Monday is Teahouse/Tea Room, Accessory and Brand Review Day!
I mentioned a few weeks back that I had come across a unique product: an Electric Iced Tea Maker. The IT400 from Focus Electrics is a pretty neat piece of equipment. While several consumer level iced tea machines seem to exist, this one shows the most promise of any I’ve run across thus far.
|Manufacturer||Focus Electrics –
Back to Basics
|Accessory||Electric Tea Maker|
So, on occasion I happen to arrive home with a package awaiting me at my front door. This isn’t all too unusual of course, except that a lot of the time, I don’t seem to have ordered anything. That was the case here. In this instance, the unit was provided by Hammacher Schlemmer, the oldest running order catalog in the United States.
Opening the package from a company I’d heard about only because I read the World Tea News entries every day and happened to catch an entry about their having just started offering this product. I’ve come to understand that Focus Electrics has had this model out for some time. An earlier iteration of the IT400 actually had a recall associated with it, but the company indicates that all those issues have been ironed out.
This device is made up of only a few parts:
- A body
- A 2 quart (1.89 liter) pitcher
- A strainer for loose tea
- A drip pan for bagged teas and water timing
- A sweetener infuser
Each part should be washed by hand (though the pitcher is dishwasher safe). This is pretty easy to do, but be careful if you’re using a brillo pad or another steel hardened brush tool. These can cause grooves in the plastic, allowing loose leaves to stick more easily and causing it to become more difficult to clean over time. I’ve not had to use anything special to clean the device’s parts if done immediately after creating a batch of iced tea. Some residue may remain in the sugar chamber if not cleaned immediately and can be difficult to clean off if left for too long.
The device is very simple. The top lid flips up revealing the 2 quart water chamber in the back. Don’t fill it above the max mark or water will spout out the back through a little circular hole designed for that purpose. In the front you’ll find the three removable chambers for loose tea, bagged tea and sweeteners.
If you want to sweeten your tea you’ll need to remove the first two chambers and place up to one cup of your chosen sweetener into its chamber after first rinsing the chamber so the sweetener doesn’t prematurely flow into the pitcher. It makes sense if you think about it.
The Electric Iced Tea Maker comes with some nice instructions on how much tea to use for each type of tea. It even specifies how many teaspoons for loose tea and how many bags for bagged teas. These are certainly helpful guidelines, but not altogether correct from my experience. More on that in a bit.
I took the time to make several different types of iced tea with this machine over the past few weeks. From both pure and flavored greens to fruity teas. From tisanes (herbals) to blacks and oolongs. The only type or tea I haven’t covered with this machine is pu’erh.
Let me start by indicating that each tea has its own nuances and flavor profile. You may prefer your teas a bit different than I do. Although I have attempted to ensure I covered making stronger teas and sweeter teas, I may not have hit the mark just where you like it. Keep this in mind as you read on.
The Electric Iced Tea Maker provides a switch on the front of the unit for judging the strength. This switch increases pressure on the flexible bottom on the drip chamber causing it to adjust the space allowed for the liquid to make its way into the sweetener chamber. The less space, the stronger the brew and visa-versa.
The first tea I made was a Mango Green tea from The Tea Source. I placed the device on medium strength, added two tablesponns of Splenda (my preferred sweetener if I’m to use anything granulated), added four heaping tablespoons of the loose leaves into the flexible mesh strainer chamber, filled the picther with ice, closed the device’s lid and pushed the “On” button on the its right side.
A meager ten minutes later I had a pitcher of tea. The tea held its body but was a bit weaker than I’d expected. The flavor profile was not altogether different from it’s rating as a hot tea aside from being a bit sweeter due to the Splenda.
I would say the Electric Iced Tea Maker did well on this tea and the process was surprisingly straight forward.
Next I tried a Yanagi style Japanese sencha from Harney & Sons. One tablespoon of Splenda for sweetening, strength on High. Remember the pitcher is 2 quarts, so one or two tablespoons really doesn’t amount to much, but does help to take the edge off the coldness iced beverages project.
The Yanagi turned out very well. Again, weaker than I’d anticipated, but drop in a few berries or slices of your favorite citrus fruit and you have a very nicely blended summertime beverage here!
I would say this device works well on green teas whether flavored or pure, but it disappinted me in its strength of brew and could really make them stronger.
On to Oolong teas! Teavana’s Maracuya Passion Oolong is where I decided to try this category out with the Electric Iced Tea Maker. A medium-strong setting. No sweetener here as this tea is plenty sweet enough out of the bag. I’ll review this tea in the near future as well.
This tea came out very nice! Just about the expected strength with the right amount of flavor. When iced this Oolong is even better than it is hot! I recommend trying this out.
Good taste and flavor from this tea. Let’s see how it does on a pure Oolong!
For this category’s pure tea I chose a less creamy Oolong in a Ti Kuan Yin from Special Teas. Full of body and flavor I expected this tea to be a bit stronger given the four tablespoons of tea I used. I was disappointed with here again. It could be the tea… but from my earlier experience with green teas, I’m guessing not.
I tried a couple black teas as well. First was a well balanced Irish Breakfast from Stash. I used tea bags this time around so I could get a feel for the difference. Set on medium strong, two tablespoons of sweetener and let it brew.
The nature of an Irish Breakfast tea, being primarily of either Orthodox or CTC Assam is very strong and malty. Setting the device to “strong” would have been overkill.
This tea came out extremely well. Just about perfect in boldness and flavor, and only lightly aromatic. Just what I would expect from a great glass of iced tea.
Pure black tea still makes some of the best iced tea!
For the flavored tea of the black tea catagory, I chose to go with a Pomegranate black tea from 52teas. Medium strong with two tablespoons of sweetener. Loose tea again since I don’t have very many bagged teas.
Flavorful and aromatic, this beautiful tea turned out spectacular! Very balanced and more than modestly refreshing! I’d really like to see this iced tea packaged as a Ready to Drink (RTD) beverage.
In conclusion I should note that this iced tea machine makes a wonderful attempt at enticing the loose tea community with a simple machine capable of making great iced teas. There are some shortcomings which will be noted by the avid tea drinker, including the lack of variable temperature settings for different tea types.
- Not as good with lighter teas such as whites and greens
- Lack of variable temperture for different tea types leads to some teas not being strong enough
- Metalic cleaning tools may damage plastics
- Only 10 minutes for good iced tea
- Variable strength toggle allows for some customization
- Up to a cup of sweetener allows you to brew great sweet teas
- Easy to clean trays
- Pitcher is dishwasher safe
Clearly there are more positives than drawbacks, and I for one am happy to have this Electric Iced Tea Machine just in time for the hot summer months!