Wednesday, October 04, 2017

**REVIEW** Cast Iron Teapot (Tetsubin)

Before I get to the review, a little preface:

Just so you all know, not all of the products I have reviewed over the past few years were given to me by sellers or brands. I will review (and have done)  just about anything I personally buy. For one thing, I think that reviews help other people when they are trying to make a decision about a purchase. That's why I will review even the most mundane, everyday type of item. I know that someone out there might be trying to decide between an item by Brand A and Brand B and might just find my review helpful. I know that because I read a ton of reviews before I make purchases.

Anyway, I do get the chance to try out some pretty cool products that I might not otherwise have given a thought. Recently, I was caught completely off guard when I was asked to try out a cast iron teapot.

What? I had never heard of such a thing. My mother used cast iron everything - pots, skillets, griddles - but I don't recall seeing a cast iron teapot. I was definitely happy to do this review!

Another name used here in America for a cast iron teapot/tea kettle is tetsubin. If you're a hipster. If you're like Granny from the Beverly Hillbillies, you just call it a good kettle. I like using the term tetsubin, but I now know to be careful about slinging that word around. You will see what I mean in a minute.

I was given the chance to try this cast iron teapot:

 Cute, yes? I think so. Problem is, I didn't realize how tiny it would be. I was thinking about Granny and her big old cast iron kettle. What I got was something very small and finely detailed.

No matter what that label says, this is NOT a tetsubin

It's adorable. Also, when you think about it, it's perfect for serving a decent amount of tea. It can hold 21 ounces of liquid, which is more than a decent amount.

But... teapot or tea kettle?

Once I was offered this, I had to go and look up information about cast iron teapots in general. I started with Wikipedia (of course) and gave myself a headache with info overload. Still, I learned is that this particular teapot is not what the Japanese would call a proper tetsubin. That's because this one has an enamel coating inside because the pot is intended only for brewing/steeping tea. If it were used to heat the water, the enamel coating would be damaged. A real tetsubin is doesn't have the interior coating because it is used as a kettle and can be heated over a fire (or stovetop). This from Japan Design Store does a better job explaining the differences.

Be careful when shopping for a tetsubin

I really do like this teapot. But that is what it is - a teapot. If you are looking for a kettle that you can heat water in and serve tea from, make sure you're not getting a pot with an enameled interior. That can be tricky because that information isn't always clear and not all sellers are as honest as the one I dealt with. They call the pot I tried a tetsubin on the actual tag but not in the online product description (like some less careful sellers do). By the way, I actually asked if this seller carried a non-enameled pot but they didn't have any. Darn.

How did it work?

This teapot is so beautiful  that it could be used as a nice piece of decor. It's not as heavy as I expected and I found it really easy to handle even when it was full The one thing I do have to be careful of is that the outside can get very hot. The handle is heat-free but you still need to touch the lid at some point. That lid gets real hot. Also, when I pour the tea, I tend to reach and hold the lid so it won't slide. Don't do that. The lid won't slide if you move slow.

There is a removable infusion basket that fits nicely right under the lid. That's great for loose tea. With bagged tea, I removed the infusion basket and just dropped the bags right into the pot. Dealing with that basket is when you're at risk of touching hot spots.

The first time I used the pot, the tea didn't stay hot for long at all. I think it started getting lukewarm after about 20 minutes. The second time around, I pre-warmed the pot by letting some boiling water sit in it a few minutes before I was ready to use fresh hot water to steep my tea. (Did that make sense?) The tea stayed hot for about 40 minutes. Not bad. When I went back and re-read the instructions, I remembered that I could have sat the pot on a candle warmer. So... the third time around, I didn't pre-warm the pot, but I put the pot on my candler warmer. That didn't really help. Maybe my warmer wasn't hot enough?

Bottom line

If what you want is an attractive serving pot, then this one would be great. If you are a serious tea drinker and want something super functional, you might want to look at a non-enameled pot. Most non-enameled pots are more expensive. There are a few in the $30-$40 range but you really have to look hard to find them. I wanted a pot that I could use as a kettle also, but didn't have the budget for some of the pricey choices. As an alternative, first look for "tea kettle" in the description, then ask the seller if the interior enamel is the "high oxidation" type that can be safely used on a stove top.

To be honest, I would prefer a cast iron tea kettle. I guess I will be looking around for one in that $30 price range... I just might have found one. If you know of something better, please let me know.

By the way, I want a full cast iron kettle for the same reason I like cast iron skillets: I was taught that using cast iron is healthy because it adds iron to the diet. Old wives' tale? Maybe, maybe not, but I think my mama would want me to have a cast iron kettle! So there.

This one that I tried would make an awesome wedding gift. This one came in the red I chose (of course) and a green shade. There are other pots similar to this one in various colors and with all kinds of designs. This one came in the red I chose (of course) and a green shade.

I rate this one ★★★★☆ because of the need to pre-warm for best results.

I had fun and someone is going to be getting a nice used teapot for Christmas!