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When making tea at home, I have all the equipment I need to make a fine cup of tea. In the office, however, my options are more limited. It seems my sources for hot water are:

  • Straight from the tap
  • From the "hot" dispenser on the water cooler
  • Microwave in styrofoam
  • A Keurig without a K-cup
  • A hot water/coffee dispenser (don't know how to describe this--looks a bit like the commercial milk dispensers you sometimes find in cafeterias)

My criteria for evaluating these sources would be:

  • Purity
  • Temperature
  • Dissolved Oxygen

Oh, and one of the pieces of equipment that I lack is a thermometer.

A couple of observations

  • Though there is no shortage of oxygen, the tap was right out for purity and temperature.
  • I tried using the water cooler's hot tap for a while, but, based on dead reckoning, it just doesn't seem hot enough.
  • I've heard that you're supposed to leave styrofoam out of the microwave, so I've skipped over that so far. Perhaps that is good material for a follow-up question. I suppose I could get it as hot as I want, and lose no more oxygen than would be expected at that temperature.
  • The Keurig is what I've been using most recently, which seems closer than the water cooler, but the machine itself claims to max out at 192 F, and I'd prefer something a bit hotter if possible. Additionally, the method the coffee maker uses to heat the water makes me wonder if any dissolved oxygen is driven off in the process.
  • Lastly the water/coffee dispenser. These are huge commercial coffee makers, essentially, and one of them simply doesn't get coffee grounds added. They've got to be at least five gallons each, and I doubt they're refilled until they're used up. I imagine a water line runs straight to the machine, but, clearly, there is a lot of speculation here. This is also the one method that I would have to pay for, which I'd be willing to do, but only if this source is better than the rest. It's also farthest from my desk.

So, what's the best option I have for a good cup of tea in the office?

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3  
Can you explain why you can't microwave in a proper mug? –  Peter Taylor Nov 3 '11 at 9:47
11  
Why not buy a cheap electric kettle? If it's good enough for 65 million Brits (who drink more tea per capita than anyone else on Earth), it's good enough for anyone! –  ElendilTheTall Nov 3 '11 at 10:01
    
Hadn't even heard of such a thing! –  Ray Nov 3 '11 at 11:41
1  
A proper mug! You folks are full of ideas :) This is why I bring these questions here –  Ray Nov 3 '11 at 11:41
    
@PeterTaylor, can you make that an answer? I'd like to accept that –  Ray Nov 4 '11 at 6:50
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4 Answers

up vote 3 down vote accepted

Unless you hot-desk (and even then, with a bit more effort) it should be possible to take your own mug to the office and use that to microwave instead of a styrofoam cup. Note that it's worth being a bit cautious when adding anything to water microwaved to boiling point - I would use a spoon to insert the tea without putting your hand or face above the mug.

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Thanks, Peter. I usually try to bring it "just" to a boil. I also add a packet of sugar before microwaving, which seems to allow adequate nucleation that the whole thing doesn't explode in my face. –  Ray Nov 4 '11 at 7:46
    
I would never microwave water for tea or coffee. I don't know the science behind it, but the end result just isn't palatable. –  slim Nov 4 '11 at 13:15
    
Follow up: I've started microwaving the plain water, and actually intentionally avoiding nucleation. This keeps gasses in solution, meaning that when I add the tea it still has the most oxygen. I just make sure not to heat it for too long, to keep superheating to a minimum. –  Ray Nov 15 '11 at 15:08
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If purity is top priority I can only recommend an 18 Mega Ohm laboratory purifier, complete with biofilters and UV. I assure you, you've never tasted anything like it.

In fact you can't taste anything at all, it's quite a bizarre experience to drink.

If they are so awkward as to not let you install one in the office then you might have to bring the water in from home in a clean teflon flask.

Don't go anywhere near an electric kettle! the impurities introduced but such a brutal apparatus would defy your investment in purity. I wouldn't really recommend the microwave either because you can easily super heat the water because the boiling has no impurities to seed it. A clean spherical flask over a non sooty flame is the best option really.

Add hydrogen peroxide (introduce oxygen) to taste. Again this must be of a high purity, hair bleach really won't cut it and is likely to introduce adverse health effects. I can't advise on the optimum amount however, but you may find it to have a dramatic effect at higher levels. ;-)

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I feel like I'm being teased, and yet the humor is worth a +1 regardless. –  Ray Nov 3 '11 at 17:32
    
Sorry I couldn't help it, the question invoked the chemist of my past. I wish I'd actually been into high quality tea when I once worked in an analytical lab to try it for myself! –  barrymac Mar 1 '12 at 1:09
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You could use the Turkish/Persian method of making tea.

You make a very very strong tea at home, and boil it down until you basically have a thick liquid tea syrup. At work, you pour some of this tea syrup in your cup and add hot water. Since all the flavour has already been extracted, temperature/oxygenation only need to be good enough for drinking, not for steeping.

There's a word for this process, but I can't seem to dredge it out of my mind today.

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Concetrate? Is that the word you're looking for? –  Martha F. Nov 7 '11 at 15:31
    
.....reduction? –  András Salamon Sep 26 '13 at 19:28
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Either buy a cheap electric kettle, or if you are really fussed about not re-boiling water then shell out a bit more for one of the single cup hot water dispensers like the Tefal Quick Cup or the Breville Hot Cup.

We have both a cheap kettle and a Breville Hot Cup in our office. The kettle is good for making cups for multiple people at the same time, the Hot Cup is good for a single person.

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An electric kettle, where did you come up with that idea? ;) –  ElendilTheTall Nov 3 '11 at 16:14
    
Seriously, these are attainable, but are not the most common appliance where I'm from. –  Ray Nov 3 '11 at 17:35
    
There are microwaves but kettles aren't common? $16 from walmart... –  talon8 Nov 3 '11 at 17:39
    
Well tea is not all that popular around here, and coffee is readily available. Microwaves, OTOH, are useful for heating up lunch in the office. –  Ray Nov 3 '11 at 23:12
1  
There is an electric kettle on Amazon.com for $15.99 -- it's going to make far better tea than a microwave. –  slim Nov 4 '11 at 13:26
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