Question: "I was just eyeing your Tokoname teapot and it got me wondering… what do you look for (or rather, what should *I* look for) in a teapot? This one sounds like it's geared toward Japanese greens, which I do not drink often. So I'm trying to figure out what would be best for me and what I should look out for."
- Amber, New York City
That is a good question. When looking for teapots the vast amount of choices can seem overwhelming. There are white china teapots, stone wear teapots, special Chinese clay teapots (Yixing) and so on. With all of these teapot options, it is almost impossible to say which one is the best - there are just too many variables and some teapots are made for a particular type of tea. Instead of going into every style of teapot, I am going to talk about what to look for in a teapot. In this first article about teapots, I am going to talk specifically about one of the most important things – the chamber.
The teapot chamber is where you put the tea and water
The chamber needs to be big enough to allow the tea leaves to expand as well as let the water circulate. The easiest way to see if a teapot has a chamber that is big enough is to look at the tea when you are finished brewing it. If there looks like there is a lot of room left in the chamber, then it is good size. If the tea leaves look like they are a bit compressed, you need to move a size up. Now I know this doesn’t help when looking to buy a teapot, so what I do is look at the shape of the chamber. At a minimum, it needs to be as wide as it is tall. In my opinion, the wider the chamber the better. So if it looks short and squat, then the chamber should be perfect.
Infusers play a large role in tea expansion
Infuser baskets are those mesh looking things that make straining and cleaning your teapot easy. They are great for everyday tea, but you need to make sure that they are big enough.
Why is a small infuser bad?
If the infuser basket is too small, the tea leaves will never open fully meaning that the full flavor is never going to be released. The perfect example of a tea brewing device that is too small is a “tea ball.” A tea ball is a small, egg shaped contraption that tends to have a chain at the end. After you brew tea with one of these, the tea usually is stuffed in there to the point where you almost need to pry it out. This is not ideal.
Some examples of good chambers and bad chambers and infusers
Here is a picture of a tea ball. Notice how the tea is stuffed in there.
Here is a teapot that is too narrow to let the tea leaves open up (but it is really attractive)
Here is a picture of a teapot with a nice wide chamber with a built-in fine mesh infuser (and a shameless plug involving our Tokoname Teapot)
The first step to finding a good teapot is to ensure that the tea leaves will open up and brew properly - small chambers can cause your tea to stay condensed, therefore not releasing all flavor. Keep an eye out over the next few weeks when I break down other crucial element of buying a great teapot!
photos: www.flickr.com/photos/digitalcolony/4266726048 www.flickr.com/photos/michaelcamilleri/6158565539
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