A Great Iconic British Invention: The Teasmade

When Googling “teasmade” the following dictionary defination appears…

Pronunciation: /ˈtiːzmeɪd/
an automatic tea-maker.

So that’s the answer to your first question. Yes, a teasmade is a machine for making tea automatically! 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. They reached their peak in popularity in the 1960s and 1970s but have since declined to the extent that, in the few places they are sold new, they are a retro novelty item.

It’s a pretty simple device, attach a kettle to a bedside clock to get the water to boil and then add to the teapot at the specified time such that when your alarm goes off, there’s a perfectly blended steaming hot cup of tea waiting next to you.


Although crude versions existed in Victorian times (pictured below), they only became practical with the availability of electric versions in the 1930s. In fact, in 1891 Samuel Rowbottom applied for a patent for his Automatic Tea Making Apparatus. The apparatus used a clockwork alarm clock, a gas ring and pilot light. 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.

Later, in 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“, 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.

In 1932 George Absolom submitted an application for a patent on his invention, an electric automatic tea maker. 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!  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.

The name teasmade is an example of a genericized trademark, introduced by Goblin but now commonly used to refer to any automatic teamaking appliance.

The 21st Century

The Teasmade has been an object of social derision for many years, but for those of us who are unable to function in the morning without a cup of tea, it is one of the most important pieces of electrical equipment in the house.

The new 21st century Teasmade, 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.

So does John Lewis have its finger on the pulse of the nation? Yes. It is a successful company because it sells the British people things they want to buy, including the Teasmade!

I have to admit, I am a recent convert. 3 years ago, when I was in my first year at university my Mum bought me a Teasmade for my birthday. “You’ll be needing this!” she said. I will be honest and tell you that I had never heard of one before but the concept of an alarm clock that makes tea for you when you wake up? Heaven! Women need to drink tea in bed because the moment they are up and dressed they are on the case!

I come from a family which drinks tea before it gets out of bed and, interestingly, that tea is always made by the man of the house. Throughout my childhood, my brother and I were woken by our Dad or even Grandfather, when we went to visit, as he placed a cup of tea by our bedside.

It has to be said, a Teasmade is a little louder wake up call that a cup of tea being placed on your bedside by a loving family member. It starts with a low, distant humming which is not usually enough to wake you. Gradually, it becomes louder and more insistent before erupting into a brief hissing, fizzing, whooshing roar. Then silence, perfect silence, until the beeping of the alarm (by which time you are inevitably awake due to the hissing, fizzing and whooshing roar).

How does it actually work?

I have created a photo diagram especially for you! If this isn’t self explanatory then I don’t know what is.

Yes, you do have to fill the machine with cold water before you go to bed. But isn’t that much better than going downstairs at dawn?

“Don’t you end up with sour milk and old teabags in the bedroom?!” asked someone, with a note of fastidious distaste. Well, you can put your milk in a flask, but I’m not in bed long enough for the milk to go off while I sleep, and the old teabags stay in the pot until I wash it out at the end of the day.

Great Iconic British Invention

So, hooray for this great iconic British invention which lets the nation wake up to the smell of a fresh brew without you or anybody else actually having to get out of bed.

Invest in this iconic product today and you are joining a unique group of people – going back some 70 years or more – who just have to be woken with a nice, hot cup of tea in the morning.

Swan STM100 Teasmade
Product code – 85501301
2 year guarantee included
Price: £59.95

“This latest  model also benefits from a backlit LCD clock, sleek modern styling to suit any bedroom or living space, 4-cup capacity high quality ceramic pot, and of course the reading light, which no Teasmade would be complete without.” (John Lewis, 2012).

My final words of advice would be… wake up first to your usual alarm clock, then hit the instant tea button to avoid the hissing, fizzing, whooshing roar….