There’s a term that is often used on Chinese forums such as Sanzui to describe people who say things for the sake of pushing prices of a particular tea up. This is most common during the big bubble of puerh prices back in the day when there were many speculators in the market, and very often there were those who went on such online forums and said great things about such and such a tea, how this particular production is really excellent, how that one is made of real old tree leaves, etc etc…. the term they call these people is “chatuo”. Cha, tea. Tuo, support, to hold on the palm of one’s hands (it also means to entrust, but not applicable here). Basically, these are people who were supporting the prices of some tea or another, and in many cases, hoping to push it up by creating demand for a particular tea. There were many cases of such people that I’ve seen, the most well done were those who talked at length about one particular factory’s products, or give a long exposition about one particular tea’s origins, etc, complete with pretty pictures and fancy analysis. Inevitably, they work. People start asking questions about these teas featured (even when they can be very similar to some other teas around the same area/time). Prices go up. It’s all part of the game.
But that’s not the kind of chatuo I want to talk about today, for there are real chatuos out there, physical things that serve a useful purpose. They’re not very commonly seen in China anymore, but sometimes still used in Taiwan. Basically, any dish that supports a tea cup is a chatuo (chataku in Japanese). Very often you might seen ones that are made of ceramic or wood, and those are the most frequently used in Taiwan, I believe. In my last shipment from Japan though, included in it is a set of 5 (Japanese teaware often come in sets of 5) pewter chataku that I bought.
This set is, I believe, quite old. There’s some discolouration, and the metal shows wear and tear. The base of your cup should fit into the circle, and you can lift the whole thing up using one of the wings. They come in all shape and sizes, as you can see on this site about chataku (you can go on to the next page with the “next” buttom at the bottom). In comparison to some of those fantastic looking ones on that site, mine looks very humble. They do, however, work remarkably well, and makes any filled-to-the-brim cup easy to drink from.