By Six Colors Staff
February 29, 2016 11:55 AM PT
What We Use: Tea
By Dan Moren and Jason Snell
Subscriber Diane writes: You’ve both labeled yourselves as tea drinkers. Would you consider including your individual rituals (tea drinkers seem to have rituals) and tea varieties preferred?
Yes, Diane! Tea is a key ingredient in our workflows.
Dan’s Tea Workflow
I drink a lot of tea. Probably too much, really. As readily as any coffee junkie, I start every morning with a cup. Or two. Or, on those really tough days where your eyes just seem to want to close of their own accord, seven.
On most working mornings, I walk down to my local coffee shop and order a cup of loose-leaf English Breakfast. But if I’m at home, it’s all about the tea robot.
Okay, it’s probably not a robot, at least by the strict Siracusean definition. The Breville Tea Maker (a kind gift from Mr. Snell himself) is an electric kettle that also contains a metal basket which can be lowered automatically into the water once it’s boiled, and raised automatically once the tea has been steeped, thus simplifying the entire process. It also keeps tea warm for up to an hour after brewing, and I’ve found that I look for a second cup about 45 minutes after brewing, almost like clockwork.
Prior to the teabot’s arrival in my house, I generally used a one-cup brewing basket or a small teapot, which was a pain to clean. Truth be told, though, laziness often won out and I just used a tea bag, which I still do for decaf tea.
So, teas of choice. I’m a black tea guy about 95 percent of the time; I don’t go in much for green or herbal teas. My current top picks for loose-leaf, which I generally buy in large quantities from ESP Emporium, are China Black Gunpowder, which is definitely on the maltier side with a hint of smoke that’s not too overpowering; Russian Samovar, which is a great all-day tea; Scottish Breakfast, a slight variation on the classic Irish/English Breakfasts; and, on rarer occasions, Lapsang Souchong, which is very astringent and smokey—but some days, that’s just how you need to roll. Though I prefer loose leaf over tea bags, some days the convenience of a bag can’t be beat: I prefer Taylors of Harrogate’s Scottish Breakfast for a caffeinated blend, or their Decaffeinated Breakfast for after-dinner drinking. Bromley’s Decaffeinated is also a solid choice. (My favorite tea of all time, which is sadly no longer made, was from an Edinburgh department store, Jenners. Their Old Edinburgh Blend was just an amazing cup of tea which shall live on forever in my memory, if nowhere else.)
Jason’s Tea Workflow
It’s funny Dan mentioned European department stores. When I was in Stockholm I was instructed to go to the NK—Swedes apparently joke that it stands for “No Kroner,” sort of like the Whole Paycheck market down the street from my house—and descend to the lower floor for a fine selection of loose-leaf teas to bring home as gifts. And indeed, I brought some home to my wife and it was excellent stuff!
Back in those days we mostly drank tea from tea bags, with loose leaf tea saved for the weekend. My gateway drug was probably Celestial Seasonings Fast Lane, which I first encountered on a tour of the Celestial Seasonings factory in Colorado. (They have a storeroom there that you can’t stand in for more than a few seconds because it’s where they store all the mint—and the scent is absolutely overpowering.)
Anyway, at that point my wife and I got the English Breakfast religion, and that’s been my hot drink of choice ever since. She takes hers with milk, and I take mine with honey. Back in the Macworld days, senior editor Jon Seff and I were both honey tea people, so we created the “honey sharing accord,” in which we each pledged to offer honey to the other if one of us had run out of honey at the office. Jon started to take his tea without sweetening, breaking the accord. But I got custody of the remaining half of his plastic honey bear.
For years I drank British Breakfast from local teamaker Republic of Tea, available in both bags (for home and office) and loose leaf. Now that I’m at home with the Breville tea robot at my command, I’m all loose leaf, all the time. New Mexico Tea Company was a podcast sponsor a while ago, and they sent me a bunch of tea to try before I read the ad spots. I liked their black tea so much that it’s replaced the Republic of Tea stuff—and it’s a lot cheaper, to boot! I like the English Breakfast and the Irish Breakfast, and basically alternate between them. I buy them in bulk, a pound at a time.
In the afternoon I sometimes like to drink tea, too, especially on bitterly cold California winter days. (What?) Glenn Fleishman gifted me with a box of bag teas from Steven Smith Teamaker that are quite nice, including Lord Bergamot, Kandy, and my daughter’s favorite herbal, Meadow. But my go-to afternoon loose tea is Darjeeling Champagne from Argo Tea, which is seemingly unavailable right now! I went to Argo Tea with Jacqui Cheng, editor in chief of the Wirecutter, during a visit to Chicago. The United States is a coffee-drinking nation; it was really novel to be inside the tea version of Starbucks, which is sort of what Argo was. (When I visited Ireland last year, I discovered a country where black tea is apparently a peer of coffee? I was baffled and gratified.)
Anyway, in the evenings I prefer to drink beer—ideally a porter—but when I’m cold and it’s too late for caffeinated tea, I’ll go back to the warm, comforting embrace of Celestial Seasonings Lemon Zinger. Long may it zing.