TeaGuide: Reviews and Ramblings

March 28, 2012

How cozy!

A stylish tea cozy adds character to your table while keeping your tea warm between cupsful. Whether made of fabric, yarn, or other materials, they pretty much fall into one of two categories: popover (also called dome) or wrap-around (also called bachelor). In practice, the cozy either covers the teapot completely and you have to remove it before pouring, or it wraps around with handle and spout sticking out so you can leave it on while you pour.

Within these two basic styles there’s a lot of creativi-tea.

Read the entire post at English Tea Store blog.

February 25, 2010

Ramblings: A cozy cuppa

Filed under: exotic tea,food,tea cosies,tea cozies,Tea sites — by JanisB @ 2:37 pm
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A cozily-covered teapot, serving as a “fairness pitcher” for multiple steeps of Teamania’s Four Seasons Oolong.

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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November 2, 2007

Ramblings and reviews: Favourites

Filed under: food,tea,tea accessories,tea books,tea cosies,tea gifts,teapots — by JanisB @ 3:34 pm

Favourite vendors of teas and accessories
Retail and wholesale

tea gardenShortly after I started this Reviews and Ramblings website I was contacted by several people who wanted to know which are my favourite suppliers of teas, teapots, etc. At the moment I’m testing and sampling a few products but haven’t finished, so I have the time to accommodate these requests before starting new reviews. (I guess this is the rambling part of this site …)

kyusuFor what it’s worth, here are my current faves. My choices may change over time. There are a lot of good vendors of teas and tea paraphernalia. There are also, unfortunately, a lot of not-so-good ones. I much prefer to deal with people who truly love tea and figured out a way to make a living at it than with people who truly love money and figured out that tea is “hot” and jumped on the trend bandwagon — these latter are people who have no souls, and I think their teas reflect that lack.

My three top all-time tea sources (in the order in which I “discovered” them) are Harney & Sons, Simpson & Vail, and Capital Tea. The reasons are simple: their teas are of the highest quality, they offer good variety, their prices are reasonable, shipping is speedy, and they are run by people who know and love tea and have been in the tea business for a long time.

camellia sinensisBeyond that, I credit John Harney for teaching me to appreciate Darjeelings; Joan at Simpson & Vail for showing me the best way to steep white teas; and Joel at Capital Tea for his ability to recommend teas that he knows will suit my tastes (and I just adore those black sacks carefully nestled into bright red tissue paper!). The Harneys, the Harrons, and Joel are simply a pleasure to talk to, to learn from, and to do business with. I consider myself fortunate to have found all of them.

Here, in no particular order except as I happen to think of them, are some of my other favourite tea and tea ware resources:

Camellia Sinensis — Kevin Gascoyne, formerly of Kyela Teas, is arguably the most knowledgeable Darjeeling tea man. His annual visits to India yield some of the best teas I’ve ever tasted. Kevin taught me to better appreciate the nuances of different types of Darjeeling teas, and his guidance through the joys of tea-tasting quite literally made my husband a tea drinker.

Tea Centre of Stockholm — Although I’ve never been there (phooey), Amanda Hemmingsson provides excellent and gracious service. This is where we get my husband’s favourite tea, Soderblandning, and one of my favourite teas, Grusinien, among many others. Always very good quality. I look forward to one day meeting Amanda in person and sampling a few more of Tea Centre’s teas, especially the ones that cannot be shipped to the USA.

Stash Tea — Surprised ya, huh? Well, before you start scratching your head, let me make it clear that I’m not a big fan of Stash teas. Tried several and was somewhat disappointed with quality. I’ve heard that their newest teas are much better than they used to be, but I’m not quite ready to try them again. What I do like about Stash is their selection of teapots, teacups, and tea sets. I always find wonderful gifts for friends, and there’s always something Stash on my Xmas Want List (and usually in my stocking as well). The catalogue is very lush, but check out their website for some excellent close-out items.

Chinese Teapot Gallery Tea Culture — Apparently this guy sells on eBay only, but he does a lot of store and Buy it Now sales in addition to auctions. This is probably the best online resource for good quality and reasonably priced Yixing (clay) tea ware. Teapots run the gamut from inexpensive little cuties to artisan and vintage pots. He’s also got everything else you might need: tea sinks, jars, warmers, tea ceremony equipage, washing bowls, gaiwans — you name it, it’s more than likely here. Nice selection of tea sets that make great gifts for tea gong-fu newbies, and some beautiful glassware. Definitely worth a look-see.

I’ll be adding to this list periodically whenever I deem a supplier worthy of inclusion!

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