Thursday, July 9, 2009

The Perfect Pour

One of my favorite teachers from art school always said "if you're going to make functional pottery, use it!" So when I made one of my first functional teapots, I brought it straight into the house from the kiln and made a pot of tea. (Steeped for 5 full minutes for the perfect cup of Bourbon Vanilla). I picked up the teapot in great anticipation of my perfect cup of tea, and was horrified as the tea gurgled and blurbled out, down the side of the pot and everywhere but the mug, strategically placed beneath the spout.

I was so disappointed.

BUT...back to the drawing board.

Functional teapots are one of the biggest challenges for potters. They employ a great variety of throwing techniques, complete with lids, knobs and handles. They have to pour properly, hold enough tea, and not be too heavy. All of this adds up to a steep challenge. (No pun intended.)

So what exactly is it that allows a teapot to pour?

Well, first there's the obvious: the spout. Spouts need to be wide at the base and taper to a narrow opening at the end. This helps to push the tea out and far enough away from the pot to keep it from clinging to its side. But we're not done there. Spouts need to have a relatively sharp end to help cut off the flow of the tea as the teapot is righted. Unfortunately with pottery, too sharp will often lead to a chipped spout. If you can find a teapot that lets no more than ONE drip back down the outside of the pot, you've done good!

Spouts aren't the only important aspect to a good teapot though. The handle also requires some special considerations. Handles must be placed in such a way that the pot is balanced as the user is pouring the tea. This relieves strain from the wrist, and lets the pot do all the work. For best results, look for a 90 degree angle between handle and spout. The handles also need to be beefy enough to hold a full pot of tea. No one wants to see a full teapot release from its handle and go crashing to the table.

Some other small considerations include a wee little hole in the lid. Air needs to be able to enter the teapot as the tea is exiting to allow for a continuous, uninterrupted pour. And if the teapot is meant to be used with teabags, have a look inside to make sure there are holes creating a strainer of sorts, where the spout attaches to the pot. These will catch a teabag and prevent it from plugging the spout.

It's been a few years now since that first disastrous teapot of mine, which I still have. And I've abandoned the Bourbon Vanilla for a quieter Tongyu Mountain Green tea from one of my favorite tea stores, Distinctly Tea in Waterloo. But man, I do love a good cup o' tea.