Everything About The Japanese Cast Iron Teapots (Tetsubin)

everything about the japanese cast iron teapots (tetsubin)
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Cast iron teapot, or what the Japanese call Tetsubin, originated from Japan but now it has been widely accepted all around the world. Due to their extensive use in the west, they are no longer referred to as Tetsubin but as cast iron teapots. They look like kettles, though teapots are smaller with enamel on the inside. The coating on the interior of teapots is easy to clean and brews sweet tea.

The traditional Tetsubin was heated over charcoal to boil and pour a drink. It is essential always to remember not to use a teapot on an open fireplace. And while Tetsubin was used for boiling water, the cast iron teapot is used for brewing tea, not to boil water. Boiling water using a teapot may cause fine cracks on the enamel.

The Tetsubin was also used to warm the room through steaming. The steam they produced would humidify a room, and the indoor fire would warm the room. Today, the purpose has not changed much as people use teapots in winter to humidify their rooms and have hot water ready to make tea anytime.

Cast iron teapots are found in unique designs on the outside to symbolize different meanings including happiness, joy, blessing, and strength to mention a few. You can have them in a variety of sizes and shapes. Apart from brewing drinks, they are great for decoration purposes.

The History of Tetsubin

No one knows precisely when Tetsubin first appeared in Japan, but evidence shows a close link to the rise of Sencha (煎茶). Sencha is a drinking habit where people preferred using tea leaves instead of powdered tea e.g., Matcha.

Sencha dates back to the 17th century when it was introduced to Japan by the Chinese. It was made of herbs believed to have medicinal benefits. It is during that era when Japanese Literati (a group of artists who considered themselves intellectuals), adopted Sencha as their primary drink. It acted as a symbolic revolt against the ruling class, who favored the formality Chanoyu.

During the 18th century, more and more people adopted tea drinking. Sencha began to be used in an informal setting by friends and families. For most Japanese, however, the Chinese tea utensils used to serve Sencha were too expensive and remained rare. This brought the need for a Japanese style teapot to replace the costly Chinese utensils – the Tetsubin.

Throughout the 18th century, the Tetsubin became a utensil in most households to boil water and prepare tea. As the same time, the Tetsubin took various ornamental design shifts.

By the beginning of the 19th century, teapots designs ranged from simple to intricate. The more elaborately designed a Tetsubin was, the pricier it was. Furthermore, the style of a Tetsubin reflected the class of its owner and somehow set the standards and status in society.

The Japanese cast iron teapot became more popular in the early 19 century when the demand rose with the start of WWII. The designs varied from minimalist and pared to decorated models. Some of the designs are included in museums and private collections.

In the late ‘90s, there emerged a new type of design, specially for western markets and with brighter colors. The design introduced enameling of teapots to avoid rust from iron and prevent the tea from becoming bitter. Today, the cast iron teapots are only used for brewing tea, but they are also a beautiful decoration in the house.

Related Article: The History of Tea in Japan – Who Introduced Tea to Japan?


The rules of a Japanese Cast Iron Teapot

For Japanese, if you just got your first Tetsubin, you should not brew tea using it right away. You should boil water and throw it out and repeat the process again and again. It is done to remove the odor that comes with a new Tetsubin.

Remember that for Iron cast teapots should not be used to boil water. However, if you just bought yours, it is crucial to follow the steps of cleaning a cast iron teapot:

  • You need to have boiling water ready to kill any bacteria that may be living inside
  • Take the lid off and infuser out of the teapot
  • Swish boiling water around the vessel
  • Turn down on the dishtowel
  • Clean diffuser

Never heat an empty Tetsubin in an open fireplace. Doing that can damage the teapot and even cause cracks on the enamel interior.

Traditionally, they were used with charcoal, which made them appear rusty on the exterior. These days, aficionados do not heat the teapot on a stovetop as it can quickly become brittle over time, which may result in cracking and eventually damage.

The use of modern heating sources as opposed to charcoal creates moisture (water vapor), which can cause rust on the bottom of teapot. This is nothing to worry about; it’s normal.

Related Article: Can You Use Cast Iron Teapot on Stove?


After weeks of use, it is normal for all Japanese cast iron teapots to develop red and white spots. This is the residue of the minerals from the surface of the cast iron that builds up with use. Do not try to remove them with coarse material as they contribute to a specific taste of the water boiled in them. The minerals also prevent rust from forming.

Over time, your iron cast will develop rust depending with use and maintenance. The good thing is that consuming water from a rusted iron kettle is safe. Traditionally the Japanese included a rusted nail in their recipe to add more color to food.

For durability reasons, however, you should remove tarnishing when it accumulates as it weakens the cast iron. To restore a rusted cast iron teapot, mix a solution of 50% water and 50% vinegar in cast iron teapot or baking soda to true and loosen the rust.

After removing the rust from your cast iron teapot, boil oolong or green tea leaves and leave it to cool off inside the cast iron teapot. The tea contains natural antioxidants that will reduce the rust to give the interior a darker color.

It’s worth noting that you should never use detergents and coarse sponges to clean it, as this may damage the teapot. For external rust, use a soft cloth and liquid green tea. You can also apply the process to rejuvenate the glossy surface and keep your kettle looking like brand new.

The longevity of your Cast Iron Teapot depends on how you take care of it. If done correctly, they become heirlooms, to be passed to the next generations.

Related Article: Cast Iron Teapots Care and Maintenance Instructions


The Benefits of a Cast Iron Teapots

  • Unique Design makes them attractive

Cast iron teapots are one of the oldest available artifacts that are still in existence. It is the material that makes them a popular choice among tea lovers as it can retain heat well and can be molded into various shapes.

Different from the traditional teapots that were made of clay or china, cast iron takes its shape using a mold instead of relying on potters. It becomes easier to choose your ideal size and shape. Putting different patterns and adding colors is also relatively straightforward, which makes it easier to choose your taste of cast iron teapots in the choices available.

  • It keeps tea hot for longer

Most iron teapots are used as teapot and kettle. Those with wood-burning or gas stove can enjoy boiled tea, which is always entertaining. The teapot itself retains the heat of the drink much longer. Due to the iron cast material being less conducive, your tea will hold the heat for much longer.

  • Hard-wearing and thus durable

When it comes to hard-wearing, cast iron material stands out. Modern-day teapots are coated with enamel on the interior, which makes them possible to make a great brew regularly.

Cast iron teapots feature a unique design where heat is evenly distributed throughout the pot. This ensures that flavor is extracted from the tea better. When used as a kettle, the water boiled bears an elegant crisp and a sweet taste which is different from the lime scale taste with plastic teapots. This brings the real flavor of the tea.

How to Use a Cast Iron Teapot for the First Time

If you just got your cast iron teapot, I’m sure you’ll love it. This is especially true if your budget stretched to buy a high-quality teapot. They look great, and the tea tastes pretty good too.

Before brewing your first drink, make sure you follow these steps:

Rinse out your new cast-iron kettle with warm water and repeat the process a couple of time. Then, fill it with water and let it boil and let it sit for a while before tipping out the water.

Does it still smell? If yes, add garlic or tea leaves to the boiling water to reduce the smell further. It’s normal for your teapot to have a slight odor the first couple of times of use.

How to use a cast iron teapot in 7 easy steps

  • Choose your tea

The first step in brewing tasty drink in a cast iron teapot is to select your favorite tea leaves. It is the formality for most people to use a teapot to brew green tea. However, it is possible to use it to make English or Chinese teas – or any other tea.

Note that you should stick to one kind of tea in your teapot to maintain flavors and tannins. Brewing different kinds of teas in the same kettle can affect the taste of the brewed tea. So if you move from making green tea after a few months to black tea, you may notice a strange taste in your drink.

  • Preheat the teapot

The second step is to pre-heat your cast iron teapot. As mentioned earlier, do not place the kettle directly on a heat source to avoid damaging or cracking it. Instead, boil water in another pot and fill your teapot before tipping out the water. This is the right way to introduce heat to your iron cast teapot. It also rinses out the vessel.

Related Article: Can You Use Cast Iron Teapot on Stove?

  • Measure your tea

After pre-heating your teapot, measure your favorite loose leaf tea. It this recommended that you use a teaspoon per 8-ounces of water. Place your desired amount into the tea infuser. You can add more or less to meet your taste.

Related Article: How to Properly Measure Loose Leaf Tea For Brewing

  • Add water

Next, it’s time to heat the water. A majority of tea lovers prefer to use the Tetsubin to heat the water over a stove directly. Using the cast iron teapot offers a variety of benefits over regular tea kettles.

  • Steep the tea

Next step is to steep tea directly in the iron cast kettle. Most of them come with an infuser for tea or an inbuilt strainer basket. The infuser usually sits around the rim of the teapot and is removable for easy cleaning.

Related Article: Learn the Difference Between Steeping and Brewing Tea

Here Is How to Steep Tea in a Cast Iron Kettle

After adding the tea into the teapot, pour hot water over it. Next, steep your tea for about 5 minutes. The duration for steeping will depend on the tea that you choose. Generally, green tea takes about two minutes. On the other hand, black tea takes up to 5 minutes, and herbal tea can take 6 minutes. You can avoid guesswork by checking the package of your tea for more information on infusion time.

  • Serve

After steeping, the tea is ready is to be served. You should pour the tea from the vessel all at once to prevent it from over-extracting. If the teapot lacks a built-in strainer, you need to strain the liquid through the tea strainer. Experts remove the infuser from the teapot so that the tea does not become too bitter while also keeping it hot.

  • Clean and Store your Teapot

After use, it’s essential to clean your iron cast teapot for future use. Use warm water to clean it, especially if the teapot is still hot. Never use cold water if the cast iron material is still hot. This could crack the enamel.

If you want to clean the exterior of the teapot, use a soft cloth to wipe it. Then consider drying the entire pot with a towel to prevent rusting. Ensure that you thoroughly dry all parts of the vessel, including the lid and strainer.


Things to Keep In Mind When Buying a Cast Iron Teapot

Before investing in a cast iron teapot, there are a few things you need to consider. It’s always better to be informed before committing.

  • Origins

Always consider the country of origin and how a teapot was made. The earliest cast iron teapots originated from Japan and China. So getting the teapot from one of these origins means you are getting a quality build.

Your seller should be able to tell you the origin of the teapot. They’ll let you know about where and how the kettle is manufactured. With the source in mind, you could get a durable teapot that can become an heirloom piece.

  • Quality

Another aspect to look into is quality. You can quickly tell whether a teapot is durable based on where it was made. If you get a cast iron teapot from your local store, then chances are it’s made of high quality cast iron. A teapot manufactured from Japan is likely to be made of pure cast iron and hence of the highest quality. This is because the Japanese have the most skilled teapot craftsmen.

  • Durability

It is also vital to consider the economic life of your iron cast teapot, especially if you intend to get an heirloom piece. Always check the package or confirm with the seller the economic life of a teapot. It’s sad to spend a huge deal of money only to find that the pot stands only one year of use.

  • Price

Due to the difference in designs, shapes, and sizes, teapots come at different costs. Therefore, you must decide your budget ahead.  Cast iron teapots that are made of pure cast iron and made in japan will cost high. Choosing one that is designed to the narrowest of details will also cost more.

You can buy one from your local store, but the quality may not be on par with a Tetsubin that was manufactured in China or Japan.

  • Design

Cast iron teapots are available in various shapes, sizes, and designs. You need to consider getting a piece that suits your taste and personality. Also, ensure that the cast iron teapot suits your home décor.

The market offers simple as well as detailed cast iron teapots. Some designs are inspired by nature, others by important figures, while some feature symbols of Japanese culture such as the Imperial Dragon. You can also choose a cast iron teapot that matches with your cups and saucers. This will make serving more powerful.

Related Article: The Ultimate Guide to Choosing the Best Japanese Teapot

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) about Cast Iron Teapots

What is Tetsubin?

It is a Japanese kettle that features cast iron. The utensil has traditionally been used by Japanese in tea rituals since the 18th century.

Most of the cast iron teapots are sold in the western markets and are essentially a replica of the traditional Tetsubin although the modern design has an enamel lining on the interior.

In Japan, teapots with enamel linings are called Tetsu Kyusu, which means iron teapot. Western sellers call them Tetsubin even with the enamel lining, although they are not real Tetsubin.

Is cast iron teapot a Tetsubin?

Yes and no. A Tetsubin means a cast iron teapot, but a cast iron teapot may not always mean a Tetsubin.  A Tetsubin is cast iron and is used to boil water and brew tea. A cast iron teapot, on the other hand, is lined with enamel and is used for brewing tea.

What are the main benefits of a cast iron teapot?

Cast iron is known to be very hard-wearing. It can withstand knocks, and it’s virtually impossible to destroy by knocking. This means it should last longer than glass or ceramic teapots.

Additionally, it has better heat distribution than glass and ceramic. This is beneficial as it helps when steeping by producing a smooth brew.

They look great! If you love the traditional aesthetic, then you will enjoy the cast iron teapots. Unlike the standard ceramic kettles, these teapots create a unique table service.

Are there any health benefits associated with the Cast Iron Teapot?

No. It was claimed that the real traditional Tetsubin added iron to tea which resulted to better flavor. However, typical enamel lined cast iron teapots do not add anything to the drink because the tea does not touch any of the cast iron material.

The Japanese associated the traditional Tetsubin with green tea, which has numerous antioxidants and nutrients. In this sense, if you use a cast iron teapot for its traditional means of brewing green tea, one could consider it healthier.

What tea can I brew in a cast iron teapot?

Any tea. The modern enamel lined teapots can be used in the same way as ceramic teapots. Therefore, you can use it with any loose leaf tea.

Do cast iron teapots have an infuser?

Yes. All available teapots from us come with an infuser that’s found around the rim, under the lid. All our cast iron teapots feature a removable infuser to allow you to brew the tea directly in the pot if you wish. It also makes cleaning easier.

How do I brew tea using a cast iron teapot?

Brewing tea in a cast iron teapot is similar to steeping in a ceramic teapot. They have an enamel lining which makes tea brewing similar to using the typical ceramic teapot.

Here are the steps in brief:

  • Pre-heat the teapot with warm water
  • Place your tea in the infuser
  • Add hot water to the teapot
  • Steep for a few minutes
  • Serve

Is brewing same as steeping?

They are essentially the same thing. However, brewing is a process, while steeping is an action. To brew tea in a cast iron teapot, you have to steep the tea leaves in hot water.

Related Article: Learn the Difference Between Steeping and Brewing Tea

How long should I steep tea?

It depends on your taste. The more tea leaves are steeped, the more flavor and tannins are produced to give it more taste.

Bottom Line

There you have it- a guide to cast iron teapots. We hope that our exhaustive guide has answered all the questions you had about cast iron teapot, and now you are in a better position to buy a suitable one to enhance your tea drinking experience.

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Mary L

When you discover something you love you want to share it with the world, that’s only natural. My passion had become my way of life, and I am finally able to share a cup of the good stuff with the ones I love. Proof that dreams really do come true when you can share your favorite brew.

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