The Ku Cha Holiday Gift Guide: Iwachu Cast Iron and Rock Oolongs

The Ku Cha Holiday Gift Guide: Iwachu Cast Iron and Rock Oolongs

The most important month for many retailers, December, begins tomorrow. Everything from restaurants to book stores to online outlets and tea shops depends on the holiday-festive month to drive sales and ensure those bottom lines finish the year in bold and triumphant black rather than disturbing and gloomy red.

It’s a month of gift-sharing and holiday parties. Of feasting and relaxation (well, for retailers the relaxation part doesn’t happen until January!) Of savoring family and friends and embracing tradition.

The season’s hug of gifts serves as one of its principal joys. We enjoy receiving them, of course. But for most adults (definitely not kids!), it’s the giving that delivers the greatest cheer. And a big part of the giving is searching for those just-right presents for Aunt Susan, Mom, clients and the boss. 

Tea offers so many possibilities. From tins of precious oolong or cakes of puerh, to whimsical cups and artisan teapots, the world of tea is a spectacle of gift potential. Which means we have much to tantalize you as you dive deep into your season of shopping.

Among the many options, consider cast-iron teapots and rock oolongs. Both are exquisite!

Holiday Tea Gifts: Cast Iron Teapots

Our Iwachu Purple Seven Jewels tea pot. Beautiful!

Tea connoisseurs especially prize teapots made by the Japanese firm Iwachu. The company, which was founded in 1902, employs teams of highly trained artisans to craft teapots (meant for brewing tea) and kettles (called tetsubin, and designed for boiling water). Making these teapots by hand (these are not made by machines) involves more than 60 steps, and the artisans study for a minimum of 15 years before becoming full-fledged craftspeople. 

They are jaw-droppingly gorgeous—the instant one is placed on the kitchen counter, it’ll stay there rather than getting tucked away in a cabinet. These are works of art, with different colors, designs and textures.

In addition, these sturdy, heavy pots brew delicious tea. Even though some of the pots are lined with enamel, they all impart at least faint whispers of iron that many connoisseurs believe enhance the overall tea flavor. 

They last forever. People in Japan and elsewhere pass them down for generations. And boy do they make wonderful gifts for treasured loved ones.

We carry six Iwachu pots at Ku Cha. The designs all align with symbolic meanings: Black Goldfish (wealth, fortune, good luck), Black Honeycomb (wisdom and harmony), Bronze Waves (positive energy), Cranberry Pine Needle (friendship and longevity), Purple Seven Jewels (enlightenment) and Turqoise Sakura (renewal, rebirth, a new beginning, optimism).

Holiday Tea Gifts: Rock Oolongs

The WuYi Mountains—dramatic, breathtaking and the site of some of the finest teas in the world.

China’s elite began traveling to Fujian Province hundreds of years ago, and championing the tea they found in the Province’s WuYi Mountains as tasting of “earth-stone.” By the end of the Qing Dynasty (1644-1911), oolongs in general had become prominent among the country’s elite, and had also become accessible to everybody else in China. But the WuYi oolongs, now called “rock oolongs,” were especially celebrated. We carry a broad selection of them, and appreciate how different they taste. Less than a mile may separate farms that raise rock oolongs, but their flavors can diverge quite a bit.

The WuYi Mountains’ volcanic rocks and rich soil help inform unique aromas — the teas broadcast something like the smell of a piece of wet granite — and sweet flavor. In addition, the WuYi’s steep cliffs nurture a uniquely fertile growing environment; they simultaneously protect tea fields from cold winds, and invite an abundance of rain, which helps the tea plants to thrive.

These are special teas, ones that will excite anybody who receives them—especially once they have brewed them and been intoxicated by their aromas and flavors. A gift of rock oolongs could easily turn into a lifelong passion for the recipient!

Holiday Tea Gifts: Da Hong Pao Rock Oolong

Da Hong Pao, or “Big Red Robe” in Chinese, is the most famous Rock Oolong tea from the Wu Yi Mountains. Records of this legendary tea date as far back as the early 18th century. This tea is famous for its strong fragrance, rich, roasted taste followed by a pleasant, lingering sweetness.

Holiday Tea Gifts: Huang Dan Rock Oolong

Huang Dan means “Yellow Sunrise,” and this Rock Oolong is famous for its early harvest in spring time. Its dry leaves are slender with a golden hue, and it possesses an elegant, refreshing fragrance reminiscent of osmanthus flowers.

Holiday Tea Gifts: Qi Dan Rock Oolong

Qi Dan means “Marvelous Rouge,” and is one of the earliest Rock Oolongs. Its dry leaves have a purple reddish hue, hence the name. It is cherished for its floral fragrance and fruity notes.

Holiday Tea Gifts: Qi Lan Rock Oolong

Qi Lan means “Marvelous Orchid” in Chinese. This is a new addition to the Rock Oolong family, emerging in the 1990s from Pinghe County, South Fujian Province. This is a lightly roasted Rock Oolong with a misty fragrance reminiscent of wild orchid, and produces a rich, sweet and balanced brew.

Holiday Tea Gifts: Que She Rock Oolong

“Que She” or “Bird Tongue” in Chinese, is named as such due to its slender, dry leaves. A new addition to Ku Cha’s Rock Oolong collections, Que She is soft, fragrant and misty; however it is also warm and comforting, reminiscent of snow in April.

Holiday Tea Gifts: Rou Gui Rock Oolong

Rou Gui brews a burnt amber liquor, and tastes heavily of cinnamon spice. The taste is complemented by the pleasing gravely texture for which these teas are famous. This one is richer and darker than our other Wu Yi teas. It is a staff favorite!

Holiday Tea Gifts: Shui Xian Rock Oolong

Shui Xian is one of the signature Rock Oolong teas from the Wu Yi Mountains. Meaning “water spirit” in Chinese, Shui Xian tastes balanced, rich and clean, with a lingering sweetness with light hints of river moss.

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