I asked myself this question a few years ago when I first came across tea pets online. The idea of it sounded silly to me at first. A pet for tea? The name can’t be that literal. Honestly, when I first read about tea pets a part of me did think maybe I’m reading the word wrong or it was a typo for the word tea pot. But, one day Nicole of Tea For Me Please shared a photo of her tea pet and I found myself looking them up all over again. When I learned that tea pets (not tea pots!) were a real thing I became intrigued and sought out to find one for myself at the first Toronto Tea Festival I attended.
So, we’re back at that question again. What exactly is a tea pet? Well, yes, a tea pet is just what it might sound like – a companion for your tea time. Traditionally, the tea pet is a clay figurine that is placed on your tea table, joining you for some tea. You can find tea pets made out of various materials but, similar to Yixing clay teapots, tea pets are often sculpted with the same clay and unglazed, leaving a rough surface that is better to absorb the tea.
How Do You Use A Tea Pet?
Here’s where the fun part comes! When steeping yourself some tea, you can actually feed your tea pet some as well. This is when it becomes more like a pet, something you have to raise and take care of. To do so, you simply pour some tea over it, making sure to cover it entirely and that’s it! If you wish, you can use a tea brush to “pet” the surface and distribute the tea evenly.
What Can You “Feed” Your Tea Pet?
The liquid you pour on your tea pet can be:
- the warm water you used to warm up your tea ware prior to the tea session
- the rinse from the tea leaves
- any left over steeped tea
The tea pet will then absorb (or drink it, however you’d like to see it) the tea’s colour and scent and over time you will notice a difference in the clay’s appearance thanks to the tea you serve it.
There are a plethora of tea pets out there. Small, medium, or very large. Plain and simple or with detailed designs. Whether they are of animals, people, bugs or even mythical creatures — the same rules apply. Don’t let it go thirsty. Feed your tea pet! Depending on the tea pet, some might be more than just aesthetics. If you notice any holes in your tea pet, it might squirt out tea when poured on it, or even blow bubbles. Also, certain tea pets can represent different things. For example, in Chinese culture a pig represents good luck and happiness in life and you’ll notice there are a variety of pig tea pets available.
Here’s my little tea pet collection:
Buddha Tea Pet
My first ever tea pet was this meditating Buddha that was successfully found at ZhenTea’s booth at the 2015 Toronto Tea Festival. It’s the perfect example of a tea pet that is purely aesthetic. While this Buddha tea pet doesn’t do anything other than drink lots of tea, over time his appearance has changed a bit thanks to it. My buddha tea pet will forever remain a favourite.
The next two tea pets I purchased recently on Adagio’s website with a gift certificate I was given by them. I was pretty excited when I was browsing their website for teas and noticed they even had tea pets for sale!
Meet Petunia. The moment I took her out of the package that name came to mind (maybe because of Looney Tunes?). I’m not a fan of the flowers, but I always thought it was such a fun name. Even though pig tea pets are common, I have wanted one for a while because of what it represents. You may also notice that Petunia has a small hole in her mouth. She doesn’t shoot out tea, but she does sometimes blow tea bubbles when I’m sharing my steeps.
My bird tea pet is pretty large in length and I really love the details on the bird and the perch. While this particular tea pet doesn’t create any effects when fed tea, it does have a small indent to its side where the tea can collect in a pool. This tea pet is currently nameless, so if you have any suggestions, please send them my way!
As anyone with more than one tea pet might know, adopting them can become an addiction itself. I love dressing up my tea table and tea space with my little tea friends!
Want to adopt your own tea pet? Check out the selection Adagio offers!
What kind of tea pets do you have on your tea table? Let me know in the comments below!