TeaGuide: Reviews and Ramblings

March 13, 2013

Don’t leave home without your tea!

Filed under: tea,tea accessories,tea gifts,tea review,travel,white tea — by JanisB @ 11:46 am
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If you travel much — whether it’s a weekend getaway or a lengthier trip — you know how difficult it can be in some places to get a good cup of tea. It’s when you’re visiting those kinds of places that a tea travel kit can be a life saver.

For many years I rigged up my own tea travel kit; maybe you do the same. A well-stocked kit comprises tea, something to steep it in, a cup to drink it from, and any other accessories you include in your own personal tea ritual (strainer, filter bags, sweetener …), and of course some kind of bag or box to carry it in. Then I discovered that there are much more elegant ways to go about it.


My compact Taiwan-made tea travel kit.

Some years ago I purchased a small tea travel kit made in Taiwan from a vendor who is no longer selling them, sorry to say. The kit comprises a gaiwan, a water/fairness pitcher, several tiny cups, and a tweezers, all packed into a well-padded round bag. Generally I pack an ounce or two of tea in a small plastic bag that tucks nicely into the gaiwan. I’ve used it several times, mostly when I’ve stayed at a hotel whose idea of tea is a basketful of assorted teabags, and mostly herbals at that.

The nice thing about this travel kit is that it’s very compact and can tuck into a large purse or a small carry-on type of suitcase. That same compactness also limits the amount of tea I can steep up, and sip, at any one time. It’s not a major limitation for tea varieties that lend themselves to multiple steepings, but it is a bit of a nuisance when I want a big cup of hearty black tea.

A few weeks ago I received a somewhat different type of tea travel kit. This one, from Thistledown Cozies, is dubbed The Brick for its, well, brick-like shape. Like all Thistledown products, this kit is made in the USA and is exceptionally well-made: not a stitch out of place, no loose threads, and will no doubt last for many years. The fabric is exceptional too: mine is in pretty pattern #11 (scroll down on their page to see fabric selections).


The Brick tea travel kit. The portable tea steeping cup is not included, but the tea tins are. You can also see the elastic straps and the pocket under one of the tea tins.

The kit is rather larger than my Taiwan-made kit, tho’ easier to transport on its own thanks to a built-in handle. Thistledown’s take on the necessities for tea is somewhat different: this one focuses on transporting tea and lets you choose the steeping and sipping vessels and other accoutrements.

Four tins are included in this travel kit — fill ’em with teas, or put tea in three tins and your powder/granulated sweetener in the fourth. Elastic straps of varying size hold a travel steeping/drinking cup and other accoutrements that you supply yourself according to your preferences. There are also pockets under the tea tins that let you tuck in paper filters, packets of sweetener, or even teabags.

Two different concepts of a tea travel kit. Choose the one that’s right for your needs. I like the size of the Taiwan kit and that it contains both steeping and drinking vessels. I like the versatility of the Thistledown kit; I was thinking that I could fill the cup with water and cold-infuse my tea. (I never steep tea with hot water in any kind of plastic vessel.) The cold-infusion method works best with white and oolong teas, which are less prone to becoming bitter from lengthy steeps.

Although my Taiwan-made kit is no longer available from the retailer where I bought it, you can find similar kits at many other retailers, both online and walk-in shops. Perhaps your favourite tea vendor sells them. Thistledown distributes via wholesale only; visit their website to locate a retailer who carries them.

Now if only someone could figure out how to include a hot-water kettle!!


Relative size of the two tea travel kits.

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All content Copyright 2013 JP Badarau; all rights reserved.

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December 11, 2008

Ramblings: Georgian “Old Lady” tea revisited

Filed under: exotic tea,food,Georgia tea,Russian tea,tea gifts,Tea sites — by JanisB @ 11:45 am
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I’ve had this tea since the spring and generally steep it as a black tea, albeit on the “light” end of black, similar to a first flush Darjeeling (slightly cooled boiled water, steep about 3 minutes). It’s an enjoyable, flavoury cup, with a hint of the subtle smokiness that I so enjoy in Georgia teas.

GaiwanNormally my morning cup is oolong, but as stock has been running low awaiting a certain holiday when I expect to find one or more teas under the Chanukiah, I decided to do my daily gong-fu with this tea instead, recalling several comments in Teamail discussions about multi-steeping of black teas.

The aroma of the dry leaf is outstanding — a floral/fruity combination with barely a whiff of smoke. Someone asked recently about whether aroma is always translated into the cup. In my experience the answer is “not necessarily.” But in this cup it most certainly does reflect the aroma.

Tea leavesQuite nice, not a hint of the bitterness I’ve gotten when I’ve tried this technique with other types of black teas. Actually, UK-based Nothing But Tea (retail and wholesale) lists the tea in their white tea category, but I’ve never before had luck treating it as anything but a black tea. Clearly my white-tea style steeping times have been too lengthy for this airy, twisty leaf.

A light floral – fruity – smoky cup. Just perfect this morning with a plate of fresh toast and buttery spread. And a kitty snoring merrily under my chair.

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