The Cast Iron Teapot

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.

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12 Responses to “The Cast Iron Teapot”

  1. Béatrice Mecking says:

    drying the thepot with paper towel is allwright?

  2. Robyn says:

    Yes, it’s fine though from my experience an actual cloth works better as it doesn’t break up like a wet or damp paper towel sometimes can.

  3. margo says:

    My tea pot started to slightly rust on the outside edges (bottom of the pot). Is there any way to preserve it from rusting on outside?

  4. Robyn says:

    The best way to prevent rust is to dry the teapot off after using it, while it is still warm to the touch. This should prevent rust from forming. If it has already formed you may want to take off what is there. If it is not on an enameled part of the teapot you can simply use fine grade steel wood and scrub the bottom of the teapot. It may take a bit of work, but you should be able to get the rust off.

    Once you have the tea pot free from rust you will want to prevent it from forming again. Best way is to make sure you dry the tea pot each time after using it (the bottom of it, at least). You do not say if your tea pot can sit on the open fire or burner? If it can, that’s a great way to dry it off after rinsing it; sit it back on the burner on a very low heat and it will evaporate any moisture left on the bottom.

  5. Ilene says:

    I’m considering buying a Cast Iron Teapot sometime next year after I explore more about teas, but after reading this, I wondered something. You said over time the taste/odor of the teas can be absorbed, but is it like a Yixing teapot, where you can ONLY use one type/flavor of tea with it? (it’s one reason why I don’t want one..I want a more versatile teapot)

    I’d like to use it for green teas, herbal teas, etc, but I want to make sure that it won’t ‘ruin’ the teapot by doing this as I’ve seen this stated in one other source, but in many others, nothing is stated about odors/tastes being absorbed, while on those same sources, they state that that happens with the Yixing teapots.


  6. Betsy T. says:

    I got one of these for Christmas. I tried the suggestion of putting almost boiling water into the teapot to warm the teapot while I boil the next bit of water for actual brewing. This definitely helped to keep the tea warmer, but the tea is never nice and hot after waiting the 5 minutes of brew time. Am I doing something wrong or is the team really supposed to just be warm and not hot?

  7. Beverly says:

    Trying to determine which Cast Iron teapots are actually made in Japan and which are from China. Since I plan to use the teapot every day I am concerned about lead from the enamel inside. Other than Iwachu I have not been able to determine if brands such as Rikyu, Kafu, Fuku and others are actually made in Japan.

  8. Robyn says:

    Beverly, those three seem to be Japanese–they are all Japanese brands at least. Of course, a lot of teapots (and many other items including name brand clothing and shoes, and electronics) are made in China these days but under supervision and direction and they meet the proper quality standards.

    Regarding the iron in teapots, while there may be some debate about it, generally most people agree that the iron leaked from cooking pots and teapots is actually not at all bad for you. In fact, it used to be the main way people got their iron dosages in the past. I don’t think you need to worry as much about iron as if you were using aluminum pots for cooking.

    Hope this is of some help! And hope you like your new teapot too!

    PS–Oops, saw you were worried about lead and not iron, my bad. Answering comments before I had my cup of tea in the morning. 😀

  9. Chamomile Tea Benefits says:

    I love cast iron teapots, but my only issue with them is that they are so expensive. Antique ones of course are gonna be a bit more then you run of the mill teapots, but even the newer models cost quite a bit more. Does anyone know where to get reasonably priced cast iron tea ware? Great post by the way 🙂

  10. Sara says:

    So . . . does anyone have info about potential lead from this type of teapot? I have tested high for lead levels and am trying to find the source in my house or diet. Thank you.

  11. Robyn says:

    Sara, when looking for a cast iron teapot you will find most of the higher quality lead-free teapots are advertised as such as it is understandably a genuine concern. Personally, I would stay away from teapots that do not advertise that they are lead free. There are some great teapots sold by Teavana for example, that are definitely lead-free and they’re fantastic looking teapots as well.

  12. janice says:

    I just bought an antique cast iron teapot, and spent quite a bit of money on it. Upon examination at home I noticed a lot of rust on the inside of the pot, I tried to clean out with steel wool but the opening is small and the pot is big and couldn’t seem to get it all. Boiled water in it and still looks like rust and when I wipe it black color is on the cloth. I read that the rust is OK but I really don’t want to drink tea that tastes like rust. Is there anyway to get the rust out. I have lots of cast iron skillets and pots that I season with oil but don’t want to have oil in a teapot. So how do I get the rust out and keep it out. Any help would be greatly appreciated as I was really excited to get this prize and drink tea daily. Thanks for any advice.

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