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.

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