An important piece of equipment for boiling water for tea. But not all kettles are the same. And when it comes to kettles there are many kinds. There's the plain old-fashioned stainless-steel kind that you use on your stovetop. Except, boiling water on the stovetop is not always the best place to boil water for tea. So what's a person to do?
Well, there are several solutions. There are electric kettles; some are stainless steel, and others are plastic (not good). Go for the stainless steel kind. Except in North America, tea kettles have such a dumb design. They're not really designed for tea use. So we're so unlucky here. Electric kettles used in China are better designed than the ones available in North America.
Mostly, the diffrence is in the spout. Chinese electric kettles have an elongated, and dainty spout; which is good for precision pouring of hot water into your little teapot or teacup.
The North American electric kettles all seem to be the jug design - with a wide spout. When you pour, hot water just gushes out of them - dangerous, and not very useful if you need a precise pour. And these kettles are just too darn big and ugly. Ok, maybe they look kind of cool, but they're not that useful for tea.
So why would anyone want to use and electic kettle anyway? Well, they can boil water more quickly than the conventional method. So it's convenient to have if you need hot water right away.
But you could still use the stove-top kettle to boil water. Except, maybe you would want to buy a small hotplate to use to heat the water instead. Then, you could have your tea kettle near your tea equipment. You could even make a simple, decorative wooden box to hide the hotplate from view. It has been done before. At least with this method, you could choose just about any kettle you want to use. But the only downside is that the water will take a while to boil. But maybe that's okay too. Just play some relaxing music, and wait.
Ok, I have to admit here, most tea lovers would say, hey, doesn't the metal react with the water? And yes, your kettle might impart an undesirable taste and smell to your boiled water. So the best thing is to check, and taste your plain boiled water.
Ok, maybe if you don't like the metal kettle, there are porcelain kettles, and earthenware kettles are available too. But they are hard to find outside of China. If you don't like the stainless steel kettles, then, you could try using Yixing Zisha 宜兴紫砂. Just buy a cheap, large zisha teapot, suitable for boiling water. After you clean it well, then try it out. But maybe it's better to use such a pot over a flame, like an alcohol burner, rather than on an electrical element. And keep in mind, that using this method for boiling water, would take longer than using an electric kettle.
Well, there you have it. There is still a lot more to add to this discussion, because there are still many more methods for boiling water. But here, I have just covered the most realistic options that are available. There are more exotic methods of boiling water - some are from ancient China; and they require specialized equipment. But I won't get into those - because it's just not practical for most people.
Immortal's Palm Tea - by STEVEN D. OWYOUNG AUTHOR'S NOTE: *This essay is dedicated to Frank Hadley Murphy, author of The Spirit of Tea, for his kind introduction to the poet Li B...
6 years ago