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A teasmade is a machine for making tea automatically. It was once common in the United Kingdom and some British Commonwealth countries. Teasmades generally include an analogue alarm clock and are designed to be used at the bedside, to ensure tea is ready first thing in the morning. Although crude versions existed in Victorian times, they only became practical with the availability of electric versions in the 1930s. They reached their peak in popularity in the 1960s and 1970s, since which time their use has declined, but they are now enjoying a revival, partly as a retro novelty item.
On 17 December 1891, Samuel Rowbottom, of 82 Abbey Road, Derby, applied for a patent for his Automatic Tea Making Apparatus, the patent being granted in 1892. It used a clockwork alarm clock, a gas ring and pilot light. There is a photograph in existence of Samuel displaying his Automatic Tea Maker on an exhibition stand. Although there is no evidence that he commercially produced his tea maker, the concept he invented of using the steam from boiling water to force the water out through a tube into the teapot is still in use today.
On 7 April 1902 a patent for a teasmade was registered by gunsmith Frank Clarke of Birmingham, England. He called it "An Apparatus Whereby a Cup of Tea or Coffee is Automatically Made" and it was later marketed as "A Clock That Makes Tea!". However, his original machine and all rights to it were purchased from Albert E Richardson, a clockmaker from Ashton-under-Lyne.
On May 2, 1932 George Absolom submitted an application for a patent on his invention, an electric automatic tea maker. The Patent (number 400672) was passed on November 2, 1933. This invention was manufactured and marketed as the Teesmade.
The word 'teesmade' was certainly initiated by George Absolom and predates the use of the word 'teasmade' by about four years. George Absolom applied for a Registered Design using the name Teesmade, but this was not accepted by the Patent Office on the grounds that the unit was not made on the River Tees and that this might confuse the public. Geographic trademarks were invariably refused at this time, and indeed the Patent Office passed legislation to forbid them in 1938. This legislation has since been relaxed. Although the name could not be formally protected, from 1932 onwards George Absolom continued to trade as Teesmade Co. Goblin were in no position to object, as the name had the indisputable advantage of prior use.
A similar electric teamaker was patented by William Hermann Brenner Thornton in association with Goblin in 1933, shortly after Absolom's patent.
Goblin's next model, also invented by William Hermann Brenner Thornton, was patented in 1934 and was manufactured from 1936. This was the first tea maker sold under the name Teasmade. A patent sketch of 1934 shows the essential features. A kettle with a tube leading into a teapot was heated by an electric element switched by an alarm clock. The kettle sat upon a spring-loaded pad with a switch, so that when steam pressure pushed the boiling water into the pot, the pad was allowed to rise and cut the power to the element.
The Swan Teasmade D01 made by RBC electronics is no longer in production.
The Swan Teasmade STM series has been manufactured in China by Swan Products since October 2009, and is being sold in many UK retailers including John Lewis and Tesco Direct. There are several versions including white, cream and retro-styled models.
The Breville Wake Cup automatic teamaker has been manufactured by Breville UK since 2012.
The Micromark Tea Express ceased being sold in the UK when the parent company of Micromark, BDC, went into administration in November 2008.
A selection of examples of teasmades are on display at the Science Museum in London in The Secret Life of the Home exhibition area.
The largest-known collection of teasmades is owned by Sheridan Parsons in Royal Wootton Bassett.
In popular culture
In a popular YouTube video by Tom Scott, he gives an explanation the temporal anomalies in the utility frequency of the European power grid while holding a teasmade. Scott notes the teasmade as "the most British invention". In Season 3, Episode 2 of BBC series Endeavour, a Goblin Teasmade figures prominently as being the source of an explosion which kills one person.
- Telegraph article 2009
- George Augustus Absolom on teasmade.info
- The Teesmade on teasmade.info
- 1932 William Hermann Brenner Thornton Tea Maker on teasmade.info
- 1934 William Hermann Brenner Thornton Prototype Goblin on teasmade.info
- The Secret Life of the Home at the Science Museum
- Sheridan Parsons' Teasmade collection, Copyright PictureItNow (provided by Sheridan Parsons)
- "Why European Clocks are Running Slow, and British Clocks Aren't". YouTube.
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