One of the perculiarities of Taiwan that I’ve noticed is that it runs a dual voltage. While most household sockets deliver 110v, some deliver 220v. I’ve noticed that it’s not just my apartment either — the subway station has clearly marked “110v” and “220v” sockets. Why any country would run two systems is beyond me…
But being mostly 110v, it means that I can’t use my water boiler from China. What I used to do was to heat up the water in the electric boiler, and then transfer it to my glass kettle with the alcohol burner. Since I couldn’t find the right fuel at first, I resorted to using the stove, which is basically a heating plate of sorts, with my glass kettle. It worked, but there was one problem — water was either not boiling, or boiling too quickly and reached a rolling boil in no time. I also couldn’t keep it on a constant heat easily, since it behaved strangely.
Thankfully, I finally located a place that sells the right kind of fuel. As an added bonus — it no longer smells at all, unlike the stuff they sold in Beijing. I wonder if there were some nasty impurities in the Beijing stuff.
What I do now is to use the stove to heat the water up sufficient so it’s close to boiling, and then let the boiling happen with the alcohol burner. I think this actually achieves a better boil — the water temp is kept high throughout a session easily, and I can also control the water temperature better by adding splashes of cold water throughout the session. With using the stove it was more like an all or nothing issue — since I don’t brew tea right next to the stove. Now I’m a happy man with the right water making equipment 🙂
I think I would recommend something similar (not necessarily glass, although glass is useful for letting you look at the water). I think a small flame is always preferable over a heating plate type thing, not necessarily because of contact with metal or any such thing, but rather because it lets the tea maker have a much better sense of the temperature of the water being used and to maintain a more or less constant temperature throughout a session.