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How to Brew Tea at the Office

Tea drinkers are really at a disadvantage compared to their coffee-loving counterparts when it comes to having their favorite brew at work.  I’ve never been in an office that didn’t have a coffee pot.  But a proper teapot?  If you’re lucky you’ll get a hot water dispenser and some nasty tea bags.  So it usually is up to the individual to figure out the best way to have tea-time at work.

I’ll cover the basics here and give as many ideas as I can think of.  But I will ask you all to reply with your own methods.  Each office setting has its own difficulties, and desperate tea-drinkers are very creative!

The typical problems are no hot water, no brewing equipment, and no tea.  So let’s look at these one at a time.

1.  Get hot water by

  • boiling water on the stove
  • using an electric kettle or hot pot
  • using a microwave
  • using a hot water dispenser
  • toting in hot water in an insulated pot of some kind

If you’re lucky enough to have access to a kitchenette with an actual stovetop, problem solved!  Bring in a kettle and get started.  But that’s probably not the case.  If you are allowed to bring in an electric kettle or hot pot, you also have no problem — but ask first because they can blow a fuse.  A hot water dispenser is frequently found on coffee machines, and those work very nicely for green tea since they are usually a bit cooler than boiling.  It would be nice to have boiling water for black tea, but honestly, I would use one of these dispensers without hesitation for any kind of tea.  Lacking those options, a microwave may have to do.  Purists don’t like this, and I usually don’t recommend it either. But I have to admit, my dad uses a microwave to boil his tea water, and when I’m at his house, I make my tea that way sometimes.  I confess I usually can’t tell the difference.  (But I would still never do it at my own house!!)  If you have none of these, then you need to bring hot water in from home, which sounds bizarre, but it’s better than nothing.  Insulated “air pots” really keep water fairly hot for long periods.  You can get a 2-3 liter air pot for about $50.  Bringing in water (hot or cold) is also helpful if the water quality at your office is poor.  This can really ruin a great tea quickly!

2.  Brewing Equipment

  • Teapot or
  • Mug or cup of some kind or
  • Thermos or
  • Coffee pot
  • And some kind of filter

Apart from my own office, I don’t think I’ve worked anywhere that had easy access to teapots for the staff to use.  No one knows how to use them and they take up a lot of space.  If you can bring in a teapot, great, keep it in your office so it doesn’t get broken.  You’ll need an infuser that fits the pot, or you can use disposable filters so you don’t have anything to clean.  Bring in a tea cozy too, so you can keep your tea hot in your office, and you might get a cork coaster or tea trivet of some kind so you don’t get water rings on your desk.  I know most people won’t do all this, but I would.  I love to use a real teapot.

But most people use mugs.  That’s fine and offices are rife with mugs.  So grab a mug, and again, you’ll need an infuser that fits it or disposable filters.  My biggest complaint about mugs is that the tea cools off quickly and it’s just too small a portion for me.  You can get one of those electric mug warmers, which work OK for a while, but if you leave your cup on there too long your tea will taste sort of “stewey.”  You can also throw a tea cozy over your mug, or you can get a mug with a lid (you’ll have to bring one in from home).

Some kind of insulated thermos really works great for keeping tea hot for long periods.  But they are often hard to brew in because they are so tall and skinny.  There are long paper filters that are made for brewing vessels that shape, or you can brew your tea in something else and transfer it to a thermos.  But if you’re going to do that you might as well just brew your tea at home and keep it in a thermos all day at work (which isn’t a bad idea either if your thermos is big enough).

A coffee pot is really the last resort, and I’m just going to say it is a bad idea.  Your tea will taste like coffee.  Yuck.

3.  Tea

Unless you want to use the rank office tea bags, you’d better bring in your own tea.  And if tea bags are easier for you, I don’t see anything wrong with using good tea bags.  I use tea bags sometimes when I travel, and it really is quick and simple,  Just pick one you really like.  But, if it is at all possible to make loose leaf tea at work, do it!  I don’t need to sell you on that point.  What I find the most convenient is to make up my own tea bags at home.  I use paper filters, load them up with the tea I want and put them in one or more plastic baggies.  Then I don’t have to do the measuring in a hectic or inconvenient environment.  On the other hand, how hard is it really to reach into a pouch of tea with a scoop and measure out how much you need?  It just takes a moment, and people will think you’re special.

I would also recommend choosing a tea that isn’t too delicate or complicated.  Better to have a really good cup of “ordinary” tea than a poorly brewed cup of something exotic.  Frequently, people are busy working at work (!) and may have to leave their brewing tea unattended.  So be prepared for it to over brew.  Choose a tea that can take an extended brew time or one so inexpensive that if you have to throw it out and start over, you won’t be depressed about it.

My last bit of advice is to get your co-workers drinking tea also.  They’ve probably just never had good tea and will be eternally grateful to you for improving their lives.  And there is power in numbers!  If everyone starts to complain to the management that they need better tea equipment in the break room, they might actually listen to you.  We have several customers who have turned their whole office on to tea, and they place large group orders for all their co-workers.  I love to imagine the day the big box of tea arrives at the office, and everyone stops what they are doing to collect their goodies.  Then the kettle goes non-stop for about an hour while everyone takes turns brewing up!

So, everyone, what clever methods have you devised to have a great cup of tea at work?

Here are a few products we carry that might be helpful:

Mini Minit Filters
T-Sacs
Jug Size T-Sacs
Paper Tea Bags
Chatsford Infuser Mug
For Life Curve Infuser Mug
Roli Gourmet Tea Steeping Mug
Covered Mug

10 comments to How to Brew Tea at the Office

  • For brewing tea at work, I have been using paper tea bags just like you described and filling them at home. After reading this though, I’m considering getting a small teapot and a warmer. I’m always too busy too drink just 1 cup before it gets cold!

    Thanks for the great info!

  • I’m a firm believer in a teapot, or some method to keep your tea hot. It’s so much more rewarding. Thanks for the comment, Tim!

  • Ian

    I boiled water in a sauce pan when I worked at an office. Then switched to using the coffee maker, but decided it was too cool. Eventually settled on the microwave.

    Now I work at home and have an electric water boiler. But I moved to a new city as well and the water here is absolutely terrible! You’re right it makes a huge difference.

  • Ari D Jordon

    If you do go with a teapot, I highly recommend the Iwachu Tetsubin cast iron pots. I’ve had a 32oz one for several years, and it’s wonderful. The iron really does seem to keep the tea warm for several hours without external heat. They are pricey, but well worth it in my opinion.

    For single cups, the Magic Tea Maker (which I’ve heard called an Australian press) or similar product is wonderful. Have used similar things for a long time when I don’t want a full pot.

  • Jim Bartholomew

    I hate tea in bag. Also we do not have a sink that is available so tea pot are hard to rinse out. I hyave found that a French Press works pretty good, not quite as good as a pot, but a lot better than having to go with bags.

  • Samantha Porter

    I don’t have a regular workspace, so preparation is a challenge. If I’m in the mood for green tea, I bring 1-2 cup T-Sacs I filled at home and use the office’s electric hot water dispenser.

    For black tea, I have to brew at home and bring with. STANLEY has some really nice 1.5- and 2.0-quart stainless steel thermoses. They’re not cheap; but if you pre-warm them with a little leftover boiling water, they will keep your tea piping hot at least 15 hours. I haven’t noticed any metallic taste, but by the end of the day the tea does taste a little “tired”. Maybe when I get my own office …

  • Gwen Anderson

    I have been using a Teeli brew basket (Finum) in disposable paper coffee cups for years. Water comes from a Bunn. Best part is the lid which keeps in the heat in while brewing acts as a drip catcher. So, I can make tea on my way to a meeting and not have to wait for it.

  • These are all great ideas — thanks for the comments, everyone! Ari makes a good point about the cast iron teapots keeping tea very hot for long periods. And what I love about them is that you don’t have to sacrifice style. In fact, they look amazing and will also advertise to your co-workers that you’re drinking TEA instead of coffee! – Lori

  • I work at home but when I go out on the town I like to bring a mini tuo cha of Puerh with me. That’s a little bowl-shaped piece that’s individually wrapped. It gives anywhere from a few to several cups of tea so I can get refills. I’ve also packed tea in little canning jars with plastic lids that fit tightly. I make the tea before I go out and can drink it later that day. It’s not a thermos but I don’t need the tea to be hot. After all, iced tea is a common American food. Needing your tea hot at the office just adds to the complication. –Teaternity

  • Ronda Schell

    I have a very small tea bail big enough for one large cup of tea. I take it to work inside a tinyTupperware container, where I also place it after brewing my tea. Luckily we have hot/cold water dispensers at work.

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