Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Silverware elegance

The use of silver for tea ware dates back to the very beginning of tea consumption during the Tang dynasty. The reasons for using silver in the tea preparation haven't changed much since. Silver is a precious metal that only a minority can afford. This tea set, for instance, isn't mine, but it belongs to an aunt I visited recently in San Francisco. It is a silver (plated?) set marked 'Henley Community'. She must have bought it some 50 years ago! She had it on display in a glass cabinet in her dining room. I rushed to take it out and put it to good use with my red teas.

Silver teapots produce a very strong and yet clean tasting tea brew when you use good tea leaves. The high heat conductivity of silver helps get the most out of the leaves. This is the reason why silver is best suited for top quality teas with tips. And the antimicrobial properties of silver give this very clean and pure taste. These are very practical reasons that make silver well suited to brew tea.

The third reason is linked to the first, its high value. Such a precious material calls for exquisite designs and refinement. Silver tea sets are often very ornamental and almost works of art by themselves. They embody the spirit of the Cha Xi: practical beauty. The tea flows with much grace when coming out of this long spout:
Silver tea ware reminds us that the joy of tea aims at elegance, beauty. Not just to the eyes, but to all our senses: delicate smells, a lively and pure mouthfeel, smooth surfaces to touch, a pleasant quietness... A beautiful vision is only a beginning. Tea asks to be experienced with all out attention. Again and again.
A Japanese silver Cha Tuo shaped like petals

2 comments:

La Tea Dah said...

Thank you for this post. I have several silver teasets, but usually brew my tea in glass or porcelain and then transfer it to my silver service to pour. I was afraid that the flavor might be affected if I brewed in the silver pot. I am glad to know that it produces a fresh and delicious pot of tea when brewed in the silver piece.

Thank you!
LaDonna
Gracious Hospitality

Stephane said...

Hello LaDonna!
Please let me know how your brewing in silver is going, what changes you notice. Silver is a neutral material that won't give a taste to the tea. However, the properties of silver will impact the tea brew. This may sound contradictory and confusing: the contact of tea and silver doesn't change the tea much, but the higher brewing temperature of silver does. That's why I recommend only to use top quality tea with silver.