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Reviewing Kettles for Tea

Middems

August 18, 2017

This is an in depth tea kettle review and gets a bit geeky. We promise that more tea videos are on their way but so many people asked for a kettle review so here you go.

Don goes in depth to find the best variable temperature kettle for your Gong Fu tea brewing.

To watch some videos about the importance of water temperature:

White Tea: https://youtu.be/Rj8Eo7noYcw
Green Tea: https://youtu.be/spTBscGMG2c

Apologies to Smarter – the name of their kettle is the Smarter iKettle 2.0 not the iSmarter Kettle!

Russell Hobbs Retro Red: http://uk.russellhobbs.com/russell-hobbs-products/kettles/retro-red-kettle-21670.html
Smarter iKettle: http://smarter.am/ikettle/
Sage Tea Maker: https://www.sageappliances.co.uk/the-tea-maker.html


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Protherium
- 2 Months ago

Dear *Don*,
…while we wait for your water testing videos, here's another tea experiment I did you may find useful!
You constantly hear about dissolved oxygen being a major determinant of good tea water, the most common notion is the more the better. I happen to have access to a device like this:
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Oxygen_concentrator
… which is a perfect opportunity to confirm or dispel some tea wisdom!

EXPERIMENT DESIGN
Two 5g samples of the same Bai Mudan tea, a tea taster cup, electric kettle and two batches of the same water I always use for tea. One batch was left as it is, another one had been thoroughly stirred by a stream of ~90% pure oxygen from a plastic hose for 10 minutes delivering approx. 5 liters of oxygen per minute. The oxygenated water has been put in the kettle first, brought to a simmer boil ("crab eyes", ca. 85°C) and used to infuse tea immediately. The brewing routine – rinse, 1st infusion 10 sec., 2nd 30 secs, 3rd one minute. 2nd and 3rd infusions were accompanied by me pouring hot water over the brewing cup. 100ml of water were used for each infusion. The non-oxygenated water has been prepared prior to oxygenated one, brought to rolling boil, kettle switched off after 2 secs, cooled down for 4 minutes and then filled into a tea thermos – the intent was to get it down to ca. 85°C. The brewing routine and the brewing device were exactly the same as with oxygenated water.

Initially, I suspected that oxygenated water wasn't hot enough, but during my infusion rountine I didn't notice any visual or physical clues which might indicate a substantial difference in water temperature. In fact, initial tasting showed me that both brews were pretty much equally strong, none of both appeared to have a weaker body as it would be the case with low temp water. So, I concluded that while there might be a difference in temperature, it would lie within max. 10°C (EDIT: I repeated both of these water heating routines and checked them with a thermometer – both came out around 88° ±1,5°, so, my concerns were unfounded, the water temp was the same).

TASTE TEST
First of all, tea brewed with oxygenated water came out substantially darker, despite all brewing parameters being exactly the same as with non-oxygenated water. So, the oxygen did its job for sure. During the heating process oxygenated water appeared to produce more bubbles than non-oxy one. I tried both teas and after one cup it appeared to me that oxygenated water delivered a better brew, more floral and more intense. So far so good, but I wouldn't be a teadhead if I'd skip the *blind tasting*! I was assisted by a person who has a reasonable amount of tea experience; my assistant also took part in the blind tasting to confirm or dispel my findings.

RESULTS
The results were pretty much what I already expected – except, they weren't!!! 😉
Both, me and my assistant picked out non-oxygenated tea as the better one. It tasted more smooth and creamy, whereas oxygenated tea was kind of flat and rough in many ways. Non-oxygenated water also delivered tea with more "umami" as compared to oxygenated water. Oxy-water-tea tasted somewhat like a "brick", if that makes any sense. In terms of "brew strength" both were pretty much equal.

CONCLUSIONS
Blind tasting is essential, because I clearly fell victim to my unconscious bias towards oxygen, the very idea that oxygen "should" enhance flavour was enough to skew my senses! And the second conclusion is – the idea that the more oxygen the better is clearly a myth! Water, chock full of oxygen, wasn't able to deliver better tea, in fact it delivered worse than normal. To me, the best explanation would be that there is certain amount of oxygen which should be in the water to make best tea – any excess oxygen will probably react with organic compounds of tea thus altering them and the taste to the worse. The unusual dark colour of the oxy brew was unexpected, but it makes sense within that hypothesis.

Cheers!

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Ian Buchanan
- 2 Months ago

"Im not going to bother watching this"

…. 8 minutes into the video :

"…DANGIT"

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Joshua Brown
- 2 Months ago

Hey Don, I know you're a gaiwan guy, but how do you feel about making tea concentrates? I want to drink more tea, so my thoughts are to just brew a strong batch and refrigerate it. That way I can just add hot water for a hot cup or cold some iced tea. What are your thoughts on that?

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Guilt Free TV
- 2 Months ago

Hey Don. Learning so much from you and appreciate the time you take to explain things so clearly and passionately. My question for you is: Have you ever helped a tea lover/enthusiast overcome caffeine sensitivity? I have been in love with tea for many years and worked at a tea shop as well. However, I have had a difficult time drinking tea more than twice a day (morn, afternoon) and in very small amounts (literally 2-4 sips). I have issues with headaches and moodiness if I don't drink enough or drink to much. Ultimately I would love to be drinking without worry and tasting teas I buy at different times of day. Any advice? Thank you!

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Greg Whisenhunt
- 2 Months ago

FYI, I know someone who did her dissertation on how plastic leeches cancer causing chemicals. So, your​ hesitation to heat things in plastic is founded.

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Skulleigh
- 2 Months ago

The iKettle sounds interesting, but I know they've had security flaws in their software before, so that makes me hesitant.

I currently have a Black & Decker kettle, with the most annoying beep, and the temperature controls are too fiddly, but I think it will never die, so I don't feel like I should replace it 😀

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Dennis H
- 2 Months ago

Any info on kettles, metal or clay or anything that can be used on open flame to heat the water such as over a propane camping burner or similar? Maybe also a video how to have a Gong fu session using open flame?

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Ollie Pere
- 2 Months ago

Well first of all great review , a small note regarding the( Sage ) or called the breville everywhere else , it an amazing kettle for those of us busy artisan tea drinkers .
Its great but i think you where mentioning plastic and the Sage does have have a ring of exposed silicone around the base of it which is exposed to the heated water . I notice a taste difference when brewing a light green teas . But it was ok brewing darker oolongs or red , black tea . Say all that , the programmability is amazing so much so that i have two of them (in canada $299.00 )one the the town and another at the beach house.

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Truth Seeker
- 2 Months ago

Postcard Tea told me they know all the kettles Totally PLASTIC-FREE on the insides. I agree with Don to limit the plastic when boiling water. I sometimes boil water using a large Stainless Steel saucepan on the gas hob! Fill your cup with water and transfer the exact amount of water into the saucepan! I would avoid Telflon coated as that is another toxin, just stainless steel.

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Transcript Junky
- 2 Months ago

SUPER-D! I just got a chance to watch this, and this is a very valuable and objectively informative episode. Please try to do more of these "comparative tea tech" episodes into the future, and perhaps you can give away one (or more) of the sample products (via a contest), with the understanding, of course, that this won't sway your comparison. It might help you minimize getting the "runaround" from the product manufacturers, so long as they understand that your review will be objective. Great job!

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Living Leaf Tea
- 2 Months ago

I'm a big fan of glass kettles!

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jangtsedude
- 2 Months ago

I was just thinking about a video on different ways to boil the water and keep the water hot (kettle, thermos, iron pots, etc.) and how this affects the tea experience and/or taste.

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Sikang yi
- 2 Months ago

I like the look of the Kamjove because it looks small and has a beautiful looking spout. The other expensive kettles look too big and the styles don't look too eye pleasing. But they are still worth a try for their electronic features.

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Ariel De Prada
- 2 Months ago

Are any of the kettles insulated or does the exterior get really hot? Its something I don't like about mine.

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lukisIVIII
- 2 Months ago

Do I get an award for discovering an easter egg in 9:40? 😀 Send me tea, please!

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Ruthann Amarteifio
- 2 Months ago

I still love the little gooseneck kettle you use in many vids—– 🙂
Thanks for sharing all your knowledge, Don!

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Daniel Verjolas
- 2 Months ago

ABOUT TEMPERATURE IN RUSSELL'S KETTLE: IT RAISES EVEN FIVE DEGREES AFTER SWITCHING OFF, SO SET IT AHEAD PROPERLY TAKING THAT ON ACCOUNT.

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Jason Dainter
- 2 Months ago

FYI for those of you like me who ended up with a Brewista Smart Pour, do not boil and hold the water temperature at 100 as they break. Its a serious design flaw, and after speaking to the manufacturer after mine broke I was told that this (holding water at 100) breaks the kettle, and they will be adding this to the instructions (weirdly, it was not in the instructions). Also I would add the point that the Bonavita Electric 1.7 L Gooseneck was absolutely useless also, the lid broke twice on two different kettles after light use (its a crappy plasticy hinge that easily snaps), the lid on the Brewista is better. Summary is that I have yet to find a kettle still that offers both great accuracy and holds water for at least 30 minutes. That said, (and confirmed with Don from Mei Leaf) if you're a true tea head you probably dont want to be holding water anyhow since it deoxygenates the tea, so in which case if you're willing to forget that feature the Brewista gets my vote as was very robust in all other ways.

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Multiple Chips.
- 2 Months ago

What about stovetop ones?

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Mei Leaf
- 2 Months ago

So this is an in depth and geeky review. More TEA videos are coming for those craving tea.

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