Choosing the right teapot could be as challenging as choosing the right tea for a special occasion.
Most tea lovers like having a collection of different teapots and cups at home, waiting for the right moment to be used. Some of them never see the light, because we “save them for a special moment” that never comes, or because we find them a bit difficult to use –is not our everyday teapot- and they become decorative objects rather than kitchen tools.
If I may, I would like to encourage readers not only to use those dusty old teapots that lay on the top shelf, but also to choose the appropriate one for each situation. An after-dinner conversation, for example, could be the perfect excuse to do a little showing-off and offer our guests our best oolong or puerh in a small Yixing teapot, served in tiny bowls. You don´t need to memorize the steps of the Chinese ceremony by heart, just relax and offer your friends hospitality and courtesy. Also, a casual meeting with your friends may become a day to be remembered by avoiding the everyday cups, and enjoying a nice porcelain set. Perhaps you can also share the family history of the pot and cups, if any.
If you just want to indulge yourself with a nice cup of tea, first of all you would like to decide what tea you will brew, according to your feelings at that moment, according to the time of the day or to the weather (colder weather requires stronger, hotter teas than hot weather). Once decided what tea to brew, then you need to pick the best teapot to make that tea.
It is appropriate to respect local customs. As it is known, every culture has particular habits and rituals that require special pots and cups to make tea, so following those traditions could be an alternative when evaluating the pottery to be used. I personally enjoy making Morocco’s tea using a silver teapot and small glass cups.
There are teapots of different shapes, colours and materials. When focusing on the organoleptic characteristics of the tea, the material used to create the pot plays a very important role. Each material has certain characteristics that suit different types of teas. However, according to your personal taste, any teapot could be used for any tea.
Ceramic teapots are more suitable for black teas and puerhs. The ceramic material has a low transference of heat and usually teapots made of this substance have thick walls, thus maintaining the water temperature very well. Since black and puerhs teas are brewed at higher temperatures than other types of teas, using ceramic teapots will ensure no temperature loss and will allow the liquor inside of the pot to keep warm for longer time.
Porcelain teapots are adequate for making white and green teas. Their walls are often thinner than those made of ceramic, and they have low heat transference compared to other materials, so also maintain the temperature of the tea liquor quite well but not as long as ceramics. Since white and green teas are brewed at lower temperatures, porcelain teapots will be most appropriate to use.
Glass teapots are recommended for brewing display teas, or any kind of tea particularly worth observing. The walls of glass pots are of different thicknesses, but generally they are thin. In all the cases, glass does mean loss of heat although much less than with metal pots. The great attraction of glass is that the leaves and the colour of the infusion can be clearly seen during brewing.
Metal teapots such as iron or silver pots can be used with any type of tea. Due to their composition these pots transfer heat easily (they very quickly lose the temperature of the tea liquor) and can also burn your hands if not handled carefully. The best are coated inside with enamel so the metallic flavour of the pot is not transmitted to the liquor. They can oxidize over time. They should be allowed to air dry.
In my opinion, regardless of the heat transfer -very important when you want to keep your tea in the pot for some time- the shape should contribute to a harmonious, elegant pouring. The colour should accompany your mood. The material should match the type of tea being brewed. But most importantly: your teapot should be to your personal taste.
Whichever it is, the most valued thing is your personal ritual with tea. Choose your teapot, make tea, enjoy.