How do I drink more tea?
September 24, 2014 2:06 PM   Subscribe

I love drinking tea, especially the unique international varieties I have collected in my travels. But there are too many steps to making tea -- get water, put in pot, heat pot, wait for pot to boil, open cabinet, put bag in mug, etc. -- so I never think to do it. Are you a tea drinker? What rituals, storage trays, and methods can I use to speed up the process? And how can I display my tea in the kitchen (without taking up too much space) instead of hiding it in a cabinet?

I have:
- a small, messy kitchen
- assorted boxes and bags of tea (some bagged, some loose) stored in the cabinet above my sink
- assorted mugs
- a dented metal teapot sitting on the stove
posted by rogerrogerwhatsyourrvectorvicto to Food & Drink (44 answers total) 15 users marked this as a favorite
Best answer: Do you have an electric kettle? If not, that would definitely be my first recommendation. It makes the whole process significantly faster and smoother.
posted by ClaireBear at 2:07 PM on September 24, 2014 [37 favorites]

I just got myself this tea chest to organize and display my tea bags (and to remind myself to drink more tea).

Also, I sometimes cheat and just microwave a mug of water and plunk the teabag in.
posted by erst at 2:09 PM on September 24, 2014 [2 favorites]

If you want to drink tea often enough to avoid tepidity/staleness issues, always have out a clean mug with a teabag in it and water in your teapot. That way, all you have to do is turn on the stove and pour the water when it's ready. Afterwards, you refill the pot and put out a fresh mug and teabag. That way, you're just doing prep work instead of being blocked from getting tea.
posted by michaelh at 2:13 PM on September 24, 2014 [1 favorite]

I cannot overstate how excellent my Utilitea Kettle is. Put water in kettle. Select temperature. Push button. No need to watch the stove, and no worries about getting the water too hot for green tea or oolong.

Also, for loose tea, get a good tea filter that has its own lid/saucer.
posted by BrashTech at 2:15 PM on September 24, 2014 [6 favorites]

I use a electric kettle which heat water VERY fast. I keep my tea bags in a lidded container next to the kettle. Turn on the kettle and while the water heats, put a bag in your cup. A minute or two later, pour the hot water in the cup.
posted by harrietthespy at 2:19 PM on September 24, 2014 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Put an electric pot and favorite mug in center of dinner table or in room you spend most of your time with a selection of the next 3 or 4 teas you want to try.

I believe making things available and simple is the key to sticking with it. too many mugs, too many tea options can cause excuses not to deal with it.

You might keep jugs of water discretely near by for ease of filling the kettle.

Also have some people over for tea!
posted by notatron at 2:20 PM on September 24, 2014 [2 favorites]

get water, put in pot

I'm not understanding why these are separate steps, unless you don't have drinkable running water in your kitchen. Put the water in the pot directly from the tap.

I have an electric kettle that turns off after the water boils, so I don't have to hang out next to it and wait. If you are waiting, use that time to open the cabinet and get the teabag out.

I don't personally have an issue with opening the cabinets to get at things, but if you find this to be a time consuming thing you can remove the doors and save time on many other things in your kitchen as well.
posted by yohko at 2:21 PM on September 24, 2014 [10 favorites]

If you want to get super-fancy get a zojirushi water boiler which will keep the water at the exact right temperature all the time.

But basically, yeah, get a kettle and get in the habit of turning it on whenever you walk in the kitchen. Also, don't really fill it all the way. Just fill it enough to get the water you need for you next cup of tea because the less water you have to boil the faster it goes.

And get a mid-sized tea pot. Sometimes it's easier to not have to worry about fussing with bags by just making a pot of tea. And you probably want a second cup anyway.
posted by GuyZero at 2:22 PM on September 24, 2014 [2 favorites]

Stick one of these up in your kitchen to hold a few bags at a time. That will free up counter space.
posted by harrietthespy at 2:22 PM on September 24, 2014 [1 favorite]

Make loose-leaf tea for a month or so. Then using bags will feel like delicious laziness.
posted by chaiminda at 2:27 PM on September 24, 2014 [4 favorites]

Electric kettle is an absolute must. Only put in enough water to make one cup of tea at a time.

Get yourself a mug with an infuser in it, like this.

But realistically, you can only make the process so minimal, you know? You're always going to have to do the two basic things: put tea in a mug and heat water. So try and make that part of the whole ritual. Tea is about taking a moment to have some tea. So, you know, try not to fight the process too much.
posted by Lutoslawski at 2:27 PM on September 24, 2014 [5 favorites]

A boyfriend years back had that Zojirushi GuyZero links. THAT THING IS AWESOME. I drank so much tea during that time in my life, and the reason is because hot water was always accessible. Tea was out on the counter right next to the Zojirushi, mugs were in the cabinet right above it, tea strainer was stored in the mugs. Grab mug, plop in tea leaves, blast it with the Zoji, BOOM TEA HAS OCCURRED and I didn't even have to move.
posted by phunniemee at 2:28 PM on September 24, 2014 [3 favorites]

I really like the tea maker I got from Attic here in Bristol. It's like a sort of infuser with a "release valve" you activate by placing the tea maker on top of your mug. Because it's transparent you can see exactly when it's ready, and because it's a one-shot you'll not end up with a lot of stewed tea. You might like to try and find one locally.
posted by aesop at 2:33 PM on September 24, 2014

I really like the tea maker I got from Attic here in Bristol.

Stateside, Adagio has what appears to be the same product. I have one and like it a lot. (My only complaint would be the lack of any measurement lines; I put a piece of Scotch tape at the proper level for my usual mug.)
posted by Shmuel510 at 2:37 PM on September 24, 2014 [1 favorite]

N-thing the Zojirushi water boiler. Our tea consumption went way up after we got it, as it's just so easy to make tea when hot water is available right that moment.
posted by research monkey at 2:42 PM on September 24, 2014

I have a water cooler at home which gives me hot water all the time, so it's as easy as put teabag in cup, put hot water in cup. The one I have is similar to this one, look around, I think I paid around $100. I just have a refillable 5-gallon water bottle and I fill it from the tap in the bathtub so I don't pay for water service or anything. It is very awesome having hot water on tap at all times. Also, cocoa!
posted by rabbitrabbit at 2:52 PM on September 24, 2014

Electric kettle. Specifically the kind with different settings for different varieties of tea. (Cuisinart makes one.)
posted by stoneandstar at 2:52 PM on September 24, 2014

I have an electric kettle and a ceramic Chatsford teapot with a built-in strainer that allows a decentish amount of circulation. Water in kettle, switch on, tea in pot while water boils*, pour water into pot when boiled**, get out cup, add milk***, wait a little longer, pour tea, drink tea. And as Lutoslawski says, you're having a cup of tea: the process is the process.

* or tea in strainer, hot tap water to warm pot while kettle boils, tip out once boiled
** if you have green tea, get a multi-temperature kettle
*** opinions differ
posted by holgate at 2:53 PM on September 24, 2014 [1 favorite]

Every once in awhile I do the whole ritual--warming the pot, steeping the tea for the correct amount of time using the precise water temp for the type of tea I'm making, warming the mug, pouring with a strainer, etc.

Mostly I do a shortcut method. For bagged tea I warm the mug quickly using hot tap water, then add the bag and the water that's set to the correct temperature by using a selectable electric kettle. Steep for correct amount of time, remove bag, drink. For loose tea I use one of those mugs from Adagio or similar.

For storage I use clear containers with somewhat fussy handmade labels for each type of tea. Because I'm crafty. I do get flavor cross-contamination occasionally, but mostly I don't care. I've got different containers for each type I drink: Black, Green, White, Oolong, Herbal. I also have one box and one loose-leaf tin of my go-to tea, which is Yorkshire Gold.

Everything is arranged within easy reach. Electric kettle, the tea canisters, and each label has the general temperature and and steeping time written on the label because I can only remember black (195, 2-3 mins) and green (175, 1 min) offhand. For stronger tea I use more than 1 bag or extra loose tea and don't increase steep time.
posted by xyzzy at 2:57 PM on September 24, 2014

A friend was given one of these and I have to say it makes great tea (once you work out the best temperature and timing for your favourite teas) and is handy if you're drinking tea all day as you work (she does). But it's a high end solution to your problem.
posted by zadcat at 3:08 PM on September 24, 2014

You're aware that the vast majority of people in the most tea-drinking nations in the Western world pour hot water over a teabag, yes? If you have loose tea, use a tea ball. No pot, no pot warming, no faffing about.
posted by DarlingBri at 3:24 PM on September 24, 2014 [2 favorites]

I am a tea drinker*

What you need is
1) loose leaf tea of good quality and freshness
2) a water filter
3) a large teapot with a porcelain sieve-type of insert (i.e. not a tea ball, which crams the expanding tea leaves tightly together and counteracts proper extraction).
4) an electric water cooker that works at various set temperatures, keeps the chosen temperature and/or is easy to jack back up to the required temperature
5) a tea cozy

The trick is to spend your time and energy once to make a bring-me-through-the-entire-morning quantity of perfectly brewed high-end tea. Boil the water while you rinse the teapot from the remnants of yesterday and select your tea of the day. Pre-heat teapot and sieve by pouring a cup or so of boiling water into it, swirl, drain. Put tea in sieve. Brew carefully, top up the sieve (when using black tea) with boiling water and let run through; patiently repeat until tea pot is full. Let steep for a while or until strong enough. Remove sieve, re-fill your water filter while you remember it, apply tea cozy to teapot...

If you want to avoid forgetting that you've got any tea in the cabinet, move it to the front every other day or so, and disregard the mess of other things that may be behind.

*among others
posted by Namlit at 3:28 PM on September 24, 2014 [1 favorite]

I drink a ton of tea and I just cold brew it in the refrigerator. Granted I only drink it cold, but you can't get any easier than this.
posted by Buckshot at 3:33 PM on September 24, 2014 [2 favorites]

I also drink a ton of tea.

So, yeah, electric kettle. But I'm going to go a step further and say get two--keep one at your desk or workspace, and one in your kitchen. Keep tea (and etc) in both locations, as well. When I worked an office job, I had a little kettle, water in two-litre bottles (which I'd refill throughout the day when I got up for whatever reason), and about half a dozen types of tea, plus sweetener, ReaLemon, and little shelf-stable milk things. It was easy to go through half a dozen cups of tea, plus share around with officemates, and it was a pleasing thing, in the middle of a shitty workday, to open your drawer and have all these choices of things that're happy making. Similar concept applies, really, if you've got a workspace at home.

Also, think about the ridiculous morning rituals that people set up for coffee. Let yourself do the same thing with tea.
posted by MeghanC at 3:57 PM on September 24, 2014

Tea Philistine here. I put a pod in my Keurig. That keeps me quaffing Earl Grey/mint tea/green tea regularly.

I'm also a fan of just putting about a half teaspoon of good loose tea in a mug, pouring over boiling water from an electric kettle and sipping when leaves get saturated with the hot water and fall to the bottom of the mug.
posted by bearwife at 3:58 PM on September 24, 2014 [1 favorite]

I love tea and am deeply lazy. I have a Teavana travel thermos which has a filter made for it - I got this as a gift and didn't think it was going to increase the amount of tea I drank, but it did. Steep, put the filter on a plate next to the electric teakettle, re-steep a few times.
posted by bile and syntax at 4:03 PM on September 24, 2014

As a semi-civilized tea drinker here's what I do for a single cup:

1. Fill mug with tap water (or bottled water if your tap water tastes bad/is too mineraly)
2. Microwave for approximately two minutes (time will depend on microwave and type of tea)
3. Fill tea ball half-way with loose leaf black tea
4. Put tea in near-boiling water for a couple of minutes or until the water turns sufficiently brown
5. Wait a couple of minutes for tea to cool
6. Drink tea

You'll need to play with the heating and steeping times for different types of teas and your preference as to how strong you like your tea.

An electric tea kettle is really nice for when you need to make more than a single cup.
posted by plastic_animals at 4:04 PM on September 24, 2014 [2 favorites]

I just embrace all the steps necessary for making tea, and treat it as a ritual to help keep me focused. Taking the time out of my day to make tea helps to relax me and gives me a good excuse to step away from my desk.

Like several others have mentioned, I have a variable temperature electric kettle (an Oster that I got at Target), and also one of the Adagio IngenuiTEA teapots. I also have another, larger teapot for my afternoon tea. I have a shelf full of loose leaf teas that I choose from, and I read tea blogs and following tea vendors on Twitter for new suggestions.

Maybe instead of trying to rush through it, just step back and enjoy the process. The few minutes it takes me to make tea (maybe 6 - 8 minutes start to finish, if that) lets me clear my head and I come back to whatever I was working on more relaxed and focused.
posted by ralan at 4:16 PM on September 24, 2014

Best answer: +1 on plastic_animals suggestion of the microwave, with the obvious note that you can use a tea bag.

Also, for herb tea, put the tea bag in the cup with the water before you zap it. Done in 1:50! (This brews too strong with regular tea.)
posted by SemiSalt at 4:53 PM on September 24, 2014

If your stash is mainly black tea, and you want multiple cups a day, then you could always adapt the Russian samovar method, which is to make it very strong, take out the leaves or bags, keep the pot warm with a cosy, and then dilute to strength with freshly-boiled water from the kettle. Also works well in a flask if you have access to boiling water at work/elsewhere.
posted by holgate at 5:00 PM on September 24, 2014

Best answer: I drink a lot of loose-leaf tea at work, where I use fill-your-own tea bags (like the Tea Sac brand on Amazon). I use big ones so the leaves have room to move. I also have a tea scoop that's perfectly sized for my large (~12 oz) cheery yellow mug.

1. Put a scoopful of tea in a tea bag.
2. Put tea bag in mug.
3. Fill mug with hot water from the office water cooler (~180 degrees, good enough for greens and oolongs).
4. Steep. Discard tea bag. Enjoy.

And then I only have one dish to wash -- the mug!

Yes, there's (biodegradable) waste, and I can't resteep the leaves (but I generally don't anyway). But I'm so happy I never need to clean leaves out of tea balls or whatever, and I don't have a pile of dishes to wash. Perfect for the office.
posted by liet at 5:13 PM on September 24, 2014 [1 favorite]

Nthing all the electric kettle suggestions. I've used a couple of models from Capresso and liked them both very much.

For storing the loose tea in a more attractive fashion where you can see it, I've got some of these clear magnetic containers that I can stick on the fridge, which is both reasonably attractive (well, at least they look better than the fridge behind them) and very space-efficient. I've also got some of these clear jars in different sizes for bagged and loose tea in larger quantity. Also, removable labels so that I can throw away the boxes while still keeping identifying info. I'm also likely to save good-looking jam jars and that sort of thing, but those don't stack well unless they match. Stacking is a good thing in a tiny kitchen.

The electric kettle's right next to the sink, with the tea and mugs all nearby. This is basically the only thing about my entire kitchen that works really well. And the electric kettle gets more use than any other appliance (not counting the fridge); it's great for boiling a pot of water quickly when your stove isn't especially good. Fill the pot a quarter of the way and put it on, and then put the kettle on; they're usually both boiling at about the same time for me. Also, the kettle heats the water for my coffee (AeroPress, why bother wasting counter space on a coffee maker when I've already got a nice kettle?).
posted by asperity at 6:01 PM on September 24, 2014

This is probably a horrible way to make tea, but it works for me, and I don't see anyone else suggesting this method, so hey, here goes.

I have a 2 quart mason jar, and I put six teabags in it - usually celestial seasonings, but not always, and generally six tea bags gives me the flavor I want.

I used to use my electric kettle and get the water to almost boiling and fill the jar, and then let it sit for a couple of hours; I'd take the teabags out and put a lid on the mason jar and when i wanted hot tea, I'd fill my mug from the jar and warm it in the microwave. I use a big mug so the jar only lasted a couple of days sitting on the counter, so it has always been fine.

I found that there's no need to boil the water, though, as long as I'm not in a hurry; I'll put the teabags in and fill the jar from the tap and let it sit overnight, and by about 12 hours later, I have a jar of perfect tea.

I like to drink a lot of tea in the winter, and I am terrible for that making a cup of tea and leaving it to steep and forgetting it for... hours. So this way I have the tea ready and I just warm it up and add my sweetener and I've got tea ready to drink right away.
posted by lemniskate at 7:00 PM on September 24, 2014 [2 favorites]

I have something you can do once that will save you a minute or two with every tea brewing.

Take your empty single mug to the sink. Turn the cold water faucet on full. Count off how many seconds it takes to fill your cup. You don't need a timer, just one-one thousand, two-one-thousand.

Now, every time you fill your kettle from the tap, count up to that same number. You will have exactly the amount of water you need to boil, so it will go faster than if you had just guessed at the amount.

Amaze and thrill your guests with your new superpower.
posted by zippy at 7:34 PM on September 24, 2014

Nthing the Zojirushi, which we loved but no longer have.

Now we have a water dispenser (the kind that you put 3- or 5-gallon jugs on) which has a hot water tab as well as cold. Always have hot water at the ready, no fuss.
posted by vignettist at 9:00 PM on September 24, 2014

This guy changed my life. I love it. I also love a hot shot, or pot filler with how water that can be installed at your sink next to the soap dispenser.
posted by Jewel98 at 9:16 PM on September 24, 2014

Heat pot, what?

Just make it in your mug. Get a tea ball if you really don't like getting loose tea in your mouth, or do what I do and just dump a bunch of loose tea at the bottom of a cup. Fill with water. Microwave. Voila!
posted by ablazingsaddle at 12:28 AM on September 25, 2014

It's a lot easier when you microwave and use a tea bag, but I like a mix of different kinds of herbal tea. Usually I microwave a mug of water and for the 1:45 it's heating up, I get my leaves in a $10 strainer. Once it's done I put the strainer in my mug with the lid on and wait like a minute to steep. Drink and enjoy
posted by lunastellasol at 6:45 AM on September 25, 2014

Get an electric kettle that switches off after it boils. You can get super cheap ones all the way up to super fancy ones that will boil to the exact temp that is perfect for the type of tea you are making. Get a tea ball, fill with tea and pop it in your mug while water boils, pour on water swirl tea ball. You can get a tea ball that is like tongs so you literally just put it in the container of loose tea and pick up as much as you want/need with no mess and fuss.

Also spend some time setting up the tea it'self in an easy to organize & grab manner. If the containers are too fussy to open or boxes are falling over each other it's hard to just grab & go. Having a little tea station set up on your counter is the best way, have a few containers of the tea you are trying at the moment out, keep your tea ball there and a nice mug or 2. Then all you have to do is boil the water in your kettle and you're away. You can also microwave your water of course, but the dinging of the microwave if I don't get it straight away drives me crazy.
posted by wwax at 8:41 AM on September 25, 2014

The quickest way I do is to microwave my cup of water and plunk a tea bag in. If you absolutely need to go the traditional route, then you just keep enough concentrated tea in the teapot for a day's use. Pour a small amount in your teacup and just add enough boiling water to bring the dilution up to normal. For the entire day you will always have hot tea at a moment's notice.
posted by JJ86 at 10:48 AM on September 25, 2014

I keep everything that I need easily accessible on a shelf in the kitchen:
- Electric tea kettle
- Teapot
- Teacups and mugs
- Loose leaf tea in canisters
- Tea bags in a tin
- Spoon for measuring tea

It sounds silly, but the spoon makes a big difference.

This is what my shelf looks like.
posted by asphericalcow at 11:38 AM on September 26, 2014

IMO, making tea with loose leaves is far, far easiest if you use a small teapot with an insert, like these charming little pots by Zero. It isn't shown, but sitting neatly in the pot is a stainless steel fine mesh basket. If you don't have an electric kettle specifically for boiling water for hot drinks, you are at a disadvantage. It really does make things quicker.

So, you just put some fresh water from the tap in your kettle, and bring it to the boil. This is usually enough time to pick your cup and tea, and put on some toast, or water a few plants or something. Put one and a half teaspoons of the tea in your teapot, and cover with freshly boiled water. Let it steep for some minutes, the time is different for different teas. Then you just pour it out, and if you're using a Zero pot or copy, you don't mess around with straining it, it is strained as you pour. You can refill and get a second, weaker brew from the same leaves, otherwise, you just lift out the insert, and tip it into the bin or compost bucket. Add sugar or milk if you like them, and you're done. When you make it every day, it's not a hard thing to do, but if you are used to really instant beverages, it might be harder to get into. Don't microwave water. Fresh boiled is nicer.
posted by thylacinthine at 4:02 PM on September 26, 2014

If, like me, you like loose leaf and will drink several pots during the day, there is The Problem of The Leaves. I can't abide 'concentrated ' (i.e. stewed) tea, so I will make a fresh pot frequently. Trouble is you end up with a lot of wet leaves, which makes for wet recycling. So I now keep a big wire sieve in the kitchen sink, and when I change the pot the leaves go in there. After a day (2-3 pots) it'll be pretty full, but the leaves are in there drip drying most of the day and they are easier to kind of squeeze out that way. Makes the whole changing the pot thing a bit easier. Big sieve technology ftw, in short.
posted by aesop at 3:31 AM on September 30, 2014

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