Manual is tea
A minimalist brewer for "making tea with skill"
Tea Maker Nº1 is a modern interpretation of the gaiwan—a traditional Chinese loose leaf tea brewing vessel. The small volume is ideal for making multiple short infusions, each one highlighting different characteristics of the tea. The double walled glass design keeps the steep temperature stable and the outside cool to the touch.
No strainer is needed: one finger simply pulls back the lid and—with a flick of the wrist—the tea is poured out of the small opening into the tea bowl.
Ultimately, Manual Tea Maker Nº1 is designed to celebrate the aesthetic experience of steeping loose leaf tea.
Tea is Terroir
The roots of Manual Tea Maker Nº1 start with our partners at Spirit—an upstart sourcing super-premium tea and supplying a growing list of Chicago's best cafes and restaurants. Spirit has taken Manual on a journey into the essence of tea—teas that strip back all of the preconceived notions you may have.
Start by tossing away tea bags and pods, filled with broken leaves and dust. Look past the oil-flavored teas. And—for now—set aside the herbal blends: rooibos, chai, and chamomile.
When you strip it all back, you're left with pure tea. Just the leaf of a small shrub that’s been grown and harvested for thousands of years. White, Green, Oolong, Black—these pure forms of tea all comes from the same plant: camellia sinensis. What varies is the the way they are dried—or oxidized—after they are picked. A combination of basic techniques like wilting, steaming, baking, toasting, shaping, drying and curing are used to achieve the final style.
When you strip it back to just the leaf, you’re tasting tea like you might taste vegetables—as a seasonal offering. A plant growing on a specific mountainside in a specific region processed by the tea master's specifications. When you experience tea this way, it’s like tasting the part of the earth it came from. Just like in the wine world—it’s about terroir.
Teas like this are complex, layered, subtle—tasting them is a very culinary experience. A delicate white tea might offer notes of hay and sweetgrass. A vegetal green tea that offers dill, asparagus, and sea air. An oolong with notes of kettle corn, dandelion root and hops. A spicy black tea projecting toasted buckwheat, toasted grains and sherry. A simple leaf offering an infinite depth of flavor.
A contemporary perspective on an ancient tradition
The gaiwan is a traditional tea steeping vessel invented during the Ming dynasty for the “gongfu” tea ceremony—which translates to “making tea with skill”. The gaiwan's simplicity is striking—it’s simply a lidded bowl. It’s easy to learn but requires practice to master. It makes the act of preparing tea into a small ritual, the labor of which becomes part of the enjoyment.
Inspired by this ancient steeper, we wanted to create a contemporary version. Tea Maker Nº1 is made of lab-grade borosilicate glass, which allows the loose leaf teas to infuse on display. With each infusion you watch the leaves slowly open and reveal themselves while the liquor darkens in color. The double-walled construction insulates the vessel, keeping the water temperature stable throughout the steep—while the outside is cool to the touch, so the brewer can simply be picked up like a glass. When it comes time to pour, one finger naturally pulls back the porcelain lid, and with a flick of the wrist, the tea is poured out in one motion into the porcelain cup. The cup has wide proportions like a brandy snifter, so each sip pairs scent and taste. After you are finished, Tea Maker Nº1 is easily cleaned and nested for storage.
When you choose to slow down to prepare a cup of tea manually, you step away from the myriad of distractions that surround you—at least for a short time—to solely focus on "making tea with skill." At Manual, we feel like we need more moments of quiet and reflection in our days, and we hope Tea Maker Nº1 will help contribute more slow times to yours.