Posted by: ben | September 11, 2009

this is how we COULD brew it at work (part 1)

Teaiereheader

Ben: A few weeks ago Dan and I wrote a little post about how we brew tea at work. We had some good feedback from it, some from people who use similar methods, some who were looking for similar solutions.

We also had some emails from a few tea companies along the lines of ‘we make similar solutions – if we sent you some examples could you review them?’ To these emails we had a stockpile answer – absolutely!

We were sent three different ‘workplace beverage solutions’ as I’m going to call them in my officespeak. This, my friends, is the first: Jing’s tea-iere.

The previous post discussed how I make tea at work at present – a little earthenware kit from Lahloo Tea called a chatjan which works by having an infuser in a larger mug. Aside from being clumsily named, the tea-iere is completely different. It’s almost a little teapot in itself – the idea is that you brew the tea in it and pour the brew into another vessel. Being clever 21st century types, they’ve made a little video showing how to use it:

Nice, eh? Enthused by that video, I gave it a go. I didn’t do the flouncy arm movements though (at least not while anyone was watching). There were some things I really liked and a few that I didn’t.

Nice things:

  • Ben needs to write here

    Infusing...

    It is, essentially, a little glass teapot without being a little glass teapot. You can see the leaves unfurling, watch the brew change colour and tell when it’s ready by sight rather than by timing alone. As much as I love the Lahloo chatjan I currently use, once the lid has been put on the top what goes on inside it essentially a mystery.

  • Even better, it’s not thin, flimsy glass. Unlike those ten-a-penny glass teapots you can often get from kitchenware or specialist stores, it does not feel like a touch from a kitten’s fluffy paw would destroy it. It’s not something that will smash easily while washing or when accidentally knocked off the corner of a desk. The box it arrived in proudly states that it’s made from borosilicate glass – it’s tough, thick and designed to endure. Ideal for work, really.
  • The filter works excellently. It’s the same filter as a cafetiere uses – the fine metal mesh, the spring along the outer edge etc – but it doesn’t plunge down. It just sits there, hovering at a fixed point below the lid. When you feel the tea’s ready to drink, you pour everything into a cup and the leaves stay in the tea-iere. I tried it whilst trying the Shizuoka Sencha – in that discussion Dan complained that when he used his standard filter he was plagued by bits in the cup. Using the tea-iere, nothing got through but the liquid.

Not-so-nice things:

  • words words words

    Trapped leaves but loads of liquid left behind.

    The tea-iere is designed to fit 400ml of liquid in it. The average mug is slightly less than that – say 300ml or 330ml at a push. Unless you have a really big mug you’re going to be left with some liquid in the tea-iere, slowly getting more and more undrinkable as it languishes in the leaves. If you get a little bit thirsty after finishing your cup, you can’t just pour the rest into your cup because by that point the liquid is stodgy and stale. It’s good practice to leave a little liquid in the teapot so you don’t get the fine leaf dust but with a filter as efficient as this it’s less of a concern.

  • Oh, and the filter. It’s a bugger to clean. It does all come to pieces from the lid so you can get in there and give it a scrub but when at work you don’t really want to be mucking about screwing little meshes back into little plates. It’s something you can learn to live with but compared to the chatjan’s elegant solution it seems a bit, well, superfluous.
  • The tea-iere is designed for this easy-brewing purpose but what it is not designed for is looks. To be frank, it’s a little boring. One of my workmates compared it to a sea monkey aquarium (the cheeky swine!). It’s a minor quibble, sure, but it makes the brewing process just a little bit less interesting. It’s probably a payoff so that the glass remains sturdy.

It’s an odd one, certainly. Although I do have those issues with it I find myself warming to the tea-iere with further use. It’s not that it works better than the chatjan – it’s just different. I like viewing the leaves brewing – I have other teapots, filters, infusers and mugs but this is the best vessel I’ve seen that shows the leaves clearly. I suspect that as a result it’ll make regular appearances in future reviews on the site where we want to show the whole process. It’s more of a talking point at work than the chatjan – people see the leaves brewing and notice that each type is slightly different. It’s hard wearing, would last you ages and should present no problems.

However, for the moment I’m sticking to the chatjan. When I make tea at work I do it furtively – everyone knows I have unusual teas but I would hate to be that guy, the one always evangelising about a new oolong or something. If I wanted to get people interested in tea I’d want them to taste rather than see – the tea-iere’s not quite big enough to offer two cups-worth. Importantly it takes considerably longer to wash, especially when using very fine leaves.

It’s not been pushed to the back of the cupboard by any means. I’ve found myself using it during the evenings quite a lot as it’s ideal to use at home when making a drink for one. I’d been using those ball tong infusers for years – not ideal as they don’t give the leaves room to move – and in comparison this is a revelation. It may not be ideal for work but I can’t recommend it enough for relaxed home use.

The tea-iere is available from Jing’s website for £16.10 on its own or from £17.62 as an explorer set with samplers.

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Responses

  1. I never understood the visual appeal of tea once it’s made. Why do people value the color of the tea in the cup? And I don’t understand how anyone could possibly know when their tea was done by looking at it with this contraption. I can see how it’s good that the tea is visible. But I confess I’d never be able to judge tea very well by sight alone. –Spirituality of Tea


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