Wednesday, December 22, 2010

The New Simplex Kettle

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.

11 comments:

  1. Thank you for your blog! I was searching and searching for a new kettle to replace the Simplex one I burned up (yikes!) and would not have known about Sur La Table otherwise. I called, and they have one in stock in our store. Again, thank you!

    Michelle

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  2. We were abe to buy their gas stove version at our local Peet's Coffee. They had one left in the box. One on the shelf. It was made in 2008. As a former manufacturing engineer and presently work promoting exports, I am very sorry to hear they went out of business. We need to learn how to make and properly market high-value products in the West.

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  3. Who knew?! I have 2 of the gas stove chrome-plated kettles (perfect condition w/ tags still attached) in my basement that have never been used. I bought them 5 years ago from Williams-Sonoma b/c they were on sale and I thought they would make a great gift someday. I didn't realize that I had anything of value until now!

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  4. Please see other posts!

    Simplex Kettles are back in business! If you reach this page (as I did) in after Feb 2012 and want a simplex then go to http://simplex-kettles.com and order yours.

    I spent half the morning on Ebay trying to get one second hand before finding out that they are still going ... Thank You!

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    1. They may have reappeared but their customer service is lacking. Recently purchased a new one which was defective. For four months, My phone calls are unanswered and emails have been ignored. Be careful. They are a significant investment.

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    2. I went to Amazon and saw a complaint, which the company finally settled via email. I also found the Simplex website. It looks like they are still making them in the UK, but it also sounds like there are quality and customer service issues that run contrary to their former, excellent reputation. Since I have my kettle, I'm not able to go once more into the breach and try buying a new one. But it does sound like the company has responded to other complaints and resolved them satisfactorily, so I hope you will keep trying. You might try snail-mail, since old-fashioned tactics might work for this allegedly old-fashioned company. Good luck, and please keep me posted on how you make out. I'd like to do another post about Simplex but I don't have enough information for one. Yet.

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    3. There are lots of fakes on the market. The originals are now at www.richmondkettlecompany.com if you would like to do another review. Seems they reverted to the original name

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  5. Hi there, I was kind of surprised when I was cleaning my chrome covered solid copper tea kettle the other day (I have the kettle pictured above with 2 kettles - I have the kettle on the right) , and noticed inside it there was an area that was copper colored. Is it rusting? Is the chrome colored coating coming off? Is it safe to use? Thanks very much, Donna
    PS: I have it about 15 years.

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    1. Hi! Tin doesn't rust. That could be copper. If you have exposed copper areas in your kettle it may not be entirely safe to use, although opinions differ as to how much copper is leached into water when it's boiling. (I wouldn't ever brew tea in it or heat anything else except water.) If you've scrubbed the inside of your kettle with anything abrasive, that could have worn off the tin lining. Heating the kettle at too high a temperature can also ruin the tin lining.

      As you have an older Simplex, it's good quality so, if you love it, it is worth talking to a re-tinner about the problem. Here's the guy I used for mine: www.eastcoasttinning.com Send him photos and he may be able to give you an opinion. Retinning is not cheap.

      On my Simplex, I found had a copper-colored interior more than a year ago — when I decided to take a look at it one day, after years of use. I complained to Simplex and received a replacement kettle from them — a model from the reopened factory. I found it didn't whistle nearly so well as my old kettle, and it was clearly a refurb, with a questionable-looking interior. I think the bad reviews for the "new" Simplex kettles are probably accurate; search online and you may find some. Some of the big online kitchen stores were stocking them again from the reopened factory, but it looks like they stopped, probably because they were getting too many complaints about quality.

      I was not impressed with the replacement kettle, so I paid to have my older kettle retinned. It quickly began to look pretty terrible again inside, but it's not because copper is showing. Instead my tin interior is covered with black spots, which looks sort of like fungus, although it isn't. The East Coast Tinning fellow assured me that it's fine for tin to look that way and not unsafe. It's oxidation or whatever.

      Best of luck to you!

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  6. Confirmed and beautiful as they always were. Richmond Kettle Company. Its like my original and is heavier than the fake Simplex and they have recalled it Richmond. The lid seems easier to operate and I have the whistle back as well so the China theory was confirmed with the old Company. These have a website and delivery was around 7 days into Columbus.

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    1. Thank you for your kind comment. We have alerted people to the products made in China but some stores want to buy on price alone. Richmond still produce the original kettle, you are welcome to tour the factory, they fully warranty all products and have an incredible back up service. If you want the original Kettle it is the Richmond.

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