Finding the best tea maker is not as easy as finding the best coffee maker. Tea is not as popular with American drinkers as coffee but, in fairness, it’s catching up fast and that’s why we’ve brought you our complete guide to tea makers.
We want Kitchen Authority readers to be able to spearhead culinary trends as well as follow them.
This complete guide includes all you need to know to make an informed purchasing decision including the history of tea and the tea maker, how to select the right tea, and how to choose the right kind of tea maker.
Our recommendations for the 5 Best Tea Makers of 2019 are then followed by instructions on how to properly care for your tea maker and ensure its longevity. Because the best cooks want their investments on equipment to bear the most fruit.
You’re a busy person. So, if you don’t have the time to read this guide – you can skip to a purchasing decision right now.
Our favorite #1 overall choice is the Bellemain Whistling Stovetop 2.75 Qt Tea Maker it’s awesome.
If you want an automatic tea maker then you might want to give the Swan Teasmade a go but we strongly recommend you read the whole guide and see why we don’t recommend Teasmades in general.
- A Brief History of Tea
- The Origins Of The Tea Maker
- Choosing The Best Tea For You
- Caffeinated Teas
- Non-Caffeinated Teas
- How To Choose The Right Tea Maker
- Our Five Favorite Tea Makers In 2019
- Best Stainless Steel Teapot: Bellemain Whistling Stovetop 2.75 Qt Tea Maker
- Best Porcelain Teapot: The Sweese 40 Ounce Tea Maker
- Best Ceramic Teapot: The HIC Tea Maker With Stainless Infuser
- Best Glass Teapot: The Luxtea Glass Tea Maker
- Best Teasmade: The Swan Teasmade
- How To Care For Your Tea Maker
- The Last Word on Tea Makers
A Brief History of Tea
This is a very brief history of tea, indeed. Tea has been cultivated in Yunnan Province, China for over 3,200 years! Hua Tuo, a Chinese physician, created the first written record of drinking tea in the year 300 A.D. (give or take a year or two).
Tea was, in general, used by the Chinese as a form of medicine. It wasn’t until the 16th century that the Europeans got their first taste of tea. This was likely in the Lebanon where it was picked up by the Portuguese merchants and priests in the country.
However, it would remain something of a niche pursuit until the English fell in love with tea. In the 17th century, Great Britain got the tea bug bad. In fact, the British liked tea so much that their habits would threaten to bankrupt them because the Chinese, who held a monopoly on the commodity at that time, were willing to charge top dollar for the leaf.
The British decided that this would not do and smuggled tea out of China into India where the plant is still grown today in massive quantities. The Indians themselves, however, didn’t start drinking tea until the 1950s – it was very much an export crop until then.
Tea has always been a tiny niche of the American beverage market until the 1990s when the consumption of tea started to become more popular. Over $7 billion a year is now spent on tea in the United States which is still something of a drop in the ocean compared to the annual spend on coffee.
- Tea has been cultivated for over 3,200 years
- Tea originates in China where it was a medicinal plant
- It was the British that would give tea its global popularity and who turned India into a major grower and supplier of tea
The Origins Of The Tea Maker
The simplest tea maker is the tea pot and it is simply a vessel in which boiling water and tea leaves are mixed and the essence of the leaves is absorbed into the water to give us the drink we know as “tea”. Simple.
The first known teapots were found in the Yuan Dynasty era of China which dates back to the years 1271-1368 A.D. It is worth noting that we know the Chinese were drinking tea for many centuries more than this – so it’s entirely possible that teapots were invented elsewhere in China, we just don’t have any surviving evidence of this.
The original teapots would be considered very small by today’s Western standards as a teapot was only designed to brew a single cup of tea!
In Europe, the first teapots would be made in Dresden in Germany and were made of a specific type of porcelain.
In America, however, a city infamously linked with tea, Boston, would make the first teapots and these were made of silver!
There are also automatic tea makers, originally known as “teasmades”, these were once hugely popular in the United Kingdom (those British and their tea!) but are something of a rarity everywhere nowadays.
The first teasmade was invented in 1891 by Samuel Rowbottom though it was called an “Automatic Tea Making Apparatus”, the “teasmade” name first appeared on a patent in 1902 and was credit to Frank Clarke of Birmingham, England.
The Breville Company still manufactures teasmades today but in very small quantities.
- A tea maker is also called a teapot; this was invented in the Yuan Dynasty era in China
- The automatic tea maker is a teasmade and was invented by the British
Choosing The Best Tea For You
If you think choosing the right coffee can be complicated; then tea is even more bewildering. There are literally thousands of different teas to choose from and they have some very distinct characteristics.
The best advice we can give is that choosing a tea is simply like choosing the right meal off a menu.
Think of things that you already enjoy and then pick a tea with similar properties. You might need to try a few different teas but there’s absolutely a tea out there for you.
The biggest choice to be made, however, is the easiest to make – do you want it caffeinated or not?
That is do you want a little caffeine buzz (or a large caffeine buzz – tea can be much higher in caffeine than coffee) or would you rather relax with your tea, instead?
There are 5 main types of caffeinated tea and each type has its staunch adherents. They are:
- Black tea. If you’ve ever drunk tea in the United States, the odds are pretty good that it was a black tea. Your average black tea has about ½ the caffeine of a cup of coffee, but some are much stronger. It’s a great replacement for a coffee or as an end of work treat. The best known flavors of black tea include English Breakfast Tea, Ceylon, and Earl Grey.
- Green tea. A typical green tea has about ¼ the caffeine of a cup of coffee and this may be why it’s not as popular in the West as it is in the East. It is, however, jam packed with antioxidants and is said to be very good for your general health. The most popular green teas include Chun Mee, Longjing (Dragon Well) and Sencha (a Japanese tea).
- White tea. You’ll be very lucky to come across white tea unless you’re hanging around with a real tea expert. It grows only in the Northern regions of Fujian province, China. It has very little caffeine and even more antioxidants than green tea. The overall taste reminds you of jasmine. Silver Needle, White Peony and Ceylon White are popular forms of white tea.
- Oolong tea. Oolong is a unfussy and unpretentious form of tea and may be the best starting point if you want to learn about tea. It doesn’t have quite so strong a taste as other teas and it’s easier to get to grips with on the palate. We can recommend Phoenix, Iron Goddess of Mercy (seriously) and Milk Oolong Tea to get you started.
- Puerh Tea. We’re not sure we believe claims that Puerh Tea can help you dispel grease and heavy toxins from your system; mainly because they have no science to back them up. But if you enjoy a strong, earthy brew then a Puerh Tea is very tasty, indeed. Authentic Puerh Teas require the leaves to be prepared for 40 days before drinking. However, an off-the-shelf blend is more likely to be available here in the United States.
- Mate. Mate is a herbal tea and thus, it isn’t really a “tea” at all, but unlike most herbal teas it does contain caffeine. It’s very popular in Latin America and makes for an excellent accompaniment to desserts.
There are also 2 main types of non-caffeinated tea to choose from:
- Herbal teas. Not, strictly speaking, teas because there are no tea plants involved but made from flowers, herbs, fruit, etc. instead. These are usually appreciated by people who’d enjoy a hot fruit juice. There are endless flavor combinations to choose from. Chamomile and chrysanthemum are two popular first choices.
- Red teas. Rooibos Tea or red tea is prepared from the rooibos tea bush of South Africa. Unlike Chinese and Indian teas, this has no caffeine and no calories. It is said to have powerful medicinal properties and while we take this with a pinch of salt. These drinks can be very pleasant.
- Picking the right tea for you can take a little time
- If you want a caffeinated tea you have 6 options: black tea, green tea, white tea, oolong tea, puerh tea and mate
- If you want a tea without caffeine you can choose a herbal tea or a red tea
How To Choose The Right Tea Maker
As with much of this guide we’re going to assume you’re buying a teapot or an infuser and not buying a teasmade. If you’re buying a teasmade – the best you’re going to get is what’s available (which is not very much).
However, teapots require a little more care when you choose them than first meets the eye. What’s really important is the material which the teapot is made from. Let’s take a look at why:
Stainless Steel Tea Makers
The stainless steel tea maker has some serious advantages:
- Durable. Let’s be fair about this steel doesn’t tend to break easily. A stainless steel teapot is built to last.
- Heat retention. Steel like most metals is also a good substance for retaining heat, if you want to keep your tea warm – this is the way to do it.
- Low maintenance. Steel just doesn’t really need much in the way of care either.
- Lightweight. This is probably not a big deal but if you’re buying for someone with arthritis, a little less weight can really help.
There are some disadvantages too:
- Handles can burn. Watch the substance and fittings of the handle. A stainless steel handle directly connected to the main body is going to overheat and may cause burns.
- Loose leaves are a problem. The heat capacity of a stainless teapot is not good for loose tea leaves which can end up oversteeped.
Porcelain Tea Makers
Again, porcelain has its plus points:
- Low heat transference. Porcelain doesn’t move heat about like steel does. It’s safer for handling, in general.
- Durable. You can’t stop porcelain from being dropped but it’s much less likely to break through regular wear and tear than ceramic teapots are.
And it’s negatives:
- Low heat retention. This means tea may cool off too fast for someone who likes to spread their consumption out over a longer period.
- Temperature shock. It’s rare but occasionally porcelain teapots crack on their first exposure to hot water. If this happens, the teapot must be discarded.
Ceramic Tea Makers
Yup, ceramic tea makers have their pros too:
- Heat retention. They walk the line between steel and porcelain and are unlikely to ever be too hot to hold or to overstew your tea.
- Design variations. Ceramics are the easiest material to “style” and thus you get the most choice of looks in ceramics.
The cons are important though:
- Flavor retention. If the teapot isn’t glazed properly the interior may absorb flavors and over time start to spoil the brew because of this.
- They break easily. They chip and smash more easily than the other types of teapot. They may also stain more easily than the other types of teapot.
And there’s not so much left to say when it comes to glass teapots with a single pro:
- Fun. Being able to watch the tea as it infuses is cool. You can even learn to make very precise brew strengths by sight.
And a single con too:
- They stain easily. You have to take care of glass teapots or they quickly start to stain which is not pleasant to look at, at all.
- You have four
choices when it comes to teapots:
- Stainless steel. Strong, holds heat well and lightweight but can overheat and oversteep your tea.
- Porcelain. Durable, low heat transference makes them safe to handle but tea can cool too quickly and temperature shock is possible.
- Ceramic. The compromise candidate between steel and porcelain. Must be glazed though or flavor retention can be an issue.
- Glass. Fun to look at but can stain easily.
Our Five Favorite Tea Makers In 2019
So, without much ado we turn to our five favorite tea makers (tea pots) of 2019.
In truth, these are all based on personal preference and look and feel.
It’s hard to buy a teapot that won’t make a decent cup of tea as long as you don’t delve too far into the realms of “ultra-budget”.
Best Stainless Steel Teapot: Bellemain Whistling Stovetop 2.75 Qt Tea Maker
We went with something truly classic for our stainless steel pick. This one doesn’t even require a kettle because you warm the pot on the stove; as you would have done in more traditional times.
It looks fabulous, it’s easy to clean (even in the dishwasher) and adds a real touch of class to tea time.
Check the latest price of the Bellemain Stainless Steel Whistling Stovetop Tea Maker on Amazon.
Best Porcelain Teapot: The Sweese 40 Ounce Tea Maker
We loved the Sweese teapot for many reasons but two in particular.
First, you can have the color that you want – there are so many choices of colors!
Second, it’s huge. This is the perfect teapot if you have a family that loves to drink tea. Nobody needs to wait for a second brew. It’s ultra-classic good looks seal the deal perfectly.
Check out the latest price of the Sweese Tea Maker on Amazon.
Best Ceramic Teapot: The HIC Tea Maker With Stainless Infuser
This also comes with a glorious choice of colors and looks great too. You could see this being used by the Queen of England.
It also comes with two sizes choices including a remarkable 75-ounce option!
Which is going to keep any family in tea. Any family.
But we really like the quality stainless infuser which sets it apart from some of the slightly cheaper models.
Check out the latest price of the HIC Tea Maker with Stainless Infuser on Amazon.
Best Glass Teapot: The Luxtea Glass Tea Maker
This tea maker is great with both bagged and loose tea and you can remove the stainless steel infuser to free up extra space when using bags.
It also acts as an excellent filter when using loose tea. We like its compact form and elegance in the kitchen too.
Check out the latest price of the Luxtea Glass Tea Maker on Amazon.
Best Teasmade: The Swan Teasmade
We really don’t recommend the teasmade approach to things.
It’s a pain to remember to set them, it’s not terribly convenient and who needs another alarm clock?
However, if you really must buy one – then this model from Swan is built exclusively for the US and Canadian market and it does a decent job of making a single cup of tea in the morning.
Check out the latest price of the Swan Teasmade on Amazon here.
How To Care For Your Tea Maker
We’re going to assume that you’re going to buy a teapot or tea infuser here and that you’re not going to buy a teasmade.
That’s because nobody buys teasmades any more not even the British. They’re too much effort for too little reward and they look peculiar too.
So, if you want to make sure your teapot lasts a lifetime – you need to take care of it and fortunately this is an easy job which requires no special materials. All you need is some hot water, a little soap and a cloth.
As soon as your teapot has been used; the best way to clean the inside is simply to rinse it out with boiling hot water.
You don’t want to put any soap inside the teapot because you don’t want your tea to take on the flavor of soap in the long-term, do you?
As tea flavors can be really subtle, they’re very vulnerable to being contaminated with soap.
Then use a little soapy water on a damp cloth and wipe down the exterior while the teapot is still hot. This will ensure that nothing sticks to the surface of the teapot and stops you from needing a more abrasive cleaner which can ruin the surface in the long-term.
Let the teapot airdry unless the outside might end up with watermarks, in which case just wipe dry with a tea towel.
To avoid stains inside your teapot – don’t leave tea sitting inside it for very long. If you’re going to save tea to drink later, keep it in a glass jug or something similar.
When you put the teapot away – leave the lid off the teapot. This prevents the interior from becoming damp and moldy.
- Only use boiling hot water to clean the inside of the teapot
- Soapy water and a damp cloth to clean the outside
- Air dry and store with the lid off
The Last Word on Tea Makers
When we began, we said we’d try to give you everything you needed to know about tea and tea makers and we think we got it done well.
We showed you:
- A brief history of tea (very brief)
- A brief history of tea makers
- A guide to choosing the right tea for your table
- A guide to choosing the right tea maker for your home
- A selection of the 5 best tea makers in 2019
- Full care instructions for your tea maker
Hopefully, you enjoyed this guide and found it useful.
If there are other things that you’d like to see included in it – let us know in the comments or on our Facebook page and when we revisit it – we may well add them!
We’d really like to help people get the best tea maker they can.
For now, though, we wish you and your (we hope) brand new tea maker a super day.
We hope you enjoy many tasty cups of tea today and every day to come!