From the common, like white tea and green tea, to the obscure, like pau d’arco, hardly a week goes by where we don’t review or comment on some form of this beverage.
Worldwide, it’s more popular than coffee.
Even when you make matcha the right way, it won’t have more antioxidants than all coffees.
However, hibiscus will!
Whichever type of tea you fancy, you face the same predicament when preparing it…
What is the safest tea kettle material?
The safest way to heat or boil water for tea will be using a pot made of non-toxic materials; ones that won’t leach into your drink or scratch off easily.
The kettle must also be able to withstand the extreme temperatures of a hot flame, such as the direct contact which occurs on gas stoves.
That rules out glass.
Even though glass is made from natural sand, the problem is that it shatters when it heats or cools in an uneven manner.
This even happens with high-quality and tempered glass. We had an empty Pyrex casserole dish literally explode into hundreds of pieces.
After removing it from the oven, we set it on a stainless steel countertop. Underneath, the heat couldn’t disperse evenly, so after about 5 seconds, it went off like a hand grenade.
You can buy glass tea kettles, however they’re only made for low to medium heat. Not ideal for when you want to boil water fast.
In addition to glass, some of the most beautiful tea pot designs incorporate Magnalite, which is a magnesium-aluminum alloy. It was developed in the 1930’s by Wagner Ware.
Famous mid-century designs use it, like this Picquot Ware K3 kettle from the United Kingdom…
Even though many designs are pretty, tea pots made of aluminum may not be ideal for health.
Unlike iron and magnesium, aluminum is a metal which serves no health benefit to animals or humans. It can cause harm though, because it’s a neurotoxin.
When aluminum enters the circulatory system, it can migrate to the brain and adversely affect the blood brain barrier (BBB). This is the important barrier which filters toxins from entering your brain. (1)
Perhaps that’s why dietary aluminum exposure correlates with higher rates of Alzheimer’s disease. (2)
To be clear, aluminum containing pots and pans are supposedly safe, but that assumes and requires that the metal doesn’t get scratched or leached off.
Are cast iron teapots safe?
Cast iron, glazed in ceramic, can be safe. Iron is a pro-oxidant, which means loose atoms can cause oxidative damage to cells. However, the molecular bond of cast iron is strong, meaning the metal doesn’t come off easily.
Plus unlike aluminum, iron is an essential mineral needed for our body. Even if tiny amounts came off over time, it may not be a bad thing.
If you drink tea every day, it’s better to use a cast iron tea kettle that is enameled. This prevents the leeching or flaking of the black iron into your beverage.
The drawback of enameled cast iron is that there is the risk of lead, cadmium, and other heavy metals which are sometimes found in the glaze. While almost all tea pots claim to be lead free, many people do not trust ceramic glazes made in China and for good reason, based on history.
Tea kettles not made in China include the French brands Le Creuset and Staub, the Italian brand Alessi, and Simplex, which is made in England. Mulex has a porcelain electric tea kettle made in Germany.
Those and many other brands don’t manufacture in China, yet some of their models have performance and/or safety considerations.
This photo is of our enamel on steel classic whistling kettle by Le Creuset. Previously made in France, today they are made in Thailand. After just a couple years, ours had rust and significant corrosion. Worse yet, the plastic on the whistling spout gradually melted away.
Did that plastic residue end up in our tea? Most likely, yes.
The safest tea kettle material is stainless steel. It’s made of iron and is stabilized with the addition of nickel and chromium. This creates a neutral, non-oxidizing surface of inert metals. Stainless steel is highly resistant to rust and corrosion, so it won’t end up in your drink.
Another benefit of stainless is that it does not contain aluminum or copper. Aside from being highly unstable (a pro-oxidant), copper can also be highly damaging to the brain.
“A number of meta-analyses and systemic reviews point at the breakdown of copper homeostasis as a causative factor of both Mild Cognitive Impairment (MCI) and Alzheimer’s diseases…”
That’s a direct quote from the 2017 published Biometals in Neurodegenerative Diseases. (3)
In short, copper teapots may not be healthy for you. Those with a copper bottom for contact with the burner are fine, but you don’t want the inside of the pot to be made out of copper.
Best form and function?
Alessi Conico kettle is an iconic piece made in Italy and designed by Aldo Rossi, a noteworthy architect. It’s made of stainless steel and has a decent capacity size of 2 liters.
The Aldo Rossi tea kettle is not safe to use without potholders; the handle gets extremely hot and can burn your bare skin. This makes it beautiful, yet not practical for frequent and daily use.
Another drawback is that it retails for $300. At least that’s how much Williams Sonoma was selling it for at the time of this review. Some other retailers sell it cheaper, but it’s never cheap.
For a lower price point, the Alessi Michael Graves kettle with bird whistle is a good stainless steel teapot. Designed in 1958, it’s a classic that has a functional handle that doesn’t overheat.
The one drawback of the Michael Graves design – and most other pots not made in Asia – is that they have a whistle.
Many people are under the impression that loud noises are responsible for age-related hearing loss. Frequency also plays a major role.
High frequency sounds – like whistles – are among the most damaging to your ears. (4)
That loud and high-pitched whistle of your kettle may seem harmless but over the years of using it everyday, the exposure really adds up. Particularly when you have to come from other rooms or floors to turn it off. It may be whistling for a minute or more.
Whistling when the water is boiling may seem like a safety benefit – and it is – if you are prone to forgetfulness.
In that case, the fire risk may take priority. Though if you can be mindful, it’s better for the health of your ears to use a non-whistling tea pot.
The safest tea kettle will be made of non-toxic material, ideally stainless steel. It will have a handle design that won’t burn your hand when holding. It should not have a high-pitched whistle, as that can hurt your hearing.
Sori Yanagi kettle review
If you want a high-quality tea kettle that’s not made in China, fabricated with stainless steel, and doesn’t have a whistle, then the Sori Yanagi tea pot is an ideal choice.
Born in 1915, Sori Yanagi became a household name in post-WWII Japan. He married modern design with traditional Japanese craft to make furniture, cookware, eating utensils, toys, and even cars.
His designs are as beautiful as they are functional.
They seemed to work good for him, too. He died in 2011 at the ripe age of 96, working right up ’til the end.
The award-winning Sori Yanagi stainless steel tea kettle was launched in 1994, when he was 79 years old!
It’s made in Japan and almost entirely by hand. It’s manufactured in the Niigata region, which is known the world over for their high quality stainless steel craftsmanship.
Because it’s made and primarily sold in Japan, much of the packaging is in Japanese. However, you don’t need to know the language to understand the fine quality; the kettle and spout are a single forged piece of 304 stainless steel, which is also known as 18-8 grade.
The Sori Yanagi kettle holds up to 2.5 liters of water, which is about 84 ounces.
That’s enough to make nearly a dozen standard-sized English cups of tea.
Of if you’re American, it’s enough capacity to make four honkin’ 15 oz Fiesta mugs, brewed with triple tea bags… and room left to spare!
When filled half to two-thirds, the pot still boils water fast.
We tested the Sori Yanagi on both electric burners and a gas stove top. With both, the water boiled in just a couple minutes.
Being that the Yanagi is a non-whistling tea kettle, you will have to keep an eye on it. It doesn’t make a sound though you will see steam coming out of the spout.
When ready, pour it into your favorite tea cup or mug.
The handle stays cool and with gentle pressure, it can swivel from side to side. This makes it ideal for right-handers as well as lefties like us.
Because its made of stainless steel, the Sori Yanagi kettle works on induction cooktops. The iron and nickel in steel is magnetic, which makes it work for induction cooking.
In the US, Canada, UK, and Australia, you can easily find the Sori Yanagi pot on Amazon and Ebay. Finding it for sale at brick and mortar is a gamble, even at culinary specialty stores. The Sur La Table we checked didn’t carry it, nor could they order it.
We bought ours on Amazon. Check the price here for the matte version, which is the same one pictured in this review. Additionally, it’s available in a shiny mirror-finish, which is also made of stainless steel.