To your friends you are known as a ‘tea person.’ You are serious about tea you select and you steep with care. But, within the quiet confines of your kitchen countertop there lurks a dirty secret…how clean is your brewing accoutrement? Out of habit or lack of information, telltale brown tannin stains may appear on teacups, tea kettles and table linens. Unless your teapot is made of glass, you may not even know there is a bitter residue buildup that can taint the taste of your tea. Don’t panic, there will be no white glove inspection today, just plain advice on how to tidy up before your next tea party. The first line of defense is always a good offense.
Make a habit of hand washing and drying tea ware after each use. There is no universal cleanser. Cups, kettles, teapots and infusers can be made from a variety of materials. For a thorough clean, try these material-specific tea cleaning tips:
Cast Iron Daily use – Hand wash and dry, then warm it up on the stove to be sure the cast iron is dry. Deep clean – Use 50/50 vinegar and water, bring to a boil, empty and then use a soft wire brush (not brass or copper) to gently remove rust. Add a little dish detergent if there is something sticky on the inside or outside. Afterwards hand wash and dry very thoroughly. Do not put in the dishwasher.
Copper Daily Use – Hand wash with soap and water then dry with a soft cloth. Deep Clean – Baking soda sprinkled on a half of a lemon and a soft non-abrasive cloth will work nicely to keep copper clean and remove tea oils and water mineral buildup. Do not put in the dishwasher.
Glass Daily Use – Regular washing with soap and water or dishwasher. Deep Clean – If there are persistent stains or hard to reach areas, leave a dishwasher detergent cube and water inside to soak overnight. Or try a tea-specific cleaner like Breville’s Revive Organic Tea Cleaner made for their One-Touch Tea Maker. This will work with glass or glazed ceramics.
Natural Clay Daily Use – Rinse with fresh water and air dry. Deep Clean – Teapots made of natural clay like Yixing are designed to be used with the same type of tea since the flavor and oils are absorbed directly into the pot. This is unlike other materials where the tea residue builds up and requires cleaning. Purchase multiple pots for multiple tea types. Do not wash with soap or cleansers and only air dry.
Plastic Opt for any other material -except- plastic. BPA concerns, and just good taste, should dictate other options for boiling, steeping and serving teas.
Porcelain/Glazed Ceramic Daily Use – Highly glazed porcelain tea ware can be put in the dishwasher or hand washed with dish soap or any natural cleaner (baking soda, vinegar, lemon juice). Deep Clean – Inspect for hairline cracks in the glaze called ‘crazing’ that appears in older vessels. Lead and cadmium are the only regulated toxins in glazes, so there could be other potential toxins leaching into your tea. Best practice is to retire a sentimental piece to the display shelf if it shows signs of crazing in the glaze.
Stainless Steel Daily Use – Regular washing with soap and water, dry with a soft cloth. Deep Clean – Use boiling water and vinegar, let cool and then rub all over with a soft non-abrasive cloth to keep it shiny and clean.
Tea Stains on Fabrics For delicate fabrics, use a vinegar and cold water soak to pre-treat tannin stains prior to laundering. For more stubborn stains or sturdy fabrics, rub laundry detergent into the tea stain and soak in warm water prior to laundering. Have a cleaning tip you’d like to share? From denture cleaner to table salt, post what works for you in the comments.
Images provided by the contributor.