Review: “Tea Maker” from Sage by Heston Blumenthal

sage-tea-maker-heston

While wandering the vast floors of CES 2013, we came across a British company that was showcasing a prototype of an innovative pod-based tea maker – watch the video here. While tea makers are not a new concept (eBay lists plenty of ‘antique’ teasmades!), it was good to see a company looking at new ways to get the perfect brew.

It seems that the chaps over at Sage, which has created a range of 16 kitchen gadgets backed by Heston Blumenthal, are also keen on improving our tea brewing. Earlier this summer they launched the “Tea Maker” which incorporates a regular kettle as well as an automatic tea maker with variable brew temperatures, times and strengths.

It has preset options for green, white, oolong, herbal or black tea and, within these varieties, you can set the strength anywhere from mild to strong. Once the water reaches the optimal temperature, the stainless steel tea basket automatically lowers itself into the water. According to Sage, the automatic lifting and lowering of the basket allows the tea leaves to circulate for maximum infusion. Once the brew is completed you can use the “keep warm” button which will maintain its heat for up to 60 minutes. The device can also be programmed, opening up the opportunity to set it to brew for when you wake up in the morning.

We decided to test Sage’s Tea Maker for ourselves. Check out the following video where we unbox the tea maker as well as give it a quick test:

The Tea Maker has a sleek and stylish design which somewhat resembles a glass jug sitting on a Salter electronic scale.  The jug itself is not much larger than your average kettle but that being said, it’s significantly heavier – even when empty. The jug is not machine washable which is a shame as you’re meant to also use it as a regular kettle and therefore easily giving it a good wash would be handy. However, on a positive note, the machine boiled the water very quickly.

Tea basket lowered
Tea basket lowered

Other observations include concerns about the quality of the plastic lid on the tea basket. This is something that regular tea makers will be frequently taking on and off and we were concerned that it felt somewhat flimsy. We also found that the built in strainer on the jug failed to catch some of the smaller bits of our loose tea. A final, small, gripe would be regarding the machine’s display which doesn’t look particularly modern and has a poor viewing angle – we didn’t spot the “Time Since Brew” writing the first few times we used the machine.

That being said, those of you who enjoy drinking a variety of loose tea and want to ensure it’s brewed to the optimum strength and temperature will find the Tea Maker a stress-free and easy to use device. Indeed, it’s already proving to be very popular with John Lewis reporting sales of the Tea Maker increasing 60% week on week. William Jones, buyer for small appliances, says, “The Tea Maker is a big hit with customers and is currently the most popular product in the new Sage range of small appliances.”

The Tea Maker from Sage by Heston Blumenthal is available now priced at £199.95 and is stocked by a variety of retailers including the aforementioned John Lewis.

Tê: The “Proper Brewing” Tea Machine

According to the UK Tea Council, the British consume 165 million cups of tea every day or 60.2 billion per year. According to product development company Cambridge consultants we are not doing it right. Cambridge Consultants has developed a capsule based tea brewing system that promises perfect cups of tea every time via a one button touch system.

Before you scoff, Cambridge Consultants do have a history with this sort of thing and one of its many achievements was helping to create the first round tea bag.

Tea-Hand

Tê (I love your accent) is based on a traditional tea brewing method – “but with the convenience of a disposable capsule”. I’ve never found tea bags to be that inconvenient Tê’s ability to reduce brew time and increase drink quality.

Cambridge Consultants poured (pun detected) considerable brainpower into analysing how tea can be brewed differently from the traditional teapot or tea bag method. The key to Tê is a specially engineered recirculating pump technology which is incorporated in the simple capsule – for maximum convenience and minimum mess.

“Whilst coffee systems have seen a significant amount of innovation over the last decade nothing has changed in tea brewing, leaving the tea drinker almost forgotten about. We saw a real opportunity to use our experience in the beverage industry to level the playing field and make a step change in this category.”

Edward Brunner, Group Leader of the Industrial and Scientific Group at Cambridge Consultants

Tea-Machine

Tê brews in just two minutes, which is apparently half the time of a traditional tea pot. It also gives you control over the strength and flavour of your cuppa. The cost of the machine has obviously yet to be determined but they are targeting the lower end of the price range for similar coffee devices – with capsule cost mainly depending on the type of tea leaves selected.

TeaTotal

“Contrary to other tea machines on the market, this is based on a genuine tea-brewing process – rather than simply a ‘single-pass flow’ with fresh water. The technology process has been developed with black teas but has the potential to be used across a range of herbal and fruit teas, and other hot drinks.”

Cambridge Consultants will be demonstrating the Tê machine at CES 2013, January 8-11, in Las Vegas.

Panasonic New Design Icons for the Kitchen

Panasonic have recently embarked upon a singular crusade to make your kitchen look as stylish as possible and have bequeathed unto your granite surface a new range of incredible looking appliances.

Panasonic-Toaster-LG

First up are the Panasonic NT-ZP1 / NT-DP1 Toasters. The sleek reflective surfaces looked amazing, although tended to pick up a lot of dust so have to be kept clean. However, seeing as these are used for food that’s no bad thing. Both toasters have a cool little tab on the side that you can pop down to pop up a croissant warming function – my very definition of fancy. They also over reasonably precise control over the level of browning – 5 on the NT-ZP1 and 7 on the NT-DP1. The thing I enjoyed most was the blue light once you’d set the toasting level – it works as a sort of countdown and looks especially great on the glassy front panel of they NT-DP1.

Panasonic-Coffee

As I’m a walking cliche of a writer, I love me some coffee and the Panasonic Coffee Maker NC-ZF1 / NC-DF1 is another great looking device. As I’m *really* a walking cliche of a writer I live in a tiny apartment, so really appreciated the NC-ZF1s slim design with the whole unit pretty much solely comprising the water tank. It’s fits in smalls spaces yet brews a mean cup of coffee. It’s incredibly simple to use (I never once felt the need to reach for the manual), and has a built-in aroma control that lets you adjust the strength.

Panasonic-Kettle-LG

More of a tea person? Well then there’s the Panasonic Kettle NC-ZK1/ NC-DK range. Like the coffee makers, this is designed for modern living (which is a euphemism for tiny houses), and the kettle sits on a rotating power base so it can easily slot into a nook or cranny.

Find out more about Panasonic’s New Design Icons for the Kitchen

Too busy to wait for the kettle to boil? You need the T6!

If you have better things to do than wait for the kettle to boil, or want to create the impression that your time is too valuable for such mundanities, then you need the T6 water dispenser.

The T6 (I’ll explain the name is a minute) is a counter-top machine that is fed directly from the water mains and dispenses water in a choice of four temperatures – boiling, hot, ambient and chilled. Because it is connected to the mains there’s no need for delivery of water bottles – good for the environment and cheaper too.

T6

The time issue may be important to some, but probably the most important element that it addresses for most people is an environmental one. Many people are trying to get away from the delivery of water bottles and a move back to more environmentally friendly methods of water delivery, which the T6 delivers by being fed straight from the mains, allowing control over how much water is used.

It also includes a triple filtration unit that its makers say removes odours and particles of sand, silt, rust and chlorine in the water supply down to 0.6 micron. Chilled water is exposed to a computer controlled UV lamp which destroys micro-organisms and its ‘Zero Air Gap Technology’ prevents bacteria.

Tana Water’s MD Nick Heane believes that the T6 is bringing the process of boiling water into the 21st century:

“We are used to technology charging forward in all sorts of aspects of our lives. But the kettle has been ignored during this technological revolution. Its basic form is pretty much the same as 100 years ago – you put water into a metal container, heat it and wait for it to boil. It is very inefficient.”

The T6 comes in 12 different colours and is pretty stylish to look at – and if you’re making coffee for a horde, you can make up to 80 cups an hour – which probably makes it a top choice for an office – no more valuable employee time wasted waiting for the kettle!

Oh – and that name? Tana Water believes that the T6 will become the sixth indispensable kitchen gadget – I’ll leave you to work out which the other five are!

More on the T6 and pricing options at www.t6water.co.uk