I’ve gotten interested (yes yes, among many other things) recently in tea caddies. Storing tea is pretty simple, of course. You just need a can that isn’t leaky, is preferably opaque so that light doesn’t penetrate, doesn’t give your tea a nasty smell, and maybe is cheap to boot. Beauty, however, has a price. Being somewhat dissatisfied with using cheap plastic Carrefour containers that sort of give off a plastic smell, and tired of paying $7 for a stainless steel can that is practical and air tight, but is rather ugly, I decided maybe there’s a better way to store tea, especially things like aged oolongs that need the sun and air protection, but which I hope to treasure (and avoid plastic smells of all kinds. So recently I’ve started paying that price.
I’m still in an exploratory stage right now with tea caddies, and am trying to figure them out as I go along. These are all made of pewter of one sort or another, and are of various ages. The oldest is probably the one in the middle, which is certifiably old (around 100 years). The newest, no doubt, is the one hiding in the back, second from the left. That one is in a style that is easy to find from places like Royal Selangor, which will at least set you back a Ben Franklin, or if you want a cheaper variety, China.
One of the issues with these things, especially the older ones, is that they sometimes have stuff either growing in them, or at least smell like they have stuff growing in them. I have yet to figure out how to clean them properly (anybody who’s skilled in dealing with old pewter ware, speak up now please!). The one on the far right has whitish powder on the inside. The second to the right has some green stuff and smells like old socks. I’ve put some of my cheap Benshan in it in the hopes that it will suck out some of the nasty smell. Failing that, I might use some of my old sencha to get the job done.
The cleanest one is actually the one on the far left, which I have to say is the best score I ever got through any auction site anywhere. You can hardly buy a new pewter tea caddy that is mediocre in looks and quality for $50. When it is an older piece, made of fine pewter, I probably have to pay triple that price, at least, to get something like this. Somehow I got lucky. I have a bag of tieguanyin that I’ve been carrying around for years, waiting to open it for a drink. I think I will do that soon and stick the rest of it in this caddy. It will probably just fit.
Unfortunately, pewter tea caddies is probably not the most practical in terms of tea storage on a large scale. It’s very heavy, and since it’s soft, over time you’re bound to get a few dents in the caddy. In addition to the cost of the caddy itself, the shipping also costs a fortune, as they are extremely heavy (the silvery one, for example is 650g, not counting the box and all). Still, there’s something to be said about owning a few pieces of fine teaware, and I like the idea of having some of my best teas sitting in nice looking jars… if only I can clean them properly.