Little known to those unfamiliar with tea culture is the playful role of animals that accompany most household tea sets. Made of the traditional Zisha clay, these animals are nourished by the first pot of tea where the leaves are washed. Repeating this over time will turn its color into a deeper and darker shade, and in many cases, seep into the cracks and reveal the clay’s individual characteristics.
Thousands of years ago in the Yuan dynasty of Ancient China, a potter began to sculpt a lump of leftover clay into the shape of an animal. Realizing that it perfectly matched the clay tea pots he was crafting, the potter decided to fire the little clay animal and keep it as a lucky charm for his own tea set. Soon becoming attached, the potter began to consider his little clay animal as a kind of companion for his tea time.
Although it is just an old tale, it serves to fill the gap in the history of tea pets. They may be seen as trivial but, nonetheless, they bring delight and have since become an essential part of the tea ceremony all around the world. Tea pets are seen as good luck as well as a playful element added the relaxation of drinking tea.
Symbolism is deep-rooted throughout Chinese culture, and fables and myths from times past are still very much alive today. There are stories that deceive the apparent childishness of tea pets, which include pigs, three-legged toads and the Buddha.
Adai, which means dumb in Chinese, is the first tea pet from ZENS. For We chose a frog, a humble creature who evolves through a transformative life cycle: beginning as an egg, morphing into a tadpole before finally growing arms and legs and becoming a fully formed frog. In many cultures, the frog is a symbol of growth, fertility, creative awakening and good fortune. Although Adai may appear childish, frogs are seen as carriers of positive Yin energy and prosperity.
Tea pets are typically made of Yixing clay, a material coveted by craftsmen for its absorbent properties. A very particular feature of yixing clay is that it gradually