The quest for a tea kettle not made in China
One of the most-searched phrases we see around here is “tea kettle not made in china”.
I’m always sad to see what the CCP has done to a once-great culture. Tea drinking, of course, was invented in China. According to legend, in 2737 BC the Emperor Shen Nong was sitting outside when a leaf from a shrub nearby blew into a pot of boiling water. Soon, tea took its place along firewood, oil, rice, salt, soy sauce, and vinegar as one of the seven essential of life for Chinese people (and all Asian cultures that grew out of China).
You would think with a 5,000 year history of perfecting the process that China would be the source of the best tea kettles in the world. But in just 72 years, the CCP ruined that. China’s pollution problem and cheap manufacturing processes resulted in shoddy construction and even poisoning when chemicals from manufacturing leaches into boiling water.
The problem is, even brands that in the past have been renowned for high quality and domestic production are having a hard time competing with the flood of brands from China dumping their products into the marketplace. To most consumers, what’s the difference between an All-Clad or Le Creuset when I can get a YIIFEEO or ROCKURWOK for cheaper? After all, they just boil water, right?
It’s one thing to avoid products like iPhones or made in China, but at the end of the day companies like Apple and Foxconn will do at least the basics to ensure some level of humanitarian treatment of its workers. But when you get to low price points like kettles, how much do you really think that workers building these things make, and what do you suppose their working conditions are. The CCP is exceptionally good at propaganda, so even a hint of bad PR is squashed immediately through intimidation–not the threat of force, but the threat of ostracization (think LeBron or John Cena).
But news occasionally does get out of the great firewall. This report from The Nation is just one of many that attempted to expose working condition in a typical kitchenware factory. Workers getting paid 6 cents a pot for a $200 piece of kitchenware. Workers working with toxic chemicals and processes without a hint of protective gear. And Western companies and their investors looking the other way at their suppliers. After all, there are 1.4 billion of them, and they’re all fighting each other for that 6 cents/pot job. Why, it’d be downright racist to stop them!
If you’re reading this, it means you’re willing to go a little out of your way to do the right thing. And so my goal here is to go through the haystacks of China-built tea kettles to find ones you can feel proud of owning–and which are so well made they’ll outlast the China-made garbage for generations.
Are any tea kettles not made in China?
There are lots of definitions of tea kettles. There’s the old fashioned kettle that you put on your stove. Then, there are electric kettles that heat water but let you pour it out like a traditional tea kettle. Finally, there are hot water dispensers that you can use to fill a teapot.
For this post, I’m going to focus on the first definition–old school tea kettles for the stovetop. I’ll work on the other two in another post, but sadly I can report already that it’s pretty much impossible to find the second kind (electric tea kettles you can pour). As for the third kind, for me there is only one option: a Zojirushi hot water dispenser that’s made in Japan. If you’re in the market for that and don’t want to wait for my post, here are the links to a white model, a stainless model, and a metallic black model. My wife has owned one of these for decades, and it still works as well as the day it was purchased. There are also promising models from Tiger that are made in Vietnam.
As for traditional tea kettles, it was tough but thanks to combination of Internet sleuths on the great Reddit channel r/avoidchineseproducts, as well as combing through hundreds of manufacturer sites, Amazon product pages, and “fake” affiliate sites that claim to have products made in the USA, I came up with this list. There are almost certainly many more, so please let us know ones you find in the comments below.
Best Tea Kettles Not Made in China – Quick Ranking
|1||Medelco Café Brew Whistling Tea Kettle||4.5||View on Amazon|
|2||Kalita Wave Stainless Steel Drip Kettle||4.6||View on Amazon|
|3||Simax Glassware Teapot||4.3||View on Amazon|
|4||Quickone Takei Energy-Saving Fuefuki Whistle Kettle||4.5||View on Amazon|
|5||Kettle by Sori Yanagi||4.3||View on Amazon|
|6||Yoshikawa Whistling Stainless Steel Kettle||4.2||View on Amazon|
|7||Alessi 9093 Tea Kettle||4.4||View on Amazon|
|8||Staub Cast Iron Teapot||4.3||View on Amazon|
1. Medelco Café Brew Whistling Tea Kettle – Best Overall
There’s not a whole lot bad I can say about this one. Medelco was founded in 1976 in Bridgeport, Connecticut and is an amazing American success story. It’s assembled in the USA using high quality Schott Duran borosilicate glass from Duran, Germany. Your water will never touch plastic nor steel, so you can be assured that it’s 100% lead and chemical free with no possibility of leaching or rusting.
The kettle has a 12 cup capacity (2.8 liters), so it’s one of the larger units I’ll be reviewing. It is perfectly safe to use on both electric and gas ranges. For electric ranges, it also includes a steel heat diffusing trivet between the coils and the glass to ensure even heating. And it cleans up like a champ–just hand wash or put it in the top rack of your dishwasher.
If you’re like me, you may need to get over the psychological barrier of putting glass on fire. It’s perfectly safe as long as you take certain precautions and follow the laws of physics. Don’t heat this kettle using excessively high heat for a long time, remove the kettle from the heat as soon as you hear the whistle, and don’t put a hot kettle on a cold countertop.
Between the pristine nature of the raw materials and the knowledge it didn’t go through a sweatshop or prison camp in China, every sip of your tea will taste clean and pure.
- NOT made in China
- 100% pure; will not leach chemicals or lead, will not rust/li>
- Large capacity
- Easy to clean, dishwasher safe
- Incredibly affordable, especially for a made in USA product
- Like all glass, it can break if you’re not careful
- Lid must be removed before pouring
2. Kalita Wave Stainless Steel Drip Kettle – Best for Pour-Over
If you’re looking for a pour over, gooseneck style kettle, chances are you’ve searched Amazon and found well-known brands like Bodum, Fellow (Stagg), Mueller, and OXO, only to be disappointed that all of them outsource all their manufacturing to China. And of course, you see mysterious new brands popping up that you’ve never heard of before, like VARCUL, FIIHO, VARCUL, HadinEEon, Ulaalov, DmofwHi, MOOSOO and literally hundreds of others. These brands all follow the same tell-tale patterns–they launch and within a matter of months they’re mysteriously at the top of Amazon’s search results, pushing legitimate companies down.
I had to look for a gooseneck in a haystack, but here’s the best I found. This kettle from Kalita is imported from Japan and is one of the most sought-after brands in the world. Reviewers rave about the craftsmanship and the design. It holds 1L (4.2 cups) of water and pours smoothly and precisely without a mess. It heats water on gas top stoves or, because of its stainless steel design, on induction cooktops as well.
It has a stylish wood handle for safe handling. Cleanup is easy-the wooden handle can be removed so the unit can be placed in the dishwasher. Of course, as with all gooseneck kettles, cleaning the spout can be a real pain in the neck, but a good pipe cleaner brush should do the job.
While $60 may seem a lot of money for a kettle, this unit was so much in demand that it routinely sells for over $100 in speciality shops. Its body is 18/8 stainless steel (meaning 18% chromium, 8% nickel) so it’ll resist rusting and hold its polish.
Let your friends use their made in China garbage, and wow them with your made in Japan masterpiece.
Editor’s Note: I left Kalita’s main competitor Hario off this list originally because I’d heard rumors that they’ve moved manufacturing in China. But when I check Williams Sonoma, I see that the popular Hario V60 Buono Pour-Over Coffee Maker is still listed as made in Japan. This is one I would “trust but verify”–purchase it from Williams Sonoma and if they send you a box that says made in China, send it right back. Otherwise, enjoy one of the other top pour-over kettles you can buy.
- NOT made in China
- Functional and beautiful
- First rate pour
- Can be used on stovetop or induction cooktop
- Sturdy craftsmanship, built to last, rust-resistant
- Smaller capacity
- Doesn’t whistle
- As with all Gooseneck kettles, cleaning can be challenging
Here’s another glass teapot; it’s about half the size of the Medelco one we reviewed above (1.5 quarts, which is 6 cups or 1.4 liters), and it’s made entirely of heat resistant borosilicate glass, including the lid and the handle. As with any glass-based cookware, you don’t have to worry about chemicals leaching, discoloration, or absorption of flavors and odors. The main thing you have to worry about is not dropping it!
This teapot works on gas and electric stovetops, as well as in the microwave (as always when microwaving water, be careful to guard against superheating). The non-drop spout helps prevent your water or tea from dropping and helps your pouring be smooth. And there’s just something neat about watching your pot boil.
It’s manufactured in the Czech Republic and made from 100% cadmium and lead-free recycled glass. As with all glassware, you’ll need to use common sense. Don’t touch it when it’s hot without, don’t put it on a cold surface when it’s boiling.
You can purchase the kettle itself, or with a glass infuser.
- NOT made in China
- Beautiful, all-glass construction
- Works on gas or electric stovetops and microwave ovens
- Great for blooming tea
- Large capacity
- No insulated parts, so you need to handle with pot holders
- Glass can break if you’re not careful
This whistle kettle from Quickone and the next few I’ll list give me fond memories of when even things like tea kettles were built to last here in the United States. Sadly, you can’t find these “cheaper” products with a high level of craftsmanship and quality anymore; consumers would rather buy a new one every year than invest in one that lasts for years. But quality is alive and well in Japan.
Unfortunately, most of these kettles don’t have US distributors, so you’ll probably need to buy it from an international reseller. This means your prices will depend on how much the seller chooses to inflate the price from what they paid for it domestically, and you’ll also be in danger of some third party sellers selling knockoffs (which of course are made in China). Do your research–buy only from a reputable seller that you know is in Japan, and make sure Amazon offers returns.
This Quickone kettle is made of polished stainless steel. It holds 2.5 liters (10 cups) and sports a large base, making it stable and perfect for evenly heating on a gas stove or induction cooktop. It’s made in Tsubame, Niigata, a city in Japan that’s famous for its production of stainless steel tableware and cutlery. It has a loud whistle and is lightweight, weighing in at under 2 pounds.
- NOT made in China
- Excellent craftsmanship
- Lightweight and heats up fast, thanks to stainless steel that’s thinner without being cheap
- Wider base allows for even heating
- Loud whistle
- Isolated complaints about handle design
- Some people feel it’s too flimsy
Sori Yanagi was a renowned industrial designer in Japan whose designs have been influential not just to Japanese design, but throughout the world. His artistry was able to blend the new post-war industrial age of Japan with the delicate and light forms in tradition Japanese design, and taking mundane objects and turning them into art. He has designed everything from flatware to lighting to tea kettles to his iconic butterfly stool.
This is a beautifully designed kettle that is as functional as it is stunning to look at. If you can get your hands on a genuine one, you’ll have a kettle that’s won awards for both form and function. The handle is easy to hold when the unit is hot, the spout pours smoothly, the design is ergonomic, and it looks stunning. It holds 2.5 liters (10 cups) of water, and can be used in induction cooktops as well as on traditional stovetops.
Notice how I said “if you can get your hands on a genuine one”. This listing is a perfect example of how China shills swoop in and Amazon can’t (or won’t) do anything about it. You can see mostly rave reviews but every now and then you see a negative review from someone who noticed rusting, or corrosion, or a loose lid. In these cases it’s almost certain that they bought a counterfeit from, you guessed it, China.
If you want to be guaranteed, contact one of these retailers near you that carry the officially approved version, but be prepared to pay a bit of a premium. Otherwise, my best advice is to buy from Amazon, but make sure you choose a seller with a very long history of positive reviews, verify that they are really in Japan, and use the free return policy at the first sign that it’s not what it claims to be.
- NOT made in China
- Beautiful design and function
- 18/8 stainless steel on body and lid, resistant to rust and stains
- 18-Nb stainless steel bottom plate with 0.7mm thickness
- Lots of counterfeits from China, so choose your seller wisely
Here’s another brand that’s popular in Japan. I was able to find two models from them on Amazon, the one listed here and this other model that’s prettier but has fewer reviews from the United States. I think you’d do well with both.
This is a whistling tea kettle that “looks like whistling tea kettle”. Its body is made of 18/8 stainless steel and the bottom of a special magnetic stainless steel they call NSSC180, which was developed in Japan and perfect for induction cooking. You can view more information of comparable kettles on their brand site, that has been translated nicely into English.
The clincher for me? One of the reviewers said that his daughter said that the whistle sound reminder of “a train whistle in a Studio Ghibli film”. If you view some of the videos on Amazon you’ll hear that the whistle sounds like a gentle harmonica chord, not the screaming baby of most kettles.
- NOT made in China
- Rust and stain-resistant 18/8 body and NSSC180 steel for the base that’s ideal for induction stovetops
- Whistle that is loud but not obnoxious
- Classic design
- Isolated reports of problems with the whistle
- Isolated reports of rusting
Like Sori Yagani above Michael Graves, a renowned architect, designer, and educator in the United States, designed this iconic stainless steel tea kettle for Italian company Alessi in 1985. Graves had designed a $25,000 sterling silver tea service for Alessi in 1982, propmpting Alberto Alessi to ask him to design a tea kettle for the rest of us. The Alessi 9093 was the result–it was a kettle that was at the same time beautiful and functional (right down to the bird at the end of the spout singing when your water is ready). It ended up being Alessi’s top selling product for 15 years. Graves went on to design products for Target and JCPenney, and Disney before he passed away in 1985.
That you can still purchase this original design from the original company speaks to how functional this tea kettle is. And as with the Sori Yagani tea kettle, you’ll want to steer clear from third party sellers without feedback who are almost certainly selling knockoffs. Ideally, you’ll want to look for “Ships from Amazon.com” and “Sold by Amazon.com”, even if the price is higher.
The real version is still made in Omegna, Italy where Alessi is headquartered. It’s made from 18/10 stainless steel and thermoplastic resin. It has a magnetic bottom perfect for induction cooking. You can even find replacement parts on Alessi’s US Web site.
- NOT made in China
- Iconic design; a real conversation piece
- 18/10 stainless steel resists rust and corrosion
- Good for induction heating
- Third party sellers are likely to be counterfeits from China
- Most negative reviews are likely from buyers paying full price for knockoffs
I almost left this one off the list because it’s not really the kind of dainty teapot you think of. As one Amazon reviewer put it, this is a “teapot for lumberjacks”. But after reviewing the brand a little more, it’s too good to leave out, and there may be some of you out there for whom this is perfect.
Staub is a French company that is famous for their cast iron cookware. Think Le Creuset, although unlike Le Creuset (where you need to jump through mental hoops to figure out which of their products was made where), all of Staub’s products come from their production facilities in France. Even all-American brands like Lodge have outsourced their enameled cast iron to China.
We’ll talk more about Staub, Le Creuset, and Lodge when we get to our cookware page, but this particular product is a clever tea kettle that’s cast in iron. It maintains all the great things about cast iron: it’s safe from leaching (as long as you buy an authentic one), and cast iron has excellent heating and heat retention qualities. Its 1-quart (4 cup) size is good for brewing tea for two, or even heating up a little soup or sauce. You can heat it on a stove or in the oven. And of course, it’s virtually unbreakable.
The drawback, of course, is the weight.
- NOT made in China
- Excellent heating and heat retention
Do you know of other kettles not made in China worthy of mention here? Let us know in the comments!