Join us as we attempt to simplify the nuances of loose leaf tea, and even add some fun facts for those of you who are already hooked on tea! If you know how to brew the best tea from a bag and think it’s as good as it gets, read on because you’re not in Kansas anymore. The difference between your tea bag and the world of loose leaf teas is so huge, it will blow you away (minus the tornado).
Most people don’t realize that though tea bags seem convenient, they can be equated to the sawdust from when true loose leaf tea leaves are harvested and packaged. With the right equipment and infuser, brewing your loose leaf tea is a snap, whether you are sipping on the go or just kicking back at home. Plus, each ounce of loose tea is much more potent; it can be brewed up to 4 times, making it easy to enjoy throughout the day and super affordable on the wallet. Once you have experienced the taste, smell, and effects of a good loose leaf tea, there is simply no turning back!
Tea is the second most consumed beverage after water in the world. But if it is brewed wrong, I think we can all agree on the outcome: a lousy cup. This is a lesson many beginners learn the hard way, though you have to start somewhere. Most people who claim they “don’t like the taste” were put off by an incorrectly brewed tea, and some may be under the impression that loose leaf tea is more difficult to brew. These misconceptions can be engrained in our minds for a lifetime. Fortunately, this scenario can be easily avoided with better brewing techniques and more information about how easy it is to enjoy your daily cuppa. Thanks internet!
Drinking well made loose leaf tea is a bit like drinking a fine wine. You probably wouldn’t serve a fine white wine at room temperature, would you? If you have spent some of this month’s paycheck towards a fine wine, you probably will want to make sure it’s served properly to get your maximum enjoyment from your purchase. Doesn’t it make good sense to do a little research about your tea for a lifetime of great sipping? Not to worry: steeping good tea doesn’t take a fancy degree, but it is a bit more than chucking it into boiling water and letting it stew. Getting that perfect cup of tea involves a few simple steeping methods. (In fact, there are nearly as many brewing methods as there are teas.)
The trick to steeping tea correctly comes in five parts: water, weight, temperature, time and equipment.
Perfect water isn’t necessary, but if your water has an unpleasant taste, so will your tea. If your water tastes great, you should be in pretty solid shape. Good water is a must!
Using too much tea will make your tea bitter and burn a hole in your wallet. Too little tea will bring a weak cup and a sense of unfulfillment. The volume that is considered the “golden ratio” of leaves to water is one teaspoon of most tea leaves (approx. 2 grams) per 8 ounce cup of water. If your mug is larger, just adjust for the size of your cup and the size of the actual leaf. At the end of the day, perfection is less important than keeping an eye on the leaf size and adjusting based on your taste preferences.
Some like it hot! The ideal temperature depends on the tea. Use boiling water (212°F) when preparing Black, dark Oolong and Herbal teas. These teas are tough, they can take the burn. They even require it in order to break down the leaf and release the flavor and antioxidants. However, it’s important to use cooler water when steeping more delicate teas, such as Green, green Oolong and White teas. Water that is too hot will cause a delicate tea to taste overly bitter. Water that is too cool will cause a tea to taste flavorless and weak. If you don’t have a thermometer or a teapot with a temperature control, you’ll typically find that boiling water that is allowed to sit for 5 minutes will have dropped to roughly 180°F.
They say that “time heals all wounds.” However, it makes most teas turn bitter. You will want to experiment with 3-5 minutes for most black teas, depending on your preference for strength. Any longer, and they’ll become too strong. Dark oolong and white teas are much more forgiving. These teas will taste best when steeped for 3-5 minutes but will still be drinkable if steeped a little longer. For light oolong and green teas, a little TLC must be employed, steeping for only 2 minutes – 3 if you’re looking for a strong cup. Most high quality teas come with steeping instructions that include the time and temperature for optimum brewing. If you are in doubt, make sure to ask your tea supplier.
The proper equipment is also very important in the steeping process. When hot water is added, tea leaves can unfurl up to 5 times their dry size. So to make a great tea you need to give your leaves some leg room. If using an infuser basket, make sure it extends deep into the cup or mug you are using.
It almost goes without saying that, to make the perfect cup of tea, there is one more prerequisite: good tea. Buy the best that is within your budget. Keep it fresh, too; don’t stockpile tea for next year’s holiday, for example. Enjoy your fresh tea within 6 months or so. It will make a noticeable difference. The perfect cup is out there… just brew it!