The teapot’s roots date to the fourth century, when the ewer was used to hold and transport water. This decorative pitcher evolved to become a piece of art, showcasing a unique craftsmanship and growing in popularity as a commonly used container. The ewer may have influenced Chinese pottery, as local potters fashioned pitchers of stoneware while also introducing an improved method of steeping tea leaves. Form met function, as craftsmen from the Ming Dynasty improved upon the stoneware version of the teapot with the trademark blue and white porcelain variety during the 16th century. Ming porcelain often featured dragon and phoenix motifs, but it was the blue and white color scheme that set Chinese pottery apart.
As tea arrived in Europe in the 17th century, so did an early form of today’s teapot. Spouts and handles made these small vessels popular because they became more ergonomic. By the early 1700s, porcelain was being produced in Germany, and its widespread use throughout Europe sparked the production of other porcelain tea ware. But craftsmen learned quickly that porcelain was not durable enough to withstand the heat of boiling water. Around 1800, Josiah Spode altered the composition of porcelain by adding bone ash, which strengthened the material and helped prevent chipping.