Quick take: This is a product review of a tea set from Umi Tea Sets. If you love beautiful tea sets and want to know how this one measures up read on.
You’ve got a sample of an excellent tea. You want to share it with your friend who you know has no tea making things. Bringing a full teapot and cups is overkill. Using a travel mug just doesn’t do the tea justice. The answer: a travel tea set.
When Umi Tea Sets offered to send me one of their travel tea sets they filled a tea lover’s need. Their website is filled with beautiful tea sets, travel and home versions. It was going to be a bit of a surprise as I didn’t know which one they were going to send.
The package arrived from China faster than I expected and it was well wrapped. Sending fragile tea things in the mail across thousands of miles and surviving customs is a tricky thing. The set got through without a scratch.
This set is a glazed, textured pottery in natural brown and green colors. It has a historic look, like something you would find in a museum. Every piece nests one in the other, kind of like Russian dolls, with a simple fabric drawstring carry pouch.
There are 2 cups of different size/shape. The inside of the cups is a natural brown with a sandy texture. (If you prefer white interiors or glass to see the tea color, they have travel tea sets like that too).
This travel pot has three grooves in the base and three matching holes in the lid which together provide a smooth pour. Also the button on the top of the lid and two matching ones on each side of the base make for an easy, cool grip for pouring. I like that. I have had sets that I got rid of because the pour was terrible or it was too hot to pour easily. (or I turned them into a planter if they were too pretty to let go of but to silly to use).
I could hear the pieces clinking against each other when in the pouch. So, for extra insurance I wrapped the first piece in a cloth napkin I have and it was large enough to continue to wrap the whole. Solved!
If you are a makeup wearer, bear in mind lipstick will be a little harder to remove from this style of pottery. I am not a big fan of regular soaps on teaware but a good grease removing soap took care of the lipstick on the rim.
This tea set is available here at Umi Tea Sets website. Their website has full tea sets, automatic sets, Chinese (including yixing and gong fu), Japanese, vintage, modern and more. Enjoy exploring and enjoying your love of tea!
Umi Tea Sets provided the tea set for this post, but I am not an affiliate and will not receive a percentage if you purchase from these links. I just think this was a cool product for real.
We love the teapots and the gaiwans but travel mugs for tea are so important in our busy lives. Just because we are moving from place to place at speed doesn’t mean we can’t have our tea fix. Here are some tips and tricks I’ve used that make using a travel mug a more enjoyable experience.
Test that the lid is on tightly BEFORE putting the mug your bag or walking around with it (who has experienced this fail with me?). To make sure you have a good seal after putting the lid on tilt the mug over the sink, or turn it fully upside down if you’re feeling cocky. If it dribbles, runs or pops fully off try securing the lid again.
Check your Gasket
The thin rubbery rings you find on tea mug lids act as a sealant when working correctly. If they get damaged, out of place or stretched out they don’t work right. Some are replaceable. Check with the manufacturer of your mug before giving up on it and condemning it to the trash bin.
Keep it Clean, People
Travel mugs often have grooves and moving parts that can hold residue (ick) that can make your tea taste nasty and get in the way of a good seal. Baking soda is a great natural way to remove tea residue from travel mugs (and cups too). You can use an old toothbrush to get into the harder to reach grooves. For the twisty tops, a good soak in white vinegar and water may help get to the places a brush can’t reach. Remember to clean under the gasket too, especially if you have milky teas. That build up is particularly gross.
Some Like it Hot
If you use a metal, insulated travel mug these can have amazing heat retention. I had forgotten to finish a travel mug of tea and discovered it was still drinkably warm 12 hours later! The only downside to this level of insulating heat is it may take hours before your tea reaches a drinkable temperature. When using these mugs I found it easiest to let the tea cool to a drinkable temp before putting the lid on.
If I’m not planning on drinking the tea for a while or have to transport it a long way then I just put the lid on while hot. Some travel mugs are a bit risky to use if the lid is put on while the tea is piping hot. The heat can create a seal where either the lid is very hard to remove or when it is removed it tends to cause the spillage of scalding hot tea. Ouch.
Turn Up the Heat
If your mug doesn’t do a good job of retaining heat give it a boost by heating the mug before putting your tea in it or steeping your tea in it. This is just like you would heat a teapot (if you’ve not tried this it could be one the reasons your tea sucks)
If you have one of the ridiculously shaped travel mugs that won’t fit in a standard car cup holder, there are gadgets that can be attached to car windows which are adjustable so that you don’t have to do the dangerous drive with your scalding hot beverage between your legs thing. That’s ridiculous.
Don’t Cross the Streams
I have nothing against coffee. I have had good times with coffee also (Don’t worry. Tea knows and is ok with it). But when it comes to odors and residues, tea is like the clean, coiffed girl at the gym and coffee is the guy that gets on the elliptical next to you and smells so strong you have to move, not to another machine but to another room...and want to make sure you clean every machine you use before you use it (you do that, right?). Coffee lingers. The smell. The oils. So unless you want a stale coffee-laced tea keep your tea and coffee travel mugs separate.
What tips have you discovered in your travel mug experience? Share with us on FB and Twitter. Together we can create a better tea experience.
by Cassandra Vincent
As this is a section of tea with deep history, specific materials and methods the choosing of a teapot can feel overwhelming. I felt that just deciding to start was better than getting lost in the details completely. So I am learning as I go and sharing that experience with you. Join me down the rabbit hole, luvvies!
I ordered my first Yixing teapot from a Chinese vendor online, but I admit that I am not familiar with the artist’s stamp (which appears on the bottom of the teapot) nor have I been able to verify its authenticity. To my knowledge, the clays in modern Yixing teapots are often mixed, called Pingni, blending natural clays (Yixing earth clay and zisha clay) and even artificial colors. Some pots touted as Yixing have very little Yixing clay in the mix and may even include lead.
I suggest that you do your research if that concerns you and be as informed a consumer as you can be in this aspect of tea culture. Price is an indicating factor and the range is wide. I’ve seen these teapots everywhere from $10 to thousands for vintage ones or those from famous artists. I even saw some being sold online that were from a discovered shipwreck dating back to the 1800s.
You have many options on what to spend and where to purchase. If you have a local tea shop that sells Yixing teapots ask them for more information on the pots they sell prior to purchase.
I stopped by Wing Hop Fung recently. They have displays of Yixing teapots with placards including details on some of the artists. The placards were entirely in Chinese though so you may need to bring a Mandarin-reading friend with you on your Yixing teapot shopping trip if you, like me, cannot read Chinese.
The teapot I ordered online was a fanciful dragon teapot with a dark purplish-brown colour. I noticed this tone was referred to as ‘black’ in other places.
There are many variations in color of Yixing teapots. Plain Yixing earth-clay is white while zisha comes in a variety of colors, though artificial colorants are also used. Even the temperature of firing will affect the color. The high-temp fired ones I have seen look brighter. Low fired, rougher textured, darker pots often using inferior clay are said to be better for the dark teas like black and puerh. Higher temperature firing of finer clay is touted as best for the less processed tea categories like oolong, green and white.
These teapots tend to be smaller and designed for gong fu style tea (aka kung fu or gongfu) steeping where more leaves are used in a smaller amount of water than in Western style steeping. In this style steeps tend to be short, like a 10 second initial steep for example.
With gong fu in a Yixing teapot you can enjoy multiple steepings of good quality tea where the flavor evolves pot after pot. The leaves release their character gradually as the pot absorbs more and more of the tea’s essence.
I encourage you to check your local tea shops, trusted online vendors or even just find a teapot that makes you smile when you look upon it and begin this satisfying journey. I look forward to sharing more posts on Yixing as my experience unfolds. Check out my first post on Yixing for curing and basic info and feel free to share it and share your Yixing experience with us on Facebook and Twitter.
Note: The non-Tea Deviant links in this post are not affiliate links and this is not a sponsored post. These links are included because I feel they support the further understanding and exploration of the subject in this case.
by Cassandra Vincent
I found a lovely silver teapot in a unique second hand shop for $10! I was ridiculously excited. [Hey, we all have those things that connect us with the awe and joy of discovery - keeping our child-selves alive, well and creating. I encourage it!] I kept myself in check though & didn’t freak out the purveyor. She had 3 teapots, but 2 had damaged ornaments on the lid. The one I bought was in great condition though in need of a clean of course. This find led me to look into silver teapots more deeply. I have always thought them beautiful but not as practical as other forms. The heat conduction (ouch!) and the tarnishing/polishing cycle. I was curious about when they came about, what they looked like, who used them etc.
The engraving on the base indicates F B Rogers as the make and what I understand to be the pattern number of 1960 (not the year of make). It’s not an antique nor is it pure silver, but interesting enough to feel like I have a cool piece. F B Rogers est. 1883 was a silver smithing company apparently known for their quadruple plate silver plating, which gives me an idea of what I’ve got.
Did you know that the first silver teapot was shaped like an early coffee pot? Wider at the bottom, tapering to the top – this was found to be poor for brewing tea as the water in the wider bottom couldn't mix evenly with the water near the top = inconsistent cup. Thus the move to the ‘ball’ shape most often seen today. But there are pear shapes (like the one I found) and urn shapes, apple shapes...all such interesting incarnations (more on images in the 'Go Deeper Details' below).
Silver ware was originally only in the houses of the very wealthy of course, both in Britain and the States. But as demand grew electroplating was created and silver was discovered in the western part of America. There arose a silver making boom in the mid-1800s with Boston being one of the main locations of silver craft in the US. The plating process made silver items cheaper and easier to create and therefore more accessible to those outside them realm of the rich.
As to cleaning here are a couple of tips I learned – some by making mistakes!:
On my silver wish list is a tipping teapot with stand and warmer, and a creamer. Beautiful tea deserves beautiful vessels!
Go Deeper Details
For more on this subject here are a few fun links. Enjoy!:
Great BBC audio on tea in Britain from “ A History of the World in 100 objects” series:
Silver teapots from the Met Museum collections:
Martha Stewart did a great video on various silver teapot forms through the ages. With guest, Ed Munves of James Robinson, NYC with tea services dating from the 17th century both UK and US
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