A Teapot with Two Spouts: A Good Idea?

What’s not to love about a two-spouted teapot?!

Do I serve green tea or black tea? What the heck—serve both. In the same pot!

Is this not perfect?

Evidently it’s not, because there is a positive dearth of two-spouted teapots. And this design has probably always been more of a novelty than a serviceable teapot.

Even back in 1690.

porcelain underglaze double-spouted teapot, China, 1690
Porcelain underglaze teapot, China, 1690.*
Reproduced with permission from S. M. Mueller

This lovely melon-shaped porcelain teapot from China is partitioned down its center, and each spout has one straining hole.

Dating to 1690, its round base and lid are characteristic of many early seventeenth-century teapots, whereas its notched lid (meaning it fits on the pot in only one way) is more similar to later seventeenth-century teapots.†

So was this teapot really used to brew black and green tea simultaneously?

According to scholar Shirley Mueller,† it is possible.

She notes that this teapot is similar in shape to a later-dated Yixing teapot that has “‘Green’ and ‘Bohea’ engraved on the silver gilt mounts,” seemingly indicating that one side held green tea and the other bohea (which is black tea).

But that doesn’t necessarily seem like a good idea. . . .

That’s because in the early seventeenth century, Europeans would have been drinking something akin to today’s gunpowder green tea—and intensely smoky lapsang souchong black tea (bohea).

There is no way that I would put these two teas together in one pot! The aroma of the lapsang would completely overwhelm the far more subtle smoky flavor of the green tea.

This alone would be a really good reason for this teapot to be a novelty and not intended for serious brewing.

In addition, this teapot would be more difficult to ship without breakage, and early trade—requiring turnaround times of years—was all about minimizing loss and maximizing profits. This too supports the notion that this was a novelty item.
gunpwd-lapsang-montage-web

Today—

As a quick Google search proved, you can indeed still find the occasional double-spouted teapot, including reproductions of the charming example from 1690.

And you can indeed brew two teas simultaneously. I do, however, suggest that you use teas that comfortably nestle together!


*Photo from The Luxury of Tea and Coffee: Chinese Export Porcelain, Highlights from the Shirley M. Mueller Collection, exhibit by Shirley M. Mueller and R. Craig Miller, Indianapolis Museum of Art, Indiana, 2016.
Mueller, Shirley Maloney, “17th century Chinese export teapots: imagination and diversity,” Orientations 36(7). 2005.
Tea pictured is available from TeaHaus.

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