You read that right: electric teapots. Sure there are tons of electric kettles, but electric teapots are a little less well-known. Apparently, they were the rage at one time but are now found on ebay.com and in consignment shops — which is where I found mine just recently. I named him “Ed.”
When you search online for electric teapots, they will, in true programmerthink, feed you back what they assume you must mean: electric kettles. To programmers I guess this makes sense. Electric kettles are more numerous and have been around longer, with the first one supposedly having been made around 1891. To see electric teapots, you have to search for “electric teapots made in japan” or some such phrase. This pops up quite an array, including ones like “Ed.” I’ve selected a few of the more impressive ones to show you here, and “Ed,” of course. His feeling would have been hurt if I left him out.
- “Ed” — Best to start out with him so he doesn’t pout around the kitchen all day. This little teapot has a hand painted moss rose design, a heating element inside, a cord connection outside, and a lid sporting a little birdie on it and a small hole that makes it whistle when the water boils. Cuteness personified. We saw him at a local consignment shop and couldn’t resist. Of course, we asked the shop owner to test him out, which she gladly did. He is water tight (no unsightly leaking all over her countertop) and heats water quickly. We brought him home without further ado, introduced him to the rest of our gang of tea steep wares, and found him a cozy spot to rest when “off duty.”
Clockwise from top left: lid with bird and that little hole that whistles, bottom showing voltage, the inside showing the heating element, and the prongs to connect the electrical cord:
- Vintage Maruka Minamiyama Seitosho Japan Ceramic Electric Teapot — According to the listing, this dates from the 1960s and is ceramic. It was made by Maruka Minamiyama Seitosho Japan and has an illustration featuring umbrellas and flowers. It is 4” in diameter, 7” tall (measured to the top of the lid) and has an electric (A/C) cord that connects to the heating mechanism inside the teapot. Quite a conversation piece.
- Vintage Ceramic Electric Whistling Hot Pot with Floral and Bird design and ceramic bird topper — Also from the 1960s and ceramic, made in Japan. It is 7” tall and 6” wide. The front of the pot shows 2 birds on a pink flowering branch, and the back has one bird. The heating element is inside and attaches to a removable electric cord. The lid has a small hole that is supposed to emit a whistle when the water reaches a boil.
- Yellow teapot Minamiyama Seitosho Japanese teapot electric with cord — Made by Minamiyama Seitosho. Ceramic with bright yellow paint. About 8” tall and 4-5” wide. The listing states that this one didn’t work when tested, possibly due to corrosion on one of the prongs for the electric cord. Still great to display and show your tea time guests.
- Electric teapot — White ceramic with hand painted blue flower design. Owner states: “Works great element gets very hot and fast. Electric cord is included.” Personally, I would refrain from using it to steep tea. It’s just too rare to risk it.
I suspect that these teapots didn’t last long because they weren’t too practical or sturdy. Plus, other devices supplanted them, especially increasingly improved electric kettles and teapot warmers. Of course, a faster pace of life also led to folks getting away from steeping in a teapot and instead dunking that teabag in a mug of hot water. We will be keeping “Ed” around as more of a display piece but like knowing he can pitch in when the steeping duties get to be too much for the other Tea Gang members.
Next time you’re in a thrift shop, antiques mall, or consignment shop, keep an eye out for one of these little beauties. Don’t be shy about asking them to test it, especially since a lot of these places consider all sales to be final.
See more of A.C. Cargill’s articles here.
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