Sunday, November 27, 2016

Christmas 2016 Teaware Recommendations

Hello Everyone,

This is a continuation of my last post, 2016 Christmas Tea Suggestions. As before, these lists are for people who probably don't know too much about tea, but have a loved one that does really appreciate good tea that they would like to get a really nice gift for. My last post was specifically tea only, but this will expand into tea ware and other tea related items. I own quite a few of these things, have used them, or really really want them myself. :P

If you expect your tea loving friend to already have teaware they're satisfied with, then I'd suggest either just tea (easy list of recommendations in previous post), pretty/fun cups, or one of the several awesome books I've listed.

Note that if you are looking for something for someone who is into Japanese Tea Ceremony (aka matcha) or honestly just Japanese green teas in general, I'll write a big post about recommendations for those teas/teawares later. It's a complicated topic...

Also I will not be recommending yixing teapots here (aside from one as part of a set from a seller I really trust) because that's something I'm knowledgeable enough about to know I don't know enough to recommend you pots randomly over the internet. haha. Unless you know way more about tea than the person you are buying for I would really discourage you from trying to find a yixing pot for your tea lover. What constitutes a great quality pot depends a lot on seeing the pot in person to test it out. Plus great quality pots are super expensive and I'm trying to keep things fairly reasonable here. :)

What I will be recommending here are things that I think tea lovers of all levels will appreciate, even if they already have something similar.

If you're trying to go the extra distance and create a tea set, my recommendation would be to scroll down and get a recommended set below. If you want to build your own set, select your choice of the following with those marked by an * as extra suggestions:
  1. brewing vessel
  2. cup
  3. *extra cups
  4. *fairness pitcher
  5. *strainer
  6. *drip tray/tea table

And one last note before the fun stuff, most of these recommendations will be for items at shops I really enjoy, but my friends and I often get a lot of teaware on eBay as well. I don't however recommend getting tea on eBay or Amazon.

Finally! The recommendations! :)
  • Brewing Vessels:
    • Smacha 170ml Gaiwan: Did I mention how much I love their ceramics? They feel so freaking good. A little on the large side, but the shape is great. $15 is about how much most normal gaiwans cost. 
      • For those of you unaware as to what Gaiwans are, these are cup and lid brewing vessels for people who enjoy primarily loose leaf teas, in particular Chinese/Taiwanese teas. These suck for most Japanese greens. I and most of my tea friends primarily use a gaiwan for brewing.
    • There are also other awesome gaiwan options on eBay all the time. I highly discourage you from getting any glass ones or stoneware ones, but ceramics are fine. Look to check that the knob on the top is indented, it's easier to use when they are. Also again, try to keep under 170ml, preferably 120ml sizes or smaller. 
    • Ru Yao Celadon Easy Gaiwan and Cup in Wooden Gift Box: For someone who wants teaware that just feels like silky butter in their fingers (I promise it isn't slippery haha). And since this comes with a nice little cup and in a lovely box (keep the box!) it's a fantastic set building piece.
    • Smacha Autobrewer: Sorry, not sorry, but this thing is fantastic. It's basically a hands off version of gongfu brewing, let's be real. Water goes in, tea immediately comes out for as long as it takes to pour. Also, I'm a very textile person and whatever the heck type of ceramic they use for these things feels the freaking best. I wouldn't get this for someone who already has a gaiwan, but if someone needs a little push in that direction or is just too stuck on their huge teapot ways this is the brewing vessel for them. 
  • Cups: For most tea dedicated tea drinkers, you should want to get something fairly small. I prefer 80-50ml cups when drinking by myself, but often use my ~30ml cups too. I rarely break out anything larger because it is hard to drink from large cups fast enough for the tea in my fairness pitcher to stay hot. Small cups allow the tea to cool down very quickly allowing you to drink at a fairly hot temperature quite quickly. I also prefer cups that are thin because I think the temperature feedback from your fingers is very important. If you burn your fingers you will definitely burn your tongue. But if your cup is too thick and you can't properly tell how hot the tea is when holding the cup you may accidentally assume your tea is not scaldingly hot too. Hard to taste tea properly when your tongue is burnt. :( But some thick cups are just too pretty so I'm sticking them in anyways... :P 
    • Handmade Silver Lined Tea Cups 40ml 'Peacock Style': These are done in a similar style to old Song Dynasty Tenmoku Chawans [tea bowls] except miniature (although perfect size for drinking using a gaiwan)! Talk about super awesome.
    • Porcelain Tea Tasting Cups: If you are building your own set individually then these are almost definitely the cups to get. Especially for someone who loves to have guests over to drink tea with. Fantastic stocking stuffers. When I ran my tea club I could always use more of these even though I already had like 12.
    • Blue on White "Plum Blossoms" Porcelain Cups from Jingdezhen lovely cups, good size. The shape is very helpful for drinking quickly.
    • Porcelain Aroma Cup and Cup Set: For the oolong lover in particular! How they work is that you first put the tea into the tall cup, then you pick up the short normal cup, turn it upside down, place it on top of the tall cup, then holding them tightly together you quickly flip them upside down so that the tall cup is sticking out of the small one. When you lift the tall cup off the tea will pour into the small cup and leave residual aromatic oils on the inside of the tall cup. Then you stick your nose in there and sniff to your heart's delight. The shape of the cup concentrates the smell of the tea. It's really fun to do. :)
    • Ru Yao Celadon Square Cups: Ru Yao Celadonware feels fantastic. So long as it fits my size preferences (and is a good price) I almost always recommend it. :)
    • Tomboy Ceramix Works Cups: Coolest cups in the world. Whoever says money can't buy love is wrong.
    • There are also lots of cool cups on Ebay. :)
  • Fairness Pitchers: This is if you're building a set. Otherwise I wouldn't get these just on their own probably.
    • All Glass Double-Walled Glass Cha Hai: Bit large, but that's okay for a fairness pitcher. Double walled will help keep the tea hot for longer and also looks great. However beware these will break with a loud pop if dropped. But I've had these (and a ton of little cups like these before) and it's honestly worth the risk. haha. 
  • Puerh Picks/Knives: Yes, there are tea knives. This is to protect our puerh from sticky fingers or unscrupulous roommates... lol Just kidding. This is to pick apart extremely hard puerh bricks or tuos. Some are just insanely tightly packed. Also they look super cool, right?? ;)
  • Sets:
    • Porcelain Gongfu Tea Service: Beautiful with perfectly sized everything. Does not come with a tea tray.
    • Simple Gongfu Starter Set: This is similar to the set I got my first gaiwan with. It is very tiny, but super convenient to be able to carry around for someone who wants to share tea wherever they go (or take to work). 
      • There is also an upgraded version of this set that includes a drip tray in the style I like as well as a fairness pitcher, a yixing pot, and a shou puerh tuo, as well as a tea pick. Basically everything that a person starting to get serious about tea would need and for a fantastic price. 
  • Tea Trays: I really recommend either getting one with a plastic pull out tray or one with a drain tube. The bamboo ones with a lifting lid tend to break fairly easily. Also, almost no one really needs the large sizes. So I would recommend getting the smaller sized trays. You only need room to fit the brewing vessel and cup(s) and possibly fairness pitcher and strainer. These all don't take up much room.
  • Kettles: If they don't have an electric kettle already, they will almost definitely love to have one. These are the ones that the tea community generally likes the best. We either get these on Amazon or Ebay most frequently. If you're using Amazon, please remember to use and 5% of your purchase will be donated to a charity of your choice. I donate to NuDay Syria.
    • Bonavita Electric Kettle, Gooseneck Variable Temperature, 1.0L This is the one I want lol. But it's the more expensive version. Don't buy unless you see it at around $80 or less. The price on fluctuates fairly often though this one is pretty much always more expensive than the non-Gooseneck version.
    • Bonavita 1.7-Liter Variable Temperature Digital Electric Kettle I have this one myself and it's lasted me over 2 years now just fantastic. However wait to buy if you ever see the price above $65. It fluctuates really frequently down around there or below.
    • I do not really recommend getting a Zojirushi kettle because most have the spouts fairly close to their bodies and also rather high up. They're fine for Japanese style brewing for the most part, but not really for gongfu with gaiwans or yixing.
  • Books:
    • Tea: A User's Guide: I have been waiting for this book to come out for what feels like at least four years. Tony is a fantastic tea resource, extremely knowledgeable and a good writer to boot. Get this book.
    • Puer Tea: Ancient Caravans and Urban Chic: This is a super cool book. It's not about the flavors or chemistry or processing of puerh tea, but the history and culture surrounding it. A fantastic read and must have for anyone who loves puerh.
    • Wind in the Pines: This is a book dealing largely with Japanese Buddhist philosophy concerning tea/tea ceremony/tea aesthetics. There is so much interesting thought and history contained in this book.
    • Tea: History, Terroirs, Varieties: One of the best books currently available. Lots of beautiful pictures, wonderful introduction. Has more of a story quality about the different sections.
    • The Art of Tea: I want all of these magazines. Camellia Sinensis has quite a few issues. I hear so much about them all the time. It's getting hard to find them though...
  • Other:
    • Digital Scale: Tea should be measured by weight, not volume. Using tea spoons to measure tea is terrible. This is the scale I have.

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