Tea Nanny: The making of a great tea bar
- There is a tea accessory for every tea and every occasion
- Building your own collection is the first step in becoming a connoisseur
Pincer, infuser, pot, kettle, gaiwan, tetsubin, timer,whisk...with great tea comes the desire to acquire a host of accessories. To a lay drinker, a connoisseur’s tea bar may seem part museum, part chemistry lab. Some insist on spring water for their tea, or fuss over the density of their teaspoons. Then there’s author Alexander McCall Smith, who carries his own tea and teapot (to avoid drinking tea from a pot that’s also used to make coffee). A bit much? Not really, for when you get down to it, they are being particular, that’s all. Do you really need the paraphernalia to enjoy your tea or appreciate it? Perhaps not all of it.
Your exploration with tea should begin with the tea. There are so many varieties that it’s inevitable that your store will grow as you try and arrive at your own preferences. With tea, check the date preferably of plucking rather than packaging. Tea comes with a use-by date; one year is okay but two years is on the road to stale.
Store your tea in an airtight jar and in a cupboard. Just don’t let it share shelf space with your spices because it absorbs flavours and aromas.
To steep tea, the old kettle and strainer will do the job but let your choice of tea influence your teaware. A chai may well boil away in an aluminium vessel but to steep a green or white tea, a porcelain or glass pot is better suited. Both these are non-porous materials, which means they will not influence the tea’s flavours.
Porcelain is the choice of professional tea tasters, with good reason. It keeps the heat, doesn’t taint the tea, and white porcelain provides the perfect background to appreciate the colour of the tea.
Glass is also a good alternative. Less fragile, less expensive and easy to use, it also brings you the joy of watching your tea stain the water. Plastic is best avoided.
Another factor in choosing your tea accessory is whether your tea time is personal or social. Teapots are sociable and come in sizes that make anything from two cups to many. While teapots and tea sets seem to hark back to fussier times, modern versions actually simplify tea-making. The chic designs aside, they come with a stainless-steel removable mesh basket that holds the tea leaves. You spoon the desired amount of tea, pour hot water and let the steeping begin. They also make multiple steeps easy. This is recommended with green, white and other speciality teas because for the flavours they offer on every steep and the premium price they command, it would be a shame not to do so.
For single cups, infuser mugs offer the same convenience, with a mesh basket sized for the mug.
And as for a timer, that’s one accessory you can do without. Choose a piece of music or a podcast timed for 3-5 minutes, depending on the tea you are making. Sit back and listen while your tea steeps. You will know when your tea is ready.
TEA TAKES: Choose from Borosil’s range of glass tea infusers and Glenburn’s ceramic infuser pots and mugs.
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.