The Best Teapots for Every Type of Tea Drinker

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It’s pretty. I mean, just look at it. The gentle curves, the traditional-yet-timeless feeling of clay—it’s a beautiful design for a teapot, and unlike so many beautifully designed teapots, it actually makes good tea. Over time that clay will develop a patina unique to the teas you brew. You can spend hundreds of dollars on a handmade kyusu, though you don’t have to. Even affordably priced, mass-produced designs tend to look pretty nice, and you can find all sorts of clay colors, patterns, and glazes.

What kyusu should I get?

Kyusu come in all different colors and kinds of designs. If you want to splurge, I adore the modern, minimalist handmade kyusu sold by the Brooklyn-based Japanese tea boutique Kettl. Once you pick it up, you may not want to put it down.

Alternatively, if you’re seeking a budget option, glass kyusu come in all shapes and sizes, and they offer a more contemporary, mod aesthetic compared to textured clay. Personally I don’t love glass teapots because keeping them spotlessly clean takes me more time than actually drinking tea, but it’s hard to argue with their looks, especially if you favor blooming teas that open during steeping.

Glazed kyusu designs add lovely flashes of color to your set. If you like your ceramics chunky and colorful, the Tokusa style glaze on the lid of this pot looks like a burst of sunshine. If the sun were blue. Roll with me here.

Tokusa Kyusu Japanese Teapot

How do I brew tea with it?

You don’t need a know-it-all to tell you how to use a teapot, but some of the factors that make the kyusu such a champ also come with their own care requirements. Since a traditional kyusu doesn’t have a removable filter, tea leaves will continue to steep with any amount of water left in the pot and can turn bitter. Once a tea is brewed to your liking, decant all of it into your cup. Be sure to shake out the last few golden drops—they’re liquid gold!—just keep a tight grip on the lid as you do so.

Unless your kyusu is glazed, don’t wash it with soap. Unglazed clay is porous and can absorb soapy residue. It won’t kill you, though you’ll taste it in your next brew. Instead, stick to a hot water rinse. Some pots may be dishwasher safe, but I prefer to wash them by hand. If you need to remove stubborn tea stains, use a gentle cleaner like Bar Keepers Friend and rinse well afterwards. After cleaning, let your kyusu dry completely before putting the lid back on for storage. Porous clay traps moisture, which can lead to mold if it’s not properly aired out.

Lastly: experiment. A kyusu is a simple tool that gives you total control over your brewing. Play around with dosages, steeping time, and brewing temperatures to make your best tea yet.

It’s not my vibe. Are there other styles of teapots you’d recommend?

Fair enough. There are as many ways to make tea as there are people who drink it. You don’t need a kyusu to make a good cup; it’s simply a good starting point. Here are some other teapot designs to look for.

Shiboridashi

A shiboridashi is a smaller Japanese teapot than the average kyusu, with a capacity of just three to five ounces. It’s a good option for solo tea drinkers who are committed to re-steeping quality leaves. Shiboridashi don’t have mounted handles; instead, you hold the rim of the pot with your fingertips to pour and the tea filters through small ceramic holes or grooves that are aligned with the pour spout.

Gaiwan

Even simpler than a shiboridashi is a gaiwan, a Chinese pot that’s little more than a flared bowl with a lid that acts as the filter when held at an angle to the bowl. That’s what gaiwan means in Mandarin: “lidded bowl.” Ubiquitous in Chinese tea brewing, the gaiwan’s simple design isn’t made for tiny Japanese or Indian tea leaves, but it’s great with just about everything else. A stunningly simple—and inexpensive—vessel.

Gaiwan White Glaze Porcelain Teacup

For upscale handmade versions, the shiboridashi, gaiwans, and other tea accouterments from Bell Hill Pottery in Connecticut are among the prettiest and most interestingly designed I’ve encountered anywhere. Potter Will Talbot specializes in double-wall teapot designs that keep the tea warm while the exteriors remain cool to the touch—nice for those with sensitive fingers. I also love the psychedelic ocean spray glazes.

Lettuce Ware

Simple isn’t for everyone. Maybe you’re more of a lettuce ware teapot person. I’d say potter Dodie Thayer’s whimsical designs are more cabbage than lettuce, but whatever—this gorgeous hand-painted stoneware teapot is just waiting for the Mad Hatter.

Vintage

Large, colorfully painted porcelain teapots suspended from bamboo handles are a kind of ceramic nostalgia for me; they send me right back to the dim sum meals of my childhood, where harried waiters endlessly refilled teacups with heaving pots of tea. This design is about as far as you can get from the lean style of the classic kyusu, and that’s lovely in its own way.

Vintage Bamboo-Handled Teapot

Travel Tea Infuser

The best travel tea infuser I’ve used is the adorably named Piao I Glass Travel Buddy, a borosilicate glass bottle with a removable mesh filter. Put some tea leaves in the filter, top with chilled or hot water, and remove the stainless-steel infuser when the tea is steeped to your liking. Unlike most infuser bottles, the Travel Buddy is specifically designed to handle hot infusions as well as cold; high temperature brewing in a sealed container builds up pressure that eventually gets released in a geyser of scorching water when you go to take a sip. A pressure relief valve built into the Travel Buddy’s lid makes for a much safer portable tea time.

Piao I Glass Travel Infuser Bottle

Tea Infuser Mug

If all these brewing options are giving you a headache, let’s end where we started: a mug of not-quite-boiling water and loose-leaf tea. This glass mug has a built-in half-moon-shaped strainer that filters your brew as you sip. It gives you a good view of your pretty tea leaves, is microwave safe, and is ideal for those, like me, who top off the same spoonful of leaves with hot water all day long.

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