Know Your Teaware: Tea Pets

If you’re a fan of tea, chances are you’ve run into a tea pet either in person or in a photograph. Dearies, these little figures are just so irresistible! A tea pet is a true symbol of the enjoyment of tea- it’s a little friend to share the tea with, and enhance the experience. Kat likes to put a tea pet or two on her tea table, to bring a friendly warmth to the tea session.

 A tea pet is a small clay figure kept on the tea table for good luck. It’s a little tea companion to join you as you sip. When Kat first started collecting these creatures, I started to get a little jealous. She usually selects a couple of them to join us when we have tea in the Chinese gongfu style. They merrily sit on the tea table as we steep multiple infusions of tea. I started to realize they are just fun little companions, and can’t ever really complete with the importance of a teacup like me.

 Tea pets are often found in animal forms, usually creatures that are popular in Chinese culture. I’ve also seen buddhas, monks, and even Lu Yu, the revered tea sage. It’s difficult to find historical information on tea pets, but I noticed them on many tea tables throughout China while traveling with Char. With a bit of research, I did discover that tea pets seemed to evolve from the leftover bits of clay used to make teapots. When Char was interested in purchasing a tea pet, she was told to look for one that spoke to her. Kat has also selected tea pets that called her name. It was fun to search through online tea stores looking for the tea pets that called out to her. Kat has a few made of yixing clay, and she also has one that is made with a ruyao glaze. This is a coating over the clay that over time develops tea stained crackles all over the glaze. It gives the teaware a beautiful appearance.

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