If you want to make a cup of tea, at the bare minimum you’ll need a cup or mug, a teabag and a way to heat water. But what if you really want to do it up right? What do you need to brew a nice pot of tea? In this article we will discuss the various interesting paraphernalia you may need to filter water, heat your water, brew your tea and keep it nice and warm. Read on to learn more.
Begin with fresh, clean water
For the very best tea, you’ll want nice, clean, chemical free water. Don’t use bottled water as it is stale water that’s been sitting in a plastic bottle which may have leached chemicals. For the best tasting, freshest and most affordable water, filter your local tap water using a filtration pitcher, faucet mounted filter or whole-house filtration system. Use fresh, cold water every time you brew tea for the best flavour and results.
Heat things up with a kettle
An electric kettle provides a convenient way to heat water for tea, coffee, hot chocolate and so on without taking up burner space on your stovetop. Electric kettles heat quickly and efficiently and are very safe to use in any setting that has an electrical outlet.
You can choose your electric kettle in a wide variety of sizes, styles, colors and materials. Choose from:
- BPA-free plastic
- Copper plated
- Stainless steel
Plastic kettles are fun and come in a wide variety of colors. They are a nice choice for making tea at work or school or in a dorm room. For heavy-duty, day-in-day-out use you will be better off with a metal kettle.
When choosing between stainless steel, aluminum and copper, it is generally best to go with stainless. Copper is very attractive, and it heats quickly and easily, but it is a softer metal and may tend to dent and ding more easily than the other two. Copper can also present some cleaning challenges, and you must be careful not to use cleansers that would stain or damage it.
Aluminum is very light and durable, but used a great deal, over a long period of time it can leach aluminum particles into boiling water. This can interfere with the flavour of your tea and pose a health hazard.
Stainless steel lasts a lifetime. It is very durable and very stable. It can withstand a great deal of heavy, daily use with almost no signs of wear. Stainless is easy to clean, and if it does happen to become stained, you can scrub it up with a scouring pad and it will look as good as new.
Porcelain and ceramic tea kettles are very attractive and make a nice addition to your kitchen, office or dorm room décor. Just be aware that ceramic and porcelain are rather fragile materials. If you are in a setting where your tea kettle will take a beating, you may be better off with one of the other choices.
When choosing an electric tea kettle, look for these features:
- Whistle or beep when water has boiled
- Automatic shut off
- Tightly fitting lid
- Drip-free spout
- Stain resistant
Some models are dishwasher-safe, but this is really an unnecessary feature. You should never cook anything but water in an electric kettle, and you should rinse the kettle and leave it empty to air out until you need to boil water again.
If you boil water very frequently throughout the day, you can just empty and rinse it at the end of each day. Don’t leave water sitting in the kettle overnight, and don’t re-boil the same water again and again. This practice just results in bad-tasting tea.
Electric kettles are handy and affordable and available in sizes ranging from one cup to several quarts. With proper care, your electric kettle will last for years. When it does finally bite the dust, be sure to dispose of it properly through recycling.
Choose a teapot to brew your tea
When you are looking for a teapot, you’ll want to think about the type of tea you plan to brew. For more delicate teas, lighter weight materials such as glass, porcelain or ceramic do well. For more robust teas, enameled cast iron is an excellent choice.
Delicate teas, such as green, white or Oolong need a short brewing time, so choose a teapot made of a material that cools quickly.
Dark teas, such as English or Scottish breakfast and other black teas need a longer brewing time, so you will be best off with a pot that stays warm for an extended period of time.
If you want to use a traditional clay teapot, you must understand that this type of pot is intended only for use with Oolong or Pu-er teas (one or the other – not both). This traditional type of pot (aka: Yixing) is known as a “memory” pot. The unglazed clay surface absorbs the flavour of your tea and enhances subsequent brews, so if you use this type of pot, you must choose one of the two types of “approved” tea and brew that type consistently.
If you are purchasing your first teapot and you want to be able to make a wide variety of teas, choose a tempered glass teapot. This choice is easy to clean thoroughly, so you can brew any kind of tea in it without fear of flavour crossover. When you want to brew a robust tea that needs a longer brewing time, just keep the pot warm with a tea warmer or cozy (more on that coming up)!
When shopping for a teapot, look for these features:
- The lid should fit securely to avoid spills.
- The handle should be solid because hollow handles get too hot to hold.
- There should be a tiny hole in the lid allowing air to facilitate smooth pouring.
- A built in strainer in the spout saves steps and clutter but can be a bit hard to clean.
- A built-in infuser makes it easy to lift the tea leaves out when brewing is complete.
Teapots can be a bit spendy, but keep in mind that your teapot is the centerpiece of your tea service. It should be attractive, high quality and reliable. A poor quality teapot will provide poor (or even dangerous) service and will brew inferior tea. Consider your teapot an investment and take good care of it. It will serve you well for many years.
Teapot warmers and cozies enhance your brew
To extend your brewing time or to keep your tea warm throughout teatime, you’ll need a teapot warmer and/or a tea cozy. Teapot warmers actually add gentle warmth to hold your tea at the proper brewing and drinking temperature for an extended period of time. They look like and work like potpourri warmers.
You can get an electric teapot warmer with one or two burners to gently warm your tea. These devices look very much like an electric hot plate. You can also get a candle-powered, ceramic, metal or tempered glass tea warmer for a more decorative appearance. These devices keep your tea warm through the use of a cleverly concealed tea light.
Prices and sizes range widely because both electric and candle powered teapot warmers are available in a wide variety of designs and sizes. You can get a warmer for your teacup, your teapot or two teapots if you wish.
Safety should be foremost in your mind when you make your choice (especially with a tea light powered warmer). Look for sturdy construction that can easily support the weight of your teapot. When purchasing any electrical appliance, it is always a good idea to seek out a manufacturer who provides a warranty.
A tea cozy is like a little quilted hat that completely covers your teapot. This is a risk and danger free way to keep your teapot warm, and it’s cute too! When you place a tea cozy over your teapot, you can keep it nice and toasty for about half an hour.
To make the most of your tea cozy’s heat retaining properties, be sure to warm your teapot in advance before brewing your tea. Do this by filling it with hot water from the tap to warm it while your filtered water is coming to a boil in the kettle. When the kettle has boiled, pour the warm tap water out and brew your tea in your nice, warm teapot.
Collect an attractive tea service
You don’t need a lot of equipment to make yourself a cup of tea, but when you are serving tea to a gathering of friends and family having a nice tea set and proper equipment can be a point of pride and of fun. Refer to the information presented here as you gather your own unique tea service.