A tea pet in use

Tea Pets: Complete Guide on Your Whimsical Tea Companions

Jan 24, 2024

Shanika Dasanayaka

Do you love pets? Who dosent? Having a pet can alleviate loneliness, reduce stress, and improve mental health. These have been scientifically proven, and there are many other benefits to having a pet. Do you believe that there is a pet for tea as well? This sounds a bit strange, but yes! There are tea pets that are being used as companions for your tea time. 

When you use a tea pet, you may use it as your tea drinking partner, whether you drink tea alone or with a group. There are some duties to do when we adopt a pet, and you might wonder if a tea pet also needs some care and rituals to do. Let’s learn more about this interesting discussion on having a tea pet!

What are Tea Pets?

Being a country with a huge history that dates back several centuries, China has so many cultural aspects and rituals related to tea. The esteemed status of tea as a beverage has given rise to a beautiful tea culture, and one delightful outcome of Chinese innovation is the tea pet.

In essence, a tea pet is a companion that joins you during your tea time. In practice, it takes the form of a small clay figurine placed on your tea table when brewing and drinking tea. Tea pets are tiny, adorable pottery figures typically crafted from Yixing clay, sourced from the region near Yixing in China. This Chinese invention is intended to provide mental comfort to tea drinkers during their tea sessions, as Chinese belief holds that a tea pet can bring good luck to the person enjoying tea. They are usually made in red or brown colors and are of a small size for easy handling, often left unglazed with a rough texture.

When you have a tea pet, it rests on your tea table or tray while you indulge in tea. During your tea time, you can pour tea over the figurine, effectively "feeding" your tea pet. In response, the tea pet gradually changes color over time and absorbs the aroma of the tea. Having a tea pet on your tea tray also serves as an enchanting decoration during a tea ceremony. (Try now!)

History and Cultural Significance

Tea pets trace their origins to Chinese culture during the Song Dynasty, dating back to the 13th century. These figurines are crafted using special clay from the Yixing region, establishing Yixing as the birthplace of tea pets. As the popularity of tea pets grew, Yixing became a major producer of these charming companions, alongside other tea-making utensils. Skilled potters in Yixing began crafting various types of tea pets, each holding distinct cultural values. Most designs drew inspiration from Chinese cultural beliefs and mythical creatures, such as dragons, monks, and different animals. Despite the intriguing historical background of tea pets, limited literature is available regarding their origins and development.

Types of Tea Pets

Chinese culture has given rise to several types of tea pets, each carrying unique cultural beliefs and values. These pets not only symbolize good luck or prosperity but also embody various other cultural attributes. Each type of tea pet has its own symbolism, making it essential to consider their representation when gifting or displaying them. The main categories of tea pets include:

Zodiac Tea Pet

Chinese tradition assigns twelve animals to mark the years, known as the twelve zodiacs. A zodiac tea pet is often placed on the tray to represent the host's birth year. Each animal in the zodiac carries its own symbolism and significance. The twelve zodiac animals are Rat, Ox, Tiger, Rabbit, Dragon, Snake, Horse, Sheep, Monkey, Rooster, Dog, and Pig. When selecting a tea pet for your tea table or as a gift, remember that it represents and symbolizes you or the recipient.

Maitreya Tea Pet

Buddhism has long influenced Chinese tea culture. Consequently, tea pets are designed in the style of Buddha or little monks. When a Buddhist statue or monk tea pet is placed on the tea tray, it signifies the host's preference for a serene and contemplative tea session.

Ancient Monsters

Chinese culture is replete with stories of myths featuring monsters and dragons. Tea pet designers have incorporated these mythical concepts into their creations, representing various aspects of Chinese culture. To adhere to the standards of ancient monster tea pets, they must be placed in precise locations and angles on the tea tray, adding complexity to their significance. Common ancient monster tea pet types include Pi Xiu, Golden Toad, and Kylin.

Ordinary Animals

In addition to the zodiac animals, there are tea pets featuring ordinary animals that are not part of the zodiac. These animals are chosen based on their value in Chinese cultural beliefs and symbolism. Some examples include cats, lions, and elephants.

Little Kids

Another category of tea pets takes the form of tiny, adorable children in various poses. Among them, the most famous is the "pee-pee boy," known for its captivating design.

Choosing the Right Tea Pet

Whether you are seeking a tea pet for yourself or as a gift, it is crucial to select the right one. According to Chinese cultural myths and beliefs, each tea pet carries its own representation and symbolism. Often, tea pets manifest the characteristics of the user, so if you are adopting a tea pet for your own tea tray, remember that it reflects your personality.

Similarly, when gifting a tea pet, the chosen figurine conveys your wishes to the recipient. Therefore, thorough background research and consideration of the tea pet's symbolism are essential when making your selection. Beyond symbolism, factors such as size and color should align with your personal preferences and the dimensions of your tea tray.

Caring for Your Tea Pet

A tea pet, while not a living being, can be a delightful companion during your tea sessions. It adds a meaningful decoration to your tea table, enhancing the tea ceremony's significance. Proper care and handling of your tea pet are essential, and there are several considerations to keep in mind:

Cleaning the Tea Pet

Over time, tea pets can accumulate residues, dust, and oils on their surfaces, making them appear dirty. To maintain your tea pet's cleanliness, you will need a soft cloth or brush and warm water. Gently scrub the damp cloth or brush over the tea pet, then rinse it thoroughly to remove all dirt. Avoid using soap to clean your tea pet.

Feeding the Tea Pet

To nourish your tea pet, you can pour tea brew over it during your tea time. According to Chinese beliefs, feeding your tea pet with tea brings good luck. When selecting a tea for your tea pet, opt for one with rich flavors and aromas, free from impurities. Popular choices for feeding your tea pet include green tea, black tea, and oolong tea.


When not in use, store your tea pet in a cool, dry place. This helps protect the tea pet from potential damage. Exposure to humid conditions or sunlight may cause the clay to crack. The ideal storage location is inside a soft cloth or the original box in which it was packaged.

The Ritual of Tea Pet Ownership

Owning a tea pet entails understanding the values and symbolism associated with it, as the tea pet serves as a reflection of the owner. Owners are responsible for maintaining and caring for their tea pets, with these activities forming the rituals of tea pet ownership. To enhance the pet's color and tea fragrance, owners should feed it tea brew during tea sessions. Regularly cleaning the tea pet with a soft brush not only keeps it in good condition but also contributes to the pet's happiness and is believed to bring good luck to the owner.

Tea Pet Traditions and Superstitions

Traditionally, tea pets serve as companions on tea tables or trays, enhancing the cultural value of the tea experience. By "feeding" the tea pet with tea brew, tea sessions become interactive and lively, with the tea pet representing the host of the tea ceremony. Gifting tea pets is also a tradition, with the giver focusing on their wishes for the recipient. While some view the belief in tea pets bringing luck as superstitious, others utilize it as a sales and marketing tool. Nevertheless, incorporating a tea pet into your tea ceremony adds enjoyment and discussion to the event, making it more engaging.

Collecting Tea Pets

Since each tea pet represents a unique concept or wish, collecting multiple tea pets allows you to represent different aspects of yourself during tea ceremonies. For instance, if you wish to symbolize loyalty, you might use a dog tea pet on your tray. When gifting a tea pet, selecting one that aligns with your recipient's values and wishes is important. For example, gifting a turtle or tortoise tea pet signifies a desire for long life when given to grandparents. Collecting numerous tea pets can be an enjoyable hobby, as these figurines are delightful and charming to see as part of a collection. Moreover, having a tea pet collection provides interesting stories to share while sipping tea with colleagues.

Unique and Unusual Tea Pets

While pets are typically living creatures that evoke feelings of happiness, some tea pets possess unique characteristics. These tea pets mimic animals or small children and add a distinctive touch to your tea sessions. However, there are also unusual or uncommon tea pets, such as those shaped like roots, vegetables, or fruits. Despite their unconventional nature, these tea pets hold unique representations in Chinese cultural beliefs and are still considered tea pets by many.


Tea pets are small, symbolic creatures crafted from Yixing clay, representing various cultural beliefs in Chinese tea culture. Introduced during the 13th century in China's Yixing province, tea pets have become companions on tea tables during tea sessions. Chinese tradition holds that a tea pet can bring good luck. These pets come in different types, each symbolizing distinct concepts and wishes in Chinese tea culture. Like live pets, tea pets require care and maintenance. While some view the concept of tea pets as superstitious, they remain a beautiful remnant of the rich tea culture. Simply having a tea pet on your tea tray can make the tea table more enjoyable, providing a lovely story to share while feeding your tea pet and savoring a cup of tea. Will your next tea companion be a tea pet, and who will it represent?

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