Tea lovers are inclined to brew a cuppa any time of year, but especially now, in the dead of winter. Time to put the kettle on and savor the warm, soothing flavor of steeped tea leaves.
Luckily, supermarkets and specialized shops are full of the fragrant dried leaves, in both loose and bag form. And there’s gear galore for those interested in preparing and savoring a delicious cupful.
Yixing Chinese teapots are made of organic zisha clay that’s free of lead, arsenic, cadmium and other toxic substances, and has a natural plasticity that makes it easy to mold. Mrs. Lin’s Kitchen offers one with the spout and handle crafted in the shape of a branch in winter.
Good Life Tea has a smart and sturdy teapot with a simple modern design. It comes in fun colors like mandarin, lime, turquoise, purple and blue. Here too is a range of traditional Japanese iron teapots, including a gift set that includes a cast-iron teapot with a dragonfly motif, a trivet, two cups, and two tea tins covered in handmade washi paper and filled with Jasmine Pearls and Gyokuro green teas.
CB2’s teaware collection includes a reactive, iridescent, glazed teapot and a stainless-steel canister finished in either copper or gold for storing your teas. You can put on a show at teatime with the Betty teapot, made of ultra-durable beaker glass. A removable glass infuser perches in its belly, ready to be filled with loose tea.
A pretty addition to a clear pot: Good Life Tea’s flowering tea — a blend of lily, jasmine and osmanthus dried into a pod that unfolds into a mini garden in the pot when you add hot (not boiling) water.
Stovetop or electric kettle? There are stylish options either way. Smeg’s retro-style kettle comes in colors like cream, red, pastel green and black, and in an electric or variable temperature version. The latter is good if you brew a lot of different kinds of tea; herbal teas brew best in very hot water, black teas slightly less so, and green and white teas a little cooler still.
Stephen Twining, a 10th-generation member of the Twining tea-making family, has some pro tips for perfectly brewed tea:
— Use fresh, cold water. “Never reuse already boiled water.”
— Never let the water over-boil. “In doing so, you’ll cause the oxygen in the water to be reduced, making the tea taste ‘flat’.”
— Pour the water over the tea bag. “Place the bag in the mug first, and then pour the boiling water over it.”
— Let the tea bag sit. Twining says it’s best to let it sit and steep rather than dunk it or squeeze it.
— Be patient. “I recommend letting it steep for a full four minutes.” However, green tea is ready in two, oolong in three, and chai in five. Impatient sorts should go with white tea, for which a quick one minute of brewing will suffice.
Twinings has some interesting herbal teas, including Buttermint, which blends peppermint and vanilla flavors. Berry Fusion brings together strawberry, blueberry and blackberry, along with rosehips, apple and licorice root for a complex, flavorful cup.