Metal vs. Porcelain and Bone China Teapots

Teapots at 20 paces — march, turn, steep! Wait a minute. This isn’t a fair contest. Different teapots steep differently and are, therefore, suited to different teas (all the more reason to have a bevy comprised of at least one teapot for each type of tea you have). Case in point: metal teapots vs. teapots made of either porcelain or bone china.

Centuries after tea became a well-established beverage came porcelain teapots, expensive and used only by the wealthy until recent years, where modern production methods brought the price down within reach of us mere mortals. A refinement of the process by Josiah Spode in 1733 resulted in bone china (bone ash, china clay, ball clay, flint, and feldspar). It’s lighter in weight than regular clay china/porcelain, and translucent with a glass-like surface.

Metal teapots have been around a bit longer, starting with cast iron teapots that came into use in Japan in the 1600s. Silver, silver-plate, and pewter (the poor man’s silver) teapots were first used in England and Scandinavia in the 1700s to “brighten up” teatime with their shiny surfaces. Stainless steel teapots are becoming popular now, in restaurants as well as homes, with their shine and the variety of designs ranging from classic to futuristic.

So how do these two types of teapots compare?

Metal Teapots
Some benefits:

  • Less likely to break, so you don’t have to handle them with kid gloves.
  • Keep the tea hotter longer, making them suitable for dark Indian teas.

Some drawbacks:

  • Can absorb the taste of strong teas and carry them over to other teas or impart a metallic taste to your tea.
  • Can oversteep the tea, since they stay hotter longer, so are not suitable for more delicate teas like Japanese Sencha.
  • Require special cleaning:
    • Cast iron should be thoroughly dried to prevent rust.
    • Stainless steel can be rinsed out with hot water and a bit of salt and de-stained with boiling water and vinegar (avoid using soap).
    • Silver and silver-plate need a bit of de-tarnishing now and then.

Porcelain and Bone China Teapots
Some benefits:

  • Visually decorative, with lots of designs available, including floral prints and gold edging.
  • Work well with white and green teas as well as herbal infusions, since they don’t absorb odors.

Some drawbacks:

  • Breakable — Oops! — so people with butterfingers like me have to handle them with care, plus the bone china ones can’t go in the dishwasher (not a good idea with any teapot, though, since soap residue could build up inside it and taint the tea).
  • Tend to cool fairly quickly, so a cozy (a special cover) is a good idea.

Pick your tea, then pick your teapot, and let the steeping begin. Enjoy!

If you need help picking out a new tea to go with your new teapot, check out Little Yellow Teapot Tea Reviews.

7 thoughts on “Metal vs. Porcelain and Bone China Teapots

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