Fun with teatime
December 4, 2012 9:11 AM   Subscribe

I'm looking for the best hot tea accoutrements out there (gift filter).

My husband has taken to drinking a lot of hot teas to replace the soda he quit drinking. He primarily drinks the tea at work. The problem is that though I also drink hot tea, I am addicted to peppermint tea. I drink loads of ONLY peppermint tea - in bags. I know nothing about the finer details of enjoying tea; I can't even be bothered to deal with loose tea & infusers & what not.

His favorites (that I know of) are all organic, loose leaf teas. He buys Jasmine White, a black tea called Pu-Erh Classic, turmeric ginger... I think he pretty much buys the Rishi brand. I don't even really know what he gets because he buys them on amazon and whisks the boxes off to work before I even see what is in them. I know organic is very important to him, and he loves the added health benefits of ingredients like turmeric. An added complicating factor is that we live in an area with very little tea-drinker support. There are no shops to wander through and smell teas. There are no places to check out the newest tea drinking gadgetry.

tl;dr: What are the best teas (healthwise & tastewise) that can be ordered from the internets? What cool tea gadgets help you better enjoy your hot tea (or ice tea)? And conversely, if there's a popular gadget that's total crap, I'd love to know that as well.
posted by Kronur to Food & Drink (27 answers total) 26 users marked this as a favorite
Best answer: My sister, who is a devoted tea drinker, LOVES LOVES LOVES this thing for brewing loose-leaf tea at work.

I don't know all the details on organics, but I am a big fan of Adagio's teas, and they make a solid effort to support tea farmers. My very favorite teas are the rooibos/honeybush teas from South Africa. I even got a postcard with info about the farmer who cultivates the teas I buy.
posted by trunk muffins at 9:16 AM on December 4, 2012 [2 favorites]

check out TEAVANA website
posted by TRUELOTUS at 9:18 AM on December 4, 2012 [1 favorite]

Best answer: My favorite teapots are the Chatsford pots from Upton Tea. The basket is generously sized and easy to clean; they're my favorite way to brew loose tea. I have one in every size, and two in our most often used size so I can brew flavored teas in one and keep the other one pure for the black tea we drink every day. If he drinks his tea in mugs, divide the cup capacities by two to get the mug capacity; their "two-cup" teapot fills a 12-oz mug perfectly. Upton's also where we get all our loose-leaf tea, they have a lot of organic varieties.
posted by KathrynT at 9:19 AM on December 4, 2012 [2 favorites]

Best answer: There is actually a school of thought that states that the tea-ball infuser thingys aren't good for the tea, because tea leaves expand while they steep - and if your tea's all crowded in an infuser the hot water won't circulate as well.

But I actually have an idea for a fairly easy DIY idea for you - a chai tea spice blend. It would hit his health-ingredient bone, it'd be all fancy, and it'd be INCREDIBLY easy and cheap for you -- you would simply combine a bunch of different whole spices in a jar, and then write up instructions for how to use the spices to brew up some chai the old-school way. That's seriously it.

And the "instructions for how to brew chai", that's also seriously easy - for one person, he would heat up a half a cup of milk (if he's at work, a microwave would do for this), adds a heaping teaspoon of the spice blend, and lets that brew for 10 minutes. Meanwhile, he makes a plain cup of black tea (the Pu-Erh would work for this, but another black tea called "Assam" would also work). When the milk is finished steeping, he strains the milk and adds it all to the cup of tea. Sugar to taste. There you go.

If you're interested, memail me and I'll send you the recipe for a jar of the chai spice blend. You could seriously get all the spices at your local supermarket..
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 9:20 AM on December 4, 2012

Best answer: You can have my ingenuiTEA when you pry it from my cold dead hands. I love that thing. Adiago Teas also has a lot of nice sample sets. Buy him a variety of samples and let him explore tea.

And in the name of all that good and righteous about tea, please stay far away from Teavana.
posted by COD at 9:23 AM on December 4, 2012 [3 favorites]

Best answer: (on preview, trunk muffins and KathrynT beat me to it - but I'll link to a third, similar device anyway...)

Does he already have one of these or something like it? A former coworker of mine had one and it was awesome for brewing loose-leaf tea by the pot.

I've heard the same thing as EmpressCallipygos RE: single-cup infusers - No idea if there's anything to the theory, but it sounds sensible to me. I found a couple of extra-large infusers that give the tea plenty of room at a fancy kitchen store.

Also, there are lots of hand-made spoon rests (also handy for holding spent teabags) on Etsy.
posted by usonian at 9:27 AM on December 4, 2012

Best answer: I actually have grown away from my IngenuiTEA because it's imposssssssible to clean. I mean, maybe COD and trunk muffins have some protips that I missed out on? But I can't clean the damn thing for the life of me -- it smells strongly of the last tea I drank, always. It's also worth noting that they don't make a glass one. If organic is important to him, he may be of the type who doesn't want to steep tea in plastic.

I quite like this mug, though -- it allows the tea to bloom as it steeps and when you're done steeping, the cute lid holds the steeper (at which point he can re-steep).

seriously though I do so wish I could clean the ingenuitea because it is very, very cool and makes very good tea (the first few times)
posted by AmandaA at 9:31 AM on December 4, 2012 [1 favorite]

Best answer: I used to get all of my tea from Rishi, so I can vouch for its awesomeness. That said, as a matter of convenience, all of the tea in our house now is from MEM Tea, and it's excellent. It doesn't look like they sell things from their website, but perhaps you could find it elsewhere online (after a quick search, I found this).

My husband and I love brewing in this style of teapot. (There's plenty of room for the tea to expand, which is nice.) It's great for home, but maybe not as good for work. If/when I start working in an office again rather than from home, I'll probably keep either this basket infuser or this teapot at my desk (both of which I already own, and thoroughly enjoy). The former might be a really good bet for your husband, if he doesn't already have something like it.

Then, of course, there's tea storage. I've gotten Rishi teas that come in bags, as well as in tins. The things are probably better for storage overall, and Rishi sells a number of lovely tins, if your husband would enjoy that sort of thing.

The ingenuiTEA looks extremely intriguing, and rather similar to our much-loved Clever coffee brewer. Seems to me like that or a mug infuser like the one I linked would be a good bet.
posted by cellar door at 9:33 AM on December 4, 2012

Adagio does indeed have both super awesome teas and super awesome tea stuffs.
posted by elizardbits at 9:34 AM on December 4, 2012

Best answer: re: Cleaning the ingenuiTEA. I can get the plastic reasonably clean with hot water and some elbow grease. The metal strainer is stained and I probably should replace it soon. However I keep the ingenuiTEA at work where it only brews black tea so the whole memory of previous teas thing is not that big of an issue.

At home where I tend to switch between black in the morning and white or green tea at night, I use the Adiago variable temperate electric tea kettle to heat the water and then steep with tea sacs.
posted by COD at 9:44 AM on December 4, 2012

Best answer: Ooh! COD just sparked a thought. As you get deeper into the world of teas, you start to learn that each tea should (ideally) be steeped at a different temperature. A thermometer might not be a bad idea (we just use a generic kitchen thermometer, similar to this one). Steeping at the right temperature (and for the right length of time) will drastically improve your—or, in this case, your husband's—tea-drinking experience.
posted by cellar door at 9:48 AM on December 4, 2012 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Yeah, the tea ball infuser things aren't the best way to go for a great cup of tea. But they're sometimes very convenient, and there is one that always makes me smile. When I tell people I have a tea-making robot, they tend to picture something a little more complicated than the truth. Still, this little guy does the trick well enough. Plus, you know, I get to tell people that I have a tea-making robot.
posted by .kobayashi. at 9:50 AM on December 4, 2012 [1 favorite]

I used a cheaper plastic version of this in China, and loved it.
posted by Fig at 9:52 AM on December 4, 2012

Best answer: Steeping at the right temperature (and for the right length of time) will drastically improve your—or, in this case, your husband's—tea-drinking experience.

Yeah, I got a fancypants electric kettle that does different water temperatures but I am too much of a heathen to tell if it really makes a difference, tbh.

It is very shiny though.
posted by elizardbits at 9:55 AM on December 4, 2012 [1 favorite]

Best answer: I drink loose-leaf tea daily and I absolutely love this no-fuss mug and infuser set by Forlife. It allows the tea to expand properly, and is also easy to clean.
posted by susanvance at 9:56 AM on December 4, 2012

Best answer: I've wanted to give this robot tea infuser to a loose leaf tea lover for quite some time now.
posted by Juniper Toast at 10:59 AM on December 4, 2012

.kobayashi. beat me to it!
posted by Juniper Toast at 11:00 AM on December 4, 2012

Best answer: I convinced about 5 people to get themselves or their parents electric, temperature adjustable tea kettles last year for the holidays. The best ones I found were this one on the cheaper end and this one if you care more about aesthetics or not having plastic bits touching the boiling water.

Red Blossom Tea is an awesome tea company that carries mostly Chinese style teas, and would be a great place to pick up more Pu'er tea.

I've used things like the ingenuiTEA before (Teavana carries one), but since I drink a lot of different kinds of teas, I've had problems with it permanently smelling like chai and have since moved back to a normal teapot from Beehouse. I also accidentally dumped hot water on myself with it a few times before I got used to it, which hurt.

The mug-and-infuser combinations linked above are really convenient; a traditional type of similar device is called a gaiwan and also might make a good gift. I loved mine, but them I broke it.
posted by asphericalcow at 11:07 AM on December 4, 2012

Best answer: ingenuiTEA has been my pal for some ten years, through several changes of model -- the last one had removable filters, which allowed you to avoid the tea-leaching problem, so not sure why they went back to the permanent ones when they made them metal. (maybe the gizmos wore out before really needing new filters for most folks?)

Finally bought my spouse one for home, and his comment was "why would anybody use anything else after trying this?" It really is that convenient, satisfying. I'd start with that and a sampler, especially with the work angle.
posted by acm at 11:13 AM on December 4, 2012

Best answer: I once did a tasting at Teance in Berkeley, and their selection compares favourably to the best teas I've had in Taiwan. You can purchase gift tea subscriptions on their website, but Tung Ting Cold Summit and Tieguanyin teas (both Oolong) are a great introduction to "real" Chinese tea. Just thinking about them is making me salivate.

Among Chinese tea enthusiasts, teaware made from zisha clay from Yixing are the best for bringing out the flavours in tea. Since your husband consumes his tea at work, a tea set may be a bit too fussy, so maybe this tea infuser mug or this clay-lined tumbler from Teavana?

On a more practical note, I love Zojirushi mugs because some come with tea strainers and they keep beverages hot for hours, but in my experience, unless you're very diligent about scrubbing the mug at the end of each day, they get tea-stained pretty easily.
posted by peripathetic at 11:39 AM on December 4, 2012 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Oh and I really like Mighty Leaf for tea itself. Everything is organic and high quality, and the bulk ordering is actually very affordable, plus they have nice gift sampler sets.
posted by susanvance at 11:48 AM on December 4, 2012 [1 favorite]

Best answer: If he's never had black tea with almond flavoring (with milk or soy), it's really great!
posted by Dansaman at 12:00 PM on December 4, 2012 [1 favorite]

Best answer: THIS is the kettle to get for a true tea snob.
posted by dottiechang at 12:54 PM on December 4, 2012

Best answer: I generally use one of the Chatsford teapots from Upton. I've got a couple in different sizes, and I use a tea cozy to keep the tea hot after the steeping. I have an "inginuiTEA" from Adagio, but I find it really difficult to clean when I use finely crushed teas like Upton's Irish Breakfast CTC tea. Upton Tea sells sampler quantities of most or all of their teas - you could pick him up a bunch of sampler packs to see if there's something new he might like.
posted by rmd1023 at 1:56 PM on December 4, 2012

Best answer: I have a Zojirushi CD-WBC30: it's pricey but having water the temperature you want at any time without waiting for the kettle to heat is wonderful and it's a fixture in my office.

Cast iron teapots are very nice, in my experience, for a wide variety of teas. You mention that he likes at least one pu-erh tea, and for a particularly striking pu-erh experience you can get fantastic fermented puerh cakes at Puerh Shop (they brew up nicely in either a tetsubin, which works with practically any tea, or a gongfu pot, which is a kind of limited-use device really only of utility for bringing out the subtleties of a high-quality pu-erh or wulong).

All in all, my suggestion would be for a tetsubin or a Zojirushi, unless he's got a particularly adventurous spirit, in which case you might go for a puerh cake.
posted by jackbishop at 2:11 PM on December 4, 2012

Response by poster: Thanks for all the great answers everyone; I'm very grateful for your help. I'm thinking I might go with an actual electric water heating device and some sample sets from some of the cool shops mentioned above!
posted by Kronur at 10:33 AM on December 5, 2012

Response by poster: I thought I'd update again as it is post-Christmas. I ended up getting one of the electric kettles mentioned above as a gift. My husband took it to work with him, and he loves it. He's the envy of all the offices!
posted by Kronur at 2:36 PM on January 3, 2013

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