With four years of helping people choose steeping vessels and tools, I’ve learned just how important it is that the choice of vessel fits a tea drinker’s lifestyle. The more comfort and ease a tea drinker has with his/her tools, the more likely they are to prioritize good quality loose leaf tea.
When I first started steeping tea I was in love with the gaiwan (Chinese covered bowl) because of the sensory experience it offers—with really appreciating and smelling the tea and steeped leaves. Most gaiwans are graceful in design and their uniqueness offers a bit more ritual and beauty. I do have some customers who love using a gaiwan and occasionally I sell one.
Even though I introduce the gaiwan in almost every class, most participants choose other tools for steeping and it has everything to do with lifestyle. Some people are completely open to suggestion for a steeping tool and others come in with very definite ideas about what they need. And by now, most of my customers know where I stand on tea-balls: NO!
Here are some of the Experience Tea favorites with a summary of the personal lifestyle that usually fits the tool:
Fine mesh deep stainless steel steeper with lid/tray:
These are all-around wonderful tools that do a great job of steeping your tea and keeping the process neat. They are for people who already have a favorite tea-drinking cup or pot and want a functional, practical way to get the most out of their tea. The lid/tray keeps the heat in while steeping and then provides a neat tray to put the finished steeper into.
The porcelain cup combination offers a beautiful cup in addition to the stainless steel steeper. It is for people who appreciate the beauty of the style and colors, plus want a professional looking steeping kit for work or just want to add more beauty to home steeping. This steeping tool combination is probably the most frequently purchased gift.
All-in-one glass steeping tool:
I’ve looked at a number of all-in-one steeping vessel models over the years and like the Tea Fish best because it creates a good seal between the steeped leaves and the tea liquor you drink. I’ve sold this tool to tea drinkers of all ages. It is most appealing to people who leave their steeping tool in one location and highly value neatness and ease. Since it is double walled glass it is breakable so carting it from home-to-car-to-office may be risky. Also, it is not water-tight and if tipped over, the tea will run out. From all the people who have purchased the Tea Fish, I’ve only heard praise about it.
This is a stainless steel steeping system that has its own removable steeper/basket and keeps the finished steeped tea hot for six to ten hours. It is loved by people who value being able to steep their tea and sip it throughout the day—carrying it in their purse or back pack. I’ve personally used this tool in an office and it works great—keeping my tea hot throughout long meetings. I was especially impressed when I once forgot to take the tea with me after making it and six hours later it was still lovely and enjoyable. I also took it with me to Japan because although I love Japanese green tea, I sometimes wanted morning black tea: this made it easy to make the tea and carry it through the day.
Since tea pots come in all sizes, the decision to buy a tea pot over a tea brewing cup or individual steeper, seems to come down to tradition for most people. Some people just like the known ritual of using a pot. The larger tea pots—typically 45 oz., make enough tea for three or four people (or one if it is me). Tea pots invite inclusiveness—they kind of say “come join me”.
These are large, unbleached disposable/compostable tea bags that allow tea drinkers to use good quality tea, do their steeping, and easily discard the spent leaves. They are great for travel because one only needs to find a compost bin or trash can. People who favor these tend to be people who are always on the go and want to fit quality tea into their busy lives—no matter where they are.
There are just three tea rules from my perspective: 1)buy good tea; 2)use quality steeping tools; and 3)steep the tea at the proper time and temperature.
There is a steeping tool/vessel for each person and I love the process of helping customers figure out what’s right for them. I am very grateful to be in a profession to help people discover tea and add dimension to their lives with this simple leaf.