Ceramic and clay teaware can be porous and absorb flavors easily, which is what allows them to develop their charm and richness over time as tea lovers use them with particular teas. Many tea lovers will save a particular tea pot or tea cup for a certain style of tea, allowing that style to gradually flavor the teapot over many sessions.
What do you do if you need to clean a ceramic or clay teapot or tea cup?
The answer is simple. Pour near boiling water into the teaware and let it sit for a minute or two. You can do many pours, swish it around, and scrub it with a soft cloth. The hot water will sanitize it. For stubborn stains, use spent tea leaves (preferably green or white, which have the least amount of tannin) to scrub off any build up. The tea leaves can help remove odors and freshen the teaware.
Do not use any kind of detergent or soap, as this will add a soapy flavor that it may be impossible to remove from your teaware. It is okay to use soap with glass and porcelain teaware, as they are not porous like ceramic or clay teaware.
If a clay teapot has developed mold or mildew, it may not be possible to remove it, so make sure you allow your tea pots to fully dry, with the lid off, before storing them. Laying them upside down against an absorbent cloth or on a tea tray can help with aeration and drying.
Many tea ceremony sets often come with a brush and pick. These are helpful for brushing dried tea leaves out of the pot and picking out any that are stuck in the filter or spout.
It's always a good idea to remove the tea leaves once you finish your tea session, rinse the teaware with hot water, dry it with a soft cloth, and let it air dry. Letting wet tea leaves sit for an extended period of time can lead to mold and mildew, resulting in damaged or destroyed teaware.
After your teaware is fully dry you can use a soft brush to remove any leftover dried tea leaf fragments and pick out anything that may be lodged in the spout or filter. Remember to store any tea pots with the lid on, to protect the lid and the teapot's integrity.
A consistent cleaning ritual will help you keep your teaware in good condition for many years.