; Cwyn's Death By Tea: Tea Utensils ;

Thursday, October 27, 2016

Tea Utensils

Some of my best-loved tea items never appear online
Every day I enjoy my tea ware and follow quite a few people on social media just to see their beautiful photos, from artists to fellow tea drinkers. Looking at tea porn is a very relaxing part of a puerh hobby, you can enjoy from afar what others have collected. I have more than my necessary share of tea ware, but when I think about what I truly use every day a few things shake out as essential. I’m surprised that my most useful gong fu items are utensils or accessories, because very rarely do I include them in photos. Well, my current loved but un-lauded tea pieces deserve some space.

Basic Puerh Pick from Yunnan Sourcing.
First, of course we all need a puerh pick or puerh knife. Believe it or not, I don’t own a fancy puerh knife. Yet every day I use a $2 puerh pick from Yunnan Sourcing and haven’t felt a need for anything else. This is a truly humble pu utensil, but it gets used more often than my most loved teapots.

Next, here is a pair of brass tea clamps, or gongfu tweezers.

Brass tea clamps, Verdant Tea
Winston's kitten paws on the table show why I need these.
This is an item I tossed in an order a year ago from Verdant Tea. Yeah, I know, but this thing is now absolutely essential to me, and even more valued because Dear Son does not like it. His main complaint is that it is on the kitchen counter all the time and never gets put away. He tends to move it around in annoyance which makes me extremely crabby when I can’t find it.

The purpose of these clamps is for picking up small tasting cups and rinsing them with hot water without needing fingers. But I use this set of clamps for so many things. I can pick up tea leaves and chunks from a cake and put them in a small teapot. I can pick out a stick or stray debris in my teacup without using my fingers. I can deftly pick up and turn over wet leaves in a teapot or gaiwan. I can stir a tightly compressed tea ball in boiling hot water. I can dunk and retrieve a tea bag that doesn’t have a string attached. All these functions are even more important now for my tea tweezers because I’m still feeding my kitten wet food by hand. I wash my hands really well after doing this, but I feel like my fingers must have cat food germs that I don’t want on, or in, my tea. I suppose I could wear cotton gloves for tea, but I have my tweezers instead.

Another necessary utensil for me is a tea strainer. Some people don’t use strainers. As a blogger, however, I want to use a strainer so people can see the clarity of a tea. Clarity is one factor that determines the quality of a sheng leaf and the fermentation of shou, and most readers likely want to see the brew well-strained of anything that might unnecessarily cloud the cup. I have also learned a lot from straining my tea. I check a fine mesh strainer for char or tea leaf fuzz and rinse the strainer after every pour. I notice how many steepings a tea needs to clear of char, and how much tea dust I created when breaking off the leaves. I can determine whether a tea is sour because of char. Most sheng has a tiny bit of char, but a lot of char means sour or smoky tea that is an issue for my drier storage.

Woven bamboo strainers, Verdant Tea
I own a number of strainers. Lately I use these woven Yunnan strainers from Verdant Tea. The handled one is for shou, and the no-handle strainer for sheng. You can probably tell which of the two gets the most usage. With bamboo strainers, you must dedicate each to one type of tea. I notice right away if I mistakenly use my shou strainer for sheng because the brew is very slightly colored by shou. In addition to these, I have a Ru kiln fine mesh strainer and two metal strainers. I want to try a gourd strainer someday. I feel that my woven strainers are helpful at tempering some of the metallic taste from tea or water, or maybe it’s my medications and I’m imagining things.

Wenge Wood teapot brush, EBay
And more kitten paws shoo-ed but still showing.
Then I have a wenge wood hair brush that I got for about $4 on EBay to brush teapots. The hair might be dog hair, it certainly smelled like it when I got it. One time my son borrowed it for using liquid wax on his bassoon equipment, and left it for me with dried, stuck on wax. I managed to get all the wax out by freezing the brush.

Here is a tea cup that I use often that never appears in my blog or in other tea photos. You can see right away why not.

Porcelain tenmoku glaze tea cup
by Shawn McGuire of Greenwood Studios, Etsy
Can you tell what kind of tea is in this cup? Most people want to see the tea liquid, so I use clear cups instead for that purpose. I’m in love with tenmoku glaze and I don’t need to spend a mortgage payment’s worth of money on a vintage Japanese cup when so many potters are making fine new ones under $30 on Etsy. But I can’t use these to show off tea liquid.

My last “must-have” is new this year, a tea pillow by Mirka Randová. This is the sort of purchase that I thought, “why did I need to have this?” and the thought turned into “why didn’t I buy one of these sooner?”

Stoneware tea pillow by Mirka Randová @potsandtea
This tea pillow is brilliant. The clay is rough to the touch, feels like sandpaper which actually grips the cup or teapot when I’m carrying it from the kitchen to my room or a table. My cup or teapot doesn’t slide around and won’t easily slip and fall when a cat gets under my feet. If I do happen to lose my footing a little, tea can slosh into the basin of the pillow without making a mess on the floor. I can pour water over teapots to brush them, and overfill the teapot if I want. The tea pillow is also a little hefty weight-wise, rather like an old vintage heavy ashtray. So the pillow can sit on my bed or other furniture and if a cat bounds up and over to my lap, the pillow won’t easily tip. In fact, the pillow doesn’t move at all. I needed this tea pillow years ago when I had a small child running around. I don’t even have to wash it.

Hopefully you enjoyed seeing a few of the utensils I use regularly. I’m sure we all go through phases when we use some items a great deal in our tea ceremony. Then we move on to new items as the old ones might need replacing or as our needs change. 

1 comment:

  1. Thanks for this text. Its nice gear... Mirka Randova is making some interesting stuff indeed.