Last Wednesday, we strolled by the sea in a small French Riviera village. Today we’re in mega city Los Angeles at the Farmers Market, a historic LA landmark that opened in 1934.
Popular with locals and tourists alike, this lively spot at 3rd and Fairfax is a hub for shopping, dining and socializing. With more than 100 food stalls and restaurants, gourmet grocers, specialty shops and other attractions — including the fresh produce that launched its start — it’s a fun place to take out-of-town guests, stop for a bite and browse.
An Invitation to Exploration
One afternoon my partner and I stopped in for lunch at Loteria, a popular Mexican food stand we like. On our way out through the market labyrinth, I spotted today’s WGW photo in a tea shop window:
These sturdy metal teapots with their decorative designs and brilliant colors had an aesthetic appeal about them. They caught my eye and made me curious.
I’d seen similar teapots before, but in black or brown tones, not these vivid colors, and wanted to learn more about them. There was no time to inquire in the shop that day, but the find spurred some later investigation.
Teapot, Tea Kettle or Both?
I didn’t set out to or become an expert, but the teapots in that window display opened a fascinating world of tea brewing culture and history. Here is a summary of what I learned:
Cast iron kettles called “tetsubins” have been made in Japan since the 16th century and were developed for use in the Japanese tea ceremony. The traditional tetsubin is handcrafted and the interior is bare, uncoated iron. It is used only as a kettle for boiling water, not as a teapot for brewing the tea.
Adding an element of confusion, a cast iron teapot with enamel coating inside, made only for brewing tea, is also referred to as a tetsubin. Its correct name is “tetsu kyusu.” In the 20th century many of these teapots began to appear for the overseas/online market, made by factories in Japan or China. They look much like the traditional tetsubin, but cost much less.
Why would you need both tea kettle and teapot? Boiling water in a tetsu kyusu will cause the enamel to crack, but most important, it’s about the transformative quality of the water: Using water boiled in a traditional unglazed tetsubin gives the tea an enhanced flavor and intensity. (You also get an infusion of iron from the kettle, which some find a health benefit.)
What about the varied colors? The traditional tetsubin is black with a pebbly surface. As these tea kettles evolved to teapots used at the table for serving, Japanese artisans began to embellish them and incorporate color.
What do you use for making tea? Do these functional works of art appeal to you?
For more details about tetsubins, see: https://hojotea.com/categ_e/tetsubin.htm and
For a useful summary of the several Japanese teapots, see: https://www.californiateahouse.com/tea-blog/japanese-teapots-explained#
Explore the Farmers Market and its history here: https://www.farmersmarketla.com/
Copyright M. Vincent 2018
Farmers Market courtyard photo copyright Brad Nixon 2018, used with permission. Other photos copyright M. Vincent 2018.