Tea Time

Lately I’ve gotten more into drinking tea again. It’s something I’ve swung back and fourth with over the years. I do the same with coffee. Consequently I always have a bit of both laying about the house. This summer I had an old friend from Boston visiting and she always wanted to stop and get a drink. My sister is like that, so is pretty much everyone else I know. I don’t really do that, I think I stopped popping into tea and coffee shops after I went off gluten. One of the places she liked to visit was Teavana. My mother and sister are always stopping by there when we’re at the mall and they always have a zillion samples and a person standing there trying to get you to take them. I always ask if they’re gluten free and they always say they are. So finally, one day as I was passing by I saw they had cider. I love cider and it’s impossible to get the good (that’s code for super sugary fake awesome stuff) without gluten. It’s always unsafe for some reason, but this was promised to be safe so I took the plunge and bought a cup. While it didn’t taste like liquefied sugar with a little artificial apple thrown in it was still pretty good. Good enough that I went back the next day and bought an obscene amount without thinking twice. That’s what actually kicked me in the butt. Cause it was not only expensive, but I didn’t think of anything like how I’d need something to steep my tea in, measure it out, etc. So the day after that I went back, again. I’m looking like an idiot now, I know.

Initially I bought this

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It seemed perfect at first. Simple, effective, and it could also be stashed in a drawer when not in use. What’s not to love? Well, for starters there are the reviews. I did think it was odd it boasted laser cut holes but then had huge ones on the top. Apparently it is an issue and leaves do escapes from them. Supposedly it’s also hard to open. And I’m sorry but I’m not looking to spend the entire steep time monitoring this to ensure it doesn’t fall too far into my cup or fiddle with a cup of soggy leaves when it’s time to empty. So back it went.

I bought this instead.

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This is actually quite thrilling to watch in action. you simply place it on top of your cup and the tea just pours out of a hole on the bottom. Here’s a video of it in action on You Tube

I don’t think I’ll ever get rid of this, it’s just so cool and it’s perfect if you’re just looking to make one cup of an unfussy blend. Or if you have something fun to watch like a blooming tea. However, it is made of plastic and I know some people are wary of consuming things that have been stored or prepared in plastic. I personally have decided not to worry too much about that stuff. I think the argument I got into about sunblock causing skin cancer (I do not care, burning is painful and I’m still going to use it) is sort of how I feel about all of this stuff. It seems everything will kill you these days. So as long as I stay away from the obvious, cigarettes, drugs, unprotected sex with hookers… You know, the usual daily temptations, I’ll be fine. 😉 My husband was feeling especially generous though and he bought me this.

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It’s seriously amazing. Even better is we bought it from Bed Bath & Beyond with a 20% off coupon! This thing does nothing but make tea and it does it well. It has preset temperature settings as well as preset steep times. You can alter those if you wish but it takes a lot of the thought process out of what can be a very confusing beverage. Steep some teas too long or at too high a temperature and you can ruin them. And when you’re paying more for loose leaf tea the last thing you want to do is be throwing your money away! Besides, why have a less enjoyable tea experience if you don’t have to? I’ll probably do a full review on this at some point it’s that cool. I already know exactly where it’s going in the new house!

I had bought this before my trip but it never even turned on.

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It gets some pretty bad reviews so it seems as though I’m not alone in disliking it. I think if it had worked I would have been happy with it and wouldn’t have bought the fancy kettle. I sort of wonder why a company that seems so devoted to tea would even sell such a horrible product. The sales clerk didn’t seem surprised I was returning it. Such a shame. I’ve seen and used similar products in tea houses in the past and thought they were cool, just not this one.

I also bought one of Teavana’s perfect tea spoons. It’s a simple metal spoon and I have no complaints. They have a (much prettier) one for about three times as much but I’m happy with the simple one. My Breville actually comes with a tea spoon but it’s plastic and not as nice in my opinion. I like the metal one better, but I’ll keep the Breville around incase the metal one gets lost, or in my case goes down the garbage disposal (yeah, I’ve lost a lot of utensils over the years that way as well as one glass cup, oops). So if you buy the Breville right off the bat you won’t actually need the other things like the Perfect Tea Maker or Tea Spoon. But they’re definitely nice to have’s.

Moving on to the teas I bought. This was my first.

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This is their Spiced Apple Cider Rooibos Tea (rooibos is pronounced like roy-boss). It’s sort of what started it all. It’s on sale right now and will continue to be for a few more days. It’s also been available as a sample in all of their stores since it’s new and they’re pushing it. You have to really like cinnamon to enjoy this but since I love it this is perfect for me. There’s also what appears to be dehydrated apples and other fun stuff. I steeped this multiple times and it was great each time. I gave a third steeping to my son (diluted with no sugar) and he seemed to enjoy it.

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This is Teavana’s Pumkin Spice Brûlée Oolong Tea and it is lovely. I would actually go as far as to say this one is my favorite. Sweetened, unsweetened, I like it both ways. I’ve given this one to my son in store and he’s a fan as well. I see myself purchasing more of this in the future. I believe this one is limited for the season so I will have to make sure I buy extra before it’s gone, but I have enough for now. It’s also on sale right now along with the cider and a few others.

This is the last one I bought.

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This one is available as the loose tea, the tumbler alone, and as this set. I opted for the set. A bit of a dicey move since the set comes with 6oz of the tea and I hadn’t tried it before. But I read the reviews and I suspected I’d enjoy it. Admittedly I’m on the fence, it’s very strong smelling. The rose is very prominent, fortunately I like rose but I was hoping the strawberry would be the standout. I might try mixing this with a chocolate tea, I suspect it would be phenomenal. I do want to mention something, if you like the tin the only way you can get it is with this set. So if you’re unsure you want to commit to that much tea (and the mug) just to get the canister you might try eBay. I’ve seen some limited edition ones on there and you might get lucky. You could also buy the set and gift the tea and mug (the tea comes in sealed 2oz bags same as all their others when buying online). So if you know someone who likes tea, and or rose, the 2oz bags are a nice little stocking stuffer. It’s not too much, not too little. It would easily net someone a cup or two of tea every day for a month (depending on how strong they like it and wether or not they re-steep).

If you were looking to give a gift set this one would actually be nice. I don’t remember it being mentioned in the item description but the tumbler has a tea strainer built in! It has the same nice tiny holes as the perfect tea ball, but it’s open topped. So it’s better if you’re looking to make tea at your desk or something. The little strainer actually fits perfectly into the cap so I’m guessing this is actually what this was designed for. You could fill the basket before heading out in the morning and then steep your tea throughout the day (loose leaf teas can be re-steeped, some are even supposed to be). The tea in this set is Oolong and it’s not as finicky as white or green. You could simply boil water and wait about ten minutes for it to cool to 195F (90 Celsius) then go ahead and steep, it won’t get ruined if you forget about it and it steeps too long either. So this might actually be a cute gift for secretaries day or any tea drinking office worker that you’re looking to gift a little something. I don’t know if I’d travel with this tumbler though. It is ceramic and I don’t know how prone it is to chipping or breakage. I know my backpack gets kicked around a lot and dropped, I don’t know if this would survive that. The inside of the lid has a silicone gasket but I haven’t test driven it so I don’t know if it’s prone to leaks either. In an office or a house you could simply dump the remainder of your beverage before leaving for the day. But on a plane when it’s time to get off no one wants to wait for you to causally finish off your beverage and dumping something hot isn’t exactly possible (or safe) unless you’re right next to the bathroom. Then there’s the issue of the open topped strainer, so I think this is a poor choice overall for air travel but very nice for home or office use.

Speaking of tins, when you shop at Teavana they’ll try to force you to buy a tin to store your tea in. It’s a tactic called up-selling. Basically it’s when you go in to a store to buy a specific item and the clerk tries to sell you a complementing item (a mascara to go with that eyeshadow for example). I’ve read online that their sales people are very aggressive but that has not been my experience at all. Maybe they’ve mellowed since all of those reviews were written, or perhaps it’s the change in ownership (I guess the husband and wife duo who started it were a piece of work) and Starbucks owns them now. Maybe I’m just lucky and all of the employees at my local stores are just super nice and relaxed. Who knows, all I can say for sure is that I’ve had nothing but positive in store experiences. I did buy one tin from them (pressure free) and I might buy more in the future. But I prefer “pretty” tins. I bought two small ones in Japan at Epcot and there are lots of other places you can buy tea specific tins. For example World Market.

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This is an airtight, light blocking tin that’s designed for loose teas. It’s pretty and it’s inexpensive at only $3! World Market is forever having sales, offering coupons, and they have a rewards program so you could pick up a few for free if you happen to get one of their $10 certificates! I’ll probably get a couple myself. Don’t get me wrong, I like Teavana’s tins, but I would prefer a little variety and they cater to a very specific aesthetic. So not many of them mesh with my style. World Market’s however is just lovely and they have quite a few to pick from. They’re not super big but they’ll fit 4oz easy and do you really need more than that at any one time? I suppose if you really only like a few types then it might make sense to just buy a few of Teavana’s super big tins. But if you’re like me and want variety then it makes sense to buy in smaller quantities so it’s not just sitting going stale. Teavana’s teas will keep for at least a year if stored properly, but I don’t intend to buy so much I couldn’t go through all of it in that time. Really I expect to have to re-buy once every 4-5 months. Assuming I have a cup or two everyday. I’m also looking to switch my son over to tea from juice.

Right now the only thing I can’t get my kid to consume is plain water. Bath water, great, chlorinated pool water, even better. But plain filtered water? Nope. Short of pinning this kid down and forcing it down his throat he will not consume it. So I’ll mix something stupid like half an ounce of apple juice into a ten ounce water bottle. He’ll guzzle that down in record time. But I don’t like it cause I’m paranoid about his teeth. Besides apple juice is doing nothing for him health wise. Since he seems to like tea I’m going to try and switch him over from the juice. Then he can have something more flavorful than his “apple water” and I can feel better he’s not getting any more liquid sugar. Some teas do have caffeine but it’s something I try to avoid myself. So I’m picking teas low in it and not giving him the first steeping. I’m also looking at a few caffeine free varieties. When we find one he likes I’ll happily buy that just for him. Despite only giving him the tiniest bit of juice he drinks so much (enough to make me worry) everyday that we’re going through a ton of juice daily. I think the tea will be a better bet. It’ll be more cost effective and a healthier alternative to the sugar water they call juice.

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