Do you remember the first teapot that you really loved using? Maybe it was the perfect shape, or the perfect size, or your favourite colour. Whatever made it special, you used it just about every day. Maybe you still do.
My first teapot love was a Chatsford four-cupper. I bought it almost twenty years ago for its rounded shape, its tapered dripless spout, and its absolutely wonderfully useful feature that at that time was a novelty: a built-in infusion basket for loose leaf tea. Before discovering Chatsfords I struggled with those silly little metal infusers on a chain, with those even sillier cloth tea “socks,” and with decanting infused tea into a second teapot.
Chatsfords were not just beautifully functional, they were beautifully made: the lid and infuser were perfectly integrated with the pot, glazes were unblemished, and the overall look was one of elegance. Over the years I’ve bought a number of Chatsfords in different sizes and colours, for myself and for gifts. I thought they were the greatest thing since … well, since loose leaf tea.
Then London Teapot Company moved their manufacturing from Europe to Thailand. The spout got dribbly, the lid stopped fitting as snugly, glazing became uneven – and worst of all, they downgraded to a more porous earthenware clay. For a teapot, this means that not only does it feel lighter in the hand, but being less dense it doesn’t hold the heat as well as better clays. And it’s not as durable, tending to chip at the slightest bump and to craze during normal use. Not to mention that it just plain looked cruder.
After replacing two chipped and crazed Chatsfords within a year, I realized my relationship with these teapots had no future.
While there are now a variety of teapots with built-in infusers, compared to the original Chatsford they just don’t measure up. Some don’t have that respectable rounded shape, others don’t have a dripless spout – most teapot-makers treat this vital component as an afterthought, simply slicing the end with no finesse whatsoever. The Chatsford infusion basket is large enough to allow leaves to move, it’s made of fine mesh to filter the smallest tea particles, and it has a handle so you don’t scald yourself when removing it after infusion. Every other infuser seems to be lacking in at least one of these qualities.
Currently I’m testing a Beehouse teapot. It’s a good weight, holds heat reasonably well, and the spout doesn’t drip much. But it doesn’t have that nice pot-bellied shape, and the metal infuser is not only too small, it’s not fine enough to filter small leaf bits. It also has no handle, which makes removing it from a hot teapot a potentially scalding endeavor; I finally devised a method using two chopsticks. And I can’t get used that metal flip-top lid – it doesn’t stay open when you need it to, it’s awkward to close when you do, and it looks much more unattractive in person than in the catalogues.
So I continue my search for the perfect teapot. I’m sure that somewhere I’ll find it. Sadly, it will not be a Chatsford.
(London Teapot Company still makes their commercial two-cup teapots and their bone china teapots – both of which I am advised have not deteriorated in quality – in Europe. Being a vegetarian, I don’t use bone china. They are also priced significantly higher.)
Those Wonderful Amsterdam Teapots
Collectible Sadler Teapots
Hemisphere Teapots — Out of This World
Is Your Teapot a Dribbler?
Price & Kensington Teawares
Replacing Your Irreplaceable Teawares
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