Teasmades Banned! a Euro-Myth

A series of articles in the Evening Standard and the Telegraph in February 2002 sparked a Euro-Myth that the teasmade was about to meet its demise. Thankfully this was not the case.

Brussels calls time on Teasmade, Nigel Rosser (22.2.02)

The Teasmade is dead. And today the finger of suspicion for killing off one of Britain’s best loved institutions was being firmly pointed at the European Union. According to its makers, bureaucrats in Brussels have decreed that having a pint of boiling water perched on your bedside table seconds before you are wrenched out of sleep by an alarm call could be hazardous.

Although the precise diktat from Europe has been hard to pinpoint, manufacturers and shops confirm that Britain’s love affair with the Teasmade is officially over and none have been available in Britain for months. Some claim changing tastes – Britain’s growing infatuation with espresso coffee machines and the sheer Seventiesness of the Teasmade – finally killed it off. What is undeniable is the fact that the last maker of the machine in Britain, Swan Moulinex – which took over from Goblin – went into liquidation last year.

The Teasmade symbolised the rise of suburban Britain. No seaside B&B was complete without one, they were given away practically every week on Bruce Forsyth’s Generation Game and John Major kept one by his bedside in Downing Street. Capable of making a cup of tea in five minutes – on a good day – they evoked an era when Hillman Imps, Viyella shirts, Hostess trolleys and Moulinex Magic food mixers were considered the height of space-age modernity. When Tom and Barbara Good gave up their jobs and became self-sufficient in the Seventies TV sitcom The Good Life, it was the Teasmade whose loss they most lamented. Featuring ceramic teapots, “removable” trays – you try it – illuminated front panels, and large quartz clocks with four-minute snooze facility, many Teasmades had a floral picture on the front which could be replaced by the picture of your choice.

Although automatic tea-making devices had been patented since the 1890s, the first mass-produced Teasmade, made of plywood, rolled off the production line in 1933. Goblin nearly called it the Cheerywake. Production stopped during the war years but the device came back into vogue in the Fifties. During the late Sixties, about 300,000 were sold every year. By 1979, two million homes owned one. In 1993 an early ancestor of the Teasmade sold for £2,500 at Sotheby’s in London. Made in 1903 by the Automatic Boiler Company of Birmingham, its mechanics would have today’s bureaucrats at Brussels running for cover. An alarm bell sets off a spring mechanism, which strikes a match which lights a spirit burner which in turn heats the teapot.

The Teasmade was relaunched in the Nineties but without great success. In October last year, Swan was bought by Littlewoods and since then Teasmades have been unavailable.

Wake-up call for lovers of Teasmades (22.2.02)

ELIZABETH BAXENDINE emails me with a shocking tale. “Yesterday,” she writes, “I had reason to take my 18-month-old tea-making machine for repair, only to be told that such machines can no longer be made. Brussels bureaucrats have decreed that they are too risky to have by the bedside!”

I wouldn’t want to publish such a claim without checking its veracity, and so I phone Philips – they don’t make them any more, but can’t tell me why – Russell Hobbs and Tefal (ditto, ditto). The Argos catalogue has a section called “Coffee and tea makers” but on closer inspection there are only coffee makers. Asserta Home’s website merely says “sadly the Teasmade is no longer manufactured in the UK”, while Teasmade.com (thoroughly recommended – check out the Teasmaniacs section) says that since last October, “no Teasmades have been available anywhere”.

[NB Teasmade.com was the forerunner of Teasmade.info, also run by Sheridan Parsons at that time]

The Brussels bureaucrats at the EU and the Commission were little help – no surprises there – so, in desperation, I call Hawkins Electricals, a specialist in Teasmade repairs. None have been made since last year, I’m told, since Swan Moulinex “went into liquidisation”. I thought it had been into that for years.

No more trouble brewing (23.2.02)

TEASMADE fans can sleep – and wake up – easy again. Littlewoods has assuaged any fears you may have had yesterday, by telling me it sells one that “fully complies with all relevant EU safety legislation . . . We are extremely proud to be able to continue producing this icon of ‘Britishness’ in the UK.” Hallelujah.

Everything stops for tease (26.2.02)

JUST when I thought the nation’s Teasmade aficionados could sleep easy, news reaches me that Littlewoods is out of stock. The high street chain, one of the few retailers to sell these precious machines, tells me fans will have to wait 10 days for a new batch which will be available at the stores and on the website (Littlewoodsindex.co.uk). “We are definitely still stocking them,” a Littlewoods spokesman says. Phew.