Saturday, May 16, 2009

iTea: Four nicely brewed iPhone apps

OK, I'm a free app whore. I've filled five pages of my iPhone with bounteous, useless software gadgetry, most of it blissfully free — like these:
  • Evernote (it'll totally organize my life, once I learn to use it ...)
  • Taxi Magic (even though I ride the L everywhere)
  • iZen Lite (a Zen rock garden, just drag your finger to rake the gravel)
  • SitOrSquat (instant locations and ratings of nearby public restrooms)
  • GuitarChords (I haven't strummed a note in three years)
  • Famous Documents (someday the bizarre set of circumstances will present itself in which I'll be glad I had the Paris Peace Treaty of 1783 and the Texas Declaration of Independence in my pocket)
  • Plus, a nifty astronomical star chart I have no idea how to read.
Recently, though, I loaded up on tea apps. Here are my faves:

Tea Time
It is awfully handy to have a tea timer on the go, and this one (pictured above) is exquisitely simple. Just pick your tea type — black, green, white, oolong or herbal. Then pick how you like it — mild, medium or strong. Select loose leaf or bag, and hit Start. It calculates the proper steeping time, even recommending the proper water temperature. Tea Time remembers the settings from your last cup, but there's no way to save different settings.

Tea Tasting Notes
This is the one I'm most excited about. I used to make fun of oenophiles who kept journals and steamed labels off their favorite wine bottles to paste carefully in keepsake volumes. As a tea lover, I get it now. So many varieties, so much to keep track of. This little database app packs a wallop, allowing users to record the name of a tea with a rating, notes about dry leaf and wet leaf appearances, color, aroma, taste, a Web address (if applicable) and comments. You can even take a photo of the tea! The search feature is easy and accurate. So when I enjoy a new Nepalese white at Tea Gschwendner, I can make a few quick notes — even snap a shot — and be able to reference it next time I'm shopping. Or just use it as a database at home.

The Book of Tea
An essential tome for all tea lovers, The Book of Tea is an important resource for Asian history and traditions in teaism. Now you can have it with you anywhere. This app is simply the full text of The Book of Tea, readable chapter by chapter. Handy as a reference, or just to have something refreshing to read on the train. (FYI: If you have the whole Kindle thing going on with your iPhone, The Book of Tea is also available through Amazon as an e-book for $3.92.)

Binary Tea Timer
Utterly useless. But just weird enough to be entertaining. This geek app counts down three steeping times — green tea (3 mins), black tea (4 mins) and chamomile tea (6 mins) — but it does so using a binary clock. Good for buttering up the IT guys with a pot of assam, or just having something kind of arty to look at wwhile you wait. Worth every penny you pay for it, anyway.

Now, set a jaunty tea song as your ringtone and you're good to go.

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