Tea

  • 2020 Getting Started Guide: Alternative Brewers

    By now you’ve hopefully seen our guides for buying gear for pour over, drip, espresso, and superautos. Beyond those methods there’s a whole world of fun odds and ends to try! We wanted to list some of our favorite alternatives to the “standard” ways to make coffee, so read on to learn more!

    Presses and Cold Brew

    One very popular brewing method is the coffee press. While you’re probably familiar with the concept of the French Press, presses come in more varieties! First up, the American Press. This press uses the motion and ergonomic design of the French Press but has a brew chamber that increases the pressure to create a profile closer to espresso. For on the go brewing, AeroPress’ AP Go offers a similar cup to the American Press in a compact package. Both of these brewers use a medium grind, so you’ll be all set if you already have a burr grinder for use with a drip brewer or pour over!

    Cold Brew is one of the simpler ways to brew coffee, but it can seem like a pain given how much effort goes into one cup. The Cold Pro Jr. allows you to brew a large amount of concentrate overnight with very little prep. Simply add coarsely ground coffee to the filter, pour over water, and stick it in the refrigerator for 12 hours, and you’ll have more cold brew than you can drink. It’s a great way to explore this delicious way to brew!

    Siphons and Stove Top Espresso

    Two other fun ways to get more out of your coffee setup are the siphon brewer and the stovetop espresso maker. Stovetop espresso makers use steam pressure to make an espresso like drink on your stovetop instead of with a machine. The Ilsa Omnia is a great way to try this out, and works best with a finer grind like you’d get from an espresso grinder (though finer settings on brew grinders can work in a pinch too).

    A siphon brewer is another way to use your stovetop, and the Bodum’s Santos is a fun way to see this method in action! Easy to clean and simpler than it looks, vacuum brewing makes brewing coffee into a cool science experiment.

    Ready for something different?

    Bonus round! If you’re ready for something different, we recently brought in some incredible tea makers as well. The Breville One-Touch Tea Maker and Brewista Smart Brew each approach hands off, automatic tea brewing a little differently, but with similarly excellent results. Both offer the ability to brew puts of tea and keep them hot to sip on over time, a great change of pace for the coffee fan who craves some variety!

    Check out the rest of our getting started guides!

  • Crew Review: Sowden Tea Maker

    Gail has the tea, you should bring some muffins! Seriously, she is waiting.sowden tea maker

    Gail took the Sowden Tea Maker for a spin. You may recognize this clean and modern look from our Cold Brew Comparison video, but there is a key feature that separates the two products! As Gail demonstrates in this video, the screen that filters the tea or coffee out of the water is designed differently. And rightfully so, coffee grounds are much finer than teas. The removable stainless steel filter is large enough to allow the tea to breath as it steeps, so you get a perfect pot everytime.

    The Sowden Oskar SoftBrew Tea Maker is easy to clean, a simple rinse after each use and you will keep it looking like the day you got it. Be careful when handling the pot after you steep the tea, it can get a little hot.

    Watch the Crew Review below! Thanks for watching :)

     

     

     

  • Ask Gail: Can you Steep Tea in a Kettle?

    can you steep tea in a kettleTea is a lot like coffee in that it requires a precise control of temperature and time in order to extract the deliciousness. But sometimes you want something quick. So what are the short cuts you can take, if there are any? Well, unfortunately there aren't many. A common question we get is if you can put your loose leaf tea directly in the kettle as you heat up the water. And the simple answer is no. Because time and temperature are essential factors to brewing coffee or tea, this short cut won't give you good results.

    Watch this Ask Gail video to find out why this won't work and to hear a few solutions to the problem.

     

  • Brewing Tea on the Capresso EC PRO Espresso & Cappuccino Machine

    Capresso EC PRO Espresso & Cappuccino Machine Ground black loose leaf tea in a pressurized portafilter.

    Through the magic of the Internet, we heard that people have been using their espresso machines to brew black tea. This sounded like an interesting concept to us, and we were curious to see if it would work. People have been known to brew rooibos (also called red espresso) this way, and have even started whole cafes based on this idea. So why wouldn’t it work with black tea? We decided to put this theory to the test and use the Capresso EC PRO Espresso & Cappuccino Machine to brew Ceylon O.P. by Danmann Freres Teas.

    To make the tea, we filled the machine’s pressurized portafilter up to the first line inside with the loose leaf black tea. Then we loaded the portafilter into the machine, and started the extraction. We let the extraction go long, about 30-40 seconds, until the cup was mostly filled and the brew started to become clearer. The tea that was produced had a good aroma and was medium orange-brown in color. However, when we sampled the tea, the flavor was not bad, but definitely weaker than normal.

    Crema on top of the second cup of tea. Crema on top of the second cup of tea.

    Not ones to be easily defeated, we were curious what would happen if we ground up the tea leaves before dosing them into the portafilter. To grind the tea, we grabbed the Hario Skeleton (Skerton) Coffee Mill, and set it to a coarser grind setting since we were using a pressurized portafilter. After grinding a couple of teaspoons full of tea we noticed that many of the tea leaves were passing through the grinder whole, so we readjusted our grind to be much finer. We were a little concerned that the tea was now too fine and would choke the portafilter, but we decided to go ahead and try it anyway.

    Once again we loaded the portafilter into the Capresso EC PRO and started the extraction. We immediately noticed the tea was coming out much darker in color this time around. Suddenly we began to notice a different color coming out of the portafilter – there was a crema on top of the tea! While having a crema is not unusual for rooibos brewed on espresso machines, we were surprised we’d get the same effect with black tea. After about 30-40 seconds, we stopped the extraction. The color of the tea was much darker in comparison to the first cup we made, and topped with a thick, foamy crema. This time around the tea tasted exactly like it should, as if it had been steeping for three to five minutes.

    pressurized_tea12 The lighter tea (top left) was the first cup we brewed. The dark one (bottom right) was the second.

    We were (pleasantly) surprised to find you can brew a decent up of tea using a semi-automatic espresso machine and a pressurized portafilter. If you are going to try this experiment yourself we highly recommend grinding your loose leaf tea into smaller particles, since that gave us the best results. We only tried this experiment with black tea, so we aren’t sure if this technique will work to brew other types of tea, such as rooibos or herbal infusions. We also haven’t tried brewing the tea with a different machine or tested to see if brewing tea on an espresso machine is faster than brewing with a kettle. If you try this experiment with different variables, let us know in the comments. I sense more tea experiments in our feature!

  • What is Tea Certification?

    Tea CertificationYou may have heard recently that tea is rapidly increasing in popularity in America. In order to keep up with the trends, you might have considered adding tea to your cafe or store offerings, doing some research on tea to learn more about it or even taking classes to become a tea master or tea sommelier. However, since getting a tea certification is still a fairly new concept for most people, the phrases 'tea master' or 'tea sommelier' may leave you scratching your head, wondering what the programs entail or whether they are really worth the cost. To figure out what getting a tea certification is all about, we did our due diligence and took a class ourselves.

    Who Should Get Certified as a Tea Master, Sommelier or Specialist?

    Some of the folks that would benefit from this certification include:

    • Retailers or business owners that desire industry recognition or want themselves and/or their staff to have a deep knowledge of tea so they can increase their sales.
    • Owners of tea rooms or cafes who want advanced knowledge on how to serve tea and what to pair it with.
    • Wholesalers who are directly involved in buying or selling tea.
    • People in the food service or culinary industry, as well as those in the coffee and wine business (while they are very different beverages, there are similarities in how tea, coffee and wine are evaluated).
    • Tea growers or researchers.
    • Nutritionists, dieticians or other health care professionals who are interested in using tea to lead a healthy lifestyle.

    However, getting a tea certification can also be helpful for people who are simply interested in tea or have a passion for it and would like to learn more about tea.

    What is the Tea Certification Process?

    Generally, the tea certification process begins by building a strong understanding of the Camellia sinensis plant and the six basic types of tea. Students learn how each type of tea is processed and produced, what differentiates each classification of tea and where and how the teas are grown. Tisanes and popular herbals like Rooibos, Yerba Mate and Honeybush are often also taught about during the class. The next step of a tea specialist’s education is usually learning about post-production processes such as naming and grading, decaffeination, blending, scenting and flavoring. The final part of becoming a tea master is discovering how to brew, taste and evaluate teas, as well as being able to create and host their own tea cuppings. Some programs also include lessons on pairing food with tea, the health benefits of tea, how to educate guests about tea or hosting specific types of tea ceremonies, while other organizations have these classes separated into additional, more advanced programs.

    If you are interested in enrolling in a tea certification program, you are in luck, as there are several available in America (there are plenty of courses outside the United States as well). Depending on what program you enroll in, classes are offered either in-person, online or some combination thereof. Here are a few popular programs, and the certifications they offer:

    Is Tea Certification Worth the Cost?

    While there is no absolute guarantee that becoming a certified tea master or sommelier will secure you a job or increase your business, becoming more knowledgeable about the products you are selling or serving certainly can’t hurt. The more you know, the better you will be able to stock your store, pair tea with food in your cafe, educate your customers about tea and explain why it is a good option for them. If nothing else, by attending a class you will have gotten to see, learn about, taste and experiment with some new teas, and perhaps even connect with other people in the industry.

    I recently attended James Nordwood Pratt’s Apprentice Tea Sommelier class at Coffee Fest, and while I thought I was decently educated about tea before, I found out there was a lot I didn’t know. I came out of the class with a greater appreciation for tea, and a head full of new fun facts, stories and information to share with my coworkers.

    If you aren’t ready to shell out your hard earned cash for a tea class, you can also find a lot of written information about tea either online or in books. There are a number of tea professionals (such as James Norword Pratt, Robert J. Heiss, etc.) who have written informative books that can be found most libraries. In addition, there is a large and active online tea community with folks who are part of organizations like the Association of Tea Bloggers, who review and write about tea regularly. There are also several forums such as Steepster and Tea Trade where people can ask questions and share information with fellow tea lovers. Finally, some tea retailers like Adagio Teas have extensive information on tea that is helpful for beginners and advanced learners alike.

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