Teapot Buying Guide

Looking to purchase a teapot? Here are some basic features to consider to help with your decision-making.

Teapot Buying Guide main image Teapot Buying Guide image

Teapots can either be a practical, daily necessity or a centrepiece used only for special occasions. If you’re just after something that looks lovely on a table laid out especially for high tea then looks will obviously be very important, closely followed by size depending on how many guests you intend to cater for.

If you’re after a teapot with everyday functionality in mind then there are even more features to consider. Of course you’re going to want to enjoy looking at your teapot often so looks can be just as important. However beyond that consider attributes such as:

Size:

Just after a size big enough for tea for yourself? Perhaps enough to hold a refill? Looking to share with friends? Maybe you want refills for you and your friends? Teapots can start at a one-cup size, with a standard large teapot holding about six cups. Larger volumes of tea will also stay warmer for longer but of course this time will decrease as tea is dispensed and more surface area of the tea is exposed, i.e. large teapots do not keep tea warm for longer, large volumes of tea that can be held by a big teapot are kept warm for longer.

Material:

Because of the quality of most materials these days, what your teapot is made of should not affect the way your brewed tea tastes. Instead consider what you enjoy the look of, what feels good to handle, the weight of the teapot both empty and full, and how it may affect heat retention.

  • Glass –
    • Ideal for when displaying your tea is just as important as showing off your teapot
    • Enjoy the agony of the leaves (unfurling) or watch blooming teas come to life
    • Many herbal tea drinkers prefer to serve their tisanes from glass teapots (as well as drinking from glass cups)
    • Easily check on the colour palette of your brew to ensure the perfect infusion
    • The glass used in most glass teapots will be quite thin as most are hand blown so they won’t keep tea hot as long as other teapots, but are nice and light to use as a result
    • More susceptible to temperature shock, especially if not borosilicate glass.
    • Will usually contain an infuser
  • Stainless steel –
    • Durable
    • Low maintenance
    • Consistently designed to pour well
    • Offers above average heat retention
    • A fairly neutral yet contemporary look
    • Will usually contain an infuser
  • Cast iron –
    • Very durable — be more cautious of tiles and toes if accidentally dropping a cast iron teapot
    • Enamel-lined cast iron teapots won’t affect the flavour of your brew
    • Four-cup-sized teapots and above can start getting heavy and heavier still when water is added
    • Good heat retention, but surface area can get hot — ‘basket’ handles that sit on top of the teapot prevent hands or fingers from touching the teapot’s body
    • Cast iron must also be pre-heated as a cold cast iron teapot can absorb the temperature of hot tea, cooling it down too quickly
    • Will usually contain an infuser.
  • Ceramic –
    • Better heat retention when compared to porcelain/china teapots
    • Lower heat transference
    • Can accumulate a build up of tannins from tea and begin to stain after awhile, but this is usually easily removed.
    • Will usually contain an infuser unless it is a particularly decorative/novel teapot shape.
  • Fine bone china –
    • More white, translucent, and delicate in appearance next to other china and ceramics
    • Will not stain as quickly as ceramic but stains are easily removed anyway
    • Actually quite durable and if accidentally knocked against something, will not chip as easily as ceramic (but will break if dropped or hit against something hard enough)
    • Low heat transference but also low heat retention
    • Can be susceptible to temperature shock, which can leave cracks in the glaze — easily overcome by pre-warming the teapot with the slow addition of hot water
    • Do not usually contain an infuser, requiring a tea strainer to catch pouring leaves.
  • New bone china –
    • Combines the best properties of both fine bone china and ceramic
    • Not as thin or translucent as fine bone china, but still fairly ashen in appearance
    • Because it is slightly thicker than fine bone china, it will offer better heat retention
    • Will usually contain an infuser

Style:

This has more to do with looks and decor than anything else. Choosing a contemporary, traditionally English, traditionally Asian, or a novelty teapot should be based on whether you intend on keeping your teapot out for display purposes and how you’re using it.

  • Many English style teapots will not contain an infuser and usually come in the larger 4-6 cups size.
  • Asian style teapots are quite varied, coming in all sorts of materials, shapes, and sizes. They are usually smaller than English-styled teapots, about 2-4 cups size, and many will even come as part of a tea set with small cups with no handles.
  • Contemporary teapots are usually more neutral and designed with practicality in mind but can still be quite attractive in their simplicity.

Teas needn’t be limited to being made in a particular style of teapot. Basically, go with what you enjoy the look of and what size will fit the amounts of tea you usually make and tea-making happiness will ensue.