The 15 minute work break. Some of us get one, others don’t. For you that do, make the most of those 15 minutes by knowing how to fit a really good tea into that short timeframe. A few ideas are presented here to help you do just that.

Trudeaus Tea Mendous Travel Tea Tumbler with Infuser - 16oz – Green (ETS image)

Trudeaus Tea Mendous Travel Tea Tumbler with Infuser – 16oz – Green (ETS image)

1 Travel Mugs Rush in Where Teapots Fear to Tread*

The name says it all. They travel. And since when you are at work, you are usually not at home, you are traveling. That is, you are not at home. A rather broad usage of the word, but what the heck. When it comes to tea, all’s fair in love and vocabulary. So, if you don’t have a travel mug, buy one, and if you do have a travel mug, bring it with you to work (if practical to do so – we acknowledge that for some jobs this is a bit tricky, and knocking your travel mug off that 94th floor steel girder almost never has a good result. If you commute some distance to work, the travel mug will also keep you properly dosed with the good stuff while you’re (need I say it?) traveling.

*Borrowing a line from a novel by E.M. Forster who borrowed it from an essay by Alexander Pope.

2 Sample Packs Rescue Your Tastebuds

Just having that travel mug with you does not ensure a really good cuppa during that work break. You need some really good tea to steep in it. This could be anything from a nice tippy Assam to a lightly smoky Keemun, a peppery Yunnan Gold, or a richly flavored Tie Kuan Yin that can undergo many infusions from the same tea leaves. Of course, having only 15 minutes means you may need to settle for only 5 steepings from those tea leaves instead of 8, 9, or even 10 like you usually have at home. No need to resort to teabags, either, since so many tea vendors now offer sample packs. It’s also a great way to have a bit of variety. Choose a sampler that has several different teas in it, such as All About Tea – Loose Leaf Sampler or English Tea Store Chinese Tea Loose Leaf Sampler. Lots of options! If you really want to stick with teabags, there are quite a few sampler packs available.

3 Meeting the Water Temperature Challenge

Unless you’re prepared to lug along a tea thermometer, you need some other method for figuring out if you have your water temperature just right for the tea you’re steeping. (Black – boiling. Green and White – 160-180°F. Oolong and Pu-erh – 185-212°F.) The best approach would be the time method. Boil the water (you will usually have to resort to a microwave oven for this) and then let it sit for a few minutes (using up some of your precious 15 minutes, but saving you from stewing instead of steeping those tea leaves, especially for the green teas). If the water is coming from a hot water spigot, it’s anybody’s guess what the temperature is. You can assume it’s close to boiling, though.

4 Meeting the Milk/Sweetener/Honey, etc. Challenge

Those of us who enjoy a nice English Breakfast Blend or a hearty Assam or some Ceylon black tea with a dash of milk and a touch of sweetener are usually faced with one of two horrors at break time: the thick liquid imitation cream or the even worse powdered version. Sweeteners are usually little sugar packets and sugar substitutes. Honey might be available in those tiny little pouches that you rip open, get sticky honey all over your fingers, and have just enough left in the pouch to squeeze into the tea to cut the bitterness a little. Forget things like lemon or a fresh sprig of mint. Ain’t gonna happen. Unless you bring your own. Keep your own choice of sweetener at your desk, in your workplace locker, or whatever. Fresh mint can be purchased at the store. Little bottles of lemon juice (the next best thing to a fresh slice in your cup) often don’t need refrigeration. The real sticking point is that milk or creamer. You’re kinda stuck using what they provide or bringing your own milk in (and risking some miscreant co-worker chugging it).

5 Protecting Your Tea Stash

Speaking of miscreant co-workers, once word gets around how nice the tea is you’re having, you will have to be on your guard against pilferers. The old “lead them astray” ploy seems to work well. Hide something labeled “tea stash” in a place that isn’t too obvious yet isn’t too hidden. The real stash will be stashed elsewhere, of course. In the fake stash be sure to put a note in there saying where the pilferer can actually buy some of the tea he/she is seeking.

It can be tricky, but have a nice bit of tea during that all-too-brief work break is indeed possible!

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

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