{A Little Tea Love} So, You Want to Get Started With Loose Leaf Tea? Here’s How!

The other day, I was planning what to post on the blog for this week. I already had a few bookish posts in the works but other than my last few week’s Book & A Cuppa posts, I really haven’t had very many tea posts on the blog. What’s a girl to do? Head to Twitter to ask what to write about when it comes to tea!

I asked: I’d like to write a tea post for next week … What should I write about though?

kelsey tea trish tea

From the two people who answered, it was easy what to write about … how to get started with loose leaf tea!

When it comes to tea, it helps to know the difference between loose leaf tea and the tea you find in tea bags. Lots of people drink their tea using tea bags and don’t really see what the big deal is about loose leaf tea. I like to use this little visual to show a BIG difference.

tea bag vs loose leaf

Each sample in the image shows enough tea for one 8-ounce cup of tea. Which one looks more appealing? If you say the one on the right, then I agree with you!

On the left is some decaf Earl Grey that I had in my cupboard (the tea I used to drink) and on the right is some tea from a bag of Steeped Tea’s Earl Grey de la Creme, my current favourite black tea! Both are samples for one 8-ounce cup of tea.

Can you see the difference?

The loose leaf tea is so much more vibrant, has full leaves, AND, if you had smell-o-vision, you’d totally fall in love with the smell. The tea bag doesn’t really have a smell, but the Earl Grey de la Creme? AMAZING. If you could put a smell in a candle for me to smell all day long, that would be one of my top scents (I’d put that up with the Maple Bacon candle I found at Michaels one day … I think the tea candle would be better since it would SUCK to smell bacon all day and not get to eat it).

The tea “leaves” in the tea bag aren’t even leaves at all! Here’s where they come from …

Each bag of loose leaf tea needs about 2,000 leaves (all of which are hand picked!). Once those leaves are picked, rolled, oxidized, and heated, they’re packaged into large bags, then what’s left is put into those little tea bags you use. Basically, what you’re getting is what’s at the bottom of the barrel, or the tea “dust” — not a leaf at all! In fact, you don’t even know if you’re getting the leaf, the stem, or the colouring. All of the flavour of the tea is in the oils of the leaf, so when you steep your leaves, you’re releasing those oils, giving your cup of tea a delicious flavour!

Different teas also go through different processes, too. A white tea, for example, is picked and heated to dry immediately, keeping the integrity of the leaf, whereas an oolong tea is continuously rolled and oxidized — sometimes for months! — to give it a nice, smooth, and delicious flavour. When you’re drinking loose leaf tea, it really is amazing to learn what it takes to make just one cup of tea!

Do you feel like you know a little bit more about tea now? Great!

Now … when it comes to making the perfect cup of loose leaf tea, there are some people out there who might think it’s just too much work! But once you get the hang of it, it’s not a lot of work at all! Here are my basic guidelines for making the perfect cup of tea:

ps of perfect tea

To expand:

  1. Perfect water = The perfect water for your tea should be fresh, cold water. When you boil your water, you don’t want to reboil it. Boiling it the first time changes the properties of the water, so you’d be changing the properties of the water again by reboiling and that can affect the taste of your tea. You also have to remember that green and white tea leaves are a lot more delicate than other teas, so you can’t use boiling water on them. What I do is boil my water, pour it into my cup, let it sit for 5 minutes, and then add my green or white tea leaves. (Tip: Add your tea leaves AFTER adding your water to your cup or teapot — you’ll get less tea particles in your tea that way!)
  2. Perfect amount of tea = The perfect amount of tea leaves for the amount of water you’re using. Instead of just guessing and scooping out some tea into your infuser (which is what I did before learning more about tea), make sure you’re using the right amount of tea! For an 8 ounce cup you’ll use, for example, 1.5 tsp of white tea leaves, or 1 tsp of black tea leaves. If you have a mug that’s 16 ounces (which is the size of a lot of mugs these days!), you’ll have to double the amount of tea used.
  3. Perfect steeping time = Well, the perfect steeping time! Do you ever hear people who say they don’t like tea because it’s bitter? That’s probably because they’re steeping it too long! White, black, green, oolong, and pu’erh teas all come from the Camellia Sinensus plant. When you’re steeping them, you want to make sure you’re steeping for the proper amount of time — if you steep for a longer amount of time, you’ll release the tannins from the leaves and the tea will go bitter (likewise if you add a green or white tea to boiling water). A tea like a rooibos or fruit tea (which don’t come from the Camellia Sinensus plant), might handle being steeped longer because there are no tannins to be released. So, for example, a green or black tea should only be steeped for 2 minutes, whereas a rooibos can be steeped for 6 minutes. PLUS, certain teas can be steeped multiple times! A green tea can be steeped up to three times and a rooibos twice. Follow all of the instructions above and you’ll have a perfect cup every time!

So if you’re just starting with loose leaf tea, I suggest getting an infuser and some loose leaf tea (if you’re in Canada, I can definitely hook you up!). Use all of those P’s above and just have fun! When it comes to loose leaf, there is so much variety to choose from! Steeped Tea has over 100 different flavours of tea, for example, from black tea to green tea to oolong tea to pu’ehr tea and so many flavours in between … there’s really something for everyone! Start simple with a few different flavours and I promise that you’ll never go back to tea bags! The best part of loose leaf tea is learning more about it and finding that perfect cup for you!

Are you a loose leaf tea drinker? Do you have any tips for someone who wants to get started with loose leaf?

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{A Little Tea Love} Tea — It’s not just your grandma’s drink!

The other day, I was throwing a tea party. While one of my hosts talked about the teapot they wanted, a friend commented, “Oh, okay, grannie.” The comment blew me away!

Did you know that tea is the #2 most consumed beverage just under water? It’s popular in so many cultures and yet some people still see it as a drink only for grandmothers or the Queen.

hawa-ya-doin'

First of all, let’s consider all of the benefits of tea. The Japanese have been drinking tea for hundreds of years because of its benefits and those have crossed over into North American culture. Tea is wonderful for weight loss and it’s full of antioxidants. Herbal teas — also known as tisanes — have been around forever and are still used as a natural way to cure common ailments. Tired? Why not try some chamomile tea! Feeling nauseated? How about a tea with ginger! Ate too much? Try a tea with mint!

Then there’s the fact that we all want our kids to be healthy, yet juice and flavoured milk is such a big thing in their world. If someone told you that you should give them tea, you’d probably say they were crazy because of caffeine, right? But there are plenty of teas that DON’T have caffeine that are perfect for kids! Rooibos tea is naturally sweet, naturally caffeine free, and is full of healthy antioxidants. Fruit tea is perfectly sweet and wonderful iced — a great option to keep in the fridge when your kids want something other than water. Heck, I keep a jug or two of fruit tea in the fridge to sip on during the day since I also get bored with plain water. It’s a great thirst quencher!

Toffee Crunch

And think of the variety of tea! It’s not just plain ol’ Earl Grey or Orange Pekoe tea. There are so many wonderful flavours out there, something for everyone. If you’re looking for something strong, try an Irish Breakfast. If you’re looking for an after dinner tea, why not After Eight? The options are endless! Plus, it’s always great to watch your tea steeping in a clear teapot or iced tea jug — I just love watching the tea steep out of the leaves!

So the next time someone calls you a grannie for wanting to get a new teapot, why not tell them all the great things about tea? How it’s not just made for older people or the queen and how it can benefit everyone? Or why not invite them in for a cup and show them how great tea can be? Once you make them that perfect cup, I guarantee you’ll have a tea loving friend!

What are your thoughts on tea? Do you agree that it’s not just your grandma’s beverage?

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{A Little Tea Love} Dark Chocolate Chai Sugar Cookies

Guys, my house smells AMAZING.

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As you already know, I love chai. It’s pretty evident in some of the baking I do, like these Dark Chocolate Chai-infused Scones, but while those were just infused with the tea, I knew that it would be an awesome idea to go all out and just grind the tea up and use it in a recipe.

My go-to recipe for using ground up tea?

Cookies!

This recipe is a little different from the Earl Grey tea cookies I’ve made, but they’re equally delicious. The Dark Chocolate Chai adds a spiciness that is balanced out by the sugar, and using the Perfect Cup Spoon as your measuring device, they turn into the perfect little morsels to accompany your afternoon cup of tea.

Dark Chocolate Chai Sugar Cookies

These will be a big hit at your next tea party or get together — and definitely a conversation piece since they’re made with tea! If you’re not a fan of the Dark Chocolate Chai, you could use any other ground up tea. Toffee Crunch or Creme Carmello would work nicely, too.

Enjoy!

Dark Chocolate Chai Sugar Cookies
Recipe adapted from Sweet Lavender Bake Shoppe

1/2 cup plus 2 tbsp sugar
1 tbsp brown sugar
1/2 cup butter (room temperature)
2 tbsp ground up Dark Chocolate Chai tea
1 1/2 cups flour
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp salt
1 egg
1 tsp vanilla

Sugar Topping: 
1/4 cup sugar
1/4 tsp ground up Dark Chocolate Chai tea
1/4 tsp vanilla

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

For the cookies: 
Cream together butter and sugars — add ground up Dark Chocolate Chai tea and mix well. Add in flour, baking soda, and salt and mix well. Add in egg and vanilla.

Using your perfect cup spoon, roll spoonfuls of batter into balls.

For the sugar topping: 
Mix together sugar, ground up Dark Chocolate Chai, and vanilla.

Roll balls in sugar mixture and place on a parchment paper lined baking sheet. Bake about 10 minutes or until cookies have risen and tops have started to crack. Let them cool slightly before removing to cool completely on a wire rack.

Makes about 45 perfect cup spoon sized cookies. Store in an airtight container.

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