It is a truth universally acknowledged that a tea enthusiast in possession of good loose-leaf tea must be in want of great teaware (I do hope Jane Austen isn’t turning over in her grave!).
Since tea was first imported into England, it has generally been accepted that tea tastes much better if served in bone china. Look on the Internet and many people have come up with their own theories behind this. So you can imagine my elation when I had an amazing personal experience from my recently discovered (and favorite) tearoom in the center of Chinatown, Brisbane where I tried the same pu’erh made from the same Yixing teapot, but poured into two different vessels.
If you look at the front of the picture to the right, the bright white cup to the right of the picture is made from different china than the much smaller cup on the left.
When sipping the seven-year-old cooked pu’erh from the white cup, the taste left an almost rough sensation that was extremely enjoyable. However, when sipping from the smaller cup, the taste left me bewildered and could only be described as a much smoother, waxier experience. Maybe it was the materials that comprised each of the cups or maybe it was each vessel’s thickness. Whatever it was, it was pleasurable to share tea with a fellow enthusiast and talk tea and art, along with the delights in experiencing the same tea from two different cups.
Of course, it’s not only the vessel that the tea is poured in that is important, but the whole ritual in preparing the tea. The Yixing (purple sand) teapot is said to be one of the best brewing vessels for oolong and pu’erh teas, due to the small pores in the clay used to make the teapot, which is said to retain the heat, flavor, and aroma of the tea.
Some people prefer a gaiwan so that one can see the tea leaves dance as the hot water is poured; a glass teapot may be used for the same reason (and for convenience when washing the teapot afterwards). A Tetsubin may be used because of its ability to retain heat and a Kyusu due to the ease in pouring – ideal for tea that requires quick infusions.
Regardless of the science behind the teaware, remember: there doesn’t need to be a song and dance about making tea. Whether one chooses to use a teapot, a gaiwan, or simply a favorite mug, if your chosen tea ritual in preparing your tea can make you smile, your heart sing, and your senses dance, this is what is important. Take time with your tea, share it with your friends, and enjoy!