Thursday, May 5, 2011

Making tea with a Keurig

A few weeks ago, my boyfriend invested in a Keurig (the Special Edition Brewing System) for a couple of good reasons. One, his love for coffee eclipses his love for tea and two, he noticed that the long term cost of buying a Keurig would be less than stopping at local coffee shops for the same quality beverage.

He has made several cups of coffee with it using the K-cups and so far he loves it. I am not much of a coffee drinker, but I tried a few different blends and I will say that this shiny little toy isn’t half bad.

Here is where I become skeptical: the Keurig also brews tea. I have watched it make a delicious cup of coffee in under a minute (minus the 3-4 minutes it takes the water to heat up). For coffee, that is pretty cool. However, for tea, there are strict times and temperatures to follow. Tea involves more of a patient steeping process… slightly different than that of coffee.

So, I pulled out the manual (the shopping guide that comes with the brewer is actually thicker than the user manual) and read what it had to say about tea… which isn’t much. The water temperature can be set between 187°F and 192°F in 5° increments. I want to point out that those temperatures aren’t low enough for green tea (should be around 160°F to 180°F) and aren’t high enough for black tea (should be around 195°F to 212°F)… at least for the ideal conditions anyway. However, that is the perfect range for oolongs.

The sample K-cup pack that comes with the brewer has a Celestial Seasonings English Breakfast black tea K-cup. I have been dying to try it out, but I wanted to wait until I had time to sit down and write up this review so I could note my initial thoughts and reactions.

Let’s do this!

So far I am impressed. It took less than a minute and I am holding a cup of black tea that looks and smells just like tea that has been steeped for five minutes. After eagerly taking a sip, I find the flavor severely lacking. I keep sipping, hoping to find something, anything, but all I really get is astringency. It’s flat, very flat. No body, no complexity, no life to this tea. I am sad.

Now I am not sure what to think. I am not very familiar with the Celestial Seasonings brand so I am not sure if the tea is to blame or the machine.

I went back to the machine and plucked the used black tea K-cup from the apparatuses. I ripped back the foil to confirm my suspicions… CTC grade tea leaves – what you would find in a tea bag. What was I expecting? Whole leaf goodness? No, of course not, but at least now I know that it is more plausible to blame the tea than the Keurig.

I am sure this grade of tea is what you will find in all of the tea K-cups because of the fast brewing time. Smaller leaves give you a quicker, but flavorless brew. This proves that you can’t cut corners when it comes to making good tea. The only automatic machine that I know of that makes a great cup of tea is the Breville One Touch Tea Maker.

I guess for now, when it comes to making tea, I will stick with my teapots, kyusus, and gaiwans (oh my!). That is, until I try out the “My K-Cup” accessory.

To be continued…

Image reference links: Keurig, K-cups


heidenkind said...

Celestial Seasonings is known for great tea (I grew up near the company's HQ and one of my dreams as a teen was to work there), but they specialize in herbal tea. I didn't even know they made black teas, actually.

mark said...

keurig makes a basket and an adapter that fit their machines where you can brew whole leaf tea easily. i have used this adapte to brew pu-erh that taste very nice and can get 9 or more brews

Tea Sets for Sale said...

I prefer loose leaf tea so that I can get the full benefit out of each leaf so while I think the keurig would be great for baged tea I will stick to my perfect tea maker with my loose leaf tea. But this is a great idea thank you for sharing

Anonymous said...

I am no expert, but with my Keurig I use loose leaf tea and an infuser to make the tea. I put the infuser in the cup, and let the Keurig spit hot water into the cup. Seems to work fine.

Anonymous said...

I use the machine to quickly give me hot water over a cup and green tea bags. Seems to work fine. I also have been consuming more green and white tea. I should try the infuser.

Rob said...

I just made a cup of Yerba Mate' in the Kurig using an Ekobrew brew cup. The cup says nothing about using it for tea, but I love Mate' and figured I'd give it a shot.
It came out very good!!! Just the same as if I steeped it like method.

Victoria Rose said...

New K cups are available in loose tea, biodegradeable cups, etc. I'm still trying to find a strong black tea but at least there are more options.