Timer, magnifying loup, thermometer, weighscale and tea pot.

I'm sure every Tea Sommelier has their own idea of what is essential -- and I'm sure some would argue all you need are your taste buds, but this is what I carry if I'm expecting to brew up some tea as "a sommelier."

The timer was given to me by one of my fellow students. It counts down by the minute and the second and similar ones can usually be found in the baking section of any supermarket.  Counting by the second is essential for any oolong, green or white teas where 30 second or 45 second infusions are the norm.

The magnifying loup is my own addition so that I can admire the leaf bud pekoe aka fuzzies. I find it really useful to have a close up look at the dry tea leaf style -- is it shiny or twisted or flat or broken or is that a twig or a leaf bud, kind of thing. I also found it so startling and wonderful to actually see the fuzzy pekoe the first time I peered through the lens that I can't resist showing it to others when I serve a black tea containing pekoe. (You know. The golden yellow threads or flecks in black tea. Have a look.) I had this old film loup left over from my dark room days for looking at negatives. When there was still 35mm film and dark rooms.  You can still buy a film loup at most camera stores, like  Henry's camera store in Toronto.

The thermometer is a meat thermometer I had in my kitchen drawer. It goes to just over 100 C. which is all you need. If you've no thermometer and are brewing oolong or green teas which require a cooler temp, use the traditional trick of pouring the kettle's water into another container before pouring it over the leaves. The water will lose about 10 degrees celcius per pour as its heat is absorbed by the new vessel -- so pouring into a jug first  and then into the tea pot will lower the water to about 80C.  The Japanese tea service includes a water cooler jug called a yuzumashi for just this purpose. I use a couple of creamers (from an old cream & sugar set) as my yuzumashis.

My new digital scale.

I've changed weigh scales since I too found my original (expensive) purchase was eating through its special coin-shaped (expensive) batteries at a ridiculous rate.  This new one I bought at a head shop after reading an article about a local woman who was selling truffle mushrooms and needed a very accurate scale too.  The new one also measures in grams (up to 500g) to one decimal point, will do ounces as well as grams, and will zero to the weight of a container.  And it takes two AA batteries.  I'll let you know how this one works out.

Here's what I said about the original scale I bought which is pictured at the top of the page:  I got the digital ounce/gram weigh scale at the St. Lawrence market at a very crowded kitchen shop and paid $40 for it only to discover you can get the same scale at Lee Valley Hardware for $20. Grrrrrrr. Some colleagues have mentioned this scale has run through batteries at a great rate or cacked out on them, and occasionally this one won't turn on. But if I open the back and wiggle the battery around it comes back. I like it because it's purse-size, is sensitive -- will measure grams to one decimal point, will do ounces as well as grams, and will zero to the weight of a container. (I use that handsome, old eggcup from my grandmother to measure out the tea leaves.)

I resisted this little tea pot gadget for a long time although several colleagues swore by it. However, when I was forced to replace a glass cup-pot (lost to clumsy hand washing) I decided to give it a whirl and am a convert too. I've come around completely to glass tea pots for green tea even though they have little in the way of heat rentention qualities. I love watching the tea leaves brew and unfold and sometimes even dance up and down. This little gadget holds 7 oz (small mug size) and when the timer beeps you simply push the knob on the side and it releases the brewed tea into the pot below leaving the brewed leaves up top. And you never want to leave your brewed tea sitting on its leaves.  I got this at Tao's Tea House, but they're available at a number of tea stores.