Experts are divided when it comes to the best type of travel mug for tea. Some purists say ceramic or glass mugs are best, since they don't absorb flavors or odors. However, ceramic and glass are not the most durable materials available. Stainless steel, a popular choice, is durable, and it resists flavor transfer better than plastic mugs. Many stainless-steel travel mugs come with accessories specifically designed for tea drinkers, like infusers for loose-leaf tea or a separate compartment to hold your used tea bag. However, any of these travel mugs can also be used for coffee or chocolate drinks as well.
Thermos makes a popular travel mug for tea in the Thermos Vacuum Insulated Tea Tumbler JML350. This stainless-steel thermal mug holds 12 ounces and includes a removable infuser for loose-leaf tea. The slim, contoured design does not include a handle. The base is 3.1 inches wide by 3.8 inches deep, so it should fit in most vehicle cup holders. The tumbler has two tops: one with a drinking hole and a second covered lid that completely seals the mug to make it spill-proof. According to Thermos, the Vacuum Insulated Tea Tumbler JML350 will keep drinks hot for up to six hours or cold for up to 10 hours.
The Thermos Vacuum Insulated Tea Tumbler JML350 is the top pick in a test of 28 travel mugs at Good Housekeeping. Testers praise the excellent insulation, which keeps drinks hot or cold for hours on end. The only drawback of note is that the spill-proof lid must be unscrewed before drinking, which requires two hands. It's one of the top picks at the Tea Finely Brewed blog, which rates and reviews teas and accessories. Owners are also impressed with the Thermos Vacuum Insulated Tea Tumbler JML350, giving it a 4.5-star rating in over 130 individual reviews at Amazon.com. Reviewers praise the insulation, saying it will keep beverages hot for five to six hours, and they like that they can throw it into a bag or briefcase with the outer lid screwed on tight. Even though the Thermos Vacuum Insulated Tea Tumbler JML350 is designed for tea, it can also be used for coffee or other drinks. "This is seriously the best purchase I've ever made," writes one coffee drinker. "I've left the mug in my bag for 6 or 7 hours and opened it to find hot coffee and no leaks."
However, users at Amazon.com do have a few complaints. Some wish the mug had a higher capacity, since 12 ounces is the equivalent of a small or tall at coffee shops, while others complain that the mesh on the tea infuser is too wide, allowing leaves to escape. In addition, the various tops must be screwed on carefully in order to prevent leaks. The Thermos Vacuum Insulated Tea Tumbler JML350 is not safe for the dishwasher or microwave, but all Thermos travel mugs are BPA-free.
Teas Etc. also makes a travel mug with an integrated strainer for loose-leaf tea, the Tea Travel Mug (Est. $20), which holds just under 13 ounces. To use it, you put tea directly into the bottom of the mug and add hot water. Replace the strainer and top, and the strainer will allow you to drink your tea while the leaves remain in the mug. However, a number of users at the Teas Etc. website complain that it's easy for tea to become over-brewed and bitter because you can't remove the tea leaves. The Teas Etc. Tea Travel Mug is recommended by the Tea Finely Brewed blog, but it attracts few user reviews. In addition, Teas Etc. says the travel mug is not BPA-free.
Another interesting travel mug for tea (or coffee) drinkers is the DCI I Am Not a Paper Cup (*Est. $16). This porcelain travel mug is popular among some users because it resists flavor transfer better than either stainless-steel or plastic mugs. The mug, which looks like a traditional paper coffee cup, is crafted from double-walled porcelain with a silicone top. It holds 10 ounces of liquid, and the 3.5-inch base will fit in most car cup holders. The DCI I Am Not a Paper Cup travel mug is safe for the dishwasher and microwave.
Stuff.tv, a gadget- and gear-review site, gives the DCI I Am Not a Paper Cup a Hot Buy rating, calling it a "design icon" that keeps drinks hot even while the exterior stays cool. It's also named one of the top five eco-friendly travel mugs by Greenzer.com, a green shopping blog. While editors here acknowledge that it's a bit heavier than other travel mugs, they love that it is microwave safe. More than 160 owners review the travel mug on Amazon.com, with a mixed response. Those who hate drinking out of plastic or stainless steel love this mug, saying hot drinks simply taste better. However, many reviewers report annoying leaks when sipping from the DCI I Am Not a Paper Cup, and some wish it had a larger capacity. The silicone lid can stain easily; DCI recommends soaking it in boiling water with lemon slices and then scrubbing it with toothpaste.