The stainless steel teapot is a relatively new arrival on the scene, in relation to the rich history that the humble teapot enjoys and it is not near as old as the cast iron teapot for example. There are differing opinions on who invented the first teapot; some credit this to the Chinese, others to the influence of Muslim coffeepots commonly used in European coffee houses during the mid-1600’s.
Others believe they may have originally been shipped from China as a wine vessel, packaged inside tea in order to protect it while in transit and thus assumed to be an item used for making tea. Wherever it originated, teapots have been with us for centuries and have become an essential part of the tea brewing process, unless you only use teabags of course.
The first European teapots were not a great success, mainly due to the very poor quality of clay that was available and the lack of sufficient skill and knowledge to make decent porcelain teapots. Seeing the need, the East India Company began importing teapots, which were manufactured following European designs, directly from China. It was not until the early 1700’s that high quality clay was found in Germany. This clay was found to produce porcelain as fine as that made in China, thus full scale porcelain production began with Dresden becoming a major center for this fine ware.
Around the same time, during the early to mid-1700’s, the first silver teapots were made. Thus began the battle, which is still waged today, between the porcelain or clay teapot and the metal teapot, including cast iron tea pots and silver tea pots.
History of the Stainless Steel Teapot
Stainless steel is a relatively modern alloy, first produced in the early 1900’s. The first stainless steel teapot was purportedly produced in 1930 by William Wiggin. While stainless steel teapots are not considered to be collectibles, some early teapots are highly sought after and will soon become highly collectible just as some cast iron teapots are these days. Today, stainless steel teapots are made in a variety of shapes and sizes, ranging from the one cup teapot to larger teapots that will brew many cups of tea.
What Size Teapot to Buy
When buying a teapot, you will need to choose the size according to how many cups of tea you will be serving. Some people have several different sized teapots to accommodate different amounts. Remember that a regular teacup is 6 ounces, while a mug can be anywhere from 8 to 12 ounces.
Taking that into account, if you want a teapot that will brew two mugs of tea you should choose a 24 ounce teapot (which will also, incidentally be enough for four cups of tea, if you use the smaller teacups rather than mugs.) Different makes of teapots are made in different sizes, so even if you find the perfect teapot you may have to either keep on looking, or buy a slightly larger teapot than you need if it is not the exact size you are after.
A large stainless steel teapot should be able to pour many cups of tea. These are great for when you will be entertaining a lot of guests, or to use for special functions. A small stainless steel teapot is usually perfect for regular, daily home use.
Stainless Steel, Ceramic, and Silver Teapots
Neither stainless steel, ceramic, or a silver teapot absorbs the flavor of the tea. Thus, one pot made from any of these materials can be used to brew different types of tea. Clay teapots, on the other hand, especially the Chinese teapot, does absorb the flavor of the tea and as such it is usually recommended that you have one pot for each different type of tea you brew.
Metal does not break when dropped, nor does metal chip. Porcelain and clay both break and chip fairly easily. In other words, you usually need to be quite a bit more careful of your porcelain teapot than you do a stainless steel teapot.
Silver tarnishes and requires regular polishing. Stainless steel does not tarnish, though the inside of a teapot can sometimes become discolored and it does need to be thoroughly cleaned from time to time to remove those stains. Porcelain and clay do not really tarnish and tea stains inside the teapot is usually fairly easily removed.
As far as care and cleaning, probably the stainless steel teapot is the easiest to maintain. That is why you see those used in restaurants and coffee houses; they are practical, easy to clean and they do not readily break.
Types of Stainless Steel Teapots
Stainless steel teapots
Stainless steel teapots retain heat quite well, thus keeping your pot of tea warmer for longer periods of time. They are durable, require little upkeep and they are usually fairly inexpensive to purchase especially when compared with a silver teapot. There are also various types of teapots designs available these days, ranging from the standard restaurant style teapot that has very little flair or style to it, to the teapots.
Aluminum teapots are also sometimes used. They are cheap and apparently fairly safe to use; debates over cooking aluminum pots are now leaning towards the ‘aluminum post are not damaging to your health’ conclusion. I find other pots preferable mainly because they seem to last longer, stay in great shape and are not as tacky looking. However, if you want to take your teapot on a camping trip, you may find that an aluminum teapot is much lighter to carry with you. As far as any health risks, this article is not going to discuss that. If you are concerned about your health and whether you should use aluminum pots you are welcome to research it and formulate your own opinion. There is plenty of subject matter on line to read through.
Of course, mention should also be made here of Japanese teapots cast iron made, they are unique to Japan and also used for brewing specialty teas.
if you are interested in a modern teapot you will find there are some very interesting styles to choose from. Some are shaped like Aladdin’s lamp, others are tall and narrow. There is a lot of variety when it comes to choosing a stainless steel tea pot, so much so that the teapot does not have to look like the typical restaurant or tea shop teapot. For example a brushed stainless steel teapot is very classy, and there are some great designs out there that use this type of finishing for the stainless steel. When buying a teapot some things you may want to look for is one that has some sort of insulated handle as stainless steel can become very hot, almost too hot to touch. For example, a stainless steel teapot with wooden handle will be very easy to use, no need to wrap anything around the handle before pouring your tea.
You also want to try to find one where the spout is higher than the teapot as that helps the tea to pour better. Also, you want one that does not dribble from the spout while pouring as it can get quite messy if it does and it will also stain your tablecloth. You may also be interested in buying a stainless steel teapot with infuser, which is great for making a no-mess pot of tea. The tealeaves are contained inside the tea infuser while the tea is steeped, thus there is no problem with tealeaves being poured into cups or clogging up the spout, especially when drinking wulong tea for example. If would prefer not to have tealeaves in the cup, you could also look for a stainless steel teapot with strainer, as that will catch the tealeaves before they are poured into your cup.
A stainless steel teapot is not a tea kettle.
Many people use the terms interchangeably, which is probably fine providing they do not try to actually brew a pot of tea in a tea kettle that is filled with boiling water. Well, I do have to admit that Indian Chai tea recipes do require the tea leaves to be boiled, along with other selected ingredients, so I suppose there are occasions when one might use a tea kettle to boil up some Chai. However, usually a tea kettle boils water which is then poured into a teapot. Simple, really. So, a stainless steel electric teapot, or a stainless steel whistling teapot should probably be reclassified to the tea kettle family. Well, none of my teapots whistle.
How to clean a stainless steel teapot
Stainless steel is usually very easy to clean, there is no real need to buy a stainless steel teapot cleaner; just use what you already have in the kitchen. Simply pop some dishwashing detergent on a sponge or soft cloth and wipe down the outside of the teapot, then rinse it off under warm running water. You do not want to use detergent to clean the inside of the pot though as some traces could remain and spoil the tea brewed in it.
Getting rid of tea stains on the inside of the teapot
For getting rid of tea stains on the inside of the teapot, simply place two tablespoons of Sodium Bicarbonate inside your pot and fill it up with boiling water. Leave it for half an hour and then rinse it out well. The stains should be gone with no fuss and no scrubbing. Vinegar and water may also help remove stains, as will dissolving an effervescent denture cleaning tablet in water and leaving the teapot overnight.
Do be careful about scrubbing your teapot, either inside or out, as that can leave tiny scratches on the surface of the stainless steel if scrubbed too vigorously and it will also dull the shine.
Ingredients Needed to Clean Stainless Steel Teapot
Soft sponge with dishwashing detergent for outside of teapot
Sodium bicarbonate inside teapot, pour boiling water on top, leave half an hour
Vinegar inside teapot, fill with water, leave several hours
Effervescent Denture Cleaning Tablet dissolved inside teapot, leave overnight
Remember, do not scrub your teapot inside or out, it may damage the finish.