Sep 24th, '09, 17:18
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Tetsubin , new vs. old ?

by zencha » Sep 24th, '09, 17:18

Just received an e-mail from Japan that prices are soaring for vintage/antique tetsubin ?
Aesthetics aside , do old really boil preferable tea water ?

Sep 24th, '09, 18:20
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Re: Tetsubin , new vs. old ?

by Intuit » Sep 24th, '09, 18:20

Answer, PC-style: Oh, you absolutely MUST have one, it's the bees-knees for chanyou aesthetics.

Answer, technical reality: Historically, cast-iron kettles were made to slightly sweeten very soft surface water supply in Japan and also China (China pioneered the invention of pig iron and sand casting methods, about 3100 yrs ago). Soft water may taste slightly sour to some people from the low pH resulting from natural organic acids in poorly buffered (mineral poor) water. Combined with perceived slight astringency or bitterness in green teas, adding minerals with clay or iron kettles that may chelate organic acids and 'sweeten' water could be desirable, but it depends very much on the quality of water you are using for tea.

By releasing small amounts of iron that taste sweet to most people*, using these iron kettles to boil water improved the quality of the infused tea. There is a marginal chance that cast iron kettles also absorb small amounts of sour-tasting dissolved organic matter and some minerals, but this would vary seasonally in lakes and streams. The adherent coating helped to keep the cast iron surface from deteriorating. Cast iron, cared for properly, lasts a long time.

*sweet-salty-sour taste sensing varies among people, over a range of dissolved iron concentrations in water.

If your water supply is moderately hard, if it already has iron**, you may not find much improvement in your tea prepared with these kettles.

** North America sits on the largest chunk of iron in the world, the Canadian Shield. Glacier movement scraped and carried much of this ancient volcanic rock southward over a large portion of the US. The Eastern and Western coastal regions also have volcanic iron deposits that affect ground and surface water iron content. The east coast of the US was once linked to the west coast of Africa and shared a mountain range before the supercontinent broke up many millions of years ago).

If your water is overly purified (water purification is removing organics and minerals, yielding a flat-tasting water), buy a cast-iron kettle.

If you want an vintage or antique Japanese kettle with the patina of age, buy an old one that has a reconditioned interior, comes with papers for guaranteed quality/authenticity (insurability). Expect to pay for escalating demand and rarity, overseas shipping (as high as an extra $100 on the base cost), possible finders fee, and reconditioning costs.

If you want one that doesn't require reconditioning, buy a new one, for they are still made, in the old Japanese cities that specialized in iron-trade. You will pay for shipping costs and overseas demand, but these kettles still work just as the old ones did, sans the patina of time and use.

If you want one that is authentically made, not especially expensive, and not top tier, but pretty good, try this one: wabisabi-world.com.

The site owner is responsive to questions, here is his honest answer to mine, concerning authentic production methods, kettle lining, and whether or not they were produced in reduction kiln conditions.

"Our tetsubins are not enamel lined (except for the E-72 Tetsubin which is for warming sake). I am not sure on the reducing kilns but our manufacture has informed us that the unlined kettles will give you some iron content when you boil water with them(similar to cooking with iron skillets). Our kettles can be used directly on the stovetop and are quite heavy (around 6.5lbs.). All our products are made in Japan with most of the kettles handmade by artisans using techniques carried on for over 800 years (we actually met one of the artists and toured his studio in Japan, please check out our travel diary to see pictures). With proper care, the tetsubin should last you a lifetime-even with heavy use."

Sure enough, if you read his blog, he visits the Japanese foundry that makes the kettles he sells here in the US (shipping generally about 11 bucks per unit for the West Coast, more if you live eastwards).

Although I worked as a metallurgical tech long ago, I am not a cast iron expert. I cannot guarantee that these kettles are made under reducing conditions. I can't ascertain that all vintage or antique kettles were made this way, either.

That is the most accurate answer I can provide you for your decision on whether to invest in an antique or new Japanese cast iron tetsubin.

Edited to improve conceptual wording.
Last edited by Intuit on Sep 25th, '09, 00:26, edited 1 time in total.

Sep 24th, '09, 18:32
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Re: Tetsubin , new vs. old ?

by Intuit » Sep 24th, '09, 18:32

Disclaimer: I have no business or personal ties with the company listed above that sells Iwachu tetsubin. I was interested in these kettles and how they were made and wished to investigate purchase options, including antique and vintage tetsubin via online retailers and auctions.

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Sep 24th, '09, 20:39
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Re: Tetsubin , new vs. old ?

by woozl » Sep 24th, '09, 20:39

I scored this for 35$ at an antique show.
Image

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Sep 24th, '09, 20:42
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Re: Tetsubin , new vs. old ?

by brandon » Sep 24th, '09, 20:42

Hi Intuit - did you go with a vintage or new tetsubin?
If vintage do you still find the sweetness from leeched iron particles?
How do you rate the water against an inert kettle like glass in your personal experience?

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Sep 24th, '09, 21:13
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Re: Tetsubin , new vs. old ?

by Salsero » Sep 24th, '09, 21:13

woozl wrote:I scored this for 35$ at an antique show.
World class score, Dude!


:mrgreen:

Sep 24th, '09, 21:34
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Re: Tetsubin , new vs. old ?

by Intuit » Sep 24th, '09, 21:34

Woozl, I'm confidant you recognize the fact that your purchases were atypical. Your antique dealer clearly didn't know what they had and didn't do their research homework. I'm also sure you didn't clue them in before purchase.

Brandon: my local water supply is unsuitable for uses other than bathing and washing the car (if you don't mind water spots).

Typical geology of where I live, see
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Columbia_R ... salt_Group

Bottled water sold here ranges from low and high side of moderate (~50-80 ppm CaCO3) and has sufficient iron to taste 'normal'. None of the water sampled is demineralized. Each of the 4 recently tested bottled waters are 'filtered, ozonated, activated carbon treated'. Looks like supply is going to run about $20-25 extra a month (on top of the $15+tax for tap filter for cooking and plant watering).

This is a major rip off, at about $0.75/gal, considering their production and container costs are just $0.03/gallon. Safeway and Wally World collude on pricing, along with other regional grocers and bottled water distributors, so that packaged water is now 4x the price of just 4 years ago.

Water has ceased to be a 'free public good'.

I don't need the added iron. If I purchase, it will be from the company mentioned above, for reasons of prudent pricing, aesthetics and the outside chance that I will relocate to an area with soft water supply (akin to that of my previous residence of nearly a decade).

A note: Overseas iron and steel commodity prices started to climb more than a year ago, then collapsed in the recent economic downturn. China iron ore (largest global supplier) output is again rising, but finished iron and steel demand remains high, so, as of about 1 a week ago, wholesale prices (steel and iron) are tight.

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Sep 24th, '09, 22:53
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Re: Tetsubin , new vs. old ?

by orguz » Sep 24th, '09, 22:53

I have to admit that Tetsubins are over rated they really don't make teas better imo, I don't even use it anymore after using a clay kettle. Don't buy into the hype :P like I did :evil:

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Sep 24th, '09, 23:01
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Re: Tetsubin , new vs. old ?

by Chip » Sep 24th, '09, 23:01

The Great Tetsubin Contraversy rages on! :D

I want one like Woozls, at $35!!!!!!!

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Sep 24th, '09, 23:27
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Re: Tetsubin , new vs. old ?

by Robert Fornell » Sep 24th, '09, 23:27

Intuit...... you're awesome!


Care to do a vulcan mind meld?


R
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Sep 24th, '09, 23:56
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Re: Tetsubin , new vs. old ?

by Tead Off » Sep 24th, '09, 23:56

IMO, if you are a Japanese green tea drinker, a tetsubin will make your experience even better, taste-wise. It really does add a sweetness to your tea, but, as Intuit said, there are variables.

The Hojo God (hojotea.com) has extensive information on his website. He is the only person I've come across that seems to understand the differences in the manufacture and creation of tetsubin. None of the other sellers I've talked to could give conclusive answers to my questions. Worshipping at the Hojo God's temple is not cheap but it has its rewards in peace of mind that the product you are getting is what you really want in a tetsubin.

Old vs New? Unless you get a silver one, new is the way to go. 99% of old ones have rust problems. Woozl was very lucky. Tetsubin build up scale (white deposits). Using different water on top of that scale can result in poor tasting water. Better to start with your own water supply in a new one. Also, with new tetsubin, you are assured of high quality casting, reduction fired product (non-lined), and, if you buy from a reputable source, a kettle that is not mass produced which will look sharper and more detailed than a kettle made with the same mold 100 or more times.

Also, the difference in quality can only be seen when you touch and feel the actual product. At the Hojo God's temple, he had high end tetsubin that were amazing. The look and feel were head and shoulders above what we normally think is good! But, wait until we start arguing the pros and cons of silver tetsubin, the undisputed king of kettles!!

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Sep 25th, '09, 00:13
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Re: Tetsubin , new vs. old ?

by Salsero » Sep 25th, '09, 00:13

orguz wrote:I have to admit that Tetsubins are over rated they really don't make teas better imo, I don't even use it anymore after using a clay kettle. Don't buy into the hype :P like I did
Oh my lord, you've done a 180° turn! :shock:

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Sep 25th, '09, 01:34
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Re: Tetsubin , new vs. old ?

by Oni » Sep 25th, '09, 01:34

Those of you that think you have tried water from a tetsubin, and you bought yours from local teashops, or not reputable vendor, those do not know that real reduction fired nanbu or yamagata tetsubin is diffrent from those fake ones, and those of you who think that you bought and antique reduction fired single mold nanbu tetsubin master peice for 35 $, well think again, so do not draw conclusions unless your tetsubin is from a certified master, made from the right material with the right procedure, and it is not treated with urushi on the inside.
Look at the prices at http://www.suzukimorihisa.com/htdocs_e/home.html
http://www.hojotea.com/categ_e/tetsubin.htm
http://artisticnippon.com/product/iwachu/tetsubin.html
http://www.kyoto-teramachi.or.jp/horaido/greentea.htm
If you buy from other than these vendors you probably get on of those trendy new tetsubin fakes made in Hamburg, Germany, made for the new european teahouses that use artificial parfume to alter their teas to the better. P.S. Under 200 $ there is no tetsubin that will alter your tea experience, better to use a normal ibric to heat water.
And to answer your question which is better new or old, it is simple new tetsubin is better, do not believe any preaching that says other wise, those expencieve old ones are made in kyoto with wax mold, you don`t know if they are reduction fired and activated, and the rust problem and leeking might ruin the whole experience, and if they were neglected and not constantly used with good water, that might cause some problems.

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Sep 25th, '09, 02:18
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Re: Tetsubin , new vs. old ?

by MarshalN » Sep 25th, '09, 02:18

Oni, I must strongly disagree with your statement here. Every single one of my antique tetsubins are under $200, and I can guarantee you they do something to my water. I've done blind taste test with people who have no idea what to expect and the answer is the same.

Price is NOT a good indicator of quality. Just because something is $500 does not mean it's authentic. With antiques, if you know where to look, how to look, and what to look for, you can find relatively cheap things for a great bargain.

The vendors you've linked to all charge at least 200% margin on their wares. Just because you don't have a way to find them for Japanese local prices doesn't mean anything cheaper is definitely fake or bad.

Once again, high price is not a reliable indicator of quality. It will serve you well to remember that.

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Sep 25th, '09, 04:23
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Re: Tetsubin , new vs. old ?

by woozl » Sep 25th, '09, 04:23

Intuit wrote:Woozl, I'm confidant you recognize the fact that your purchases were atypical. Your antique dealer clearly didn't know what they had and didn't do their research homework. I'm also sure you didn't clue them in before purchase.
She had no clue. Teacher always said "homework pays". :)
The Tetsubin is very clean and well cared for.
Almost no rust, and very little scale.
The kyusu is maybe 100 yrs. old. Probably even more of a score.
I wouldn't be suprised if they came from the same estate.
So sorry about your h2o issues.

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