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?
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.
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:
- 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!)
- 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.
- 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?