You could be forgiven for thinking that the humble teapot surely couldn’t be the cause of much trouble. However, every year there are approximately 40 teapot-related accidents in Britain that land people consistently in hospital. In addition, there are also many more incidents that lead to people becoming injured (however not to the level of hospitalisation), with that particular statistic increasing to around 4,000 reported injuries worldwide. To anyone who drinks tea, this statistic is not particularly comforting.
A majority of accidents, predictably, come from burns. Teapots are notorious for having boiling steam billowing from their spouts, while also quite well-known for collecting enough heat to make the pot itself scalding to touch. In one particular incident – in which Starbucks was forced to recall approximately 257 of its ceramic teapots released in 2005 – printed on the bottom of the teapots was “Microwave and Dishwasher Safe”. The teapots most notably were not safe, as the teapot handle, made of bamboo, would overheat when placed in the microwave for any reasonable amount of time.
Teapot cosies do not avoid the injury list either, with large numbers of people reporting burns from these decorative woollen teapot jackets. Another object of scrutiny that can make tea act as a burn machine is none other than the biscuit. Yes, the biscuit. A survey has reported that around half of all Britons have injured themselves with biscuits, one of the notable incidents involving people accidentally dipping the biscuit into their tea so far that it scalds their fingers.
Although not as recent – but even more disturbing – are the cheap teapots produced by China in the 1720s and 30s, when export demand for red-painted earthen tea-ware well outstripped supply. In order to keep up with the demand, manufacturers decided to begin using cheaper materials in order to get that beautiful, highly sought-after red colour; materials like lead paint. Lead can begin leaking out of the paint at temperatures above 80°C, which was particularly awful for drinkers of black and oolong tea who owned these teapots. As a result, there were many reported cases of lead poisoning.
At this point one may be reminded of the Romans who, in their infinite wisdom, decided to use a revolutionary lead piping system for their water taps. Unfortunately, their knowledge of the element never advanced sufficiently enough to realise that this had caused large portions of the affected population to succumb to lead poisoning.
In the end, however, perhaps a teapot isn’t awaiting you at the beginning of a terrifying, death-defying accident. But it is noteworthy that both teapots and tea can pose a significant risk to your health and safety when handled improperly, and should be enjoyed with care.