When I first got into tea I was overwhelmed by all of the gadgets and gizmos that can go along with it. Looking back, I think I purchased everything related to tea that I could find. Luckily I had some really wonderful folks who set me straight before too much damage was done. You don’t actually have to spend a fortune on stuff in order to make a perfect cuppa. Here are a few practical and inexpensive ways to up your tea game:
For a lot of folks, one of the major realizations when it comes to tea is that they shouldn’t all be made with boiling water. You can buy a thermometer that is specifically made for tea but really any food-safe one will do. I’ve even borrowed meat thermometers in a pinch. Knowing the temperature of your water makes a world of difference when it comes to preparing green and white tea. Just combine a thermometer with the timer on your cell phone and you’re good to go.
2. Electric Tea Kettle
I cannot recommend getting an electric kettle enough. They are reliable and much more efficient than traditional stovetop kettles. When I still lived at home I used my mom’s kettle until one day I realized that it never got the water quite to boiling and sometimes I would wind up with a wide range of whistling temperatures. You can even get a variable temperature model, allowing you to forego the first item on this list. A kettle doesn’t have to be fancy or expensive to get the job done. Trust me on this one. You won’t regret making the switch.
3. Gram Scale
Tea is commonly measured in teaspoons. The trouble with this is that it isn’t a very accurate unit of measure at all. The size of it has changed over time but the current standard for a culinary teaspoon is 1/4 of a tablespoon or about 1.5g of tea. Tea leaves can be large and vary quite a lot in shape. A teaspoon of CTC black tea will not be the same as a teaspoon of long, wiry dan cong oolong. All you need to achieve a more standardized cup of tea is a simple digital pocket scale. It will come in even more handy if/when you advance to gongfu style brewing.
4. Smaller Teacups
We love our venti lattes from Starbucks and 7-Eleven Big Gulps. The only thing is that gulping your tea can make it hard to really taste it. Switching to smaller teacups (8oz or less) can dramatically change the way you experience what you drink. The thimble-sized cups used in gongfu service might look silly but they actually force us to truly focus on every sip. That effect is amplified even more if you slurp. Seriously! Try drinking the same tea out of a few different kinds of cups. You’ll definitely notice a difference.
Make a habit of taking notes about the teas that you drink. Record any information that seems important at the time, even if it’s just a thought or feeling. Make sure to include all of the details of how you brewed the tea. I like to use old-fashioned notebooks but you can use Excel spreadsheets or whatever system works best for you. Having a record to look back through can prove invaluable as you progress on your tea journey.
Is there something else that you think should be on this list? Let me know in the comments!
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