by Carol Sims
A few years ago two gentlemen from New York in the antique business came into my shop asking me if I had any sterling silver teapots. We had some silver-plated teapots but no sterling ones. He began to discreetly tell me that the best pot of tea is made in a sterling silver teapot. I had never heard that before.
I actually did not own a sterling teapot at that time, but I remembered that my mother had one. I had a silver-plated service and some large silver-plated urns for serving groups of people. I began to think about the whole concept of silver and tea. My memory was that the last time I had had a formal tea party for a large group, I had used a beautiful silver-plated urn. I recollected how disappointed I was in the black tea. It was hot but seemed to get stronger and stronger and very bitter the longer it stayed in the urn.
A few years before she died, I was able to get my mother’s sterling teapot. It’s especially meaningful to me since it belonged to my mother and real father who died when I was a teenager. I began to experiment by making black tea in this teapot, probably made in 1948. It’s a simple 6-cup Prelude pattern sterling pot, pours perfectly, better than any teapot I have and is very balanced with a handle that does not get hot.
I discovered the antique dealer was right. Sterling silver teapots make the best tea. Silver-plated teapots make the worst tea! A chemical reaction takes place to produce a very bad pot of tea. So polish that beautiful silver-plated teapot and put it on a shelf for decorative purposes or make a lamp out of it, but don’t make tea with it. In fact paint it black and then rub some of the paint off for a burnished look. I found an old silver-plated teapot like that once that is so charming to look at.
So after this discovery, I was on a search for sterling teapots. Guess what? You can’t find any, and they are outrageously expensive. I was just looking for a small 2-4-cup pot to use on a daily basis, something simple. Many of the sterling teapots are a part of big elaborate sets for thousands of dollars. I even talked with some silver professionals about making a teapot I could sell for the purpose of making tea, not for show. So far I haven’t found anyone who could produce one for me for a reasonable price.
Last year I was antiquing on Charles Street in Boston searching for a sterling teapot. When I mentioned my secret to a dealer, he said, “Well, I’ve always thought the best wine glass is a sterling one. I always drink my red wine in my sterling wine goblet.” He said silver has an antibiotic element of purity to it. Then I thought of all the sterling chalices used throughout the church for communion.
So last year I gifted my husband and myself two sterling wine goblets for our anniversary. He’s right. Wine tastes great in sterling. It even stays the right temperature.
I have hesitated sharing this secret with the world since there are so few sterling teapots around. Most people who have them don’t even use them for tea. So if you’re a black tea drinker and want to experience the best pot of tea, ask your grandmother or aunt if you can borrow her sterling teapot. Sterling is a good investment now, so why not purchase a teapot you can enjoy and use now that will also be a part of your portfolio!