Tea Tables and Trays
When brewing tea for yourself or others, protecting your teaware by providing a stable brewing service is an absolute must. Many people have a nice small table they brew on but some people prefer to use tables specifically designed for brewing tea. They also serve as a place to catch excess water/tea from spill/spray or even just a rinse.
Similar to Yixing or Porcelain, these tables are functional art. Many hours/weeks/months can go into creating a single table. Sometimes they are humble with a simple shape and few, if any carvings, just a solid piece of wood with a nice finish, Some are fantasically detailed carvings with birds, dragons, buddha’s, fish etc. One of my favorites, from a teashop in Dali Old Town, has a built-in strainer holder that filters through the base into a bucket for draining!
Most novice to mid-livel tea enthusiasts and most western teashops that carry Chinese teaware will have the kind of tray or brewstation with a removable plastic tray for when it gets full. These are nice for small volume home brewing. Are you really going to fill up a tray with more liquid than you are likely to drink in a single tea session? When making tea in a teahouse or any other situation where you are serving lots of people, this can create a problem. This style is really not meant for bulk brewing, you will have to empty the tray too often.
In Chinese teashops, the most common type of table was a root carving table. They cut a tree in half to make a flat surface and use the roots and branches as the legs. They dip them in a finish, usually polyurethane, to protect the surface from the obvious water damage that would otherwise deteriorate their work. This type always has a small drain closest to the brewer that has a metal strainer, often with the tea character on it, to filter the leaves and prevent clogging in the tube. Using a tea brush, you push excess water from the brewstation into the drain which leads to a bucket on the floor near the brewer.
In addition to providing a safe and beautiful place to brew tea, it also serves as a display for your favorite teapots, gaiwans and teapets! most of the shops we went in had all their active teaware on the brewstation and reserved the rest of the shelf and display space for tea and wares for sale.
I have a few pieces of wood I am trying to convert into my own tea table. I am no woodworker so they maybe be functional but certainly no works of art like these professionally made tables.