What is a Teapot? Ti/pot, a noun describing a pot with a handle, spout, and lid, in which tea is brewed and from which it is poured.
Definition – “A teapot is a simple vessel that we fill with hot water to steep tea leaves in for a refreshing beverage”. Teapots are short, often wide with a handle and a spout, as the childish American song lyrics in 1939 say…
I”‘m a little teapot ; short and stout Here is my handle Here is my spout. When I get all steamed up then I shout Tip me over and pour me out“
Teapots are varied and come in all sorts of sizes, colours and shapes but usually have a lid with a hole for the steam to escape and sometimes an infuser or strainer inside to filter the tea leaves plus a pouring spout and handle. Teapots are made of ceramic, fine bone china, glass, silver, stainless steel, pewter, cast iron, brass or enamel. The decorative aspects, sizes and shapes of Teapots are endless and only restricted by our imagination, as my collection of Teapots will attest.
Outside of the chair, the teapot is the most ubiquitous and important design element in the domestic environment and almost everyone who has tackled the world of design has ended up designing one.David Mcfadden
Unfortunately, teapots in the modern world are used less because of the massive use of teabags. I can guarantee that loose – leaf tea leaves in a teapot make far superior tea even if a little more time-consuming.
What is the origin of the Teapot? The Teapot initially is said to have come from China during the Yuan Dynasty and derived from ceramic kettles or wine pots. These were made of bronze and other metals and were a feature of Chinese life for thousands of years. By the Ming Dynasty, teapots were widespread in China, and some have survived until today and are on display in the Flagstaff House Museum of Teaware dated to 1513.
In the 17th century, tea was shipped from China to Europe when the export of spices and luxury goods began. The ships also brought the tea and porcelain teapots. The majority of these early teapots were painted in blue and white underglaze being completely vitrified. They would withstand seawater without damage, the teapots were stowed below deck whilst the tea was stored above deck ensure that it remained dry.
The pastime of Tea drinking in Europe was the preserve of the upper classes because it was costly, and the Porcelain teapots were particularly desirable because porcelain was unavailable in Europe at that time. Porcelain was not made in Europe until the German Meissen factory opened in 1710. These early European pottery houses began to make their tea wares inspired by the Chinese designs. In colonial America too, Boston became the centre for silver production and artistry including silver Teapots.
The Silver Tea Service
The first silver service Teapots were not designed and made until 1730. Simple globular shaped designs appeared first and followed by straight-sided silver teapots, then the oval-shaped teapots of the 1770s made famous by The American patriot Paul Revere. By the 1780’s footed teapots appeared, designed to protect tabletops from heat scarring.
Pewter teapots appeared in the Georgian era for those unable to afford silver teapots, although not in any significant number after the 1790s. Reflecting the “classic” designs favoured by the new French Republic, teapots were designed and made in a drum’s shape for a short period.
Teapots are intriguing objects that can be elegant, beautiful, expensive, quirky, delicate, and fun with a fascinating history. The Teapot is full of promise and represents a happy feeling of good times and friendship, a time for chatting and sharing secrets or as solace in difficult times.
I was so astonished that I could think of nothing to say but wondered irreverently if I was to be caught a Teapot in my hand on every dramatic occasion.Barbara Pym
What is the best Teapot?
When buying a new Teapot the things to look for are space and heat retention.
It’s all about having enough space inside the Teapot to allow the tea leaves to expand and the water to circulate freely. This means the air can circulate and the Tea will be more flavoursome. And naturally, heat retention is also important to keep your tea piping hot. Stainless steel and especially cast-iron are good heat retainers and better at insulating heat than bone china but the most popular Teapots are made from Porcelain. A teapot made of porcelain is non-porous, easy to clean, and holds the temperature well, so is suitable for all types of Tea.
My Teapot preference for Tisanes and herbal infusions would be a glass Teapot because you can see the tea drawing and the tea is served at a lower temperature than black teas- less need for heat retention. Whatever your Tea preference, we need to be united to bring the humble, often elegant, Teapot back to where they belong. On every kitchen table and dining room. Let’s ditch the Teabags for the love of perfect loose leaf Tea in your favourite Teapot.
All content Di Baker all rights reserved January 2020
Images courtesy of Unsplash or Pixabay
Title quote by Helen Oyeyemi