Cleaning tea stains can be a chore, so why not prevent them from accumulating in the first place? Proper care of your kyusu or other teaware will ensure years of enjoyable use.
While each piece will have its own idiosyncrasies, there are some general guidelines to follow when it comes to caring for kyusu (which also apply to other types of teaware):
Clean immediately and completely after each use
While this seems obvious, it is truly the most important part of caring for your kyusu.
After you have finished your tea session, you’ll want to clean out the leaves as soon as possible as leaving them in for extended periods of time can lead to unwanted odours and staining.
Cleaning all of the leaves out of the kyusu can be difficult for teapots with narrow openings. A trick I’ve found useful is filling the teapot up with water, swirling it to loosen up the leaves, and then pouring the water and leaves out of the top of the teapot and through a small handheld kitchen strainer (over the sink, obviously).
If any small leaves are stuck in the filter, you can use an old toothbrush to get them out. Repeat this until you get all of the leaves out of the pot. Now you can throw the leaves away or compost them!
Lastly, give the teapot one last good rinse, making sure to pour through the spout to make sure it is clear of any leaves.
Allow to dry completely
After rinsing, you should let the teapot dry completely before storing it. This will prevent and mold and weird smells from developing on the inside of the pot. You can use a cloth or towel to dry the outside, but for more delicate unglazed clay kyusu, you’d ideally let the inside air dry completely.
If you don’t have time to let it dry naturally, you can use a soft cloth or paper towel to dry the inside. I find that leaving a paper towel or tissue inside the teapot during storage can help soak up any remaining moisture.
Avoid soaps, abrasives, and other cleaners unless absolutely necessary
Many kyusu are either entirely or partially unglazed, meaning that there is no glaze protecting the clay body. This means the clay is more susceptible to surface damage from aggressively abrasive cleaners and sponges.
Apart from being aesthetically pleasing, unglazed clay can also affect the way tea brews inside the pot (this only applies to unglazed interiors, of course). This is because the clay is somewhat porous and interacts with the water while the tea steeps.
Most Japanese clays have relatively low-porosity, especially when compared to the clays used to make many Chinese teapots, but they can still absorb flavours and affect the brew. This is why you should avoid using soap when cleaning unglazed clay, as it can negatively affect the way tea made in that pot tastes.
If you encounter tea stains that won’t come off with warm water soaking and gentle finger scrubbing, then, as a last resort, you can try soaking the teaware in a baking soda and citric acid solution and scrubbing with a soft sponge or rag.
- To do this, fill a sink, bucket, bowl, or other large basin with warm water.
- Add in 2-4 tablespoons of baking soda and an equal amount of citric acid. The solution should begin to bubble and fizz.
- Place your teaware in the solution and let it soak for at least 10 seconds. For tough stains, soak for longer.
- Gently wipe away the stains. The solution is most effective while it is fizzing, though it can still be used after the fizzing dies down.
And that is all there is to it! Caring for your teaware like this will prevent any mold or staining so you won’t have to do any hardcore cleaning.
Once you get into the habit of properly rinsing and drying your kyusu, it’ll become second nature and can even be part of your personal tea ritual.