I am looking for a convenient office/portable tea making/drinking system. Ideally the device should be portable and very easy to clean in an office setting and still extract the same quality of flavor that a traditional teapot would, but also be sturdy. Hence the following requirements

  1. maximum of two pieces to clean, for all devices used during infusing and drinking
  2. is covered during steeping
  3. separates tea leaves from liquid after steeping
  4. will not burn your hands when drinking (either due to material or handle)
  5. Is sturdy (will not break from a 1 foot fall)

Preferably, no plastic or rubber touching the hot water. However, given the somewhat recent advances in plastic, this may be an irrational fear - in which case it would be nice to link to a relevant thread/article easing "plastic touching boiling water concerns" if recommending a style of product that is only available in plastic.

The only device I ever found that meets (1-4) is the quick gongfu style (a tea pot with holes in the spout area, where the drinking cup is the lid). But unfortunately it is fragile (not meeting requirement 5). Here are pictures of the device in various materials (from left to right clay, porcelain, ceramic, ceramic)

clay pot porcelain pot ceramic handle

Now there are "all in one" devices that satisfy (1,3, 4, & 5) but not (2), for example, tipping cups,

magisso tea cup

and ones that satisfy (2-5) but not (1), for example the double wall glass/plastic travel brewers (note some glass products are quite strong)

enter image description here

But is there a device that satisfies all 5 desirable qualities in an office tea drinking/making system?

Note: This is not a product recommendation question. This question is about styles, types and materials, not specific products or brands.

  • 2
    Fine porcelain is the strongest material, but often poorly made, especially from China. I have quality German porcelain plates that can drop 1 m off the bench and survive!
    – TFD
    May 18, 2014 at 2:08
  • What is quick gongfu? Is it a brand name?
    – Cynthia
    May 18, 2014 at 22:00
  • 1
    You might be able to get more practically useful answers if you are willing to focus less on the exact "quick gonfu" style you've mentioned. There are other ways to make something that's good for traveling or the office.
    – Cascabel
    May 20, 2014 at 1:57
  • @Jerfromi Drastically edited question to meet this suggestion May 26, 2014 at 1:59
  • 1
    Something along the lines of these dispo tea-french-press cups might work for you: amazon.com/SmartCup-Disposable-French-Press-Cups/dp/B00HT3K3WG I've not seen a non-dispo version of the device, but it probably exists, or could be easily made. May 26, 2014 at 17:55

3 Answers 3


Are you overthinking this? A small teapot, sized for one person, would meet your criteria, wouldn't it? Unless you count the infusion basket separate from the teapot itself, you just have a teapot to rinse out (no scrubbing needed) and a mug to wash.

This is mine: enter image description here

It holds around 20oz of water, so I can fill the pot, steep for a few minutes, then lift out the infuser basket and dump the leaves. You can easily do this in a breakroom or kitchenette area of an office, and then take the teapot back to your desk and voila, 3-4 cups of tea with one trip to the breakroom. Mine's made of cast iron and easily keeps the tea warm longer than it takes me to drink it. When you're all done, rinse out the teapot (cast iron won't need much more than a brief rinse) and wash your mug in the sink.

Based on my tea this afternoon (admittedly, taken in my home office today rather than at work):

  1. It's super easy to clean out the teapot, I just ran water through it a few times. The infuser basket took a little more work, but no more than 30 seconds or so of running under the water to make sure I got all the leaves out.
  2. The teapot has a lid, to cover the tea while steeping.
  3. The infuser basket lifts out when the tea's done steeping.
  4. I was able to transport the pot by the handle from my kitchen to my office without any burns. It's a little warm, but not hot enough to burn you.
  5. I'd love to see the drop that damages cast-iron!

If you are asking which one of the four you listed will be sturdiest, I think that there is no way to answer your question.

All four pots you listed are made of ceramics. "Ceramics" is a broad class of materials, it covers all earthenware (clay) materials, all porcelain, and the synthetic stone in your four example. (It also covers many more materials not used for food containers). Practically all ceramics in the kitchen have some chance of breaking when you drop them from one foot height. It is more than zero and less than 100%. But for each specific ceramic, only the manufacturer (or somebody with access to the relevant parameters and the knowledge to interpret them) can tell you exactly how prone it is to breakage.

People with experience working in ceramics may give you a good guess once they have held the object in their hand. But I don't think anybody can tell from a picture. And each of the names you give (such as "porcelain") covers a large range of materials with very different chance to break. And because the chance of breakage depends not just on material but also on the exact three dimensional shape (how thick it is, what shape are its curves, etc.), nobody can give you a statement saying "porcelain is always easier to break than purple clay" - there is too much variety in break proneness both within porcelain teapots and within clay teapots.

If you want a truly unbreakable pot, you will have to choose some other material. But ceramics are traditional for oriental teapots, so I can't promise you that this style exists in another material at all. If you have to choose a ceramic one, there is no way to predict which one will survive the most drops, but each will break if dropped often.

Update: The device I mentioned as measured by the new points in the question:

It was similar to the ones you call "travel brewers". I think that it has three parts to clean: the cup, the cover and the filter "basket" (like a plastic cup with holes). When assembled, it resembles a sippy cup with a closable valve, and the basket extends from below the cover down into the liquid. It is assembled both during steeping and drinking, although I guess you could open it for drinking and use it as an extralarge cup; then you'd be losing the thermos effect and you'd have as much of a spillage risk as a normal cup (closed, it would leak only a little if it falls over). I think you had to drink some of the tea before the level falls below the basket bottom and the leaves stop steeping; it is possible that the tea still flowed once through the filter when you tilt it for drinking, I am not sure about that part. It was double-wall plastic, and became quite warm, but didn't burn your hands. I don't have it here, and have no idea where it was bought from or how it is called, so I can't make or find a picture. I think it is just a version of a travel brewer.

  • 1
    I generally agree, except a related style might well exist in something stronger. I'm sure someone's made a durable all-in-one camping teapot that'd be easy to travel with and clean like this style, but it'll definitely be a different style. I'm not sure if that'd satisfy the OP or not; it'd meet the goals from the comment but it's not "quick gongfu".
    – Cascabel
    May 19, 2014 at 21:55
  • 1
    @Jefromi indeed, I have used a travel "pot" made from double walled Nalgene type plastic (actually a 0.7 l mug with a permanent filter screwed into the lid). Looked nothing like the Gongfu pots here, but it is compact and shatter-resistant. Sadly, I don't know where it comes from, the friend from whom I borrowed it has travelled in East Asia, so it may be from there.
    – rumtscho
    May 20, 2014 at 21:33
  • @rumtscho does the device you are describing in your comment satisfy the 5 desirable qualities in the edited question? If it does could you add a description and perhaps even a photo if you have one to your post? May 26, 2014 at 16:30

Stainless steel. They won't won't break or shatter, and some can be quite pretty.

enter image description here

  • 1
    I suspect these may not exist in the style the OP wants, because if the lid is also a cup and is made of stainless steel, it'll conduct heat too well to be a good cup.
    – Cascabel
    May 17, 2014 at 19:44
  • thank you for this recommendation, I should have been more clear that I am restricting the answers to the materials in the post. Sorry for the confusion; edited the question. May 17, 2014 at 22:01
  • 1
    If you will only accept answers from the materials you have listed, they are all breakable, and there is nothing to answer.
    – SAJ14SAJ
    May 17, 2014 at 22:02
  • will they all break from a 1 foot fall? May 17, 2014 at 22:07
  • 1
    I think the restriction is really to materials that you'd make this style of pot out of, not necessarily only the ones in the post, but either way stainless steel is probably out (unless you find something that's got some plastic or something over the top to insulate the lid/cup).
    – Cascabel
    May 18, 2014 at 3:27

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge you have read our privacy policy.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.