When I was newly married, and making my acquaintance with my husband’s kitchen, I came across a set of glazed stoneware mugs. Neither too large nor too little, they soon became my preferred tea mug. What I remember about them was that they were marvellously earthy and yet contemporary. What I loved about them was a little thumb rest in the handle. It seemed like such a simple yet thoughtful addition. The mugs had been brought from Kodaikanal, where a small rural enterprise called The Potter’s Shed had been started. Over the years, The Potter’s Shed has grown to become a sort of Kodai institution. We stopped by on our visit last year, and I am happy to report they still make mugs with thumb rests.
I remembered the mugs this week since I have been thinking about adding some tea ware. Pottery seemed to come calling, perhaps as a response to my need to connect with earth once again. And happily enough, there is such beautiful tea ware to choose from. Made by hand, made with clay, glazed so that every piece carries its own thumbprint.
Here’s a few I have landed on, that I thought I would share.
When it comes to pottery, how can one not think of Andretta Pottery, located in Kangra, Himachali tea country? In one of their recent Instagram posts, they write, “People who know how teapots are made will tell you that making a teapot is one of the hardest things in pottery, hence it takes days of work to make a functional teapot.” Their Instagram feed (@andretta.pottery) shows a beautiful teapot with a clay (not steel) infuser but their catalogue currently features a striking tall Roman-style teapot.
As I spend long minutes browsing on Instagram, I come to the conclusion that there are many great tea lovers among potters, like Curators of Clay (@curatorsofclay), who showcase even a Japanese kyusu teapot. I will be keeping an eye out for a side-hand kyusu I especially like. But do follow them to see what’s available and DM for prices and shipping, because they are made in small batches and you may have to wait before the one you fell in love with makes a reappearance.
Cookbook author Archana Pidathala introduced me to Swaa Clay Studio (Swaa.info) in Bengaluru and their glazed tea infuser mugs. What I liked was that the infuser too is clay (not steel), and, somehow, that looks and feels different.
Also in Bengaluru, Susmit Pratik, who runs Ketlee (Ketlee.store), has spent a lot of time working with artisans to create his beautiful gaiwan range. He’s a huge proponent of the gongfu style of brewing tea (which is different from the “English style” in that it calls for short but multiple steeps; the gongfu style is well suited for green or white teas) and it’s no surprise that his passion extends to creating tea ware suitable for it. They are made in small numbers and are therefore a tad expensive. But the attention to detail in making the tea ware makes it worth it.
And in Nicobar (Nicobar.com), I found a set of contemporary stoneware kulhars that reminded me once again that Eastern cultures have never bothered about adding a handle to our cups. Instead, they invite you to unfurl those fingers and feel the warmth of the cup, of the tea, in its entirety. And doing that, I must say, has been a great grounding experience.
Aravinda Anantharaman is a Bengaluru-based tea blogger and writer who reports on the tea industry. @AravindaAnanth1
Also read | Tracing the history of teaspoons