Cozy Up with Tea and Cookies

We have all the equipment you need for brewing tea and baking teatime treats.

If you’ve been reading this newsletter for a while, you know that I’m a big fan of coffee. Today I’m turning the spotlight on another beloved beverage: tea. Our guide features the test kitchen’s favorite teas, tea-making tools, and equipment for making teatime treats. When it comes to treats, we’re especially partial to cookies. Our cookbook The Perfect Cookie has over 250 options, ranging from cookie-jar classics such as Perfect Chocolate Chip Cookies to fruity favorites such as Lemon Bars and fancy treats like Orange-Cardamom Twists. Whether you’re a fan of earthy green tea or prefer milky English breakfast, we have the tools you need to brew it right and the perfect sweet treat to complement it. —Carolyn Grillo, Associate Editor, ATK Reviews

This basket-style tea strainer had the biggest capacity in our testing, equivalent to 13.5 tablespoons—more than enough for good water circulation. With a 2.5-inch opening, it was easy to fill and clean. And its tightly woven mesh basket kept even the finest leaves out of the finished tea. As a bonus, it has a top that can also be used as a saucer, holding the basket and catching any drips after or between infusions.

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This large, sleek glass kettle was one of the quickest in our lineup. The power switch lights up in an icy blue when it’s activated, the handle is wide and comfortable, and the kettle sits securely on its base. We also liked its slow-open lid, which prevents accidental burns from steam and splashing water. It has a removable filter in its spout which, while not strictly necessary, is a handy feature in areas where the water has sediment.

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Lightweight and easy to fill with its wide opening, good interior visibility, and handle that folds out of the way, this kettle was pleasant to use and has a generous capacity. Its whistle is assertive, its grippy handle is comfortable, and its spout has a gentle curve that lends itself to smooth pouring. It survived abuse tests with only the faintest dents, and the brushed-steel surface was easy to clean. A quibble: The lever on the whistling spout cover is stiff and snappy, and the pointy hinge underneath the lever sometimes poked our fingers when closing the spout. Also, it is not induction-compatible.

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This teapot brewed a good, strong cup and kept loose leaves in check with its ultrafine-mesh strainer. You place the pot over a cup and the tea flows automatically through the bottom of the pot (where the strongest tea collects). Feet on the bottom of the pot lift it up to prevent the bottom valve from accidentally opening. A simple swish of running water cleans up spent leaves.

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This high-priced machine brews ideal tea, thanks to its fully customizable water temperature and steeping time. Plus, it’s fully automatic: It features an autostart timer, a mechanism that lowers and raises the brew basket unassisted, and a keep-warm function that maintains the tea at a level temperature (automatically determined by the type of tea) for up to 60 minutes. It was also the easiest to fill, and its accessories are dishwasher-safe. Our one quibble: The smallest tea leaves occasionally escaped the basket.

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With a roomy, medium-depth basket of very fine, tight, stiff mesh, this strainer removed lots of bran from whole-wheat flour and produced silky purees. A long, wide hook allowed it to sit securely on a variety of cookware, and while its rounded steel handle was a bit less comfortable than some, it was still easy to hold. This strainer’s sturdy construction makes it worth its high price: It looked as good as new even after serious abuse.

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Our winning spoons had a simple design that allowed for a continuous, bump-free sweep, with a ball-chain connector (similar to what military dog tags hang on) that was easy to open and close. This set's metal construction felt remarkably sturdy, and ingredients didn't cling to the stainless steel. And while the 1-tablespoon measure did not fit into all spice jars, it was a minor inconvenience for an otherwise easy-to-use set.

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Testers raved about this classic wooden spoon. Light, long, and maneuverable, it kept our hands far from the heat, and its rounded, tapered handle was comfortable and easy to grip in a variety of ways as we worked. It also suited both right- and left-handed testers. The slim tip of its nicely scooped-out oval bowl was easy to maneuver under food for turning and scooping, and when angled slightly, the head provided sufficient area for scraping fond. Made of teak, the wood resisted staining or drying out, retained its color, and never became rough to touch, even after 10 cycles through the dishwasher. 

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This dispenser’s spring-loaded spout cover worked like a charm. Pushing the lever let us open it any amount from a sliver to fully open, so we could pour neatly and precisely while controlling the flow. Releasing the lever let it slide smoothly and shut completely for no-drip handling. It was easy to fill and clean, too. One quibble: The glass jar isn’t microwave-safe, so we had to heat syrup in a separate vessel and then transfer it. On the plus side, the ridged glass jar stayed comfortable to hold as we replaced the lid, even when the syrup was fairly hot.

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This spatula was great for flipping eggs and pancakes, and the flexible silicone head was especially good at gliding in the pan—even navigating rounded sides with ease. The silicone material kept cookies stable during transport, and we liked the generous handle. The spatula’s head was an ideal length, though we found it too wide to easily scoop up brownies. And while this spatula’s flexible head was ideal for skillet cooking, it was too pliable to scrape up leftover brownie bits.

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These precut parchment sheets, which come in a large plastic zipper-lock bag, are the only ones in our lineup that are stored completely flat. They're also sized just right to slide easily into a standard rimmed baking sheet, although we did have to use two overlapping sheets when rolling jelly roll cakes into coils. Their superior convenience made them the runaway favorite. Don't let the purchase price distract you: The per-sheet cost falls squarely in the middle of our lineup.

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