Monday, October 01, 2007

The Search For A Decent Teapot

Sometimes you have to laugh.

The tea industry has long been beating the coffee industry on the packaging front. Whilst we're all sitting back complaining about baggy coffee and marvelling at the foil packaging now being used for some Daterra and Mountain Top coffees, tea drinkers are sitting back and laughing - they abandoned jute sacks years ago.

But when it comes to brewing methods, coffee has it all over tea. To make a decent cup of coffee, you have to grind the coffee minutes before using it and come up with some way to efficiently separate the ground coffee from the brewed coffee when all is said and done. Whilst this is always a somewhat messy affair, the number of elegant solutions to the problem is simply mind-boggling. If you discount the mess caused by grinding, you can clean up after espresso, aeropress and drip in a matter of seconds.

Tea drinkers have definitely had it too easy. Whilst I appreciate that there is certainly a whole layer of art and science to brewing tea that will mirror anything that we'll find in espresso, the fact remains that you can steep tea quite effectively in a jar and strain it with a small sieve. I know because I have been doing it that way for years. Why? Because although it's a stupid way of doing it, it beats the hell out of the crappy teapots that have gone through my household. Let's examine the reasons why:
  • I don't want to brew a litre of tea. Is it just me, or does every teapot seem to need you to brew enough tea for two or three people. Where's the teapot for the thirsty bachelor?

  • I do want my tea to steep. What's the deal with these mesh filters that barely reach down into the teapot? I would have thought that it was perfectly bloody obvious that the tea needs to actually be able to be submerged in the water.

  • I want to control how long the tea steeps for, and I want an easy clean up. This one goes out to the teapots that I have used that don't have any sort of filter. If these abominations must force you to brew enough tea to be illegal under the current water restrictions, at least they could do it so that you can drink the whole pot without the leaves steeping for too long. And life is definitely too short to be spent scraping tea leaves out of some crappily designed teapot. (Although admittedly life is long enough to vent one's anger about said cleaning process online ;P)

  • I want the tea to end up in my cup. Seriously. This one just isn't difficult. Even a $0.005 cardboard milk container has a useable spout on it. Whilst designing a decent spout is a pretty trivial exercise, two rather elegant solutions spring to mind. First, check out the elegant Eva Solo pour system. Second, those silver spouts on some wine decanters are used specifically because they cut through the steam of liquid to stop drops. But let's not get ahead of ourselves. I can go across the street and buy a $5 plastic measuring jug that won't drip. There's simply no excuse.

  • I want to avoid battle-scars on my table. Hasn't anyone thought of putting rubber feet on a teapot? Or a dual-walled bottom? OK, so having a light coloured wooden table wasn't ever going to be a clever idea. In my defence, it was bequeathed to me - I didn't choose it. But am I really going to have to look around for a saucer or a place mat every time I brew tea? Call me lazy, but for $0.02, teapot manufacturers could fix the problem.

  • I want to be able to see the colour of the liquor. This point isn't terrifically important, but I would prefer a teapot to be white on the inside, or transparent, so that I could actually judge the strength of the resultant brew.

  • I would like the tea to maintain some heat. What genius came up with the idea of an aluminium teapot?
Presumably all tea pot manufacturers are not as clueless as those that have made the various teapots that I have used. So give me a clue, faithful blog readers! Where do I get a decent teapot from in Melbourne? (BBB seems to have some that are pretty good; I might ask them.) Do I have to design one myself? If so, here's the L-spec teapot:
  • 400mL (enough for a large cup or a little bit more)
  • Non-drip spout
  • Large mesh filter that nearly touches the bottom of the pot
  • Space for storing said filter after removal
  • Dual-walled (both for insulation and so that you can plop it right on the table)
  • Dishwasher safe
  • Transparent or white on the inside
That's it. It's just not that hard.

(Oh, and for any moronic manufacturer that would like to rip off those specifications, please don't let your stupidity make you omit obvious things. I'd like the teapot to have a handle!)

15 Comments:

At 12:59 PM, Blogger Luca said...

NB: Increasing the focus on tasting notes for coffee is still on the cards; it just so happens that I haven't had anything that was really worthwhile writing about lately. Perhaps the Esmeralda has destroyed my palate ;P

 
At 9:16 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hahaha. Did you wake up on wrong side of the bed or something? Good points though!!!

Aussie Tourist

 
At 10:50 PM, Anonymous Simon James said...

Tea?

What's that?

;-)

Simon.

 
At 2:22 AM, Blogger Jaime van Schyndel said...

There are a lot of tea brewers out there already that are close to your specs but you may have to investigate more to find one.
I use brewer that holds ~4oz in the brew chamber and then can collect two brew in the basin below. Ideal for this Taiwanese tea I drink a lot which only desires two steeps.
http://www.flickr.com/photos/barismo/585508825/

 
At 8:49 AM, Anonymous Billy Bolonski said...

It sounds like you are desribing a small coffee plunger.

French press is great for tea or coffee.

 
At 2:41 PM, Blogger Michael said...

Sounds to me like you're making things too complicated for yourself.
Pouring out of a tea-pot a problem? Make your tea directly into your glass (also solves your thirsty bachelor problem).
My current preferred tea-making combination consists of:
Bodum Pilatus double walled glass (available in a couple of sizes, I think ours are 350ml). Has the advantage of being at worst warm to touch (no need for an unsightly mug handle)
Tea Strainer (pick your device of choice, I like the cone shaped one that sits across the glass & I pour over. Could also use one of those tea-balls just as effectively)
Small ramekin/dish to sit strainer in when done.

 
At 6:41 AM, Anonymous Jason said...

luca,

We've been using one like this (except the one litre version) for a couple of years now:

http://www.amazon.co.uk/Bodum-Assam-Press-Teapot-0-5L/dp/B00008XXS9/ref=sr_1_10/202-4573203-2944603?ie=UTF8&s=kitchen&qid=1191356701&sr=1-10

Actually it seems to fulfill most of your criteria, except obviously the heat problem! We pre-warm our teapot and it seems to keep the tea quite hot through the second cup.

I know these are available in T2 in the city and Jasper Coffee, but probably most homey places as well.

Good luck.

 
At 12:09 PM, Blogger Luca said...

Hehehe ... it's amazing that such a stupid rant would draw so many people out of the woodwork.

I'll look into everyone's suggestions. For now, Michael's sounds pretty attractive. The only problem is that living in my house, things like tea balls are quite likely to be thrown away or otherwise go missing ... as has happened with my previous four or five ...

Cheers,

Luca

 
At 2:58 PM, Blogger Michael said...

This is my preferred style strainer http://www.zabars.com/on/demandware.static/Sites-Zabars-Site/Sites-Zabars/default/images/max_B26G002.jpg

 
At 11:22 AM, Anonymous Tzu-yen said...

Tea pot. Andrew had the white teapots with no tea-leaf container inside. However, he has the coloured teapots with the built in strainer. Nice size. I have thought about a nice teapot for ages.

But seriously, this is one cool tea strainer
http://store01.prostores.com/digitalgravel/catalog/tea_teo_small.jpg

 
At 11:24 AM, Anonymous Tzu-yen said...

the link again:
http://store01.prostores.com/digitalgravel/catalog/tea_teo_small.jpg

If this dosent work. search Alessi + tea strainer

 
At 2:46 PM, Anonymous nicfortin said...

Hey Luca,
check this one out!
http://tinyurl.com/2w9ftq
Designed in Canada, made in China(I think)
Most affordable and efficient way to brew loose leaf tea IMO.

cheers

nic

 
At 1:36 PM, Anonymous Identity said...

Hi Luca,

somehow I came here through CG despite being a fellow CSer.

Although it has the 'capacity' to be too large, have you tried the Eva Solo Tea Maker? They're light and well packaged so it may be cheaper to get one from the UK than from the very low volume Australian supplier in Sydney (I think it's a speciality Scandinavian retailer). I know a couple of people who've had good experiences with them, and they're low fuss. The downside is that you need hot water from somewhere, but that's what the water arm on your plumbed in espresso machine is for, isn't it?

 
At 7:22 PM, Blogger Luca said...

Amazing how this thread keeps on racking up comments! I ended up going and buying one of these:

http://www.thetshop.co.nz/accessories.php?id=44

The mesh filter only reaches about half-way down, but that's actually not a bad thing - it means that once I pour half of the tea out it stops steeping without my needing to remove the filter. The spout doesn't drip everywhere.

Crisis averted; you can all resume your regularly scheduled programming!

Cheers,

Luca

PS. Identity, I'm keen on the idea of getting one of the 600mL cafe solos.

 
At 9:39 AM, Blogger Angela said...

I have a couple of wonderful Tokoname pots, both of which brew about one cupful apiece. This is one of them: http://www.rishi-tea.com/store/kikumaru.html (the other I bought in Japan...) I've never had any tealeaves slip past the holes poked in that teapot. I adore it.

 

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