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Posts Tagged ‘tea accessories’

img_0893Last month, my buddy Lisa and I had a delightful lunch at Essencha, a local yet posh tea house. I will share more about Essencha later, because today’s post is about tea accessories.

After lunch, Lisa and I browsed around the tea house hoping to find a treasure or two to take home. There is one item in particular that I have been in need of… an infuser. Why? So I could rid myself of the dreaded tea ball – which while handy is somewhat cumbersome. Nevertheless, I was quite excited to find a universal stainless steel silicone infuser  by HuesNBrews with a  black lid and handle, sitting on a shelf  just waiting for me to purchase. The purchase price was $15.00.

Ever since I brought my new tea infuser home and used it for the first time I have been in love. First, the infuser fits easily into practically every tea cup and mug in my home. The lid makes a perfect resting place for the infuser after removal from your cup. The handle fosters easy transfer of the infuser from tea cup or mug to resting – the black rubber-like covering doesn’t conduct heat and prevents the infuser from burning your fingertips. Even the smallest tea leaves, like rooibos remain trapped inside the HuesNBrews Tea Infuser – it’s holes are extremely small, yet plentiful.

Additionally, I found that after use, the infuser is easy to clean with mild soap and water.

img_0886It has been officially one month since purchase and even though I use the HuesNBrews Tea Infuser multiple times a day on a daily basis, I have yet to see even one spot of rust. This is pretty impressive considering I have several rusted tea balls.

If you are looking for a new tea infuser, I highly recommend the HuesNBrews Tea Infuser.Unfortunately, after visiting the HuesNBrews website I found the infuser can only be purchased for wholesale. Therefore, you will have to find a retail store that carries HuesNBrews products, like Essencha if you live in the Cincinnati area or online. While surfing the net, I found the HuesNBrews Tea Infuser on eBay for $9.99, Pearl Fine Teas for $12.50, and AlwaysBrilliant.com for $13.99.

Until we chat again… Happy Tea Drinking!

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Several months ago, I set out on a journey to purchase Yixing Teapots. I initially found myself unable to make a decision. Selecting and purchasing Yixing teaware did not appear as simple as going to the local department store and buying a five-piece place setting by Mikasa.  Calphalon cookware.  Or glassware from William Sonoma. All of these are brand names that I know and love.

But Yixing Teaware? I was at a total loss – style, pricing, size, etc. Where does one begin? I also became dazed when I read and/or received additional information about – pour, authenticity, seasoning and more. It seemed like a certain level of expertise was required, that mind you I did not have, to simply select a teapot.

Thanks to several of my readers, I received the guidance I needed and soon after became the proud owner of three Yixing teapots and four cups. For the time being, my Yixing journey was put to rest. That is until recently, when I received a comment from a Yixing importer and seller containing additional guidance around pricing. I found the information very helpful to assist with future purchases. Thus instead of leaving as a comment, I have turned the expert’s advice into a post. I do hope you find the insight useful as you prepare to purchase Yixing Teaware. Take a look at what Jane, the proprietor of Necessiteas, has to say about Yixing pricing differences…

“Yixing teapots are functional art. Of course there can be fake Yixing pots (non zhi sha clay) but assuming the teapots are real, there are several factors that affect the price of a teapot. In the price range of $10.00-$100.00 these are some of the variables. One is the usefulness of the pot. Before I price a pot, I check the pour and lid. If there are drips from the spout or the lid fits poorly than the teapot is going to sell for a lower price. Another factor is the finish. If the finish is fine and smooth it will fetch a higher price. Red Zhu Ni ( one type of Zhi sha) clay will fetch a higher price. This clay provides a nice sheen on the surface of the pot. These pots are often small and often reserved for Gong fu or cermonial tea. The design of the pot is also a factor. Some are just more appealing than others to US buyers.

Once you get into the higher priced pots, the talent and the reputation of the artist will set the price. A pot created by someone without a craftsman designation may be beautiful, but generally will not garner a higher price. Among the artists, there is no shame in copying a master’s work. So you may see two pots that look very similar and one will be priced at $20.00 and the other at $20,000. A higher priced pot that is made by a contemporary artist will almost always come with a certificate of authenticity.

So, there isn’t necessarily anything wrong with lower priced Yixing teapots. They are great for everyday use. The higher priced pots tend to be more for collectors than for everyday use. It’s really a matter of personal preference.”

I have fallen in love with my Yixing teapots. While not a collector, I look forward to acquiring more. They are beautiful pieces of functional art whose beauty adds something special to every use. Thanks again Jane for sharing.

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Its official, I have taken tea to another level. I was so in love with my new Yixing Teapots I decided to get really creative and use CafePress to make a Teapot Mousepad for my desk at work. This way, I can enjoy looking at my lovely teapot everyday, even if I am not making tea. Check out the picture in the post. I have received numerous laughs, complements, and jokes about my new mousepad.

For those who know me, I really like trying anything creative – from arts and crafts to writing to knitting to making cards, etc.. Additionally, I love taking photographs. Thus my latest creative idea – although creativity is obviously in the eye of the beholder – was to create tea related paraphernalia. Hopefully, this isn’t too cheesy, but I just wanted to share my newly created postcards, greeting cards (blank inside), calenders, mousepads, etc. with other tea lovers like myself.

If you have time take a look at Tea Escapade on CafePress and tell me what you think. Honest criticism is definitely appreciated. I’m a big girl… I can handle it.

Until we chat again… Happy Tea Drinking!

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In response to my question about seasoning techniques for Yixing Teapots, I was pleasantly surprised by a comment left by one of my readers. In an earlier blog post entitled “Seasoning Your Yixing“, I listed several techniques found via Internet research. Since that time, I received various responses that have been helpful and full of insight. 

Jo, the proprietor of YaYa House of Excellent Teas, provided another seasoning technique as well as some additional tips. I hope these posts are useful resources for other Yixing Teaware newbies like myself.

“On a basic level, all of the mentioned methods (in my prior post – Seasoning Your Yixing) do the same:
- rinse teapot to remove dust
- fill with tea and let sit for a while (or submerge the whole pot in tea)
- rinse and let dry

The main difference is in time and whether to submerge the whole teapot or only season the inside.

I’ve seasoned quite a few yixing pots over the years and believe, the pot should definitely be submerged in tea for a longish (1 hour to overnight) time. When people speak about seasoning and patina, not only the inside but also the outside of the teapot is important. I’d also recommend to use an old toothbrush to clean out dust particles from the inside.

My steps usually are:

  1. Place new yixing pot into a pot of cold water ((take lid off the pot and place in pot separately).
  2. Bring to a boil and simmer for 10 minutes.
  3. Remove yixing pot and lid from pot, rinse with warm water and scrub with toothbrush.
  4. Place teapot plus lid in a pot of fresh cold water and bring to a boil.
  5. Remove yixing pot from water.
  6. Add a decent amount of tea leaves into pot and put back in hot water (some of them will float out, most will stay in pot).
  7. Simmer for about 1 hour.
  8. Let yixing sit in pot over night.
  9. Remove all tea leaves (you might need to rinse with the tea from the big pot) and let the open yixing dry out of direct sunlight (note that I DON’T rinse the pot with water!)

At the end, most of the patina comes from frequent use. There’s different approaches to creating an even patina, but I usually don’t use just water on my teapots except to preheat before brewing tea. After a gong fu session, I brew an extra infusion that I use to clean the teapot with. I pour this infusion off into a faircup, then remove all leaves I can and rinse the inside of the yixing with some of the infusion to remove the rest of the leaves. If I want to build up a patina quickly, I rinse the outside of the teapot with the rest of the infusion, rubbing it in my hands to spread the tea over the whole surface of the teapot. This way, you can create a nice patina in about 2 month time for teapots you use 3-4 times a week.

Keep in mind, there’s no science to this. As long as you clean your teapot and give it an initial seasoning with tea (whichever way you chose to use), you should be on your way.”

Thanks again Jo, for sharing your knowledge.

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Now that I am a proud owner of Yixing Teaware, I felt it important to learn more about these precious, handcrafted teapots. In preparation of the first use, I thought it important to determine if the teapots required special care. I must admit, albeit a little sheepishly, that in my excitement I used one of my new teapots prior to conducting the research. (I refuse to admit which one.) After conducting my research, I found on three different websites (Yixing.com, WikiHow, and Culinary Teas) that it is important to “season” Yixing Teaware prior to using.

There seems to be three main techniques for used for seasoning Yixing Teaware. While I am tempted to use the easier of the four, I have opted to use the technique that appeared most frequently on various websites. My findings are listed below:

Method One

  1. Fill the teapot with boiling water and allow it to sit for ten minutes.
  2. Drain the water.
  3. Fill the pot with boiling water again and add one teaspoon of your favorite loose tea leaves. Remember, this should be the type of tea you will use this pot for. Allow to sit for ten minutes.
  4. Drain the tea. Now your pot is ready for use.

Method Two

  1. Pre-heat your Yixing teapot by filling it with hot water and then draining it.
  2. Place one teaspoon of loose tea into the preheated Yixing teapot.
  3. Fill with hot water and wait for at least one minute.
  4. Enjoy your tea either by pouring it into a cup or by drinking directly from the Yixing teapot, which is the traditional way of using it.
  5. Take the lid off the teapot and place the pieces in a vessel large enough to cover the pieces with water.
  6. Place some tea leaves in the water and bring to a slow boil (rapid boiling could damage your pot). Slow boil for an hour.
  7. Remove from the heat and let the pot remain in the water for twenty four hours.
  8. Remove the pot from the water and rinse well.
  9. Put the teapot back into the larger vessel and bring it to a slow boil again for an hour.
  10. Remove from heat and let it cool down again in the same tea water. The next day remove the teapot and rinse it in hot water. It is now ready to use.

Method Three 

  1. Pre-heat your Yixing teapot by filling it with hot water and then draining it.
  2. Place one teaspoon of loose tea into the preheated Yixing teapot.
  3. Fill with hot water and wait for at least one minute.
  4. Enjoy your tea either by pouring it into a cup or by drinking directly from the Yixing teapot, which is the traditional way of using it. 

Method 4 – The Gerenda Method

  1. Gather together 1 large water pot (the kind one uses to boil water for spaghetti), tongs, paper towels, 3-5 liters of a pure mineral water or filtered water, plastic wrap, the tea destined for your pot.
  2. Gently rinse any manufacturing dust/residue from the inside of your Yixing ware with cold water. Then, with dry paper towels wipe out the inside of your Yixing ware to make sure you get all the dust/residue. If not, this is a very unpleasant taste.
  3. Bring 3-5 liters of water to a rolling boil. The amount of water depends on the size of the teapot. You want to make sure that the amount of water is enough to completely submerse your teapot, tea set, or other Yixing ware.
  4. Cut the heat immediately after the water comes to a boil. Add 3-5 teaspoons of tea to the water, and let steep for 10 minutes. After ten minutes, with the tongs, ever so gently submerse your Yixing ware into the brew.
  5. Let stand for at least 30 minutes, or until the heat from the water pot is no longer a danger. Then wrap the top of the pot with plastic wrap to “seal” the pot. The curing process lasts exactly one week from the day of submersion. Check on the Yixing ware periodically throughout the week.
  6. Gently remove your Yixing ware from the pot and rinse with cold water on the seventh day. Never use soaps of any kind on your Yixing ware.
  7. Allow pot to dry completely. Now your Yixing ware is completely cured and ready for use!
If you are knowledgeable about Yixing Teaware and have utilized one or all of the seasoning methods listed above, please stop by and comment. I am interested in knowing which technique worked best for you. Additionally, what were the determining factors that helped you decided which method was better than another. Finally, if you utilizing a different process/technique for seasoning your Yixing Teaware, please stop by and share your technique and why you think it is the best. Until then… Happy Tea Drinking!
References:
1. http://www.yixing.com/teapotinfo.html
2. http://www.wikihow.com/Season-a-Yixing-Teapot
3. http://www.culinaryteas.com/Seasoning-Yixing.html

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I am quite embarrassed that it took me almost a month to post pictures of my beloved new Yixing Teapots. Nevertheless, I wanted to share pictures of these little gems. I must admit that at this time I think I am more enamored with how adorable they are than I probably should be. That is once I got over the initial shock of how small individual serve Yixing Teapots really are.

My teapots were purchased from Necessiteas, just click on the name to access the website. “Necessiteas is a small company that believes in the beauty of yixing teapots as well as the enjoyment and health benefits of tea.” I found the company very easy to work with and would certainly purchase more teapots from them in the future. I had such a difficult time deciding on a teapot considering there was a large variety to choose from. Once my decision was made, I even purchased the most delicate looking cups.

Take a look at my purchases:

Temple Teapot

To the left is the Temple Teapot. As seen in the picture, this teapot has a seperate infuser in addition to the strainer in the spout. A forest is etched into the front of this Yixing Teapot, while the back contains Chinese characters. This pot holds 7 ounces.

I have decided to use this pot for oolong teas. During the first brew, I noticed the lid dribbles down the spout when pouring.  As recommended, I tried to pour at slightly different angles with little success at curbing the dribble.

In the picture to the right, you can see the Chinese characters spoken about above more clearly. (I love the color of this teapot.)

I had so much fun during my first brewing experience. Feeling just like a kid in a candy store, this was the first teapot of the three that I decided to use. Too bad I didn’t have anyone to share this tea experience with.

I wanted to drink out of my little teacups with a friend who loves tea as much as I do. Okay, even half as much would do.

Now, on to my next Yixing Teapot…

Four Pictures Teapot

This little teapot was an unexpected find. It is the smallest of the three teapots, but so much fun to look at over and over again.

When brewing I did not experience any dribbles from the lid or spout. As the smallest of the pots, I dedicated its use to green tea. Of all the teas I drink, green tea is probably the one I drink the least. This is not to mean that I do not drink a significant amount – especially with my recent Green Tea Sampler purchase.

The Four Pictures Yixing Teapot holds 6 ounces.

Basket Teapot

The last teapot in my new Yixing Teapot “collection” is the Basket Teapot. I immediately loved the intricate design of this pot as seen in the picture to the right. While I have been duly 

warned that intricate designs impact the natural patina that occurs with continued use, I purchased this pot anyway.

After much deliberation, I decided to use this teapot when brewing white teas. I tend to brew more Oolong and White tea then all of the other teas I enjoy drinking, hence the bigger pot designations. This pot holds approximately 7.5 ounces.

When brewing and pouring, I found that this pot had no dribbles at all. It is such a fun teapot to brew my tea.

You’ve seen my fun purchases – what do you think?

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While out of town one of my co-workers visited a quaint tea house and instinctively thought of me.

I was so excited when she returned to work and surprised me with this gift. Isn’t it amazing how the simple things can brighten up your day. This absolutely adorable ceramic tea bag holder is my favorite. Notice the play on words… sensuali*tea. Wouldn’t you know, this describes me to a “tea”.

 Nevertheless, I love getting new tea accessories and this tea bag holder is no exception. The next time I’m in New Jersey, I’ll be sure to visit High SocieTea House, located in Wayne, New Jersey.

If you have been there, drop me a line and share your experience.

Until then… Happy Tea Drinking!

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With great excitement last week, I purchased my first Yixing Teapot and teacups. After a great deal of research as well as conversations with Jo from YaYa House of Excellent Teas and Jason from Bearsblog, I discovered that I still have a lot to learn.

Jason sent me some great information to use as a guide when purchasing Yixing Teaware. In addition, he provided supplemental information for use as guidance to determine if previously purchased Yixing Teaware is fake or phony. I give Jason all of the credit for the remainder of this article. It is his wisdom and knowledge reflected below.

I asked the question… “How do I know if my Yixing Teaware is authentic?” To wit the response, while quite detailed, provided clear guidance…

Many pottery traditions exist in Taiwan, some homegrown, some imported from China and Japan. Beware of Taiwanese synthetic stoneware pots that resemble the classic shapes and colors of Yixing pots. These pots are not to be confused with shino/anagama pots (resemble Korean and Japanese stoneware), homegrown Taiwanese volcanic stoneware (which come in colors not similar to Yixing clay), or soft-glazed new long-quan-style celadon, which is usually sky blue, white, or green.

Taiwanese and Chaozhou clay teapots tend to look very similar. Rather than hand-building with stamp-cut patterns, most Taiwanese and nearly all Chaozhou potters wheel-throw the teapot body, resulting in many small concentric circles on the inside of the pot, much like the interior of clay kyuusu. This is probably the easiest way to tell that a pot is not yixing.

Additionally, most Chaozhou pots are heavily burnished/polished on the exterior; they look ultra-shiny, almost like they were shined with wax; this is sometimes the case with Taiwan pots, but they also come in a more matte finish. The walls of Taiwan/Chaozhou pots are much thinner than most yixing. Their red color is often similar to that of terracotta, rather than the purple-red or black-red of Yixing. Their green is darker and more synthetic in appearance than the natural green lu ni yixing clay. Often, Chaozhou pots are scraped into black relief, creating floral or dragon patterns.

Lastly, Taiwan/Chaozhou pots often have elaborate, machine-made company stamps on the bottom, often displaying small-font raised text in a big circle around the company chop, rather than the simple chinese chop stamp usually found on yixing. Yixing chops generally have sunken letters instead of raised type.

Yixing pots have thicker walls, often show signs of being scraped with wooden tools–but not concentric throwing lines–and when new contain a fine dust of quartz and mineral at the bottom of the pot. They’re generally not as burnished or shiny, but there are exceptions. Because they’re thicker-walled, they tend to weigh more.

To simplify the matter, a simple test can be conducted to aid in determining the authenticity of Yixing Teaware.

First, pour boiling water in the empty pot and then put the lid on. Next, pour boiling water over the pot. Finally, lift the pot to your nose and smell: sand clay teaware (Yixing and natural stoneware) should smell like hot rocks or hot sand. Chaozhou pots smell like earth. Taiwanese pots smell synthetic, unless made from natural stoneware clay.

This test can also be used to figure out the pour time and make other observations about the pot that can affect which tea you use it for and how you raise it. Is it airtight? Does it dribble? If it does dribble, does pouring slower or changing how you tip the pot (pour from the wrist or the elbow or both) stop the dribble? Does the water collect on the outside of the pot or lid? Dribbling can cause a seasoning stain line from the spout to the bottom of the pot. Where water collects, the seasoning will be heavier. If you want an even patina, wipe the dribble after you pour and wipe the areas where water collects over the pot with a tea-wetted towel after each use.

I am very thankful to Jason for providing this information. I officially have three new pots which I am dedicating one to my Puerhs, one to my white teas, and one to my oolongs. Or maybe one to my green teas. Definitely not my black teas as I don’t drink them as often. WOW! I can’t decided – perhaps I should order two more Yixing Teapots. Until then… Happy Tea Drinking!

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I began this morning looking to purchase my first piece of Yixing teaware. Initially, I began my search looking for a pretty teapot.  Yes, I know that is the girl in me. Needless to say, my search led me to various websites where many advised purchasing Yixing teaware. Some of the reasons cited centered around the craftsmanship, the history, the beauty.

If you are not familiar with Yixing teaware (also called Purple Sand),  it is a traditional pot made from Yixing clay used to brew tea. Originating in China, Yixing clay is made from clay produced in the region of the town of Yixing, in the eastern Chinese province of Jiangsu. 

With great anticipation, I set out to find a Yixing teaware set. And was almost set on buying this particular set from Mrs. Lins Kitchen. That is until I began seeing warnings about fake Yixings coated with shoe polish to appear authentic and low quality clay imposters. On the opposite end of the spectrum, I found retail sellers with authentic Yixing teapots ranging from $200 to $1000 not including matching cups. Now I sit in front of my Mac in a quandry…

How do I discern an original from a fake? Do I have to tap into my inheritance in order to obtain a quality Yixing? Is a Yixing truly worth the hype? Especially when the experts recommend that you designate brewing one type of tea per Yixing pot due to the porous nature of the clay.

Consider this post a call to the Yixing experts. What advice would you give to a Yixing novice?

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Tea Cosies?

Perhaps I am a little over-the-top about tea. I’ll accept that potential personality challenge; because life just isn’t that exciting unless you are over-the-top about something. Right?

I have come to the conclusion that there is enough information about tea for me to research for two lifetimes. Tea types, tea health benefits, tea accessories. Tea accessories…the very thought tickles me. Especially when I came across tea pot and tea cup cosies for sale. Yes, the original beer cosy has been upgraded to Bourgeoisie status. From cute little old ladies to chic business women are now purchasing and using the newest trend in home decor…tea cosies.

Here are a few that you may want to add to your wish list of tea accessory “must haves”.

Hand Knit Mug Cozy

Stylish, trendy and practical! This hand knit cabled wrap by Julee-Que is made from a cotton blend yarn that hugs the generously sized 10 ounce mug. The wrap fastens with a rectangular etched silver button made in Italy and slips on/off the mug for ease of washing. Believe it or not, the mug is included which makes this a great buy! 

Julee-Que offers this mug cosy in a variety of colors, each displaying a distinctly different button for closure. This item guarantees no more burned hands from hot tea!

 

Hand Knit Tea Pot Cosy

Until a few days ago, I had never heard of a tea pot cosy. Apparently, I am the only remaining person in the Western Hemisphere who has not. Needless to say, I was excited to discover this hand knitted and felted Tea Cosy and Hotpad by Delightful Knits. This 16 inch, two cup teapot fits snugly inside the Tea Pot Cosy made with 100% wool Lambs Pride yarn.  Additionally, the flowers, Acorns, and Maple leaves were all hand crocheted.

This set is completed with an adorable hotpad measuring 7 1/2 inches point to point. The hotpad is great for keeping fine surfaces from being marred. Not to mention it helps insulate the entire pot – keeping your warm brew warm. 

This is a perfect bridal shower or wedding gift for tea lovers. Visit Delightful Knits - there are several tea cosy sets to choose from.

 

Embroidered Tea Pot Cosy

My last find of the week is from Hughes and Nordberg. This beautiful tea cosy was handcrafted using vintage hand embroidery material. Measuring 22cm high by 32.5 cm wide, this cosy will fit most standard sized tea pots making any tea time extra special.

The cosy is loose lined with a made to measure insulating layer that can be washed separately. The embroidered cosy cover should be cleaned by hand with care.

Visit Hughes and Nordberg to discover the other treasures found in their shop. I guarantee you will love this little shop.

I hope you visit each of these shops. Maybe even purchase a cosy or two. Just make sure you return and comment about how much you love your new cosies as you lead the pack of hip and trendy tea drinkers.

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