5 Mar 2016

Coffee vs. Tea // part III

(Part I)
(Part II)

In the last part, I talked about taste, a very important and extensive subject. While one may decide for or against a certain beverage because of its taste, this is not the only aspect. Especially when preparing the thing at home, convenience and price, for both the material and equipment, are just as relevant. In this part, I will discuss the pros and cons of both coffee and tea preparation methods and how achievable the different quality levels are. Note that I will only include the preparation of the pure beverage, and not how you serve or combine it, since this is a whole nother subject.

Preparation and Convenience.

Coffee first again. These are the most popular techniques of making it I think.

When you think filter coffee, you'll probably think of a classic filter coffee machine. These are quite convenient, as you basically just put water and ground coffee inside and press the button. The machine itself costs around €50 - 150, and you can put all sorts of coffee inside, as long as it's ground coarse enough. You can produce big amounts at once and need neither extra equipment nor any monitoring. On the other hand, you have no control over temperature and brewing time.

If you'd rather like to control these and give up some convenience in exchange, you can roughly do the same process manually. Just get a drip cone you pour the water over yourself. When trying to get the infusion time and water distribution right, you'll discover that method not really to be suitable for that big amounts (and that infact also applies for the machine version, you just don't see it in there).

Greater amounts of filter coffee should better be prepared via full immersion brew. The prototype device is a french press, available from under €5 up to high end versions. Just put ground coffee inside, boiled water on top, wait a few minutes and press the sieve down to seperate the two. You can serve directly from it. The need of an external hot water source could be seen as a con, but also allows this to be used when there's no electricity, e.g. with a camping stove and a simple pot.

Next is the moka pot. Sometimes untruly called espresso maker, this is the classic Italian home device for rather small quantities of more intense coffee. The price range is similar to the french press. You need finer coffee grounds, so the price range of this will probably start a bit higher than for filter coffee. Put water in the lower part, coffee powder in the middle sieve and screw the pot on top of it. Then it's heated on a cooktop or similar until the water presses itself up.

Now to real espresso. You will have to spend at least some hundreds for a reasonable portafilter machine. The principle is to bring water through very fine ground coffee with a lot of pressure. You usually grind your coffee direclty into the portafilter and then lock that to the machine. These come with a spray lance for frothing the milk for e.g. cappuccino. You'll probably be very interested in espresso to own one of these, since this is definitely the most inconvenient device.

There's of course also the fully automatic machines which mix several coffee drinks for you at the push of a button. These are usually a hygienic mess and completely eliminate the human part from the process, which is just awful in my opinion. Especially when working with these ridiculously overpriced, environment-killing aluminium capsules, they should really be illegalized I say.

As you can see, coffee beans often need some, or even a lot of technologic assistance to transform into a drink. Using a machine can improve the convenience for the moment, but comes with rather high entrance costs, and machines will need replacement after some time. Less technological brewing techniques are not as expensive, and give you a better connection with the drink. They require more attention and time though, as well as more manual dishwashing probably. In exchange, these utensils such as a drip cone are virtually usable forever.

Now tea.

The variety of gadgets assotiated with making tea is a bit more manageable. There are actual tea machines (water boiler, infusion can, serving can), or the Russian samovar, as well as different portable devices around, but first, I don't think any of these are really common, and second, they really just try to combine the steps of making tea into one connected object and don't reinvent the wheel concerning the extraction process etc. However, there are different aproaches to make it.

In these parts, the most popular way is brewing your tea "Western style". You'll probably use black tea for that, but it works with every kind. You put the leaves into some sort of a strainer inside a big pot or cup, pour boiling or hot water over it and let it infuse for a couple of minutes. Then the strainer is removed and you have all the tea you want at once. Very convenient. High quantities are well possible, and all you need is a vessel, a strainer and a hot water source. Some attention is required of course in order to get the time right.

The direct competitor would be regular Eastern style, used in the Chinese tea ceremony or how you'd like to call it. Brewing this way, you let the leaves steep very shortly and multiple times, instead of extracting all the aromas into one brew. This reasonably requires a way smaller pot which has to be emptied completely after each infusion. Either you use a second pot/pitcher for doing so, or you distribute it directly to the attendees' cups. You'll need something to keep your water hot, and a higher quality whole leaf tea for this to work. Intact leaves can hold their aroma for the longest and won't slip out of your brewing vessel. The process of making tea intentionally takes centre stage here, hence you can't really say it's inconvenient, but it sure requires all your attention.

The Japanese tea ceremony involves drinking powdered green tea, Matcha, but also several other things and actions, so you can't really speak of performing one just because you're traditionally preparing Matcha. Still, it's a very unique kind of tea and tea making. You'll at least need the special bamboo whisk, the Chasen, and a suitable drinking bowl. One to two teaspoons of powder are placed in the bowl. You add less than a cup of warm water to it and whisk it. To get a fine foam top, some practice is required, but it's easy to learn I think. It's a rather laborious technique since you have to prepare every serving individually. However, Matcha can also be ulilized quite simply by shaking the powder in your water bottle or the like.

At last, there's the vexed teabags. Possibly even more popular than the Western style I described above, they basically imitate the same process. Very small broken tea leaves are delivered inside closed textile (?) or plastic filter bags which can directly be put into any sort of vessel. After brewing, you just pull it out on the yarn and throw it away. Maximum convenience I guess, but also maximum tea trash inside (for the most kinds). You'll regularly not find any good quality, and the bag materials always bring in some unwanted chemicals or residues.

I tried to cover the different ways of preparing both of the hot drinks, well knowing that there are dozens of other approaches that I just don't know enough to write about, e.g. middle eastern traditions for both coffee and tea preparation. Neither drink is exclusively simple or complicated, rather is tea more of a manual thing, while coffee requires or allows the use of tech. The next part will be about contents and possible health aspects.

Thanks for reading!

No comments:

Post a Comment