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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August 25, 2007

Product review: Tea cozies and tea wallet

Thistledown Cozies
Wholesale only (List of retailers available at website)
All photos courtesy of Thistledown Cozies

Let’s face it: Tea is hot! Well, at least it is when it’s first steeped — and, of course, that’s the best way to drink it. But time and room temperature take their toll on innocent pots of tea, cooling them off too quickly if left unprotected.

So how do you keep the tea in your teapot from chilling out before you have a chance to enjoy it? There are two choices: a heating device or a tea cozy.

I’ve seen electric cup/mug warmers, but nothing big enough to accommodate most teapots. And although I have a tea-light candle warmer, I don’t use it very often because a) I don’t like the black soot that sometimes accumulates on the bottom of the teapot, and b) we have six kitties, which should need no further explanation! So cozies it is.

I’ve collected quite an assortment of tea cozies (or, if you’re British, cosies). Here’s a list of some that I’ve gathered, or been gifted, over the years:

  • A collage of St. Basil’s Church in Moscow, from Russia of course.
  • Hand-embroidered elephant from India.
  • A delicate floral pattern that resembles old wallpaper, from UK I believe.
  • Matching cozy and fused-glass plates with a cat and tea motif, handmade by a dear friend.
  • A sweet little white cozy with green shamrocks that just fits my 2-cup dark green Chatsford teapot.
  • The nicely thick but unfortunately a little too small and awkward multicoloured abstract cozy from a handicraft shop in New Jersey that raises money for local charitable organizations.
  • And a pretty thick cozy with kitties on it, British made but purchased by my DH at a Swedish tea shop.

These are all really nice cozies, and I display as many as I can in the library/tea room in our new home. I’ve used most of them at one time or another for their intended purpose. But I’ve never been really happy with any of them because they just don’t keep the tea hot enough for longer than a few minutes.

Then one day I discovered Thistledown Cozies.

These cozies are so efficient that my DH won’t use them because he actually likes his tea to cool off a little between cups. As for me: I love them!

Usually I prefer a popover, or traditional, type of cozy. Thistledown’s design incorporates a gusset (see photo), allowing for an extra layer of soft insulation. You could probably put your teapot out in a blizzard with one of these cozies on it and you’d still have hot tea an hour later. Make sure you always have a pot holder when you’re handling any teapot under one of these babies.

My cozy has a repeating pattern of different lifelike cat faces on a cream-coloured background. I like it so much that I went out and bought a few yards of matching fabric to make tea napkins. (Haven’t done it yet — ever try working with thread around cats?)

Thistledown has another popover style that isn’t quite as thick. They look like tapestry crowns. The Thistledown website says they’re out of stock — I don’t know if that’s just temporary. DH likes this one because it doesn’t keep the tea as hot as the thicker cozy.

Thistledown Cozies Wrap-around DesignI never really liked wrap-around cozies (or, if you prefer, bachelor cozies) because they just didn’t keep the tea hot enough for me — too much exposed teapot. In June I took my two-cup lavender Chatsford pot and a charming “antique wallpaper” print Thistledown wrap-around cozy with me to the World Tea Expo in Atlanta. And was delightfully surprised by how hot it kept the pot! Maybe it’s because there’s some extra fabric at the top so it holds in the heat — or maybe because unlike most wrap-around cozies there’s a bottom to it. Whatever it is, it works.

Again, the wrap-arounds come in so many colours and patterns, with new ones introduced all the time. Whether you’re using them at home or to serve tea in your tea room, guaranteed you’ll find one or more that complement your décor. (I do think wrap-around cozies make more sense than popovers in a tea room — much more convenient.)

Thistledown Tea Wallets

Do you like to take your own tea along with you when you travel — even if it’s just to the monthly PTA meeting? Then try this nifty little carrier.

Place a cupful quantity of your favourite loose-leaf tea into a disposable tea filter (T-Sac, Finum …) . Close it up (twisty tie or heat-seal), wrap it in plastic wrap, then insert your homemade “teabag” into one of the slots.

There’s room for six teabags — you can even use store-bought if you prefer 😉 — and another four hidden compartments for sweetener packets. I don’t use these, but the extra pockets work nicely for extra folded-up tea filters.

The whole thing folds up to a size not much bigger than the palm of your hand, then closes with a snap. When you’re ready for tea, just ask for plain boiling water, take out your teabag, and plop it in. Maybe it’s not going to be the best cuppa you ever had, but it’s certainly an improvement over what’s usually available!

If you’re going to have access to your own tea-making devices, you can also put tea leaves into aluminum foil, plastic wrap, or small plastic bags, and use the Tea Wallet to transport measured quantities of loose-leaf tea for gaiwan or teapot at your destination.

My wallet has a cat design (natch!) — black background with rust-, cream-, and denim blue-coloured kitties. It’s much prettier than it sounds. Designs and colours for every taste and fancy.

No, I don’t have a big collection of these — but I did receive something similar a few years ago as a gift. I think it may actually have been intended to be used as a “regular” wallet but was being sold as a tea wallet. Worked well enough, and the hand-embroidered design was rich and elegant. But Thistledown’s “purpose-built” (as the Brits would say) Tea Wallet is more compact and convenient.

One other point about Thistledown’s textile products: They are exceptionally well made. Seams are strong and straight with nary a hint of stray thread. Top-stitching is added where required for extra strength at stress points.

See Thistledown Cozies for where to buy at retail, or to order wholesale for your restaurant or shop.

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