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Cast Away Illness with Cast Iron - February 2002 Newsletter

 

For centuries, people have believed and proven that drinking liquids from certain metal containers allows one to consume not only the beverage, but also the metal's essential minerals and vitamins. From drinking water stored in a silver cup, to sipping tea brewed in a cast iron kettle, people around the world have enjoyed the health benefits of metal. In Japan, the tetsubin teapot has held a vital role in the traditional Japanese tea ceremony, or chanoyu, as well as the daily lives of citizens who enjoy tea on a regular basis.

Tetsubin teapots are types of Japanese kettles made of the highest quality of cast iron. Found in both simple and ornamental designs, tetsubin teapots are generally hand crafted, and often feature a decorative pattern to the left of the spout. This convention dates back to as far as the 17th century to the rejection of the formalities practiced in the traditional Japanese tea ceremony. As people began to drink sencha and abandon chanoyu, which began to be seen as too grandiose, tetsubin tea ware was created to enter a growing tea market. The following centuries saw a dramatic increase in the use of tetsubins. As a common household item, they were used to make tea, heat water for cooking, and provide heat for the home during winter.

Within the actual tea ceremony, the tetsubin is used for small, but crucial portions of the celebrations that surround the actual ceremony. In the ryakubon, a simple ceremonial tea drinking, the tetsubin is used to prepare the tea. During Kaiseki, the tetsubin is used to brew and serve the tea drank during the light meal eaten before the official tea ceremony. In good weather and on times when the ceremony is held outdoors, the tetsubin kettle replaces the cha-gama, a large piece of tea ware with a ladle rather than a spout. Although it is not the centerpiece within the traditional Japanese tea ceremony, the tetsubin teapot is recognized an essential accessory.

Today, most tetsubins are handcrafted in factories that specialize in the production of cast iron tea ware. Starting off with inner and outer molds, liquid iron is poured inside. Once the iron solidifies, the molds are broken, and the kettle is sanded to create it's own unique finish. Next, the exterior is painted and the interior is coated with a special enamel to ensure the kettle's long life. Finally, any and all last minute touches are done to create these beautiful tea sets. Many tetsubins also feature a built-in steel mesh infuser, for convenient cleaning and straining.

When purchasing your own tetsubin, it is important to take many factors into consideration. Although the basic material is always cast iron, different pots are crafted in a variety of manners, ranging from handcrafted to, less frequently, mass-produced. Tetsubins are available in an assortment of colors and textures. While some feature simple designs, others sport ornate detailing, or an unusual shape. In general, prices start at $50, and can go up all the way to $400. Much of the price is dependant on the pot's capacity, which can range from .5 liters to 1.8 liters.

Once you have purchased a tetsubin, it will last over a lifetime if taken care of properly. Before using, fill the vessel with water, bringing it to a small boil under a low flame. Once the water is boiling evenly, dispense the water and immediately wipe the interior of the kettle with a smooth, damp cloth. After allowing it to air dry, repeat this process at least three more times before brewing your first batch of tea. After you have enjoyed your vitamin and mineral rich tea, a few simple steps to protect your tetsubin should be taken. It is important to not expose the kettle to any soaps or detergents, oils, and salts, as these will all deteriorate the surface of the pot. Also, a low flame must always be used. Both high heat and inadequate water can severely damage the quality of tea produced, as well as the pot itself. To properly clean your tetsubin, simply rinse with clean, warm water and dry thoroughly afterwards.

The health benefits of drinking tea range from physiological to psychological. For thousands of years across Asia, tea has been used both for medicinal purposes as well as the center of many social events. Green tea, in particular, is known to have many antioxidants that fight against certain types of cancer, viral infections, and food poisoning, slow the buildup of blood cholesterol in the arteries, and decrease hypertension. The catechins and Vitamins A, E, and C found naturally in green teas also aid in reducing blood sugar levels. Furthermore, green tea contains small amounts of fluoride, which helps to prevent tooth decay. In additional to drinking green tea, traces of the iron that make up tetsubins get absorbed into the tea brewed within, benefiting people with iron deficient diets. The three types of green tea vary in their taste, texture, and caffeine potency. Sencha tea is thought to be of the highest quality throughout Japan. It not only has a higher concentration of Vitamin C, but caffeine as well. Bancha tea is a less refined version of Sencha with less Vitamin C and caffeine, but a similar taste. Genmaicha, the third type, is a combination of Bancha and Sencha teas combined with crushed corn kernels and brown rice. This complicated, yet revered blend produces a slightly stronger flavor appreciated by many on special occasions.

When making your own tea, it is important to remember that different teas are brewed in different ways to enhance their characteristic taste. Tea should only be brewed for three to five minutes. Less time will produce an inadequate blend, while allowing your tea to brew for too long will cause it to take on a slightly bitter taste. Also, it is important to remember that when adding tea leaves to water, both black and oolong teas should be put into boiling water, while green teas are only to be placed in hot water less that 100 degrees Celsius.

Today, there are a plethora of tea societies, tea tasting clubs and bars, books on tea and tea sets, and even art galleries that exhibit decorative tea sets. Whether you're just discovering the benefits of drinking tea, or have been a connoisseur for years, it's never too late to experiment with the wonders of tetsubin. Here at Mrs. Lin's Kitchen, we have a myriad of tetsubin teapots for you to choose from. Varying in design and price, we're sure you'll find something that fits your needs and personality perfectly! Will it be a simple set like the 'red maple leaf', or an ornate piece like the Black Metal Goldfish Pond Tetsubin Teapot? Once you browse through mrslinskitchen.com, we're certain you'll find the right tetsubin for you.

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MAY WE SUGGEST:

Black Cast Iron Tea Pot (T2029)

Dark Metal Goldfish Pond Tetsubin Teapot (T1971)

Turquoise Green Cast Iron Tea Kettle (T2030)

Burgundy Tetsubin Teaset with Frosty Pink Bamboo Blossoms(T2035)

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