Teapots are vessels used to brew tea in before pouring it into cups for individual consumption. Teapots may be used to brew black teas, herbal teas, green teas, or any number of specialty teas. They come in an almost limitless array of shapes, sizes, and materials. Teapots should be distinguished from tea kettles, as the former is used exclusively for steeping tea and the latter is used for heating water.
Different teapot materials lend themselves to different types of teas. Oolong tea, a tea midway between green and black teas, is best brewed in an Yixing teapot, a special type of clay teapot produced in the Jiangsu province of China. Most black teas are best brewed in stoneware teapots rather than teapots made of metals or porcelain. Some of the incredibly dark Indian teas are best suited to metal teapots of iron or silver. Lighter teas such as herbal infusions and green teas work well with porcelain teapots.
Some of the most beautiful and carefully crafted teapots in the world are a Japanese variety known as tetsubin. Tetsubin are cast iron and decorated all over their body with beautiful designs and patterns. Tea has a very important place in Japanese culture and tetsubin are used in the intricate tea ceremony practiced throughout the country. Given their precious nature, tetsubin are rarely used to directly heat water in the modern age — instead, water is heated elsewhere and transferred to the tetsubin.
Another popular style of teapot is the brown betty. These teapots were traditionally made in Stoke-on-Trent in England. They are very simple and made from a red terracotta clay. Brown bettys have been around since the 17th century and came to symbolize the importance of tea in England during that time. The shape of a brown betty allows for the tea leaves to swirl when water is poured into the teapot, creating a wonderful infusion.
Glass teapots have gained popularity in the last fifty years because of their ability to be used for drastically different types of tea without retaining flavor. Glass teapots are microwave and dishwasher safe and wash completely clean, providing a versatility no other type of teapot has.
Whether ornamental or purely functional, there are literally hundreds of styles of teapots available to suit different needs.