How to choose a teapot
With so many teapots to choose from, find the one that fits you to a teaAny tea drinker knows: you have to have a teapot. Whether for occasional entertaining, daily use, or purely decorative purposes, no home is complete without one. But, if you're new to tea drinking--maybe you're exploring the many benefits of tea, or you're just starting out in your own home--and you've never bought one before, how do you know which pot to choose?
Size it up
The first thing to consider when shopping for a teapot is how much tea you'll want to make at a time. If you're looking for a personal teapot for a cup or two in the mornings, you can usually find something in the 10 – 14 ounce range. It will be easy to clean and keep up with, and you can store it away when not in use. Unless, of course, you like to fill a big travel mug to take to work. Then, by all means, get a bigger size to accommodate.
If you're looking to entertain, go for something big—something in the 30 ounce range. These larger capacity pots are great for a small crowd, so you don't have to re-brew every half hour.
Some people just want something decorative, and don't much care about the functionality. Most non-functional teapots will not include brew baskets and might be kind of a pain to clean, but they are certainly pretty enough. If this is your goal, larger pots are usually easier to catch the eye, but go for whatever works with your décor.
Form and Function
Brewing baskets. They're sort of a new thing (you don't usually find them in antique pieces), and they're handy as all get out. A brewing basket is basically just what it sounds like – a mesh basket which fits inside the pot to hold loose tea leaves and keep them from getting into the cups once the brew is poured. They make for easy cleanup, are especially effective with finer-leafed teas, and will appeal to those who normally equate “brewing” with a coffee pot (everything stays in the basket or “filter” and out of the way). If you like the idea of a teapot which comes with its own basket, be sure to look at the size of the basket included. The larger the basket, the more room the leaves have to open up and properly infuse the steaming liquid with their essence. You do not want cramped tea leaves.
If you opt for a vessel without a brewing basket, keep in mind you will need some way to strain the leaves, unless of course you are getting into tea leaf reading.
Some pots work best without any sort of basket. Glass teapots, for example, are made for the sole purpose and pleasure of watching the leaves unfurl. There are certain fine teas which are designed to do fascinating things once hot water is administered. There are artisan teas which pop and blossom and are a visual art form unto themselves. And watching clear water slowly stain and become that magical liquid, tea, is something to behold. If you really want to get into the beauty and ritual of brewing on a visual level, or you're looking for a unique gift idea for the gourmet tea drinker in your life, a glass pot is a great option.
Most people, however, opt for a traditional ceramic or earthenware pot. These are great because they are easy to maintain (you don't have to scrub as meticulously for stains as you would a clear glass version). Most are glazed and so will not retain the flavors of the teas brewed within them, making them versatile enough to be able to switch from tea to tea and still offer a clean flavor. (Some unglazed clay pots, on the other hand, are meant to be dedicated to one type of tea. They will hold the flavors of that tea, and will actually enhance the flavor over time, as long as you remain consistent in always using that pot for that one variety.) Ceramic pots also hold the tea's temperature for a time before going cold; always a plus. And they come in nearly any color or design you can imagine, making it easy to find one to speak to your aesthetics.
Whatever variety you choose, make sure it suits your practical purposes first, and then your stylistic preferences. Unless the piece is only meant to complete the look of your curio cabinet, a good teapot should be sturdy, well made, and easy to use. You want something which will serve you well for years to come; not one more thing to gather dust in the back of your cupboard. Choose a vessel which is a joy to use, and before you know it, you'll wonder how you ever got by without that perfect teapot.