For years, I had either a stovetop kettle or a simple electric kettle that just turns off once the water has boiled. Stovetop kettles always had me in a panic running to the kitchen to turn off the loud whistle or fearing for popped off kettle pins. I felt more relaxed switching to an electric model as I didn’t have to worry about the water boiling off, whistles, kettles turning black, or anything popping off. At the time, I was mostly drinking mass produced tea, with inconsistent water temperatures, not knowing what tea should taste like.
That all changed when I received a Cuisinart PerfecTemp Electric Kettle. A kettle that had a keep warm function already felt like a massive step up from what I was used to – I could just turn it on and if I was a bit late, it would keep the water hot for me. No more having to go back and forth turning the kettle back on when I’d forgotten about it. What about all those other buttons though – there were buttons for delicate, white, green, oolong, french press and boil. I was intrigued – did it really matter?
As my curiosity grew, I read more about extraction, how different states of tea leaf oxidation or fermentation require different temperatures to balance extraction without burning the leaves, over-extracting (makes it bitter) or damaging delicate flavours that are released. I also learned that white, green and black tea are all from the same plant – white tea has been minimally processed – usually sun dried, while green tea is fried or steamed to halt oxidation.
As I’d been trying new types of teas, I decided to brew them at their ‘ideal’ temperatures and steep times (table below) and wow did it ever make a difference. White teas were smooth and delicate, green teas (senchas especially) were sweet and fresh, and oolongs were rich and sometimes chocolaty. Most if not all of these used to taste strong and bitter in my old simple kettle days. Black teas are the least different since they require boiling water and long steep times.
I couldn’t go back to a stove-top kettle or a simple electric – the convenience of setting a temperature and walking away, then coming back to water that’s held at the right temperature for the tea I’m having is incredible. Having smooth teas with all their flavours come out is simply divine.
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