Electric Tea Makers
SO – It was becoming obvious that we needed a 2nd teamaker in our house. Neither myself nor the husband wanted to use the manual methods when the other was using the Zarafina, and if someone had leaves in the Zarafina that they wanted to save for a resteep, but the other person wanted to make something different, that was also a difficult situation.
I originally started looking for another Zarafina, but the price on them seems to have gone up, they’re now about the same price as Adagio’s triniTEA. The triniTEA is 32oz (vs Zarafina’s 16 oz) and it keeps the tea hot after brewing (the Zarafina doesn’t).
Since one of the things that we make is pitchers of iced tea (usually the blend listed here as “Nathaniel’s Southern Sweet Tea”), having a bigger capacity would be nice, so I bought the triniTEA.
A word about temperature/time settings for the two machines:
The Zarafina is a black box. I don’t know what it does in “real world settings”. The controls are “black/herbal/green/white/oolong” (or something like that, I don’t have it in front of me – but 5 tea types), then “bagged/loose”, then “weak/medium/strong”. I don’t know how those settings correspond to time and temperature…. but they seem to work. I’ve never made tea in it and thought, “hrm, maybe this is over/understeeped”.
Also, I don’t think it COULD be very exact on time because the steeping chamber has a heat activated valve that lets the water in, but there’s no way that the timing part of the machine could know when the hot water hits the leaves, so depending on the temperature of the water you put in the chamber changes how long it takes to heat up the water which changes how long your tea steeps for. I just always use filtered water from my fridge, so it’s consistent.
I suspect, though, that the tea type button controls temperature and time, and you can further adjust time if you want through the strength button (which bugs me, since you’re supposed to adjust strength by changing the amount of leaves not steeping time, but whatever).
Onto the triniTEA:
It’s much easier to take “real world settings” and translate them into “triniTEA settings”. There are 2 temperature settings: hot and not so hot, and then the time control can be moved from 1-7 (I think) minutes continuously (i.e., there’s no fixed points on the knob).
The first time we brewed tea in the triniTEA, it was horribly bitter b/c my husband followed the machine instructions for black tea (5 minutes) and not the tea instructions (2-3 minutes). So ignore what the machine’s instructions tell you to do!
Using the two machines
They are similar in that the brewing basket restricts the size that the leaves can expand to (unlike the manual gravity pots), and I’m not fond of that. Furthermore, their brew baskets appear to be about the same size even though the triniTEA is for 2x as much tea. Not good!
OTOH, the Zarafina only allows flow through the brew basket on the top and bottom (and only a smidge on the bottom), while the triniTEA has flow throughout the basket.
The triniTEA’s basket is made entirely of plastic, so tea gets caught in the flow holes and is a PitA to clean. Also, there seems to be more stuff in the tea made in the triniTEA than in the Zarafina because the Zarafina’s basket is fine mesh.
It’s very easy to spill while using the triniTEA, but all of its parts are water immersable (unlike the Zarafina, whose brewing chamber is not immersable).
There’s a bit more flexibility in the Zarafina if you want to use alternative steeping liquids. The triniTEA (because it heats water similar to a coffee pot) stresses that you can ONLY use water, but I don’t see any reason why you can’t use other liquids in the Zarafina (juice, a different tea, whatever). There’s no where that the steeping liquid goes in the Zarafina that the finished tea doesn’t go, so I don’t see a problem.
We have not gotten a satisfactory brew from the triniTEA yet. I’m giving it another week and then we’re going to return it. So far we’ve only actually made 2 pots of the SST, but the second one (that wasn’t over brewed) tasted like plastic. I spoke to Adagio and they said they’ve never had anyone complain of that, but whatever. I’ve been running pots of water through it to see if it’s just a “newness” thing. I’ll report back near the end of the week.
So, after 20-30 pots of water (at 7 minutes of steep), the plastic taste seems to be gone. However, tea isn’t as awesome. I’ll continue to play with it this weekend; perhaps the proportions or something still needs to be adjusted.
Love the Zarafina, haven’t had any problems. If we return the triniTEA, I’ll probably pick up a second Zarafina. Just wish the Zarafina -> real world settings thing was clearer.
AWESOME post. Thanks for taking the time to do it. Now if someone could do one for the Fine T I’d be thrilled=D
My 1st big item priority is Samovar’s matcha mill- then I can grind my own decaf matcha and have it any time I want:) Bew T will be next.
EXCELLENT job! Really! My husband ended up getting me the Zarafina for Christmas. We love it, but totally agree with the mystery “black box” settings/temps. It was a true toss up between the Zarafina and the triniTEA. After reading this, I’m glad we went with the Z.
OMG – thank you. I’ve been thinking about asking for a tea maker for my birthday (in 1.5 months) and wasn’t sure what to ask for. I’d been leaning towards the Zarafina, but wasn’t sure. This has pushed me over the edge. Thank you, thank you, thank you.
Wombatgirl, not sure if you want to go this fancy- but the Fine T gourmet tea machine (that I mention in my 1st comment on the thread) is programable- you can set it to have your cuppa up to 24 hrs in advance. I have not tried it, but I am seriously coveting it lol. It is expensive, but if it’s something you really want and one person can’t afford it, maybe you could have serveral people go in on it. That’s what I’m gonna do for my matcha mill if I can’t get it before Sept. Just thought I’d draw your attention to it if you haven’t read the entire thread. I’m either all or nothing when it comes to brewing tea. I either want to do everything myself or have it practically walk over to me LOL. I now drink matcha in the morning so that doesn’t require steeping time, but I’d love this so I have tea ready and waiting for me when I get up. Also very convenient in the WI winters:)
I was reading some of the reviews on Amazon and there seems to be a common thread of leaks and malfunctioning heating elements. Not sure I want to spend the $100 on something that’ll break after 6 mos.
spohkh – which one are you reading about with problems? I’ve had the Zarafina for over a year now and haven’t had any problems with it, but if the heating element got wet I could see how that could cause a problem. We just have to be careful when we clean out the brewing chamber. It’s a bit of a PitA, honestly.
The triniTEA doesn’t really leak (at least, ours doesn’t), but you have to be very careful not to cause spills. The carafe is similar to some coffee carafes that require you to pour slowly or they’ll spill. Also, it’s possible to put more water into the top chamber than the steeping chamber can handle, and then it’ll spill out (did that). The solution there is to actually measure out the water that’s put into the heating chamber rather than filling that chamber to the top.
spohkh – not sure if you’re talking about the Zarafina, but the problem with the heating element has to do with people who didn’t follow the directions to not submerge the steeping chamber. The company even provides a rubber plug now so you can make sure no water gets inside. I don’t know how the Zarafina would leak. The only problem I’ve had with it is that sometimes it doesn’t empty completely…not sure why. But, it’s not too difficult to empty the steeping chamber directly when/if that happens.
Yes, I was reading the negative reviews for the Zarafina. Since you’ve put the problem in context with my professional life (people doing stupid things) I think I will get one for my birthday. Thank you so much denisend and Shanti!
Added an update – in short, plastic taste is gone, but I’m still not happy with the triniTEA.
Thanks denisend :) I am really happy with my Zarafina, and want to buy one for my mother, but they went up in price! I got mine for $38+shipping, and now they’re like $100! I think I saw one person selling it for $84+s yesterday, but still…so expensive!
I recently picked up the Breville Variable Temperature Kettle (http://www.williams-sonoma.com/products/breville-variable-temperature-kettle/?pkey=ccoffee-makers-teakettles%7Celtcoftea) and absolutely love it! With 5 options for tea temperatures I was so pleased to add this to my tea ritual during the day. Sleek. Easy. Get it!
Oh! I’m so excited! I just found a Zarafina tea maker on sale for $50, shipped. I think this will be my V-Day pressie from the hubband. YAY!