To many people, drinking tea is more than just a dietary choice: it’s a way of life. In several cultures at least, tea – from its preparation to the act of presenting it – is an art form. Therefore, as in any art form, you have to have the right tools and materials. There’s the specific type of tea, the teacup to drink it from, and, of course, the teaware where the tea drink will be brewed or made in.
Tea-making and the Tea Maker
Making tea using any sort of teaware is claimed to have started in China, between 206 BC and 220 AD, where they used a clay pot to infuse dried tea cakes in hot water. During the start of the Ming dynasty, the gaiwan, a three-piece teaware, was introduced and preferred for tea making due to its ability to retain heat and, in the process, keep the tea hot. Japan wasn’t too far behind with their kanaami, a traditional strainer with very fine wire meshing, so even the tiniest tea leaf won’t slip out and go to waste.
When the rest of the world finally caught on to the wonders of drinking tea, more means of preparing tea were introduced. China started bringing its tea over to England and, along with it, its teapots, which were essentially smaller versions of the traditional ceramic kettles. After this, tea drinkers saw the arrival of porcelain teapots and some even made of silver.
It came as no surprise when electric kettles hit the shelves, drawing more people to drinking tea. Meanwhile, the British also started using tea infusers mostly due to their convenience and the elegance they add to the act of making tea.
Of course, the tea maker as we know it today is a far cry from the older and considerably more rustic versions of the past. Manufacturers are now able to combine the capabilities of a kettle and a teapot in one modern machine, where you can pretty much do all the steps in tea-making – from heating the water to infusing the tea – in a single contraption.
How Does a Tea Maker Work?
Tea makers may have varying designs and sizes, but their principle of operation is the same.
The first step in using a tea maker is to heat the right amount of water. Add the corresponding amount of tea leaves into the infuser or basket attached to the tea maker, and pour the hot water over it. Let leaves steep in hot water for several minutes, depending on the type of tea and your preference. Some electric tea makers may have built-in timers, sending out an audible alarm to let you know that the brewing is complete. Then you can remove the tea basket, pour the brew into cups, and enjoy your drink.
It’s not exactly rocket science and does not require too much effort, provided you are using a high-quality tea maker.
The Top 5 High-Quality Tea Makers in 2018
Millions of tea makers of various types, shapes, and sizes literally flood the market all over the world. You can take a random pick and hope for the best, but if you want to have the best tea making experience, you have to make sure you invest in a high-quality tea maker. Listed below are five of the best tea makers available today.
5 Gourmia GTC8000 Electric Square Tea Maker
With its square shape, the Gourmia GTC8000 does not look like your typical teapot. Also, you get two machines in one, since this does not only brew loose-leaf teas but also works wonderfully with coffee grounds. It also gives you a lot of control, so you can choose whether you want it brewed in light, medium, or strong strength. Its Refresh Cycle also ensures that your tea leaves can still infuse maximum flavor, even after one brewing.
4 Cuisinart TEA-100 PerfecTemp Programmable Tea Steeper and Kettle
Cuisinart equipped this tea steeper and kettle with programmable controls that allow you to choose from 6 preset temperatures depending on the type of tea you are steeping. It also comes with an adjustable countdown steeping timer and, for added convenience, a 30-minute “keep warm” feature to keep your tea hot and freshly brewed. The glass kettle, which is cordless to ensure that you have fewer cables to deal with, can hold up to 1 liter for steeping tea. Hence it is perfect for tea parties.
3 Mr. Coffee BVMC-HTKSS200 Hot Tea Maker
This 1.2-liter tea maker from Mr. Coffee (We’re talking about tea here, right?) comes with preset buttons appropriate for different types of teas as well as “Boil” and “Keep Warm” controls for easier operation. The classic design also makes it a keeper, with its removable stainless steel kettle and premium quality SCHOTT DURAN glass. If subsequent clean-up is what you’re worried about, this dishwasher-safe unit has a removable tea infuser, making the process quick and fuss-free.
2 Saki Samovar Tea Maker Kettle
This Saki Samovar Tea Maker is a real trooper, with a 3.2-liter capacity for water and 1.5 liters for tea. You’re looking at a tea maker made with premium quality stainless steel and a teapot made of porcelain, which is one of the most popular materials for brewing loose-leaf teas. Even the extra-fine strainer is made from the same high-quality stainless steel. Having more room means this kettle can also be used for boiling water for other things, such as noodles and oatmeal.
1 Breville BTM800XL One-Touch Tea Maker
Tea making doesn’t get easier and more convenient than with this tea maker from Breville. With its variable temperature control, “60-minute Keep Warm” and “Time Since Brew” features, you can be sure to have your favorite tea at the perfect temperature and brewing freshness. Aside from an Auto Start feature, this fully programmable tea maker also has a fully automated tea basket that moves up and down accordingly, for even better infusion of your tea.
A Buyer’s Guide to Choosing a High-Quality Tea Maker
With so many choices of tea makers available in the market today, most people usually end up making their decision based more on how the tea maker looks, and less on how it actually works. It doesn’t have to be difficult, as long as you know exactly what to look for in a high-quality tea maker.
The Tea Maker “Basics”
Every tea maker has to have two basic parts: the kettle and its tea basket or tea infuser. The tea kettle must be able to boil water in the shortest time possible, so check how fast it performs on that front. The design of the tea kettle should also be taken note of, particularly the spout. You want a tea kettle that pours accurately, so as to avoid wasting even a single drop of your precious tea.
Stainless steel or glass construction in a tea kettle is preferred due to their better heat conduction ability. After all, it is to be noted that a stainless steel interior speeds up boiling. As much as possible, try to avoid plastic.
Fortunately for those who enjoy cold or iced tea drinks, many tea makers are also capable of brewing tea in cold water, not just hot. You can get the best of both worlds – hot and iced tea – with the right high-quality tea maker.
The size of the tea kettle is also a consideration, specifically since it is directly related to the water capacity of the pitcher itself. If it is meant for use by only one person, a large unit may be too much. However, if your home has more people who prefer to drink tea, or you are a heavy tea drinker, it makes sense to buy one with a capacity of around 1 liter or so.
As for the tea basket, it must have enough room for expansion of the tea leaves once steeped in hot water. However, it should still be small enough to fit over a mug or a larger teapot, for convenience. Again, it would be better to find one with stainless steel tea baskets to preserve the flavor and quality of the tea.
Add-ons for Convenience
It is common to think that as long as the tea maker can boil water for you to brew your loose leaf tea in, you’re all right. Well, you will certainly not think the same way once you’ve tried a tea maker with a variable temperature kettle that lets you set any brewing temperature for your tea. This comes in handy when you want to brew different types of teas.
Many tea kettles these days also have the keep warm function, holding at a certain temperature for a certain period of time, maybe even up to a couple of hours so that you can enjoy a second or third cup of tea at the perfect temperature.
Electric tea makers these days are equipped with so many automation features it’s hard to imagine how one could go wrong when preparing their favorite tea drinks. A timer is a good idea if you are not confident in your ability to gauge the length of brewing time for your loose-leaf tea. There are also units with tea baskets that automatically move up and down, allowing the loose leaf tea enough movement to maximize infusion of its flavors.