Many of you have been waiting for Part II of the There’s a Tea for YOU series and you’ll enjoy this one. Part I addresses embracing the types of teas and infusions that work with your beverage styles and personality. Today I will delve into the overwhelm of approaching tea if you haven’t drank any in a while, and will offer some advice in choosing the perfect tea for YOU.
Our First Focus: What and How You will be Drinking
When first considering tea, it is imperative to decide what and how you will be drinking. Being prepared helps remove some of the frustration in figuring out what exactly you want. Will you be drinking tea for medicinal purposes? Will you be serving tea at your next picnic or party? Perhaps you are beginning to swap your coffee habit with a less adrenally-taxing alternative.
Approach your local tea provider (whether its a purveyor, the tea section of your grocery store, or an urban chic tea boutique) with this in mind. If you are seeking a coffee alternative, know that you’ll be looking for bitter oolong to black teas. If you are looking for a light, floral, fruity flavor that will make a killer sweet iced tea, keep in mind what flavors you’ll like. For lighter, less bitter teas, go for white or green.
If you are brewing kombucha at home and are looking for teas to ferment, stick to any real true teas (those from the Camellia Sinensis plant), and if you are just beginning your kombucha pursuits, go for an oolong or black tea.
Our Second Focus: Loose Leaf vs Tea Bags?
Loose leaf teas produce (in my professional opinion) a more flavorful, higher quality infusion. More of the oils from the plant matter are released into your tea. Many tea bags are bleached or chemically treated, wherein it’s possible for some of these chemicals to leach into your infusion. It is better to stick to loose leaf teas for the best infusions.
If you are a highly convenience- oriented, on the go- type individual, then by all means, go for a tea pre-bagged. Fill your travel mug with hot water and a tea bag, and you’ve got instant refreshment on your way out the door.
For coffee drinker- converts, try doubling the standard amount of tea suggested for a serving, for a stronger, bolder, more bitter flavor. If you’re the on- the- go- always type, place 3 bags of black tea into your coffee mug (instead of coffee), fill with hot water, and add a bit of cream add sugar to taste, and you’ll still be able to satisfy the need for caffeine.
Though a tea ball (also called an infuser or strainer) is a big convenience when it comes to producing drinkable tea from steeped leaves, it’s not necessary. Be creative, have fun! A clever tip: use nothing at all! Heat water to optimal tea temperatures (as indicated on the particular tea packaging of your choice herbal blend), and simply add the tea directly to the hot water! When it has finished steeping, pour off the tea into your cup or mug and compost the discarded, cashed leaves.
Another clever tip: Add hot water to a martini shaker. BE SURE TO WRAP A TOWEL AROUND THE STRAINER BEFORE PICKING IT UP because it will be VERY HOT. DO NOT BURN YOUR FINGERS. Use only a stainless steel martini strainer. Add a couple of teaspoons of loose leaf tea, cover, let sit for 5-10minutes, then strain into your cup!
To recap, to reduce confusion and frustration when tea shopping, we must first
- Know what we want out of our tea.
- Know whether we want convenience (tea bags) or quality (loose leaf).
- Know how we’re going to steep it when we get home.