Fancy Tea Drinkers, with Pinkies Extended

We’ve decided to explore a strange new world … of tea. Specifically, loose-leaf tea. Which we figured was probably tastier than the stuff that comes in bags (and boy howdy, did we figure right).

So instead of getting a perforated metal acorn-shaped tea ball or anything like that, we went with the techy gadget:

Yes, the name is a bit overly clever. But the IngenuiTEA is a pretty sharp little item. Scott already has an AeroPress coffee maker, which he loves the everloving crap out of. And it certainly makes the coffee creation process quick, clean, and easy.

Anyhoo, with this little doodad, you fill it with the tea leaves, heat up some water in a kettle or the microwave, then pour the water into the pot and close the lid.

Things get all steepy, for however long you’re supposed to let things steep. Most of what we’re trying out are black teas or spicy chai blends, so it’s usually 5 minutes or so. But then, the really cool part:

Put the thing on top of your teacup or mug or glass, and it takes a tea whiz through the bottom!

Because I’m twelve years old inside, I don’t think I’ll get tired of this device taking a tea-pee anytime soon.

We got the 16-ounce IngenuiTEA, but they also make a 32-ounce for the truly hardcore tea drinker. But we find the 16-ounce model gives us each a nice little 8-ounce cup, just enough tea for a tasty and refreshing treat, but not so much that it gets cold before you’re done drinking it.

So, how about the teas themselves? They’re all WAY better than stuff made with a bag.

We went to our local big bulk tea store, TeaVana, out at the mall. Unfortunately, the smallest amount they’ll sell is two ounces, which can range from five or six bucks up to twenty or more. And they stress how much you need to keep it in airtight, light-tight tins. Do you want to buy some of their tins? For another ten bucks each? No? Fine, we’ll put it in one of these roll-top bags. But if it goes stale, it’s all your fault.

We also ordered some samples from Adagio, the actual makers of the IngenuiTEA. They don’t try to foist their tins on you, and they’ll send 0.8-ounce sample packages of any damn tea they have, at two bucks for most of them (some of the fancy-pants teas are three or more dollars for the samples, but everything we’ve tried so far is a two-bucker). Plus, they come in light-tight zip-top bags. Which is just as good as an airtight tin, if you ask me. Heck, probably better, because you can squeeze out the extra air.

We did get some tins at the IKEA for the stuff we got from TeaVana. They have magnets on the back. So here’s a glimpse of our fridge, where we’re sticking them:

Fortunately, Adagio (home of the quick shipping and plentiful cheap samples) has the best teas so far. We have another selection of samples in the mail right now (it would appear they’re currently in New Jersey), along with a larger package of the rooibos vanilla chai, my total favorite so far.

(Perhaps we’ll open up that berry blast tonight. A tea without actual tea leaves is a fascinating concept.)

So, anyone out there a loose-leaf tea fan? Any recommendations, advice, or pointers? We’re total novices, but I can see how we can totally go down the rabbit hole and become real crazy tea hoarders. Let me know what you think!

Also, if you want to try out Adagio teas, they let me give out $5 coupon codes. But they’re only good for 24 hours. So if you’d like to get $5 off, while at the same time helping me collect some sort of “frequent teabagger” points, please let me know.

Now I think it’s time for a nice, warm cup of tea. Which I can sip while I’m playing Borderlands, happily shotgunning mutants in the face. Aaaah, such a life of finery!

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  1. UK speaking…..what you have there is a very fancypants teapot……it looks great fun. Have you tried it with any of the stuff we drink here, good old black tea which needs milk to stop it searing your tonsils off? I’m looking forward to updates….

    missy Reply:

    We’ve done some black teas, but my goodness, they can be intense. I do have some double cream on hand to cut the power. We have an Earl Grey and a couple of other black tea blends coming in the next batch of samples.

  2. Yum! TEA!!!! I love the smell of coffee, but never got into the flavor. My wife is getting into coffee and the French Press is in regular use.

    I use loose leaf with a disposable tea bag, but this looks way cool.

    I love Earl Grey’s, Assam’s. In Boston I like to pick up MEM: Chai Spice Cascarilla / Ingredients: black tea, organic roasted cocoa shells, whole cloves, cardamom, cinnamon, ginger, vanilla.
    Mmm cocoa shells..

    You can find it on the TAZA Chocolate dot com web site (Wicked Good Chcolate as well!)

    missy Reply:

    Some coffee smells great, other coffee smells absolutely awful. A coworker and I tried the Keurig K-cup machine at work today, with some sort of “chocolate donut” flavor coffee. We both agreed that it tasted like hot dirty water. I will accept the possibility that I didn’t use the machine right, but it seemed pretty simple.

    I’m definitely going to look up that chai you mentioned. We just got our next batch of samples, which includes Christmas, Pina Colada, and Cocoa-Mint. YUM!

  3. Oh man, I’ve really gotten into loose-leaf tea over the past six months! I now fully admit I have an Adagio problem.

    I have an IngenuiTEA that I use at work (along with my electric kettle, because the microwave is terrible), but I find that it can be a bit of a pain to clean out. How do you usually clean it out?

    As for teas, I drink a lot of Cara McGee’s fandom tea blends because I am a massive nerd and also they taste really good. My favorites are Watson and Loki, I think. Among regular, not-blend teas, I really like honeybush vanilla, chamomile, Irish breakfast, and Valentine’s (ESPECIALLY VALENTINE’S).

    I hope you write more about the tea you try! I love reading reviews of tea.

    missy Reply:

    We haven’t had much problem cleaning out the IngenuiTEA so far, but then again, we’re sending all of the spent leaves down the drain and grinding them up with the garbage disposal. Swish and rinse, swish and rinse, until all of the leaves are gone. At work it might not be as simple, since most workplaces don’t seem to have a sink that can handle any kind of solid matter.

    New Adagio samples arrived yesterday, and I thought I’d ordered 5 or so. I think I got 8 or 9. So we’ll definitely be trying out a lot of flavors this weekend!

  4. My inner 12-year-old boy is giggling at tea-pee, tea-whiz, and “frequent teabagger.” Oh yes. And the CO2 farting in the other post.

    And I am curious to know how many cups can be made from each 0.8-oz sample. I understand that, ounce for ounce, you get more cups from loose tea than the tea in bags?

    missy Reply:

    The number of cups totally depends — some of the teas say you should use one teaspoon, others insist on two heaping teaspoons. But on the whole, you’re supposed to get 8-10 cups out of a single $2 sample. Not sure how that stacks up against bags, but the flavor is so much better, I’d gladly pay a little more.

    Donna Reply:

    Thanks! I appreciate your answer. [Oddly, my comment was initially rejected due to being “too short.” My apologies if it is now more lengthy than is really warranted. I did want to thank you.]

    Loquaciously yours….

    missy Reply:

    What kills me about that is the fact that most of the spam comments I get are really, really long. Like they’re trying to make up for something.

  5. Try David’s Tea! They have a great tea selection. One thing I like about David’s Tea is you can buy how many grams of tea you want, so if you want a sample size of like five grams, they will give it to you! They don’t have a minimum tea requirement which is great because you are not wasting money if you don’t like it.

    missy Reply:

    Looks like their website starts at a 50 gram package and goes up from there. If only I still lived near Canada!

    I may still have to order some 50g packages, because some of those flavors look delicious.

  6. I was introduced to loose-leaf tea when I was studying abroad in Germany, and the company they have there is still my favourite by far: TeeGeschwendner. Besides having a name that is difficult to pronounce, even in German (I say “Tee Gesh-Vend-Ner” because I know just enough German to mess it up), they have FANTASTIC teas. I don’t think they have too many sample options, but if you decide to check them out, I highly recommend their green coconut blend. I have hordes of this company’s tea. The most fun? Telling people about the German word for “quality control standards”: Qualitätssicherungsmaßnahmen.

    missy Reply:

    We’ve also been recently introduced to Harney and Sons, another online merchant. Their Hot Cinnamon Spice tea is amazing, and they make it in decaf for those of us who need it. We just saw tins of “sachets” (like teabags, but big triangle shapes, filled with larger leaf tea instead of fannings) at our local Super Target. (At the Target, the tins are “Hot Cinnamon Sunset”, but it appears to be the same flavor.)

    Brittany C Reply:

    I’ve heard good things about Harney & Sons; they’re based in the state I grew up in (CT), but somehow I never really had much of their stuff. Perhaps I’ll have to check it out so I have more than just 5+ bags of TeeGschwendner (Someday I’ll spell this right) and two Teavana tins.

    Have you tried Teavana’s jasmine dragon pearls or Thai mountain oolong teas? Those are the ones I got and they’re quite good.

    missy Reply:

    We’ve visited our local Teavana store, but I won’t go back — the people who work there glue themselves to you so solidly, and harass you with their sales techniques so thoroughly, it gave me a panic attack. Maybe I’ll browse their selection online.

    I’ve given up caffeine entirely, which really narrows my options. So most of the really interesting sounding teas are off limits to me. 🙁

    Brittany C Reply:

    Replying to myself since I can’t reply to you… I hear you on the pesky sales people. The one I went to in NC was much more chill, thankfully.

    Ahhh, that’s unfortunate 🙁 Perhaps try some of Twining’s Roobois teas? I cut back on my caffeine somewhat to combat my own panic attacks, and I found that their blends were pretty good (though they are more bagged than loose leaf usually)

    missy Reply:

    I guess I’ve never gone more than 4 levels deep with replies before — that’s a setting in the nesting comments plugin I use. I’ve upped it to 10, so you can reply with abandon!

    I don’t mind Rooibos for the most part, and have a number of them on hand (in fact, Harney & Sons does a Rooibos version of their hot cinnamon) but when I’m in the mood for tea, it’s usually for that specific flavor that black tea has.

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