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Why It's Becoming Easier to Love Tea

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I am a passionate, obsessive coffee drinker. And I must be honest, my first three attempts at abandoning coffee so that I could wholly devote myself to tea research for our March feature, "Tea's Time" were utter failures. It wasn't the caffeine-withdrawal. It wasn't so much that I didn't like the taste. It was the tedious process of brewing that perfect cup of tea. Grinding my coffee beans and adding them to my Krups or even my French press seemed effortless compared to preparing a simple cup of tea. I had to check the water temperature. I had to make sure I didn't overstep. I had to add just the right amount of tea leaves. And then I learned that some teas need multiple infusions.

As tea's popularity grows, an incredible amount of new products ranging from equipment to tea bags are making tea more accessible to budding tea connoisseurs. I shared on of my favorites with Senior Test Kitchen Associate Grace Parisi who now finds it indispensable. Here, a few more exciting discoveries:

*During the traditional Japanese tea ceremony, a bamboo whisk is used to mix matcha, a fine, powdery green tea, with hot water. The Republic of Tea's new double green matcha tea bags geniusly simplify the process. Matcha powder is dusted on both the inside and outside of circular, organic green tea-filled bags to subtly deliver the smooth, grassy notes of matcha, minus the messy mixing process.

*When I'm rushing around to get ready for work in the morning I always seem to oversteep my tea. But a variety of new automatic tea kettles and pots have recently been introduced to the market to simplify the brewing process. The Zarafina Tea Maker will steep both loose leaf and bagged teas and has adjustable settings for tea types (from herbal to oolong) and strength (mild - strong). Just like a coffee machine, it brews directly into a sleek, ready-to-serve ceramic pot. The ease of machines like this one made drinking quality, loose leaf teas so much more enjoyable for me.

*Brewing whole leaf tea can seem daunting, requiring pots and strainers. But most tea bags don't provide enough room for the tea leaves to fully unfurl. Ineeka has found a happy middle ground with its innovative new brew-taché bags. They gracefully drape over the side of your cup and allow the entire tea leaf to open and deliver ever last drop of aroma and flavor.

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Congratulations to Nicholas Elmi, winner of Top Chef: New Orleans, the 11th season of Bravo's Emmy-Award winning, hit reality series.

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