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An Introduction to Tea Pets

Posted on 11/13/2023

Have you ever met a tea pet? You may have spotted these little clay figurines in your tea travels and been curious about these tiny tea companions.

They were originally crafted as early as the Yuan dynasty (1206–1368), using the bits of clay left over from the creation of the traditional unglazed Zisha (Yixing) teapots. These days, tea pets are in higher demand, and created for their own sake in a wide variety of styles and larger range of materials. Some are even designed to do things like squirt water or blow bubbles. Dragons, cats, toads, turtles, and pigs are a few of the many mythical characters you might come across.

In addition to being adorable and cheerful, tea pets traditionally have an association with good fortune. The type of luck they attract will depend on their placement on the tea table and the type of character they are. They usually reside on a tea tray, but all they really need is a shallow dish to catch the drips of tea that you “feed” them.

Caring for a tea pet is quite simple: regularly pour a small amount of tea from your cup or teapot over them, being sure to coat them completely. This simple act keeps them very happy. Like their Zisha teapot relatives, these tea friends slowly take on the character of the tea that you “feed” them, and they will develop a rich patina over time as they undergo the curing process.

Because they are unglazed, Zisha teapots are typically dedicated to one type of tea, so that the flavors absorbed by the clay are as consistent as possible and don’t greatly alter the overall character of the resulting cup of tea. Tea pets don’t require that kind of specialization; you can share any tea you happen to be sipping at the moment. Watching their evolution over time can be a meditative and rewarding process.

We hope this has been an interesting look into the world of tea pets. Until next time, keep sipping!

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