Apr252022

The Epic Tea Post: Favorite Teapots, Teakettles, & Tea Itself with Gail Carriger

One of the things I get asked about all the time, Gentle Reader, is my tea preferences and tea drinking habits. This is because I have a hard-earned and well-deserved (if I do say so myself) reputation as a tea drinker (if not a tea connoisseur). But also because there is tea in… well… all of my books.

Yes, even the SF stuff.

It’s a theme, okay? Found family, comforting stories, strong female characters, queer rep, and… tea.

It may shock you to learn that I have STRONG opinions on tea, which I will mention given any kind of conversational opening. So, finally, after over a decade of this website, I figured I better just fess up to all my preferences.

Hot tip before we start? Get tea stains off your china using denture cleaning tablets! I know, right? I just fill up the cup, pop in the tablet, leave overnight and then hand wash as normal.

Favorite Teas

I used to be exclusively a black tea drinker. I like my black teas malty, mellow, and very strong. The kind that can be brewed forever without getting tannic (bitter). Strong enough for a mouse to run across. I was raised this way. I drink unsweetened ice tea very occasionally and usually mixed with a little lemonade. I love a bubble tea, but I only go for those that I can order 0% sugar, and since I like the ones with lots of stuff in them, I consider this tea+nibble combo of joy a full meal and not really a beverage per say.

  • I’m not a fan of brisk tea (herby or acidic).
  • I don’t like Earl Grey except as a flavoring for sweets and deserts. Bergamot tastes soapy to me.
  • I devoutly believe lavender, rose, and violet have no place in food/beverages of any kind. Like bergamot, it all tastes like soap to me.
  • Finally, I believe if you like sugar in your tea (or coffee for that matter) and you just haven’t found the right tea.

I tell you this not to offend or alienate, but so you can judge my choices by your own preferences. I will not fault you for how you take your tea (unless you’re Patrick). To each their own (except Patrick, but he started this war).

Gail's mugs in a row

Black Tea

I usually drink bagged black tea out of a mug, I’m a plebeian. I like my mugs: smaller (otherwise my tea gets cold too fast), straight sided, thin-lipped (VERY important, I loathe a dribble), and white (so I can see the color). The ones in my merch store are mostly what I have and use. If not teabags, I’m usually doing a mug with a tea infuser wand.

If I am going with a serious loose leaf black, I use a tea pot with a fitted emersion infuser or strainer and British style porcelain teacups and saucers. I like my teacups to be VERY thin and delicate and I don’t mind risking breaking them since I have a vast collection, but it does mean that even though they are British style, my preference if for Chinese or Japanese manufacture from the 1950s-80s.

Twinings 1706 Strong Tea Black Gail Carriger Favorite

  • 1706 Strong English Breakfast, Twinings – my favorite named tea brand, this is a strong (high caffeine) extremely malty tea that takes anything you want to throw at it: over brewing, second bag, microwave reheat – it can handle it all. It’s the Clydesdale of teas. Hard to describe objectively as I am so familiar with its flavor, but if you’re a coffee drinker (with milk, lattes, etc) who wants to get into tea, this is your tea to try.
  • English Breakfast, Twinings or PG Tips – similar to the above but less resilient and will go bitter if abused, sometimes too weak for a second bag, but always a pleasing cup. Never aggressive, and never work to drink. An unassuming easygoing tea designed to go with greasy breakfasts and milk, and best that way.
  • Assam – if I am picking just a whole leaf (like at a proper teahouse) then I look for pure Assam or a blend based heavily on Assam. Assam is a round malty tea, great for company as it can be served with or without milk, morning or afternoon. Goes best with proper substantial strongly flavored nibbles, like chocolate cake or trifle. Or, for your savory, cheese and chutney or egg salad sandwiches.
  • Yorkshire Gold – a lovely milder tea for the late afternoon, okay with milk but that’s not how it shines. Good with gentle sweet treats (like lemon cake) or lite savory bites (like cucumber sandwiches).
  • Thai orange – you may be familiar with Thai iced tea, this is the unsweetened hot version. It’s a lovely tea that I think of as halfway between Assam and chai. It has a fragrant flavor that makes it best as an after meal sipping tea with or without dessert. It suits fragrant deserts like those with coconut or passion fruit. Also complex enough to make a great afternoon tea on its own, and can be taken with or without milk. This is my travel tea since it’s strongly flavored enough to disguise airplane/hotel water and comes individually bagged in sealed plastic squares.
  • Chai – I have a complex relationship with chai. For years when I worked for ren faire this was my morning tea. Our local did it boiled VERY strong and highly spiced but unsweetened and that’s how I like it. Unsweetened with milk or almond milk, cinnamon forward a bit peppery and even a touch of ginger. There’s a huge range of Indian chai out there, so personal taste really comes into play, but these days this powdered version is by far my favorite: Blue Lotus Mandarin Flavor Masala Chai.
  • Pu’erh – I generally do not like this tea (fermented black) because it has a peat-bog taste to it, but I love Existential Despair from Teapunk Teas. Described as the “port wine of teas” this is exactly that. A strong very complex black with notes of honey brandy and plum. A gorgeous sipping tea on its own, but also great with fruitcake, plum pudding, Christmas pudding and the like, if you go in for that kind of thing.
  • Flavored blacks – I do like a flavored black on occasion but similar the above pu’erh, I tend to prefer those that lean into warm spices and a winter evening or holiday theme, rather than fruity bright notes. Right now Harney & Sons Original Hot Cinnamon Spice is one of my favorites.

I will often sample single source, single leaf blacks like Keemun or first flush Darjeeling as an experience when available. But in daily life these are not teas I reach for regularly. If I’m going to drink a tea without milk then I go for…

Oolongs

Oolong is a tea that you need to treat like a black and drink like a green, and to me it sits halfway in between these two but is entirely it’s own creature. Which is to say like a black: use boiling water on the leaves to make sure they unfurl properly (unless told otherwise by the vendor). But like a green, do NOT over-brew, so 3 minutes at most then drink it all before it gets cold. Let an oolong sit too long or get cold and it will turn evil on you. The best oolongs also have a 2nd or even 3rd seeps. Which means if you drink it all, then brew again, you get a completely different experience and whole new tea the second time with the same leaves. It’s loads of fun.

Oolongs need room to unfurl, so either you need a teapot that has a LARGE emersion cage or one that has a built in spout strainer. The British style “poor into a strainer” option doesn’t work well with oolongs, since the leaves are so big they can clog the spout.

I drink my oolongs out of a smaller earthenware cup, the kind with no handle and no saucer or (since I own more of them) with one of my porcelain teacups without the saucer (plebeian, remember?)

  • Taiwanese milk oolong – my favorite kind of oolong, and one of my absolute favorite teas. Called milk for a reason it has at creamy sweet component on first seep and a pleasantly mellow hay element on the second. This is a stunning tea, beautiful to look at and like drinking a warm summer day. I will also drink a Taiwanese mountain oolong in a red hot minute. Speaking of red…
  • Thai ruby oolong – the Thai reds have more in common with black tea than green. They brew dark and reddish in hue, hence the name, and are maltyer and less milky and grassy than the Taiwanese teas.

Greens +

I don’t enjoy green tea all that much, but I’ve been told I should drink it the most. I struggle. I like a toasted rice green or jasmine with food, but as a beverage to sip on its own? Sigh. So this is where I have resorted to fruity blends. For me a green has to be cut with something.

I don’t drink much white teas or the other varieties, not because I don’t like them, just because if I am going to go there I’d rather have an oolong since I like them best of the non-blacks.

  • Passionfruit green – passion fruit is my favorite fruit flavor so I’m always looking for anything that uses it, this combo is hard to find and always getting discontinued but I still love it
  • Other fruit greens – I’m enjoying a pear kiwi green right now and I’d like to find a fun apricot or citrus one.

Because I don’t really enjoy the flavor of green I rarely drink matcha, which feels (emotionally) like the strongest of the greens. I’m not big on Yerba mate or mate de coca either. While these are not made with the tea plant, of course, they’re worth mentioning IMO because they are both stimulants that taste, to me, a bit like they’re cousins to greens.

Tisanes

Aka herbal teas, but I refuse to call something tea if it doesn’t contain the sacred leaf. I actually do drink a lot of tisanes. I never drink decaf tea, it always tastes a little bit like fish to me. Not that fish is bad, just not in my tea. I’m also not a big fan of roobos and I rarely drink mint, ginger, or chamomile except for medicinal purposes. The ones I do drink?

  • Citrus teas: Hibiscus teas, lemon zinger, that kind of thing.
  • Winter cider teas: Teapunk Tea’s Apple Cinnamon Herbal is my current favorite but I am always looking for anything in the “mulled cider” flavor profile.

Favorite Teapots

For me the teapot design is SUPER important. This should come as no surprise since I’m a potter by training and a former archaeological ceramicist by profession. Function before form, thank you very much.

Gail Carriger LLC Logo Icon Teapot G

I prefer a large back handle (not an over-lid). I like a rounder more spherical or egg-shaped pot with a glossy (not matte) interior (most of the time, see the Japanese pot as my one exception). That usually means refractory or stoneware modern ceramics.

  • The spout MUST poor without dribbling. If it dribbles I will throw it away. I don’t do chipped or cracked pottery or dribbly teapots. Period.
  • The lid must have a flange and fit properly, I do not mind if it has added material like cork or rubber to ensure a good fit.

The Target lamp teapot – 6 cups, brown

This is my all time my favorite teapot and I don’t have a photo of it, but as I got it 20 years ago at Target it’s no longer available. So I’d just be taunting you with the impossible. It has a classic Aladdin’s lamp shape to it, and I love it with a passion because of it’s smooth modern profile and the fact that it has the prettiest pour I have ever had the pleasure of experiencing. So graceful, perfect stream, and not a dribble, ever, even at the last. This one lives at my office and my heart.

The daily use teapot (with metal emersion cage option) – 4 cups, white

Depicted above without the emersion cage in it. This FORLIFE Curve Teapot (with Infuser, 24-Ounce) is a wonderful pot I purchased on a whim years ago from a local teashop and have never once regretted. Comes in many different colors and highly recommended if you only have one teapot in your life, does get a bit splashy at the last gasp though.

Pretty Tea House Teapot Red Teacup Gail Carriger

The company teapot – 6 cups, red

Larger than my daily white one and more vintage looking so it goes with my serving teacups, which are mostly red and gold themed. I use this one when I want to have a proper sit-down tea party with company.

Teapot Carriage Travel Cozy Gail Carriger Cat

The picnic teapot – 8 cups, white

Gifted to me along with the teapot travel carrier (carriage cozy), this one is used almost exclusively for period picnics, like so…

Gail Carriger 1850s Victorian Blue White Teacup Cape picnic costume historical

The party teapot – 10+ cups, blue

I have two party pots, these are large Brown Besses that I got at TJ Maxx back in the day. I bought one on a lark because it was so huge I was charmed by the ridiculous size of it. Then I discovered that it actually poured beautifully (although it’s so heavy it takes two hands) went back and bought 3 more (for self, mum, GF). This was back when my girlfriend at the time was in charge of a tea-based con suite, sand it quickly became very important to have these huge mother-pots.

Glass teapot

The multi use teapot – 2 sizes

I think it’s perfectly fine for teapots to modernize. I don’t even mind Pyrex or glass, in fact I recently purchased one that I am over the moon about. So much I bought both sizes. I actually got the smallest version first, which is 2 cups, for heating up milk to make hot coco, heating syrup for waffles, and to act as a milk pitcher or gravy boat at parties. I liked it so much, that I got the bigger version for the office. It is microwave, and stove top safe, so it can also act as a kettle. It has a really big immersion chamber, which makes it ideal for green teas and oolongs.

Japanese Teapot with white flowers gold speckles Yamakiikai Kyusu

The Japanese individual teapot – 2 small cups

I LOVE this little Yamakiikai Kyusu pot, I used it at Piper’s when I was visiting and fell in love. It took forever to get here and it’s a tiny pot for the price, but it is an absolute joy to use, and so cute. This one has a rough interior and built in strainer, so I use it only for loose leaf oolongs and tisanes.

Travel teapot AKA the Zojirushi thermos – 1 mug

Called the Zojirushi Stainless Steel Travel Mug with Tea Leaf Filter this is one of my most important travel items. I don’t boil my water inside this thermos, it’s too tall for that, the boil coil doesn’t work right. But I DO use it as a kind of teapot on the go. It has a removable snap-in strainer so I can make oolong in this puppy which is GREAT. I usually boil the water in a paper coffee cup, pour into this over the leaves, cap it, swoosh it gently, then out comes LOVELY tea. This is an expensive piece of kit but I have had mine for well over a decade now and used it every time I travel, and I travel A LOT. It’s a bit dented now but otherwise in perfect condition.

Also I have a collection of assorted tea cozies, like this one.

Tea Kettles & More

Absolutely a matter of taste and application. Had I more counter space is would have a “keep it boiled” dispenser style operation, as it is, a basic electric kettle serves my needs.

Electric kettle

  • Electric tea kettle at home – based on the fact that we wanted something that boiled fast, had a small footprint, and we could see the water level inside from the outside.
  • Electric kettle at the mum’s – ceramic kettle has its advantages, it really does keep the water hotter for longer. This one is quite small though, so not good for a family.
  • Electric tea kettle on the go – invested in this exclusively for local writers retreats and conventions, so not really necessary unless you do a ton of drivable events. It’s actually pretty awesome. Works just like a regular electric kettle but smaller and transportable. I think I might go with the updated thermos version in the future.
  • Boil coil – for boiling water on the go.

How I use this to make tea while traveling to conventions & conferences:

 

Teapot bag collection!

The black kettle purse is from Amazon, it occasionally turns up there again for sale. The massive red teapot purse is from a defuncted Etsy vendor and the white one is from the convention circuit but the vendor, akoriDotDesign, is also on Etsy.

Confession time?

In addition to the types of cups and mugs already mentioned as part of this post, I should fess up to having a vast demitasse teacup collection which is unused. Demitasse teacups are actually not originally intended for tea anyway, they were first introduced for hot chocolate.

Hit me up with your comments and tea recommendations. I am sure you have favorites to share. Or you can always drop me a calling card with your tea thoughts.

(Comments get auto-closed on this blog (for spam reasons) after a certain number of days. But I’m always happy to talk tea, and I constantly suggest new teas and nibbles, via my monthly newsletter, The Chirrup. Please join and we natter on party like it’s teatime.

Yours (destined to be killed by a tumbling TBR pile),

Miss Gail 

BOOK DE JOUR!

Crudrat – The Tinkered Stars

Crudrat Print Office Teacup Blue Flowered Square

PICK YOUR VENDOR!

Maura is doomed to starve. Her space station has no further use for her.

Abandoned

Outcast

Crudrat

With only her crud-eating murmel and a fuzzy alien stranger to help, Maura must find a way to survive, before they catch her and blow what’s left of her life into space.

Upcoming Scribbles?

  • Gail is embroiled in various projects she’s currently unable to talk about publicly here on the blog.
  • Need to know what else Gail is working on right now? That’s in the Chirrup.

Gail’s Daily Tea Party

Tisane of Nifty 

Boba bubble tea pudding lychee jelly boba milk tea cheese topping

Bubble tea: top down = cheese topping, black milk tea, boba, lychee jelly, pudding.

Writerly Tincture 

Today’s Asian drama visual trope with a super cool name: Kabedon 

Kabedon trope wall slam loom

Every time I see those hands in cave painting I think of it. 

Book Nibble 

Delightfully Deadly Omnibus Print Office Teacup Blue Flowered Lettered leather

Quote to Sip 

In college my boyfriend destroyed my electric kettle by trying to use it to distill alcohol from fermented apple cider. I think the trauma of that experience has turned me into the person I am today.

~ Gail Carriger

Tags: ,

23 Responses

  1. Jessica S. said:

    I’ve been enjoying Harney and Sons Decaf Midsummers Peach tea. Most peach teas are primarily cinnamon for some reason, but this is PEACH. The frangrance is lovely and doesn’t smell false. It’s loose leaf and decaf black tea, which some may see as a drawback.

    1. Ann Brookens said:

      I really like peach tea! -And what is with adding cinnamon to PEACH??? Let me make a note of this one!

  2. Judy Pischalnikoff said:

    Two teas I hope you have tried. Gunpowder and Russian Caravan
    Gunpowder is smoked dark green leaf tea like Camella Siennsis and rolled. Looks like gun powder. Hearty and a wonderful smoky flavor.

    Russian Caravan is equal parts of Lapson Souchong and black tea like Chinese Keemun. Fragrant robust and fit for kings, queens and Travelers.
    Both are good with soy or milk. No sweetener needed. Honey in the milk might be fun.

    1. Mary Conley said:

      Oooo. I’d seen Gunpowder before but never tried it. Will have to add these to the Try It list.

      1. Azher said:

        The funny story that relates to Gun Powder Tea.
        We are a Tea Packing & Manufacturing Company in Pakistan by the name of Vital tea.
        We had a customer in Kazakistan. Where the demand was for Gun Powder tea for a Russian Client.
        We Imported the Tea, but the custom agent missed out the Word “TEA” in filing the IGM (Import General Manifest) at Custom Clearance.
        The whole shipment was put on hold for importing “Gun Powder”.
        We had to go thru so much extra hassle just to proved it that its the Tea that is called Gun Powder. We gave them the Lab test Reports and Origin Certificate from the supplies and what not.
        Finally getting our Tea custom cleared…
        Azher

  3. Shizuka said:

    I love Lady Grey loose tea by Twinings and Scottish Breakfast loose by Upton teas.

    Your kabedon mention made me laugh! It’s fun to see on Japanese dramas, but I’d automatically disqualify any boy who engaged in it.

      1. Shizuka said:

        It’s probably the male/female strength difference and the whiff of physical dominance that bugs me. In GL, I think I’d be okay with it.

    1. MJS said:

      Anything from Upton Tea – their tea buyers are brilliant. I favor keemuns & congous, which have a faint cocoa-maltyness.

    2. Kira said:

      My lovely spouse bought me a subscription to Sipsby for Valentines last year. I didn’t love every single tea they sent but most were enjoyable and the monthly tea adventure was a delight. One of my favorite finds through Sipsby was Teeccino’s Hazelnut tea (tissane). They market this as a coffee substitute which I thought was nonsense but I found a splash of milk makes this a delicious after dinner drink. https://teeccino.com/products/hazelnut-herbal-tea

  4. Shizuka said:

    It’s probably the male/female strength difference and the whiff of physical dominance that bugs me. In GL, I think I’d be okay with it.

  5. Val said:

    My morning tea rotation*
    Stash Super Irish Breakfast – exactly what it sounds like
    Stash Double Bergamot Earl Grey – probably not for Gail
    Good Earth Sweet and Spicy Original (black tea) – Chai-ish but not chai. Gail should definitely try this. Sweet or unsweetened, with or without milk. Holds up to reuse (spice profile changes).

    Good Earth Sweet and Spicy also comes in herbal – no caffeine so better for me in the evening, but I miss the contrast of the tea. They’ve recently trialed peppermint and variations which are nice for variety.

    * My first cup of the day is strong, hot, and black for caffeine delivery. Later in the day I may add milk or sugar for sipping or dessert.

  6. GS said:

    Although Our Dear Hostess would not prefer these two teas, Earl Grey de La creme and Earl grey lavender , let me recommend a wonderful online shop theloose teas.com
    Their chai is very flavorful , their peach is peachy ! The Earl grey is heavenly to smell.
    and the lapsang souchong is inspirational. They have organic teas. And blooming ones. Personally I have a terrible sweet tooth and love to add sugar and milk to most teas. But as many are not bitter after an accidental over steep or a forgotten cup reheat, this may be the happy resource for all. I buy gifts and mail them abroad from this shop also. And lastly as it is local to me , run by a very sweet family , I love supporting them .

    1. Maureen said:

      Royal Albert Rose Confetti is my favorite pot right now. It pours beautifully. My go to’s though are my Brown and Blue Betty’s !

  7. Dominique said:

    I appreciate this all tea all the time post <3 Thank you so much for being the only other person I know who doesn't like Earl Gray or those flower/potpourri teas! Everyone thinks I'm a Bad Tea Drinker because of this, but you have strengthened my conviction.

    I'm a second-generation lover of Red Rose (mostly because of the enamel figurines that came in each box!) but it's still a nice tasting black tea. Either of the breakfast, English or even Irish, is absolutely acceptable. There's also blueberry tea which is just delectable with milk and a little honey. I have also been known to make my own cardamom chai. And that's the list. I've been told I'm too picky for my own good, but I know what I like.

    I've been looking around for a good generic but beautiful teapot, and I was close with French Perle collection by Lenox, but I think it only came in white which I don't want. Where do you like to droll over/buy teapots?

  8. Mary Conley said:

    Admitting a genetic leaning, I would have Irish Breakfast at least on my list if not number one. English Breakfast has always seemed weaker than Irish, Of course it must have a splash of milk.
    Have you ever tried Japanese Milk Tea? I’ve had it hot in a can from vending machines in Japan and as an instant from an Asian market here. Personal preferred brand would be Royal Milk Tea. Don’t know how they do it but the instant dissolves Instantly (really) despite the milk and sugar in the ingredients.

  9. Mary Conley said:

    Sorry, forgot one more thing. I use a 4 cup “Mr Coffee” type coffee maker to brew if I want more than one cup. the glass pot lets me watch the tea brewing for the perfect color/taste and the maker keeps the pot hot.

  10. RLaur said:

    I am on the Upton Tea bandwagon and have been for 20+ years. I love a very strong-brewed, leafy, loose tea. My favorites are Russian Caravan and East Frisian Sunday Tea, which has a mild vanilla flavor. I do love an Irish/Scottish Breakfast tea, also. At one time I had a tea “shelf” in my kitchen that has turned into a full on tea “cabinet” or cupboard if you are across the pond. I lean towards black tea in the winter and iced green tea during the hot summer months here in New England. Upton has an amazing tisane cranberry tea that I add to green iced tea during hot summer months, which is very refreshing. Other than that, I don’t drink fruity teas. I use a travel, foldable teapot like the one mentioned above and a Proctor Silex electric tea kettle for daily use. Thanks for this post and all the new tea suggestions. Happy brewing!

  11. Alice said:

    How does 1706 compare to Builder’s? I find Builders to be stronger than Yorkshire Gold or Tazo Awake.

    You’ve got to love a tea whose motto is “This country was not built on chamomile”

  12. Alice said:

    Also, I love my tea wallet. It has 6 pockets for tea bags (2-3 each) and four little pockets for sweetener or dehydrated lemon.
    Mother made mine when she made Christmas presents for her sewing club years ago, but patterns or products are on etsy.

© 2022 Gail Carriger
Site built by Todd Jackson