If you're not much of a tea drinker, you probably use the terms teapot and tea kettle interchangeably. However, 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 of tea making.
Let's look at what makes a teapot and tea kettle different and how to use each.
Teapot vs. Tea Kettle
The easiest way to think about it is a tea kettle heats water for tea while a teapot steeps tea. Using both allows you to make the best tea possible.
First, a tea kettle heats water to the desired temperature, either on a stove or via a wall outlet. Then, the hot water is poured from the kettle into the 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 a stovetop's high, direct heat. A porcelain teapot, for example, could crack if you heated it on the stove.
Do You Need a Teapot or Tea Kettle 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 over a tea bag may give you an adequate cup, but high-quality teas and serious tea lovers deserve better.
A proper tea set brings out the best qualities in your tea and allows you to make more than one cup at a time. Once you get the hang of it, making a great cup of tea is easy!
Tea is made up of polyphenols and caffeine. Polyphenols are plant chemicals that give tea flavor and aroma and contribute to the unique tastes and health benefits you can enjoy. Water quality, temperature and purity can also impact the tea leaf extraction process and affect the tea scent and essence.
Temperature, time and agitation are brewing conditions that influence the composition and flavor of your tea. Various teas require different brewing methods to extract the taste and aromas fully.
How to Make Tea
To make a cup of tea the time-honored, traditional way, you'll need some excellent loose-leaf tea, a kettle and a teapot. Different teas like to be steeped at different temperatures 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 underheating leaves may not bring out all of a tea's natural flavor. When in doubt, consult the bag or box your tea came in, but in general, here are the temperatures you should heat common types of tea to for best results:
- Green tea: Steep the tea in water that is 170 to 180 degrees Fahrenheit. Make sure the water is not boiling, as this can activate bitter notes in the tea.
- Black tea: Too-cold water will not extract the caffeine molecules in your black tea. Heat the water to around 210 degrees Fahrenheit, except if you are brewing Darjeeling black tea, then you can take it down to 185 to 195 degrees Fahrenheit.
- White tea: After you boil the water, wait for it to reach a temperature between 180 and 185 degrees Fahrenheit for best results.
How Long to Steep Your Tea
In general, the lower the steeping temperature, the less time your tea will need to brew fully. Almost any tea you purchase will tell you exactly what steeping time and temperature are optimal, providing a range for those who 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 the optimal temperature. Then, pour the hot water over your tea leaves in a teapot fixed with an infuser. Allow the tea to steep and serve.
How to Make Iced Tea
During the summertime, few things are as refreshing as a cup of iced tea, and you don't need a teapot or tea kettle to make it! Just steep your tea in cold or room temperature water for about 12 hours to avoid a bitter taste and increase the antioxidant content. The lower the water temperature, the longer your steeping time will be.
How Do You Choose a Teapot?
Besides ensuring that teaware is well-made and built to last for years, you want to ensure it will do your tea justice. 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 work fine — many choose 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 teaware. 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 because this ensures a perfect fit. But if you choose a teapot that doesn't include an infuser, you can just purchase one separately.
How Do You Choose a Tea Kettle?
When choosing a tea kettle, think utilitarian.
First, choose between an electric and a classic kettle. An electric kettle is heated on the countertop on its own stand that may or may not be plugged into the wall, while a classic kettle is heated directly on the stove or range top. Consider other features like whether a kettle whistles when it's done heating, the kettle's handle location and grip, and whether it has a built-in thermometer.
Most types of 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 handy feature, especially for those more scientific in their tea-making.
How to Take Care of a Teapot or Tea Kettle
Is it OK 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 when they are cool enough to handle, and store them somewhere they won't get wet or otherwise damaged.
From this perspective, selecting a tea kettle or teapot that's easy to clean and maybe even dishwasher safe is important. This will save you time in the long run.
Shop 100% Natural Ceramic Teaware From Xtrema
The distinction between a teapot and a tea kettle is fundamental to the art of making and serving tea. These vessels each serve a unique role, with one common purpose: making the perfect cup of tea. Whether you need a cozy cuppa comfort from a beautiful teapot or the practicality that a tea kettle offers, both will play a vital role in your tea-drinking experience.
Xtrema offers pure ceramic stovetop tea kettles and teaware sets that allow you to boil a tasty cup morning, noon or night. Shop our selection of simple, handcrafted cookware to add to your daily brew, and enjoy free shipping in the United States when you spend $95 or more.