Thursday, March 6, 2008

Equipment : Tea Cupping Set

In response to Salsero's comment, I thought today I would talk about my cupping set.

Cupping sets consist of 3 different pieces, the lid, bowl, and pitcher. Every cupping set that I have seen has been the same size as I believe there is a standard size for the pitcher.

The pitcher is about 200 mL in volume, I haven't measured for sure, but that's about what I would guess it to be. Looking around at other cupping sets sold online a few mention it is 6 fl oz. Which is about 170 mL. So that sounds about right. The pitcher varies only slightly from cupping set to cupping set, the main difference is in the lip. Some like mine, have a lip like a traditional pitcher where it extends out slightly. Others I have seen have simply a small notch cut into the side of the pitcher.

When using the cupping set you follow a somewhat standard procedure to generate uniformity.
1) Warm the pitcher and cup with warm water that is appropriate to the tea you are going to steep.
2) Place dry tea leaves in the picther.
3) Fill pitcher with water making sure to wet the leaves.
4) Wait for tea to steep.
5) Tip pitcher on its side in the bowl. (As seen below)
6) Wait for tea to drain into bowl.
7) Invert pitcher allowing leaves to fall onto the lid.
8) Invert lid and place upside down on the pitcher. This allows you to smell and view the leaves.
9) Taste Tea
10) Enjoy.

Some of the steps are not completely necessary for the use of a cupping set. For instance pre-warming the pitcher and bowl are not necessary, but if you do it one way you should maintain it for uniformity. Also if you are not interested in displaying the leaves, it is not necessary either.

One of the primary uses of a cupping set is for tasting and comparison of teas. It is common to see cupping sets in photos of tea tastings in China, India, and Japan. It allows for a standard platform to compare multiple most likely very similar teas against one another. I'm not really sure where the set was originally from, but I have seen references (although not very reliable ones) which say it was originally developed in Sri Lanka.

Because of their uniformity cupping sets are relatively inexpensive and have little variation from one to another. My particular cupping set is from Lupicia USA. I have seen them for sale at Dragonwater, serendipitea, and a number of other online tea retailers. And on a side note, they are all white I believe. Mine looks a bit yellow in these pictures due to the poor light while I was taking the photos.


Salsero said...

Thanks again, this time for the nice post on your cupping set. In your previous post, I thought maybe that's what it was, but I'd never seen one with the little spout. I have a somewhat different one, but I have never used it. I think you may have motivated me to drag it out and make something! I have seen photos of a dozen or so of them lined up for formal tastings. They seem to be a standard in many professional settings. That may be where I got the idea that the standard tea serving is 6 oz for European style.

Eric said...

Pull it out! Get it some use! And thanks for reading!