Tea machines abound. There’s no question that they can steep tea and often faster than in a teapot. The real question is can they steep a decent tasting pot or cup of tea?
The Appeal of Tea Machines
Tea machines are basically a step up from bagged teas, which came about as a misunderstanding of those little silken sample bags of tea that a tea company mailed out to prospective customers (who predictably started steeping the whole bag, not opening the bag and dumping the loose tea into the teapot). Now we have tea pods and little plastic cups that contain about a teaspoon of dust-form tea. You pop them into the machine and in a matter of seconds vs. minutes you have a cup of something that is sort of like tea. Usually, these are some type of generic “black” tea or “green” tea. Or some popular flavored tea such as Earl Grey, a true classic. The appeal here is understandable when you just have to have a cuppa before heading out the door.
The Taste Is the “Tell”
You may have heard what a “tell” is — usually a physical action that a gambler does that reveals if he is bluffing or not. Well, for these tea machines, whether they are worth it or not is “told” by the taste of the tea. Imagine some nice black tea like a Keemun Hao Ya B (also called Gold Pekoe) [http://www.jas-etea.com/keemun-hao-ya-b-whole-leaf-style-also-called-gold-pekoe-25-grams/] ground to dust, enclosed in a little plastic cup, and then subjected to steaming hot water rushing through the cup. Quite frankly, it sounds like the last thing I would ever do to my tea. And it also sounds like there is no real chance for the tea to fully infuse its elements into the water, especially when compared with a more traditional steeping method: steeping whole leaf pieces in hot water in a pot for 3 to 5 minutes and then strained into the cup.
Time vs. taste is the trade-off it seems. For some of us tea consumption is an all-day affair. We have a cup or two or three to start the day. We have a cup or two during a mid-morning break. Then, there’s the lunch potful, the afternoon break cuppa, the dinner potful, and the evening soother. You think I’m exaggerating? No way! So, you may want a quicker way to prepare some of these servings. Maybe that tea machine can steep up a good enough (gee, did I really say “good enough” in relation to tea?) tasting tea to have with meals. Then you can have a tea steeped in something more traditional such as a gaiwan or Yixing teapot when you have a little more time to do a multiple infusion steeping session.
Tea, as with many things in life, is full of options. It all comes down to what suits you.