Teaware 101: the Cast-Iron Teapot, a lifelong companion
So far in our Teaware 101 series we’ve looked at the original style of teapots, the the Yixing teapot, which is excellent for the dedicated pu’er or oolong drinker. Today let’s take a look at another popular, and more versatile style of teapot: the cast-iron teapot.
When you love tea, your teapot becomes like a friend. Sadly, just as with friendships, teapots have their fragile qualities and at times you must part ways. However, a cast-iron teapot, with its durable material, can truly be a lifelong companion for you, and for generations to come.
Though today these teapots are prevalent across the globe, their humble story began in 17th century Japan. As tea culture spread from China to Japan, it was initially reserved for the ruling class. In this milieu, many of the customs surrounding tea and the tea ceremony were extremely formal, and the teaware used was rare and expensive. However, with the rise in popularity and availability of Sencha tea in Japan, tea culture spread to the lower classes and became more common-place, something to be enjoyed with friends and family, without elaborate and ritualized customs. Sencha was also the chosen tea of the literati, who drank this tea in protest of the formal and exclusive tea culture of the high-class.
As Sencha became a tea for the masses, the need for an appropriately common-place teapot arose. Thus the now ever popular cast-iron teapot was created, and soon became ubiquitous. At the time, these teapots, known as tetsubin, were used to heat the water over a charcoal fire. People found that the taste of the water boiled in a cast-iron pot was far superior to any other material. The iron rendered the water smoother and sweeter, and soon the tetsubin became the predominant teapot for everyday tea drinking.
Today we have many different modern renditions of the tetsubin, though they are generally designed for tea brewing, rather than for boiling water. This is because most modern tetsubin are lined with an enamel coating on the inside, to prevent rusting and for ease of care. This lining lends itself well to brewing tea, especially if you like to brew various kinds of tea and herbal blends, as it doesn’t absorb the taste of the tea. The cast-iron also keeps tea warm much longer than other materials, which is great if you want to linger over a pot of tea throughout the morning. Additionally, with cast-iron’s durable quality, these teapots can last for generations. Although cast-iron teapots are great for any tea, my favorite kinds of tea to brew in them are black, pu’er and herbal teas. This is because these teas brew well with boiling-hot water, and since the cast-iron retains heat so well, you get a particularly nice brew with these high-temperature teas.
Interested in brewing in a cast-iron teapot? Check out our selection of fine cast-iron teaware on our online store. And the next time you brew your tea with your cast-iron teapot, you can enjoy knowing a little about its history, and appreciate that it may be a friend for life.
By Chloe Bolton