The Mystery of the Porcelain Teapot
Let’s dive into the world of teapots, especially the porcelain ones and learn more about them!
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
As mentioned above, 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.
How to Choose the Best Teapot
While choosing the best teapot, you should take into account some considerations such as the material the teapot is made of, the size of it, the ease of using and cleaning, the appearance, and the cost.
The advantages and disadvantages of the different materials used to make teapots have been discussed in detail above. Since keeping tea warm enough to enjoy during brewing is the most important concern while making tea, porcelain, ceramic, and cast iron teapots are superior to glass and metallic teapots. Of those three heat retainers, on the other hand, porcelain is the best one with its additional advantage of becoming lighter and easier to use.
Teapots are produced in different sizes from very small ones serving 2 cups to larger ones serving upto 10 cups. While deciding on teapot size, you should consider not only the amount of tea you will usually serve but also the fact that it will be difficult to ensure a well-brewed tea as the teapot gets larger.
Another factor to consider to decide about which teapot to choose is the ease of using and cleaning it. As a general rule, lighter teapots are easier to use and clean, which are the glass, metallic, and porcelain teapots. However, metallic teapots tend to build up limestone over time especially if you use them to boil water. It is not easy to remove limestone when it builds up. So, glass and porcelain teapots are easier to use and clean compared to other types.
Besides the weight of the teapot, having a built-in filter or not, and the design of its spout and handle are also factors affecting the ease of using and cleaning. Some teapots come with a filter, also called infuser, which works as a strainer to avoid tea leaves from falling into the cups while pouring the infusion. There are two types of filters in teapots: a fixed one to the inner opening of the spout or a removable one fitted in the body. A removable filter is easier for cleaning but most of these filters do not reach to the bottom of the teapot so they are not good for brewing small amounts of tea.
One of the biggest concerns while using a teapot is a dribbling spout while pouring tea. So, the design of the spout should be perfect to avoid the infusion from dripping while serving tea to the cups. The design of the handle is also important for a safe and comfortable hold. The handle should not get warm during brewing and should match the hand size.
As for the appearance, this completely depends on personal preference. All types of teapots come in different ornaments, paintings, decorations, glazings, colors etc. All these embellishments do not have any effect on the performance of the teapot but they may have an effect on cleaning it because some embellishments can prevent the teapot becoming dishwasher safe. You can freely decide on the appearance only considering this fact while choosing the best teapot for your needs.
Of course the cost is one of the biggest concerns when it comes to choosing a teapot. However, today since production costs are relatively low compared to older times, it is possible to find a teapot to fit any budget. However, if the price is too low, then you should be worried about the quality of the teapot because it might not provide what is said.
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.
Please follow the steps below to make tea in a teapot:
- Measure the amount of water your porcelain teapot can hold.
- Boil the water in a tea kettle or a boiling pan.
- Add a cup of hot water to the teapot and warm it up by swirling the water around. This will help tea brew faster and keep it warm longer.
- Add the necessary amount of tea leaves to the teapot. There is “one teaspoon for each person and one for the pot” rule on the assumption that each person will drink only one cup of tea. You can use this rule or try other ratios to satisfy your palate.
- Add boiled water slowly over the tea leaves, being aware of the amount of water you pour according to the amount of tea leaves you have added.
- Let the tea leaves steep for three to six minutes depending on your preference about the taste.
- Pour the tea into cups.
- Put a tea cozy on top of the teapot to keep tea warm longer.
- If you make black tea, you can add warm milk into the cup.
- Enjoy your tea!
Tips for Making the Best Cup of Tea
Below are the tips to make your tea taste even better:
- If you do not have quality tap water, do not use it to make tea. Use filtered or bottled water instead to avoid the smell and taste of chemicals in tap water affecting the taste of tea.
- Remember that different kinds of tea leaves and herbal leaves require different water temperatures, different brewing times, and different leave-to-water ratio.
- Prefer loose tea leaves to tea bags for a refined and organic taste.
- Always use freshly boiled water for every brewing since using reboiled water can produce a bland taste.
- Do not let the leaves sit in the teapot for too long because it will cause a bitter taste.
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.
- Handle each piece of the pot separately with care.
- Do not wash your porcelain teapot in the dishwasher if it is not dishwasher safe.
- Use a detergent especially made for porcelain if possible. If not, use a gel-type detergent with the lowest amount of additives, chemicals and colorants instead of tablets and powders.
- Always keep in mind that regular exposure to detergent and hard water will wither the patterns of porcelain.
- Do not use abrasive sponges to remove the stains. Use a small amount of baking soda, warm water, and a microfiber cloth instead for an effective removal of stains without wearing porcelain out.
- Wash the porcelain teapot immediately after using it to minimize stain formation.