One of the ideas we repeatedly tout on our site is that tea should be enjoyed frequently, one of the best ways is the do so in the office where we spend the bulk of our working hours.
Unless you’re the CEO and you can have a full tea table with all the necessary equipment in your room, there are bound to be some sacrifices in the quality of your brew. Not to mention the fact that unless you outrank everyone else in the office, you’re bound to feel some pressure if you spend too much time brewing tea when everyone else is chasing deadlines. Hence space and convenience are essentials.
On the other hand, if you eschew brew quality altogether, you’ll be better off using a teabag or bottled tea since in terms of convenience, there’s no way you can equal that.
Here are some factors you can take into consideration when brewing tea in the office:
Not entirely feasible for every office
The famous Chinese adage goes “Water is the mother of tea”. General rule of thumb, if the water tastes horrid on its own, tea brewed with it is only marginally better. If it tastes too flavorful, the taste will trickle down to the tea as well.
Here are some practical considerations:
1) Is the water constantly re-boiled?
Re-boiled water gets harder- i.e. higher mineral deposit- and hence tastes flatter. If you’re using water from an air-pot or one of those hot water dispenser tanks, that is a point to note
2) Is the water filtered?
Chlorinated water causes detriment to the tea. While it might not be practical to connect your own filter, you can either use water from the water dispenser if it’s replaced from canisters as opposed to from the tap or get a portable carbon filter water bottle which surprisingly works decently. Alternatively you can buy bottled (not mineral) water but it should be pH neutral or lower, e.g. Volvic
3) Is your kettle flavoring your tea?
Is there a metallic or plasticky taste in the water? It could be from the kettle
4) Is the kettle auto-cutoff?
This should not be an issue in most offices but if the kettle doesn’t have auto –cutoff function over-boiled water tastes flat and is unsuited for making tea, not to mention dangerous
While your Yixing pot or gaiwan is most likely going stay at home, you can still make the most of what you have:
Factors to consider:
1) Heat retention- for oolongs and dark teas, high heat is generally required to unlock the flavors of the tea.
Some points to note:
i) Material- In general Yixing Clay>Porcelain>Ceramic>Polycarbonate>Glass in terms of heat retention
ii) Air ‘tightness’- The less space the vessel has for air to escape, the better heat and the aroma of the tea can be trapped in the vessel, hence having a lid is a must
iii) Fill to the brim- Air will cause the water to cool, if your vessel is not filled to the brim, contact with air would cause it to cool further. As far as possible, try to minimize the gap
Where it is not practical to adequately address the heat retention problem, one way around it is to increase the leaf quantity slightly, up the water temperature and steep for a shorter period- around 5-10 seconds. At those steeping times, the heat loss factor is negated but the compromise is that the brew is somewhat lacking in depth as compared to a longer steep.
For green/white/yellow teas, heat retention is not such a big issue and a drinking glass or infuser mug would pretty much suffice.
Some tea leaves- notably oolong- need space to expand. If you’re using a tea ball for example, you may not be giving the leaves sufficient space to unfurl and release its flavor. Some infuser mugs may suffer from the same problem as well
Storage of Tea Leaves
When storing tea leaves avoid these elements:
Hence if your tea tastes like chicken crackers, it might be because you stored it together with your snack stash in the drawer.
Having a good airtight canister or re-sealable opaque PET bag and storing it away from heat- e.g. your CPU- and other elements outlined above will help the tea preserve better.
Because storage in the office is harder to control- you simply don’t have that much space for your pewter caddy or to store them in isolation- it is recommended that you keep your stash small and consume it quickly, especially if it’s tea leaves.
While there are bound to be some drop off in the quality of tea that we brew in the office, less than perfect tea is still preferable to most other alternatives. Hope we have given you some ideas on how to better enjoy your brew in the office.