Tea Makers

I’ve been struggling for a while to make up my mind if I like the idea of electric tea makers (such as the Sage by Heston Blumenthal) or not. On the pro side, tea makers are usually designed around temperature and steep-times and so promote the importance of these factors (which are overlooked by so many). On the other side, I believe that preparing tea is more than just the end result and that the process of making it is part of its lure. This lure is diminished by a machine that does it all for me.

As an analogy, I have a bread-maker that is timed to rest, knead, rise and bake bread throughout the night. I love that it sends the aroma of fresh baked bread through the house in the morning but as with the tea-maker, you could say that I’m missing out on all the fun by using a bread-maker. That argument doesn’t fly with me because I find no joy in kneading and punching and waiting. For me bread-making is all about the end result and in contrast to tea-making, the more the machine can do the happier I am.

So for anyone considering buying a tea-maker I think the key question is; are they interested only in the end result or do they like the ritual of making tea. Mrs Doyle explains this concept better than me:

 

Review of the Breville Puratea VKJ436*

Coming home after time away is always a mixed bag of emotions. I’m happy to be back by the sea, glad to return to our weekend breakfast ritual, eager to see what weeds are thriving in the allotment and relieved to have a decent cup of pu-ehr. At the same time I’m usually sad that the break is over and right now coming home for me means figuring out career changes and deciding on next steps.

I have a few tricks up my sleeve to cheer myself up. Booking the next holiday usually works ;-) but so does new tea or new tea accessories. This time I had the Breville tea maker kettle waiting for me.

In short, this is a cordless kettle that has a removable carriage to hold loose leaf tea so it doubles as a kettle and a teapot. The tea is placed in a central tea carriage inside the kettle but the tea is suspended above the water while it is heating. Once the water is hot enough, turning the tea carriage knob, lowers the tea into the water. After brewing, the leaves can be separated from the water by raising the tea carriage again. They say that you can use a tea bag instead of loose tea in the tea carriage but what would be the point of that?! There are four pre-set temperature settings: low, medium, high and boil. There is also a keep warm feature that keeps the tea at 75°C for one hour. It automatically switches off after one hour but can be manually reset if you want to keep it warm for longer. The glass kettle means you can visually assess the strength of the tea and it looks good with the brushed steel base. Unfortunately the tea carriage is made from plastic instead of glass and this takes a little from the look and feel.

 

Reviews that I found online complained about the maximum capacity of 1 litre. I understand this complaint if it is being used just as a kettle (it comes with a lid that can replace the inner tea carriage) but this is a tea maker and the standard kettle size of 1.7 litres would just be ridiculous. If anything, the minimum quantity of 500ml is too much. 500ml is fine for teas that only need a single-steeping but for teas that are steeped three or four times, you are talking quantities that are not practical for one person. Last night I made rooibos which is good for single-steeping so after the water had boiled and the carriage was lowered, I just left it lowered in the water and used the keep warm function and went back for top ups throughout the evening. Perfect.

 

A small issue I found is that it is not designed for rinsing the leaves. The first steeping of tea should really be a rapid steeping and the liquid discarded and not drank. Lowering the leaves into the water means that you would need to discard the contents of the first kettle and start all over again with a second kettle of water. You could get around this by briefly rinsing the leaves before brewing in the tea maker but that gets fiddly and so far has involved me removing the carriage and using a second kettle of boiling water for the rinse.

 

I found that lowering the tea into water is not quite the same as pouring water on tea. The dry leaf tends to sit on top of the water for a little while before it starts to sink. This just means that a longer infusion time is needed and I’m still experimenting with what works well for timings. On that note, while I like the sleek and simple design, it is a shame that there isn’t a simple timer on it to allow the steepings to be timed.

In terms of speed, it took just under 3 minutes to bring 1 litre of water to boil, which is about the same as the Philips kettle that I use. For some reason the cord is much shorter (~40cm) than the standard kettle cord. It doesn’t bother me at all but some people seem to be annoyed by it.

The bottom line is that I really like the design and I think it works well without being overly complicated. I can see myself using it for herbal infusions more than real tea. If I could change one thing, I would make the tea carriage glass instead of plastic but at £29 (approx. €34), I consider this tea maker a steal and it cheered me up no-end while I was plotting my next holiday.

 

* Note: this is NOT a sponsored post or a paid review. Just some of my thoughts on a recent purchase.