Japan made an art of brewing, sipping and serving tea. The beauty and variety of pots in which is is served is simply amazing. There are epicenters of teapot design and production throughout Japan. Antique Japanese teapots are prized collectibles, and more likely to be displayed on a safe shelf than used for brewing tea. Finding a Japanese teapot for one’s antique collection requires several resources: A well-written guide, patience (it could take a while to find the pot you are seeking) and a talent for negotiation.
The Japanese word for teapot is dobin. The oldest dobin designs on record featured globe-like bodies accented with disk-shaped lids and sturdy handles. Some pots were designed with two handles. These are called kyusu and originated in a pottery-making region south of Nagoya. Other regions of Japan became artistic centers for teapot design. Japan was home to a rich variety of clays and local studios began applying designs popular in their regions to establish distinct designs, color variations, incised and excised features, unusual handles and embellishments unique to the area.
Over time, dobin became symbols of status and social position and artisans found new ways to create markets for pots. When clay-based models became commonplace, a new material was introduced to the Japanese teapot legacy: the Tetsubin. This teapot was manufactured of cast iron, offering a flame-resistant exterior and enamel interior. The enamel protected the tea from acquiring a metallic taste when brewed. Tetsubin teapots were lavishly decorated on the vessel’s right-facing side since Japanese etiquette called for pouring with the left hand as a sign of respect.