Tea is awesome. Tea tastes good, it's good for your body, and it's just goood for your soul, especially in 20 degree weather. I once read a quote that said "drinking tea is like taking a bath on the inside," which pretty much hits the nail on the head. (I also drink tea in the bath to maximize that bath-goodness feeling.)
The world of loose leaf tea is both magical and daunting: it leaves a lot more room for error, but if you do it right, it's the bomb. You might be thinking "this seems like work and I don't want to do more work just to drink some tea." Well, you are wrong, because there are a few things that loose leaf tea has going for it that bagged tea doesn't:
- Loose leaf tea varieties are comprised of dried whole leafs and buds, and are often hand picked from the best part of the tea plants. These parts have top flavor and top nutritional benefits. Tea bags are filled with "tea dust," which includes ground up twigs and bitter leaves. (Yeah, I'm not feeling twigs at 7am.)
- The flavor keeps longer when you use the whole leaf. Like a fine wine, it matures and opens in flavor over the course of the cup, resulting in complex flavors. With a tea bag, it's basically boom and bust-- a simple flavor at the beginning, and then nada.
- More bang for your buck: you can actually steep a teaspoon of black tea up to 7 times. A teabag is a one-and-done type deal.
- Tea bags can have plastic on them, which can then leach into the hot water. Also, paper tea bags may be bleached or treated with chemicals.
Great, so now you're a loose leaf tea convert with no tea brewing skills. Here come the skills! Take notes.
1. Buy high quality tea with no preservatives
As I mentioned, you can steep a teaspoon up to 7 times, so you can splurge a bit more on loose leaf tea. Top dollar doesn't mean top quality, so make sure you're getting tea without preservatives or additives. Here's a cautionary tale: I'm a sucker when it comes to (a) weird flavors and (b) pun names, so once I bought a billion and a half teas from this cool tea shop that featured weird flavors with pun names. When I started drinking the tea, I was getting these insane migraines. I eventually figured out why this was happening: every flavor was packed with fake sugar and 2fake flavor additives. Go for a trusted source with high quality leaves. (I made a widget of my favorite teas on Amazon, most are from Davidson's. You can also try to dry your own leaves if you're tea-riffic at stuff like that.)
2. Use 2-3 teaspoons of tea leaves for your cup
Some brewing instructions will tell you to infuse 1 teaspoon, but this won't cut it. Here's an article about why people think Teavana's teas tastes diluted when they make them at home-- it's because when brewing samples, Teavana employees use about 3x the recommended amount of tea per 8oz to really make the flavors pop. I've tried different amounts with many different types of tea, and 2-3 tsp is my happy place per cup. Follow the instructions for steeping times though-- those are for real. If you leave the tea in too long, it can become bitter, which is neither fun nor delicious.
3. Invest in a tea infuser
Hello, this is my Manatea. He's a silicon tea influser. Tea infusers come in a bunch of different materials (metal, silicone, etc.) I dig this one because it's a manatee in my cup and I need a lil pick me up at 7am. I also like the silicone because I think sometimes metal leaves a metallic taste (I don't know why, this could totally only be me). But anyways, this makes life easy for you when you're brewing.
4. Get your tea temperature right... (if you feel like being precise)
The temperature of tea actually affects the tea, but let's be real: You don't need to get crazy with it, because it's a cup of tea, not a science experiment. If you feel like becoming a master tea brewer, here's a quick cheat sheet:
- 175 degrees for White and Green Tea
- 195 degrees for Oolong and Black Tea (Black can go all the way up to 205, FYI)
- 208 degrees for Mate, Roobios, and Herbal Tea
5. Books love tea and tea loves books
Books and tea go together. So grab a book and grab some qualiTEA leaves and have an awesome day.