A New Prototype Design Asks: Is Tea The New Coffee?

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By Matthew Keeshin
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This minimal tea brewer has the answer.

It's no secret that there's a lot of people who can't get through the day without their coffee. The explosion of cafes prove that coffee culture is alive and well. So it should be no surprise that the same attention to detail is now being applied to tea. Chicago-based studio Manual, known for their Manual Coffeemaker, is now following up their caffeine addiction with an obsession for loose-leaf goodness with a new Kickstarter campaign in collaboration with the tea company Spirit to create a minimal tea brewer. Aligning with a growing tea culture, this modern interpretation is not just about enjoying the tea, but taking the time to embrace the entire experience of preparation and consumption. 

Tea Maker Nº1

Tea Maker Nº1

The Tea Maker Nº1's simple form is inspired by the gaiwan, a classic Chinese tea vessel. Like the original, Manual's tea maker is designed for small batches with loose-leaf tea. 

Selected teas from Spirit include black, green, white, and oolong varieties. 

Selected teas from Spirit include black, green, white, and oolong varieties. 

When Manual founder Craighton Berman first met with the Spirit team, there was actually no initial discussion about collaborating on a new product. "I knew nothing about tea, and these guys came out to my studio and we drank tea for five hours straight—the whole day washed away, and I learned so much," Berman says. 

The design is made up of three components: the double-walled borosilicate glass cup with a slip-cast porcelain ceramic bowl and lid. Once the tea is ready, the lid can be pulled back to pour, no strainer required. 

The design is made up of three components: the double-walled borosilicate glass cup with a slip-cast porcelain ceramic bowl and lid. Once the tea is ready, the lid can be pulled back to pour, no strainer required. 

After that first meeting Berman was hooked and quickly immersed himself in tea culture. Eventually, Manual and Spirit came together to collaborate on their own gaiwan. As in traditional tea rituals, the intent is for tea drinkers to enjoy the process. "It's all about that idea of making tea with skill. You can't just pour the tea in a little bowl; let it sit for five minutes and be done. You've got to interact with it," Berman says. 

The tea maker infuses the scents and flavors during the steeping process.  

The tea maker infuses the scents and flavors during the steeping process.  

Once the tea is ready, the lid can be pulled back to pour, no strainer required. 

Once the tea is ready, the lid can be pulled back to pour, no strainer required. 

And the patience pays off. Manual sees the preparation as fun as enjoying the full flavors of the tea. Manual and Spirit's efforts have resulted in an object that is engaging when in use and sculptural when it's not. 

With high quality leaves, the tea maker can provide multiple batches throughout the day. 

With high quality leaves, the tea maker can provide multiple batches throughout the day.