I had been using a Rancilio Silvia/Rocky combo for the last 6 or 7 years when Miss Silvia stopped working (she would trip the ciruit breakers in my house). What to do?. After much deliberation I decided to get a new Tea, and also get Silvia fixed as a backup machine. My few mornings without Espresso showed me how addicted I am now.
I wasn't prepared for the Tea when it arrived. Somehow, I was expecting something 50% bigger & heavier than Silvia, not 45lbs of chrome. The pictures on coffeegeek don't do the Tea justice. It's much bigger and better looking than I expected. First problem was getting it out of the box without destroying the box (I'm sure I'll need it sometime, when a repair is needed), without dropping it, and without putting out my dodgy back. This is really a 2 man job, but I just managed it without any damage.
I then sat down to read the instructions. These are totally inadequate. The English translation is amusing in places: "Plug off the cave" is one instruction. I believe this means "Unplug from the mains electricity". I'd have liked to see maintenance instructions included, there are none. Nothing about descaling, back flushing or removing the shower screen for cleaning.
Once I figured out what to do, I filled it with water (I use softened RO water as I live in a hard water area, and got fed up with descaling Miss Silvia), filled the boiler, and waited 20 minutes. OK, I got impatient and made an espresso after 10. It wasn't very good, very thin. Over the next 48 hours I played around with grind and tamp until I found what worked best. I grind 13g of beans, tamp really hard, and make a 1 1/2 oz espresso in about 25 to 30 seconds. More often than not it's like nectar. In the beginning I wasn't flushing the grouphead enough to cool it prior to making an espresso, and this certainly adversely affected the coffee. As shipped, the boiler pressure hovered around 1.3 and I figured I needed to draw about 8 to 10 oz water through to cool it enough. I've since adjusted the boiler thermostat, so that it now hovers around a pressure of 1.1, and I need to draw about 6 oz water to cool it. Incidentally, there is nothing in the instructions about flushing prior to brewing. I wonder how many non coffee-geek Tea purchasers think that burnt espresso is the norm?.
I used to leave Silvia powered on 24/7 when I was at home, however I wouldn't do this with the Tea. Sure I wouldn't need any other heating in the Kitchen, but I'd rather not have the electricity bills. I've put it on an electronic timer switch, so it can come on in the morning, and I don't have to leave it on all night.
The drip tray (more like a tank actually) is great. Silvia has one that's about 1 cm deep, the Tea's is about 5 cm deep, really useful. Infact a big drip tray is essential if you flush to cool. The Tea is easier to fill than Silvia, as I just lift the tank out of the Tea, take it to the sink, and fill under the RO tap. Miss Silvia's tank wasn't designed to be used like that, so it was a case of carefully filling from a jug. It's just as well it's easy to fill, as it needs to be filled often. All this flushing means I have to fill it every day, Miss Silvia could go 2 or 3 days between fillings. I have considered the plumb-in option and might still do this...
I had worried that The Tea would be hard to keep clean, as it looked much fiddlier than Silvia, however it seems to stay cleaner and is easier to wipe down, I'm not sure if this is because of the quality of the enclosure, or Miss Silvia's age.
I've now had Miss Silvia repaired (the heating element had gone) and overhauled by www.coffeemachinecompany.co.uk and have been able to do side by side comparisions. It's much easier to make small espressos with the Tea. With Silvia there is a fine balance between choking her, and pulling a large cup. There's much more crema with the Tea, and I get the occasional cup with the Tea that is just devine.
All in all, I'm pleased with the Tea.