All you need to know about tea

My friends all know I’m a tea drinker. When it comes down to it, I’m really just a tea snob.

After all: life’s too short to drink bad tea.

all about tea

So, let’s talk tea. You probably already know it’s good for you. It’s a great option for anyone who can’t drink coffee or wants to reduce caffeine intake. A cup of black tea has only about 25% of the caffeine of a cup of coffee; green teas usually have even less caffeine.

To start with, let’s get some terminology straightened out. Tea is made from the leaves of the camelia sinesis plant. Whether it’s black, oolong, green, or white is based on how long it is processed and/or oxidized. Herbal “teas” aren’t truly teas; they are tisanes. These would include any sort of herbal blend, and many of these are naturally caffeine free.

Part of my tea-snobbishness means I almost always drink loose-leaf tea. It’s usually higher quality, with typical bagged teas being the tiny bits left over. The exception is pyramid bags (like Harney and Sons), which offer good quality in a more convenient package — but they do cost more per cup than loose leaf.

How to brew loose-leaf tea:

You’ll need a method of heating water, a mug or pot to brew it in, and an infuser to hold your tea leaves so you don’t have them floating in your cup. {I’m in love with my electric kettle, similar to this one; I’ve used it daily for years!}

Use one teaspoon of dry tea leaves per cup — or more, depending on the tea and your preferences. Place the leaves in your infuser, put the infuser in your mug or teapot, and pour hot water over the leaves. Water temperature is important! For black tea and herbals, it should be boiling (212 degrees); for green or white tea it must be hot but NOT boiling (usually about 180 degrees).

how to brew tea

Let it steep about 3 minutes. Again, this varies according to the type of tea. Herbals often need 10-15 minutes. Black teas 3-5 minutes. Read the suggestions on your package of tea. Do not oversteep because most teas will be adversely affected if you do.

Remove the infuser and set aside; your tea is ready to enjoy! Most teas can hold up to two rounds of steeping, sometimes more, so it’s more economical than it may seem at first.

Tea recommendations:

tea cabinet

The varieties are endless, and with loose-leaf tea, you can even make your own blends!

If you’re a coffee drinker trying to make the switch, or simply like a more robust beverage, try black tea, pu-erh (an aged variety), or mate (something like this one).

Any of the teas above will hold up well to milk/cream or a bit of sugar or honey, if that’s your thing. I’d never had milk in my tea until our trip to Africa, and since then, it’s the only way I like my black tea. I recommend adding the least amount of sweetener possible for any tea, partly because I feel it masks the true flavor, and partly because it takes away from some of the health benefits of tea.

For a basic green, best with nothing at all added, I enjoy simple teas like genmai, sencha, or sleeping dragon.

Many people enjoy floral blends like this jasmine one. Personally, I can’t handle anything floral or fragrant; it feels like drinking perfume. But I’m also one of those people who can’t wear perfume or scented lotions and gets an instant headache if I’m around people who do, so I’m in the minority.

Oolongs are a happy medium between green and black teas. I love them.

And then there are the herbals. These seem relatively easy to find in local stores, but I also like the selections on David’s. If you are pregnant or nursing, or have any sort of health condition, make sure you research ingredients in herbal blends to make sure they are not contraindicated for you. Example: if you have ragweed allergies, you may want to avoid chamomile; it can also sometimes aggravate asthma.

More tea goodness:

I even have a Pinterest board dedicated it:

Follow Jamie Worley’s board time for tea on Pinterest.

Are you a tea drinker? What’s your favorite variety, or your favorite place to buy/order?