tea warmer

An essential figure in our cold weather rituals is our glass tea warmer. A simple device. It is built carefully, strongly shaped to support a full pot, with openings around the sides to bring air to the tea candle lit below. A steel plate holds the pot, and a little glass cup holds the candle. It keeps our tea astonishingly hot.

tea warmer © elisa rathje 2011

The tea warmer is particularly excellent for rooibos teas, which only get better as they steep. If I’m drinking earl grey I keep a strainer of leaves nearby on the tray and remove it after a short steep in fresh water, to keep the brew warming without becoming bitter. I set the copper kettle on the wood stove and fill the tea pot now and then. It requires very little energy to have tea all day long.

tea warmer copywrite elisa rathjer 2011


p>I must warn you against using a flat-bottom tea pot, which, though adorably shaped, is apt to put out the light if it covers the entire top of the warmer snugly. I found this warmer at my favourite tea shop in Vancouver and it was first in line to join us in England. It’s sustained me as I’ve worked through many a cold afternoon in the studio. The tea warmer will play a supporting role in a few tea parties we’ll be throwing over the next little while!

copper polish

After a winter of hard work on the wood stove, the copper kettle needs a good polish.

dirty copper

How to polish copper? You’ve got copper to polish, and needed to know. I thought so. Like polishing silver with toothpaste, there’s an ecological, economical solution.


Dip a cut lemon into wood ash (wear some gloves in case it is too intense for your skin!) and scrub. This is messy, best to do it outside. Rub, rub, rub with a soft cloth. Rinse thoroughly with water. Anything left in the grooves might create verdigris, which is toxic, so clean it up well, an old toothbrush works.

polished copper

Repeat til shiny, then polish with a clean cloth. It looks so pleasing! It gives me energy for the next task. With thanks to that wonderful book, Sloe Gin & Beeswax.

copper trowel

Today’s River Cottage tried & true is from Head Gardener Mark Diacono, who led us in a delicious study of vegetables at the cookery course. He’s the author of the Veg Patch handbook, which I plan to spend the winter poring over in anticipation of spring. Mark nominated his copper trowel.


copper trowel. photograph: mark diacono

Exquisite object! Mark says it cuts the earth effortlessly, doesn’t rust, and has such a striking colour that it isn’t easily lost in the garden. (Especially as it is such a delight to use, and not inexpensive, you do take care not to lose the thing.) He guesses it will easily outlast him. I read a little about copper tools in the garden, there are some fascinating ideas about copper’s qualities. Of course I openly admit to having a weakness for shiny things.

Thank you Mark, I’m wracked with envy.

You might like to follow Mark and his copper trowel over to Otter Farm for a visit.