My journey began at the Art Café at the lower end of the high street, opposite the remains of the Westgate shopping centre. An angular entrance undefined by queues left me concerned for the state of the teapot I would receive, but I was pleasantly surprised by the conservative yet portly pot I was presented with. The angular handle didn’t quite comply with the chubby, curvy spout and thus lacked a certain aesthetic continuity, but was certainly utilizable – the thick lid didn’t need to be held down during pouring, resulting in zero spillage. It held a decent three cups of tea, and cost £2.75, erring slightly on the expensive side. The café’s excellent choice of music was also a plus.
The Rose was the next stop. The most upmarket of the cafés visited, I paid an eye-watering £3.70 for a pot holding roughly two cups of tea (it was chocolate-orange flavored though, so I am willing to let this slide). It was constructed from metal, and consequently grew exceedingly hot making it difficult to hold. Though it was well polished, the surface left ample opportunity for finger prints. While the pot had an elegant cut with a long, delicate spout, I found the handle too rounded which meant one’s knuckles pressed against the hot metal. The lid was very stiff and hot, making it impossible to lift for checking on the composition of loose-leaves and tea colour within. Extra points for the suede detail on the handle, however.
The much-loved Combibos couldn’t be left off this list – it marks the cheapest and cheeriest entry, weighing in at £1.80. Undoubtedly the brightest of my four pots, this quirky character was a double-decker, the cup on the bottom and the pot stacked on top. Although there was a high risk of my spilling hot water over myself, the novelty of the design (combined with the fact that I managed not to scald myself) was a definite winner. The cup itself was unusually large and wide; the pot held around one and a half fillings. Once I had finished my tea, the ability to stack up my crockery and move it aside neatly was a space-preserving savior. The china kept the tea hot and the unique bright yellow suggested to fellow consumers that I was a person of intrigue who maintains a wider variety of stimulating hobbies than napping and eating Tesco Value tortilla chips.
A few shops down from Combibos is Thirsty Meeples, a gaming café which makes a regular haunt for the board game societies of Oxford. The teapot was every bit as eccentric as the many people participating in dragon-orientated fantasies around me. It was designed to imitate a traditional oven-heated kettle, although I suspect it was made of china as it did not conduct heat in the same manner as a metal pot. The overreaching handle was fascinating, although a little difficult to use. The pot appeared small but carried a satisfyingly precise two cups of tea for £2.50, and the reassuring weight of it made for a distinctly satisfactory clunk as it was set down on the table. Its knobbled texture, slightly reminiscent of the dragon-themed flights from reality taking place around me, was both attractively mystical and simultaneously old fashioned and homely – making it undoubtedly the favourite teapot of my adventure.