My new British tea kettle arrived yesterday from a Sur la Table store in the Midwest, one of the last places in this country (or anywhere, perhaps) to have any of them in stock. The manufacturer, Simplex, which had been making these kettles since 1903 in their Birmingham factory, suddenly went out of business last summer. New kettles are increasingly scarce. I had to search high and low for mine a week or two ago, and now it's getting tougher to find any, especially the chrome, electric-stovetop models.
My kettle was made in 2007, according to the slip of paper inside.
I love it! For one thing, it's chrome-plated solid copper, not stainless steel. There's a reason cars have chrome trim. It's super-shiny compared to our fancy Bodum steel kettle, which I've kept shiny, too. Here are the two side-by-side.* Chrome is a cooler, brighter, more bluish metal than stainless:
We've used the kettle twice, and I am happy to report that the handle stays cool, the lid doesn't fall off when we pour, and it doesn't leak from the lid. It boils quickly, pours nicely, and the whistle is just loud enough to be heard throughout our apartment— and pleasingly pitched. The cats' ears go back, but they don't run; they just look mildly alarmed. They'll get used to it.
There's a metal ball inside the spout that provides the whistle or improves the pouring, or maybe both. It rattles when you tip the kettle, but it's fine. I've read that it freaks our some people when they hear it, but they must be easily upset.
Anyway, it's wonderful to be able to brew a cup of tea whenever I want, without having to worry about getting burned hands in the process. Our old Bodum kettle is handsome, but its swinging handle and loose lid caused me nothing but trouble.
The only drawback I can find with the new kettle is that it only holds about 1-1/2 quarts. That's plenty for a pot of tea, but not quite enough to fill my hot-water bottle. I can augment it with hot tap water.
I was in the Harvard Square Tealuxe the other day — when they happened to be out of both Caramel Crème Brulée and Crème de la Earl Grey teas, dagnabbit. On their display shelves is an interesting collection of antique kettles, mostly dull copper. They all resemble my Simplex Heritage, with its squat body and funny, bent spout. The more I look at mine, the more its shiny curves and quirky details are growing on me. And its clear that these old-fashioned kettles were made to last a lifetime and do. This will likely be the last kettle I'll ever need or want.
I'd initially wanted their "beehive" style instead, which looks more mid-century modern now that I study it:
I've always been an Edwardian at heart, so it's natural that I've come to admire my Edwardian-era kettle. I love old things; our apartment is full of them. I like ancient stoves and those worn, marble-topped sinks with separate hot and cold taps. I love that oval granite mounting block that's on the curb down the street. If I ever get my own horse and carriage, I'm getting into it from there.
If you want a Simplex kettle, trying calling your local Sur la Table store and asking them to do a nationwide search. Or look on eBay for a gently used one; you can get good deals there. Do not fall for reproduction kettles from Old Dutch or other brands. They may look the same, but read the Amazon reviews. They're made in China and they have all kinds of problems. For display purposes only, from what I've read.
* By the way, that discoloration in my photo, where our bead-board meets the granite isn't dirt, but darkened glue or sealant from the granite installation. It has always driven me crazy, but not crazy enough to repaint our all-white kitchen. I wasn't home when they did it or there'd have been hell to pay.