Whilst the choice of a tea variety can varying depending on the time of the day and the hospitality we wish to create – the so British Tea time or a more exotic green mint tea, a traditional tea ceremony or a well-earned break, etc. – there is one vital utensil which never changes: the teapot.
First of all, it should be remembered that a teapot retains the ‘memory’ of the tea brewed in it. It is therefore important to assign one teapot per tea variety so as not to alter the brew. A perfect teapot is one used for one type of tea only – green tea, semi-fermented tea, natural black tea, smoky tea, scented tea, etc., and ideally for each type of tea (Darjeeling, etc.) – because it will season with age.
Earthenware teapots therefore appear the most suitable. Some, such as the earthenware teapots of Yixing, which are manufactured to the south of Shanghai, are particularly esteemed. Of course, it is strictly forbidden to clean out such a teapot after use with washing-up liquid! Rinsing with clean water is sufficient. Your teapot should also be able to keep your brew hot as long as possible to ensure seconds under optimum conditions.
Fine tableware is part and parcel of a tea service with silver, porcelain, glazed earthenware and glass long in use. Some prefer to give up the ritual of tea in favour of the beauty of the instant. The most subtle and lightest teas such as some teas from China, for example, can therefore be served in a glazed earthenware or porcelain teapot. Stronger, more robust teas such as those from Ceylon can suit an earthenware and metal (pewter or silver) teapot.
The refinement of the British tea time ceremony was given its ultimate expression by the porcelain manufacturer Josiah Wedgwood who designed many objects for serving tea. However, the tea service as we know it with its teapot and matching cups, cream and sugar jugs, dates from the 18th century. Before, there was no matching set. The art of silverware was also put to refined tea use. Magnificent plate creations were produced during the Napoleonic period.