I’ve come to appreciate every season, but fall remains the one which simply takes my breath away. This year, I noticed its arrival even while the sun glared harshly on my plants. It had been months since I had driven anywhere far, but in my short grocery trips, I noticed the trees lining the streets faltered from their usual verdure.

It wasn’t long before they became a determine saffron and fell to the ground, and the radiant heat of the sun melted into the pitter-patter of cold rain on pavement. Ah, I sighed to myself. My favorite season.

I sat in my room—now furnished with tatami mats—as the low rumble of my tea kettle murmured a soft dialogue with the rain. The steam escaping from the spout rose and disappeared, but I imagined it traveling up invisibly towards the sky, where it formed the gray clouds which were pouring down.

The twang of my guqin interrupted the rain and kettle conversation, and I smiled at the scene. There is something so relaxing about all of these things. I had been practicing a song titled Geese Landing on a Peaceful Shore 平沙落雁, and the slow, evocative hum of its notes joined the rain and kettle in harmony.

I took a break from my guqin and stared out the ceiling to watch raindrops fall from the pine needles hanging outside my window. They resembled little jewels, crystals adorning a tree, as they reflected each other within their translucent cores.

I got up and poured hot water into a small auburn teapot, releasing the aroma of smoky oolong tea into the air. Against the muted gray skies and darkened room, my teapot was both a splash of color and flavor. It delighted my nose and tickled it with hints of fruitiness which came out after the initial burst of smoke. I poured it into a cup and knelt back down at my desk, feeling the cup warm my hands.

Indeed, autumn is my favorite season.

In Search of a Kettle

Being in quarantine, I have a bit too much time on my hands. But rather than study for graduate school entrance exams or revise my writing samples, I’ve spent hours scouring eBay, Craigslist, and Facebook Marketplace for good deals. Most of these happen to be related to tea, but that’s just because of how things turned out.

I hadn’t planned on purchasing much. I was perfectly content with the improvised tea utensils I had been using until now. But a friend was leaving the US and passed on many tea utensils to me. This came with the responsibility of taking good care of them, and also of using them at some point. I couldn’t bear to accept such a generous gift without making sure these items were used, and so I began my side of the collecting.

I started with a simple bookshelf off of Craigslist, which is now where I store tea bowls and miscellaneous tea equipment. It wasn’t long before I looked around on eBay and noticed an antique dealer in Portland selling furogama: a set which included a kettle (looks more like a pot, or dare I say cauldron) and a brazier underneath. I went to check them out in person, and boy were they rusted.

Upon arriving at their third-floor space, I inspected three sets, all of which were rather rusty. He had some nicer ones which had been restored with a non-toxic oil. Non-toxic or not, the kettles reeked of the volatile solution they were treated with. Coupled with the higher price tag, I skipped them.

After an hour or two of looking around, I decided to go home and think about it some more. In the mean time, I did some more research online, asked around for advice, and eventually returned the next week, dead set on buying one. It was quite a miracle because I spotted one I swear wasn’t there last time. Sure, the shop hadn’t received any new inventory during that week, but this was a kettle which was virtually intact.

Then for the cleaning.

The first round of water which went into the kettle came out dark, murky, and absolutely gross. The second round fared a bit better, and after a while, the water looked clean, but did not seem like anything I would want to drink.

Then came the tea leaves.

Boiling tea leaves releases tannins into the water, which then binds to the rust on the kettle and prevents it from getting worse. The result is again, another pitch-black, opaque, and completely unappealing liquid.

After many days of boiling, dumping, drying, and more boiling, I finally trusted the water enough to drink out of it, and it was very pleasant. Since then, I’ve used my kettle almost every day. Aside from regular tea practice, I also use the water to brew loose-leaf tea, and it really accentuates the flavor.

At the time (this was roughly April or May), I thought this was all that I would acquire. Little did I know that in the coming months, my room was going to undergo a drastic transformation. But that will be a story for another time.