The Influence of Brewing Vessel on Tea Quality

For years and years, I’ve been hearing stories of how important the brewing vessel is in producing an excellent brew. Lots of different reasons have been given for why a particular method or material is the “best”. Unfortunately, very few of the claims are consistent. As an example, cast-iron tetsubins have been touted as being the best for brewing tea because the metal keeps the tea hotter longer. They’ve also been reviled for not keeping the tea hot enough because metal radiates heat too quickly. Some say they’re good for you because the iron they are made of conditions the water and acts as an iron supplement. Others say that the metal makes the tea taste metallic (even in ones where the water and tea never touch the metal because they’ve been enameled on the inside).

So how important is the container on the flavor of the tea? That depends. It depends on whether you think quality of the brewed tea is an objective thing, or if it’s subjective. Essentially, you’re delusional. Yes, I’m talking about you…the one reading this. I’m delusional, too, of course. Think about it. The standard human comes with two separate eyes and two separate optic nerves. How come you don’t see two images of everything? Because your brain takes actual objective information about the world and interprets it. And the human brain does lots of automatic interpretation—which sometimes isn’t accurate. If it was, there’d be no such thing as an optical illusion.

But what does that have to do with flavor? Plenty. I’d talk about it myself, but an article I read a couple of days ago does it far better than I ever could. It has to do with an analysis of the claim that different wine glasses make a difference in tasting wine. I encourage you to read it, keeping in mind any opinions you have about the suitability of a particular type of brewing vessel—tetsubin, Yixing clay, porcelain gaiwan, glass or silver teapot, etc.

Shattered Myths
by Daniel Zwerdling
published August 2004,

(Link opens in new window)

I’d love to hear your thoughts, so once you’re done reading the article, please come back and comment.