Thursday, August 1, 2013

Green Shogun Tetsubin from EnjoyingTea

Shogun tetsubin with cups and saucers in black and green

Product Websites: Green Shogun Tetsubin Tea SetReplacement Stainless Steel Infuser

Ah, the tetsubin. Like many old things its title and use has changed over time. Originally tetsubin were Japanese kettles, used over the fire to heat the water for tea. Today, many cast iron teapots now bear the same name, but they've moved out of the kitchen and jumped to a different step in the tea making process. Often you'll find an inner enamel coating that means less iron intake for your drinker but also that its strictly for brewing and not for heating the water.

Not everyone is lackadaisical about the use of this term, and I have run into some very opinionated (that's code for rude) people who insist it's only one thing or another. Personally, I don't really care. As an English teacher I'm constantly facing reminders about how words and language grow and change. If you're interested in a cast-iron teapot, just prepare yourself for a little, very occasional, snark.

Design close-up
I have a green Shogun tetsubin set from EnjoyingTea, and it's been nearly six years now since I received this set from my mother. It was a graduation present when I earned my Masters of Arts in Teaching, and I've hauled the poor thing halfway across the country since then. It survived the trip to and from the Alaskan bush when I taught there for two years and even the road trip from rural Washington to Portland and all the way to Dallas, Texas.

I remember when it first arrived - it was a very light and powdery green. Over the years it has become darker and shinier, but if anything I like it more now that its earned its patina. Originally it came with two cups and a trivet, but over the years I have added saucers and more cups to it so that I have a full set for five.

When I was first deciding which of their saucers to choose for my set, I ordered a small selection of different styles. I ended up going with the leaf pattern you see in the pictures, but there was one saucer that I was pretty disappointed with. It was something like four years ago, but recently I noticed that there were no reviews listed for it. I dropped a short note, and was shocked when one of their customer service representatives responded to me via email, and generously offered me store credit for the amount I'd paid for it.

Original on the left
I used that store credit to get a new infuser basket. As you can see from the picture, the only part of my set that's suffered from age has been the mesh infuser basket. Over the years it's become discolored and lost its shape. It's loose and way too malleable. I'm actually kind of impressed it lasted this long, because they don't have the longest lifespans.

The shiny new replacement infuser fit perfectly, and it feels like I have a new pot again! Now, other than the patina, the only sign of its age has been some slight discoloration around the handle holes, which have barely noticeable rings of rust. I tried to take a picture to post, but they're so small they didn't register.

The pieces I've added to the set have weathered just as well. The tetsubin originally came with two green cups, but I ordered three more in black because I liked the contrast and needed a few more to go around. The cast iron cups get too hot not to have saucers to match, so I ordered five saucers (three black, two green) to protect both surfaces and hands.

Replacement on the right
Before the infuser, the only time I've had to replace part of this set was a couple months ago, when my husband accidentally knocked several of the cups from an upper shelf. He sent at least four of them to the floor, but the enamel chipped on just two. In nearly six years now, that's it.

Jake and I received another, smaller tetsubin as a wedding present, so now we tend to use this one both when we want a larger pot of tea and when we're making larger herbal teas, which tend to have big chunks and need more room to expand.

I've sipped from this set while it's snowed in bush Alaska and while it's broiled in Texas. A bracing drink after getting snowed in at school with students (never again!) and on the quiet evenings when Jake and I sat together and wrote our wedding vows. It's been with me for some great moments, and I look forward to enjoying it for years more to come.

Here are some resources on the history of tetsubin:

California Institute of Sciences: History of Tetsubins
EnjoyingTea: Tetsubin (Iron Cast Teapots)

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