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No matter what useful object there is out there, some artist can take it over and make it into something extraordinary. The teapot has been a key subject over the centuries for such makeovers. And taking it a step further to the sculpture stage seems to be quite the rage. I’ve certainly come across a fair number of these in my “travels” around the internet, especially sites that focuses on sharing pictures.

3 examples of teapots transcending to the sculpture category (from Pinterest)

3 examples of teapots transcending to the sculpture category (from Pinterest)

  1. Hull Ebb Tide Teapot Found on images.replacements.com
  2. A very sculptural teapot found on new.artbash.co.nz
  3. James Diem’s teapot sculpture from the 2013 Utah Arts Festival

When transcending a teapot from function to form, from steeper to statue, from kitchen necessity to décor frivolity, there are a few things to keep in mind. First, it needs to retain the essential elements of that teapot that is its heart and soul. That means there must be a handle, a spout, an interior cavity to hold liquid, an access to that interior, and of course a way to sit upright. Second, it must in some elevate the form above the function, emphasize the aesthetic over the practical, look so delightful, beautiful, or just plain unusual that you wouldn’t think of it first as a teapot but as a sculpture.

The line between objectified teapots and these teapot sculptures can be pretty ephemeral, shifting, and impossible to define in any very straightforward manner. It’s the sort of thing about which you say “I’ll know it when I see it.” Sadler is the example that comes quickly to mind here. They do teapots shaped like Big Ben, cottages, Henry VIII, and so on. The style, colors, and overall designs keeps these from making that transcendence to sculpture. But their usability and quality make them very collectible!

A final word on those teapot sculptures: if you see one you like and can afford it, go ahead and buy it. A tea lover can never have too much tea paraphernalia around.

See more of A.C. Cargill’s articles here.

© Online Stores, Inc., and The English Tea Store Blog, 2009-2014. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this article’s author and/or the blog’s owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Online Stores, Inc., and The English Tea Store Blog with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

These days most of the teas in my pantry are not only loose leaf teas but come in a pouch, not a tea tin. You can squeeze excess air out of a pouch and keep your teas fresher longer (not that ours last that long around here for it to matter that much). However, tea tins are missed. Why? Because they can be reused for so many things once the tea has been steeped and enjoyed and the tea leaves used in the garden to enrich the soil.

A Few Typical Tea Tin Reuses

A favorite tea tin is the classic design from Twinings. It seems to show up just about everywhere, but a very typical use is as a planter for your window sill. The Harney & Sons tins (those very special looking ones) showed up as a wall organizer. Candle holders, storage of things like pushpins, pencil holders (especially good in the tall, round tea tins), flower vases (be sure the tin is water tight), and even jewelry storage are other typical ways these tins get reused.

A Few Typical Tea Tin Reuses: 1 – candleholders, 2 & 3 – planters, 4 – pen/pencil holders (From Yahoo! Images)

A Few Typical Tea Tin Reuses: 1 – candleholders, 2 & 3 – planters, 4 – pen/pencil holders (From Yahoo! Images)

A Few Very A-Typical Tea Tin Reuses

A ceiling light fixture where the lightshades are made of tea tins is one unusual use I’ve seen. Another is a tea tin refitted as a pin cushion. Another possibility: A windchime ensemble – poke holes in the botton of several tea tins of various sizes, put a string through the hole and knot one end to hold in it place, tie the other end around a stick. Still another possibility: As a cookie tin – bake some cookies just the right size to stack in one of those tall, round tins and then decorate the outside with your own label (for example, “Susie’s Cookies Baked Just for Your Birthday”).

A Few Very A-Typical Tea Tin Reuses: 1 – ceiling light fixture, 2 – pincushion (From Yahoo! Images)

A Few Very A-Typical Tea Tin Reuses: 1 – ceiling light fixture, 2 – pincushion (From Yahoo! Images)

Getting fancy with that tea tin redo. (Screen capture from site)

Getting fancy with that tea tin redo. (Screen capture from site)

Getting Fancy with Your Reused Tea Tin

Let your imagination be your guide. Go fancy with that reused tea tin. I found an example on this blog, but there are plenty more ideas out there. That tea tin can be a work of total splendor.

Time to dig that tea tin out of the trash and see what you can do with it!

See more of A.C. Cargill’s articles here.

© Online Stores, Inc., and The English Tea Store Blog, 2009-2014. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this article’s author and/or the blog’s owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Online Stores, Inc., and The English Tea Store Blog with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

There you are pouring tea for your guests and yourself (the tea time “mother” always pours for herself last), and the teapot is dripping all over the place every time you tilt it back up after the pour. How awkward! What can you do about that drippy teapot spout? Well, I have several suggestions. But first, a bit about why teapots drip…yes, there is a reason other than just to annoy you.

1 - Yellow lemon, 2 - white paper (disposable), 3 - red hand-crocheted, and 4 - a combo drip catcher lid holder. (From Yahoo! Images)

1 – Yellow lemon, 2 – white paper (disposable), 3 – red hand-crocheted, and 4 – a combo drip catcher lid holder. (From Yahoo! Images)

Why Teapots Drip

For decades this very question has plagued the scientifically minded as well as the rest of us. Many physicists thought it had to do with the surface tension of water – the force that holds a drop of water together and that gets broken when you boil water, causing those air bubbles. Finally, though, a very plausible and reasonable answer has been put forward by a distinguished professor of engineering and mathematics: Dr. Joseph B. Keller. First, a fellow scientist showed that it was not surface tension causing those drips (easy to disprove a theory and much of scientific effort is spent on doing just that). Then, Dr. Keller showed in his paper, The Teapot Effect, that it was air pressure causing the drips. I know, probably more than you care to think about when serving tea. But it helps to know what causes a problem so you know how to solve it, bringing us to the following:

Solution #1: Use a Drip Catcher

The drip catcher comes in two basic styles: those that fit over the spout and those that hang from the spout with cords and a decorative element that fits over the teapot to also hold the lid on. Each has benefits and issues. Even the cutest ones can be odd looking on your gorgeous fine bone china teapot, and they can get so filled up that they start dripping, plus they get tea-stained over time.

Solution #2: Use a Small Cloth

The cloth will get tea-stained. Very. So use something close to the color of the tea you are serving. A nice reddish brown (raw or even burnt sienna) comes to mind here. It would even work for teas where the liquid is lighter. Just remember to wash it now and then, like you do for your oven mitts, potholders, aprons, napkins, tablecloths, etc.

Solution #3: Shop for a Non-dripping Teapot

The spout shape is the key. Some spouts are made for dripping and others aren’t. Back to Dr. Keller here, who claims he can look at a teapot spout and tell you if it’s a dripper or not. Two things to look for:

  1. A teapot spout that points up and then straight down at the pouring end – dripping is prevented because the tea will flow back into the pot when the pot is turned upright again
  2. Avoid the sharp spout like most metallic teapots have – that sharp edge assures a drip since the tea can’t flow back into the pot.

He further advises against overfilling the teapot, since the lower the volume of tea in the pot, the faster it will flow and the less likely it will cling to the spout tip.

One Final Note

I bought one of those metal springy things that you insert into the teapot spout to prevent drips. It worsened them. Just wanted to let you know.

See more of A.C. Cargill’s articles here.

© Online Stores, Inc., and The English Tea Store Blog, 2009-2014. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this article’s author and/or the blog’s owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Online Stores, Inc., and The English Tea Store Blog with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

The well of novelty tea infusers is so deep that it can surely never run dry. It’s become kind of a tradition in these gadget reports to comment on a notable one of these gizmos and this edition is no exception. But this time around we’ll feature not just one but two outstanding novelty tea infusers – all for our usual low price. First, for those who’d like to add a bit of a scientific feel to tea time, there’s this Lab Beaker Tea Infuser. Next up, you could probably almost guess what the Teatanic Unsinkable Tea Infuser is like, but if you need to confirm it look here.

One of the more unusual tea gizmos I’ve run across lately is a tea bag that’s emblazoned with a symbol that’s made of an ink that’s safe to ingest. Which is kind of nifty. But wait – there’s more. When the tea bag is steeped the symbol morphs into something else entirely. For example, as the tea is steeping, a hawk might change into a dove.

The singer Lady Gaga is probably one of the more high profile celebrities these days who is known to be a tea lover. When she passed through Minnesota recently a local tea merchant was given the task of creating a custom blend for her. The full details are not available, but apparently it contained a curious mix of Minnesota wild rice, juniper berries, saffron, and whole vanilla bean – and presumably some other ingredients. I’d have thought that someone with Lady Gaga’s means could afford to travel with her own tea sommelier but apparently she hasn’t gone to that extreme just yet.

I’ve never tried tea made with one of those single serving pod type machines, and I’m not really itching to. But our Esteemed Editor had a less than stellar experience with one not so long ago, which she discusses here. Whether or not you like tea prepared this way, you might find it interesting to know that one company is making a recyclable version of the pods that are used therein.

See more of William I. Lengeman’s articles here.

© Online Stores, Inc., and The English Tea Store Blog, 2009-2014. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this article’s author and/or the blog’s owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Online Stores, Inc., and The English Tea Store Blog with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

Drawstring Tea Filters (ETS Image)

Drawstring Tea Filters (ETS Image)

Like it or not, the tea bag is probably not going anywhere. Common wisdom suggests that it was invented just over a century ago and that it has undergone many changes since then. You can still get dubious tea in a standard issue tea bag, if you choose to do so. Or you can upgrade to high quality loose leaf tea in various “gourmet” tea bags that allow the leaves more room to steep.

Here are a few things you may or may not have known about tea bags:

Origin I
It’s often said that the tea bag was “invented” more or less by accident by a New York tea merchant named Thomas Sullivan who offered samples of his tea in silk bags. Which the recipients unwittingly steeped in hot water. It seemed more like myth than truth to me, and so I attempted to sort it out in an article I wrote here a few years ago.

Origin II
In The Century Cook Book, by Mary Ronald, the author suggests that when making a large quantity of tea “it is well to put the tea into a swiss muslin bag, using enough to make a very strong infusion.” Which sounds a lot like a tea bag, if you ask me. In the next paragraph the author goes on to describe silver balls that sound a lot like the tea infusers we use nowadays. Which is noteworthy since the book was published in 1895, about a decade before the tea bag was supposedly invented.

Origin III
Going back more than another decade, to 1883, an article in The Coffee Public-House News and Temperance Hotel Journal suggests using “a muslin or other bag” to make larger quantities of tea at one time. Which also sounds a lot like a tea bag.

Mess Prevention
One of the long standing problems with tea bags is that they tend to be messy. A lot of time and energy has gone into getting around this and I’ve written about a number of these gadgets. Here’s a rather intricate solution from 1959 that was known as a Self-Squeezing Tea or Coffee Bag.

Popularity
According to the Tea Association of the USA, as of 2012, over 65 percent of the tea brewed in the United States was prepared using tea bags. Which is a drop in the tea bucket next to the UK. There, as most accounts seem to agree, more than 90 percent of tea is made using tea bags.

Know When to Fold ‘Em
Last of all, let us make note of the fact that tea bag folding is a thing you can do. A thing that’s not completely unlike origami. Find out more at one of the many web sites devoted to this art.

See more of William I. Lengeman’s articles here.

© Online Stores, Inc., and The English Tea Store Blog, 2009-2014. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this article’s author and/or the blog’s owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Online Stores, Inc., and The English Tea Store Blog with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

Rose Teapot - 50oz (ETS Image)

Rose Teapot – 50oz (ETS Image)

There are kettles. There are teapots. And there are kettle teapots. Yep, I said “kettle teapots” … or even “teapot kettles” as some call them. They have been around about as long as humans have been drinking tea, but they tend not to be as in the public eye. Time to give them some exposure, starting with pointing out which is which.

Handle Placement

Generally (I have to qualify things here since you creative designers out there keep coming up with all kinds of new designs that blur the lines of distinction), kettles are have a handle that arcs across the top of the kettle’s body. Teapots, for the most part, have handles on the side. Some are directly opposite the spout and others are at a 90° angle. A side handle tends to be more graceful for pouring at table.

How They’re Used

A kettle teapot and a regular teapot. (Photo by A.C. Cargill, all rights reserved)

A kettle teapot and a regular teapot. (Photo by A.C. Cargill, all rights reserved)

Top to bottom: Japanese Kettle Teapot, Red vintage Japanese tea kettle teapot from kitschCAFE, Antique Royal Worcester Pagoda Pattern Kettle Shaped Teapot C. 1880, large vintage copper teapot kettle (From Yahoo! Images)

Top to bottom: Japanese Kettle Teapot, Red vintage Japanese tea kettle teapot from kitschCAFE, Antique Royal Worcester Pagoda Pattern Kettle Shaped Teapot C. 1880, large vintage copper teapot kettle (From Yahoo! Images)

Generally (once again qualifying), kettles are used to heat water while teapots are used to infuse the tea leaves in the water that the kettles heat. As such, kettles tend to be made of heat-conducting materials that won’t be damaged by an open flame, the heating element of a stove or hot plate, or the heat generated by the plug in the wall. Teapots, as the vessels of infusion, need to be made of less heat-conducting material so the tea doesn’t cool before the leaves have a chance to steep. Some do this better than others. Silver teapots are recommended for black teas but tend to conduct heat so well that many have wooden handles so you don’t scorch your fingers. Special clay teapots from China called “Yixing” are much better at holding in that heat. Glass teapots are visually fascinating but again let the tea cool fast. But then I guess that’s why teapot cozies are so plentiful.

The Melding

Kettle teapots (or teapot kettles) meld together the two designs but not necessarily the two uses. Their handles are arced across the top but they are made of ceramic, porcelain, silver, and even glass. They are mainly about style, it seems, and not about function. They infuse the tea leaves but are a bit awkward to pour from in my estimation and certainly are not fit for sitting on an open flame – the exception is some cast iron teapots that are glazed inside so that they can be used to heat water and infuse the tea leaves. I have such a cast iron kettle teapot in my personal collection, and there are plenty of other examples out there.

Whatever style you go with, the kettle teapot will be a great addition to your bevy of teawares!

See more of A.C. Cargill’s articles here.

© Online Stores, Inc., and The English Tea Store Blog, 2009-2014. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this article’s author and/or the blog’s owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Online Stores, Inc., and The English Tea Store Blog with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

A Dome Cozy - the most popular basic style (ETS Image)

A Dome Cozy – the most popular basic style (ETS Image)

Because I didn’t grow up in a traditional tea drinking household and because I don’t prepare tea in the traditional manner – with a tea kettle and a tea pot – there are some aspects of that way of doing things that I’m not so familiar with. Like tea cosies, for instance. I had no idea that these were so popular nowadays, and I’d always assumed they were kind of fuddy-duddyish. But that’s apparently not the case. As I noted in a recent article in a thriving subset of the publishing industry devoted to books about tea cosies.

As I started to do some more research into this topic I began to suspect that tea cosies are serious business for some people. Serious business, that is, if you consider that there are people who gather to pit their tea cosy making skills against a field of equally worthy opponents. I ran across several of these competitions without having to look too hard and I suspect there are probably many more.

Correct me if you know better, but it seems that The Fish Creek Tea Cosy Festival, held annually in Fish Creek, Victoria, in Australia, is one of the more noteworthy of these events. The 2014 event took place over the course of nine days and the competitions took place in such categories as Traditional, Aquatic, Butch, and Exuberant Whimsy.

That one’s done for this year but there’s still time to make The National Tea Cosy Competition, which will be held in Dublin in October, 2014. As they note at their web site, “Every medium of craft is accepted. All that we ask is that it is handmade!”

If you act quickly you might also make The Port Eliot Tea Cosy Competition, in Cornwall, England, which will be held in July this year. Or hold off until November, when The Great Exeter Tea Cosy Competition will be held in Exeter, England. Last, but certainly not least, there’s the Tea Cosy Competition at St. George’s Market, in Belfast.

See more of William I. Lengeman’s articles here.

© Online Stores, Inc., and The English Tea Store Blog, 2009-2014. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this article’s author and/or the blog’s owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Online Stores, Inc., and The English Tea Store Blog with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

How small can you make a teapot? If you want one that can really serve as a server of tea, it needs to be able to hold some liquid. Otherwise, you can go a lot smaller.

http://garysthirdpotteryblog.blogspot.com/2014/02/tiny-teapots.html

Useable teeny teapot (a little over 1” long) by Gary Rith (screen capture from site)

Potter Gary Rith, just for the fun of it, created a couple of teeny teapots, one useable and one not. The useable one is a little over an inch long, holds about a teaspoon of tea liquid, and has a spout you can pour through. When designing these teeny teawares, you have to keep certain realities in mind, such as that spout. The ones shown on this site by Kelly Averill Savino are also functional despite their diminutive size. In fact, the teapot in its tiniest yet useable form seems to be of interest to potters these days. Sort of a challenge to their skills. Pinterest is full of more examples.

Tiny Tea Cup And Saucer Set with Teapot Creamer Sugar Bowl (screen capture from site)

Tiny Tea Cup And Saucer Set with Teapot Creamer Sugar Bowl (screen capture from site)

Entire teaware sets with teapots, trays, teacups, and saucers are readily available through only some sale sites like Etsy. This child’s tea set is a great example. Tiny teacups can range from barely able to hold a few drops to one holding about 2 ounces. Larger than that would be just a normal but small teacup. Finding tiny spoons for stirring that tiny amount of tea in those tiny teacups is another matter. I would recommend a toothpick – the flat kind.

Fortunately, your tea time treats can be normal sized for your mini-mini-tea party. In fact, you might want to have inverse proportions. That is, the smaller the teawares, the larger the scones and cakes and “biccies” (what we call cookies). You might have to serve them on tiny plates, though, like the ones shown here. I’m not sure how that will work out, but have fun giving it a try!

Tiny plates from Simplystella.com (screen capture from site)

Tiny plates from Simplystella.com (screen capture from site)

See more of A.C. Cargill’s articles here.

© Online Stores, Inc., and The English Tea Store Blog, 2009-2014. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this article’s author and/or the blog’s owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Online Stores, Inc., and The English Tea Store Blog with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

Teacup dimensions have quite a wide range. Some are really small and others are rather big. More BIG teacups have popped up online on social media sites, prompting me to do a bit of searching around to see what I missed in my previous article on the subject. Setting aside the cups large enough to hold a person and used for amusement park rides and party attractions and the ones used for business signs (especially appropriate for tea plantations like the bright yellow one shown below), there are plenty of teacups that can really be used for tea and that are quite generously proportioned.

Raising one of these cups in a toast could result in a hernia! (compilation of various images found online)

Raising one of these cups in a toast could result in a hernia! (compilation of various images found online)

These huge teacups don’t always get used for tea, even though they could be. Sometimes they are table décor, holding anything from craft and party supplies to a host of treats for nibbling while you and your guests imbibe your tea from more normal sized cups. Others are used as planters, holding profusions of brightly colored geraniums, pansies, or other planter favorites. Sometimes kitties take these over before you can plant anything in them and use them for their 20 hours per day of nap time.

For those of you wishing to have a really BIG cup of tea, though, these cups are the answer, but there are some tips that will help you handle the situation, as follows:

  • Don’t steep a sipper tea, go for a gulper tea instead.
  • Steep the tea up stronger than usual.
  • Add in any milk, sugar, honey, etc., in amounts proportional to the cup volume.
  • Wear a bib while drinking.
  • Have a friend or family member help you lift the full cup.
  • Have lots of “biccies” (Brit for biscuits, which we call “cookies”) handy.
  • Be near a restroom.

Are you up for that giant cup of tea? Great! Put that kettle on and start steeping!

See more of A.C. Cargill’s articles here.

© Online Stores, Inc., and The English Tea Store Blog, 2009-2014. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this article’s author and/or the blog’s owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Online Stores, Inc., and The English Tea Store Blog with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

If you follow the articles I write for this site, you might have noticed that a certain topic turns up rather often. That would be gadgets. For a while now I’ve been writing a regular monthly column on tea gadgets, and from time to time I throw in an extra article. Having written about so many tea gadgets by now, you’d think that I’d seen absolutely everything and that there’s not really anything more that we can possibly hope for in this great wide world of gadgetry.

Or not. I have a few suggestions, actually. Most of which fall into a category somewhere between serious and perhaps just a bit frivolous. But one can hope, after all.

Stainproof Cups
As someone who primarily drinks black tea I find that the glasses I use tend to get quite discolored over time. This is resolved easily enough by treating them with a diluted solution of bleach. My solution to this might be asking a bit much and yet I humbly propose that we make tea cups or glasses from a type of porcelain or glass that doesn’t stain. Which should be simple enough to do as soon as someone invents… a type of porcelain or glass that doesn’t stain.

Inventory Keeper
If you buy most of your tea through mail order, as I do, then it’s important to keep tabs on how much tea you have on hand and work out the math of how long it will last versus how long it takes for more to be shipped to you. I do pretty well with this most of the time but not always. Which is why I’d humbly suggest that someone devise an app that’s connected to a sensor in your tea storage container and which does the math and reorders in time so that you’ll never run out of tea. If you buy your tea locally then this one can simply remind you that it’s time to head to the store soon.

Cleaning House
I’m probably swinging for the fences with this one but I wouldn’t mind a tea-steeping device that automatically removes the used tea leaves, disposes of them in an acceptable manner and proceeds to clean itself. If it also did windows that would be nice.

See more of William I. Lengeman’s articles here.

© Online Stores, Inc., and The English Tea Store Blog, 2009-2014. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this article’s author and/or the blog’s owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Online Stores, Inc., and The English Tea Store Blog with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

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