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The Development Of Taiwanese Teaware Emphasizing Functionality

Author: Bian Zheng/Photos: Editorial Department

Teaware has played an extremely important role in the development of Taiwanese tea; culture. During the early 1970's there was little choice available in teaware. Most tea drinkers used traditional brewing techniques and tea utensils, or they substituted household utensils from everyday life, for example using a large bowl as a saucer for tea cups. Economic development slowly made tea drinking fashionable, driving the first wave of teaware production.

Among the major tea utensils at that time was the milk jug used with English style black tea, which became a vessel for brewing tea. Also, ceramic cups used to drink Japanese sake were repurposed as aroma cups (wen xiang bei) md produced as paired tea cups. A succession of two — level porcelain tea trays (cha chi) and water vessels (shui fang) also appeared, casting aside the traditional gongfu tea style of brewing tea in a small teapot placed in a tea boat (cha chuan).

By the mid 1980's, tea houses had sprung up and joined with business people throughout Taiwan to form the Art of Tea Commerce Friendship Association (today formally registered as The Chinese Art of Tea Craft Union). This drove the second wave of teaware production, which was primarily motivated by ceramic artists and the rise of purple clay (zisha) teapots. All types of ceramic teaware came to more richly embody the elegance of the art tea. The concept of complete sets of teaware also came into the consciousness of tea lovers. The tea world began to thoroughly explore matching items to form tea sets, leading to groups of people with differing viewpoints and opinions.

At this stage, the Tea Union organized several tea brewing competitions and international exchanges. These had the effect of encouraging interchange of ideas and learning between Southern and Northern teaware producers, inspiring outstanding tea utensils. Tea sets also finally took shape as complete, integrated sets.

During the 1990's, bamboo, wooden, and stone tea trays and other tea utensils created yet another upsurge in interesting teaware. Composite bamboo tea trays are refined and tasteful, while wood and stone tea trays are elegantly sculpted and finely polished. Each has its own group of admirers. By this time, business people devoted to producing tea utensils from particular materials had already begun appearing.

Tea utensil producers played the dual roles of educators and advocates. Additionally, more and more tea ceremony teachers helped to drive ever-increasing market demand for tea utensils.

After 2000,exchange across the two sides of the Taiwan strait and the spread of tea conferences devoted to various subjects has helped to bring about a huge number of excellent new tea utensils. Each has its own advantages and applications, combining the aesthetic sensibilities of professional designers with the functional requirements of tea drinkers. The teaware market has become extremely varied, with prices ranging from very cheap to extremely expensive. A large number of teaware producers do not design their own products, but simply copy famous brunets or top-selling teaware products. This has caused those producers who persist in quality and design to feci extremely helpless and discouraged.

Specially teaware producers, however, have focused developing tea utensils from composite and using advanced technology and trademark management to take on imitators.

Teaware producers from the 1970's to today have come in several primary forms. The first are those which themselves are factories or workshops (ceramics, porcelain, purple clay, wood, bamboo, or glass). These producers normally do not possess specialized knowledge of tea brewing or aesthetics. Much of what they produce are imitations of products that already sell well in the market or are commissioned by others; but factories have their own advantages when it comes to production. The second type consists of business people involved in tea. They get involved in teaware production because of less than ideal product functionality or quality. This class of producers understands the function and aesthetics of teaware, but they do not understand production and manufacturing technology or quality control. They are often unable to compete in the market and only distribute on a small scale.

The following several points regarding teaware deve֔opment should be kept in mind:

1. Market orientation: the value position of a tea utensil in the market (artistic item, high grade item, ordinary product on bargain product).

2. Product orientation: what role does this tea utensil play in the company's product line (improving me company's image, advertising, service, competitive position on profit)

3. Functionality: does this tea utensil provide convenience or innovative functionality?

4. Design aesthetic concepts: is the design of this tea utensil compatible or able to match with other tea utensils?

Only by understanding these Four points, combining function, quality, and innovation, is it possible to produce teaware chat is truly able to be widely distributed in the market.