Before there were Teapots…
Teapots are relatively a new invention compared to the amount of time that tea has been around. In the 7th century, tea came in bricks. A chunk was cut off and then broken up so that it can be boiled in water. They were boiled in cauldrons and then the tea was sipped from wide bowls. Shortly after, powdered tea became popular. The grounded tea was mixed with hot water in a deep and wide bowl. This type of bowl helped facilitate the whipping of the powder to a froth with a whisk. When the powder settled, the tea was drunk out of the bowl.
Early forms of Teapots
The traditional teapots weren't needed until the type of tea changed. In the 1300's, leaf infusion started and now teapots were necessary to allow for the tea to steep. Teapot-like vessels have been around in China for thousands of years, but they were used for wine and water. These vessels had a spout and handle and eventually were adopted for the steeping of tea. The most popular teapots from this time were produced in the YiXing region of China. These teapots were made purple clay and were known to be of fine texture and high quality. These YiXing teapots were hybrids of the earlier drinking bowls and the modern teapots. Not only were they used to brew tea, but were actually drinking vessels. An individual would drink directly from the spout of the pot.
The teapot design of today
We are more familiar with the globular shaped teapot of today. This was basically a European invention. The inspiration for the design might have been twofold, Islamic coffee pots were similar and so were the Chinese wine vessels. Early European teapot designs were inadequate due to poor workmanship and poor quality of materials. A breakthrough occurred in the early 1700's. A new clay was found and with the help of new technology, a fine porcelain was created that rivals the best that China had to offer.