Dec 20th 15 12:37 pm
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What kinds of kettles were used historically?

by absence » Dec 20th 15 12:37 pm

I know that in Japan, cast iron tetsubin were used. What about China and Korea? I've read that the taste of water boiled in a cast iron kettle goes well with some teas, but not with others, e.g. oolongs. Were other types of kettles used for those teas? What were the most common variants?

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Dec 20th 15 12:46 pm
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Re: What kinds of kettles were used historically?

by TORamarn » Dec 20th 15 12:46 pm

As far as I know there're clay, copper, tin-plated copper, and silver. Not sure whether brass has been used for tea.

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Re: What kinds of kettles were used historically?

by absence » Dec 20th 15 1:17 pm

I think Russians used brass for samovars in more modern times at least, but I'm more curious about the older traditions in Asia. :) Do any of the materials you mention have properties that make them more (or less!) suitable for certain types of tea than the standard modern stainless steel kettles?

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Dec 25th 15 3:10 pm
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Re: What kinds of kettles were used historically?

by TORamarn » Dec 25th 15 3:10 pm

absence wrote:Do any of the materials you mention have properties that make them more (or less!) suitable for certain types of tea than the standard modern stainless steel kettles?
It seems to me that different people like to brew the tea differently. Some may prefer intense fragrance, whilst others may like strong body, or soft & smooth mouthfeel, or deep and long aftertaste, and so on. So it may not be easy to just say which tool works best with which tea.

So far I only have experience with stainless steel, ceramic clay (Taiwanese Lin's, in my case), and Japanese Tetsubin. Clay kettles soften the water. My Tetsubin soften the water even more and also adds some sweetness to plain water.

Dec 28th 15 2:12 pm
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Re: What kinds of kettles were used historically?

by absence » Dec 28th 15 2:12 pm

So both clay and iron make water softer, but clay doesn't add taste?

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Re: What kinds of kettles were used historically?

by TORamarn » Dec 28th 15 6:21 pm

absence wrote:So both clay and iron make water softer, but clay doesn't add taste?
Please keep in mind that there're endless kinds of clay and iron used to make kettles so generalization does not work. What I described were the experiences that I had with the specific pieces.

Both my kettles soften the water in different ways. It's difficult, or I should say impossible, to describe in words. My cast iron softens the water but also adds sharpness. You may think that these 2 characters are the opposite but in fact they can coexist and work on different parts of your mouth. It also adds body, makes the beverage feels stronger. It can add bitterness or astringency to some teas. My clay kettle softens the water in a more relaxed way, creates fuller and round mouthfeel, and adds deep and long aftertaste to most teas.

Again, each kettles are different. You cannot assume that every clay or iron give the same effect. Moreover, it can create different effects with different water, tea leaves, and teapots.

Unfortunately, the only way to understand is to really use it. :)

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Re: What kinds of kettles were used historically?

by absence » Dec 30th 15 5:43 pm

I see that this is a more complicated matter than I imagined. :) Thanks for the information, maybe some day I'll just go ahead and order a non-steel kettle and see how it affects the tea.

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Re: What kinds of kettles were used historically?

by absence » Dec 31st 15 10:04 pm

For fun I made tea with water boiled in a clean iron pan. Not sure how representative it is compared to a tetsubin, but there's certainly a difference in taste that's somewhat hard to describe. Has anyone tried this? :shock: :)

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Re: What kinds of kettles were used historically?

by thirst » Jan 4th 16 3:48 pm

The section on tea in Science and Civilization in China, Volume 6, Part 5 (2000) by Huang Hsing-Tsung has this to say on the topic:

In the Dàguān Chálùn (1107) by Song Emperor Huizong, tea is boiled in a bottle-like kettle (píng, 瓶) (p557). According to Huizong, kettles are best made of silver or gold (p557). (But then, he was the emperor.)

In the Ming dynasty, in the Cháshū (茶疏, 1597) by a Hsü Tzhu-Yü, kettles (cházhù, 茶注) made of silver or pewter are advocated (p560), while later in the Chájiě (茶解, 1609), kettles made of pottery are preferred “to those made of tin” (also p560).

If you look at paintings, there seem to have been a bunch of different shapes for kettles, including probably during the Song dynasty.

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Re: What kinds of kettles were used historically?

by absence » Jan 5th 16 9:10 pm

Interesting, thanks! I imagine gold and silver don't affect water taste much, and as such are similar to modern steel kettles. Perhaps pottery was eventually preferred because of effects similar to those TORamarn talked about, assuming it wasn't glazed.

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Re: What kinds of kettles were used historically?

by TORamarn » Jan 7th 16 7:40 pm

absence wrote:For fun I made tea with water boiled in a clean iron pan. Not sure how representative it is compared to a tetsubin, but there's certainly a difference in taste that's somewhat hard to describe. Has anyone tried this? :shock: :)
FYI, Tetsubin's cast iron is made from mixture of iron, carbon, and silicon (and probably some other stuff). After the iron is molded, it's oxygen reduction-fired to "activate" some properties. If you look inside these pots, they''ll have matted blue-grayish look.

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Re: What kinds of kettles were used historically?

by pedant » Jan 7th 16 10:20 pm

absence wrote:Interesting, thanks! I imagine gold and silver don't affect water taste much, and as such are similar to modern steel kettles. Perhaps pottery was eventually preferred because of effects similar to those TORamarn talked about, assuming it wasn't glazed.
i've heard silver does have an effect on taste
Water from silver kettles tend to accentuate the high notes in a tea. With good tea, the aroma will coat your mouth and linger for a long time. What it won’t do is to add to the body, and if the tea is sour, it may make that show up more prominently as well. So, whether it is really a good idea to use a silver kettle for the particular type of tea you’re drinking really depends. I don’t think silver kettles should be used universally for all teas. Tetsubins are much more versatile, I think.
http://www.marshaln.com/2009/06/wednesd ... 24-2009-2/

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Re: What kinds of kettles were used historically?

by William » Jan 7th 16 10:26 pm

pedant wrote: i've heard silver does have an effect on taste
Silver is the only material I would probably never use.

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Re: What kinds of kettles were used historically?

by pedant » Jan 7th 16 10:37 pm

e come mai?

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Re: What kinds of kettles were used historically?

by William » Jan 8th 16 12:32 am

pedant wrote:e come mai?
:lol: :lol:

Silver kettles aren't made out of pure silver, because it would melt. In order to avoid this, the silver is mixed with other metals, that usually spoil the flavours of tea. Even if just for luck, the effect was good, a couple of people involved in metal industries warned me of possible health issues related to silver nanoparticles, so no reason to take any risks, at least for me, considering the myriad of alternatives.