The short answer? Tea pets are little clay figurines that sit with you as you drink tea.
But the long answer? Well, you're going to have to hold onto your hats for that one.
What Exactly is a Tea Pet, and How Does it Work?
I first heard about tea pets two years ago, and honestly, I had absolutely no idea what they were. Were they physical animals that kept you company? Were they good luck figures which ward off insanity after you drink too much tea and become tea drunk? I had no clue.
I visited several tea shops which sold tea pets, and amongst the classic Four Happy Pigs and Longevity Turtle tea pets, I asked the question, what on earth are these?
As it happens, a tea pet is a clay figurine which dates back to 13th century China and is often made from Yixing clay. They are usually mass-produced, but you can find some pretty cute and unique handmade ones.
Typically, tea pets are left unglazed so that they can absorb the tea. This is because as you drink tea, you can pour a little over its head every now and then and it can "drink" it. Over time, it takes on the role of something similar to a pet, which keeps you company in exchange for food.
How Do I Use a Tea Pet?
If you plan on getting your hands on a tea pet, rest assured that they're pretty easy to take care of. When you rinse the tea leaves or pour out any over-steeped tea, be sure to give it to the tea pet.
Over time, it's likely that the tea pet will change colour, taking on the tannins of the tea. This means that you can grow together as your tea journey continues.
Where Do I Get a Tea Pet?
Wow, what a question! Luckily for you, we actually sell our own tea pets!
Handmade by a lovely lass in Essex called Lizzie, these tea pets are all one-of-a-kind. They have little noses and are all so bloody cute, and I have one which sits on my table whenever I try new tea samples. Honestly, I'm OBSESSED.
A word of warning, though - you'll quickly find that collecting tea pets is an unstoppable habit.
Still... it's a pretty fun habit to have.