Ceramic, Glass, Clay, Or Iron: Various Materials For Different Teapots
Teapots are made from numerous types of material. I have chosen to write about four more common mediums used for the making of a teapot. There are advantages to each type of teapot.
Ceramic and Porcelain
Ceramic and porcelain were common substances that teaware were made from, and are still used today. The Chinese Tang dynasty (618-906 A.D.) was the beginning of the usage of ornate and specially made tea equipage. Tea was consumed in wide shaped bowls that were light in color, in order to show off the tea liquor color. The first of these bowls were made from a ceramic and porcelain mix called Yuen ware.
In the later part of the Tang dynasty, tea bowls were made from porcelain, referred to as Hsing ware. In the Song dynasty (960-1279 A.D.), ceramic tea bowls, called Chawan, were made with a darker glaze that had a molted black pattern called “hare’s fur” pattern. Teapots were first introduced in the later part of the Song dynasty and made from porcelain, (or Yixing clay). Porcelain factories were located in the Jiangxi Province, where mass production of Chinese porcelain occurred.
Ceramic and porcelain are non porous, do not absorb odors, and retain heat for a period of time; keeping tea hot. Ceramic and porcelain can come in a multitude of colors and can be decorated with an assortment of decorations, motifs, and patterns.
Corning Glass Works, headquartered in New York, USA, is credited in designing the first original glass tea pot in 1922. It was designed by Frederick Carder and made of Pyrex, a borosilicate glass. The glass teapots were hand blown by a team of four glass blowers. They originally came in a two- cup, four-cup, and a six-cup design.
Today, glass teapots come in a myriad of shapes and designs, and can be etched or engraved. Glass tea pots are shatter proof, non-porous, and retain heat. Glass teapots are used for display teas or teas with beautifully shaped leaves. The opening of the tea ball can and the unfurling of the tea leaves can be viewed from the glass teapot.
The first clay teapots were made in China during the later part of the Song dynasty (960-1279). The Yixing teapots became extremely popular during the Ming dynasty. Yixing teapots were originally created using Sasha, or purple sand clay, from the city of Yixing, located in the Jiangsu Province. Yixing teapots are hand stamped on the bottom of the teapot and on the lid by the ceramic artist. Yixing teapots are formed into round, geometric, animal shapes. They are also found in shapes that mimic fruit, plants, or flowers.
The clay used to make the Yixing teapots is a very hard clay, therefore the teapots can handle near boiling temperatures without cracking. The teapots are considered a “one type of tea” teapot. Meaning it is best to steep only one tea in the teapot. Over the course of time and use, the teapot will eventually absorb the tea flavor that has been consistently brewed in the teapot. Eventually, just hot water could be added to the teapot, and the tea flavors absorbed by the clay would infuse in the water, creating tea.
The origins of the tetsubin teapot are difficult to pinpoint. What is known is that the teapot was designed in Japan as a household kettle used to heat water. Tetsubins can be found dating back to the 16th century. The teapot was not originally incorporated in the Japanese tea ceremony called Chanoyu. It is similar though to a cast iron kettle that was used in the tea ceremony but had a spout, a handle but no lid.
The small tetsubin cast iron tea kettles were originally pot bellied in shape with a simple pebble design on the exterior, and dark brown or black in color. Modern tetsubins have an enamel coating on the inside of the pot. The teapots hold heat extremely well, and can be placed over charcoal for boiling water without harming the teapot. The teapots are exceedingly durable for traveling.
Whatever teapot you use to make your tea in, please read the manufacturer's notes for correct usage of the teapot.
Steep by steep,
Corning Museum Of Glass: Pyrex Potluck.
Heiss, Mary Louand Robert J. The Story Of Tea: A Cultural History and Drinking Guide.Ten Speed Press, 2007.
The Teatropolitan Times.Chinese Teaware Throughout Dynasties.March 19, 2009.
About the Author
Leslie Sundberg is a World Tea Academy Certified Tea Specialist, a World Tea Academy Apprentice Tea Sommelier, a Specialty Tea Institute Levl IV trained Tea Specialist, and a Tea and Business Etiquette Specialist. On any given day, Leslie can be found teaching, speaking or sharing in the joys of a cup of tea. No matter what Leslie is doing or where she is, one thing remains constant: 4:00 in the afternoon is tea time!