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People have been drinking tea for centuries, according to legend ever since leaves from a Camellia sinensis tree fell into some water being boiled for the Chinese Emperor Shen Nung nearly three thousand years ago, surprising him with a much more interesting drink than he thought he was getting.
It was quite a bit later, in about 1662, that tea-drinking really got started in England when Charles II, who had enjoyed the odd cup whilst exiled in Holland, married Catherine da Braganza who came from Portugal where tea was a favourite beverage and who even brought with her a casket of tea as part of her dowry.
In 1840 Anna, wife of the seventh Duke of Bedford established the practice of afternoon tea to fill the gap between light luncheon and late dinner, a practice which soon became an English tradition, now celebrated all over the world.
Why then, after all this is it so difficult to find a decent teapot? I’m not looking for a Queen Anne or George IV teapot in sterling silver nor an antique Meissen or Coalport, not even one with the hand painted periwinkles like Mrs Bucket’s. All I want is an inexpensive, plain, everyday, white, 4/5-cup china teapot which doesn’t drip when you pour from it and the lid of which doesn’t fall off. I don’t want the latest thing in tea preparation with integrated see-through strainer, thermal-protective coating and ergonomically designed handle; unlike coffee, the domestic making of which has passed over the years through stir-and-settle; stir-and-strain; percolate; Cona; stir and filter; plunger pot; espresso - first stove-top then electric, and syphon, the making of a pot of tea has always been a simple matter, just one of infusing tealeaves in boiling water. It amazes me therefore that finding the basic equipment to do this is so hard. I like afternoon teas but having to wipe up drips and juggle the hot tumbling teapot lid at every pour would try the patience of the Duchess. So, sadly, for the time being my invitations to afternoon tea remain unsent, my recipes, unmade, unbaked and un-enjoyed but if you have more luck than me with teapots you might like to try these at your next tea party: