Thursday, September 24, 2009

Chinese Tea Travel Cups

Five years ago, a friend gave me one of these Chinese tea travel cups to see if Teacup might want to sell them. At that time, I was not too sure about them because they take steeping time (an important variable) out of one's control. But I am now a convert and these cups are a pretty popular item at Teacup. Still, each time I sell one I always make sure the buyer is educated about how to use it correctly.

Chinese tea travel cup

To use these cups, you put loose leaf tea directly into the cup and then screw a little strainer on the top. The strainer catches the leaves right before they would otherwise go into your mouth.

the strainer

Because the tea leaves inside are continuously steeping (and thus continuously getting stronger) you will need to do some combination of the following:

A. Use less dry leaf.
B. Use cooler water.
C. Drink the tea faster.
D. Drink bitter tea.

I'll usually do some combination of A, B and unfortunately D. Also, it is worth noting that some teas do much better in these cups than others. You are free to make up your own mind about that, but I generally recommend oolongs or puer teas because they have larger leaves. Big leaves release their flavor slower than small ones because they have less surface area in contact with the hot water.

Sipping oolong on the deck

Of course, you don't have to drink directly out of it. More often than not I find myself decanting the liquor into another cup or mug.

exhibit A

These cups are great for travel. You don't have to worry about them breaking and you can even stuff some small tins and baggies of loose tea inside them to save room in your pack.

exhibit B

Another fun thing about these cups is all the quizzical looks you will get from people who have never seen someone enjoying a cup of loose leaf tea before. Be prepared for people to ask you silly questions like, "Is that spinach in there?" It's a great conversation starter!


Terry said...

Hi Brett,
it feels a bit lame to keep posting 'Good job' on your actual blog when I just want to indicate that I like the post but I enjoyed this and wanted to let you know.

Reminded me of an incident that happened this week to me. Visiting a friend I don't see often I found myself needing tea (I'm a bit sick and my body was calling for it) so I found myself at the mercy of the host's tea selection.

Not trying to be snobby here but after drinking loose tea being forced into the kinda stuff Starbucks sells (Teabag in an individual sealed package) feels like a big step backwards.

Onwards and upwards with the porta-pot!

Brett said...

Thank you so much for the comments Terry! It is so great to hear that you're enjoying my posts!

Anonymous said...

It's funny to imagine someone in America asking if it's spinach. That type of cup is ubiquitous in Taiwan and surely no one would mistake you for Popeye if you carried one.


Brett said...

Xiexie Anonymous. Yeah in China and Taiwan many people use these all the time for daily tea drinking... but they are still pretty rare here in North America. My wife was really asked "is that spinach in there?" several years ago during a class.

Unknown said...

Maybe not how they were originally intended to be used, but I've had a lot of luck putting leaves between the strainer and the lid. Then you can turn the whole thing upside down and shake it a bit to dislodge air bubbles. Leave it for the appropriate amount of time, and then turn it right-side up again and give it another shake to make sure hot water isn't trapped in the top when you open it up.

This doesn't work for all kinds of tea - it usually has to be one that doesn't expand much (so I still put rolled oolongs in as you describe). But it has allowed me to drink some more delicate teas that can't stand up to very long infusions.

Anonymous said...

I'd say this little travel mug is perfect for Puerh tea. That I don't mind steeping for extended periods of time. Here's a travel mug I saw on another blog you might be interested in. It's just about the best I've seen so far. Eight Cranes