If you are a “tea person”, then you are already familiar with different ways of preparing tea, one of them being to brew tea in a porcelain teapot. While teapots come in with many different materials, it has been a known fact for centuries that porcelain is the best of them to brew tea. That’s why almost every tea lover has at least one porcelain teapot in their kitchen. So, let’s learn more about the wonders and mysteries of this specific vessel which is important to enjoy tea!
What is a teapot?
Teapot is a utensil used for steeping tea leaves or some other herbal leaves in hot water, and then pouring the infusion of these leaves into cups. It is different from tea kettle used for boiling the water which will be used to steep tea or other herbal leaves. Even though it is sometimes very similar in appearance to a tea kettle, a teapot is designed not for boiling water but for steeping leaves.
A traditional teapot has a lid to keep the tea warm during steeping, a handle to save the hand from heat while serving, and a spout to pour the infusion into the cups. Modern day teapots also have a filter used for straining the infusion to avoid the leaves falling into the cups. This filter is either fixed into the spout or it is a removable one well-fitted to the body of the teapot.
Teapot was invented in China centuries ago to steep tea leaves which was used for medicinal purposes back then. The first teapots were very small because they were intended to be used for a single medicinal drink. However, as tea has become a staple drink and tea drinking has spread among the people in China and other parts of the world, teapots have become bigger and started to serve tea up to 10 cups.
Spread of teapots to other parts of the world not only changed their size but also the material they are made of. The first teapots were made of raw clay in China because of the clay’s ability to retain heat. But later on, porcelain teapots with paintings and glazing became popular especially among wealthy people in Asia and Europe. Then, as tea has become a more common drink, different materials such as glass, stainless steel, tin, cast iron and copper have been used to make teapots as well, some being plain and some with ornaments and inlaid motifs.
Teapot Types Made of Different Materials
Teapots are made of different materials dictated by both availability and the cost of the related material. While porcelain teapots are common in some regions, people in some other regions use metallic teapots for daily purposes and choose to display their porcelain teapots in a cabinet at the corner. There are mainly five types of teapots according to their material in the market today: glass, metallic, cast iron, ceramic, and porcelain teapots. Below are the details about these teapots made of different materials.
Glass teapots are considered quite elegant given the fact that you can see right through them and enjoy the beauty of the tea brewing process just before your eyes. When you are steeping tea in a glass teapot, you can easily observe whether the brewing is complete or not because you can directly see tea leaves loosen and go down the bottom and watch the water infused. Even though brewing tea in them is such an enjoyment, glass teapots are not as durable as ceramic, porcelain, or metallic teapots and they are not good at retaining heat, either. Therefore, glass teapots are not ideal vessels to make tea especially when you plan to drink or serve more than one cup. Additionally, when you are to brew or serve tea in a glass teapot, you have to make sure that the glass the teapot is made of is strong enough to resist the heat since not all types of glass are resistant to high temperatures.
Metallic teapots are relatively cheap and durable, and can be used on the stove. So you can use metallic teapots not only for steeping tea leaves but also for boiling the necessary water. The materials used in metallic teapots can be aluminum, tinned copper, brass, and stainless steel. All these metals conduct heat very effectively so metallic teapots are very quick to heat up and boil the water. However, if they are not over the stove, they lose heat very quickly, too. Therefore, you need a dual teapot stacked upon each other if you’d like to use a metallic teapot to brew tea. The lower one will be used as a tea kettle to boil the water and the upper one will be used for steeping tea leaves. Steeping process should be over the boiling water in the lower teapot so as not to lose heat. These dual teapots are very common in Turkey and Middle Eastern countries. Metallic teapots are very durable but they may oxidize over time except for stainless steel ones.
Cast iron teapots, also known as Japanese teapots and called “tetsubin” in Japan, look very traditional and beautiful. They are also very durable, and they retain heat extremely well. Cast iron teapots were originally designed to be used over charcoal stoves to boil water but today they are mostly used for steeping tea leaves and using them on the stove is not a concern for designers. So, most of the modern cast iron teapots are not suitable to use on the stove anymore, especially because their enamel lining could be damaged. Even though they are so good at keeping tea hot and they look beautiful, cast iron teapots have two big drawbacks: they are very heavy and very difficult to care for, and they can rust over time.
Ceramic teapots invented in China are clay-based and have thick walls. Their base material and thick walls make them retain heat for a long time sufficient to brew and serve several cups of tea warm enough to enjoy best. Traditional ceramic teapots tend to absorb the infusion during steeping and hold its color and flavor in their body. So, it is important to immediately clean ceramic teapots thoroughly after each use. However, almost all ceramic teapots made recently are completely glazed and this prevents them from absorbing the infusion. Ceramic teapots are very sturdy but also very heavy since they have a thick structure. Because fine work is not easy to apply in the ceramic teapot making process, their spouts are quite thick, too, and this makes it rather difficult to pour tea especially into small teacups while serving from them. Even though ceramic teapots are superior to glass and metallic teapots in holding tea warm, their heavy structure makes them difficult to use as is the case for cast iron teapots. Ceramic teapots are not suitable for boiling water on the stove, either.
Finally the porcelain teapots which are thought by many as the perfect teapot to make perfect tea. Porcelain is a clay-based and kiln-fired material like ceramic but it is exposed to higher temperatures for a longer time than ceramic. This makes porcelain harder thus more durable, and denser thus less absorbent than ceramic. Porcelain’s structure makes fine work possible so the walls and spout of porcelain teapots are thinner making them lighter than ceramic teapots. Even though porcelain teapots have thinner walls than ceramic teapots, they are as good as ceramic and cast iron teapots in retaining heat since they are made of dense clay.
Why is a Porcelain Teapot Considered the Perfect Teapot?
The porcelain teapot is considered the perfect teapot to make tea not only because it perfectly retains heat even though it is light and thin and it is easier to use and clean, but also because of its history. So, in order to understand the beauty of the porcelain teapot, it is necessary to start at the beginning.
This white clay pot called porcelain teapot first appeared in the beautiful city of Jingdezhen in China where porcelain and ceramic pottery first came to life. Known for its unmistakable blue and white underglaze design, porcelain teapots have actually been around for centuries long and still symbolizes aristocracy and nobility in some regions. Coming from China and traveling throughout Asia, Europe and America for centuries, the vintage porcelain teapot still holds an irreplaceable place in modern-day tea culture. It is still a touch of nobility to your tea enjoyment.
Not only does it give your regular teatime a noble and elite twist, the porcelain teapot also shines out with its powerful potential to keep tea warm enough for the best enjoyment. Whether it be an English, Chinese, or a Japanese porcelain teapot, this material is considered the best option for brewing perfect tea in terms of flavor, longevity and endurance.
How to Make Tea in a Porcelain Teapot
Below are the steps to make tea in a porcelain teapot. It is always enjoyable and enriching to make tea in a porcelain teapot and serve it in a tea set. The steps below are the same for all types of tea leaves and for other herbal leaves if they are to be brewed in a porcelain teapot. However, some leaves can take longer or shorter times to release their flavor, and some need boiled water while others need warm water.
Tips for Making the Best Cup of Tea
Below are the tips to make your tea taste even better:
How to Clean a Porcelain Teapot
While tea holds a special place in a tea drinker's heart, the teaware is nowhere short of this love and attention. When cleaning teaware such as a delicate porcelain teapot, it is important to use only hot water and limit chemicals and industrial cleaners. You should pay close attention to the points below while cleaning your porcelain teapot.