The workday tea break has changed during the months of work from home. It has, in fact, changed the tea too as we become more particular about how and what we make.
Over the years, and across jobs, tea breaks have involved tiny cups of sweet strong tea from the chaiwalla, drinkable only because it was hot, tea made by people who clearly preferred coffee, or a choice of tea bags with hot water and milk from a machine that smelt of coffee. The only time I have enjoyed tea at work was when I worked for a tea company. Some mornings, when the need for tea was especially great, I would go to the pantry where young Husain would be watching over a pot of chai simmering away. Is it ready? I would ask. He would just smile as he continued to stir the chai, refusing to be rushed. The wait was always worth it.
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For those who have to return to the office and have grown used to a good cup of tea, here are a few suggestions.
Store-bought tea bags are filled with dust and fannings that make a strong but not flavourful brew. Many brands offer loose leaf tea in bags. Others offer DIY tea bags which allow you to measure and make your own bag. Since I am not a fan of bagged tea, I prefer a small tea tin with a tight lid.
For tea to-go, tea tumblers are well suited for loose leaf tea without milk. They come in borosilicate glass or thermos fitted with stainless steel infuser baskets. While this means you can re-steep as many times as you like, I find the drawback is that if you fill it with hot water, the tea will steep until you discard the leaves. It’s handy but works best if you have access to hot water. Another version is the convertible bottle, which is like two bottles screwed to either side of a thick lid. This too comes with an infuser basket and needs access to hot water, but feels like an improvement over the standard tumblers.
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Tea pincers are portable but I have never found them to make a satisfying cup of tea. Infuser baskets allow for better interaction between the tea and water. Ikea has tea infusers that you can hook to a cup—if you find the right-sized cup to hold them.
If you like chai or a cold brew, the best option really is to make it at home and carry it in a thermos mug or bottle with a spill-proof lid.
While this kind of teaware is extremely functional, it does fall short if you compare it to portable gong fu sets that enable you to have a little tea ceremony even on the go. Aesthetics and function come together wonderfully in these. What’s more, they remain faithful to the experience, packing everything you need for proper teatime, no matter where you are.
InstaCuppa has glass and thermos tea tumblers. Thermos travel mugs are available with InstaCuppa and Vahdam. The convertible tea tumblers were on Amazon. If you want a travel gong fu set, ask a friend visiting from abroad to get one for you.
Tea Nanny is a weekly series steeped in the world of tea. Aravinda Anantharaman is a Bengaluru-based tea blogger and writer who reports on the tea industry.