Because I like to drink hot tea, I was disgusted to read about a competition for potters who intentionally make nonworkable teapots: Teapots That Won’t Pour. Through the years I’ve made a lot of teapots, and they all pour - even the trick ones that have what looks like a lid but the lid won’t come off. The Columbia Art League displayed one of these fake lid pots in last year’s Whimsey show; although it’s whimsical and the lid is fake, the pot can serve a good cup of tea.
Like the British, I use milk in my tea; I like to make it in a warmed pot with rapidly boiling water. When I have company, I often make it with tea leaves instead of bags. A thing that looks like a teapot but won’t work is not for me! What constitutes a "proper" teapot? When buying, ask yourself these questions:
● Is the spout hole higher than the level of the tea when the pot is full? It must be higher, otherwise a full pot will spill out on your tablecloth.
● Is the pot’s base wide enough to balance when the pot is full of hot tea? Avoid tall pots that are large at the top and taper to a small bottom.
● Is it heavy enough to keep the tea hot while it steeps and for refills? At first, the metal ones are too hot to handle, but the tea cools quickly.
● Will the pot hold the correct amount of tea for your needs? Perhaps you need two: a small one for your mid-morning "time out" and a 6- or 8-cup pot for family or guests.
● Is the handle large enough that your fingers don’t touch the hot pot as you pour?
● Will the larger ceramic pot be too heavy to control with one hand? If not, does it have a lug or loop where your other hand can help? If the pot has a stationary bamboo handle, the hands will be protected, but if the handle allows the pot to swing, you might need to use both hands when pouring.
● Can you serve tea with this pot in one hand and cup and saucer in the other? The lid must not fall off as you tip to pour.
● Is the lid easy to lift? I like a lid knob with a wide flange because it’s cooler to the touch.
● What color is the interior of the pot? Brown is popular; lighter colors show tea stains as the pot ages.
I discovered that the British make better tea than I do, even when I buy their brands. By studying the process and asking questions, I found that they always put the milk in the cup before adding the steaming hot tea. Why? Most said, "I guess it’s because my mother did it that way and her mother did, too." Some said, "The cold milk keeps the tea from breaking the nice cup." Many said, "I don’t know, but it does make a better cup of tea." There were other reasons; none really answered the question.
When the late Sheila Walton came to Christian College in 1962-63 as an exchange teacher from Lancaster, England, we became good friends, and I was surprised that she drank more coffee than tea. However, she did answer my question: "Why does it make a better cup of tea if you put the milk in the cup and pour the steaming tea on it?"
Sheila left no doubt: "It cooks the milk."
Try that when you have bought your new, "proper" teapot.