Text and Photography by Andy Yale
When Kingston Lam was deployed to the Iraqi desert in 2003, among the few things he took with him were two small Yixing teapots. The water in the desert was so salty, a crystalline coating began to form on the teapots. The tea was brackish and muddy, but, Kingston made it every day. His comrades couldn’t understand why he drank tea in the searing desert heat. Kingston didn’t try to explain that making tea kept his thoughts connected to home.
Back in his parents’ house in Brooklyn, the shelves in his bedroom were lined with teapots, the solid nucleus of a major collection. He was 24 years old. Today, at 38, Kingston owns “about 400” teapots—an assortment of objects imbued with a rich and complex history. Among them are the pots he took into battle, still coated with Iraqi salt.
Kingston has had to create a special space for the pots—The Orchid Tea House in the basement of his Brooklyn home. In neat glass cabinets and antique Chinese lacquered sideboards, an imposing array of teapots welcome visitors.