I love tea cozies. They are by far the prettiest way to keep the tea in your teapot from cooling off too quickly. A good tea cozy will keep your tea at a drinkable temperature for at least an hour. I like them so much that one of my first blog posts was about tea cozies. (Re-read it here.)
One of the unquestioned true-isms of tea, however, is that it should never be steeped in a teapot covered by a tea cozy. What you do is infuse the tea first, sans cozy. After the tea is ready to drink and all leafery has been removed, only then should you cover the teapot with an appropriately-sized tea cozy (or cosy, if you prefer) to retain the heat.
Steeping tea in a teapot covered by a cozy, we are warned, will “stew” the tea, resulting in a misbegotten, bitter mess of a cup.
I have never questioned this accepted wisdom, and have never steeped tea in a pot covered by a cozy.
Until today. Here’s why:
For the second time in recent memory, when I passed along this cautionary steeping note, I was asked how I can be so sure if I’ve never tried it for myself. To put all doubt to rest — to either prove or disprove the axiom — I did my own test this morning.
I used two two-cup Chatsford teapots. Each pot was “hotted” by pouring in and swirling hot water. While the kettle was heating filtered water, I placed approximately two teaspoonsful of tea into each teapot’s filter basket. When the water boiled, I very quickly filled each teapot before the bubbles dissipated. One teapot was then covered with a popover cozy, the other fitted into a wraparound (“bachelor”) cozy.
The tea I chose for the experiment was Harney & Sons’ Brigitte’s Blend, an elegant blend of black India teas. This is one of my “go-to” teas, a tea that I’ll choose when I cannot decide which tea I want — and it always seems to suit the moment. No “control” infusion was required, as I am quite familiar with the taste and aroma of this tea.
After about 4-1/2 minutes — my usual timing for this blend — I quickly removed the cozies, withdrew each filter holding the tea, and then replaced the cozies. The whole removal operation could not have taken more than about twenty seconds.
The proof of the tea, as they say, is in the drinking. I poured about a tablespoonful of tea from one of the pots into a small glass tasting cup, swirled it around a few times to cool it, then took a sip. Then repeated the process with tea from the other teapot.
Let me save you the trouble of ever duplicating this test for yourself. The resulting “tea” from both pots was thick and revoltingly bitter, and could most charitably be described as swill. Instead of its usual bright, clear liquid, the tea was dull and murky in the cup. The spent leaves also exhibited an odd lifelessness.
In other words, the tea was stewed. I’ve had to consume several cupsful of properly steeped tea to rid my mouth of that horrible taste and texture. I may require professional assistance to get past the memories.
There is one positive result, however: I can now warn tea drinkers unequivocally and with great authority: Do not cover your teapot with a cozy while the tea is steeping because it will stew the tea. Yes, I am absolutely sure of this!
All that remains now is for the swill — I mean tea — to cool enough to be dumped onto our eagerly awaiting begonias, who don’t seem to be too picky about the form of tea they receive. I think this stuff will make them very happy.
And no, for my next trick I will not test whether or not my tongue sticks to a frozen pole, so please don’t ask!
Older, wiser, and slightly sick to my stomach … and determined that I will henceforth use my tea cozies only as they were intended: after the tea is steeped!
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