Thursday, May 19, 2011

The tea app we've been waiting for

I've written a few times about various tea-related mobile apps (here, here, and here), and I still use a couple of them on rare occasions. Most come with too-cute names and one or two main functions, a timer, a blender, what have you. But the latest app getting real press is simply called Tea, and it's elegant, simple and useful.

Tea for iPhone comes pre-loaded with 12 tea types and more than 200 teas. Select what you're making, and the app suggests brewing time and temperature. Enter how much of the tea you possess, the Tea app then stores this information and tracks your inventory, provided you enter the data each time you brew (very helpful for those of us who don't think to buy tea until the canister is empty). You can also file away your own tasting and brewing notes.

It's funny how most tea lovers seem to have that moment when we realize that to really enjoy this special beverage, there's a wee bit of work to be done. Guesstimates produce the occasional crap cup of tea. You have to measure, you have to be fairly strict about time and temperature. "I know it makes a difference, but it’s such a bother. I don’t have the patience," writes an L.A. Times blogger before realizing the Tea app could help. Even the app's creator, Samuel Iglesias, says — in this extensive and tech-savvy interview — the idea came to him as he crossed a similar threshold.

"I came up with the concept after being frustrated by my scattershot, do-whatever approach to making tea," Iglesias says. "Sometimes it would taste great, other times not so much, and I would never be exact about how long I steeped it, just sort of let it sit there until my intuition told me it was ready. After learning that good tea methods can’t be guessed at in any reasonable amount of time without systematically logging notes, I decided that something had to change. What I really needed was a smart note taking tool tailored for the different variables that go into brewing tea: water amount, tea amount, time, temperature, and some measure of how tasty it is."

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