How To Use A Tetsubin (Japanese Kettle)

A tetsubin is a traditional Japanese tea kettle and an icon of Japanese culture. Made of cast iron, tetsubin are super sturdy and solid to boot!

Tetsubin have been around for hundreds of years. The kettles became commonplace in Japan during the 18th century when a form of tea-drinking called sencha became popular. Later in the 19th century, tetsubin evolved into symbols of wealth and class: kettles with artistic or elaborate designs reflected the high status of the owner.

These days, you don’t need to be a member of high society to enjoy this cultural artifact. Tetsubin are widely available and make a wonderful addition to any tea ritual. Here are a few tips for using your tetsubin.

Caring For A Tetsubin

  • While tetsubin were originally used to boil water, you should only use yours to brew tea. Most modern tetsubin are made with an enamel lining that could get damaged if you boil water in the kettle.
  • Before using the tetsubin, swish some hot (not scorching) water around inside. This will warm the enamel lining and prevent any thermal shock. This will also prep your pot for brewing and ensure that your tea stays warmer for longer. After warming, dry with a clean cloth.
  • Do not leave tea inside the tetsubin for long periods of time. Make sure the tetsubin does not come into contact with any salty or oily substances.
  • To clean the inside of the kettle, wash it out with warm soapy water and avoid using any abrasive pads or scrub brushes (some people warn against using soap on the cast iron, but a mild soap should be fine).

Making Tea In A Tetsubin

  1. Measure out your tea leaves and add them to the pot’s infuser. A good ratio is one teaspoon of tea leaves for every cup of water.
  2. Heat the tea water. For white and green tea, turn off the water before it boils: this will ensure the best brew. Black tea, however, tastes the best when prepared with boiling water.
  3. Pour the water into the pot through the infuser. Then, let the tea steep accordingly (how long it steeps depends on the tea you use. Be sure to double check the tea’s package!).
  4. Serve and enjoy!