Even if you're a tea fanatic, it's hard to justify the outrageous price tag of the almost $1,500 Teforia Infuser. Sure, the machine packs plenty of high-tech capabilities and hardware including both Wi-Fi and Bluetooth plus a mobile companion app. The Teforia is completely automated, and even scans RFID tags on its tea packs for precise brewing directions.
Still, while this opulent kitchen appliance does consistently create good cups of tea, simpler gadgets handle the job just as well and with more finesse and flexibility. Worse, they cost a fraction of the price, with even the premium $219 Breville One-Touch Tea Maker and Espro P5 ($78 with tea filter) coming in far below the Teforia's monumental expense. All that adds up to a foolhardy proposition, and one you should pass up unless you get money for nothing or grow it on trees.
I can't deny it, the Teforia Infuser is a pretty appliance. Measuring 13 inches tall by 8.3 inches wide and reaching back 12.3 inches deep, the machine is about the size of your average coffee maker. Its shape is blocklike as well, but that's where the resemblance ends. On the Teforia's face is a sphere, clear save for white sections on its top and bottom, that serves as a steeping chamber for tea leaves.
The small sphere, called "the infusion globe," is held in place by two arms -- one above and one below. Under the lower arm sits a slim carafe for collecting brewed tea. The majority of its body is transparent, too, and the carafe's mouth slides neatly into a slot within this arm. There it hangs suspended in air above the bottom of the machine.
I do like this visual effect, and with a chassis constructed of smooth, white plastic and sculpted in gentle curves, the Infuser is attractive enough. The surfaces of the gadget are also easy to clean, especially with the included black microfiber cloth.
But still -- plastic? If I were unaware of the Teforia's atmospheric price I would never guess the appliance was so expensive. For instance, the Ratio Eight luxury coffee makers ($495 to $595) look and feel a great deal more impressive. They're also hand-built in Portland, Oregon, using posh materials such as wood, nickel and steel. Even the steel and glass frame of the $250 Breville One-Touch is more alluring. Sorry, but at this price, plastic doesn't cut it.
Brewing tea with the Teforia Infuser is an odd experience. First of all, the machine has no physical buttons or controls of any kind, and no screen for displaying info. Instead, cryptic symbols appear on the front face of the Infuser to indicate its status, such as a bubbling globe icon when it's brewing and a carafe when your tea is ready.
These symbols are formed by light shining through the Teforia's smooth plastic surface. As a result they appear faint and a bit blurry, unlike the clarity of traditional LED lights and LCD screens.
Before you make tea, you'll first fill the water tank (68 to 70 ounces) in the back of the appliance. It's sturdy and has a metal handle for easy transport. The reservoir is equipped with a water filter, but not a maximum fill line, strangely enough.
To use one of the Teforia SIPS (Selective Infusion Profile System) tea packs, just tap its paper label against the RFID reader on the top of the machine. This action theoretically tells the Infuser details about the tea it's about to brew and how to brew it. Next, peel off the pack label, pour its contents into the globe and confirm that the globe and carafe are locked in place. Lastly, hit the circular light on the Teforia's base to begin tea infusion.
You can also use the infuser to brew tea that isn't in SIPS packs, though you need to use the mobile app to do so (it's available on iOS and soon for Android). The app asks about the tea you'd like to prepare and sets up a custom brewing profile.
Teforia claims its Infuser makes tea using proprietary recipes that were "crafted with tea masters and artisans" and take "dozens of variables" into account, including infusion temperature. In the lab, however, we didn't see much difference in the Infuser's brewing from cup to cup.
Whether I told the Infuser to infuse black tea from a Teforia-branded Earl Grey pack, my own storebought leaves or a Teforia "Hibiscus Song" herbal blend, water inside the infusion globe never exceeded 186.4 degrees Fahrenheit. Brewing times were very similar too, though I did observe a range between 5 minutes (thin-cut black tea) and 6 minutes and 17 seconds (rolled pearl black tea leaves).
The infusion process is fun to watch, though. Hot water drips over the tea leaves to fill the globe halfway. Next the machine pumps air into the mixture, which agitates it. Finally, water flows into the globe to fill it completely.
After steeping for a moment, brewed tea is strained through a mesh filter inside the globe and falls into the waiting carafe. Within each brewing cycle this process is repeated three times, by the end of which the carafe should be full with about 12 ounces of liquid. Teforia calls these short steeping events "micro infusions."
Teforia further explained that these micro infusions are designed to unlock the pleasant flavor compounds inside tea leaves, plus caffeine, and leave the stringent tannins behind. The company also confirmed that the Infuser doesn't brew at the high temperatures traditional methods call for since it isn't necessary.
The tea I sampled from the appliance was good, though it didn't bowl me over with intense flavor. In fact, my favorite black tea blend, Royal Breakfast from Louisville Tea Company, tasted better brewed in the $78 Espro Press P5 than in the Teforia Infuser.
According to Teforia, I'd need to run something truly exceptional through the Infuser in order to really appreciate it -- something rare, handmade and close to $100 per pound. I'm no business mogul and don't have that sort of tea on hand (but then, neither am I the target buyer for a $1,500 teapot). Still, I can confirm that the Teforia Infuser brought out a little better flavor than usual from my $6-per-pound Tetley loose-leaf black tea.
Absolutely not. There are appliances that brew the sort of tea I prefer to drink with the same results. The $78 Espro P5 with tea filter and $219 Breville One-Touch Tea Maker spring to mind, both of which create cups of tea with adequate quality for my tastes.
Even if spending $1,499 is as painless for you as purchasing a pack of bubble gum, investing in a Teforia Infuser isn't the best use of your money. Instead, I suggest learning how to brew artisan tea by hand. Think of all that fancy tea you could get using the money you'll save.