What is a Tea Pet? Learn about this New Obsession!

Updated on: July 11, 2022
Author: Nick
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What is a Tea Pet

Do you love to drink tea and have tea ceremonies? Well, now there's a new way to enjoy it - with a tea pet!

What is a tea pet, you ask? It's not a typo and we don't mean tea pots... Although, that's what I thought when I first read about a tea pet.

So, a tea pet is simply a companion that joins you for tea. They come in all shapes and sizes, but they all have one thing in common - they love tea!

I know...

This was my exact reaction when I first heard about tea pets... But keep reading because there's more to them than just that.

Tea pets originated back in the Yuan dynasty in China, and they've been gaining popularity ever since.

In this blog post, we'll tell you all about tea pets and how to adopt and care for one of your own, as well as why they're so popular!

So, What is a Tea Pet?

A tea pet is a small figurine that is traditionally made out of clay and is part of the gongfu tea ceremony. They are usually placed on top of the tea tray and tea table, and they come in all sorts of shapes and sizes.

Tea pets are there to provide companionship during tea time, to be taken care of, and to provide assistance. Some even believe that these tea pets are mythical with different meanings!

Cute Pig Tea Pet

Tea Pet History

Before we dive deeper into the tea pet and how they're useful to us, let's talk a little bit about the history behind the tea pet!


...it used to be called a tea lovers' pet, which we think was more appropriate, but the name evolved to Tea Pet, probably for simplicity's sake.

Either name doesn't matter, because these little creatures are cute af!

The first tea pets were created in Yixing, China during the Yuan dynasty between 1206 A.D and 1368 A.D. Yixing clay, or zisha, is used to make clay teapots and that same clay is used to make our little clay figurine tea pets.

The Yixing clay comes in three colors: green, red, and purple clay, and it is porous and unglazed, which results in a rough surface and therefore much better at absorbing the tea.

Why absorb the tea, you might think?

Well, that's how you take care of your little tea pet! Keep reading to learn how...

How to Care for a Tea Pet

Taking care of your tea pet is important during the gongfu tea ceremony in Chinese culture.

You do so by pouring tea evenly over them while they sit on the slotted tea tray, or by using a wet tea brush to pet it evenly (pun intended).

And by doing so, you give life to your precious tea pet!

Pig Tea Pets

Many tea masters claim that when you adopt a tea pet it is lifeless and without a soul. But when you begin to pour tea over it, your tea pet will become alive and have a soul.

It doesn't have to be the leftover tea, this can also be done by pouring the hot water that was used to warm up the teapot, or the water that was used to rinse the tea leaves.

But, it is preferred to use the leftover tea because over time, your tea pet will change color as it absorbs the tea. The tea will stain it and give it a unique appearance, as well as a unique scent from the different types of tea, poured over it.

Many tea lovers find this particular tea pet idea very comforting, which is why it has become so popular!

There's something special about gradually bringing an inanimate object to life...

Tea Pet Characters & Meanings

There are all sorts of tea pets to choose from with various materials, and each one with its own unique meaning.

Some tea pets represent mythical creatures like dragons or phoenixes, while others represent animals like dogs, cats, or pigs.

No matter what your preference is, there's definitely a small clay figure tea pet out there for you!

We've put together a list of some of the most popular tea pet characters and their meanings:

  • Dragons: power, strength, and good luck
  • Phoenix: rebirth, renewal, and hope
  • Cats: good fortune, happiness, and prosperity
  • Dogs: loyalty, friendship, and protection
  • Birds: happiness, freedom, and wisdom
  • Rabbits: good luck, abundance, and fertility
  • Elephants: strength, power, and wisdom
  • Bats: prosperity, good luck, and wealth
  • Pigs: good fortune, luck, and wealth
  • Turtles: Longevity, endurance, and strength
  • Buddha: happiness, peace, and wisdom

Arguably, the most popular tea pet is probably the pee pee boy as well as other watering tea pets.

Keep reading to learn why...

Here's How Some Tea Pets Can Help You

As we mentioned earlier, tea pets come in all sorts of shapes and sizes. But did you know that some tea pets are actually designed to help improve your gong fu tea ceremony?

You probably already know that different types of teas require a specific water temperature for steeping. But back in the day, they didn't have thermometers to measure the water temperature.

So how did they know that their tea was hot enough before pouring it over the tea leaves?

That's where the pee pee boy or watering tea pets come in. The pee pee boy, for instance, has a small hole where his pee pee is. He is filled halfway with cold water, then the tea masters pour the hot water over him. If he starts to pee, then that means the water is hot enough.

The further he pees, the hotter the water is!

Pee Pee Boy

Where can you adopt a Tea Pet from?

Now you're totally into the idea of a tea pet and you're wondering where you can find tea pets to adopt.

The first place you can look is your local tea shop or your local Asian market. If you don't find it there, then try checking out specialty tea stores online. Finally, check out Amazon, as most likely they will have some sort of Tea Pet to purchase.

If you care about the tradition and you want to get a good quality product, then make sure you choose one that is made of the proper type of clay that is treated the proper way, because you want it to be porous and not glazed in order to absorb the different teas you pour over it!

Frequently Asked Questions

Can anything be a tea pet?

Yes, anything can technically be a tea pet. But tea pets that are made out of materials like glass or metal won't absorb the tea and change color over time as clay tea pets will.

How do you use a Chinese tea pet?

You can place your tea pet on the tea tray, tea table, or next to your teapot. When you're finished steeping your tea, pour some of the tea over your tea pet before or after you drink tea.

Do you wash a tea pet?

No, you should not wash your tea pet with soap. Take care of your tea pet the same way you would your Yixing teapot, only rinse it with water just to get rid of any loose leaf residue from pouring steeped tea over it.

Are tea pets traditional?

Yes, tea pets are a Chinese tradition that dates back centuries. They were originally made out of Yixing clay from Yixing, Chine and they are still made out of the same clay today.

What is a Chinese tea ceremony?

A Chinese tea ceremony is traditionally done on a couple's wedding day. Although, tea ceremonies have evolved and have been adopted by other countries such as Japan for other purposes.

Nowadays, the tea ceremony is a way to slow down, relax, and appreciate the simple things in life like tea with both friends and family.

What is a Pee Pee Boy?

A Pee Pee Boy is possibly the world's oldest thermometer! It is a tea pet that helps tea masters know when the water is hot enough to pour over the tea leaves.

He is filled halfway with cold water, then the tea master pours the hot water over him. If he starts to pee, then that means the water is hot enough.

Frog Tea Pet

Final Thoughts

We hope you enjoyed learning about tea pets and tea pet traditions from China.

If you're looking for a unique gift for a tea lover in your life, then definitely consider adopting a tea pet! They make for great conversation starters and they're just so darn adorable.

Do you have a tea pet? What kind do you have and what's its name? Let us know in the comments below!

Nick loves coffee... Actually, he NEEDS coffee! So, he has dedicated his time to learning all he can about this magical bean. He can make a mean latte, is obsessed with flat whites, and is always up for a cup of java!
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