Why a good tea cozy is a smart buy!

If you are reading this, you probably enjoy hot tea at least as much as I do. Many ways of keeping tea hot have been proposed and are offered for sale on the internet, however, although they may keep your tea hot, most fail miserably when it comes to keeping the tea fresh. When tea is exposed to free air, it will oxidize rapidly, leaving the tea with a very bitter, flat taste. How is tea exposed to free air? Almost any teapot leaves the air free to circulate though the pot via the spout and lid. Adding heat via a warmer speeds up the circulation and thus the oxidation also. Tea left on a warmer will be undrinkable in as little as 10 minutes, and not more than 20 minutes. So what to do?

Solution 1:

Empty your pot of tea into a good vacuum bottle and seal it in. The tea should stay nice and fresh for a good long time. Great for the office maybe, however, it won’t look very attractive sitting on your living room tea table or at your fancy afternoon tea!

Solution 2:

Buy a good tea cozy. Now I should define what I consider good.

  • If it is knit or crocheted, it does not qualify. It will not have the necessary materials to do a good job.
  • Avoid designs that leave the teapot spout and lid open to the room. They will not reduce oxidation of the tea.
  • Choose a design that completely covers the teapot down to the table. The goal is to stop air movement around the teapot.
  • Choose a design with a heat and stain resistant liner. This helps protect the outer layers from high heat and stains.
  • Choose a design that includes a moisture barrier in addition to good insulation. Trapping moisture under the cozy preserves heat and reduces oxidation effectively.

I only know of one company producing tea cozies that live up to these expectations. That is Design In Mind, Inc. Their Tea Quilt(tm) tea cozies, sold through devotea.com meet the criteria above and, having owned several, I can say the company does not exaggerate in their claims for what their products can do. Oh, if you are one of those people who expects your last cup of tea to burn the skin off your lips just like the first one, you’ll be disappointed. But if you just want a comfortably warm, fresh tasting cup of tea, you’ll love these tea cozies.

My advice, before you get too wrapped up in the 300 or so fabric choices grouped in 21 theme categories, spend some time with their Sizing Guide to determine which size or sizes will best serve your teapot collection. And don’t worry, radical designs and extra large designs can be provided with a custom designed cozy in most of their fabric choices for a moderate up charge.

Be prepared, these tea cozies are not cheap. But as one of their customers is quoted as saying after his purchase: “When I first saw the price I thought ridiculous to charge so much for a cozy. Wrong. It is worth every penny.” I’ve included a few photos below for your viewing pleasure!


Tea Quilt Tea Cozy - ExtrovertTea Quilt tea cozy - Icy PinesTea Quilt tea cosy - Noche  BuenaTea Quilt tea cosy - Many winters

Posted in Product Reviews | Leave a comment

I Miss Pristine Pottery

Update 9/21/16
I checked recently on the current stock of Pristine lids at devotea.com. It’s getting bleak. There is nothing available for the smaller sizes (under 1 liter), and only a few choices (mostly uncommon colors) for the larger sizes (1, 1.5, and 2 liter). If its time to give up on your workhorse teapot, I strongly recommend the Chatsford teapot line. They don’t have the range of colors that Pristine had, but they are excellent everyday teapot. Chatsford teapots at devotea.com


I have a small collection of teapots. (all functional,  nothing funky.)  The workhorse in my stable is an old, 6 cup, English Pristine Pottery teapot in a matte navy blue.  Pristine was a unique English pottery.  They made almost exclusively teaware: teapots, creamer and sugar sets, milk jugs, tea tidies, and teacups.  What made them unique was the near perfect classic shape, the range of sizes (five sizes from 12 to 60 ounces), and more than 20 incredible colors.

So what happened?  China got ’em.  The English started buying cheap Chinese teapots and at the same time regulated the English potteries into the poorhouse.  With rising costs and falling sales, consolidations started.  Arthur Wood, one of the larger potteries, bought several smaller potteries including Pristine.  However, they were not to be saved either.  Within a year Arthur Wood filed bankruptcy and everything closed.

A few weeks ago, I had a call from a woman who was heart broken because she had dropped the lid of her “baby” as she called it, a six cup, matte navy blue Pristine teapot.  I could understand her pain!

Fortunately, I was able to help her, at least partially.  After years of selling Pristine teapots, we have accumulated a stock of lids in various sizes and colors, not navy blue, unfortunately.  Her “baby” is now two tone, but lives on.

If you have a “baby” that needs a replacement lid, contact devotea.com

Posted in Product Reviews | 6 Comments

Cold Brewing Update

It’s iced tea season again in Minnesota (finally!) and I want to remind you of the article from last summer on cold brewing tea. It’s the best way to make iced tea and is safer than “sun tea”.

Our staff has a new favorite for iced tea this year, Apricot tea. This loose tea is available either in a regular flavored black tea, or in a decaffeinated version. I’m not sure it makes much difference which you use, since the cold brewing process doesn’t release much in the way of caffeine either way.

Oh, wondering why “sun tea” isn’t safe? It seems a jar of brown colored water, sitting in the sun, will warm to about 120 degrees F fairly quickly. That is a wonderful temperature for growing all sorts of bacteria in no time at all! Yum!

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Rediscovering an Old Friend

I brought home a package of Kenilworth Estate OP Ceylon Black Tea last weekend. It’s a tea I’ve enjoyed in the past, being one of the best known Sri Lankan estates, but for me, its been quite a while since the last time I tasted this tea.

I was almost amazed by this tea. I expected it to be good, but I wasn’t prepared for how good it is. The liquid is a golden/copper color in the cup. The aroma is fresh and clean, slightly woodsy, slightly floral. The distinct flavor is bright, very clean, and pleasant, sip after sip; that is, six cups worth of sips! There is very little after taste, something I prefer in a good tea.

If you want an excellent tea to serve at breakfast or afternoon tea, this is worth a try!

Posted in Black Teas | Leave a comment

Cold Brewed Iced Tea – the only way to go!

iced tea service

Ready For Summer

Summer has finally arrived in Minnesota (at least for a few days) and iced tea is the order of the day.  The question is, how to make it.

The traditional way is simple.  Brew a pot of hot tea, very strong, and pour it over ice.  This is quick and doesn’t require any planning ahead.  Great!  However, if you ever try this with a tea containing mostly Assam teas,  the effect of icing the tea is most unappetizing.  When brewed hot and then chilled, Assam teas become something that resembles the Mississippi River at New Orleans.  Muddy water!  That is sad, because Assam teas have a bold flavor when iced and are great as the base when making flavored teas. (See the Quick Tip below for a solution to this problem!)

Cold brewing to the rescue! Cold brewing solves the problem.  Cold brewed teas come out clear and flavorful.  Of course, the infusion time is longer, so some planning is required to have tea available when its wanted.  Cold brewing will work with any tea, black , oolong, green, white, or herbal and fruit tisanes.  Finely cut teas will  infuse much faster than whole leaf teas.  Using good teabags, the tea will be ready in roughly one hour.  Whole leaf teas or tisanes may require sitting overnight for best results.  Over infusion is not a problem with most teas, so there is no need to carefully time removal of the tea leaves.  When the tea is strong enough for your taste, remove the tea leaves.

Recommended teas:

Warning: Tea fanatics may want to skip ahead to the list below!

Most great teas make great iced teas as well.  However, for many circumstances, making iced tea is far more about quantity than ultimate quality.  Iced tea for 40 people on a hot day will not fit in a refrigerator overnight!  Producing large quantities requires tea that will infuse quickly and yield a pleasant, if not remarkable, tea.  British teabag brands are the ticket.  British teabags typically contain 2.25 to 2.5 grams of tea (American teabags are typically under 2 grams) and the blends are selected to produce relatively strong teas (because they usually add milk).  Brands that we have used with good results include PG Tips, Yorkshire Gold, Glengettie, Murroughs, and Barrys.  Any of these will produce a strong iced tea using 8 teabags for each gallon of water with 1 – 2 hours of infusion time.

Loose teas that we particularly like include:

  • Assam Satrupa Estate – a CTC tea that infuses fairly quickly. Clean, malty flavor.
  • Nilgiri, Iyerpadi Estate – an organic tea with classic flavor for iced tea.
  • Moroccan Mint –  a green tea/spearmint blend. Very refreshing.  Don’t over infuse!  This one can get too strong.
  • Prairie Passion – a tropical fruit flavored black tea.  Sweet, but no sweeteners!
  • Peach Paradise – An fruit blend (no tea) with peach and tropical fruit.  Allow plenty of time to infuse.

Sweet Teas

Flavored syrups

Flavored Syrups

Sweet teas seem to be the rage these days (at least if the fast food places are any indication).  Personally they’re not high on my list, however, they are easy to offer in a wide range of flavors for relatively little cost.  The key is flavored syrups, ala Torani and Monin, to name two.  These are flavored, sugar sweetened, syrups that come in a wide variety of flavors.  Start with black iced tea and add the flavored syrup of your choice to taste.  Generally couple tablespoons of syrup will be enough.

For detailed instructions see Cold Brewed Tea under the Recipes tab above.  Teas mentioned are available at devotea.com and elsewhere.

QUICK TIP: Ever poured a pot of hot tea over ice and then had it turn to mud in the refrigerator?  You know what I mean! It’s not lost!  Remove it from the fridge and add a little hot water to it.  It should clear up almost instantly!

Posted in Product Reviews | Leave a comment

Coffee Shop Rant

I’ve got nothing against coffee shop owners personally.  We are just not on the same page when it comes to serving tea.  Most coffee shops, especially those big chains, go to great effort to provide freshly roasted, freshly ground, well prepared coffee, while their tea customers get a bag of ancient tea dust on a string with luke warm water in a paper cup that tastes like, well, wet paper, to be polite. What would happen to their business if they gave customers a bag of 6 month old coffee grounds on a string and a cup of warm water?

Serving great loose leaf tea is so economical and easy.  Why are so many coffee shops afraid to try?

Economical – It takes a good, lined paper cup to protect the flavor, water, a t-sac tea filter ($0.02 – $0.04), and loose tea.  Many good loose teas are available for between $10.00 and $20.00 per pound, so an adequate initial offering of 5 varieties can be had for under $100.00.  A pound of tea will produce roughly 80 to 90 10 or 12 oz. cups of tea, so the per cup cost is easily under $0.25 per cup. So, less than $0.50 for a product that routinely sells for $2.50 or more.

T-sac tea filters

T-sac tea filters

Easy – Fill a t-sac with loose tea, fill a cup with boiling water, add the t-sac, add a lid to keep the heat in. Give to the customer and tell them when to remove the tea (typically after two minutes).  It’s hard to pour a cup of coffee any faster.

Another good reason for choosing loose leaf teas is that the variety is nearly limitless. Having weekly, monthly, or seasonal variations to the menu offers endless possibilities, drives customer interest, and creates motivation to return to the shop frequently.

Finally, don’t ever, never, never, never, heat or store hot water, or make tea, in a container that has ever had coffee in it.

Now I know some servant hearted coffee shop owner is thinking “I’m doing good.  I serve loose leaf tea in those nice silk sachet bags.”  Get real.  You’ve progressed from Maxwell House to Dunkin Donuts.  You’re still not even at Starbucks level.

So, give credit where credit is due.  If you patronize or operate a coffee shop serving good loose leaf tea and doing it well, give some credit here!

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Easy tea or coffee for one!

This year at the International Housewares Show I found a new way to brew tea or coffee for one.  While the idea has been around for a while, no one has done it quite as well as this company.

The idea is to brew your coffee or tea in a small container.  When its ready, set the container on top of your mug.  The liquid automatically fills the mug, leaving the spent grounds/tea leaves in the container, ready to rinse out and use again.  It’s a great concept for quickly filling your travel mug in the morning, or making one last shot before bedtime!Zevro tea maker

The unit is available with either a tea filter or a coffee filter (Yes they are different).  I’ve been asked why not provide both filters with one unit. If you don’t know, just ask any tea lover who has ever had tea that’s been kept warm in a coffee carafe.  When they’re done gagging, they may answer the question.

They are available at devotea.com for under $20.  Click on the photo to get there.


Posted in Product Reviews | Leave a comment

Ginger Peach Tea

Over the weekend, a friend served me a large mug of Ginger Peach tea from devotea.com. I have to confess, flavored teas have never been high on my list of things to drink.  That said, I found the tea quite interesting.  Unlike many flavored brews that smell wonderful but deliver almost no taste to match the aroma,  This tea offered more flavor than aroma.  The aroma was there, and ginger peachy enough, but not overstated.  The flavor delivered a fresh, juicy peach flavor, with a good dose of ginger on top, over a decent black tea.

I’ve been told by at least one tea blender that all peach flavored teas are flavored without the use of real dried peach.  They either use other dried fruits to build a peach-like flavor, or use artificial flavors, or both.  The reason given is that a chemical interaction between the peach and tea causes the brew to end up smelling and tasting like gasoline.  I’d like to hear more about that sometime.

I quite enjoyed the Ginger Peach tea, but, by the time it was half gone, my old bias was back and I was ready to get back to tea that tastes like tea.

Posted in Flavored Teas, Uncategorized | Leave a comment

The Tea Party

I’ll be the first to admit, being a small business owner tends to make one fiscally conservative.  After all, there is no shortage of people trying vigorously to help spend any money that isn’t already spent.  Suppliers, charities, the Feds, the states, the county, the city, (add your own list here).  Being a conservative and a tea drinker, what would be more logical than joining “The Tea Party”? But one has to ask, what does “The Tea Party”, presumably referring to the Boston Tea Party,  have to do with conservative thought?

Oh I know.  It was the original tax protest in the fledgling US of A.  Wrong!  It wasn’t a protest at all!  A proper protest is done in the light of day, so everyone can see who is protesting and to what they object.  Examples: a march on Washington, rallies at the state capitol, walking up and down the street with a big sign.

The Boston Tea Party was done at night, by men disguised as native Americans with the sole purpose being the destruction of private property, namely a shipment of tea.  That is criminal activity.  We have trespassing, vandalism, and defamation of Native Americans, for starters.  Is that really what these conservative politicians calling themselves “The Tea Party” want to be associated with?  This conservative wants nothing to do with that!

Is that Bill Buckley I hear rolling in his grave?  Try again folks!

Posted in What's Up With That? | Leave a comment

Chinese Tea Jars

Chinese tea jars

Chinese tea jars

The tea jar is as ubiquitous in China as the travel mug is in the US.  The jar is typically available in polycarbonate, stainless steel, or glass, and includes a sealed cap and a removable filter screen.

The idea is simple.  Add tea.  Add hot water. Put the screen in place.  Cap it. Wait.

When the tea is ready, remove the cap and enjoy.  The screen keeps the tea in the jar and away from your mouth.  When needed, add more hot water for a second or third infusion.  When finished, dump the used leaves and rinse out the jar.

According to that plan, the jars work well and are certainly convenient, easy to hold, and attractive.

Is there a down side?  Frankly, yes.  At least for some people.  The problem occurs because the leaves stay in the tea, and many teas become bitter if infused too long. So, unless a person likes to drink very hot tea very quickly, one’s choice of teas is limited to teas that can stand long infusion times without becoming bitter.  This pretty much limits the choices to some Chinese blacks and greens, puerhs, and herbal blends. It pretty much rules out most Indian and Sri Lankan teas.  However, since I have by no means tried all possibilities, I welcome feedback on other teas that readers have tried successfully in long infusions.

Posted in Product Reviews | Leave a comment