Posted December 13, 2013
I recently discovered an amazing Japanese tea company called HOJO. They sell gorgeous hand-made teapots, cast iron tetsubin kettles, and teas. I am very excited about this company, and I cannot wait to make a few purchases.
I happily stumbled upon HOJO while looking for a new teapot. Teavana recommended cast iron teapots ("Cast iron does an excellent job of distributing the heat evenly throughout the teapot, so it extracts the most flavor and nutrients from the tea leaves"), which is where I came across the word tetsubin. I ran a couple of Google searches, eventually searching "cast iron tetsubin," and HOJO popped up.
Now here's how HOJO earned my trust. When you click "Tetsubin" in the navigation bar at the top of the page, you are brought to an informational page explaining the history and function of the tetsubin tea kettle. In big bold font, HOJO explains, "A Tetsubin is not a kettle for brewing tea, but for boiling water."
The Tetsubin has been made in Japan since the Sixteenth Century. When we use the word "Tetsubin", in Japanese, we are referring to a kettle that is used only to boil water. The interior is either bare iron or only coated with Urushi.
There is no enamel or glazing on the inside of a Tetsubin.
Recently, in the Twentieth Century, there are many cast iron teapots that have appeared on the overseas market as well as the online market. These cast iron teapots have enamel or glazing on the inside. These teapots are meant for the brewing tea.They are completely different from so-called "tetsubin". Most of them are made by factories either in Japan or China. In particular, a lot of cast iron teapots are made in China at very low cost.
So from what I can gather, some tea companies are sloppily using the word "tetsubin" to describe cast iron teapots lined with enamel, which should not be placed on the stove.
At any rate, HOJO goes on to explain the true function of the tetsubin kettle:
When brewing tea using water boiled in Tetsubin, the taste of the tea becomes very mellow and sweet. In addition, thanks to the iron content of the kettle, the resultant water gives us additional health benefits.
The tetsubin pictured above is the Shudama Gata Arare 1.0 liter kettle, part of the Kunzan family, and cast by Sasaki Kazuo.
The two teapots are part of the Niigata Tsuiki Do-ki line (tsuiki do-ki means hammered copper). According to HOJO, these copper teapots "significantly [improve] the intensity of flavor and the depth of after taste." I can't decide between the two different handles!
Their products are on the pricier side, but that is to be expected, and I trust the quality is worth the expense.