Posts Tagged ‘tetsubin cast iron teapots’

The Cast Iron Teapot

Wednesday, September 15th, 2010

Probably most people are familiar with the Japanese cast iron teapot. Known as a ‘tetsubin’, it has been in common use in Japan for centuries now. Cast iron ware is well known for its ability to retain heat. It is well-known that it is a very strong material, which makes it perfect to use in the kitchen. Many cast iron teapots have an enamel coating on the inside; this is useful as it prevents rusting. However cast iron teapots that are used for actually boiling water usually do not have this enamel coating inside as the heat would cause it to crack.

The History Of The Cast Iron Teapot

There is some debate as to where the first cast iron teapot was made. Many believe it may have been first made in China, although it is unknown exactly when it was made. The first cast iron teapots were actually used to boil water on the fire however once tea drinking became common in Japan it was then used to actually brew tea. There are different types of Japanese teapots including the ones used in the famous Japanese tea ceremony, however Japanese cast iron teapots are used for brewing loose leaf tea rather than the powdered tea commonly used in Japanese tea ceremonies.

By the mid-19th century, cast iron teapots changed from being a standard kitchen utensil to actually being used as somewhat of a status symbol for serving tea. Many of these antique tetsubin cast iron teapots have, in many cases, become family heirlooms which have been passed down from generation to generation. Incidentally, teapots were not only used originally for brewing tea but they were also used to boil water for other reasons such as for washing and bathing, and to also boil water that was used when cooking. The teapot has always been a really useful kitchen utensil, in part because it is extremely durable and also because it could be used for so many different purposes.

The Benefits Of Using A Cast Iron Teapot

The main benefit of using a cast iron teapot is that it tends to make extremely good tasting tea. Cast iron as a material will distribute heat evenly over its entire surface. This is very useful when brewing tea, as it helps to bring out the flavor of the tea. With use, a properly seasoned teapot will actually absorb some of the taste and the odors of the tea brewed in it, consequently each pot of tea that’s brewed ends up tasting better than the pot before.

Another real benefit of using a cast iron teapot is that it is extremely heat retentive. Tea brewed in a cast iron teapot will stay hot in some cases literally for more than an hour.

It was expected that the original cast iron teapots would rust on the inside. This was not considered to be bad, but rather it was seen as a way to be able to get extra iron. Of course today we do not expect to absorb iron from rust and cooking utensils but rather from taking iron supplements. This has meant that many cast iron teapots are now enameled on the inside rather than being left in a state where they could potentially rust.

What To Look For When Buying A Cast Iron Teapot

It is fairly undisputed that the best cast iron teapots are made in Japan, where they have been made for centuries. The craftsmen who make these teapots in Japan are very skilled. It’s very time-consuming process and believe it or not often anywhere up to 15 different craftsmen work on one pot over the course of time it is being made.

If you’re looking to buy one, an important thing to note is that most of them cannot be used to heat water in. In other words they should not be placed over an open flame or a gas burner or on an electric hot plate.  It is still possible to buy some type that can be used either over in a fireplace or on a low flame of the gas burner. However, before you actually buy your teapot, or cast iron teapot set, make sure you carefully read the instructions regarding how it should be used, and be sure to choose one that is right for you.

Design is also an important element with a cast iron teapot. In fact some people consider these teapots to be a real work of art, which is understandable when you realize how much time and effort goes into making just one teapot. Some more minimalistic in design, while others are detailed with different symbols such as animals or dragons or other decorative items engraved on them. You will also find some with carved spouts and ornate handles.

Of course a cast iron teapot is not going to be cheap to buy. The more intricately designed ones are usually considerably more expensive than the cheaper variety. It is well worth paying a little extra for a cast iron teapot as if it is cared for properly it literally can be passed down from generation to generation. It is an investment that in most cases is well worth making, especially if you enjoy drinking loose leaf tea.

How To Use The Cast Iron Teapot

Most teapots that you buy will have detailed instructions on how to prepare them for use and how to care for them. The first thing you should do prior to using your teapot is to rinse it out thoroughly with hot water. When still warm, you should take a dry cloth and wipe it out inside. Don’t worry if you don’t get it totally dry as any moisture left on it should dry naturally.

Quite often tea is brewed in the teapot by placing it inside an infuser that then sits inside the teapot. In fact many modern cast iron teapots come complete with an infuser set inside ready for use.

As stated before the teapot is used for brewing loose leaf tea. Place the loose leaf tea inside the teapot, then pour boiling water over the tea leaves. Set the lid on the teapot and let it steep for the recommended amount of time. Each tea has usually a different brewing or steeping time so you should check the instructions given on the tea you are brewing and make it accordingly.

How To Care For A Cast Iron Teapot

Here are some tips and pointers on how to properly care for your cast iron teapot so that it will last a long time.

  • You should never use the cast iron teapot in a microwave oven.
  • Be careful not to use any abrasive cleaning pads or even abrasive detergents on the teapot. All you need to do to clean it is just rinse it out with water and then wipe it dry after each use. If it is not totally dried simply turn it upside down and let it dry naturally before replacing the lid.
  • It is not a good idea to leave either tea or water in the teapot for any length of time as that can cause rust to form.
  • You should not use either salt or oil on the tea pot either.
  • It should not be washed inside the dishwasher.
  • Do not quickly cool down the teapot. Wait for it to cool down naturally by itself.
  • If you notice rust developing in the teapot you actually don’t need to worry about it. The rust is not at all toxic and will not harm you even if you brew tea inside the rusted teapot. You may notice a slight difference in taste if the inside of the teapot is rusting. If you do not appreciate this taste, you can simply clean the rusted area using a soft brush. Remember not to scratch it too hard or you’ll damage the teapot. After you’ve done this then fill the pot with used tea leaves and boiling water. Let it sit and soak for about 20 minutes and then tip the mixture out. This is said to help form a natural seal inside the teapot which will inhibit rust developing.
  • If you would like to polish your teapot, the best way to do this is to dip a soft cloth in tea. Squeeze the excess moisture out of the cloth and then rub it over the outside of the teapot. This will help the teapot pot
    to look nice and glossy. You should not use any other type of polishing agents on the outside of the teapot as it will damage it.

The Japanese tea pots cast iron or clay are well made and very popular, though the cast iron tea pots are perhaps more famous when it comes to Japanese tea pots.