Loose leaf tea can be an invitation into a world of grace, beauty, elegance, and thoughtfulness. One cannot help but notice the color and expanded shape of the freshly-infused tea leaves, their aroma drawing us in with each breath.
At some point in our tea drinking journeys, we might feel inclined to enhance our tea sessions by finding teaware that complements our experiences. Depending on the type and material of the teaware, one often quickly discovers that the tannins in the tea leaves can begin to stain our teawares over time.
Sometimes this staining can create a crackling effect in the glaze, usually creating a tea piece that is even more beautiful than it was before, as one might find in the case of good celadon teaware. Other times, however, it can cause the teaware to look dull or even dirty. While this effect can be unattractive in many cases, it is otherwise harmless.
But what can you do? Anything?
As a matter of fact, there are a few options you can exercise to help restore those tea pieces to a condition you’ll find pleasant and lovely. We’ll review a few, going from more conservative to less conservative measures:
- Prevention – Due to the nature of tannins, it’s almost inevitable that eventually tea stains will form on your teaware, but some practices can help significantly delay the onset of tea stains. The singlemost important factor is to neither leave tea leaves nor tea liquor in your teaware for too long.
As soon as you finish your infusion, you should take your leaves out of your teaware. If you plan on using multiple infusions, you can always temporarily place those leaves in a dish until you’re ready to use them again. In the mean time, as soon as you finish your tea infusion or tea, rinse your teaware with hot water and wipe out with a towel.
- Hot Water and Paper Towel – Even if tea stains have already developed, hot water can be an effective way to remove a lot of surface staining. While you want to be cautious about heating any teaware that is cold, in order to avoid stress fractures from sudden changes in temperature, pouring some boiling water into and over your vessel can help loosen up some of the stains.
After letting sit for a minute, carefully pour out the water and quickly take a paper towel, both drying and gently rubbing the area that is stained. Because many paper towels have a very slight abrasive quality to them, they can usually rub off some of those tea stains, especially after they’ve been exposed to some hot water.
- Toothpaste and Toothbrush – Believe it or not, but good, ole’ fashioned toothpaste can be effective at removing some of those tea stains! We encourage you to try to find a toothpaste with cleaner ingredients (e.g. though not likely, dyes could always be a problem).
Once you find one that you like, squeeze a small amount on to a toothbrush with firmer bristles and gently scrub your teaware. You may even find it helpful to let the toothpaste sit for a few minutes. When you’re ready, rinse the toothpaste off with some warm water. You may need to wipe the area with a towel when you’re done in order to get the last of the tea stains off.
Pro Tip: In some cases, depending on the kind of toothpaste used, you may want to consider making a disposable infusion of tea that you let sit for a couple of minutes in order to avoid any residual toothpaste taste. You can dispense this infusion entirely.
- Diluted Lemon Juice – This last measure is the most drastic but also highly effective. One of the main ingredients in lemon juice is citric acid, and this makes an excellent cleaning agent. The problem is that citric acid can be a problem for some kinds of ceramic glazes, and so its important to check with your vendor or artist to know whether you can safely use lemon juice with your teaware. This shouldn’t be an issue with porcelain that hasn’t been painted.
If everything checks out, then you’re ready to use this method. Pour approximately one teaspoon of lemon juice into your teaware and dilute it with hot water. Let this mixture stand and do its work. The longer you wait, the more effective it will be, but in most cases, one to three hours should be sufficient. When you’re ready, pour the mixture out, rinse with warm water, and wipe dry. Your tea stains should be almost entirely eliminated.
For many of us, teaware is personal and creates a charm during our tea drinking experiences. There’s nothing more disappointing than teaware that breaks, but teaware that takes on unsightly stains can also prove disappointing as well. Hopefully the suggestions above help you get the most out of your teaware and returns to you the joy you found when you initially purchased those particular pieces!