What is a Tea Pet?

Hippo tea pet animal

A Tea Pet is clay animal or mythical creature that you drink tea with. But why?

Tea pets are a common addition to many tea drinkers collection of tea ware and loose leaf teas. These often adorable figurines make for great companions to keep on your tea tray as you drink and indulge in your favorite past time. But this begs the question, why and where did the tea pet come from? Does it serve any purpose beyond looking awesome? Let’s steep ourselves in the subject of tea pets.

A Brief History of Tea Pets

Tea pets first originated in near Yixing, a region in one of China’s provinces famous for Yixing teapots that use a specific type of clay that is native to the region. The pets were originally made out of this same clay, which has the unique property of absorbing the colors and flavors of the teas that it is exposed to. This characteristic of the clay is so pronounced that many Yixing tea pots are designated for one particular kind of tea, as to season it over time and add to the flavor of the steeping tea. The tea pet is rumored to bring the drinker good luck, and be a companion of sorts during your tea sessions.

Tea Pets have Souls?

It is said that every tea pet has the ability to grow and develop a soul overtime. Because of the absorbent nature of the Yixing clay, tea drinkers will pour their tea rinse water and wasted tea over the tea pet. (The tea pet is usually kept on a tea tray that has a built in catch, so that a giant mess is not created in the process). This process is considered ‘feeding your tea pet’, or letting it drink tea with you. Over time, as your pet drinks more tea, it will develop more character, absorbing the color and the aromas of the tea you drink. This is your tea pet growing and developing it’s soul.

Testing Water Temperatures... with Added Humor

One of the more famous and common tea pets is the pee pee boy. No, that isn’t a joke. Yes, you read that correctly. The pee pee boy is a small, trouser-less clay boy figurine. The character can be heated and then placed in room temperature water. After an hour or so, the boy has absorbed water into the clay, and a hollowed space within the figure. A small hole is located at the boy figurine’s pee pee location. When hot water is poured over the top of the tea pet, the boy will quite literally “pee” as water is ejected from the inside due to pressure from the clay swelling. If the water is of sufficient temperature, meaning boiling, or close to boiling, the boy will pee a distance of two feet or more. If the stream is weak and does not go very far, it means the water is not yet very hot. Chinese tea drinkers would use this as temperature indicator, as a way of determining just how hot their water was.

While some might view this interesting tidbit of history as childish, the Chinese though it brought a certain degree of humor and joy to their tea time. They felt that tea sessions should be an escape from the pressures and hustle of life, and potty humor was a great way of accomplishing that! If the toilet-natured humor is not your style, some of the more modern tea pets still have this temperature sensing ‘feature’ but will use the mouth of the animal for the ejecting water stream. Not all tea pets are equipped with the water temperature feature, but if you buy a tea pet, and it does in fact have a hole, you now know it’s purpose and how to utilize it.

Added Character and Fun to the Tea Hobby

Arguably the best part about tea pets is the light hearted ness that they add to tea drinking. They can act as a friendly reminder to not take ourselves, or our tea drinking, too seriously. They can illicit a smile in a moment of focus, or distract us from trouble with their adorable expressions. If you have a collection of many tea pets, you can assign one to each different tea, or to your current mood. They can become your friends, each with their own names and characteristics. Tea pets give you the ability to further personalize your tea drinking experience, and are one of the cooler aspects of tea drinking. Maybe some day in the future, when America is full of tea nerds, we will all be running around the city, carrying our favorite pet in our pockets, ready to exhibit them as our guests whenever we are invited to tea by our friends, family, and new acquaintances.

Common Tea Pet Animals

Any thing can be a tea pet, and there is a wide variety of available animals, but by originating in China, many of the common pets are similar to the animals associated with the Chinese years. Let’s take a brief look at some of these animals and the characteristics they are touted to bring to your tea session.


Seeing how the Chinese New Year just begun in 2019, and it is the year of the pig, this seems like a good place to start. The Pig is an Optimistic, Loyal, and Trusting character. Bring confidentiality and positivity to your tea session with a pig tea pet.


If you are seeking advice and wealth, look know further than a Rat tea pet. Know for their genius and success, this pet might just inspire you with the knowledge you need to succeed when confronting obstacles in your life.


Perhaps you are in a phase in life where you need to be heads down, focused on the daily grind, and waiting for what is next. An Ox tea pet is patient and industrious, and can remind you to keep getting back to work.


In addition to being fierce and beautiful, the Tiger is a courageous and trustworthy character. If you are seeking the strength to face a problem head on in life, the tiger tea pet can accompany you in your tea session.


Maybe you drink tea primarily to relax, and escape from the everyday noise of life. Is tea time a meditative practice for you? The rabbit pet is know for being hopeful and at peace. You are unlikely to find a better pet for your tea reflection activities.


Ambitious and intellectual, Dragon tea pets not only look amazing, but can light a mental and focused fire to your day. I’m partial to dragons because I personally was born in the year of the dragon (1988). Still waiting on that intellect though...


The snake is both a wise and passionate creature. A combination that is fantastic because of the balance it can bring. Passion can often result in hasty decisions, so balancing the need to indulge in impulse with some wisdom can be extremely helpful.


Positive and warm-hearted, the horse is another good alternative to the rabbit as an everyday tea companion. We all know one of those ‘horse people’ as well, who have an amazing connection with these creatures. Maybe a horse tea friend would make a good gift for that person in your life.


I’m always looking to see how I can build more empathy in my life, how I might care more deeply for others. A sheep tea pet bring with it a gentleness and caring nature that may help you reflect on your own desires for growing empathy for others.


Creative and sociable, a monkey pet may remove mental roadblocks in your projects, or help you come out of your shell with others. A great choice for tea gatherings with friends and new acquaintances.


Maybe you are looking to inspire some truly honest reflection and critique of a situation in life, or of your personal performance in some area. A rooster tea companion is honest and critical. Reminding you to be straightforward with your thinking, and not lie to yourself.


Last, but not least, maybe you simply need a fantastic friend to share your tea with. The dog is faithful, clever, and great a keeping secrets. Guaranteed to be an amazing companion to any tea you choose to enjoy.

Pick a Tea Pet that Inspires You

A moment of peace. Creative motivation. A burst of energy. Regardless of what you might be searching for while drinking tea, make sure you pick a tea pet that you find aesthetically pleasing. In the words of Marie Kondo, make sure your tea pet sparks joy! After all, your tea session belongs to you, and no one else. Selecting a pet is a personal decision, and whatever character ends up on your tea tray should be about you.

Happy Sipping!


(Amazon Affiliate Disclaimer: this article contains affiliate partner links to products that can be purchased on amazon.com. If you purchase a product using one of these links, looseleaftea.co will receive some of the proceeds. These proceeds are used for building our tea business, and eventually, the aquarium tea lounge)

1 comment

  • So fun and interesting!

    Kayla Ripley

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