To a Tea

January 25, 2013 CookingServiceVanilla Life  12 comments

I post so much about tea that I thought I would expound on it because, well, because I can.

I did a tea portion of a class before a formal Leather dinner and it was, apparently, a revelation to a lot of people, so maybe it will have some value here, too.

Tea is a lovely beverage.  It is the second most consumed drink in the world, after water.

Experts say tea provides as many disease-fighting flavonoids antioxidants as fruits or vegetables.

Antioxidants are naturally occurring chemicals that promote a healthier immune system.

White tea contains the most antioxidants, followed by green tea. Black tea undergoes a fermentation process, which severely decreases its antioxidant content (though it still has more than coffee).

Additionally, tea contains a lot of other natural compounds that promote health, including vitamins C, D and K, amino acids and fluoride.

Tea has a long history of ceremony around it.  According to the records, tea was first introduced to Japan from China in the early ninth century by Japanese Buddhist monks.

According to the evolution of the tea ceremony, which you can read in its entirety here, “Powdered tea is used only in the Japanese tea ceremony (chanoyu), which was created in the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries in the midst of Japan’s samurai-dominated medieval age (1185-1568). It is green powdered tea, which is scooped into a rather large bowl and whipped into a frothy, bitter-tasting drink with hot water poured from a kettle.”

While coffee has some of the same health benefits as tea, most health professionals agree that more than two or three cups a day is excessive and is bad for your teeth, reduces the flow of blood to your heart, can cause headaches, indigestion and constipation, and also increases blood pressure. Coffee has even been linked to greater frequencies of sterility in men.

So, in general, tea is better for you than coffee.

My information is from here, but basically all tea comes from the Camellia sinensis plant. What makes each tea different is the way it has been processed.

Tea can be classified according to the amount of processing that goes into the final product.

Black tea goes through the most processing, and is actually fermented.

White tea leaves are the youngest and most tender leaves that are much more rare because they are only harvested at certain times of the year. After harvest, the young tea leaves are fired immediately before any oxidation can occur which results sweeter and naturally mild product.

Because of the use of only select leaves, white tea tends to be more expensive than other tea.

Green tea is produced by preventing oxidation from occurring. The harvested leaves are initially steamed, which stops the fermentation process, before being fired. As it has been for centuries, green tea is the beverage of choice in many Asian countries.

Studies indicate that green tea may be more healthful than other varieties as well.

Let me make a statement that for me, herbal tea is not tea.

It is, in fact, an anathema and an abomination.  Ick.

I like flavored teas, but I’m particular about the flavor.  No mint.  No apple.  No pumpkin.  No chocolate.

I’m lukewarm about vanilla.

I like berry flavors, though not usually strawberry.  I like citrus, but I prefer grapefruit over orange.

Earl Gray is disgusting.  Might as well pour perfume into a perfectly good pot of tea.

Decent tea is worth the price.

If you don’t drink tea but you’d like to have tea around for others, buy a tin of decent English or Irish breakfast tea.

Notice I said tin, not box.

Tea gets stale much faster in a cardboard box, or a paper envelope.

I am quite fond of The Republic of Tea brand.  They run about $10-$14 for 50 tea bags or the equivalent of loose tea.  My longstanding favorite tea is their Blackberry Sage, which I have been drinking for, literally, more than 20 years, and a new variety which I’m also liking a LOT, a Rose Petal tea, with black tea blended with rose petals and buds.

It’s sold in a tin with a tight-fitting lid, meaning that the tea will stay fresh, even if you don’t use it for a long time, and it’s a good quality tea.

If you like coffee, you know that if you come to my house and I offer you coffee, you know that if I pull out an old bag of cheap coffee from the cupboard, one that’s not been sealed or stored in the freezer, or, worse yet, a jar of cheap instant coffee, you’re probably not going to get a decent cup of coffee.

You’ll likely say thanks but no thanks, and have a soda or a glass of water.

If you pull a half open box of Lipton tea from the cupboard, boil a mug of water in the microwave and dump the tea bag in it, then bring it to me with nowhere to get rid of the tea bag, I’m not going to get a very good cup of tea, either.

Water has to be boiled over a fire.  I don’t know what happens to water when you boil it in a microwave, but it does something.  It makes the water flat or something.  It’s disgusting.

I *love* an electric tea kettle.  I use this one, and yes, I know it’s expensive.  It’s worth every cent.

We use the tea kettle on average at least three or four times a day.  It boils water fast and, in my view, the best thing is, it turns itself off and I don’t have to think abut it again.  If you let water boil and boil, it loses oxygen and the tea isn’t nearly as good.  Like in a microwave, it tastes flat.

I boil water in the tea pot for pasta, too.  It’s faster and more efficient, and you KNOW slave drew is all about efficient use of energy.

If you wouldn’t drink your water in a glass with ice, then you probably don’t want to drink it boiled for tea, either.  I wouldn’t, anyway.

Louisville is very lucky, we have very good water, I don’t bother to filter it, it tastes fine straight from the tap.  If yours doesn’t, then you need to at least use water that’s gone through a filter.

Technically, green and white teas should be steeped with water JUST before it boils.  I do use fully boiled for all of it, unless I happen to be standing by the tea kettle.

Tea made in a mug is usually too strong.  We have three teapots, because we might have a pot of black tea and a pot of green all going at once.  One teabag makes one pot of tea.

Before you pour the boiling water in the teapot, you should rinse it out with warm water, so it’s not a cold pot.  You shouldn’t make tea in a silver or metal pot, because it will taste metallic.

Black tea is usually steeped for three to four minutes, green and white for one or two, but I’m really not a purist about that.  It depends on how strong the tea is.

If you’re using a tea bag, you’re supposed to take it out after that length of time, though I don’t bother most of the time.  If it’s very strong, or very black, I do take it out because it gets bitter.

If you’re a real tea drinker, too, you probably have a tea cozy, to put over the tea pot to keep it warm.

We have two.  One for black, one for green.

We do a lot of loose tea, too, and because of that, we do a lot of blends.  We have three or four tea infusers, the little cup of plastic and mesh that fits down in the pot to hold the tea leaves.  We use about a teaspoon of tea for a pot, maybe a bit more, depending.

I don’t like small cups, I like a big mug,  People who like big mugs tend to not want to refill it as often, people who like small cups really often hate cold tea.

I really dislike coffee, always have.  I have my own travel mugs for tea that are not EVER used for coffee, ever, ever, ever.  Once you’ve put coffee in a travel cup, it always smells of coffee.

I can’t make tea in a hotel room using the coffee pot, either, the water tastes disgusting.

I’ve been known to take a tea kettle with me to a hotel room.

I will warm a cup of tea in the microwave, but I don’t boil it.  I prefer not to have to, but I won’t turn my nose up at it.

Now, have I totally intimidated you so you’ll never make me tea?

12 comments to To a Tea

  • jade  says:

    i went to a Republic of Tea in south Florida many times. It was a lovely place and the people there were very willing to explain in great detail about each tea. You can sample and get an education, much like a wine-tasting. i had to stop going in when i got very excited about learning something new to the tune of 65 dollars on tea one day. i must say it was an utterly different and rich experience. When you were raised on Liptons unceremoniously dumped in a plastic mug you have no idea what you are really missing. Night and Day difference. i was very surprised to enjoy it so much because i’m a dedicated coffee drinker.

    So…no….i wouldn’t be put off from learning how to do it right. i do love a good challenge. The more steps, more routines, bigger challenge….the better it feels when you get it perfect. Seeing how serious you are about this tells me this is quite a gift you give to your slaves.

  • msconstanceexplains  says:

    I don’t think visiting Republic of Tea would be wise – or financially sensible – for me, but I would enjoy it. We have come to often buy tea as a souvenir in our travels. It’s a lovely reminder of a trip. We got a wonderful lavender green tea in San Francisco the last time we were there, a lovely pink grapefruit green tea in Chicago. And you’re right, mastering a challenging task is so much more satisfying.

  • ancilla_ksst  says:

    I’m a dedicated coffee drinker. All those studies on how coffee is bad for you have been disproven, I’m sure of it.
    I do also like tea, but coffee is the stuff of life.

    Master loves his tea, so that makes it important to me also.

  • ancilla_ksst  says:

    His favorite is Earl Grey, but he also has this white tea that his mom brought him from China which is just delicious.

  • ancilla_ksst  says:

    Ok, I’m an idiot for making a zillion separate comments, but we have special RO drinking water, which is to be used for tea, no exceptions. No tap water.

    • MsConstanceExplains  says:

      I am certain you’re not an idiot, in any way, and I have some tea brought to me from China, too, though it hasn’t rocked my world, but I haven’t tried it for a while – I should try it again.

  • monkey  says:

    Oh Ms. Constance, what a wonderful post. I was indoctrinated into the cult of Tea by not just one Grandmother, but two. I now have ALL their collective tea things. Blackberry sage has been my long time favorite as well, but I have to say, I disagree with you on the Earl Grey.

    • MsConstanceExplains  says:

      Some people like Earn Gray, or Lady Gray, and for me, that bergomot is just yucky. It just tastes too much of perfume for me, and in some ways, it’s odd because I really like fruity and floral teas, but the Earl Gray just doesn’t work for me.

      My mother was not a tea drinker at all, and it’s been the last five or six years that slave drew and I have particularly become tea snobs. We have a ridiculous amount of tea – probably 40 different kinds, but there always seem to be six or eight that we particularly love.

  • Wordwytch  says:

    Ah…. I would gleefully make you a cup of tea. I lived in England for 10 years and learned to appreciate a good cuppa. I have my electric kettle and love it. I have a tea cozy too, to keep the pot warm.

    While herbal ‘teas’ are not always as good, I grew up drinking Red Zinger Tea, and when I’m ill, it is still one of my favorites. Wolf introduced me to Blackcurrent tea. A Russian delight. Heavenly stuff.

    • MsConstanceExplains  says:

      I’m actually not as much of a Nazi as I am thought. There are a few things that matter, but honestly, if you have good tea and boil the water right, I’m probably pretty happy. I took a lot of different tins of tea, green tea, black tea, white tea, flavored teas, etc., and it was really interesting to see people smelling the different kinds of tea and you could SEE this enlightenment on their face, and they GOT why tea mattered. If all you’ve ever had is Lipton tea, good tea is a revelation.

      • Wordwytch  says:

        LOL! I understand. 🙂 I somehow figure that Lipton is revenge for dumping all that lovely tea in the harbor all those years ago.

        I treasure the moments when I can sniff and then select a loose leaf tea to savor.

  • Craig Bunting  says:

    Excellent expose’ on teas. I’m impressed by the details of origin and techniques needed to have a lovely cuppa. Love you

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