After decades of being rated second in the hot drink department, tea is becoming popular again. The healthful properties of tea and the availability of more flavors and types of tea have worked together to increase its market share over the past few years. With this resurgence, the debate about the process of making tea has also gained in popularity. Questions like “Should the water be heated on the stove or in an electric teakettle?” and “Is it okay to use a microwave to heat tea water?” have found a place next to the debate about whether coffee beans should be ground by the pound or by the pot. So, what is the better way to heat water? As with most questions of taste, the answer lies more in the personal preferences of the tea drinker than in the method.
The Stovetop Kettle
For the traditionalist, there is no better way to heat water for tea than the kettle on the stovetop. The most popular style for the stovetop is the stainless steel model. Easy to clean, attractive, and efficient, these kettles have been known to have a permanent place on the back burner in many kitchens.
Several well-known makers of kitchen tools, such as Farberware, Cuisinart, Kitchenaid, and Revere offer stainless steel kettles, all of which perform the basic function very well.
Several stovetop models will announce when the water is boiling by giving off a hearty and easily heard whistle. For some, this is necessary feature while for others it is just an annoyance. Be sure you know which you are before making a selection.
Stainless steel kettles whether whistling or silent, average about $40; however, you can spend quite a bit more. Chantal’s stovetop kettles are more design oriented and run $90 to $120.
If you would like to stick with the stovetop but do not want to run the risk of a metallic taste in your water, glass is a good alternative.
Alasdair and Adagio Teas make beautiful, simple glass stove top kettles that are easily filled and cleaned. Medelco makes an inexpensive 12-cup whistling style that has a shape reminiscent of high-school chemistry class, but it is efficient and functional.
It is important to note that glass kettles do not boil water as quickly as stainless steel. Additionally, you will probably need to use a potholder to pour as the handles do heat up. Glass kettles prices are similar to those made of stainless steel.
The electric kettle has been the preferred method of boiling water in Europe for years and is now catching on in America. The average boiling time for electric kettles is four minutes, half the time of the stovetop kettles, and they do not heat up the kitchen.
With the reports on the health hazards connected to bisphenol A (BPA), it is important to avoid kettles with plastic parts that come in contact with the heating water. There are a number of stainless steel models that are affordable and functional such as those made by Breville, Bodum, and Chef’s Choice.
Adagio Tea offers an exceptional kettle that has a temperature control, which is great for green tea drinkers. Green tea should be steeped in heated not boiled water, as black tea requires. Expect to spend about $50 for 1-quart capacity kettle from these manufacturers.
If you are looking for the efficiency of electric coupled with the beauty of glass, Capresso, Toastess, and Chef’s Choice make glass electric water kettles that run about $60.00.
Where to Shop Online
There are dozens of sites online devoted to cooks tools, tea and coffee, small kitchen appliances. The sites offering the most choices are amazon.com, jhufford.com, chefscatalog.com, and englishteastore.com.