Cleaning Your Teapots and Other Teawares

A lot of confusion and conflicting information is out there about whether and how to clean your teapots and other steeping vessels. There is also no “one size fits all” answer, since the answer will depend on what you are using. So we put together this summary based on the material from which the teaware was made. It shouldn’t matter if the vessel is a teapot, gaiwan, kyusu, or even a cup or mug.



450cc Chinese Traditional Calligraphy Tea Pot

Unsealed Clay (Yixing)

  • Rinse with water only.
  • Let pot and lid air dry separately and thoroughly before putting away.

The key word here is “unsealed,” which for clay means porous, as in “has lots of teeny tiny little holes into which molecules of liquid can go.” So they soak up some of the tea that you steep each time you steep it. It also means that things like dishwashing liquid and soap will get absorbed into the clay, too. That means you need to avoid using any kind of cleaner on your unsealed clay teawares.

Ceramic

  • Hand wash with warm water and mild dishwashing liquid.
  • Let air dry or dry by hand.

This is sealed clay. While the tea will not be absorbed into it, a tea layer can form inside the teapot and taint the flavor of the next tea steeped and/or served in it. Today’s Yunnan black tea could end up flavoring tomorrow’s Bi Luo Chun (Green Snail) Green Tea. Not a good combo (but each delicious on its own)! Avoid getting whicker or bamboo handles wet any more than necessary.

Bone China

  • Hand wash with warm water and mild dishwashing liquid.
  • Let air dry or dry by hand.

This is clay mixed with a powder made from dried animal bones, giving it increased strength so that the cups, teapots, etc., can be made thinner yet still be strong.

Stoneware

  • Hand wash with warm water and mild dishwashing liquid.
  • Let air dry or dry by hand.

A good example here is the Brown Betty, very popular in the UK. The clay is coarser and therefore the claywares are thicker, helping them to hold in heat better and steep the tea more efficiently. Some people say to only rinse out a Brown Betty so that tea residue can build up inside and make the flavor stronger. That’s a personal choice, though.

Glass

  • Hand wash with warm water and mild dishwashing liquid.
  • Dry by hand to avoid spotting.

Glass is so great for steeping teas and watching the leaves unfurl. The joy of the leaves! Glass can be scratched, so avoid using anything harsh like steel wool. Dry by hand since water spots can spoil that view.



TP-170 Kamjove Tea Maker-500cc

Stainless Steel

  • Hand wash with warm water and mild dishwashing liquid.
  • Let air dry or dry by hand.

Stainless steel retains heat well and so is a good material for keeping your tea warm during a prolonged tea time. It can be scratched, though, so avoid anything harsh, such as steel wool.

Silver

  • Hand wash with warm water and mild dishwashing liquid.
  • Let air dry or dry by hand using a soft towel (preferably 100% cotton or linen).
  • If your silver does not have a tarnish sealant on it, be sure to store your pieces in something airtight or in special tarnish inhibiting containers.

Silver is wonderful for teapots, since it holds heat well enough that you don’t even need a cozy. The teapot handle can get warm, though, so some are made with wooden handles. Be sure that the wood is sealed or you will need to avoid getting it wet during cleaning. Also, it can be scratched, so avoid anything harsh, such as steel wool.

Cast Iron

  • Rinse with water only.
  • Let pot and lid air dry separately and thoroughly before putting away.

Cast iron should not rust if you follow the above.

Take care of your teawares and they will serve up tasty tea for many years to come!

About Janice and Stephen Shelton

Purveyors of Premium Teas
This entry was posted in Teawares and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to Cleaning Your Teapots and Other Teawares

  1. Thanks. This is good to know. I have a British friend who subscribes to the “do not wash out the flavor” course. I guess that works best if you only drink one kind of tea from that vessel.

    Like

  2. lance says:

    also for those hard to remove stains mix up a paste of baking soda and use it to polish off the crud. just as said before yixing is prety much off limits

    Like

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