What a Wirecutter Editor (and Tea Fanatic) Makes use of to Make Tea

When I was growing up, we moved a lot. But whether we were in New Zealand or Oregon, one of the constants in our home was always tea. In times of crisis and joy, there was always a pot of tea that was either soaked or about to be prepared. In my adult years, I’ve gone beyond twins and tea bags into a whole world of loose-leaf tea nerdery. As an editor here at Wirecutter, I brew several pots a day as a source of caffeine. But tea is also a source of comfort in difficult times – both the ritual of making a pot of it and just sitting and letting me drink something incredible that I know makes me feel better. These are the tools (and teas) I use every day.

Cuisinart PerfecTemp cordless kettle (CPK-17)

The Cuisinart PerfecTemp (CPK-17) cordless kettle.Photo: Tim Barribeau

The goat in my kitchen is the Cuisinart PerfecTemp (CPK-17) cordless kettle, which I have been using every day for more than five years (often several times a day). Teas should be brewed at a specific temperature depending on the type of tea (white needs cooler water than green, which needs cooler water than black), and the Cuisinart has handy buttons that can be used with almost any variety.

Finum brew basket

The Finum Brewing Basket next to a mug.Photo: Tim Barribeau

If you’re trying to make a single cup of loose-leaf tea, the Finum Brewing Basket can’t be beat. It’s big enough to give the leaves room to expand and have plenty of contact with the water, and its fine mesh prevents particles from getting stuck and making the basket difficult to clean. Once you’ve soaked the leaves, the basket also has a handy plastic tray you can place it on to catch drips.

Hario Chacha Kyusu Maru teapot

The Hario Chacha next to a mug.Photo: Tim Barribeau

The Hario Chacha Kyusu Maru teapot is a great little teapot to share two cups of tea between you and a friend, or three to four small sprays when you’re having a tasting. It holds 24 ounces of water and has a brew basket with plenty of room for the leaves to move and unfold. My only complaints about the Hario Chacha: if you only pour one cup, the basket will still sit in the water, so your tea will continue to steep, and when you want to take the basket out, it is difficult to find a good place to put it .

Bodum Assam tea press

The Bodum Assam 34 oz.  Tea press shown with tea soaked.Photo: Tim Barribeau

I drink several large pots of tea most days, so I need a large teapot. I like Bodum’s “tea press” line. The Assam has an integrated press that is similar to a French press. When you’ve soaked your leaves, you can push the plunger down and catch them away from the water. This will keep your tea from becoming bitter and astringent. Most of these teapots are also made of glass, which is handy for tracking color changes as you brew. My favorite version is the one-liter edition with the low and long glass spout that makes it easier to pour. But if this one is hard to find, there are other great options.

Hasami cups

Hasami cups are stacked and shown as a single cup.Photo: Tim Barribeau

My popular favorite mugs are from Hasami, a Japanese ceramics company. The nice thing about Hasami porcelain is that the parts always look like a set, even if they are all different colors. You can stack two mugs, a sugar pot, a milk jug and a lid in an elegant column. I especially like the glossy gray and blue mugs, the latter of which has unfortunately recently been discontinued, which feel wonderful both in your hand and against your mouth when you drink.

Escali Primo digital scale

The Escali digital kitchen scale, which is weighed with a small bowl of tea with loose leaves. Note: The scale shown here is an earlier selection from years ago. It is still driven but we have updated our selection since then. Photo: Tim Barribeau

If you experiment with high-end teas, you will find that many of them have soaking instructions by the gram rather than the teaspoon. This is because different types of tea can have very different leaf sizes, making it difficult to accurately gauge the volume. For this you need an accurate digital scale (which in my house also does a double job for baking).

Starter teas: Harney & Sons + Ito En Sencha

Three different loose leaf teas including an Earl Gray, Sencha and Harney & Sons Eight in the fort.Photo: Tim Barribeau

If you’re looking to start moving from tea bags to loose leaf tea (no shade on tea bags; I take them with me all the time), here are some reliable and affordable teas that are a good first step towards slightly nicer things. Harney & Sons is generally reliable, and I particularly like the Eight at the Fort, Earl Gray and Paris mixes. If you want to try green teas, Ito En Sencha is great.

Bulk teas: Vahdam + Ahmad Tea + Sadaf + Temple of Heaven + The Tea Spot

A can of tea, a teapot, a mug and a teapot.Photo: Tim Barribeau

If you tear down multiple pots of tea a day it can get expensive to get small orders of tea (even if you generally re-soak teas a few times, which I do). There are several reliable standbys that you can order in bulk knowing they are good enough to get you through the day. All Harney & Sons flavors come in 16 ounce containers, a great option if you love a taste. I also really like Vahdams Darjeeling, Ahmad’s Assam, Sadaf’s Cardamom Tea, and Temple of Heaven’s Gunpowder Greens. The mint tea at the tea spot, which the senior staff member Kimber Streams drew my attention to, is the greatest stomach settler I have ever met.

High-end teas: Blue Willow Tea + Red Blossom Tea Company + Art of Tea + Tea Runner + Zealong + Great Mississippi Tea Co.

Three different upscale loose-leaf teas.Photo: Tim Barribeau

Dipping your toes into the world of high-end teas is confusing – they can often be extremely expensive, with opaque descriptions and confusing names (wait, is duck shit oolong a good thing?). Ideally, you want to find a local tea shop where you can smell a few, try a or two, and then buy something. However, most cities do not have such tea shops and even in these many shops are currently closed. (But if you can find one, find it! I love Blue Willow Tea in Berkeley, California, and although the store is closed, you can still purchase it online.) For online orders, the Tea Sampler sees the Red Blossom Tea Company so from As a good starting point or as a subscription for a month or two to the Single Origin Box from Art of Tea or the Pure Box from Tea Runners. If you’re interested in teas from less common places but traditional Asian styles, there is a wonderful tea company from New Zealand called Zealong. Or try the Great Mississippi Tea Company if you want to buy domestically.

Planetary Design Airscape + Hay Sowden cans

The Hay Sowden cans are shown in blue, pink, yellow and green.Photo: hay

Unfortunately, my favorite tea storage canisters are no longer sold by Target, but almost any container can be used to stow tea as long as it’s opaque and nearly airtight (sunlight and oxygen aren’t your friends – unless you age tea another discussion) . Next up on my list are those opaque, sealed canisters from Planetary Design and the extremely cute Hay Sowden cans.

Fossa tea chocolate

A product image of the Fossa Honey Orchid Dancong Hongcha tea pralines.Photo: Fossa

Fossa Tea Chocolate is incredibly delicious, and Fossa does an incredible job in bringing the taste of tea into chocolate without making it taste artificial.

More great tea resources

Max Falkowitz’s piece for Serious Eats is a wonderful starting point for learning more about Chinese-style teas and traditional gong-fu brewing methods. The Reddit / r / tea community also welcomes newbies with a very useful FAQ.

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