Recently, I jumped the gun and commented on something without checking it out first (not the only time). A photo from a tea shop in Australia featured glass teapots with infuser baskets. The shortness of the infuser basket (less than half the length of the glass body) was what fooled me. It seemed to be one of those situations where people crammed leaves into something too small for them and had the water drip through into the body below, like brewing coffee. Ugh! Since then I have seen that it is the Piao I (pee-OW-ee) Multiple Infusions Teapot. Frankly, I still don’t like it. A few years back I probably would have said “Cool!” Now I see it as a waste of money for both the teapot ($29.95 on Amazon) and for the fine teas you’d steep in them. To show why, I wanted to lay out the difference between this teapot and using a gaiwan (simple ones can be only a few dollars).
The Piao I Multiple Infusions Teapot, made of food grade polycarbonate, stainless steel and beaker glass, is apparently a competitor to the IngenuiTEA (which I also would not care to use).
There are four reviews on one tea vendor’s site – two rather negative and two glowingly positive. Personally, I suspect the positive ones are “plants” (either by employees or their friends), mainly because the negative ones ring truer and point out the very issues I would have with this device: parts failing and poorly made.
But my objections go beyond that. The teapot purports to make tea infusing simpler, but does it? Hubby uses a French Press for his coffee and spends more time taking it apart and cleaning it than it takes him to make and enjoy the coffee. So it is with this device.
I came across this video (rather poor video quality, sorry), and it stops before you get to that part about cleaning, as usual, but the vendors show it as hand wash only (no sticking it in the dishwashing machine). Slick marketing. Hide the bad parts and focus on the good. The teapot is also available through other tea vendors, one that I was surprised to see since they really focus on carrying the best teas.
Another part that gets left out, and that hubby and I have experienced on items through the years, is parts breaking (and generally shoddy quality). We have learned that simple devices are best, since on those more complicated devices it’s always a key piece that ends up breaking, rendering the item useless. Landfills are full of such items, and bank accounts have been lowered buying replacements. With this teapot, the vulnerable part is that button at the top, but you also have a glass body that can crack or shatter. But, you say, a gaiwan gets hot, can be dropped, and can shatter or crack or chip, also. True, but you can mend it to a certain extent and, with practice, even avoid breaking it. (It’s taken some time, but hubby and I have learned how to handle the one we got from a tea vendor.) But the best part is the quality of the tea liquid. A fine-tuned palate will easily detect the difference. Particulate matter from the leaves make the liquid have a fuller mouthfeel and a richer flavor.
But heck, you don’t need either a gaiwan or a fancy Piao I teapot. Just shell out a few bucks for a regular teapot and you’ll have steeping joy for years, spending your hard-earned cash on tea instead of gizmos.
Teapots like this can be handy in a tea shop where you are serving your customers, but that is just why I buy the dry tea and take it home for proper infusion. It also pays respect to all the hard-working people who grow, harvest, process, and otherwise get those teas to market. To me, the best way to do this is steeping teas loose in the water to get their fullest flavors. I know that folks out there, especially the woman who owns that teashop in Australia, disagree, and that is part of the beauty of tea – you can have it your way. Mine is to spend my money on tea, not gadgetry.
Btw, the glass teapot above is my Bodum teapot that came with an infuser basket and plunger. A gift from hubby (he thought it would be sorta like his French press and make steeping tea easier). I used the infuser basket a time or two, then set it and the plunger aside in favor of steeping the tea leaves loose, as you see here. It also makes a great chahai for my gaiwan.
© 2015 A.C. Cargill photos and text