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Your lovable Tea Princess here calling to all you Tea Princesses and Princes out there to hear of my struggle with the Keurig Machine (no, not my own … please! I would never! … but the one at a local office waiting room we had the misfortune to have to sit in for about an hour). You may just avoid being in the situation we were. If so, my good deed for my lifetime has been done.

K-cups left this Tea Princess wanting! (ETS image)

K-cups left this Tea Princess wanting! (ETS image)

Coffee making was never the same after the Keurig machine was introduced. For some it was a very dark day and for others the best day of their lives. To each his own. And I had no issue with such machines, not being a coffee drinker, until they invaded my “tea turf.” They introduced those K-cups filled with teas.

Let me interject a note at this point: The company that owns this blog has some of those tea-filled K-cups for sale. They carry British faves like Earl Grey and English Breakfast plus a few others. So, I am trying to keep that in mind. But, hey, as a Tea Princess, I have to do my duty to you all. On with the story…

Setting aside the whole issue of all the excess materials used to make a K-cup (there are now refillable cups, so you at least have the benefit of reusability plus being able to fill them with whatever you prefer), I want to address the tea quality and how it relates to my “tea princess” standards, which is for you reading this the whole issue here.

Our story: We show up for an appointment at this office (it was for a review of our homeowner’s insurance to see if we could get a better deal) and were told that someone had just walked in a minute or two ahead of us so the agent decided to talk to him and the guy at the reception desk asked us to wait. We were exactly on time, by the way, so this was rather rude. But I digress.

The waiting area had a Keurig machine. Not too unexpected these days, especially since we had seen one a year or so ago in a car repair shop waiting room (written about on this blog here). The selection of cups was mostly for coffees, with some cinnamon-flavored tea and a couple of herbal-filled cups. Desperate for a cuppa (yeah, I know, I shoulda brought my travel mug filled with tasty tea from home with me, but that would have made us late for the appointment and we would have had to sit and wait…uh, hey, that’s what we ending up doing even though we were on time… sigh!), I selected the cinnamon-flavored tea (by a fairly well-known tea company out there). The results still make me shudder to think about…oops! getting ahead of myself here.

The way a Keurig machine operates, versus something like a Mr. Coffee and Mrs. Tea or even things like the IngenuiTea, is that hot water is forced through the substance (coffee, tea, herbals, whatever) at a temperature just below that liquid becoming steam and at a fairly high rate of speed. If you know anything about tea, you know that tea needs time to infuse, that is, the tea (whether dust, fannings, broken, or whole leaves) needs time to interact with the water. Some teas need as little as 20 seconds. Others need as much as 10 minutes. The average is about 3 minutes. Well, that Keurig machine blasted out a cuppa in about 10 seconds. For this type of tea, the vendor recommends 2 to 5 minutes. You can just imagine what the results tasted like, but in case you can’t, I’ll tell you that it was like drinking a cuppa cinnamon with no tea flavors there at all. Even that powdered creamer and a packet of sweetener couldn’t help.

If I’d had any idea how long we would have been sitting there waiting for the appointment that got pre-empted by a walk-in, I would have gone back home with hubby to prepare a proper cuppa!

The lesson here: Always bring that tea with you!

See more of A.C. Cargill’s articles here.

© Online Stores, Inc., and The English Tea Store Blog, 2009-2014. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this article’s author and/or the blog’s owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Online Stores, Inc., and The English Tea Store Blog with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

Twinings Earl Grey K-Cups (Photo source: The English Tea Store)

Twinings Earl Grey K-Cups (Photo source: The English Tea Store)

The K-Cup Revolution is here, tea drinkers. Just as teabags forever altered the approach by tea lovers here in the U.S. and in many other countries to fixing a quick cuppa or even a potful, the K-Cup will change our approach once again. “How?” you ask. Good question.

In the beginning was the leaf, and the leaf was good. It fell into a pot of hot water and the rest, as they say, is history (or maybe just a nice myth). Tea became so popular that it was traded far and wide. The processed tea was packed as carefully as the tea producers could manage at the time, but hey, spoilage happens. When the tea reached Europe after weeks on the high seas or months traveling the overland trade routes, it wasn’t in the freshest condition. In fact, one story has it that black tea came about as a way to keep the tea for longer periods of time so that it would still be bearable when it reached those far off tea drinkers.

Those tea drinkers would heat the water, warm the teapot with a little of it, add some loose tea leaves, fill the teapot with more hot water, and let it steep. The tea would then be poured through a strainer into teacups. Alas, any liquid remaining in the pot with the leaves would continue to steep, getting a tad overdone. Sigh!

Enter the teabag. You can prepare one cup at a time or a whole pot of tea. And then you can remove the teabag so that the steeping stops. True convenience. Of course, the tea taste was not quite what it was when steeping the loose leaves, but it was neater, right?

Now we have the K-Cup and a big machine that sits on the counter and steeps a cuppa at the push of a button. What’s not to like?

Well, those little cups ain’t cheap. That’s one of the big issues with them. Someone did a comparison between the cost of the tea in K-Cups (usually sold in boxes of 12 or 24) versus the cost of buying that same amount of tea in a loose pouch. Much more expensive in the K-Cup. But you are buying convenience. What is your extra time worth to steep up a fresh pot of tea using loose leaf versus using a K-Cup? But then you have to clean the Keurig machine, so the time needed may be even here, except that you have to wash the teapot, strainer, etc., too. Sigh! It’s a trade-off: convenience or lower out-of-pocket expense and more of your time spent. That’s a strictly personal decision.

Awhile ago hubby and I tried a K-Cup. Our bank offers coffee, tea, and cookies to anyone who takes the time actually to come in to the bank versus banking online. Not having a Keurig machine, we cut open the K-Cup and dumped the loose tea into the pot to steep. The tea was okay but not what we usually like. So we picked up another one from the bank (with their permission) — this time Earl Grey tea. It was okay, too, but not as good as some other Earl Grey versions we’ve had. Of course, we don’t know what the tea tastes like when steeped using that Keurig machine. Time to head back to the bank to find out. Well, maybe not.

One person commented on the waste of the K-Cups. Quite. When hubby and I cut open that test cup, it was mostly cup and little tea. More waste than in a teabag and certainly more than when one steeps tea loose in the pot. As one with a true pioneer spirit where every bit and piece was put to good use, I would say this is quite wasteful unless you save up the empty cups and use them somehow. Not very practical, though.

If you prefer an herbal infusion, coffee, or even hot cocoa, there are K-Cups for those, too. In fact, the list of teas and other beverages available keeps growing, offered under major brand names such as Twinings, Bigelow, and Celestial Seasonings.

© Online Stores, Inc., and The English Tea Store Blog, 2009-2014. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this article’s author and/or the blog’s owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Online Stores, Inc., and The English Tea Store Blog with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

Twinings English Breakfast K-Cups. Have you tried them yet? (Photo source: The English Tea Store)

Twinings English Breakfast K-Cups. Have you tried them yet? (Photo source: The English Tea Store)

One of the things I’ve learned over the course of many years of drinking, studying, and writing about tea is that everyone likes what they like and there really is no one correct way to do things. Of course, there are certain useful guidelines to follow if you want the best cup of tea – such as don’t oversteep or overheat your tea – but, when it comes to the mechanics of making tea, there are many ways to get the job done. A gongfu fancier might cringe at my practice of heating water in a Pyrex measuring cup in the microwave and steeping in a gravity-type infuser but it works well for me.

Having put in my plug for all of this goodness, light, and tolerance, I’m now going to respectfully say that I don’t think K-Cup tea will be on my menu anytime soon. That’s okay and neither will Earl Grey, Lapsang Souchong, or milk, lemon, and sugar, now that you mention it. That’s just a matter of personal preference. Of course, I haven’t actually tried a K-Cup of tea yet and so maybe I’m going off half-cocked but I can see a few reasons why I’ll stick with my current process.

If you’re like me and you haven’t really kept tabs on the K-Cup it might help to know that it’s a technology developed by Massachusetts-based company Keurig in 1998. At their Web site the company claims that “we’re the leading single cup brewing system in North America.”

Something else you’ll see at the site is that a fair amount of the content seems to be rather coffee-centric, although you can check out some of the other products here and here, including tea, hot chocolate, and more. Which would be my primary reason for not becoming a K-Cup drinker. Like many other American tea drinkers, I’ve pretty much grown accustomed to the fact that tea is something of a poor cousin to coffee, and I’d be fine with that if there was a wide selection of the teas I wanted to drink in K-Cup form. Given that I like to try as many premium single-estate teas – especially black and green – as I can get my hands on, I don’t see that happening.

The other major issue for me would be the gadget factor. I’ve tried a number of high-falutin’ tea gadgets so far, some so “automatic” that they do almost everything but pour the tea in your mouth, and I liked some of them quite a bit. But for me, the so-called convenience of using such gadgets doesn’t really do much for me, and I typically revert back to the tried and true method that I mentioned above.

Which works quite nicely for me but it might not for you. Maybe you’ll find K-Cup tea to be the greatest thing since sliced bread or the wheel. Which is great, and to you I’ll simply say “bottoms up.”

© Online Stores, Inc., and The English Tea Store Blog, 2009-2014. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this article’s author and/or the blog’s owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Online Stores, Inc., and The English Tea Store Blog with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

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© Online Stores, Inc., and The English Tea Store Blog, 2009-2014. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Online Stores, Inc., and The English Tea Store Blog with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

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