The mystery novel The English Breakfast Murder contains a one-page instruction on tea dyeing. To achieve the color of pale yellow, it suggests the use of peppermint tea. Orange spice tea yields beige-tan, not orange. So what tea yields orange? The book says use orange pekoe black tea.
One would think that tea dyeing and staining would be a popular DIY (Do It Yourself) activity, because tea is safe and clean. I do not recall seeing any demonstration, or tea-dyed products at tea-related establishments, even during my extended stay in Asia. Finding the Huntington’s Experiments in Tea Dyeing, part of its Botanical Garden: Discovering Plants program, took a few minutes. Unearthing another institution-curated tutorial on the vast Internet calls for a mini challenge.
Green has always been my second favorite color. I refused to believe that shades and hues of green could not be induced, extracted from verdant tea leaves. The Japanese textile and clothing company Koboriwasou, located in Kyoto, proves me right. To achieve the indelible green, the fabric is dyed multiple times using premium green tea produced in Ujitawara-chou .
Anyone who has ever searched anything tangible via any Japanese sites, even without any intention for trade, must have been bombarded by links to Rakuten Ichiba (楽天市場) – Japan’s largest e-commerce marketplace. Doesn’t this Kyoto Travel Story collection of tea-dyed canvas bags remind you of certain brand name goods?
Familiar brands offer products that are both elegant designed and practical. Ito En’s T Life – Textile with Tea, Tender & Tranquility line highlights catechin’s ability to combat odor and germs. Erubu carries tea dyed socks in five different colors! These gifts do not seem to be available in the States though.
As this holiday season commences, I am more in the mood of examining products than history. I would like to think that once upon a time, someone accidentally spilled tea on his or her plain tenugui (手拭) and came up with the idea of tea dyeing and staining. Serendipity at its finest!
This article was originally posted to TChing in November of 2013.
Image courtesy of the contributor.