There are many benefits to having a copper tea set, including the decorative statement it makes in your kitchen. But despite its benefits, there is always the lingering question about whether or not a copper kettle is safe. Although many older copper teapots may be unsafe and can actually cause copper tea kettle poisoning, modern teapots meet certain guidelines that make them safe to use.
Old Copper Kettles
Although an old and antique copper teapot can be an important part of your kitchen's decor, they are often made of solid copper, without any protective lining. For this reason, copper poisoning can occur in people who eat food or drink beverages using water stored or boiled in an old copper kettle. Copper tea kettle poisoning can cause a variety of stomach and digestive system problems.
Copper kettles manufactured today feature a thin lining of stainless steel, tin or nickel, which makes them safe to use. The metal lining makes these kettles safe to use for boiling, cooking and storing water without the risk of copper tea kettle poisoning. If you have an old copper teapot or kettle, or are planning to purchase one, it should only be used for decoration. Even if the kettle appears to be in excellent condition, you run the risk of copper poisoning if there isn't lining.
Copper Kettle Benefits
The first thing that strikes most people about a copper kettle is its distinct antique look. Even new copper kettles give off an antique appearance that can make a statement in your kitchen, and they come in a wide variety of sizes and styles. One thing that makes a copper kettle unique is that it turns different shades of color as it heats up, which most copper kettle owners find attractive, as it adds to the antique feel.
Like a copper sink and other copper cookware, a copper kettle will develop a patina over time that will add to its unique look. If you'd rather keep the kettle looking new, use a copper cleaner on it regularly. Water will heat up faster in a copper kettle, meaning it is more energy efficient than other types of kettles, saving both time and energy. And a copper teapot, unlike other types of kettles, will not flake or rust and is designed to last for many years.
Copper Kettle Disadvantages
Just as there are many copper kettle benefits, there are also disadvantages to owning a copper tea set. A copper kettle can be expensive to buy in comparison to other materials. Because a copper teapot heats up so fast, the stove should only be on medium heat to bring it to a boil. The kettle should be removed from the heat as soon as it starts to whistle to prevent scorching.
And remember, older kettles should only be used for decoration. With a new kettle, look for one lined with stainless steel because it will last longer than one lined with tin. Never use vinegar or lemon juice to clean the inside of the kettle because that can damage the lining. Because copper is a soft material, it's possible for the base and walls of the kettle to warp slightly. Copper kettles are also more susceptible to scratches than other kettles.
Gary Sprague is a retired master plumber who now works as a writer. He lives with his family in Maine.