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Jun 20th, '08, 18:57
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Tetsubins?

by taitea » Jun 20th, '08, 18:57

Hello. I'm new to the forum and also new to tea culture. I've been doing some research after someone bought me a small tetsubin teapot as a gift. As far as I can tell, tetsubins are better for white/green teas? There also seems to be some controversy about them in regards to iron: some say it gives a bit of an iron taste and this good, others say it's bad, others deny it altogether...?

Would there be a noticeable difference between a tetsubin and a glass gaiwan for, say, white tea or green tea? What about darker teas?

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Jun 20th, '08, 20:04
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Re: Tetsubins?

by britt » Jun 20th, '08, 20:04

taitea wrote:Hello. I'm new to the forum and also new to tea culture. I've been doing some research after someone bought me a small tetsubin teapot as a gift. As far as I can tell, tetsubins are better for white/green teas? There also seems to be some controversy about them in regards to iron: some say it gives a bit of an iron taste and this good, others say it's bad, others deny it altogether...?

Would there be a noticeable difference between a tetsubin and a glass gaiwan for, say, white tea or green tea? What about darker teas?
I don't know too much about tetsubins either. Is it actually a teapot or a kettle? Did it come with a filter basket? Is it enameled inside (to prevent rust)?

A kettle would be used for boiling the water which will then be used to brew tea in another vessel like a kyusu. It normally wouldn't come with a filter and may not be enameled inside. It can be put directly on the stove.

The tetsubin teapots I've seen are meant to be used as the brewing vessel, come with a filter basket for the tea leaves, are enamaled inside to prevent rust, and usually cannot be placed directly on the stove.

If the pot has an enamel interior, then I'm not sure how the iron could affect the taste of the tea (unless it seeps through the enamel).

I've never owned a tetsubin so I don't know from experience which teas are best when brewed in one, or whether they're better than clay or porcelain teapots. I've heard pluses and minuses on the benefits of a tetsubin when used as both a kettle and a teapot.

I would wonder though about whether a cast iron teapot might retain heat too much to be suitable for lighter teas like green and white.

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Jun 20th, '08, 20:23
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by Katrina » Jun 20th, '08, 20:23

I've actually been told that tetsubin are not very good for green and white teas because their delicate flavor can be affected by the heat held by the pot and the iron itself. (I always thought it kind of ironic that Japanese teas really aren't to be brewed in these Japanese pots...But as Britt mentioned I think they were typically intended for heating/holding the hot water.)

I know there are others far more knowledgeable than I on this subject though so I look forward to learning too!

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by Mary R » Jun 20th, '08, 22:28

Odd as it may seem...I actually prefer my smallest tetsubin for brewing my better Japanese greens. Well, at least until I figure out decent brewing parameters for the particular tea. My tiny tetsubin has a much faster pour than my kyusu and lets me control the time aspect a little better. I figure as the leaf is really just in the pot for 90 seconds or so, heat loss/gain isn't necessarily the most important factor...especially when you're just getting a feel for it.

</2cents>

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by MarshalN » Jun 20th, '08, 23:55

There are two kinds of tetsubins -- small ones with enamel lining inside and are generally made for tourist/foreign trade as teapots, and then you have the large (1L volume or higher) tetsubins, usually unlined, and meant for boiling water. Which ones are you talking about?

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by taitea » Jun 21st, '08, 00:21

There are two kinds of tetsubins -- small ones with enamel lining inside and are generally made for tourist/foreign trade as teapots, and then you have the large (1L volume or higher) tetsubins, usually unlined, and meant for boiling water. Which ones are you talking about?
The first kind.

And as someone else mentioned, I was also confused about the irony that japanese pots don't work well with japanese teas. I guess the water-only usage would sort that out though.

So for people that don't use tetsubins for whites/greens, I guess they are using them for blacks? That seems strange to me, although I have no reasons why it should be strange (perhaps I don't associate black tea with Japan).

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by scruffmcgruff » Jun 21st, '08, 00:28

taitea wrote:
There are two kinds of tetsubins -- small ones with enamel lining inside and are generally made for tourist/foreign trade as teapots, and then you have the large (1L volume or higher) tetsubins, usually unlined, and meant for boiling water. Which ones are you talking about?
The first kind.

And as someone else mentioned, I was also confused about the irony that japanese pots don't work well with japanese teas. I guess the water-only usage would sort that out though.

So for people that don't use tetsubins for whites/greens, I guess they are using them for blacks? That seems strange to me, although I have no reasons why it should be strange (perhaps I don't associate black tea with Japan).
I may be wrong, but I'm pretty certain clay teapots (known as kyusu) are far more popular in Japan than tetsubin for brewing purposes. AFAIK, tetsubins aren't used much as teapots over there at all.

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by Bert » Jun 21st, '08, 05:24

I own a tetsubin without enamel in the inside and love it for boiling the water.

But I do not understand the usage of tetsubins (with enamel) for brewing tea because the material cast iron does not fit with tea brewing in an emotional, functional and aesthetic way for me. The same goes for cast iron tea cups. Cast iron saucers are hard on the border line. ;-)

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by chamekke » Jun 21st, '08, 10:05

I don't think the lined tetsubin are exclusively meant for the export market... but it's true that I haven't seen any Japanese in Canada using tetsubin to brew tea. The one time I've seen a tetsubin used really effectively, it was for flavoured tea which was served in a restaurant. I own several tetsubin, both lined and unlined, but must admit that they are primarily decorative; I've seldom used them!

For what it's worth, large unlined tetsubin are used as teakettles, i.e. for boiling water, in two versions of Chadou (the Way of Tea, "tea ceremony"): Ryakubon and Chitosebon.

Incidentally, a touch of rust is not felt to be harmful since women in particular can benefit from a little extra "iron supplement"; therefore there is no objection to drinking from an unlined cast-iron vessel per se. However, you do want to inhibit rust in general.

In Chadou the technique used to dry a kettle after use is as follows:
- Put it in a sink or basin, on a wooden trivet, with the kettle still filled with hot water.
- Ladle some of the hot water over the exterior sides of the kettle.
- Add a little cold water to the hot water in the kettle, and mix the two well.
- Ladle the slightly cooler water over the exterior sides of the kettle.
- Keep adding small amounts of cool water, ladling the mixture over the kettle to gradually bring the temperature down.
- While the kettle is still somewhat hot, up-end it to pour out as much water as possible.
- Scrub the bottom of the kettle with a natural-fibre bristle brush.
- Set the kettle upright and pat the interior dry with a cotton pad.
- Put it back on its heat source (now turned off) and allow the kettle to finish drying naturally, using the ambient heat still present in the cast iron.

This method of gradually cooling the cast iron prevents it from cracking.

This is the procedure for a standard kama or "kettle". It's been a very long time since I've seen a tetsubin in the tea room so I can't remember if it's exactly the same for that; but it probably is.

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by Smells_Familiar » Jun 21st, '08, 14:28

That's interesting, but it seems to me that applying water to the outside of the tetsubin and adding cool water to the interior would actually cool the iron faster and keep it wet longer than just emptying the kettle when it's still hot and allowing it to air dry. I guess it depends on how much cool water is added and how often, but the applying to the outside would surely (don't call me Shirley) cool the iron more quickly than not applying and air drying. I know --I'm nitpicking. :twisted:
I don't have a tetsubin, but if I ever do get an unlined one for use as a kettle, I'll surely not have time for the bathe and scrub ritual. Anywayzzz, the cooling of the iron by air drying will be much slower of a temperature change than the change the iron goes through when heating with flame.

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by scruffmcgruff » Jun 21st, '08, 14:59

chamekke wrote:This method of gradually cooling the cast iron prevents it from cracking.
Smells_Familiar, did you see this part? They're not going for speed, here. :)

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by Chip » Jun 21st, '08, 15:06

I own 3 lined tetsubins that I bought before I knew any better. I have to say, they are stunning, very aesthetically appealing. They generally adorn special places in my home...and have for almost 10 years. I am always drawn to them in photos shared here.

I used the one when I first got into tea...and used it for sencha only. It did brew remarkably well if I paid very close attention...in line with what Mary stated. I can remember some outstanding results. The biggest problem was...well they are tooo big.

I am tempted to break one out and try it again. But if not careful...it can make a really bitter cup. The suspended infuser basket actually works quite well for sencha since it does not expand as much as Chinese greens generally. I think the fact that the leaves are suspended actually helps in an iron pot.

I would love some unlined ones...but really good ones do not come cheap. I can buy a lot of sencha for that much. One day.....

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by Smells_Familiar » Jun 21st, '08, 15:27

scruffmcgruff wrote:Smells_Familiar, did you see this part? They're not going for speed, here. :)
Scruff, do you not get my point? I was implying that bathing the pot and allowing water to evaporate over and over again would cause the kettle to cool more quickly and stay in contact with water longer (=rust). This would not be as beneficial to the kettle as allowing the water to evaporate completely once and allowing the iron to cool more slowly. I understand that a slow cooling is mo better...

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by scruffmcgruff » Jun 21st, '08, 15:36

Smells_Familiar wrote:
scruffmcgruff wrote:Smells_Familiar, did you see this part? They're not going for speed, here. :)
Scruff, do you not get my point? I was implying that bathing the pot and allowing water to evaporate over and over again would cause the kettle to cool more quickly and stay in contact with water longer (=rust). This would not be as beneficial to the kettle as allowing the water to evaporate completely once and allowing the iron to cool more slowly. I understand that a slow cooling is mo better...
Ah, I see. You didn't mention rust explicitly, so I didn't see your point. That explains the confusion, haha.

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by Smells_Familiar » Jun 22nd, '08, 00:53

Taitea, I'm not sure which types of teas benefit most from a tetsubin, but I have done some quick taste experiments with an unlined tetsubin that my friend owns. We used the tetsubin as a kettle, and it seemed to me that the sencha brewed with the water from it was sort of "bolder" than the tea made with water from a glass kettle. While I can't say which types of teas would benefit most by this (cause I newby), I can say that the effect the kettle had on the sencha reminded me, to a lesser extent, of the effect that harder water (higher tds%) has on sencha compared to more "purified" water (lower tds%). The harder water and, to a lesser extent, the tetsubin water seemed to make the sencha more "bold" (for lack of a better term).

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