Tetsubin are Japanese cast iron pots used for making tea. There are two main types: those that are used for brewing tea, and those that are used for heating and carrying water (only) during Japanese tea ceremonies.
Tetsubin are often elaborately decorated with relief designs on the outside and glazed with enamel on the inside. These features, in addition to their small size and often unusual shape makes them popular with collectors. A typical Tetsubin holds around 0.5 liters of water. It is usually sold with a tea strainer and an iron trivet decorated with a similar relief design. Tetsubin can be found in many colors with various designs and patterns such as one that has symbols depicting each of the four seasons for good luck.
Tetsubin date back to the 17th century and were originally used to brew tea or simply boil water over a hearth, lacking the decorative features of today's teapots. During the 19th century infused tea became more popular, and tetsubin were considered primarily status symbols, rather than functional kitchen items. Today they are used to brew and serve tea. However tetsubin are not normally placed on the stove. Instead, water is boiled elsewhere and then poured into the teapot to make tea.
The prefectures of Iwate and Yamagata are best known for producing tetsubin. Because tetsubin teapots are both ornamental and practical, good care should be practiced to ensure a long and beautiful lifetime. Following these guidelines will produce good tea and prolong the life of a tetsubin teapot. Over time, the tetsubin will develop a desirable mineral coating that is said to be good for one's health.
-1. Do not place tetsubin directly on stove to heat. Instead, heat water separately and pour into tetsubin. While water is being heated, pour some warm water into tetsubin. This will warm the teapot which will keep tea warmer for longer. If it is glazed, this will also prevent the tetsubin's ceramic glaze from cracking when the hotter water is poured in. Teas require different temperatures of water to be used. Make sure to not overheat or underheat water for the tea being used.
-1. For best results, remove the metal tea strainer and add loose tea directly into the kettle. This gives the leaves room to expand and results in a better infusion. After infusion, pour tea through the strainer into a warm tea cup.
-1. Teas also require different periods of time to steep. Be aware of this length or a bitter tea will result.
-1. Do not allow old tea leaves to sit in tetsubin for extended periods. Do not use soap or abrasive pads to clean tetsubin. Rather, just rinse inside with some water and pour out.
-1. Do not expose tea pot to salt or oil. After rinsing, lightly dry the inside and outside of the teapot with a cloth towel. Set pieces to air-dry separately.
-1. Because tetsubin goods are popular with collectors, it is important to be careful if you wish to purchase these products.
-1. Ensure that you are purchasing an authentic product from a reputable dealer. Most authentic products have the symbol of the manufacturer on the item. For example, teapots generally have the manufacturer’s symbol on the base of the teapot in line with the spout.
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