Topic: Silver and Iron Kettles

It is said that tea has 5 elements - water, fire, metal, wood and earth. It is said that not only using a quality metal (mostly narrowed down to iron and pure silver) significantly improves the taste of tea, but so does using a charcoal fire (wood element) vs some kind of electric heating element. Do any of you have experience with different kettles or even using a charcoal brazier to heat the water? What are your impressions?


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Re: Silver and Iron Kettles

Are you basing this on:
http://the-leaf.org/issue4/wp-content/u … e-page.pdf ?

I don't know if I agree with the reasons given there, but I have heard many people say that iron and silver (especially the latter) improve the taste of water. I have only limited experience with either, but even I would say that I've noticed some slight improvements when using either iron or silver, and a few other people have also said that the improvement is very noticeable. (I'll also note that I personally don't have a refined enough palate to notice any negative effects from using a stainless steel kettle).

I've used a charcoal stove (with olive pit charcoal, as well as hookah charcoal) at Imen's shop, and to me, it does seem to improve the water noticably, even if (especially if) the water isn't perfect to start with. Some of the improvement may come from the earthenware kettle, but supposedly, the charcoal can go through the pits of a porous (unglazed) earthenware kettle, and scent the water slightly. (see also http://teadrunk.org/viewtopic.php?id=45).


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Re: Silver and Iron Kettles

I did in fact base my question on The Leaf article, as well as this page (http://lifeoftea.com/silver.php).
Although both are anonymous, I have some suspicion that they are written by the same person.

Since this person is in the business of selling antique kettles, I thought I would seek a second opinion here as to the extent of the effect on your tea.
This isn't to say I doubt the person, I am very excited about his fledgling business. But I have heard extremes in opinions on this from several experienced tea drinkers.

Re: Silver and Iron Kettles

Hrm - that's very interesting. I hadn't noticed the lack of attribution, and had assumed it was written by AF. However, may well be someone else.

To me, it's fine that The Leaf publishes stuff like this, but I do think they should indicate authorship -- if someone's writing about why you should buy an (expensive) silver kettle, and the author (and / or editor) happens to sell, or profit (in either cash or tea / teaware) from the sale of, silver kettles... well that doesn't mean that they're full of it, but it might at least make one take what the author has to say about the subject of silver kettles with several grains of salt. That's not to say that I doubt the author of the piece is sincere in believing that a silver kettle is superior.

I personally also have a hard time stomaching the super spiritual / stuff... it's not to say that I don't think tea has some spiritual aspects or that all discussion of qi or traditional Chinese philosophy / religion is BS. But I do think talking about it is sometimes overused as a way to Sell Stuff. You can argue with "this tea tastes good", but it's even harder to argue with something like "this tea has superior qi". And some of the stuff in the article in The Leaf seems like a bit of a stretch ("well you need metal, but only if it's the best possible metal").

I didn't find any direct quotes that were the same in both places, but I didn't do an exhaustive search. If anyone wants to do a more thorough comparison, knock yourself out. It would, of course, be interesting if the author of the piece is also related to Life of Tea (henceforth referred to as LOT).

The site doesn't say who the proprietors are, only: "We are two western-born tea lovers living in China and Taiwan.". I would say that LOT is most likely a combination of David, aka Nada (of Nadacha) and someone else. I have some ideas, but does anyone know for a fact who the second person is?

It's a very tricky area to discuss, because of course many of the people who know the most about tea have some sort of direct or indirect financial stake (tea farmers, vendors, large scale collectors, etc.). These people are the folks who probably, in a lot of ways, have the most knowledge to share. It's very hard to ever know for sure if they're promoting a particular way of doing things because it benefits them, or because they truly believe it's the best way of doing things. However, if you don't listen to these professionals, you'd be stuck taking all your tea advice from chumps like me.

/w
(currently mostly uses stainless steel electric kettles at both work and home)

BTW, I'm "moving" this to the Chinese teaware forum, not because I think it's more appropriate for there than for here, but because I want to have it in both places, and that's the easiest way for me to put a redirect from one to the other.


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Re: Silver and Iron Kettles

The article also points out its own contradiction - that generally, you can't use a silver kettle under direct fire (it will melt -- this happened to someone I know... fortunately, her kettle only melted a little). So the whole argument that you need all 5 elements seems a little iffy to me.

One little safety note... please be very careful when using charcoal to heat water for tea. While most tea stoves are small, I think it would still be possible to hurt or even kill yourself by using charcoal in a small, enclosed space with no ventilation to the outside. I have personally used charcoal stoves indoors (generally with a door or window open), but please be very careful.

See also:
http://www.cpsc.gov/cpscpub/prerel/prhtml99/99051.html
(this is about charcoal grills, which are often much larger than tea stoves)

Re: Silver and Iron Kettles

Apparently the other partner is AF, as I expected. So definitely interesting that there is an un-credited article in The Leaf, extolling the virtues of silver kettles, and presumably written by him, at the exact same time as he starts a business which sells, among other things, silver kettles.

It's not to say that his intentions are bad or that he doesn't sincerely believe the stuff he's writing, but it does seem odd that that article was the only one not attributed to an author, and that the "Life of Tea" site doesn't give the names of the proprietors. Since he's not cheating anyone, there shouldn't be any reason to hide this kind of stuff.

Re: Silver and Iron Kettles

Nada and Aaron are so far setting a "sterling" example of how vendors living among a community of tea enthusiasts should act, in my opinion. They are usually sharing a ton of knowledge with us without pushing their shops. Like starting The Leaf for free in competition with the rather commercial Art of Tea. We'll see how it plays out, AF is helping me track down some pieces already.

On the bit about elements, I sometimes like to examine these claims (at least when it doesn't cost me a silver kettle) under the assumption that it could have plenty of truth to it - just that the Chinese didn't have a knowledge of chemistry to explain it at the time. It sounds a lot like ancient Greek science. Of course, a lot of things were always BS, and plenty of BS is more modern.

I found it interesting that Aaron wrote an article dispelling myths in the US market about "wet stored" puerh, while repeating the (much older) lines about green puerh being unhealthy. I don't drink much, and then it is 3 years old or more. I've never had problems except on an empty stomach. I sort of wonder what the difference between green puerh after kill-green and low oxidation oolong or green tea. Only thing that comes to mind is older trees, if old tea is actually getting into your beengs. He definitely has a point about new tea being more likely to be "fake", in that the contents are misrepresented.

Re: Silver and Iron Kettles

There's an article here about Chaozhou gongfu tea (where they crush up a significant amount to dust and then stuffing the rest of the pot) causing cancer from continually burning the throat and continually causing ulcers, both of which never get to heal - the latter being more to the point because you don't necessarily need to brew young sheng to the same degree of stuff.

Re: Silver and Iron Kettles

BTW, Jason F mentioned someone (Walt Park, I think) has been experimenting with a solid silver bar somewhere in the process, his cha hai, maybe. Apparently this makes a noticeable difference, but of course at a much lower cost than using a silver kettle.

Has anyone else tried anything similar, and if so, did they notice a difference?

Do you think a small bar of silver could happily live inside an electric kettle? Shouldn't be even close to enough heat to melt the silver.


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Re: Silver and Iron Kettles

william wrote:

BTW, Jason F mentioned someone (Walt Park, I think) has been experimenting with a solid silver bar somewhere in the process, his cha hai, maybe. Apparently this makes a noticeable difference, but of course at a much lower cost than using a silver kettle.

Has anyone else tried anything similar, and if so, did they notice a difference?


Do you think a small bar of silver could happily live inside an electric kettle? Shouldn't be even close to enough heat to melt the silver.

I placed a silver chain link necklace available from asian jewellers in a kamjove kettle. It didn't affect the kettle nor did the heat melt the silver. Personally I found it altered the taste, but not to the extent that it made one's tea exceptionally better. The kettle went in up in smoke (unrelated cause), since then I discontinued the silver use, presently I use induction plate and Tetsubin to heat and boil water.

William, just go to those chinese jewellers in Rosemead/San Gabriel and buy one to try, I think they are affordable. Hope they aren't silver plated lead necklaces though....:)


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Re: Silver and Iron Kettles

william wrote:

BTW, Jason F mentioned someone (Walt Park, I think) has been experimenting with a solid silver bar somewhere in the process, his cha hai, maybe.

govnur wrote:

Hope they aren't silver plated lead necklaces though....:)

That is a good idea to just put silver into the water, you could certainly decide if it made and difference, but it might be better to buy some fine silver (at 99.9% silver, it is much more pure than sterling, which is only 92.5%.) Although, maybe some lead would help to sweeten the water.

Would anyone know if using fine silver to make a tea kettle would cause structural problems? Do you need an alloy to make silver stronger, or is it just a question of cost/convenience?

william wrote:

Do you think a small bar of silver could happily live inside an electric kettle? Shouldn't be even close to enough heat to melt the silver.

There is no way that silver or any other metal would come to any harm from sitting in liquid water of any temp under normal atmospheric conditions. I don't think there is even any danger to using a silver kettle over an open flame in terms of actual melting, unless it was over a large fire and the spout or other protruding part not in contact with water was exposed to high heat.

I had always assumed people suggested an induction plate because silver will become very ugly when covered in soot, and will tarnish quickly. Please correct me if I am wrong as I could very well be.

红焙浅瓯新火活,龙团小碾斗晴窗

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Re: Silver and Iron Kettles

LaoChaGui wrote:

I don't think there is even any danger to using a silver kettle over an open flame in terms of actual melting, unless it was over a large fire and the spout or other protruding part not in contact with water was exposed to high heat.

I had always assumed people suggested an induction plate because silver will become very ugly when covered in soot, and will tarnish quickly. Please correct me if I am wrong as I could very well be.

I checked, and it does look like the theoretical melting point for pure silver is very high. A lot of the silver teaware I've seen claims to be pure (at least to a couple of 9s) silver.

But melting is always one of the reasons I've seen cited for not using stovetop, and while I don't know whether it's pure silver, Danica has a silver kettle (actually originally intended as a sake warmer, I believe) that we used for the liu bao tasting here. A small part of her kettle actually melted slightly from use on the stovetop -- enough to cause a minor deformity.

Of course, there are cosmetic problems from using silver over an open flame as well.


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Re: Silver and Iron Kettles

ps - A note from Aaron was added to the comment section about authorship of the article in question.

http://the-leaf.org/issue4/?p=25#comments

I am assuming "four of us" refers to some combination of the 7 listed editors.


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Re: Silver and Iron Kettles

william wrote:

But melting is always one of the reasons I've seen cited for not using stovetop, and while I don't know whether it's pure silver, Danica has a silver kettle (actually originally intended as a sake warmer, I believe) that we used for the liu bao tasting here. A small part of her kettle actually melted slightly from use on the stovetop -- enough to cause a minor deformity.

Sorry to hear about Danica's kettle. What part of the kettle melted? Was it part of the kettle which was in contact with the water, or a protruding part?

红焙浅瓯新火活,龙团小碾斗晴窗

Re: Silver and Iron Kettles

It was near the top, I think.

16

Re: Silver and Iron Kettles

Hi, I read almost all the articles of the-leaf magazine, and about silver kettles beeing the best instrument to heat your water is not a new thing, I read about it way before I discovered the-leaf magazine, I know silver has antibacterial properties, and if yo read about it at wikipedia, there is a disease related to the consumption of silver, that makes the skin turn dark grey ireversably.
   Some water purification systems use silver balls to clean water, I tasted it and it certainly tasted diffrent, but as most of us do not have experience with japanese pure silver kettles, and the price tag doesn`t allow me to start using one real soon I cannot positively or negatively confirm it`s effect on water, but it is very likely to be true.
    About antique tetsubin, the-leaf magazine talks only about antique tetsubin, most of those on the pictures are made in kyoto, they used wax mold to achieve the relief decoration, and in corelation to those articles please read hojotea`s introduction of the tetsubin, he specified that those old tetsubin doesn`t improve the water as much as they say, and they are not as great as the sellers claim, they are definitely not worth the extra price, and when it comes to tetsubin a new kettle gives better water than old one, I read this at the FAQ, so the main thing one should look for when buying a tetsubin, that it shoul be activated iron, preferably made with clay mold, that has clear pattern, and it shouldn`t be treated with urushi, an antirust - plant, it blocks the reaction between iron and water, or at least it shouldn`t be treated on the inside with this plant


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Re: Silver and Iron Kettles

The article also points out its own contradiction - that generally, you can't use a silver kettle under direct fire (it will melt -- this happened to someone I know... fortunately, her kettle only melted a little). So the whole argument that you need all 5 elements seems a little iffy to me.

But melting is always one of the reasons I've seen cited for not using stovetop, and while I don't know whether it's pure silver, Danica has a silver kettle (actually originally intended as a sake warmer, I believe) that we used for the liu bao tasting here. A small part of her kettle actually melted slightly from use on the stovetop -- enough to cause a minor deformity.

Did this happen over a gas stove or electric? I have a Japanese silver kettle that I have not used yet because I want to make certain I don't damage it. (It looks similar to the one at the bottom of page 6 in the article in The Leaf, but the sections attaching the handle are thinner.) Using it on an electric hot plate seems safe, although this is an inelegant solution. I am certain that these kettles were never used over wood fires, but I'm not convinced of the accuracy of the article's statement that silver kettles can't be used over charcoal considering that when they were made there weren't any electric hot plates around, and hardwood charcoal is the traditional heating source for Japanese tea practices. Maybe I should invest in a thermometer that can be used in and above charcoal fires.

It just occurred to me that since you wrote that Danica's kettle was a Choshi rather than a Jinbin, it would not have needed to be made to withstand the same levels of heat. Ceremonially sake is heated to just above body temperature, not boiled. So maybe the Choshi was tempered differently, or has thinner walls. If it has the long, flat-topped spout like other Choshi I've seen, it seems like that part would be easily damaged.

Re: Silver and Iron Kettles

I've only heard of problems with open flame (gas, charcoal)... I think electric should be fine.

Re: Silver and Iron Kettles

Oops - I misspelled Ginbin. Thanks for the response.

Re: Silver and Iron Kettles

I find that when one enters the arcane question of tea pots and taste--de gustibus non est disputandum alas--I must note as a gaijin that the finest tea pots in metal are not just the lauded silver ones that make the water so much tastier for the tea, but for hundreds of years, the iron pots are served the cha no yu splendidly and I have discovered that old copper pots have a very high pedigree as well. In fact as one searches more deply into this question of the material of the teapot, one discovers that the Japanese for example placed the highest esteem on their tinware pots. I happen to have two and they are wonderful pots. But I was just in Kyoto and visited some friends very active in tea arts and who insisted I must go downtown to a small shop to buy their hand made pewter pots which these friends insisted produ ed the most flavorful water for the tea. What does this all mean? The pewter man also made silver pots too and I asked him if there was a difference really. He smiled beguiled and whispered each has its own qualities. In fact, a classic earthenware pot made by Bizen or Shigaraki or Tamba make superb pots with living waters that shape the tea leaves no less brilliantly and soberly than the metal pots. As to the use of charcoal over electrical heating, thi sis the mystic of being closer to nature. The charcoal does not penetrate metal so it is the aroma one reads into the water affected by the fumes one inhaled that is at play. It is time to put aside the snobism of the older and rarer pot especially of silver! Beware that you are not outflanked by the next seller of a platinum teapot. The key to tasty water and fine tea regarding the use of pots, is to only use a pot you plan to use always for tea and especially decide if it is for Japanese tea or Chinese tea for a certain flavor over time I do believe but cannot prove just seems to grow with the pot and especially earthenware pots that are really porous like Hagi yaki.