Tea Pots Around the World

As a historical artifact, the teapot is as important to the enjoyment of tea as the leaf itself. Choosing the right teapot could be as challenging as choosing the right tea for a special occasion. Most tea lovers like having a collection of different teapots, waiting for the right moment to be used. We discuss the most famous teapots and their historical significance.

Chinese Teapots

Teapots were invented and first used in China and the design is said to be based on the Chinese wine ewer. The first mention of China teapot is seen in a book?which says that the British East India Company officials in 1694 directed to be sent?teapots made in China. They specifically asked these pots to have a grate before the spout. They actually wanted a barrier in place before the beverage was poured in mugs to hold tea leaves behind. This was the first time that teapots with infusers were made.

Japanese Teapots

Tea was introduced to Japan from China by travelling Buddhist monks. Japanese teapot is traditionally known as Kusu while the teapot that was obtained from Yixing was referred to as cha-hu. There have been many shapes and designs of Kyusu in vogue in Japan. It can have a side handle or a handle at the rear.

Indian Teapots

In rural India, tea is still consumed in earthen pots or cups made of red clay. During formal occasions such as festivals and functions, teapots made of bone china or porcelain are used in different parts of the country. White teapots are standard across the country. A glass teapot set is used at special ceremonies to make a good impression on?guests, served in glass cups and the best table clothes.

English Teapots

The British imported not only tea but also teapots from China and India. English teapots were mostly pear-shaped whereas now nearly any shape and the colour is possible. Who would have thought we would see black, red or even multicoloured?teapots! Or a teapot that sits on top of a matching mug to serve tea for one.

European Teapots

The East India Company introduced not only tea to England but also Chinese teapots to Europe. It was in Germany that first attempt to make earthen teapots similar to those from?Asia was made. They tried to make soft paste porcelain, but they were fragile and often broke when hot tea was poured into them. Eventually, the breakthrough in making teapots was achieved in France where they also decorated these first?teapots with Rococo and elaborate baroque designs.

Turkish Teapots

Turkey is one of the biggest consumers of tea today and also have a rich history of drinking tea and different ways to make tea. Turkish tea drinkers use a double teapot called a ‘caydanlik’, to prepare strong black tea. Water is boiled in the lower pot while dry leaves are placed in the top-pot.

An Autobiography of a Tea Leaf

You dropped me in hot water, strained me to take out the flavors out of me and I hardly mind that since I was born to serve you the best aroma I have. I eagerly anticipated this day when my full potential transformed into a warm cup of fragrant tea, right since the day I was born and raised in the beautiful hills of Darjeeling.

The Biology human-nerds call us Camelia Sinensis. But we are popular as Tea Leaves all over the world. And just like how humans have at least one cousin who has settled abroad, I have truck load of them living overseas! I know they miss home. Growing up dancing in the gentle breeze of Darjeeling hills, we watched the sunrise together. Our magnificent emerald green plantations were studded with lovely women hustling to pick the best of us. They sang beautifully. Sometimes even danced. This was the scene at the end of winters, with the sky lit with warm sunrays.

How do they work so hard? we often wondered and with smiles and grace, in these chilly breezy mountains

They have superpowers we secretly know it comes from us. Why else would humans wake up and drink Tea first thing in the morning? And all through out the day, especially when low on energy!

While I grew up, I overheard stories from our Tea Pickers. They spoke fondly about the magical cities. I have been excited about visiting those while I grew into sweet tender leaf in the winter months. But as magical as the cities are, people get tired often, I heard and there is so much work to do! Children seldom sleep at night. They always have to finish something called as late night studies. And the oldies, they are down with indigestion, blood pressure and diabetes. As I heard stories about them, just as much they made me sad, they inspired me to leave the comforts of Sadanand jis farm. For I believe I have the solution to all their problems!

After coming to the cities, I learnt a lot. Us Tea Leaves are known to cure tension and anxiety that busy lives bring to the human folklore. Now its hard for me to actually know what anxiety is, but by the sound of it, it seems taxing. I help humans release a chemical called dopamine, it helps the mind stay happy and calm. I am not surprised; I am very charming like that!
Cancer is the scariest thing I have heard of. Its caused by oxidative damage in human body. But I am full of anti oxidants. I can prevent this crazy disease that is rampant among humans.

When I was plucked and sent to the processing unit, I was terrified. The trucks moved so fast! Why are humans in such a hurry? After reaching the factory, we were segregated. I was mildly roasted, as I was to be Green. Getting roasted however wasnt easy. It was really hot. But boy, after the processing, I smelled so darn good! I couldnt get enough of smelling myself. Id put all the Lux Soap ads to shame!

Well there I was, Rachael, a fully qualified Green Tea Leaf ? ready to be packaged and put on a mission! This time, I traveled by train, which was even faster! Seriously humans, you guys need to slow down a little, dont be so hard on yourselves.

TE-A-ME carefully put me in a BEAUTIFUL tea bag, which was sealed in a sachet and packaged in these awesome colorful boxes! ?There was no way I could lose my fragrance. And thus I found my identity. I feel so darn proud. I have had many fine friends with me. With different backgrounds and high merit. We spent our time telling each other our awesome life stories. Ginger has my best friend and Tulsi smells so good! We were different, we argued and disagreed but together we decided to fight many troubles of mankind. Our mission kept us united and happy. ?And while we were dipped in hot water, we gladly came out as wonderful flavors complementing each other.

Let us then, humans, allow us to remind you, every time you brew yourself a fine Cup of Tea in your busy schedules, that everything will be alright. That we got your back ALWAYS!

So Many Teas, So Little Time

I am, by no means, a tea expert, but being a tea lover, I always look forward to tasting various flavours and qualities. Last year, when my friend and fellow tea enthusiast, Swarup, called me up to find out if I would be interested in joining a tea tasting event in Darjeeling organised by his company, I gladly agreed. It was, in fact, too good an offer to refuse. Plus, I had to be in Kurseong the same day for a meeting. I was thrilled at the way everything fell into place!

On reaching Darjeeling, I found Swarup waiting for me. He drove to me to the processing unit and gave me a quick tour around the area. Then, we headed towards the garden where the event was taking place. With the Himalayas stretched like a canvas before the eyes, and the cool breeze sweeping over the lush tea plantation, it was a mesmerizing atmosphere, to say the least. There were premium-quality Darjeeling teas in all shapes, textures, and flavours, and I realised that my taste buds are in for a treat.

Swarup introduced me to Tshering Sherpa, an ace tea taster in business for over 20 years. The charming middle-aged man, who decides the price of Darjeeling flavours, described the finer aspects of tea tasting. Three sensory perceptions — the sight, smell, and taste — are involved in decoding the grade of teas, he explained, as he led us to the tasting zone. The fact that the taste of tea differs due to climate, soil composition, and rainfall, makes the job of a tea taster even more complex.

Upon arriving at the tasting zone, I noticed a lady setting up samples of freshly plucked teas on a long table. She prepared 30 different samples by pouring hot water from a metallic kettle into ceramic containers with different qualities of loose tea leaves, all produced in this garden. Sherpa mentioned that the leaves need to be soaked for exactly five minutes before the tea is poured into a cup. The ideal temperature for tasting, to get the best flavour, is 40°C, so the tea should be left alone for a while to cool, Sherpa said.

As told, I closely observed the flavours, before sniffing and sipping one cup after the other. There was a bowl of hot water placed at the end of the table to wash off the previous flavour before sipping the next. But before I could finish tasting all of the samples, I had to leave or else I wouldn’t have reached Kurseong in time. I was rueful and all I could say was…“so many teas, so little time”. Swarup knew how much I’d have loved to stay and promised me yet another similar treat in future.

After returning to Kolkata, I got busy with work and life. Months passed by and suddenly on a Sunday morning, the doorbell rang. I found a courier boy at my doorstep, standing with a packet. I was a bit puzzled, as I couldn’t remember ordering anything. But yes, the parcel definitely had my name on it.

As I unwrapped the packet, there emerged a wooden box with the name of the garden I visited embossed on it. The tea sampler gift set, containing five compartments filled with top five loose leaf teas rated by tasters at the end of the tasting session. This was a gift by Swarup who also left a note attached: “Until the next tasting session”.

“Brewing time”, I told myself, but before getting immersed into the heady experience of irresistible flavours and aromas, I called up Swarup to thank him for the loose tea sampler gift set and the invitation for the next tasting event.

Of Glenary’s, Gardens, and Gifts

 

The majestic scenic grandeur of the snow-capped Himalayan peaks, the misty, sleepy tea estates, the British-era toy train that whistles and chugs its way on a zigzag track, make Darjeeling frantically magnetic. It’s hard to name just one thing that I love about this place. Yet, one of my favourite spots during my trips to the ‘Queen of Hills’ has always been Glenary’s, a 1950’s bakery and restaurant that still holds on to its vintage charm. This year, it was even more special.

Moving up the red-carpeted stairway, I headed to the seating area upstairs that offers marvellous views of the valley and mountains. I was waiting for an old friend when the breakfast I ordered was served. The delicious sandwiches and the lemon tart — they tasted just the same for as long as I’ve visited Glenary’s. I can remember my 10 year-old self enjoying these goodies with a generous helping of hot chocolate, which I sometimes traded for the fragrant Darjeeling tea that grown-ups ‘oohed-and-ahhed’ over. But not so easily. “Kids don’t drink tea, tutun” — I was reminded every time I tried coaxing my mother to get me a cup of tea. My college-going older brother, however, was of what was considered a permissible age to order a cup for himself. My good-natured brother would take pity and offer to bribe me some tea under the table…not unless I handed him my lemon tart.

I was lost, deep in thoughts when I was brought back to the present with a tap on my shoulder. It was my friend, Bibek. I was seeing him after three long decades. And, in all these years, he had transformed from a shy Darjeeling boy into a warm and endearing college professor. His crop of greys and silvers flickered in the sunlight and he peeked through his rimless glasses. What didn’t change was the twinkle in his eyes.

Bibek and I met in college when he had come down to Kolkata (then, Calcutta) for higher studies. A friendship that started with exchanging notes grew thicker over the years. Perhaps, my love for tea and Darjeeling played some role in our friendship. On every trip to home, he would always bring back a box of lovely, aromatic Darjeeling tea fresh from the garden, where his father worked as a manager. But he always resisted when my mother offered to make him a cup of the same tea during his evening visits — “That golden brew is for special occasions, for special guests, Mashima. I’m not a guest, am I?”

The only time Bibek accepted a gift from my mother was when he topped his university exams. It was a blue and maroon sweater she had lovingly knitted for him. With winter still some months away, it was a pretty unusual gift for the season — I had joked back then. A week before the first nip in the air arrived that year, my mother passed away. Bibek first wore the sweater during her funeral service.

A particularly memorable time of my life is the summer I spent with Bibek’s family in Darjeeling, following my mother’s death. Her absence gnawed at me, perhaps, the most. Bibek sensed this and literally dragged me with him to Darjeeling. Looking back, that was the best thing he did and I can’t thank him enough.

The tender hospitality and care of his parents coupled with the calming walks through tea gardens and hill treks worked like a restorative potion that helped me heal. Every morning at crack of dawn, I watched the workers making their way to the gardens, picking the young leaves glistening with dew drops as the first rays of the sun peered from behind the mountains. On my last day in the gardens, I was handed a tea gift box set.

The pain of loss wasn’t gone — and will never be — but I emerged out of the darkness, knowing that life must go on. Thereafter, I moved abroad for my research and my contact with Bibek gradually reduced from a couple of phone calls a year to none at all. Six months back, we crossed paths on a social media platform.

Bibek again broke my reverie with a click of his fingers. The golden-orange light of the evening winter sky was descending on the hill slopes, as I looked through the glass windows. He smiled and signalled me to open a packet that he must have slid under my fingers while I was ruminating. A tea selection gift box was unwrapped.

It amazes me how gifts of tea have always arrived to me at such opportune times. But even more amazing is the message that a tea gift box carries: life is worth living, so savour every moment!