If you’re not much of a tea drinker, you probably use the terms teapot and tea kettle interchangeably. But anyone who makes their own cup of tea each day could tell you that these are two different vessels that serve two different purposes in the art tea making.
Let's have a look at what makes a teapot and tea kettle different and how to use each one.
Teapot vs. Tea Kettle
Simply put, a tea kettle is what you use to heat water for tea and a teapot is what you use to actually steep tea.
You need both to make tea. You will heat water to its desired temperature in a tea kettle—either on the stove or, if it’s electric, on the counter—then pour this water into a prepared teapot. To prepare a teapot for tea, place loose leaves in a tea infuser within the pot and then pour the heated water over it.
It’s important that you never use a teapot to heat water. Most teapots are not made to withstand the high, direct heat of a stovetop. A porcelain teapot, for example, could crack if you heated it on the stove.
Do You Need a Teapot to Make Tea?
A teapot is not strictly necessary when making tea, but it is if you want to make the best tea possible. Microwaving water to pour it over a tea bag may give you an adequate cup, but high quality teas and serious tea lovers deserve better.
If you genuinely enjoy the flavor of tea, having a teapot will only make your tea drinking experience better. The proper tea set can bring out the best qualities in your tea. Having a kettle and teapot also makes it easier to make more tea at once.
Making great tea is easy once you get the hang of it.
How to Make Tea
To make a cup of tea the time-honored, traditional way, you’ll need some excellent loose leaf tea, a tea kettle, and a teapot.
Different teas like to be steeped at different temperatures. This is because some tea leaves are more subtly flavored than others and more sensitive to high heat. Overheating leaves can leave you with bitter-tasting tea, and under heating leaves may not bring out all of a tea’s natural flavor.
Here are the temperatures you should heat these common types of tea to for best results:
- Green tea: heat to between 150 and 160° F
- Black tea: heat to between 200 and 212° F
- White tea: heat to between 170 and 190° F
When in doubt, consult the bag or box your tea came in.
How long should you steep your tea?
In general, the lower the steeping temperature, the less time your tea will need to fully brew. But almost any tea you purchase will tell you exactly what steeping time is optimal (and temperature), giving a range for those that prefer weaker or stronger tea.
A tea kettle that tells you the temperature is convenient, but you can also just take the temperature of your water with a thermometer (“eye-balling” is only advisable for experienced tea drinkers).
To make tea, heat your desired amount of water in a tea kettle until it reaches optimal temperature and then pour this over your tea leaves in a teapot fixed with an infuser. Allow the tea to steep and serve.
How Do I Choose a Teapot?
Besides making sure that a teapot is well-made and built to last for years, you want to make sure it will do your tea justice. Here’s how to choose one.
Teapots are popularly made of ceramic, cast iron, porcelain, stainless steel, or glass. Serious tea drinkers may prefer one material to another due to how its properties interact with their preferred tea.
For example, a ceramic teapot will not impart or diminish the flavor of a fine green tea. For less serious drinkers, nearly any teapot will be perfectly functional - most likely a glass teapot.
Another thing to think about is heat retention. Some pots hold heat better than others, making them ideal for teas with higher steeping times. Take ceramic for instance, it retains heat really well so the water will stay hot longer than water in glass tea ware. You want to take size into consideration as well. Getting a teapot intended to steep multiple cups of tea when you’re only making tea for yourself may prove cumbersome.
Many people enjoy teapots with infusers built into them as this ensures a perfect fit. But if you choose a teapot that doesn’t include an infuser, you can just purchase one separately.
Choosing a Tea Kettle
When choosing a tea kettle, think utilitarian.
First, choose between an electric and classic kettle. An electric kettle is heated on the countertop on its own stand that may or may not be plugged into the wall, and a classic kettle is heated directly on the stove or rangetop.
Other features to consider include:
- Whether or not a kettle whistles when it’s done heating
- Handle location and grip
- If a kettle has a built-in thermometer
Most tea kettles are made of stainless steel or another metal like copper, so maintaining them is relatively easy. Kettles may also be made of glass, or in the case of Xtrema's Retro Tea Kettle, 100% pure ceramic.
Many tea kettles today have built-in thermometers to show you how hot your water is. This can be a really handy feature, especially for those who are more scientific in their tea making.
How to Take Care of a Teapot
Is it okay to leave water in a tea kettle or teapot? Across the board, allowing water to sit in a tea kettle or teapot is a bad idea. It can cause your tea kettle or teapot to degrade faster than it normally would or even rust, which can ruin it for good.
To take care of both your teapot and your tea kettle, keep them as dry as possible. Wipe them out as soon as they are cool enough to handle and store them somewhere where they won’t get wet or otherwise damaged.
From this perspective, it's important to select a tea kettle or teapot that's easy to clean and maybe even dishwasher safe. This will save you time in the long run.