Over the years, I’ve read numerous reviews in various coffee trade magazines and on websites about what brewing devices make the best cup of coffee. Coffee-holics usually arrive at a similar place when they cup the strong brew in today’s conventional devices. If my memory serves me correctly, the French Press usually ends up on top. To my knowledge, I have not seen a similar review done of tea-steeping devices for loose-leaf tea.
Sure, we all have our personal favorites, and we can speculate on what device might brew the best cup of tea, but has anyone actually taken the time to cup a few teas side by side with the more popular devices available today?
This quest for clarity and knowledge got the better of me this week, so I cleared my Sunday afternoon slate to focus on determining which popular loose-leaf steeper renders the best cup of tea.
I decided to choose the top four steepers that are being used in homes, cafés, and restaurants across the country. These are the T-Sac paper filter, the French Press, the stainless mesh infuser ball, and the BREWT. If you know of another that is in wide use, I would love to hear about it.
Being just a tad bit of a tea lover, I happened to have all four in my tea cupboard.
Before I submit my results to you, I will briefly explain my methodology: I chose two teas, a China Golden Rain Black and a Pai Mu Tan scented with hazelnut and rose buds. In addition to solidifying in my mind which of the tea steepers makes the best cup of tea, I also wanted to see if the various steepers brewed scented tea differently than unscented.
I used two teaspoons of tea for each brewing device, 400 ml of hot water, and a three-minute steep time for each pot of tea.
So, without further delay, here are the results of my exercise:
China Golden Black Rain
Pai Mu Tan Scented with Hazelnut and Rose Buds
- T-Sac: The T-sac wicked the tea up the paper and then proceeded to drip on the counter. The resulting brew was weak, lacked any subtleties, and tasted somewhat washed out. Not a very impressive cup of tea. Have you ever tried to stuff fluffy white tea into a small T-sac when you are in a hurry?
- French Press: The French press was easy to use, pull off the plunger, drop in the tea, and add the water. The resulting brew was robust, flavorful, and perfectly steeped. The liquid felt clean and fresh on the palate. It did lack some maltiness and there was a hint of metal, shiny stainless metal.
- Mesh Infuser Ball: The tea was weaker and lacked the same robust flavor of the French Press, but was not washed out as with the T-sac. There was a hint of metallic, which I could only surmise came from the mesh ball.
- BREWT: The tea was excellent. All the subtleties of the tea were evident, a classic hint of smokiness, the caramel notes, and the fine tannins that come out in the end. This device was easy to use and easy to clean.
If it is a priority of yours to drink or serve the best cup of tea possible, then much to my surprise, the new BREWT tea steeper won on all accounts. I could not detect any transference of flavors, or any metallic taste. It was a perfectly steeped cup of tea. This particular model is made with a BPA-free, food-grade resin.
The runner-up was the French Press, but because the whole plunger apparatus in the press is made of various steels and plastics, there was a slight difference in the taste between the BREWT and the French Press. The tea made with the French Press lacked the ultra clean taste that the BREWT tea had, but the French Press is easy to clean out.