This article was originally posted to T Ching in April of 2013.
After six months of freelancing at home, I recently returned to work at an office. During my time at home, not only was I spoiled by having my own pantry and refrigerator close at hand, but my entire tea collection was within reach as well. Being at home, I could brew water to the proper temperature and steep my tea in any number of vessels. It was nice. Very nice.
At my previous job, I had my own office with a fair amount of space. I brewed my tea in a simple tetsubin, had a dozen or so teas on my bookshelves, and was able to get a pretty good grasp on water temperature. My office became known as “the tea shop” and though I wasn’t exactly hosting gong fu ceremonies, it was a pretty good setup for a workplace.
After a couple of weeks at my new job, I think I’ve found a good setup for most office workers, whether you have a cushy office or a small cube. First, let’s start with the big stuff. I’d recommend a small teapot with a removable mesh strainer, a silicone Tuffy tea strainer (which is nice because it has a top), or, at the very least, a mesh strainer that you can find in most kitchen shops or grocery stores these days. The main thing is to have an easy-to-clean filter that can handle fine teas like senchas, but allow leaves to breathe. Of course, avoid those small tea balls or other strainers that don’t let the leaves unfurl.
If you’re precise about measuring your tea, I recommend the Proscale 222. It’s tiny, inexpensive, comes with a tray, and is precise to 1/10th of a gram. I use this scale at home and when traveling.
The one other essential piece of equipment is a simple instant-read hot beverage thermometer. It costs less than $10, but is important because you never know just how hot that water is coming out of the sink, water filter, or instant hot faucet at work. (Bringing your own water from home is a great option, too, but you’ll still need to heat it and check the temperature.)
Optionally, you can bring something like a utiliTEA or less expensive hotpot to heat your water at your desk, but here’s my dirty little secret: I use the microwave at work. Don’t tell anyone, OK?
One of my favorite things about tea is that it’s easy and inexpensive to get started. The average person doesn’t need to settle for sub-par teabags at work; a few low-cost items paired with some good tea can make tea time something you look forward to and enjoy rather than accept, like bad office coffee.