Barbara Barry, the Los Angeles-based interior designer, has created a range of products, including furniture, tableware, bedding and even luggage. But one of her favourite projects had nothing to do with design.
“I truly fell in love with tea on my first trip to Kyoto in 2000,” she said. “And loving all things Japanese, I learned more about the culture through learning about ‘the way of tea.’”
She added: “Tea is like design: what you leave out is as important as what you put in.”
On her way to London, another tea-friendly city, Ms. Barry passed through New York, taking time out to shop for accessories to enhance the experience of drinking tea.
She began at the new Ted Muehling store in TriBeCa, where she admired a carved agate bracelet (she is a big fan of Mr. Muehling’s jewelry) before focusing on the subject at hand.
When it comes to tea strainers, she announced, the Ted Muehling sterling silver Queen Anne’s Lace tea strainer is “the most beautiful tea strainer in the world. It’s a delight to pour water through the Champagne-like bubble openings, and there is always a gasp from first-timers.”
At Alessi, Ms. Barry found a new spoon by LUCY.D that was “thoughtfully designed to hold the tea in its folded handle.”
As for porcelain tea sets, she noted, Augarten, an Austrian company, makes her favourites. And the Rottenberg service, crowned with a series of whimsical heads, is “magical,” she said. “Each head is put on by hand and smoothed to perfection. The porcelain is almost translucent, and drinking from the low, wide teacup makes you feel delicate.”
Most of her go-to Japanese products were found online, including a handcrafted bowl for drinking matcha (a green tea made with a bamboo whisk) and a whisk keeper, both sold by Hibiki-an, a shop in Kyoto.
“Once you fall for the taste of fresh matcha, you will want all the accompaniments that make this a special ritual,” she said. “It might take a little practice to get that foamy top on the tea. I find some days are easier than others.”