Chinese Tea Thermoses

by Cinnabar on April 26, 2010

in Chinese, green, wulong/oolong

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I have been using a Chinese tea thermos for a couple of years, and I highly recommend them for good tea on the go. This type of tea thermos is quite common in China, carried around by workers as they go about their day, green tea readily at hand and replenished as necessary. I have also seen a few people with them in the United States. I personally would not use a plastic one, but the plastic ones are easier to find. The double-walled construction allows for holding the thermos comfortably, and insulates the tea from the cooler surrounding air. It has a metal filter that snaps into the interior and a screw-on lid. The devices are very easy to clean. The metal insert will get discolored from extended contact with tea, but it can be cleaned with vinegar.

The brewing of tea using this device is radically different from most other methods. One teaspoon of green tea is put into the thermos, the filter is put into place, water is added and then the tea is drunk directly from the thermos. Unlike in most other methods, the leaves remain in the tea as it is consumed, always considerably longer than a normal steep in a gaiwan or teapot. Throughout the day hot water is added each time more tea is desired. Obviously the primary difference in this brewing method is that the leaves steep for much, much longer than with other methods. I have found that the tea has a stronger taste, but does not get bitter.

In a glass tea thermos the tea should be somewhat delicate in taste, but also consistent and durable enough to hold up to long steeping times and multiple brewings. Chinese green, yellow and white teas are all suitable to this method, with varying degrees of success among individual teas. I have also had good results with lightly-oxidized Chinese and Taiwanese oolongs. It is important to brew the initial infusion with slightly lower temperature water, generally around 180 degrees, unless you like your tea very astringent in flavor, but I’ve found that in the subsequent infusions I can generally get away with hotter water because the leaves are already wet so they don’t get scorched.

Overall I like the thermos more than I expected to and get quite a bit of use out of it. It’s easily transported to and from home and work with or without tea in it. And one side benefit is that it displays the steeping of the leaves to great visual effect. It has made it possible to see clearly how differently shaped the leaves of the three Chinese green teas that I use most often in it look as they infuse.

Guest post provided by Cinnabar of Gongfu Girl.

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{ 7 comments… read them below or add one }

Mike J. December 15, 2011 at 19:34

Great article, I’ve been loving these things since I first ran into the in China, but they can be kind of hard to find in the States. I wrote up a review of a few that I was able to buy online, might help people who are looking for them out:

Adrian July 5, 2011 at 14:35

Where did you get the picture of that thermos? I’m looking for the exact one

nicole January 15, 2011 at 19:59

Is there any way to purchase one online? I’ve been looking everywhere!

Mr. Teavana August 22, 2010 at 08:53

I bought one of these glass tea tumbler thermos brewers from after seeing another of your reviews about their GABA tea. I love it! I put all types of loose leaf tea in it overnight in the refrigerator. The cold brew is so much different, more grassy and earthy than hot. While hot tea is still my standard, I can’t do without my cold brew! Try both ways and you’ll love it too!

Lindsay September 4, 2010 at 16:46

Hi Mr Teavana, I am looking for a glass tea tumbler! I looked on but couldnt find how to purchase one. I am in Canada and cant seem to find them anywhere. Could you help??

David B November 15, 2010 at 12:36

Where are you in Canada? Noah’s Natural Foods in Toronto has them for $11.99 as does Carrot Common. Outside of Toronto, I have no idea.

notesontea May 2, 2010 at 11:25

Ah! A few years ago I received a metal thermos from friends who travelled in China. I’ve been using it incorrectly. Thanks for this post!

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