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Tetsubin: Making of Japanese Cast Iron Teapots

Tetsubin: Making of Japanese Cast Iron Teapots

Interested in seeing how a Japanese teapot is made? This is a series of pictures showing our Hobnail Cast Iron teapots being made in a Japanese teapot factory. For over 100 years, this factory has been producing cast iron teapots and they are known for their fine artistry and attention to detail.

First a couple of points: Cast Iron is the best way to brew tea for several reasons:
  • Cast iron teapots evenly distribute the heat throughout the pot for a more even temperature, which does a better job of extracting the flavors and health benefits from the tea leaves.
  • They also retain heat for hours. If you add a teapot warmer with a tea light, your tea will stay hot for five to eight hours.
  • With proper care, Cast Iron teapots will never break or rust. They can last a lifetime.
  • They are also the easiest way to make tea: they include a stainless steel basket, so you put the tea in the basket and the hot water in the pot. Once the tea is done just remove the basket and enjoy your hot tea for hours.
  • Cast Iron pots are also very decorative and often have symbolic meanings.

Our cast iron pots are all lead-free.

The making of a tetsubin, or Japanese cast iron, teapot starts with the mold. First the molds are created and the inner mold is put into position:

Tetsubin Molds

Next the liquid iron is heated and poured into the mold. This pivotal step requires extremely hot iron as you can see:

Tetsubin Liquid Iron

Once the iron cools and hardens, the inner and outer molds are broken to release the teapot.

Tetsubin Molds Broken

The next step requires a great deal of artistry. The raw edges are hand smoothed using a sanding machine and an experienced artisan. At this point, much work has gone into the pots, but it is easily ruined by someone with less skill:

Tetsubin Smoothed

Once that process is done, the next step is coating the inner surface with a protective enamel by hand. This enamel creates a barrier that should last a lifetime with proper care. When washing a tetsubin teapot, we recommend using only very hot water, rather than soap or detergent. This ensures that the pots inner enamel surface remains intact. Here is a Japanese woman coating the inner surface:

Tetsubin Coated

Next, the external painted surface is hand applied. We offer several colors, but these appear to be black or a grey:

Tetsubin Painted

Once painted, the extra color on the surface is removed by hand also. In this step the teapot is patted (not rubbed) dry to lightly lift off the extra color. The first time you clean your teapot, some of the color may bleed off slightly, but this does not indicate a defect. The drying process also creates a beautiful finish to the teapots:

Tetsubin Dried

Finally the teapots are finished. The final product is inspected completely before being packaged and shipped to Teavana stores. In total, it takes an average of fifteen people, some of whom are very skilled artisans, to make an authentic tetsubin teapot.

Hopefully that gives you a better understanding of the steps in making these beautiful teapots. We're proud at Teavana to carry only authentic Tetsubin, which are the cast iron teapots hand-made in Japan.

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