Part 2 of my innovations thread of posts shares some of the most original loose-leaf tea-steeping ideas I’ve come across in my development efforts. Two of these are more than 100 years old, and two are contemporary. It’s always so inspiring to me to see the efforts people have made to document their inventions in pursuit of the perfect cup of loose-leaf tea. In fact, extending one’s interest to beverages beyond tea is also of interest, as many other beverages share tea’s aspects of being held in a vessel and decanted, infused, and filtered.
One of the great things about our country is that we encourage independent thinking from a very early age (or, at least, I like to think we do!). We have an extraordinary patent legacy in our short history. I find it great fun to peruse William H. Ukers’ two-volume book, All About Tea, originally published in New York in 1935. It’s packed with all the early tea patents. Apparently, Ukers started The Tea and Coffee Trade Journal when his boss at a coffee company where he was working rejected his idea of doing a trade publication. He quit and subsequently dedicated himself to the journal, which was rich in current trends and technologies and historical and scientific analysis. The book is a compilation of many years of this work.
So here are a few brilliant nuggets of infusing and filtering technology, which you may have not yet encountered:
1894 – Strainer Attachment Barrels. I call this “Bodum in a barrel.” Tell me that doesn’t look just like a modern tea infuser! See the diagram above right.
1901 – Tea Strainer. This bottle-brush-like cutie is meant to keep your tea leaves from pouring out your teapot’s spout. Brilliant! Performing the same function as the fine permanent screens you can find either right in the ceramic or made of metal in some teapots, but this one you can theoretically use in any teapot you may encounter.
2000 – Tazo Tea Tin with Infuser. I still remember the first time I saw this at my local Wild Oats store. It was love at first sight, and I shared my excitement with everyone in the checkout line. Awake became my black tea in those days, partly because of the attraction of this brilliant steeping tin design.
2000 – Mighty Leaf’s Tea Top Lid. A domed beverage lid with a pull catch for the teabag. It’s so very elegant. They have this in both a disposable version, and now this travel mug version. Although it’s not for loose-leaf tea, I still love the simplicity of the design.