©2008 Jennifer Leigh Sauer
TEABALLS GET A BAD RAP in the Chinese artisan tea drinking scene. They supposedly cost about a nickel apiece in China and are considered to be made from lower grade teas. In the United States and Europe, they sell for about two dollars each.
They grace the cover of The Way to Tea not because of their reputation for great taste, but because they represent new trends in American tea culture and, as you can see, they are quite beautiful, both before and during steeping.
What impresses me most about the teaball is the great aesthetic care that goes into making one. They are always hand crafted (sewn by hand) by Chinese tea people. A handcrafted beverage is a rarity in the United States, where sugary soft drinks are best sellers.
Handcrafted tea is an art that is almost lost, and any reminder of its importance--particularly one this beautiful-- is precious.
I like to think of the teaball as a symbol of beauty and of invention. Whether or not you appreciate it's taste, you can appreciate it aesthetically. It seems that the people who are the first to discredit teaballs are the same ones who sell them (at an inflated rate). Why sell them if you don't believe in them?
They are fun, beautiful, and, if not outrageously delicious like a high mountain oolong, they might at least elevate your mood from their sheer beauty and the care that was used in creating them. Tea provides all kinds of "highs", not the least of which is aesthetic.