Tea pets are one of the more whimsical parts of Chinese tea culture.
There’s no real purpose to having a tea pet, besides having a cute figurine to join you in your tea drinking sessions. There are different types of tea pets – some squirt water, some blow bubbles, and some are just there to soak in the tea.
Traditionally, tea pets are made out of unglazed Yixing clay – same as traditional Chinese tea pots.
They can be all sorts of different animals – dragons, pigs, birds, snakes! You might want to get one because it looks cute, or because it’s your Chinese zodiac sign. Perhaps you have a dog or a cat and you came across one that looks just like your (furry) pet. Some many even have beads or be partially glazed – and those glazed parts might even be colour changing after having hot water poured onto them (they’re very fun to watch!).
One of the more popular tea pets is actually the Pee Pee Boy (see photo above). The Pee Pee Boy is a hollow figure, and gets his name from the fact that he “pees”. To fill up the little guy, put him into a bowl of cool water and wait until it fills up. To make him “pee”, pour hot water over his head and the water will shoot/squirt out of the Pee Pee Boy. I actually got my Pee Pee Boy years before I started tea blogging, it was a souvenir from my parents’ travels and got to witness him “pee” across the kitchen.
You’ll see online people talking about “feeding” their tea pets.
You can pour water onto your tea pets (the water used to warm up your tea pot), pour a bit of tea on them during the process of filling up your cup, or pour leftover tea at the end of your tea drinking session. If you have a tea pet that’s made with unglazed clay, you’ll notice that the clay changes colour when wet and over time (from the tea!). The aroma of your tea pet will also change over time as it absorbs the tea.
Then there are the untraditional tea pets.
My little hedgehog friend, who’s been featured in blog & Instagram photos before, is an example of an untraditional tea pet. He’s glazed and not really “meant” to be a tea pet. I think he was actually meant to be a little desk catch-all dish, or even for a small air plant (who knows?). Whatever he was meant for, his purpose now is to hold tea leaves. I don’t “feed” him any tea, mostly because he usually holds dry tea, but he’s still pretty cute and hangs out on my tea table while I prepare tea.
Some people name their tea pets, but it’s not a necessary component to keeping tea pets. The only important thing about having tea pets is to enjoy them and have fun with them!
Do you have any tea pets? What are yours?