I often joke that the more I learn about tea, the smaller my teapots become. There’s quite a lot of truth to this, and we thought it might be valuable to explain why. Here’s a brief primer on teapots that we hope will encourage your own pursuit of tea knowledge.
Dobra Tea sells many sizes of teapots, made of different materials and in different styles. You may notice that we don’t carry any of the more “modern” teapots seen at other shops and cafés, nor do we carry cast iron pots. The reason for both of these choices is quite simple: one of our guiding philosophies is to present tea to our guests in accordance with the traditions of the countries that created it.
Contrary to what seems popular in the US, cast iron pots are almost never used to brew tea in Asia. Traditionally, they are used to heat water over a fire, as in Japan and China, and this can be used for tea. In this case, however, the kettle must not be glazed on its interior, as high heat may damage the glaze and pollute the water within. (Selling unglazed iron kettles for heating water is a goal on our list, but as of now they are very expensive to import.)
Most tea-producing countries use clay or porcelain to infuse their tea. Unglazed clay, such as Yixing (宜兴) or Jianshui (建水), can absorb subtle aromas and release them into subsequent infusions. These pots should each only be used for a specific tea to avoid flavors that belong to another tea entirely. Porcelain is more appropriate for infusing many different teas as it cleans easily and does not store flavors. In small sizes, even an English-style “Chatsford” pot can make a wonderful cup of tea (as long as you don’t use a tea ball!).
Most of our teapots hold between 100 to 400 milliliters of water. That’s about 3 oz to 13 oz or 0.5 to 1.5 cups. Once a teapot is larger than 400 ml, it becomes difficult to ensure a well-timed tea. There are several reasons for this.
Many teas, particularly Green and Black, become bitter if infused for longer than 1 or 2 minutes. In our opinion no tea should be bitter. Let us say that we have found a particular Green tea reaches its peak flavor at 1 minute. If we pour in the water to fill the pot, the tea begins steeping as soon as the water reaches the leaves. The longer it takes to fill the kettle, the less time remains. Then, when we begin to pour the tea, the leaves continue to infuse while the liquid is poured out. This means that if a pot takes 30 or 40 seconds to empty, at least some of the tea is steeping for quite a lot longer than we would like and may become undrinkable by the time it reaches your cup.
Certainly it’s possible to compensate for the added time by beginning to pour your tea early, but then the portion of the infusion that is poured first will be somewhat under-steeped, which when mixed with the rest of the pot will yield a watered-down cup. This is all complicated by the fact that some teas (particularly with small or broken leaves) can be over-infused after only 20 or 30 seconds!
Another reason for a small teapot is something of a spiritual one. If a tea is prepared in a small quantity, it is much more likely to be appreciated by its audience. Throwing back a gulp of tea, you may never taste the subtle nuances, good or bad, that become obvious with a careful sip.
Tea is a personal experience, and the choice of pot for your tea should be one that is comfortable and suits your own style. Our role as Tea Devotees is to preserve and present ancient traditions from countries around the world in the making of this simple beverage. The tea pot is both global and personal and we invite you to learn and find your own path. With patience and grace, we meet in the middle, in the experience of a good cup of tea.