By Paris Wolfe, Blogmaster, Herb Society of America
I learned about tea as a young child, My lessons weren’t sophisticated, but they were an essential part of my mixed-European (and English) heritage. If a car crunched onto our gravel driveway, mom fired the tea kettle before they unlatched a car door. Tea meant friendship.
By the time I was five years old strong tea made opaque brown with milk and sugar was the definition of comfort. Replace milk and sugar with whisky and honey and it was Mom’s medicine for a hacking cough. Over ice with lemon and the pool was open.
In college I traded my Lipton brand loyalty for herbal blends sipped with clove cigarettes while discussing whether mankind is inherently good or evil. Or nothing at all.
With today’s global culture, my tea consciousness is expanding. And, fortunately, as the prices go up for the best of this treasured herb I’m learning to treat it right.
Read on for eight tips from Ruhani Sandhu, a young woman from India whose tea romance started at engineering school in the United States. Ruhani’s Chinese roommate took her to tea ceremonies across New York. By the time she moved back to India, she was dreaming about tea. Ruhani owns Rangsaa Tea and blogs at Love For Tea.
- First Things First: The first tea out of the pot is the weakest in flavour. It is thus advisable to start by pouring a little into each of the tea cups and then topping them up. This will ensure each cup is consistent in strength and will boost the tea drinking experience for everyone.
- Make it Big: The larger leaf teas require more time to brew as compared to small ones. That’s because the bigger surface area takes longer for the hot water to extract the contents. So use large leaves when you have time to relax, take it slow and soak in the goodness of tea.
- Avoid Hard Water: The best water for brewing tea is ‘soft’ water, which is also low on calcium. Soft water does a better job of bringing out the aromas and flavors of the tea.
- Tippy Teas are Healthy: Drink tippy teas that are abundant in ‘silver tips’ or ‘golden tips’. These teas have a higher concentration of vitamins, minerals and, thus, flavour
- Steep it Up: Re-steep your tea. Using a succession of short steeps helps bring the most out of your tea. With time, you will get the art of steeping right, adding more character to your cup.
- Have it Fresh: Always drink freshly brewed tea. When it stands for some time, tea loses its aroma and the oxygen in the air changes its taste and colors.
- Reusing is Key: Don’t rush to throw away used tea leaves. Use them as fertilizer and instead discard them on to your pots and in the garden, as they help the plants grow faster. The wonders of tea don’t stop at brewing.
- Variety is the Spice: The main categories of tastes when it comes to our senses is sweet, bitter, salty and umami. Tea is a lovely combination drawing on the first three with a variety of aromas. It is this amalgamation that gives tea its wide appeal, offering something for everyone.