One thing I learned early in my tea-making career was that it’s important to use different temperatures for different teas. Delicate white tea needs a lower temperature, while herbal and black tea can take near-boiling temperatures.
I have reviewed three electric kettles on my blog. I’ve used the Upton Tea Imports kettle nearly every day since July of 2007. Unfortunately Upton no longer makes my model, and the little mesh filter on the spout has completely eroded thanks to the shitty water deposits here in Minnesota.
We still used it but the busted filter causes water to pour in unwanted places, such as your hand.
I wound up buying a T-Fal electric kettle for use at work, and when my tea-drinking co-worker moved on to another job I brought this one home with me.
It’s great, as long as you only need hot water.
The most prominent feature of the Balanced Living kettle is its terrible color scheme. Holy shit, what kind of psychoactive mushrooms were the product designers at T-Fal using when they made this? It’s hideously ugly. The kettle only available in one color scheme: ugly.
The kettle holds one liter of water. The body, handle, and lid are all made out of plastic. It features a translucent window on the side, with measurements for 0.5L and 1L.
The kettle is 9″ tall, which is quite welcome compared to its taller brother, the T-Fal Vitesses that I reviewed in 2011. The Vitesses stands 11″ tall, and you should really read that review if you’re interested in the Balanced Living model. The controls, ergonomics, lid, and operation are identical.
Unlike the metal-bodied Upton and the cavernous Vitesses, the Balanced Living kettle is very very quiet. I like this aspect of it. However, if you are particular about the exact temperature of your water then you might need to stand close to the kettle so you can hear the kettle stop. There’s no buzzer, and the “click” the unit makes when it’s reached the desired temperature is very quiet.
The temperature adjustment dial is illuminated so you know the kettle is running. You can adjust the temperature from “kinda hot?” to “boiling.”
At least, in theory.
The T-Fal kettle boiled a liter of water in 4 minutes, 20 seconds. The Vitesses does the same in 3:37, the Upton variable kettle in 3:40, and the Adagio UtiliTEA does so in 4:30.
Not fast, but the kettle was only $20 delivered when I bought it.
Unfortunately, the temperature controls don’t appear to vary the temperature of the water enough to be useful to most.
The lowest setting resulted in 190° F water. The middle setting was boiling, and the boiling setting was … boiling. So basically this is a one and a half position kettle, and doesn’t get anywhere near the 150° F to 160° F needed for white and green teas.
At $20 delivered, the T-Fal was inexpensive. It’s also available in more places than the Upton Tea kettle and the UtiliTEA, which frequently sells out for long periods of time. Prettier models are two to four times more expensive.
It’s a shame that the temperature range isn’t good enough for tea. However if you’re just making French press-style coffee, black/herbal tea, or using your kettle to re-hydrate food or warm a container then this won’t matter to you.
We’ll keep the T-Fal Balanced Living kettle around until I can beg Upton for a replacement filter.
Not recommended unless you need an inexpensive kettle with a very slight temperature range.