Getting started with tea
By kborowsky May 7th, 2018
How to get started with loose tea
Congratulations, you are making a healthy and wise choice to not only begin drinking tea, but loose tea. You will appreciate the more variety and higher quality loose tea has to offer. However, the sheer size of the selection may overwhelm some people new to loose tea. But luckily you are reading this, and we'll offer you expert advice on how start your adventure.
Part One - Equipment needed to make tea
Some people automatically think loose tea is harder, when in reality it is not. But having the right equipment is key to making your experience easier and more enjoyable.
You'll need a way to make hot water. The most common is a stove top or electric water kettle. It doesn't really matter which unless it gets your water hot. We do not recommend microwave ovens (yes, there are some cases where you don't have a choice). The hot water dispensers found in water coolers aren't always that hot. Some teas prefer BOILING water, which those dispensers cannot reach.
Some teas require boiling water, such as black tea. Others call for cooler temperatures like green tea. If you do not have a thermometer, don't work. Allow the water to boil and let the water cool for a few minutes. Another option is to allow the water to heat up until you have a good amount of steam (you'll hear the water sizzle).
Loose Tea Bags
We are all familiar with tea bags. Well, you can use specially designed tea bags for loose tea as well. Just scoop the tea right in the bag and use it the same way you would a tea bag. The bags are extra deep and the tea sinks down, so you don't have to worry about leaves getting all over your cup. Using this method, the only thing you need is a cup. The main disadvantage is that you'll eventually need to buy more bags.
Using a dedicated infuser limits waste and you'll be able to reuse the infuser over and over again.
An entry level solution is a tea ball or pincer style tea spoon. These are the lowest cost permanent solutions, however there are a few disadvantages.
- The size of the ball is small, so you wont be able to make a lot of tea
- Also the size is not compatible with certain teas because they require a lot of room to expand
- The mesh size may allow particles of some teas through
A basket infuser sits in a pot or cup and provides the largest amount of room for your tea to expand in. The holes in the mesh are also very fine which prevents the particles of certain teas from coming through. This is our recommended solution when not brewing in a dedicated pot.
Tea pot, tea cup, or tumbler
Many dedicated tea pots, tea cups and tumblers already contain built in basket infusers. This makes it easy if you want a dedicated unit to brew your perfect pot or cup of tea for both home or on-the-go consumption.
Choosing loose leaf tea
This is the hard part for some. Where to start off? If you are coming off coffee or soda, be aware that coffee has a bold flavor, and soft drinks tend to be loaded with sugar. Making the move over to tea means adjusting your taste buds, and for this reason we don't advise new drinkers to jump head first into the most exotic blends if their palette is not trained.
Another way to choose loose tea is by what time of the day you are drinking it. But regardless, we highly recommend trying samples of as many teas as possible. Keep notes on what you like or don't like. As you become accustomed to tea, you may wind up revisiting teas that you didn't care for previously, but now enjoy.
Flavored versus Pure
Some people have different opinions about this, and that's why we offer both pure and flavored teas. Flavored teas are an excellent way to introduce yourself to tea. Most of the time, the title or description of the tea will let you know what to expect. So go ahead, try a Salted Chocolate Caramel or Pomegranate Grape tea if that sounds good to you.
Wake up with breakfast teas
Many customers prefer the bold taste of black tea in the morning. Any breakfast blend is recommended. Breakfast blends are strong, and they take milk and sweeteners well.
Besides breakfast teas, there are other pure black teas from different regions of the world. A tea from Assam, India is going to be vastly different than Fujian, China. We recommend trying a small selection and working your way through the catalog. Black teas also come in many flavors.
Like black tea, green tea also comes in pure and flavored versions. Pure green teas from Japan tend to have 'unami' - that is a brothy and vegetal flavor. The Chinese varieties can vary from clean and crisp to nutty. Gunpowder, Sencha and Dragonwell are some of pure varieties we recommend.
Many people go to green tea for high levels of anti-oxidants. Purple tea has the same levels, if not more of the powerful anti-oxidants found in tea. It's relatively new and comes in both flavored and pure varieties.
Oolong is perhaps the most mis-understood, and because it's not mass produced it isn't found on many store shelves. But we urge you to give it a try. Oolong is in between green and black tea. Some blends are closer to green, such as Jade Oolong or closer to black, such as Darjeeling Oolong. These are ideal 'mid-day' teas.
Rooibos (pronounced roy-bus), also known as red tea and honeybush are both from South Africa. They are considered herbal, have a natural sweetness and also are caffeine free. While both teas can be purchased in pure form, the flavored varieties tend to be popular. These are great teas to have before bed.
Another category is fruit teas, also called tisanes. These teas have no actual tea in them, but are comprised of fruits, berries and other ingredients like hibiscus and rose hips. They tend to be tart, caffeine free and make delicious iced teas.
There are a wide variety of herbal teas. Most are caffeine free. Peppermint is a simple and common example of an herbal tea. But most herbal teas are blended with a variety of ingredients. Some may have specific functions, like helping you get better sleep or boost your immune system, while others are formulated for more energy or as general health tonics. All of them contain ingredients that are beneficial in one way or another. Teas like Calming, Balancing, Total Body and Purple Mountain are all excellent choices.
These fermented teas are becoming more popular due to their unique flavor and health benefits. This is one tea where we recommend new drinkers start off with flavored versus pure. Our recommendation is Scottish Caramel, Superfruit or Coconut Cacao.
Matcha tea is a ground up form of tea that is dissolved in water. If you are new to matcha, we recommend starting off with a flavored version. The pure versions come in two styles, one being the ceremonial style which is made of higher quality leaves. Matcha can be consumed both hot or iced, and can also be added to other beverages such as smoothies.
Brewing the tea
All the teas contain brewing instructions. It's simply 3 steps:
1 - Heat water to desired temperature
2 - Measure the amount of tea you need (we like to add extra when making pots)
3 - Pour the water over the tea and wait for the desired time, remove the tea
Over time you'll notice some teas don't require as much tea, or allow you to re-use the leaves for a 2nd steep. Some teas are forgiving while other teas are more by the book. If your cup is too strong or bitter, it either means you used too much tea, too much time, hotter water than recommended or a combination of the above.