All the machine's controls reside on the base in front of the kettle's socket. Hit the "Tea Type" button to cycle through the Tea Maker's six brewing modes: Green, Black, White, Herbal, Oolong and Custom. Once you've made your selection, just tap the big Tea button to kick off the brewing cycle. Depending on the mode, the Tea Maker will then heat its water supply to the matching ideal temperature: 212 degrees Fahrenheit for black and herbal (100 Celsius), 195 degrees F for oolong (90.6 C), 185 degrees F for white (85 C), 175 degrees F for green (79.4 C). To accommodate unusual blends, use the custom mode to adjust the brewing temperature and steep time manually. There are dedicated keys for this on either side of the LCD screen.
When the kettle's contents hit the correct temperature, you're in for a show. Magnetically attached, the brew basket slowly and automatically lowers into the hot water bath to soak. Tea leaves then infuse flavor into the water for the allotted steep time, after which the basket raises back out of the water of its own accord. This action not only precisely controls tea infusion, but also means the machine can operate unattended.
Additionally by filling the machine the night before, you can program the Tea Maker to prepare a fresh morning pot. To that end the brewer also features a "keep warm" function designed to keep your tea nice an hot for as long as 60 minutes. For safety reasons removing the carafe will also deactivate the feature so remember to re-engage it when you're done pouring.
Breville makes a point to explain in the manual that Tea Maker is "not calibrated for commercial or scientific use," but my thermocouple tests confirmed the device was quite accurate. Temperature readings I logged were within 1 to 3 degrees off what the Tea Maker displayed them to be. Of course, the Tea Maker lagged a few seconds behind the more sensitive thermocouple device.
Tea I brewed through the Breville Tea Maker was consistently quite good, though I admit I'm much more of a coffee guzzler than a chai swiller. I also prefer my tea strong; thankfully the appliance also allows you to tweak brewing strength separately within each of its brewing modes, essentially by increasing its steep time. I'm also fond of the Breville's basket agitation function which will raise and lower the basket during brewing to further concentrate the final product.
Of course, the Breville's robotic brewing abilities can't bend the laws of physics and make pots of tea faster than traditional tea kettles. The machine still has to boil its pot of water first before steeping which, depending on how much liquid you're brewing, requires about 6 to 7 minutes. Add to this a standard soak time of 3 to 4 minutes and the whole process demands on the order of 10 or 12 minutes of your time. It's just as easy to make single or double cups with the Breville Tea Maker, however, and the less volume of water you use, the faster it will come to temperature.
Is the $250 Breville One-Touch Tea Maker for you? If you're the type who's devoted to the art of home tea brewing and seek a machine that's very capable and highly automated, without a doubt this appliance will satisfy. Of course not everyone can or should spend this much just for a quality domestic cuppa. If cash happens to be tight but you still crave a flexible tea brewer, another fine option is the $100 Mr. Coffee Tea Maker and Kettle. While it lacks a robotic basket for trouble-free steeping and less deft temperature control, Mr. Coffee's more affordable tea machine offers similar presets for specific tea varieties.
Those who require a kitchen device that can brew coffee and contains an electric kettle able to heat water accurately within a wide temperature range, look no further than the $300 Oxo Barista Brain 12-cup brewing system. It may cost an extra $50 but the Oxo's hybrid abilities will appeal to both coffee and tea addicts alike.