By A.C. Cargill
One of my tea equipage treasures is a little Japanese cast-iron teapot. It conveys an air of “tea-ness” that’s hard to describe. Decorative and practical, this cast-iron gem’s worth every penny paid and is reserved for brewing green tea.
Much is said of the health benefits of green tea. I can’t confirm this, being neither a doctor nor a medical researcher. However, as one who lives the “tea life,” I certainly know the joys of a well-brewed and tasty cup or two (or potful) of green tea. My favorite is Gunpowder — it gives me a real blast (ooh, I couldn’t resist!).
This tea is amazing to think about. People with much more dexterity than I possess roll the tea leaves into tiny little tea leaf balls. It reminds me of the fine silk rugs (from an area of the world formerly called Persia) that are made by young girls with delicate fingers suitable for tying the tiny knots required to make them. The rugs are as beautiful as they are wonderful to feel (I could spend hours running my fingers over them). Gunpowder tea is just as sensual, especially when brewed in the right vessel, such as my little Japanese teapot.
These cast-iron beauties — true treasures — are becoming popular as people learn more about different kinds of teas and different brewing methods. Mine came with a stainless steel infuser basket (usage is strictly optional, so I opted not to).
A bit of an aside on infusers: While an infuser basket can keep your tea “liquor” tidy and pieces of tea leaves out of your cup, your full-leaf teas need space to fully interact with the water. This is especially true of teas like Gunpowder and Dragon Pearls, which unfold as they infuse. To get the most “bang” for my tea buck, I let my tea float au naturel and realize its full potential. This means I need to pour from the teapot into my cup through a strainer but also that I get the most tasteful and satisfying tea experience.
Why choose a cast-iron teapot? Anyone who likes to cook up a batch of true fried chicken knows that a deep cast-iron fry pan does the best job, since it really holds the heat. This assures that your chicken cooks thoroughly and fast enough that it doesn’t soak up too much of the cooking oil.
The same principle holds for a cast-iron teapot. I warm the pot with hot water (swish around and pour out) just as a precaution, but even the time or two I’ve forgotten, the water has stayed hot in the pot. This assures that the tea leaves have the time they need to brew.
Green tea needs a cooler water temperature (165-185˚ Fahrenheit) so you don’t end up with totally cooked (versus infused) tea leaves. How long you let it infuse depends on how dark you like your green tea. One article I found suggests 10 minutes. This seems overly long to me, but maybe the faster infusing time (5-7 minutes) I experience has to do with the heat retention properties of the little Japanese teapot.
Once infusing is done, I pour out a cupful or two. (To me, it seems to taste better served in the traditional handleless cups.) Then, I add more hot water to the teapot to get a bit more “bang for my buck” by increasing the amount of tea “liquor” I get from my Gunpowder leaves (now fully open).
Some of the dishes that go well with green tea (according to tea experts) are fish and seafood. Personally, I find that a batch of fried pork dumplings is a good go-with, too.
Hope this has helped you see the value of those little Japanese teapots for sale everywhere.
Check out A.C.’s blog, Tea Time with A.C. Cargill, for more advice on living the tea life!