What is the Difference Between a Teapot and a Tea Kettle?

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Last Updated on August 16, 2022 by Scott

When people hear the terms teapot and tea kettle, they are sometimes thought to be the same thing. A teapot and tea kettle are not the same! They are used for entirely different purposes. However, you do need both of them to make a cup of tea. 

What’s the Difference Between a Tea Kettle and Teapot?

When it comes to tea kettles and tea pots they differ in a few areas, including their intended use and functionality, and the material they’re created from. Although their appearance may be somewhat similar by each having handles, spouts, and lids, they are made to do different things. 

Mixing them up when making tea can result in your tea not brewing properly. Read the differences between a tea kettle and teapot below to make sure you use them with what they are intended for.

Differences in Uses

One of the biggest differences is what they are used for. A tea kettle is only meant to boil water. You can boil water for teas, coffee, soup or anything else you’d like on the stove. The only thing you should put in your kettle is water, because adding other contents will ruin it and make it hard to clean.

Teapot gaiwan and tea kettles behind a covered teacup
Gaiwan, Teapot & Tea Kettles

While tea kettles have been used on the stove for hundreds of years, there are now electric kettles which make the job significantly easier. Simply, press the button and let it boil!

Nowadays, there’s also a lot of speciality tea kettles, which come with different temperature settings for different types of tea. This takes out much of the guesswork of trying to brew a good cup of tea, and ensures that you never burn green tea leaves or under-brew black tea leaves. 

A teapot, on the other hand, should not be used on the stove. Teapots are only made to brew tea. You simply add heated water that’s been boiled into the teapot with tea bags or leaves. Teapots are for steeping tea, and that’s really all they should be used for.

However, while you do need a tea kettle to make tea, you do not need a teapot. Alternatively, you could use a tea strainer, gaiwan, or simply, a teabag in a cup. 

Differences in Materials

Tea kettles are usually made from tough material, so they can withstand being placed on the stove. Steel, stoneware, iron, and sometimes heavy glass are a few things that manufacturers use to make tea kettles. Electric kettles are similar to coffee makers, where they are made from plastic and glass. 

Teapots are made of fragile materials. You’ll find them made from porcelain, ceramic, or various clays. These materials are especially important for the pot’s design. Because of these materials, a teapot shouldn’t be placed on a stove top. It could bend, crack, or break depending on what it’s made from.

Differences in Appearance

A tea kettle is often bigger and simpler than a teapot. They don’t have much design added to them because they aren’t made to be served from. You’ll find that a tea kettle is designed more for safety and fire prevention rather than beauty.

It’s very important for a teapot to be “pretty.” Design is one of the main purposes of a teapot. People who like to use teapots usually choose them for their beauty. Another thing that adds to the difference in design between a kettle and pot is a strainer. 

Teapots usually have strainers attached to the inside of the spout so that the tea leaves won’t flow into your cup. Some teapots also come with tea infusers attached to the lid. 

What is a Teapot?

A teapot is a sphere shaped vessel usually made from clay. It contains a handle that is attached to the bowl-like vessel. A small detachable lid is placed on the top opening of the pot. A spout resembling a turned-up elephant trunk is fashioned on one side of it. Usually, a teapot has a built-in strainer on the inside where the spout meets the vessel.

Heated water that’s been pre-boiled is to be poured into the opening of the teapot after the lid is removed. You can add tea leaves or bags directly inside the water or place them on a tea infuser attached to the lid. 

A teapot is mostly only meant to brew tea. They are desired for their unique designs and painted on patterns. Teapots come in several sizes and are typically on the smaller side.

Does a Teapot Boil Water?

Although the material of teapots can endure boiling hot water, placing them on the stove or fire will damage them. Teapots are only made to steep tea and keep water warm

What is a Tea Kettle?

A tea kettle is a pot especially made for boiling water. Tea kettles come in different sizes and shapes. 

The most common type is sphere shaped with a looped handle attached to each side. The handle will likely come with a rubber or plastic grip to make it easy to grasp when pouring. 

A hand holding a tea kettle
Well Used Tea Kettle

A small detachable lid sits at the top opening of the vessel and usually has a small plastic grip attached. There is a long elephant trunk spout on one side of the kettle. They are mostly made from metal.

An electric tea kettle is commonly designed with a cylinder shape. The spout is small like you would see on coffee machines. It is often made from glass with plastic handles and lids. 

The lid on an electric kettle opens on one side. The lid can come off for easy washing. An electric stove comes along with the kettle and can heat water up to a specific temperature. It can also be set to turn off on its own.

The point of an electric or standard tea kettle is to boil water, which is then poured into a teapot for tea brewing.

As a bonus, we also recently published an article on how to brew tea is a coffee maker!

What is a Samovar?

Samovars are where the line between teapots and tea kettles becomes especially blurred.

Basically, a samovar is a type of metal urn which is usually made of brass, which is used to boil water for tea. Widely used in Russia, traditional samovars heat water by means of a vertical tube which contains burning charcoal. This runs up the middle of the urn, heating up the water to make the tea. 

You can usually recognize these by the two-tiered appearance, the spigot near the base, and the teapot at the top.

The word “samovar” literally translates to “self-boiler”, as that is quite literally what it does. In order to make tea with a samovar, you simply need to fill the kettle with water, light the coals (or plug it in if you are using an electric samovar), and turn up the thermostat. Then, add tea leaves to the tube-shaped infuser and wait for it to boil.

Once it has reached boiling point, open the tap and place the teapot below. Fill it with water, then place it on top of the samovar. Serve in a classic Russian teacup – a small, stylish thing made of glass and metal – and either add sugar or jam.  

As is clear, a samovar differs from a teapot and a kettle in that it is, in essence, both of them at the same time. 

What Can I Use Instead of a Teapot?

In order to make a nice cup of tea, you don’t need to stick to using a teapot. You could instead use any of the following:

Gaiwan

  • This is a steeping bowl with a lid and saucer which has been used in China and Taiwan for generations. Traditionally used to brew oolong, green, white, pu’erh, and black tea, you fill a Gaiwan with the leaves and water before pouring into a cup. 
  • A large benefit of using a Gaiwan over a teapot is that a Gaiwan is significantly smaller and as such, requires shorter steeping times. Along with that, a Gaiwan can produce several more infusions from the same tea leaves.

Insulated Mug

  • This is a great option for those who like to enjoy tea on the go, as it is in essence a Gaiwan melded with a thermos. These have an in-built infuser basket, an opening lid for drinking the tea, and insulation to keep the brew warmer for longer.

Infuser

  • A small infuser which fits neatly on the inside of your cup is one of the most popular alternatives to teapots. You have reasonable control over the brew as you can remove the infuser once it has steeped to your preference, and larger infusers give the leaves ample room to expand. The only negative is that metal infusers can become very hot and difficult to remove.

Teabags

  • Of course, one of the quickest and easiest ways of making a cup of tea is by using a teabag. However, teabags usually contain tea of a lower quality than loose leaves, which can make for a less enjoyable brew. 
  • Still, when you’re short on time, teabags can be a great alternative to using loose leaves in a teapot . 

Conclusion

Whether you own a teapot, tea kettle, or both, always make sure to follow directions and precautions stated in the user manual.

Usually, tea kettles are larger and simpler than teapots, and are made from a more robust material (usually metal, glass, and plastic) in order to be used on the stove. Conversely, teapots are smaller and are not used to boil the water – rather, they are to serve the tea once the water has been boiled. 

If you’re still unsure of the difference between the two, be sure to ask an expert before deciding on how to use your kettle or pot.

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