this quality teapot that will last decades with proper care. The inside of a Yixing teapot is unglazed, so one must always brew the same tea in the teapot. If you brew Sencha in your Yixing teapot, do not brew any other tea in the same pot. If you brew different types of tea in this teapot, the oils from the tea will be absorbed into the clay and will mix and you will not be able to enjoy the true flavor and aroma of the tea. To receive the best benefit from this special teapot, consider brewing only your all time favorite tea in your Yixing. Over time, the teapot will absorb enough oils from the tea that the aroma and flavor will come through by just adding hot water to the teapot without using and tea leaves.
The Yixing teapot must be sterilized and seasoned before use. Place a terry cloth towel in the bottom of a pot. Put the teapot on one side of the towel and the lid on the other. Cover with cold water. Bring the water to a boil and boil for 20 minutes to remove any loose clay or impurities. Remove the pot from the water and cool a little. Place twice the amount of tea leaves into the pot than you would normally use (ex. If the pot brews one cup of tea then place 2 tsp. into the pot.) Add hot water and let the tea steep until cool. Pour out the tea and repeat twice more. Rinse the teapot in warm water and allow the teapot to thoroughly air dry before replacing the lid. Never use soap or place it in the dishwasher.
The tetsubin (tet-SUE-bin) teapot is a Japanese teapot made of cast iron. Exactly when the tetsubin first appeared in Japan is unclear, but evidence does suggest a close relationship with the rise of the Sencha form of drinking tea that uses tea leaves instead of powdered tea. Before Sencha, tea drinking was not popular with the common citizens. Only the wealthy could afford Matcha (a type of powder used to brew tea.) When the Chinese introduced Sencha (brewing tea with whole leaves instead of powder) was introduced to Japan, tea drinking became affordable and more accessible to all the Japanese people. During the 18th century as more citizens of Japan began drinking tea, Sencha gradually became an informal setting (Chanoyu is the formal Japanese tea ceremony) for sharing a cup of tea with family and friends. Despite the popularity of Sencha, Chinese teapots were expensive. To fill this void the Japanese people used their hearth kettles to brew their tea thus creating the tetsubin teapot.
The original tetsubin teapots were originally used as common kitchen item used to provide hot water, warmth, and humidity to the household. They were simple and were not very ornate until the 19th century when Japanese art became a cultural revolution. The tetsubin style and design slowly became more elaborate and soon a wide range of teapots were available from simple to designed works of art. Some of the tetsubin pots were decorated with high relief designs and inlays of gold, silver, and copper. These teapots evolved into a status symbol; the more elaborate the teapot the more prestigious one was in social status. Today, the Tetsubin teapot is a beautiful reflection of the Japanese culture and history. The design and shape of the teapot is simple and beautiful, while being practical. Tea enthusiasts claim that tea brewed in these cast iron teapot tastes better than tea brewed in any other type of teapot. Tetsubin teapots are highly collectible and are still hand-cast by master artists and have unto themselves become simple works of art to truly reflect the Japanese art culture.
Care and Use of Tetsubin Teapots
Never place on the stove, since this is a teapot not a kettle. Do not leave tea standing in the tetsubin teapot for a long period of time. Do not wash the tetsubin teapot with abrasive pads or harsh detergents. Simply rinse with plain water and wipe dry after each use. Make sure to fully dry the tetsubin teapot before storing.
A special note: When looking to purchase a tetsubin teapot, make sure that the inside of the teapot is fully glazed all the way to the top. And most importantly, look at the lid and make sure the underneath is fully glazed. If any part of the inside lid or pot is not glazed, rust will form, since this is a cast iron teapot.
Good quality glass teapot are high resistance to temperature changes, free of odors and flavors, and very light weight Most of them are microwave and dishwasher safe. Since the glass surface is pore-free, the teapots do not stain or build up tea oils. Because the teapots wash crystal clear, this makes them an ideal for tea drinkers who enjoy black, green, white teas, and herbal tisanes. The different oils will wash clean between uses and the glass will not get a soap build up to mar the taste of the different types of tea. Switching between the different types of tea is easy, since the oils wash completely clean and will not influence the next pot of tea even if the switch is from a robust Assam Black Tea to a light White Tea.
Stainless Steel Teapots
Stainless steel teapots are very stylish and keep the tea hot longer than glass, ceramic, and clay teapots. These make great teapots for those who like to sip their tea and take their time in between cups of tea. These teapots also will last a very long time since they are resistant to breakage if dropped. The most damage the teapot would receive is a ding. Stainless steel teapots will have a metal taste when new. Before making tea for consumption, the pot will need to be seasoned. This is easy to do by brewing triple strength tea in the pot and letting the brew stand for one hour. Empty the teapot, rinse and repeat the process. Be sure to use the type of tea planned to be used in this teapot (example: season the teapot with green tea if you are going to use this teapot to brew green tea.) Over time, the tea oils will build up on the inside of the teapot to give it a rich patina and wonderful tasting tea. To clean the teapot, just rinse in hot water and allow to air dry. Stainless steel has pours that will allow for soap build up and will ruin the taste of your tea over time.
Porcelain, Ceramic, Bone China Teapots
These teapots share many of the same characteristics for brewing tea. The main difference is the quality of the materials use to make the teapots which will be reflected in the price. These teapots come in a variety of sizes, colors, and shapes and are usually purchased to fit into a certain decor. Like most teapots, these pots are porous and will build up a rich patina on the inside and should be used for only one type of tea. Rinse with hot water and air dry between uses.
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