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The Best Gifts for Tea Lovers, According to Tea Sommeliers

Photo-Illustration: The Strategist; Photos: Retailers

Drinking a cup of tea is a universal pleasure. As such, there are lots of useful tools, beautiful accessories, and delicious blends out there that would make great gifts, whether your recipient turns to the drink for the occasional caffeine boost after already downing three cups of coffee, or considers it with the seriousness of a wine lover. To help you navigate your search, and to find some unexpected ideas alongside more classic ones, we talked to nearly two dozen tea sommeliers, consultants, authors, and other experts. We dove into our own archives and pulled out Strategist-vetted options for all — from those just branching out from the lone tea pod in the office Keurig to those who have personally toured remote Nepali tea gardens. Our top picks are categorized into kettles; tea storage; teapots, infusers, and presses; cups and mugs; other tea accessories; tea books; and actual teas. If you know what you’re looking for, you can jump to any section.

Kettles

From $146

“A variable-temperature kettle takes the guesswork out of determining if the water is hot enough for oolongs or a little cooler for green teas,” says Linda Gaylard, tea sommelier, founder of the Tea Stylist blog, and author of The Tea Book. To experiment with teas at different temperatures, Tony Gebely, owner and founder of Tea Epicure, likes the Fellow Stagg EKG kettle “because it allows you to dial in the temperature required by the tea you are preparing to the degree.” Indeed, the Fellow Stagg is the industry-favorite kettle for any brewed drink (and a well-known Strategist staple, too). Mel Hattie, a certified tea sommelier, says, “with variable temperature, a gooseneck for precision pouring, plus aesthetically pleasing design, it’s one of the best modern kettles money can buy.” Tea sommelier Daniela Titiun loves her Fellow Stagg so much she describes it as “kind of like a baby to me.”

Gebely calls this Bonavita kettle “a cheaper, albeit less sexy, version.” But that doesn’t mean it’s not a quality kettle worthy of a serious tea drinker. Kathy YL Chan, a tea specialist and Hawaii-based food blogger, says, “It’s the only kettle I keep at home, and I love it to bits. It looks good, pours beautifully, and feels nice to carry. A good marriage of function and aesthetics.” Gabrielle Jammal, tea sommelier of Baccarat Hotel New York, thinks it’s “excellent,” and certified tea sommelier Jee Choe says, “I’m a huge fan.”

For tea beginners who are unsure about setting exact temperatures, tea consultant Sara Shacket likes that this kettle has preset temperatures. Simply press the button for black, white, green, oolong, or delicate tea, and the kettle will do the rest.

This Breville comes recommended by Strategist contributor David Schwartz (who years later still stands by his endorsement). It brews tea at custom temperatures depending on leaf type and flavor strength, which you can set to work automatically at any time of day. It boasts a metal-mesh basket that robotically dunks loose leaves in hot water for the exact steeping time, then removes them, sitting above the water to prevent a bitter taste.

While it’s not technically a kettle, Choe says this hot-water dispenser (one of the best-rated models on Amazon) is a must-have for serious tea drinkers. “In the colder months, I keep it on the countertop and it’s on all day, ready with temperature-controlled hot water,” she says. Chan recommends the Zojirushi boiler for all-day tea drinking, saying “it’s a beast … and I love it.”

$40

For a stovetop kettle that will save space and look great doing so, try this classic from Hario, which boasts the same gooseneck as its electric counterpart. James McCarthy, coffee educator at Brooklyn’s Driftaway Coffee, is a fan: “I like the feel of it. It’s easy to handle.”

Another non-kettle option, this brewer makes beautiful iced tea for warmer months. It comes recommended by MochaBox Coffee co-owners Harlin Thomas II and Floyd Sartin, who originally suggested it for cold brew — but it works just as well for tea. It’s “affordable and easy to use,” they say, with glass and steel parts that are much easier to clean and last far longer than similarly priced vessels made of plastic.

Tea storage

Help the person you’re gifting keep their tea fresh with storage containers that are as elegant as they are functional. The most important thing to consider when storing tea is keeping out “air and light — tea’s biggest enemies,” according to Blair Bowman, former head of the tea program at Eleven Madison Park. They’ll want to show off these elegant black jars, and that’s totally fine, since the glass blocks all visible light.

Here’s another airtight, opaque container, recommended by Choe and Shacket, that’ll keep loose-leaf tea fresh without emptying your wallet. Give a mix of ceramic hues that’ll look elegant on the countertop.

Teapots, infusers, and presses

“When you brew tea, you want to give the tea leaves room to breathe and move, so jamming leaves into an infuser is not ideal,” says Chan, who prefers a pot with a built-in strainer. A large Hario Jumping Pot is ideal for hosts and hostesses who like serving tea to a group. Tea leaves have plenty of room to bounce around in the glass pot (hence the “jumping”) and the gold-plated mesh strainer is an elegant touch.

Bodum Assam Tea Press
$17
$17

Shacket likes a glass teapot for “admiring the color of your tea.”

If you prefer a taller, thinner design, Smita Satiani, co-founder of Alaya Tea, keeps this pitcher full of herbal tea on her desk for the first part of her day. “It stays pretty warm,” she says, “and the pieces can go in the dishwasher.”

And if they prefer to brew tea in a classic French press, give them an upgrade with this stylish version from Yield, suggested by Esha Chhabra, the other co-founder of Alaya. The slim, angled handle, the sleek push-down mechanism at the top, and the unexpected colored glass (which also comes in blue, green, and gray as well as clear) will make for a handsome gift. Bonus: The bottom doubles as a vase when not in use for tea.

Similar to the process by which cold brew coffee is made, there are vessels out there specifically made for brewing iced tea that don’t require tea lovers to boil water beforehand. “Hario makes some of the best brewing equipment,” says Elena Liao of Té Company. “The larger bottle has a plastic body with tightly sealed lid, which makes it much more convenient for picnics and beach trips. It can sit in the fridge sideways to save space.”

This isn’t a teapot, but Chhabra says Made In’s two-quart stainless-steel saucepan is the best vessel to prepare chai and any other longer-steeping teas, like Alaya’s own Lemongrass & Ginger. We’ve recommended Made In’s durable cookware before, and Chhabra says it “will last for a really long time.”

Cups and mugs

A compact, all-in-one option recommended by Shacket, this mug has a strainer that sits inside for enjoying a personal cup. Turn the lid over and it becomes a saucer for resting the strainer. It comes in an impressive range of colors from this pale pink, to bright yellow, to mint green, so you can pick one in your pal’s signature shade.

Literally translating to “kung fu tea,” gong fu cha is, as Hattie explains, a “classic Chinese method of brewing tea that uses many small vessels.” She says a “real tea aficionado” would love to have a set of their own. Lu Ann Pannunzio, author of Tea-spiration: Inspirational Words for Tea Lovers likes this set that includes everything you’ll need (including a gaiwan, four tea cups, and a serving pot), but if you’d rather put together one on your own, Hattie recommends the mix-and-match pieces from Rishi Tea. “Try giving this as a gift to a friend, then sitting down to brew some tea together,” says Hattie. “It’s sure to get the conversation flowing.”

Fans of the “English classic design,” like Marchand, will adore this brightly patterned bone-china teacup and saucer from Wedgwood.

For “something not so dainty,” Amy Dubin, Indian tea expert and host of Janam Afternoon Tea at Garfunkel’s, recommends Stelton’s minimal designs. This black stoneware mug comes with a bamboo coaster, looking both modern and organic.

This vacuum-sealed Zojirushi thermos, which is a top pick of ours for travel mugs, is the hands-down favorite among tea experts. Choe says it “does an amazing job keeping hot things hot,” and Shacket adds, “I haven’t found anything that keeps tea hot as long as these do.” Chan calls it “ever reliable,” and Gebely says it’s “consistently one of the highest-rated thermoses on the market.” Get them one in Champagne gold to feel a little extra special. They can even use it to keep booze cold at the beach — like this Strategist contributor did.

If they prefer to drink iced tea while out and about, the Fellow Carter Move Mug is the way to go. It was originally recommended by a coffee pro but will work just as well with other beverages. “There’s a small guard insert at the top,” says Jerad Morrison, co-founder and co-CEO of Sightglass Coffee, “so the cubes don’t fall back onto your face when you get toward the bottom.”

Other tea accessories

Serving tea to multiple people can be hard without the right tray, which is why Liao loves these nonslip trays. “A beautiful tea tray can be an easy way to create nice tea moments with whatever teaware you have available,” she says. “Kinto offers these wonderful coasters and trays in various sizes and shapes to create a sense of place for a teatime routine.”

Moving from tea bags to loose-leaf tea infinitely broadens the horizons of a tea drinker. Give them a strainer that will make enjoying loose-leaf tea as easy as dunking a bag in a mug. “My favorite infusers are made by Finum. They last forever and can be thrown in the dishwasher. Mine are ten years old now and are showing no signs of wear,” says Gebely. They’re big enough to allow leaves to expand, which maximizes flavor, but small enough to fit directly in a mug.

For a model that goes directly over the mouth of your mug, Satiani appreciates the design of this strainer, whose small arms let it sit sturdily on the rim. This is particularly useful for masala chai, she says, which should be brewed on the stove in a pot and then strained into a cup.

“I’m obsessed with this honey,” Satiani says. “I love a spot of it in black tea with milk.” While her favorite is the Orange Blossom, which is decidedly sweet with hints of citrus, the California-based company also sells buckwheat honey (strong in flavor), sage honey (smooth and mild), wildflower honey (good for fighting allergies), and avocado-blossom honey (thicker than the others, with a molasses flavor).

It’s one thing to buy high-quality matcha, but having the right tools is equally essential. “The secret to whisking matcha perfectly is the quality of the bamboo chasen whisk,” says Stefan Ramirez, owner of 29B Teahouse in New York. “Japanese-made whisks use bamboo that is just the right width to make the handle slim and easy to handle, as well as how thin the tines are. The flexibility of the tines is what creates that amazing froth with tiny micro-bubbles.”

If you’re going to give a matcha whisk, consider pairing it with a stand. “A whisk stand is vital to maintaining the integrity of your bamboo whisk and giving it a long life,” says Michelle Puyane, founder and owner of Chalait in New York City. Because they’re natural, they warp and break over time without proper care. “All you need to do is rinse your whisk with cold water and then place it on the stand. This way, the prongs hold their shape as they dry. The carved-out middle also allows for air flow to prevent molding,” she says.

Cookies are another sweet treat any tea lover is bound to appreciate — especially these buttery, crumbly shortbread ones flavored with rose, pistachio, and cardamom. Satiani says they go especially well with Darjeeling and are small enough to dip directly into your cup. The “really lovely packaging” makes them extra giftable, too.

Books

According to Jammal, this title from the owner of In Pursuit of Tea, is “by far the most wonderfully delightful tea book filled with beautiful drawings.” She says it’s “fun to read for all ages and really makes it a pleasure to learn about the world of tea.”

Nearly every expert I spoke to raved about this book. From Marchand and the rest of the Camellia Sinensis team, Tea covers the history and culture of tea, regional varieties, cultivation techniques, and much more. It’s invaluable for someone starting their tea library. Jammal said, “It goes very in-depth and is a great resource for beginners.”

With stunning photography and an overview of tea’s history, Joseph Wesley Uhl’s book is approachable for tea newcomers, and its deep dive into the chemistry of tea will keep advanced hobbyists interested, as well.

Recommended reading in tea courses internationally, Gaylard’s book is a visual tour through the world of tea, including tisane herbal teas made from flowers, fruits, and roots and features recipes for those looking to make their own varieties.

There’s much in Gebely’s books that will appeal to beginners, but the detailed look at how tea is processed, the chemical changes that occur during processing, and the framework for evaluating different teas makes it just as useful to those with more expertise.

Teas

No tea collection is complete without a bold, black tea. Shacket likes this “breakfast blend that you can enjoy with or without milk and can serve as a coffee replacement.” The pretty yellow tin feels especially giftable.

Justin Iso, a confectionery chef and life-long matcha drinker, loves Ippodo, noting the company’s history, which dates back to the 1700s, and the consistent quality of its products. He likes using its Ummon variety for cooking, finding its “forward flavors” with “more umami and astringency” perfect for foods and desserts. If they’re just getting into matcha, he says, the most popular variety from Ippodo among his “non-tea-loving friends” is Sayaka, which he describes as “balanced with just a touch of bitterness and medium body.”

For an even higher-end matcha powder, Puyane recommends trying the teas from Kettl. “It’s matcha for the matcha connoisseurs,” she says. “When you get to that level, you’re really just comparing tasting notes. Powders from the Fukuoka region might be really floral, while powders from the Uji region — the birthplace of matcha — might have more umami. And every master that blends for Kettl has secrets and techniques to how they prepare their product.” Kettl understands that and buys directly from growers on a weekly basis. The company packages in Japan, too, allowing for the highest-quality tea to be sold in the U.S. at reasonable prices. This variety, which Kettl describes as having “intense aromatics” and a “profound lingering umami” is just one of many to browse.

Make a sampler of your own to give by choosing a handful of different varieties from New York–based In Pursuit of Tea. “At $5 a pop, they’re a great way to try new things without committing to a pound of leaf,” said Bowman. If you’re not sure which ones to pick, Shacket is a fan of the company’s white peony tea, which she says has “vegetal and dried-grass notes.”

From $22

To broaden a tea lover’s horizon, Jammal recommends a monthly subscription from Té Company. Each month, they’ll receive enough loose-leaf tea to brew ten pots, chosen from the experts at the West Village tea room. If you’re feeling extra-generous, Jammal suggests adding a subscription for Té Company’s famous pineapple Linzer cookies, the owners’ take on traditional Taiwanese pineapple cake. “With or without tea, they are hands down the best Linzer cookies you will ever have,” she says.

Dubin says Adagio “does a pretty good job of basic sets,” like this one that includes samples of four different Indian and Sri Lankan teas. Titiun agrees that the brand offers good options for beginners, that are also well priced. For something beyond the basics, she also recommends the company’s higher-end line, Masters, where you’ll find single-origin, freshly picked teas like this green pu’erh.

Last year, Strategist contributor Mia Leimkuhler wrote about her love of mugicha, or barley tea. It’s made of roasted barley, imparting a flavor that’s deeply toasty, a little sweet, and a little bitter. “Imagine the taste of a coffee-brown crust on a loaf of chewy artisanal bread and you’ll sort of get the idea,” she said. It can be brewed hot or cold, but Leimkuhler prefers it cold for a deeply refreshing drink.

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The 40 Best Gifts for Tea Lovers, According to Experts