Teaware 101: Porcelain & Ceramic Teapots
When you think of the most normal and mundane teapot in America, what you probably think of is a glazed ceramic teapot. This classic style, which today can be found in countless fantastic designs, has a long and interesting history. While porcelain and ceramic teapots had been in use in China much earlier than in Europe, the particular design we are most familiar is part of our European heritage.The story of the Westernized clay teapot begins with the voyage of tea from Asia to Europe during the 1600s. Though we often think of England when we think of tea in Europe, it was in fact the Portuguese and the Dutch who first began importing tea into Western Europe. The first place in Europe where tea firmly entered the culture was in Holland. There, women of the upper class, who were excluded from coffee and ale houses, began drinking tea in the new and fashionable tea houses of the day.
As tea gained popularity, the Dutch, Portuguese, and then later British fleets imported huge amount of Chinese teaware. Porcelain was the chosen material because it could endure the long voyage West. The teapots themselves were stored in the bottom of the boat, below the water line and so water resistance and durability was an essential feature of the teapots transported. These porcelain teapots were highly revered and expensive because at the time, Europeans had not yet discovered how produce such strong, fine stoneware. Apparently, European potters did make teapots, but surely for a lower cost, because they were famously prone to explosions when in contact with boiling water! Not the best feature for a teapot… However in the early 1700s, a German man discovered how to make a porcelain-like material comparably strong to Chinese porcelain. Soon, the production of European porcelain spread throughout the continent, which inspired a wide variety of styles of teapots more closely related to our modern, everyday teapots.
Today, porcelain and ceramic teapots are one of the most common styles in the West because of their durability and versatility. Unlike the unglazed yixing teapots, which are used overtime to absorb the flavor of your favorite tea, glazed ceramic pots will not retain flavor, and so can be used for any kind of tea. The ceramic material retains heat quite well (though not as well as cast-iron teapots), and the glaze offers a wide variety of colors, patterns and playful aesthetics.
Are you looking for the perfect teapot? You can find many of our teapots on our online store, and learn more about teaware on our blog. And if you are local, come by the shop and we can guide you through our selection of glass, porcelain, ceramic, and cast-iron teapots to find that perfect pot!
By Chloe Bolton