It was three-and-a-half years ago that I converted to tea after thirty years of drinking stinking coffee. The wonderful thing about tea is that you can drink it all day long and suffer neither the jitters nor the social plague of coffee breath. For those of you who subscribe to the creed that freedom is the absence of choice – you’ll find yourselves a willing prisoner to tea. Black, green, white, oolong, blended, first flush, second flush, Chinese, Indian, South African – I could go on and on.
Simply put, when I am not actually drinking tea, I am thinking tea. How can I have good, hot, fresh whole-leaf tea all day long? I tried a thermal cup used for coffee. It was made of beautiful stainless steel and was easy to grip. It had a handy sipping cap. Problem was, when you put brewed tea into it, it would get cold too soon, even with a five-minute boiling water warm-up.
The next one was an improvement. Holding 16 ounces, it was a stacked affair consisting of a steeping basket, a steeping lid that doubled as a caddy for the basket after steeping, and a sipping lid. It had a few aesthetic as well as practical problems. It was made of plastic, except for the aluminum steeping basket. The plastic became clouded and grubby within a few weeks, and the basket developed that white residue that can only mean that I, the consumer, was consuming the chemical residue of bauxite refining. Besides, there is something inherently wrong with sipping tea through a dime-sized opening.
For my birthday, a friend got me a Tea Tumbler called Namu Baru. Holding 13.5 ounces in an attractive stainless steel dual-wall vacuum bottle, it has three parts – a screw-on top, an infuser basket, and a drinking vessel. You place the leaves in the basket, screw it into the drinking vessel, put on the cap, and turn it upside down for the prescribed steeping time. Turn it right side up and the tea is done. The amazing aspect of the Namu Baru is that it keeps the tea incredibly hot for an incredibly long time. The literature says six hours. I can testify that it was whistling hot for four hours. The problem here is the practical aspect of drinking from the vessel. If you leave the infuser basket attached, it is an awkward operation. If you remove the infuser, the stainless steel edge of the container is sharp on the lips and very hot. Not ideal, but better than the two previous options.
Finally, there is the Eight Cranes Perfect Steeper. It comes in a beautiful black-and-gold box. The cylinder is made of tempered glass and brushed stainless steel. Like the Namu Baru, it has three operational pieces. You pour the water in the vessel, carefully tighten the steeper basket filled with leaves to the vessel, wind on the cap, and turn the whole thing upside down to steep. Because I was dealing with hot glass, finger-tight was not good enough, and my hands were scalded with very hot water leaking through the seals as I turned the container over to steep. I haven’t made that mistake again! The glass vessel beats the Namu Baru for comfort in sipping, but the tea cools quickly.
If you’re looking for a “to-go” tumbler that is attractive and keeps the tea hot all day, get the Namu Baru. If you want a cup on-the-go that you can drink from a comfortable and beautiful glass container, Eight Cranes is your choice.
This article was originally posted to T Ching in May of 2010.