Monday, 12 April 2010

How Important is preheating the teapot?

This is crucial. Wish I could be more relaxed about this and say it wasn’t that important. The truth is that when we’re talking about black tea, this is probably as important as what type of and how much tea you use.

Maybe the idea of boiling a kettle-full of water and pouring it in the teapot before boiling another kettle of water to use for the actual tea sounds like too much bother. Trust me. It’s essential. I used to think this was ridiculous, but have since been converted to the preheat-your-damned-teapot crowd. At the very least, the tea tastes better over here with us.

If you’re drinking green tea, I’ll give you the opposite advice. Don’t preheat the teapot. At all. The opposite. You need to start with either a cool teapot or check the water temperature before you add the green tea leaves.

Why? Boiling water is good for black tea. More than good. Necessary. But boiling water would damage the green tea leaves. They’re far more sensitive and need cooler water. If you’re drinking green tea, add a bit of cold water to your boiling water to get closer to the perfect temperature. I’ll talk more about green tea and give some tips on good water temperatures another time.


  1. George Orwell had a lot to say on the subject. And he agreed with you.
    As do I

  2. I usually use two pots (transferring the tea from the brew pot to what I'll call the serving pot), and I preheat them both. I even preheat my cup or mug, for no real reason other than that I feel that the only thing that ought to cool tea is time. Some people heat their spoons.

  3. I never thought of pre-heating my teapot.
    I will try to do it.

  4. And the notion of tea-lights to keep tea hot is wrong, too. They just keep cooking the tea. The only thing needed is a traditional insulated, usually quilted, tea cozy. Just place the cozy over the entire pot to keep both the pot and tea plenty hot for drinking for more than an hour. When it gets too cool to drink, then it is time to make a new pot.

    Boiling water, pre-heated pot and first cup, and a tea cozy is enough for any tea session.

    I pour the tea into the first cup over the spoon to reduce the shock of the boiling water as it falls into the pre-heated (usually) cup.

    Also, tea is traditionally drunk from a thin-walled delicate ceramic cup.

  5. Great comments from everyone (especially the part about preheating your spoon).

    I especially like Jeffrey's comment, because here in Germany many people use tea lights. Totally unnecessary. At least in my opinion.

  6. I read that the point of heating your teapot is to ensure that the boiling water that you add, doesn't cool down too quickly as you're brewing the leaves.

    In that light, heating the mug, or the spoon isn't necessary, because you're no longer brewing your tea. If you just want to keep your brewed tea warm longer, then sure.

    If preheating a pot ensures that the brewing water doesn't cool down too quickly, then it seems it'd be useful for green tea too. Since it keeps that water at the required temp for longer too.

    Interesting how you add cold water to boiling to make your green tea, lahik. Why don't you just whisk the kettle from its heating source before it boils? :)

    I think that tea lights cook tea, if you're still brewing leaves. I'm not sure it matters, if the leaves are out. Having said that, I don't use them either, I prefer my tea to simply cool down.

    Like Jeffrey, I like tea cozies. However, I really wish someone designed some very cool covers, I'm not proud of my flowery ones.

  7. I've done an experiment using a tea thermometer...if I pour boiling water into the teapot I usually brew in, the temperate does not get up above 200, and depending on how cold the room is, often doesn't get much above 190. The effect is similar if pouring directly into a mug.

    I've found this to be important not only with some (not all) black teas, but also certain herbs. There are actually a number of herbs (spearmint and lemon balm are the main two) that I prefer to let simmer on the stove over low heat after letting the water come to a boil, rather than by pouring water over the leaves.