All You’ve Ever Wanted to Know About Tea and THEN SOME!

All You’ve Ever Wanted to Know About Tea and THEN SOME!

Have you ever wondered what the big deal is about tea? Can't seem to brew a cuppa that you enjoy? Here's everything you've ever wanted to know all about brewing tea and then some!
By Meg Bateman, Contributing Writer

I love tea. I’ve never really been a fan of coffee, except for a short period of my life where a Keurig took up residency in our kitchen. (Please, whatever you do – DO NOT brew tea with your Keurig!)

I’m not sure when my love for tea started, but one of my favorite stories about my great-grandmother involves the proper making of tea. My great-grandparents and grandparents moved to the states from England in the 1950s. One day, after settling in Southern California, my great-grandmother decided to walk down to the bus stop to go off and see a friend. While she waited for the bus, she went into a restaurant and asked for a cup of tea.

The rest is the stuff of nightmares for us tea purists. The waitress filled the teapot with warm tap water, and swirled a teabag around in the water with her fingers. When she offered it to my great-grandmother, I’m told she said something along the lines of, “My dear, I don’t think my definition of tea is the same as yours.” I imagine she looked something like a 1950’s Maggie Smith.

It’s a wonder she didn’t take the bus to LAX and go back to England after that!

Thankfully, brewing a great cup of tea doesn’t take much – just good quality tea and filtered water, brewed at the right temperature for the right amount of time. Really, it’s simple! And life changing, once you’ve brewed tea the right way – you’ll never go back to the bitter, badly flavored tea of your past. So here you go – everything you need to know about brewing tea!

The Leaves

Just like coffee purists proclaim freshly ground coffee to be the best, loose leaf teas really do make a good difference in the quality of your brew. That being said, I’m still not one to shy away from the ease of using teabags.

Loose leaf teas allow the tea to have all the room it needs to open up and unleash its flavorful beauty. The stuff you find in most teabags is known as tea dust. It’s the leftovers… and not very good. Pyramid teabags let you have the best of both worlds – full leaf teas without having to mess with infusers or strainers

There are three main types of teas, and then an almost unlimited of varieties among their buddies the tisanes, or herbal teas.

Black, green, and white teas are made from the actual tea leaf – their differences are in the oxidation process after harvesting. Much like coffees vary by roast.

Tisanes vary by pretty much anything edible that can be dried and brewed – chamomile, rooibos, mint, rose, fruits, holy basil, etc. The possibilities are endless.

Like produce, tea does run the risk of having not-so-good additives like pesticides and other agricultural chemicals. I stick to organic leaves, which thankfully are plentiful and inexpensive on Amazon. (I prefer Davidson’s and Zhena’s.)

The Tools

It really doesn’t take much more than filtered water, a teapot, and something to strain out the leaves if not using bags.

I have used a variety of infusers and teapots over the years. My favorite is my french press – it really doesn’t get much easier than the humble french press. There’s less residue, they’re versatile if you also drink coffee, and you can brew more at a time.

When it comes to more traditional infusers, I only like the ones made by ForLife – they catch almost all the bits, can be used in just about every cup, mug, or teapot. Other infusers tend to let a lot of tiny bits of tea out, or they’re not big enough for the leaves to really open up.

I also recommend an electric kettle for anyone who gets hooked on brewing tea – there’s no need to turn on the stove, and no risk of shattering glass like when heating water in a microwave. Plus, there are models that let you adjust the temperature based on what type of tea you’re brewing!

Brewing – where the magic happens! 

Every tea type has its own magic brew temperature and time. Stick to those numbers and you won’t end up with a lackluster cuppa. Tea not strong enough? Don’t brew it longer – add more tea!

For black tea and most tisanes, you’re going to use boiling water. Add your tea to your infuser first, then pour the boiling water over it, and wait patiently until time is up! Remove the tea, doctor up your cup how you like it, and enjoy!

For green and white teas, the magic is around 160F to 180F, and varies by the origin or type of the tea. I really like The Kitchn’s guides to brewing green tea and white tea.

Remember – brewing it too long will result in a bitter cup of tea, or “stewed tea” – so add more leaves if you want more flavor! I can’t say that often enough 🙂

And – if you’re worried about this new love for tea getting costly, don’t worry! You can brew the same leaves 2-3 times and experience a different flavor profile each time. With the dust from teabags, that isn’t really possible.

That’s just the basics, there’s SOOOO much more in the world of tea to fascinate you! Want to know even more? Check out some of my favorite tea-links:

Have you ever wondered what the big deal is about tea? Can't seem to brew a cuppa that you enjoy? Here's everything you've ever wanted to know all about brewing tea and then some!

Do you drink tea? What’s your favorite?

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  1. I love your story!! That’s fantastic 🙂
    I enjoy coffee and tea–coffee in the morning but tea is a must in the afternoon. I’ve done loose-leaf in many varieties of flavored tisanes and a few teas from Whole Foods (did you know that have a bulk tea section? It’s so fun to smell them all!) but never tried just plain black tea in loose leaf. Guess I should! I really like P.G. Tips black tea, and I love the lavender one from Zhena’s. I also really liked the organic Assam tea from The Tea Spot–it’s really mild assam and has a honey flavor. Off to check out Davidson’s that you recommended–always up for a new brand!

    1. Oh no! You’re enabling me too much!!! I haven’t tried that lavender one from Zhena’s – now I need to go find it! We’re addicted to their Mint Rose and Wildberry Hibiscus.

  2. This article was very interesting! I have just recently been bitten by the tea bug, and I have really been enjoying learning about it. 100% agreement on loose leaf tea! Wegmans has a nice bulk loose leaf tea section. I have a IngenuiTEA brewer that I love! Right now my favorite tea in Peppermint, although Hibiscus is a close second. My greatest interest is in herbal teas, specifically for the medicinal value. Thank you for the links! I am looking forward to reading them.

    1. I have that brewer too!! It was great – the only fault with it was me, I drink slow (like a sip!) so the tea would turn bitter before I got through the entire thing. That’s why I switched to the french press 🙂

      Enjoy your new love for tea!

  3. Thanks for this helpful post. I’ve just gotten into tea over the last month or two after only being a coffee fan. It’s kind of fun 😀

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