What's the best way to say, "I appreciate that you don't drink coffee, but instead love tea"? Why, with a thoughtfully selected tea gift, of course. (And even if they like coffee too, they'll appreciate your understanding of their broad, dynamic tastes, even more.) We've hand-picked (get it?) five lovely gifts for the tea-inclined person on your list.
Obukucha New Year's Tea
Japanese tea merchant Ippodo offers genmaicha in an eminently giftable seasonal package that commemorates the tradition of drinking "good luck" or "Great Fortune Tea" to honor the incoming new year. We love the savory, anytime flavors of brown rice and green tea that genmaichas offer, and this gentle but assertive offering is a great representation. And it comes in a decorative, reusable tin!
From $8 and up at ippodo-tea.co.jp.
Yama Glass Side Pour Teapot
This charming little 10 ounce tea infuser is just the sweetest thing, innit? Side-handled like a traditional Japanese kyusu pot, but made of heat-triumphant borosilicate glass, this is an affordable, handsome way to infuse and serve green teas. And, unlike expensive and beautiful earthenwares, you can throw this bad boy in the dishwasher when you're done. Right-handed design, with fine mesh strainer.
The Tea Cyclopedia
Just released this November, Dr. Keith Souter (also a doctor and medical writer as well as a tea geek) tackles the many-times-traversed but not always accessible land of tea education books. This book's petite yet huge in range: tea puns? history? mocktail recipes? Carl Jung and the art of tasseography? Oh, and varieties of tea and tea rituals? Yes, those too. It's a bit fanciful, but isn't the holiday season about being fancy?
This tea brewer made by Abid (coffee people will know it as a tea version of the Clever Dripper, but they were actually made for tea first) has several iterations and incarnations but none so punnily named as the InginuiTEA. This lightweight, food-grade plastic steeper is portable and resilient, and makes steeping loose teas incredibly easy and with no metal taste. Just infuse the tea in hot water, wait, and dispense by setting the brewer right over top of your teacup. If you're sloppy and always burn yourself with your gaiwan, this may be just the alternative for you.
Tea Tasting Classes
Though you won't find them in every city, you'll be well advised to take any tea education you can get—with so much to learn, every bit of guided instruction and tasting is sure to illuminate your ongoing tea journey. We like the offerings at the US outposts of French tea boutique Palais Des Thes, who host regular tea-tasting classes in intimate, four-person settings, throughout the year. Specializing in green and black teas, and introductory level tasting, these classes are perfectly gift-priced for an experience that will last the recipient far beyond the session. (Don't live in New York? Look for tea tastings at your local tea shop, or be bold and curious when you go in—most tea people like to share their tea love and knowledge with you, even if they don't offer formal classes. This is, however, somewhat hard to wrap.)
About the author: Liz Clayton drinks, photographs and writes about coffee and tea all over the world, though she pretends to live in Brooklyn, New York. She is the creator of Nice Coffee Time, a book of photographs of the best coffee in the world, published by Presspop, is the New York City correspondent for Sprudge.com, and contributes to other outfits worldwide.