Plunger teapots have been around for a few years and have certainly gained their share of fans out there in the tea world. They are modeled similar to the ones used for coffee. These teapots also have a downside, though, that can get overlooked. That’s why I’m here to show you both the ups and downs of these plunger teapots (also known as “French press teapots” or “Cafétières”).

Plunger (French press) teapot styles are many and varied. (From Yahoo! Images)

Plunger (French press) teapot styles are many and varied. (From Yahoo! Images)

My “pun pal” on Facebook/Twitter (Sue Windley of Dangerous Marketing in the UK) is probably groaning at that title, but let’s face it — the title is not only puntastic, but it’s accurate! With those plunger teapots everything is about up and down. Having the plunger up at the right time and down at the right time.

How to Use That Plunger Teapot

No rocket science here. Just a pretty straightforward process.

  1. Be sure the teapot and all related parts are clean.
  2. Set aside the plunger/lid assembly.
  3. Add the loose tea (not bagged) into the body of the teapot (1 tsp. of loose leaf tea per 6 oz. plus 1 tsp. of water). If you have the style made with an infuser basket, put the tea in that instead.
  4. Heat the water to the right temperature for your tea type (see chart below).
  5. Pour the water into the teapot body (or infuser basket) where the tea is.
  6. Put on the plunger/lid assembly, but do NOT press down the plunger.
  7. Set the timer for the right time for your tea type (see chart below).
  8. When the steeping is done, push down the plunger firmly. Note: Pressing the plunger down hard on the tea leaves is akin to squeezing a teabag. It can also ruin any chance of getting a second steeping from those leaves, should you want to do so.
  9. Pour all of the liquid out into cup. (Any liquid left in the teapot will continue steeping, becoming overly strong and bitter.)
  10. Clean the teapot and plunger/lid assembly thoroughly and let air dry.
A variation of the plunger (French press) teapot that includes an infuser basket. (From a video on the manufacturer’s site. Words added by the author of this article.)

A variation of the plunger (French press) teapot that includes an infuser basket. (From a video on the manufacturer’s site. Words added by the author of this article.)

Handy tea temperature and steeping times chart:

  • Black tea — 190-200°F (water will be steaming, large bubbles will appear and small bubbles will be threading along the surface, but the water will not be at a full boil); steep 3-4 minutes.
  • Green tea — 150-170°F (columns of steam just begin to rise from the water); steep 2.5-3.5 minutes.
  • Red tea — 190-210°F (just under a full boil); steep 3-4 minutes.
  • Herbals —  180-200°F (about the same as for black tea); steep 5-15 minutes (some herbals take quite a while to infuse fully into the water).

Now for Those Ups and Downs

Ups:

  • The plunger also acts as a strainer, facilitating the steeping of loose leaf teas.
  • You can use teabags in them, but I’m not sure why you’d want to (see above).
  • They are usually made of glass, so you get to see the steeping going on — great for those of us who enjoy a bit of a show with our tea.
  • It’s classy looking (all that glass and shiny metal) and adds a real flair to your tea time — a bit of haute cuisine to even that office break room affair.

Downs:

  • Particulate and sediments of the finer ground loose teas, such as this English Breakfast No. 1, might slip through the plunger strainer.
  • The heat sometimes creates some suction (warm air expands, filling the empty space in the teapot even more), making the plunger a bit hard to push down (don’t force it, though, since you could end up with a big mess should something break).
  • Cleaning is a hassle (in my personal experience), especially when trying to get out those little bits and pieces wedged in the plunger/strainer. A sharp knife point helps, but you have to be very careful not to cut the fine screen or your fingers.
  • Being glass, they can tend to cool during the steeping process. (Cozies are now available for some styles of plunger teapots.)
  • The price is a bit much for what they do.

So, if you want to plunge in to your tea time, consider a plunger (French press) teapot. As for me, I will let my tea leaves continue to float freely inside my ceramic teapot!

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

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