Every great cup of tea starts with a great teapot. But choosing the best one is anything but easy. With hundreds of different types, thousands of designs and sizes, you could easily end up with a collection of 100 pieces and still have the need for more.
What is a teapot?
Teapot is a vessel used for making tea – steeping the tea leaves in hot water. A teapot is different from a kettle. The kettle is only used for boiling water for brewing tea. You should never use a kettle for steeping tea, and a teapot for boiling water.
Main types of teapots
Teapots can be divided by different characteristics – depending on the country, material they are made from, era they belong, etc. Material and country of origin are the two most important things you want to look at when choosing your teapot.
1. Glass teapots
A good glass teapot is always a great additional to your teapot collection. They are great for brewing almost any type of tea and indispensable for brewing blooming or flowering teas. Glass teapot will allow you to enjoy the beauty of opening tea leaves. Glass teapots can come in different shapes and sizes. They can have glass or metal filters, or no filter at all. The best teas to brew in a glass teapot are ball shaped oolongs such as Ti Kwan Yin, blooming tea, floral teas, Dragon Well and many other green teas.
2. Cast iron teapots
The best example of a cast iron teapot is a Japanese style teapot called testubin. However, not all tetsubins are teapots. In fact, traditional testubins were used for boiling water, because they would change the taste of water and enhance the flavor of tea. Today, both cast iron teapots and cast iron kettles are called testubin. However, cast iron tea pots have an enamel coating and are used for brewing tea, not for boiling water, and very often they may serve decorative purposes better.
3. Ceramic teapots
There are many different ceramics teapots – porous ceramics, glazed ceramics, stoneware, porcelain, etc. The most famous porous unglazed ceramics tea pots come from Yixing. They are made of purple clay (zisha) and are great for making oolong raw pu’erh teas. Over the time, they may get a thin layer of the inside coating from brewing tea. That’s why they should always be used for one type of tea only.
The other type of ceramic, stoneware, is non-porous, and may be used for making different types of tea. Porcelain, also a type of ceramic, is a very thin, sophisticated, and should be used with great care.
4. Stainless steel teapots
The biggest advantage of stainless steel teapots may be the heat retention. This means your tea will stay hot for longer than in a glass teapot. It’s also the most durable material, as it won’t break from falls or crack from boiling water.
Does the type of teapot you use affect taste?
Yes, the type of teapot you use can affect the taste of tea too. Glass pots and non-porous ceramics are some of the types unlikely to influence the taste. Cast iron, stainless steel and porous ceramics may influence the taste for different reasons. Firstly, always buy high quality teaware that’s safe to use. Materials used for making very cheap teapots may not always be safe or they may get ruined over the time. Next, metal teapots may rust, if not made from stainless steel. Porous ceramic teapot is the best teapot you could buy for your tea – but only if you use if for one type only. For example, using the same porous ceramic teapot for making pu’erh dark tea and silver needle white tea is never a good idea, because white tea is too delicate to share the same teapot with tea as strong and dark as pu’erh.
What is the best teapot material?
The best teapot material will depend on your needs.
Glass teapot – best if you want to brew green, floral and light oolong teas, can be washed in a dishwasher
Stoneware teapot – generally good for many types of tea, can usually be used in a dishwasher
Unglazed ceramics teapot – great for darker oolongs, raw pu’erh or black tea, can’t be washed in a dishwasher or with a washing liquid
Porcelain teapot – great for tea blends and teas you brew using a slightly cooler water such as white or green tea, shouldn’t be washed in a dishwasher, but you can use a washing up liquid
Stainless steel teapot – good if you don’t want to pay too much attention to your teapot and want to clean it in a dishwasher
Which size is the best for you?
The size of the teapot will depend on how much tea you want to make, and which tea you are making. If you are making flavored blends such as Vanilla Black, traditional classic blends such as Earl Grey, or herbal teas such as Chamomile Lavender, 250-500ml regular glazed or glass teapot may be the best choice for making tea for 1-2 people. If you want to brew Japanese teas, 250 ml Japanese side-handle kyusu will be a great choice for making tea for 1-2 people. Chinese gaiwan is great for almost any type of Chinese tea – 120-150 ml is a good size for 1-4 people, depending on which cups you will be using.
Should you choose a teapot with a strainer?
Some teapots have build in metal, stainless steel strainers, some have inside holes filter, some come with removable metal or ceramics filter, and some may not have a filter at all. Teapots with holes inside are good for loose leaf tea with bigger leaves. Build in metal filters may work great for small particles but could be difficult to clean. Removable metal mesh filters usually work with almost any type of tea, even rooibos.
Ceramic vs porcelain teapot
Porcelain is basically a type of ceramic. It’s more delicate, thin, and usually translucent. Porcelain is white and often comes with remarkable patterns. It’s great for tea parties and sophisticated tea times. Porcelain may crack if you use a boiling water, so reheat if first and avoid boiling water. They often contain no strainer and may be better for serving tea.
Other types of ceramics such as Yixing clay or stoneware teapots won’t crack at high temperature. Unlike unglazed ceramics, porcelain teapots and stoneware teapots won’t retain scents and aromas.
For example, a popular type of Chinese teapot called gaiwan can be made of different materials. If it’s made from porcelain, it will be very difficult to use with boiling water as you may burn your hands very easily. It can also be made from Yixing clay, or non-porous ceramics.
Another great example are Japanese teapots called kyusu. These ceramic teapots can be non-porous such as Shigaraki stoneware, or slightly porous such as Tokoname teapots.
Stainless steel vs ceramic teapot
If you have to choose between stainless steel and ceramic teapot, the decision shouldn’t be difficult. For passionate tea drinkers, ceramic teapots will aesthetically almost always be more pleasing to use, and some may contribute to the flavor of tea. Stainless steel teapots are a wonderful choice if you don’t want to pay too much attention to how you use your teapot. Alternatively, if you want to make a larger teapot of tea that you don’t plan to drink immediately, stainless steel teapot may be a good choice too, to keep the brewed tea warm.