Please enjoy the original writing, Christian travel journal, and photography by a hapa haole named Gail Rhea.

Original Writing & Photography

by Gail Rhea

 

 

 

HOW TO MAKE YOUR OWN TEA TRAVELER

 

Every morning before they leave home for work, many people in China put tea and hot water in the ubiquitous thermal travelers made commercially for this purpose. They drink tea from their travelers like those of us in the U.S. drink from the water bottles we carry around. When the liquid in their travelers gets low, they refill with hot water from just about anywhere: restaurants, schools, offices. People such as taxi drivers who don’t have immediate ready access to hot water, carry separate thermal containers full of hot water with them so they can refill their tea travelers at their convenience.

There are several tea travelers made commercially that are available to us in the U.S.A., but for one reason or another, such as the mesh being so coarse that leaf particles slip through or the metal tumbler or rim giving a metallic taste, I decided to make my own. My first one worked well for both Methods A & B, but the rim wasn't comfortable. For my second, I got a travel tumbler from Bodum and use one basket for Method A, a different basket for Method B, and a bombilla for Method C.

 

What you'll need for Methods A & B:

1. A fine mesh basket infuser without a tab. I'm using the polymesh nylon People's Brew Basket, item #90121, from The Republic of Tea. At 2-1/2" tall, it has a 3" outside diameter at its widest on the rim. (This basket is terrible for its original purpose because it's too awkward to remove from a cup, but is excellent when modified and used as described on this page.)

2. A traveler's mug or tumbler that tapers down so as to fit into standard car cup holders. The brew basket needs to fit into this mug. My first DIY tea traveler is a 16 oz. thermal tumbler, 7-3/4" from base to top of lid. It's important to use a taller traveler that narrows so that the basket doesn't slip down to the bottom. For Method A, a basket that slips down will constrain tea leaves more than is desirable or necessary. For Method B, fishing down near the bottom of a mug to remove the basket is inconvenient and possibly messy with the risk of burning fingers in hot water.

What you'll need for only Method A - to strain your beverage as you drink:

1. A fine mesh basket infuser without a tab that fits into your traveler's mug or tumbler.

2. A traveler's mug or tumbler that your brew basket fits into to strain your beverage as you drink.

For Method A with my second DYI traveler, I cut the hard plastic rim off of the People's Brew Basket so it can slip into the interchangeable caps of the thermal tumblers made by Bodum, model numbers: 1105-01B, 1105-01FM-D, 1405-01B, 1405-01FM-T, 1405-01FM-C, 10657-01B, and 10659-01B.

 

What you'll need for only Method B - to brew in the traveler before removing the basket:

1. A fine mesh basket infuser such as a Teeli/Finum brew basket, available in sizes Medium and Large, that fits into your traveler's mug or tumbler.

2. A traveler's mug or tumbler that your brew basket fits into.

For Method B with my second DYI traveler, I use the large Teeli/Finum brew basket which fits snugly into the same thermal tumblers made by Bodum that I use for Method A. The large basket leaves almost unnoticeable scratches inside the tumblers causing the medium brew basket to be better for the 8 oz. tumbler. For the 16 oz. tumblers, the medium basket doesn't go down low enough into the water to give leaves enough room to expand for the best infusion.

 

What you'll need for Method C - to avoid staining your teeth: 

1. Any traveler's mug or tumbler with an opening large enough for the stem of a bombilla ("bom-BEE-sha").

2. A bombilla - a filtering straw commonly used to drink Yerba that may be useful with teas and tisanes depending on the design of the bombilla. Some can be taken apart for cleaning, others can't. Some filters are fine enough for small tea leaves, others aren't. One of the best for travelers is the Ultimate Bombilla, product code 9002, from the Yerba Maté Café.

 
***Method A***

For teas that may be infused multiple times in cooler-than-boiling water such as oolong, green, yellow, and white teas; or tisanes that don't have a maximum brewing time limit:

a. Measure tea or tisane into mug. Because it will steep longer than usual, you may prefer to use less than your normal amount. You'll have to experiment to determine the best amount for your drinking habits. I start with half and go from there.

b. Insert basket.

c. Add hot water and cap. Because tea will steep longer than usual, it's best that the water is not much hotter than 120-140°F. If you're an extremely slow sipper, taking several hours to drink your tea at which point it's cooled to room temperature, make it a rule to heat water to a minimum of 175°F, then let it cool, and discard any brewed tea remaining after eight hours to avoid problems with bacteria. If you’re not that slow, but the brew’s gotten too strong or too cool, add more hot water to dilute the strength and warm it up again.

d. Let steep, then drink as desired.

e. Remove lid and add more hot water, repeating as desired until leaves are spent. If you want to save your leaves from one day to another, empty them into something like a mesh brew basket where they'll be able to drain and air-dry until you're ready to use them again which may be before they're completely dry. Discard any brewed tea remaining and rinse the tumbler well to eliminate bacterial growth overnight. This applies to anything, commercial or DIY travelers as well as your tea vessels at home except for cold brewed tea that's made and stored in the refrigerator the entire time.

By using the brew basket as a strainer, Method A makes a multi-infusing tea traveler similar in purpose to and better for rooibos than the excellent Fuguang traveler occasionally sold by Yellow Mountain Imports on eBay, starting bid $9.99. Yellow Mountain calls it a Sanhe tea thermos, but if you see the box or a picture of the box you'll see that it says "FUGUANG" in big letters across the top. Yellow Mountain also erroneously describes the thermal traveler as a "thermos," which is a registered trademark.


***Method B***

For black teas or other infusions with a maximum steeping time limit:

a. Measure tea into basket.

b. Insert basket into mug.

c. Add hot water and steep for desired length of time.

d. Remove basket carefully.

e. Add sweetener and milk as desired.

f. Cap traveler and drink as desired.

g. Rinse, dry, and store basket. The People's Brew Basket fits perfectly into an empty plastic Fleischmann's margarine tub.

By using the brew basket as an infuser, Method B makes a tea traveler similar to the costlier Nissan Coffee and Tea Traveler made by Thermos®.

If one drinks only black teas, a Teeli/Finum brew basket is better than the People's Brew Basket because the lid confines the heat making a better brew. It also allows more room for the tea to expand and the extended tabs make it easier to remove.

 

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***Method C ***

 

For tisanes that don't have a maximum brewing time limit and teas that may be infused multiple times in cooler than boiling water such as oolong, green, and white teas, this method is particularly good for those who want to reduce tea staining their teeth since the beverage will enter your mouth behind the teeth we see when you smile:

a. Measure tea into mug; you may want to use less than usual.

b. Add hot water, bombilla, and cap. Because tea will steep longer than usual, it's best that the water is 120-140°F. As in Method A, above, be sure to prevent coliform bacteria from developing during the first sixteen hours of storage at room temperature by heating water to a minimum of 175°F or higher, then letting it cool. Because of other types of bacteria, make it a rule to discard any brewed tea remaining after eight hours.

c. Let steep, then sip through your bombilla as desired.

d. Remove lid and add more hot water, repeating as needed until leaves are spent.

By using a bombilla as a strainer, Method C makes a multi-infusing tea traveler similar in purpose to Method A without having to fit a basket to a mug. Unfortunately, the bombilla's protrusion out the opening will prevent a secure closure. While this may be splash-resistant, it's not leakproof or as leak-resistant as the other methods which allow the traveler openings to be closed; it may be easier to buy a Mate Travel Tumbler, product code STM, or a Super Sport Mate Bottle, product codes SSBG and SSBS, from Yerba Maté Café and refrain from drinking black tea in your traveler while traveling if spills are that much of an issue
.

 

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