the Tea Road of German Product Designer

Wenzhuo Liu

German product designer Maurice Eric Zacher fell in love with drinking tea many years ago. He was familiar with tea sets, and has designed and transformed many tea sets. After studying and working in Japan intermittently for many years, he was not only keen on tasting tea, tea and tea food, but also visited many tea houses and collected tea sets. At the end of 2020, he returned to Germany and began to plant tea trees, now there are hundreds of tea seedlings of different varieties on his big balcony. This spring, he also picked fresh tea leaves and made steamed green tea. In the future, he will launch more design projects related to tea, establish a tea garden in Hesse, Germany, and produce Japanese green tea or Chinese white tea.

As a product designer, Maurice likes to collect beautiful or interesting things and products. He will think about what can be transformed to make it easier to use or better in general, especially about teapots. Maurice has drunk Japanese green tea for many years and is very familiar with Japanese tea sets, especially the Kyusu (急須) teapot commonly used for making loose tea, which was introduced into Japan from Fujian, China, called Jishao (急烧). Because Germans are used to making a big teapot of tea, usually fruit tea or herbal tea, Maurice realized that since he began drinking tea to today, his use and concept of tea sets have changed. At first, he thought that most of the Kyusu teapots were too small, and the Matcha bowl was too big. Now, on the contrary, he prefers small Kyusu teapots and very large tea bowls, and his design has changed over the years. His design idea is to bring the user fun when using the product, and it does not need to set a goal or anything to achieve.

During his stay in Japan, Maurice had a broader understanding of Japanese tea. There was no barrier to Japanese communication, in his spare time, he would visit all kinds of tea houses, including tea, tea sets and tea ceremony. He felt like he was in a tea paradise. High quality tea is expensive, and he is not well funded during his study. He is still willing to spend most of his money on tea, tea sets, tea food, Wagashi (和菓子) whose “close relative” was the Guozi (果子) of the China’s Tang Dynasty. The envoy of the Tang Dynasty in the Nara era brought the dessert making method he learned in China into Japan. Many German designers have experience of studying abroad, but few and unique designers study in Asian countries such as Japan. Perhaps it is Maurice’ enthusiasm for tea that makes him have a more in-depth study of traditional artifacts. For example, he respects and knows the uses of many special artifacts, such as the artifacts used exclusively in cemeteries that will not be used indiscriminately. I have seen the ceramic tea cup designed by western big brands, which looks like a copied spittoon from China. The terrible thing is that the glaze color is also the same. I think this tea cup is a little hard for Chinese people or people who know Chinese tradition to drink tea with.

Maurice likes to drink Chinese white tea, such as Baihao Silver Needle tea, and jasmine tea. Although he has tried Chinese black tea and dark tea Pu’er tea, he said he has not really access to Chinese tea sets. As a product designer, he will not choose tea sets that are affordable in price but lack a sense of design and quality. He will always visit China in person or experience the use of Chinese tea sets after having the opportunity to learn more about and study Chinese tea sets. Only then can he evaluate or buy Chinese tea sets with such huge price differences. I am thinking and expecting that once he opens the door of Chinese tea set, with the historical accumulation and volume of Chinese tea set, his product design career will burst out instantly and become more brilliant. At the end of 2020, Maurice decided to completely move back to Germany from Japan. While working as a product designer, he could also continue his long-term hobby and complete his German tea garden plan. The apartment he lives in now has a large balcony. He keeps more than 100 tea trees in the pots. Together with the tea trees in his family’s garden, there are several varieties, a total of more than 200 tea trees. He is also looking for a suitable field place to develop and transplant his tea plants, and is also applying to join the Tea Grown in Europe Association, hoping to learn more and get some help. This spring, he picked some fresh leaves of different varieties of tea trees and made Japanese green tea according to the method of Japanese steaming tea, which was introduced into Japan in the China‘s Tang and Song dynasties. After living in Japan for many years, he is still quite used to the taste of Japanese green tea.


Related article has been published in Wenzhuo‘s column Tea Perspectives of October 2022 <Tea Times 茶博览> monthly tea magazine in Chinese, 观茶者专栏-德国产品设计师的茶之路”.

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