A Tea Addict's Journal

Packing and shipping

June 13, 2011 · 9 Comments


One of the most painful things about moving is packing up everything.  What you see here, alas, is only a fraction of what I have.  Teaware, as we all know, are fragile, breakable things.  Pots, cups, dishes, kettles, everything is breakable, and everything needs a lot of wrapping.  I find that a lot of it is really difficult to do right, and sometimes people who pack and then ship these things don’t do it properly, resulting in breakage.

One of the biggest mistakes people make is to pack a teapot with the lid on the pot itself and just wrap the whole thing with bubble wrap.  That’s dangerous.  The lid, while it sits on the pot, can easily be rattled in shipment and comes loose or, worse, get damaged, as happened to one of my pots.  One of the pots I bought recently was shipped to me with only a little tape holding the lid onto the body.  Of course, when I opened the box, the lid was loose.  I was really lucky it wasn’t in pieces.

There’s also the issue of cushioning.  Ideally, you want space between all pieces of stuff — some sort of buffer in between each and every piece, so they never touch during shipment and will never come into contact with hard surface.  They also need to be cushioned against impacts along the walls of the box, so there needs to be space there too.  Boxes that are too small are disasters waiting to happen.

Shipping metal is no less difficult.  While tetsubins are pretty hardy and can take a lot of abuse, things like tin, pewter, copper, or silver are much more fragile and will dent or scratch easily.  With these, you have to be extra sure that the cushioning is enough to support all kinds of blows to the box — especially since some of these are heavy and if they are allowed to shift in the box, the momentum will create a greater force to dent what’s next to it.  I’d suggest shipping them singly, if possible, or if one must ship them together with something else, do so in a way that minimizes the chances of breakage with the way you place different items, etc.

Teas are easier to deal with, especially if they’re of the oolong variety and come in bags.  That’s almost a no brainer, so long as the box itself is relatively air tight and (hopefully) won’t be exposed to high temperature or sunlight.  Puerh cakes are a bit of a pain, but generally speaking when I ship these things I almost expect damage — it’s just part of the cost of shipping them.  Broken edges, roughed up wrappers, and missing teadust are par for the course.  If they’re not flooded I’m happy.

What’s really difficult is deciding to get rid of some pieces.  I have a lot of teaware that I think I should probably cull from my collection, either because I no longer use them at all, or in many cases, never really used them in the first place.  In this picture alone I see three pieces that I never use and I should probably get rid of, but I have a hard time bringing myself to do it.  On one level, I’m a hoarder at heart, so I want to hold onto them.  I also feel, somehow, that selling these things is not quite right.  I sometimes gift items away, but you can only gift so many things, and not a lot of people take tea related gifts, in any case.  Sometimes they’re also pieces that I don’t deem gift-worthy — if I’m not going to use it, why should I inflict it on someone else?  Then there are the tuition pieces.  At some point I’m going to take pictures of all of them and then show them here, so that others can learn from my tuition mistakes, but those pieces I’m sort of stuck with forever, and all I really need to the resolve to throw them in the trash.  All in all, the problem of too much teaware is really a dilemma that has no good resolution.

Categories: Misc
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9 responses so far ↓

  • Chris // June 14, 2011 at 1:44 am | Reply

    Wow…that’s quite a selection of pots and tea! Good luck packing it all up safely.

    • MarshalN // June 14, 2011 at 7:04 pm | Reply

      There’s very little tea in the picture — and most of the pots are also out of right (you can see some on the left)

  • DM // June 14, 2011 at 6:37 am | Reply

    Nice poignant post. Emptying an ancestor’s house recently has really reinforced for me the value of paring down to essentials – less for us to carry, less for the next in line to have to handle.

    Kahlil Gibran has a great injunction: “All you have shall some day be given; therefore give now, that the season of giving may be yours and not your inheritors’.” It’s often cited as an inspirational quote on the value of charity. I wonder, though, if The Prophet moved around a lot, and got tired of packing?

    Good luck with this challenge. May each item you handle, treasured or otherwise, bring back many fond memories and lay a foundation for creating many more. And safe travels.

  • Eugenius // June 14, 2011 at 7:48 am | Reply

    Although my collection of teaware doesn’t begin to approach yours in size, I share a similar dilemma on the disposal of stuff I never use. One one hand, I feel like I should keep the first chinatown “yixing” pot I ever bought, even though I now know that it’s completely impractical for making any sort of tea and has lost what aesthetic appeal it once had for me, but on the other, space is limitted. On some level it’s a feeling of nostalgia, but at the end of the day this is a journey of tea, and as such the scenery has to change from time to time to keep from getting bogged down. Easier said than done, I know.

    I’m not moving (for the time being, anyway), but the amount of stuff gathering dust on my tea shelves while other pieces get used most every day bugs me. To that end, I’ve begun the process of attempting to sell what’s good to tea friends and steeling myself for donating or throwing away what’s not (while I may not have any use for a 300ml clay teapot, it might make a lovely flowerpot for someone).

    In any case, best of luck to you in your culling endeavours and may all your packages be rattle-free once shipped.

  • gingko // June 14, 2011 at 12:56 pm | Reply

    Oh my! Inter-continental moving must be painful! I’ve never had a real inter-continental moving yet (I brought nothing but two suitcases in my last one). A friend (who has a lot of books) of mine moved back to China last year and convinced me that 60 boxes would be enough. But tea ware with packing bubbles would be so much more bulky!

    But anyway happy moving! There is a new chapter of life!

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