Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Your much awaited tea post

Most people I know are not as passionate about tea as I am. A good cup of tea for them is a bag from Celestial Seasonings or Lipton in boiled water. While that isn't wrong, it just isn't the best way to have a really good cup of tea.

The supplies need for a good cup of tea are easy and cheap to obtain if you don't already have them. You will need:

Measuring teaspoon
thermometer-hot read
tea kettle-any make, model or brand it just has to boil water after all
a tea or press pot for more than one cup, your favorite mug if you only want one cup
tea, bagged or loose leaf (I prefer loose leaf)
tea ball, infuser or strainer if using loose leaf

Here's where things get marginally complected, but not very. You need to know what kind of tea you have. There's white, green, black and oolong from the actual tea plant, herbal teas don't actually contain Camellia sinensis (aka tea leaves). Nothing wrong with that, but good to know for brewing purposes. Just because I'm weird like that, herbal "teas" proper name is tisane, though it isn't important to brewing. It's pretty easy to figure out what kind you have. The majority of bagged teas in the grocery store are black unless labeled as white, green, oolong or herbal. A good rule of thumb is 1 teabag for every 8 ounces of water, though always check the packaging of bagged teas. Loose leaf you want 1 to 1.5 teaspoons per 8 ounces of water.

 Here's the temperatures and brew times you want for various teas:


Green-150-160F 2 or 3 minutes
White-175-180F 3-5 minutes depending on how strong you want it
Oolong-190F 6-8 minutes
Black-195-210F 4 to 6 minutes
Roobis-195-210 4 to 6 minutes
Mate-200-208F 5 or 6 minutes

Herbal-temperature varies depending on what herbs, spices, plants are used, though usually right around 200F works for most herbal tisanes

Pour water into your tea pot, press pot or mug then add the tea. If using a measuring spoon for loose leaf, do not pack the leave. This will bruise the leaves and cause a bitter tasting tea. Steep for suggested time and remove tea. Save your bag or infuser, tea can be brewed multiple times and still produce a delicious beverage.

Hot brew for iced tea

Same temperatures as above with half the water you need for intended finished amount, but double the amount of tea and brew time. Meaning if you want 8 cups total, brew in 4 cups hot water, add 8tsp of tea and brew for 4-12 minutes depending on tea. After its brewed remove tea, add 4 cups water and chill in the fridge. Though the hot brew method can cause your tea to cloud. It doesn't affect flavor, only appearance.

 Cold brew for iced tea

In 4 cups cold water add 6-8 teaspoons of loose tea or 6-8 teabags (teabags contain 1tsp of tea on average). Steep in the fridge for 8 hours, overnight works also. Strain tea or remove bags, add 4 cups water. Enjoy. This makes 2 quarts of tea, just FYI. Cold brewing will avoid causing the tea to cloud.

If you prefer stronger tasting tea it's better to add more tea leaves than extend the brewing time. Over brewing and water that is to hot is the usual culprit if your tea taste bitter or grassy tasting in the case of green tea. Other reasons for the tea tasting bad are poor quality leaves, fannings (tea dust) used in many bagged teas, improperly processed leaves and stale leaves. It really is worth it to spend a little extra on good quality loose teas.

There are several reasons for drinking tea, the number one reason being it just tastes good, lol. Tea from the actual Camellia sinensis plant contain polyphenols(the cancer fighting benefit of tea) and certain flavoniods. Green teas benefit over black or oolong is that it contains more EGCG(good for metabolism) and antioxidants. These are still found in black and oolong teas, just in smaller quantities. Oolong containing the smallest amount because of the length of fermentation. White tea contains higher levels of antioxidants than green tea, while maintaining the same levels of EGCG, polyphenols and flavoniods as green tea. Plus it's good for the skin. All the benefit, none of the "grassy" taste from the chlorophyll.The only difference of white, green, black and oolong teas has to do with the time the leaves are picked and how they are processed. They all come from the same plant. White and green tea leaves are picked earlier, the leaves are steamed then dried. Black and oolong tea leaves are picked when the plant has matured. The leaves are partially dried, crushed and fermented. Matcha, the traditional Japanese green tea, is grown in such a way to increase the flavor because of the chlorophyll and amino acid production. The leaves are then steamed, dried and crushed into a fine powder.

Herbal tisane do not offer the same types of benefits the Camellia sinensis plant offers-since they don't contain any "real" tea. They are a blend of herbs, flowers, roots, spices or other parts of some plants. While those plants may offer other health benefits, they do not contain polyphenols or the same beneficial flavonoids as "real" tea. They can be just as tasty though and are definitely worth drinking. Roobis and Mate are very popular right now due to claims they aid in weight loss. While they are very delicious, no tea or tisane has been found to actually promote weight loss. Only a healthy diet and exercise can do that outside of medical intervention.

Store your tea, loose or bagged, in an air tight container that blocks sunlight. Teas will start to loose flavor after about 6 months and go stale in a year from date of purchase. The container will slow the process, but can't stop it entirely. The tea will still be drinkable after going stale, it just won't taste as good.

Now that you know how to make a great tasting cup of tea, experiment with sweeteners. Honey is always a good choice, as is raw or rock sugar. Different teas will taste better with different sweeteners, so don't be afraid to try something new or unusual. Adding a sprig of mint or frozen fruit is a great way to enjoy iced tea as well. There is nothing better than a well brewed cup of tea. It can wake you up in the morning, calm your nerves after a scare, even help you sleep at night.

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