If you go to certain Japanese or Asian-fusion restaurants in the U.S.—or travel to Japan—you may have come across tetsubins.
These small, charming cast-iron Japanese teapots are sometimes used to serve tea at restaurants in America—sometimes with matching cups. They can be purchased at some specialty tea shops and online.
But if you’re thinking of buying one for yourself or as a gift for a tea-loving friend, don’t plan on brewing tea in it.
Tetsubins are not meant to brew tea, and they are far from ideal brewing vessels.
That the pots are too heavy for many people to hold steadily with one hand is a minor problem.
The designs are charming, but don’t use a tetsubin to brew tea. Enjoy them as collectibles. This tetsubin is available online.
But the major problem is that the iron reacts with the tannin in the tea, discoloring the brew and, worse, add hints of iron flavor. Even enamel-lined tetsubins can have uncoated areas on the spout, rim and lid that come into direct contact with the tea. The enamel deteriorates with years of use, so iron ultimately can seep into the tea.
So why are tetsubins made if you can’t brew tea in them?
The tea pots are collectibles and souvenirs—different designs are made in different regions.
So collect as many tetsubins as you like. Just brew your tea in a ceramic, glass, porcelain, stainless steel or other non-reactive pot.
Love tea? Learn more about it in our Tea Section.