In My Other Hand, The Little Red Book…

I recently acquired a Chinese tea thermos. This type of tea thermos is quite common in China, carried around by workers as they go about their day, green tea readily at hand and replenished as necessary. I have also seen a few people with them in the International District in Seattle. Cat wrote about one last year in this post. I had found them interesting, but had not felt any strong inclination to buy one until I found one that was glass rather than plastic. The double-walled glass construction allows for holding it comfortably, and insulates the tea from the cooler surrounding air. It has a metal filter that snaps into the interior and a screw-on lid. Among the design choices available where I bought it, which included cherry branches, chrysanthemums and bamboo, I chose the one with lotus flowers and pods on it. It is very easy to clean.

Chinese tea thermosThe brewing of tea using this device is radically different from most other methods. One teaspoon of green tea is put into the thermos, the filter is put into place, water is added and then the tea is drunk directly from the thermos. Unlike in most other methods, the leaves remain in the tea as it is consumed. Throughout the day hot water is added each time more tea is desired. Obviously the primary difference in this brewing method is that the leaves steep for much, much longer than with other methods. I have found that the tea has a stronger taste, but does not get bitter. I would caution against using boiling water for the initial infusion, though. I have been adding water at about 180 degrees, which prevents scalding the leaves, one of the most common factors that contribute to bitterness in green teas. I am fairly convinced that this brewing method also releases more caffeine, an advantage throughout the course of a proletarian day.

I have used three different teas in it so far: Bi Luo Chun Green, Yunnan Green, and Dragonwell. All of them held up well to this brewing method and to multiple steepings during the workday. Of the three, the Yunnan Green was the one that worked best. The Bi Luo Chun is a little bit more delicate than the other two. It tasted good in the thermos, but it was compromised in comparison to what I remembered of its character in gongfu preparations.

Overall I am liking the thermos more than I expected to and getting more use out of it. It’s easily transported to and from home and work with or without tea in it. And one side benefit is that it displays the steeping of the leaves to great effect. It has made it possible to see clearly how differently shaped the leaves of the three Chinese green teas that I used in it are.

I do not know if there is any place in the Seattle area or online where these tea thermoses are available in glass. Mine came from The Monkey King, a retail store at 3534 SE Hawthorne Blvd. in Portland. Plastic ones can be purchased at The Crumpet Shop, at 1503 1st Ave., in Seattle and at many places mail order.

Whoever wants to know a thing has no way of doing so except by coming into contact with it, that is, by living (practising) in its environment. … If you want knowledge, you must take part in the practice of changing reality. If you want to know the taste of a pear, you must change the pear by eating it yourself…. If you want to know the theory and methods of revolution, you must take part in revolution. All genuine knowledge originates in direct experience.

“On Practice” (July 1937), Selected Works,
Vol. I, pp. 299-300, Chairman Mao Tse-tung


  1. The thermos is lovely! I was feet from the Crumpet Shop in August but would prefer a glass one. Also, we just had a friend visit from Portland. I’ll let you know if I find one in the SF Bay Area.

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