Thursday, February 22, 2007

Teaware: Plastic vs. Stoneware

I’ve noticed something startling lately about the taste of tea when prepared in plastic verses a stoneware or glass container. I’m not sure why I never noticed it before. Possibly because I used to drink tea either at work or home, but rarely the same tea in both places (laziness on my part – not wanting to divide packages for both places). In any case, the difference truly is startling, to say the least.

I’ll admit to being lazy at work (due to the lack of a convenient sink). I rarely do more than rinse out my teaware daily, with no scrubbing and only an occasional trip home to the dishwasher. After teas that should be flavorful and strong started tasting “flat” when brewed at work in my ingenuiTEA pot, I began to think that perhaps better cleaning was needed, in order to keep the tea flavors from getting jumbled together. So I started rinsing out the teapot after each use (rather than just dumping the old leaves, wiping it out with a paper towel and starting over). That still didn’t help, so I took the teapot home over a weekend and ran it through the dishwasher. Monday I was looking forward to a more flavorful cup of tea, but it tasted the same as it had on Friday before the dishwasher cleaning. I was very disappointed, to say the least. The same tea brewed at home in a stoneware teapot tasted completely different (better).

So I bought a For Life brand Tea for One set from Harney & Son’s last week. It got here yesterday, and I used it at work this morning. And wouldn’t you know it – the Yunnan jig I brewed up was flavorful and smooth, just as it should be, with none of the odd, flat taste I’d been experiencing with the ingenuiTEA. It has proven what I didn’t really want to prove – that the plastic brewing container just wasn’t working as well as stoneware, glass or Yixing would.

I hate to admit it, but I’ve noticed this to a lesser degree with my triniTEA pot at home too. The difference isn’t quite as great, but I think that might be because the system is more “closed”, so less heat can escape from the plastic brewing chamber while the tea is brewing. The tea definitely tastes different from a stoneware-brewed pot though, and that odd aftertaste is the same that I was getting with the ingenuiTEA at work, just to a lesser extent. I’m convinced that it’s the plastic that is causing the odd taste.
So at least for now, I’m retiring my plastic ingenuiTEA pot from Adagio. It’s a handy little thing, true, but the taste difference is too huge to ignore any longer. I’ll use the tea for one set at work. I’ll still use my triniTEA pot at home on the weekends for basic tea (mostly flavored teas, since the “tea flavor” isn’t as important as the added flavoring for those), but I’ll definitely use stoneware, glass or Yixing pots for my better quality teas from now on.


  1. Congrats on dumping the ingenuiTEA! I remember trying a tea at Teavana that uses essentially the same system, and the tieguanyin I had there tasted more like the raspberry whatever that was brewed before it (or the linger flavour from those teas just stayed). Either way, the tea was terrible, and I'm sure the brewing vessel was the culprit. I was not too kind in my blog entry about that experience.

    I think anything made with plastic is a bad idea for brewing tea, from the plastic water heaters to the plastic teapots to plastic cups...

  2. Thanks Marshal (I tried leaving a comment on your blog awhile back, but couldn't...will try again soon, as you have very interesting observations!). I'm glad to be rid of the plastic myself...and I've enjoyed my tea more here at work than I have in a long time. Though now I wonder how many teas I've tried and reviewed using the ingenuiTEA, only to think poorly of it due to the brewing vessel! Guess I'll just have to try them all again, eh?

    I guess it just goes to show...quicker isn't always better. Plastic sucks for brewing, and honestly, I can't stand microwaved hot water either. Now I'm wondering if I should replace my plastic electric kettle here at work with a metal one...I may have to do that in the near future.

  3. Those are beautiful cups and I would be afraid to drop them but I do enjoy drinking out of a nice tea cup.

    As for plastic, the plastic almost tastes like it seeps into the tea from the cup. It probably does.

  4. Your post is what stopped me from buying an ingeuitea.
    Nevertheless, is the only one in the whole web as far as I could find! The only complaints about the device were about it's ease of cleaning and some issues with the removable filter.
    How can the world not notice such a difference?
    Oh hell. I can't decide.


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