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Breville One-Touch Tea Maker

Let's get the obvious out of the way: yes, it's $250. If this is your first interaction with "the Breville tax" well, get used to it. They make nice looking stuff that generally works very well, but fetches more than a few shiny pennies. If the cost turns you away, there are cheaper options out there - but not quite so fancy or perhaps versatile. Let's dig in.

The OTTM is a fully-loaded, fully-automated tea making machine. You put cold water in the pot, loose leaves (or bags) in the basket, set the water temp and steep time (and even start time if you so choose) and walk away. Come back in a few minutes, and a team of secret ninja tea fairies have perfectly heated the water, stealthily steeped the leaves, and then removed them, leaving a brilliant pot of tea lying in wait for you to enjoy. It will even keep the tea warm for you for up to an hour by applying a slightly-lower heat to the pot (warning: this can affect flavor, but that's just a fact of heating your tea to keep it warm).

OK, it's actually all timers and magnets and thermometers, but it feels like ninja tea fairies.

The presets are very handy - five temperature settings with three pre-set steep times (ranging from white tea to black, and any steep time you could need). Each temperature has a fourth steep time slot for your own time setting :)30 increments IIRC). There's also a sixth, custom temperature slot (with it's own four time slots), which I set to 205 for coffee. I wouldn't recommend brewing your coffee IN the pot, but you can totally use this as a variable temperature kettle for all of you hot water needs.*

It's a very nice machine - the fit, finish, and operation are all top notch. I've read comments about the lid fit, but I haven't experienced any issues that weren't related to the lid not being "centered". Once it's on right, you know it. The basket operation is super cool - there's a metal column in the brew pot which houses a motorized, magnetized basket elevator. The basket has a guide built it so that it sort of hugs the column, and the fairly strong magnet grabs ahold of it. The entire elevator mechanism is encased within the base and column (that is, away from the water). Simply remove the basket if you want to use it to boil water (there is a separate button for "Hot Water" and "Tea", which won't bother to activate the basket when temperature is reached).

As for clean-up, Breville recommends you wash the lid and basket in warm, soapy water or the dishwasher. They advise that the build-up inside the pot is actually desirable, so not to use soap there unless you want to remove it or use the pot for boiling plain water. I actually find that hot water and a sponge (reserved only for this tea pot) are all that are ever needed for regular cleaning of all parts. If there should be a build-up of tannins on the interior surfaces, you can use soapy water. Breville also recommends you boil the juice of a chopped lemon (and heck, toss in the lemon) or some water with baking soda, and let that sit overnight. Boil some clean water the next morning, discard, and you're set. I'd like to try those TABZ cleaners which are made for tea, but I haven't found a need to do this (and don't know what Breville thinks about this). I use this pot to boil my water for coffee as well, and haven't experienced any flavor cross-over. The base wipes clean w/a cloth. Don't immerse the pot in water or clean the outside of the pot under running water.

All-in-all, this machine has made my morning tea routine hands off and convenient. I can make my breakfast while the OTTM takes care of the tea. I know this high-tech (and high cost) contraption isn't for everybody, but I have found it a fantastic and invaluable tool.

*A note about this: The pot is HEAVY. Your shoulder will get a work-out for pour-over coffee, but it's not so problematic for gong-fu tea. Aside from price, you've now seen the only "con" in this review. Go warm up your Visa.

Addendum: I just read Breville's support site, and they do recommend the use of "a commercial descaler" periodically. They also added vinegar (6 tbsp) to the regular boil & clean recommendations along side baking soda and lemon.

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