Life in China 2016: A Picture A Day, August 10 – Two Days ago, when I shared a picture of the Gongfu style tea, I mentioned “tea pets.” These are small clay figures that can be kept on a Gongfu tea tray. When preparing tea, you go through steps of washing the tea leaves and warming the cups, before actually serving the tea. This first liquid is given to your “tea pet” by pouring it over the “pet.” This is yet another custom that is supposed to bring you good luck. Tea pets, ornaments, or tea lover’s pets, don’t necessarily have to be animals, Buddha is popular, as well as other figurines, lotus pods, and some of the Chinese mythological creatures. On April 15, I wrote about lucky toads, these are probably the most popular tea pet! Another favorite is the “pee-pee boy” (lower center picture) or other spraying type figures; these are actually made using scientific principles so that you can tell if the water is hot enough to prepare the tea. Tea pets are usually made from the yixing clay which I wrote about back in March. Because of this, they absorb the tea poured on them and eventually change color, get a glossy look, and absorb a tea scent. Sometimes they have a glaze on part of them, which, with time and attention, will crack and allow a golden color to show through. You should pamper your tea pets just like a real life pet, and then it will look more attractive :-) I don’t have a tea pet yet, because I don’t have a wooden Gongfu tea tray to put it on, but one of these times I will find one that I just can’t resist adopting! The large picture is from a nearby tea store and you can see the lucky toads as well as Buddha and a water buffalo, the lower left pics are from tea markets, the center right picture shows a Buddha tea pet sitting on the corner of a Gongfu tea tray, the right side photos are from Taobao (like Ebay) just to show the variety, pigs are very popular, and a variety of animals including those of the Chinese zodiac.