Teapot design for beginners…

!But first…
Dulltown, Europe: Today’s elephant in the room is the one with her head out the window pinching the ripe apples off next door’s tree.

Untitled-1Look, here are a couple of teapots. One is from Costa Coffee and the other is from Caffe Nero. (I’m not sure if Starbucks have teapots, I’m always surprised that they actually have cups!)
They look pretty similar don’t they? But they are not… This post is to be a mild and light-hearted rant on design in the 21st c..
Teapots must have been around for thousands of years – I’m sure they must go back that far, especially in China – tea is quite popular there, I am led to understand. I reckon that when the ancient craftspeople made the first two or three teapots, oh, let’s be practical, say five or six, they would have pretty well sorted the design out – if it worked back then, it should work now, shouldn’t it? I suppose you’d call the teapot an ‘iconic’ design, a bit like the hammer, the bicycle, the sewing needle, shoes, the loin cloth, etc.
Let’s glance back up to these photographs of mine. Yes, these pots look pretty much alike don’t they? But my dedicated study in this area of design has led me to the conclusion that these two items are indeed very different.
I think the designers of the Costa teapot must have actually tried them out, a few prototypes, just to make sure that they were suitable for use, before they went into mass production – whereas, the people who came up with the Nero one, probably a couple of callow (good word that!) youths straight out of design school, just said, ‘Hey!.. See… that looks like a teapot, these things are quite easy aren’t they Simon?’
‘Yes Troy, they are. That was a really cool morning’s work! Let’s get the dudes downstairs to switch the machine on and knock a few thousand out while we go to lunch.’

A couple of teapot design essentials:
1) There should be (and always has been) a small hole in the lid of a teapot to enable air to get in as the tea is poured out. For some reason the Nero’s pot doesn’t have one of these, so if the lid happens to be a reasonably good fit in the pot, a partial vacuum is formed inside as the tea is poured out; this causes the stream of tea from the spout to slow down to a dribble – on noticing this, the user automatically tilts the pot further forward in the hope of increasing the flow. Suddenly the equilibrium of pressure is restored and tea gushes out from the spout often overshooting the cup and onto the table…
2) The end of the spout should be about level with the circular hole in the top of the pot that the lid sits in. (see Costa pot) If there is enough tea in the pot for two cups, as there should be, the level of tea in the pot should be up to the edge of this hole, and when tilted the spout delivers tea in a nice stream into one’s cup. The Costa’s pot is a great little pourer!
If you look at the Nero’s pot you will see that the end of the spout is quite a bit higher than the lid hole in the top. As a result, when the pot is tilted, just as the tea emerges from the spout it also emerges from the edge of the lid hole, runs down the front of the pot, onto the table, and often down onto the cafe floor.
I think some of the Nero baristas have noticed this regular spillage and as a partial solution they don’t fill their pots up to the top any more, this means that you only get about one-and-a-half cups of tea out of your pot…

Ah, 21st c. design – nobody seems to care any more…


About Dave Whatt

Grumpy old surrealist artist, musician, postcard maker, bluesman, theatre set designer, and debonair man-about-town. My favourite tools are the plectrum and the pencil...
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17 Responses to Teapot design for beginners…

  1. i have to say the caffe nero pot looks much prettier. though the costa cafe pot looks just like a granny teapot.
    so it is really what philosophy u labour under. beauty above all, or age/function before beauty

  2. memadtwo says:

    The nero one looks like it belongs in a cartoon…you can definitely tell the spout is too long. And it’s bloated. Combining form and function is out of style these days…

  3. I like Costa’s teapot design. I have a mini one like that. I also have this one, which is fun to use. http://cdn.shopify.com/s/files/1/0519/2513/products/Black_Yixing_sidehandled_teapot_150_grams_grande.JPG?v=1424929041 I have tiny little black cup-bowls to go with it, and use it for green tea.

    • Dave Whatt says:

      Oh, that’s lovely – I’ll bet that one doesn’t drip!
      I still go in Nero’s for tea, and put up the their ropy teapot though – their green tea is fab!…

  4. Shammy says:

    I’m obviously a traditionalist where teapots are concerned. I have three granny teapots designed like the Costa, huge blue one, big orange one, little yellow one. They are a family.

  5. DonN says:

    Hereon I will scrupulously avoid Caffe Nero. Keep up the good work!

  6. Val Ravelle says:

    I agree, the Costa teapot is much more pleasing to the eye. I wouldn’t have put such a thick knob on top meself, but still, the orange-shaped one is way more stylish than the pear-shaped one. Please can we have more in the Comparative Crockery series?

  7. Val Ravelle says:

    Well I haven’t been in a Costa for a while, so haven’t had the pleasure, but am not keen on off-centre things e.g. those saucers that are elongated at one side to make room for your biscuit. And while we’re on, I don’t like square or rectangular plates – do you? I do love nicely shaped crockery though, and until I read your post I hadn’t realised the thought that goes (or doesn’t) into the placement of the teapot spout. Teapotology.

    • Dave Whatt says:

      Yes, that’s just the kind of saucer that Costa’s have – I think they are trying to be trendy.
      Teapotology – Hm…
      By the way, I have just sent a link to my teapot blog post to Nero’s customer services… That’ll shake ’em up a bit!…

  8. Vikki says:

    Ha ha this is awesome! Starbucks are rubbish imo- no decaf tea and as someone who can’t have caffeine…Anyway I’d watch Teapot Wars. It sounds ridiculous enough to be on TV. The Nero teapot looks ugly, Costa’s is comforting in its old-fashioned soliditity.

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