On any given day, but especially the cold ones, you’ll find me fiddling with my tetsubin and making a pot of fragrant, steaming tea. The pot is green and has beautiful, raised patterns on it, and generally keeps my tea warmer than a regular ceramic teapot. Tetsubin (tehts-oo-bin) is the name commonly given to cast-iron teapots that originated in Asia, and as one who lived in Japan as a child, I have a fondness for all things Japanese. This coincides with my English heritage and I end up with a fusion of cultures in my own kitchen when I use my tetsubin to make tea commonly consumed in Britain.
Originally, tetsubin were not enameled and released iron in the tea, fortifying the drinker’s overall health with the added nutrient. Today’s tetsubin, however, are enameled on the inside to prevent rusting, but continue to retain heat like their historical and traditional counterparts. The handle is positioned over the top of the pot (unlike most ceramic pots), and the pour-spout tends to be short and well-balanced for the rest of the pot.
Traditionally, tetsubin are heated over a charcoal fire, especially if used in a traditional Japanese tea ceremony. But today, most tetsubin are receptacles with infuser-baskets that receive pre-boiled water, just as a ceramic pot does. If you have a gas-stove, you can continue to heat your tetsubin on the burner with a very low flame, but as I have a smooth-top range, I don’t try to heat my pot on it. You can also heat a tetsubin over an open fire or fireplace (with an appropriate device for suspending the pot above the flames), or you can find warming-devices for them, which are typically not much more than a cast-iron cup-like stand with a lid and space below for a tealight candle. The tealight provides heat to maintain the temperature of the tea and is easy enough to come by that anyone can use this method.
Most tetsubin are on the smaller side; my pot holds 38 oz of tea, which is just enough to fill three of our (larger) mugs with tea. Some tetsubin hold only a half-litre of tea; larger ones have space for up to 5 litres.
Most ceramic teapots end up with similar shapes, due to the nature of forming, throwing, and firing clay. Tetsubin often have more unusual shapes, and mine is a bit “squatty” and low. I chose this type of pot for its ability to maintain the heat of my tea and avoid needing a tea-cozy, which this does admirably.
Whether you’re a tea-fanatic or a collector of teapots, a tetsubin will add an east-meets-west flair and another dimension to your tea-drinking experience.
Sue also blogs at A Mother’s Heart. Give ‘er a read!
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