The Art of Welcoming
BETTER WITH AGE
The ancient, fermented Pu-erh tea, used as far back as the Tang dynasty, is produced in the Yunnan region in Southern China. Once processed, the leaves are pressed and matured for several years. Pu-ehr improves with age and has beneficial curative properties, helping digestion, lowering triglyceride levels and keeping cholesterol down. The freshness of the Sheng Pu-ehr leaves is astonishing, and the wonderful floral bouquet typical of its aftertaste soon becomes apparent.
THE INDIAN MEMORY
Cardamon is part of a series of dusky-toned teapots with contours strongly reminiscent of Indian temples. The collection was created in 1987 when architect and designer Ettore Sottsass and Alessio Sarri, a young ceramicist in Sesto Fiorentino at the time, came together. These ceramics are born from experimentation with forms at the limit of technical possibilities, suspended between architecture, sculpture and landscapes. Still in production, they are now iconic collectables.
Tea is a work of art and needs a master hand to bring out its noblest qualities” writes Kakuzo Okakura in The Book of Tea. In a quiet moment of contemplation, hands join around a precious teacup. This warmth and hospitality are also shared with guests visiting your home. We delve into what makes for a masterful preparation.
HARVESTED AT HIGH ALTITUDE
For those in the know, Dayuling is a sacred destination home to one of the rarest teas in the world, cultivated in Taiwan at an altitude of 2,400 metres. Dayuling-Oolong has a soft flavour, with a woody taste and a delicate aroma. Wolf Tea has no stock from 2021 due to adverse weather but offers a rare collection from 2018.
LIFE IN MINIATURE
Originally from Chaozhou, a Chinese city in the eastern province of Guangdong, this compact teapot holds 75 ml. It is inspired by travel teapots of the Ming period and is handmade from Zisha clay, a rare blend of kaolin, quartz and mica with a high iron oxide content.
A single syllable, tea, encapsulates an infinite variety of rituals, habits and transversal olfactory experiences that have been preserved across many cultures. However, the common denominator in all the ways of preparing this infusion comes down to just one requirement – time. Slowness, stopping to take your time and gather your thoughts, often together with others, is the main element in preparing tea. It always starts with heating the water and waiting for the precise temperature, then taking the time for the infusion to reach the correct fragrance. It also takes time to drink tea. And months, or sometimes even years, are needed to grow and harvest the leaves – a period dependant on nature, the seasons and the morphology of the terrain; a period that consciously or not encapsulates our archetypal relationship with the planet we live on, all in a simple cup. In short, tea is a remedy, helping to bring mind and body back into balance. Its original function, in fact, was as a medicine.
Tanka is a teapot fired at a high temperature, then fired a second time with natural charcoal in a ceramic saggar box. It was designed by Japan’s Akira Satake of Osaka, who moved to North Carolina after a career as a musician and record producer. A lecturer and teacher who is passionate about ceramics, today his creations are included in leading collections in museums around the world.
Like a fabric densely pleated to form a three-dimensional creation, this kettle is reminiscent of a haute-couture dress. Designed by Michele De Lucchi, Plissé combines functional aspects with a plastic design that affirms the designer’s architectural training, as well as his passion for artisanal craftwork and sculpture.
STORE WITH CARE
A good tea should be kept in a dry place away from light. WT24 is a tall metal cylinder designed by Wilhelm Wagenfeld in 1924. The simple, linear shape is typical of the functional design of the early 20th century. Presented by Tecnolumen.
THE BAAS TEAPOT
“It’s just like in nature, where organic forms are randomly thrown together and yet always create a beautiful image”. Dutch designer Maarten Baas turned to the natural world to describe this teapot with its irregular form, typical of his playful designs. The result is a sculptural piece, perfect for display even when not in use. For Valerie-Object.
Millions of disposable teabags are used and thrown away around the world every day. The Organic Company offers a sachet in unbleached, reusable organic cotton for a more ecological cup of tea.
A TIMELESS CLASSIC
The Raami teapot designed by Jasper Morrison includes an internal strainer and locking lid. With its carefully designed finishes, it is a timeless creation that seems just as familiar as something you have known your whole life.
Designed in stainless steel and fitted with a silicone tip to prevent scratching the base of the cup or teapot, this conical filter ensures the essential oils remain in the infusion, helping to release the full flavour of the leaves. The edge stays cool so it can easily be removed once the tea is ready.
From the Wu Yi mountains, in the lands where the gardens of the Ming dynasty were once located, comes Da Hong Pao, or the Grand Red Dress, an exclusive tea whose leaves come from just six plants that have survived over the centuries. Legend has it that these trees were planted to serve the emperors, and that this precious drink cured the mother of a royal from a serious illness. For this reason, it is still considered unique and exclusive today.
While in the collective imagination tea is inextricably linked to the Far East – it would be impossible to imagine China or Japan without tea – the rituality of its preparation is deeply rooted in many other cultures. The afternoon tea enjoyed by the English aristocracy, accompanied by scones and clotted cream, embodies a piece of English colonial history that began with the cultivation of Camellia sinensis in Darjeeling and Assam in India. This then led to a controlled, high-quality production that would join the flourishing trade with the East – a first seed of what we now define as globalization.
The flavour of a black tea left to brew in a boiling samovar for hours, producing a unique sound and a light steam that floods and warms the room, is light years away from the elegant white tea infusion destined for the Chinese nobility, made from young leaves harvested one by one at a precise stage of maturity, and left to infuse for just a few minutes in water at 40°C. These extremes are all united by the ritual nature of hospitality, self-care and care for others, as well as the precious gift of time.
“I must drink lots of tea or I cannot work. Tea unleashes the potential which slumbers in the depth of my soul.” wrote Leo Tolstoy, summarising the potential contained in a sip of tea.
A timeless and functional industrial design, the Cylinda line created by Arne Jacobsen in 1964 is now an icon of Danish design. Cylindrical shapes and Bakelite handles compose the collection’s characteristic features. The winner of the Danish Council’s ID Prize in 1967 is still a contemporary design must-have.
A thick wooden lid ensures good insulation to keep tea warm and can also be spun across the table as a spinning top. The teapot and set of cups are designed by Nendo. Available on the Japanese designer’s online store.
PREPARING THE RITUAL
Crafted from a single piece of bamboo, this traditional tea whisk or chasen is designed to mix hot water with matcha, the Japanese powdered green tea. The dense arrangement of the tines creates a uniformly smooth consistency, eliminating the clumps that often form when the powder comes into contact with water. From Marie Kondo.
In Scandinavia, they pronounce it Njord. This is the name of the new brand created in 2020 through a collaboration between the Bernadotte & Kylberg design agency and Nordic Nest. Shapes is the first NJRD collection to offer the finest breakfast porcelains inspired by the Northern Lights and nature. The collection also includes rugs and soft throws.
It’s the details that make the difference. Those who love to enjoy a good cup of tea know the rites of preparation and select each tool with care. Celeste Ortelee fires her ceramics in a high-temperature Japanese oven built by a master kiln builder from Seto, one of the six oldest kiln villages in Japan. Pictured here is a spoon to collect the leaves in enamelled ceramic with natural raw materials.
TEA FOR TWO
A space-saving solution designed by Laurence Brabant and Allain Villechange, T for 2 is a compact set for two people composed of a teapot, filter, two cups and two saucers. The stackable components are easy to carry, with one hand on top and one underneath.
Photo: Xavier Nicostrate
EAST MEETS WEST
Rosenthal porcelain inspired by 18th century Chinoiserie style. Gianni Cinti drew on scenes from Turandot, an opera by Giacomo Puccini set in Beijing’s imperial court, to design delicately coloured peonies, bamboo leaves and ginkgo that meet golden dragonflies in flight. An ancient world to uncover.