For the past eight or nine years my tough little copper-bottomed German kettle has been perfectly adequate to my needs. It has survived considerable abuse and has never allowed me to destroy it by boiling it dry, due in large part to a ferocious whistle that becomes brain-bleedingly loud just seconds after the water reaches boiling point. But my hot water requirements seem to have become more stringent recently, as I have become a more committed tea drinker. My boyfriend knew that I had started to look into various contraptions for heating water to a range of temperatures, so for Christmas he went to Uwajimaya, our local Asian superstore, and bought me a Zojirushi hot water dispenser (model #CD-JSC22). We’ve been using it every day since then — and my faithful old kettle is now little more than a forlorn stove ornament.
The Zojirushi “dispensing pot” doesn’t bring water to a boil quickly — our 2.2 liter model takes about 20 to 25 minutes to get to 212°– but once the water boils the pot holds it at one of three different pre-set temperatures until you are ready to use it. If you don’t like the idea of waiting this long for your morning cup of tea, it does have a not very sophisticated timer that allows you to set the water boiling between 6 to 10 hours later.
Once the water boils, it can be kept at 212/208°, 195/175°, or 140° — in terms of the Japanese audience this device is designed for, the perfect temperatures for macha (and black tea), green teas like genmaicha, and higher quality green teas (gyokuro). I drink a lot of black tea, so I tend to use the highest setting. My boyfriend often drinks green tea in the morning — recently, a nice toasty-smelling genmaicha from Uwajimaya — so he uses the 195° setting. We don’t drink much of the fancier Japanese teas, but I’m interested in getting started now that we can prepare them properly. (You can also use the dispenser to make instant noodles and to heat baby formula. And we are now addicted to instant miso soup, especially a no-MSG “natural” brand sold at Uwajimaya.)
Overall, I’m quite happy with this contraption. It does a great job of providing water at exactly the right temperature for the type of tea you happen to be drinking. On the other hand, I tend to be very frugal about energy consumption, so I can’t imagine just leaving it on all day long — although if it were being used in a larger household, this might make more sense. Turning it off is easy — I love the fact that the electrical cord is attached to the pot with magnets and snaps right off.
I should mention — for anyone who is super-finicky about water temperatures for tea — that while the pot has three fixed temperature settings, it also displays the temperature of the water as it heats up and cools down in ten degree increments. So if you feel that a particular tea absolutely needs to be brewed at 180°, you would be able to do that, provided you kept an eye on the pot.
Multi-temperature hot water dispensers tend to be a bit pricey and this one is no exception — Froogle it and you will find online vendors selling it for somewhere around $100. I already own another Zojirushi appliance — a rice cooker — and it’s a solidly built workhorse. The hot water pot seems equally well-made, and I hope to be using it for a long while.