unwrapping the mystery of tea – preparing loose leaf teas
There is nothing to fear, but fear itself. I don’t remember who first said that, and I can’t tell you how many times people have said, I’m afraid I will ruin it. I just don’t know how to prepare loose leaf tea. All those water temperatures, and what if I leave it steeping too long?
Tea was never meant to be stressful, nor is the process of preparing tea supposed to be stressful. I believe in Just Tea, the process, the enjoyment and the depth of the experience. I don’t have to be in a fancy teahouse, I much prefer my own deck, with the leaves swaying in the winds and the warmth from my cup as I hold it in both hands, the aroma settling around me.
Let’s face it, how many of us are going to know the exact temperature of our water when we pour it over the tender tea leaves? How many? Will we know whether it is 180 F or 190F or 205? No, not unless we have one of those awesome electric hot water containers that heats it to a certain set temperature and then maintains it at that temp for the rest of the day. I have one, and I used to use it all the time, back when I managed a guest ranch, and there were guests coming in all day long wanting hot tea, but that was then. Now it is just me, drinking a few cups of tea a day, and that pot is no longer practical for me. I’m into simplicity. Just simple living and simple and delicious teas.
So, instead of fretting over all of these temperatures, and all the do’s and don’ts, let’s look at the real essentials of a great cup or pot of tea.
A clean teapot. Clean is the key to all things heavenly. There are so many styles to pick from. On our ‘everything else tea’ page, you will find some bright colored ceramic pots that are perfect for a couple of cups of tea. Just the perfect size and easy to clean, with a stainless basket to hold your precious leaves.
A delicious, loose leaf tea. Always remember with just about every tea that I sell, you can get more than one infusion out of the leaves. Just steep the second infusion a little longer than the first.
How much Tea is the right amount? A safe place to start would be to add 1 tsp of tea (about 4 grams) for 8 oz of water. My personal ‘rule of thumb’ is a well-rounded tsp for me, and one for the pot. This has served me well. If a large pot is being used and two or three people are having tea, then a tsp for each one, plus one for the pot. As for teas, there are so many to choose from, and on this site, since you are here already, I have several delicious teas to offer. I also have samples for sale, just small amounts of different teas and blends, so you can pick which ones you really like. All of our teas are organic but not certified, except those that have added flavors. They are not organic.
Water – PURE FILTERED WATER. Unless you live by a pure mountain stream where you are assured the water is pure, then filter your water. Nothing makes for a worse cup of tea than water laced with chlorine and minerals and who knows what else. DO NOT MICROWAVE THE WATER. Either put a teapot on the stove and bring it to a boil, or if time is of the essence, stick your cup or teapot under the spout of your Kurig. I do this sometimes, and it works beautifully, but I do try to generally give myself time to turn on the teapot and boil my water.
As with anything else, know that the steeping time for me will undoubtedly be different than for many others. We all have our little likes and dislikes, and that’s the way it should be. So here is a general rule of thumb. Use these only as a guide, and you decide what works for you. Most of the teas I have on this site, do not take long to steep, and can be re-steeped two or three times more. Just make the water a little hotter the next time, and steep it maybe a minute longer each time.
White and Green Teas – 1.5 - 3 minutes
Black Teas – 1.5 – 3 minutes
Pu-erhs – This is a fermented tea and although those that are flavored should not be flushed/rinsed unless you want a milder flavor, the unflavored ones should be flushed (2012 Nannuo Homemade Shou and with this tea, please use twice the amount of leaves.) Just pour the hot water over the tea, and then pour off. Then add water and steep for maybe 30 seconds, some may want it a little bit more. Remember to re-steep the Pu-erhs two or three times more.
Herbal Teas – 2 - 4 minutes. Some people think much longer, but I haven’t had that experience.
Our Hearty Chai – I've tried about everyone's Chai, and always come away disappointed. I hated all the sugar and I never could find one with real depth to the experience. So I made it myself from wonderful spices and herbs, and no need for sugar. One must remember that it takes at least 5 min of simmering for the spices to release their aromas and flavors. So there are two ways in which to prepare this tea:
1. Put two mugs full of water in a saucepan and bring to a boil. Add 1 heaping TBSP of Chai to the water, turn it to simmering and let it simmer for about 5-6 minutes. Drain the tea into the mug, leaving the spices in the saucepan for another use. Then add milk.
2. Or, as I like to do. On our ‘everything else…tea’ page, you will find some wonderful paper tea filters. They come 100 to a box. They are excellent for Chai and for 'to go' cups. You never have to be without your favorite tea, and find yourself having to use a teabag, the only offering at the hotel breakfast. I put a heaping TBSP of Chai spices into one of these filters, and after bringing the water to a boil, I drop it in, hang the bag over the edge of the pot, put a lid on it, and let it simmer for about 5 or 6 minutes. Then just lift the teabag out, and save it for the next batch of tea. Although I use steamed almond milk for my chai, my Dad, who is almost 90, loves his with whipping cream on top. If you want you milk frothed and you don't have a fancy coffee machine to do it with, just warm the milk and then use a French Press, and plunge up and down until the milk is thick and frothy. It works beautifully.
More than anything, test the waters, be curious and discover what really works for you, and above all, just enjoy a great cup of tea.
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