Why a classic gadget is our cup of tea again

Original article published in The Guardian, by Laura Barton, Tuesday 12 June 2007

It was once a symbol of all that was good and right about Britain: a bedside contraption that not only worked as an alarm clock but also brewed a cup of tea, coordinated to the precise hour of your waking. It was, in short, the greatest advancement in civilisation since the aqueduct.

Alas, the mighty Teasmade fell on hard times, usurped no doubt, by cappuccino makers and their ilk. But now rejoice! For the great teamaker revival is quite possibly here. Following interest on eBay, where models such as the Goblin D20 are considered collectibles, and after much haranguing from customers, John Lewis has announced plans to restock and remodel the teamaker.

The seeds of the Teasmade were sown in Victorian times with a gas-fuelled prototype, though the development of an electrical version in the 1930s heralded a new era for automatic bedside tea production. Its heyday came in the 1950s and 60s; at the very peak of its popularity there was a teamaker in an estimated 2m homes. But by the 1990s they were a joke, their reputation mired by Norma Major’s admission that she and John kept one at No 10. In 2001, with the collapse of Swan Moulinex, production dwindled further, Littlewoods became the sole teamaker stockist, and it seemed a bleak future lay before us.

Sheridan Hudson, a publisher, owner of 150 teamakers, and founder of tribute site Teasmade.com is cautiously optimistic. “There hasn’t been a revival,” she insists. “They never stopped being popular. I’m curious to know what really motivated John Lewis, but there is a demand, and with a big brand behind it, the teamaker could do very well.”

With the exception of her 1932 Absalom Teesmade, Hudson doesn’t have a favourite in her collection. “Anyway,” she says, “at the moment I have a baby to wake me, not a Teasmade.”