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Guide to Steeping Tea

March 14, 2016

There are three ingredients to the perfect cup of tea: the leaves, the water, and the steep. The leaves should be of the finest quality and must be in proportion to the amount of water used. The water should be the freshest available and in proper proportion to the tea. Finally, the steep is all about the vessel and time: ceramic is best, glass is good, but metal should be avoided as it can give an unwanted taste to the tea. The steep time is the key to the ideal balance of flavor and tannins.

It’s important to remember that different teas require different steeping methods. From a white tea at 175℉ and a 2-3 minute steep to a herbal tea with a 212℉ boil and a 6-7 minute steep, different teas require varied steep times and temperatures. However, you can, and must, always account for taste, if you like your tea a little stronger, give it a longer steep or more leaves. If your tea is too bitter or strong, try cooler water and/or shorter steep times. And remember, always use the freshest water available. Water quality is of the utmost importance and is nearly as critical as the leaves used.

You may wonder why green and white teas taste better with lower temperature water. With a less oxidized tea, the lower steeping temperatures allow for a more complex and fuller flavored brew. Green and white teas are delicate. Think of produce: if it gets too hot it wilts; same thing with tea. If you put boiling water on green or white tea, you are in for some overcooked vegetables rather than a delicious vivacious beverage.

And why do black teas taste better with higher temperature water? The more oxidized black teas are more stable. They are better able to withstand the hot temperatures required to bring out the desired tannins from within the leaves. If the water is not hot enough, the tea may taste weak and lacking in character and strength. You want a sweet, elegant beverage, not some weak brown swill.

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You must remember however, that there are no hard and fast rules you must abide by when enjoying tea. Steep it for however long you may desire. At the end of the day, it’s of course about personal preference. Longer steeps yield stronger cups of tea and hotter water will bring out all the vibrant flavors of darker teas. Likewise, lower temperatures and shorter steep times allow for a refreshing and lighter beverage. Now that you know the dos and don’ts of tea steeping, there’s nothing left to do but brew yourself a cup and enjoy!

Have any other tips for steeping tea? Let us know in the comments below.

Tea Guides

Loose Tea vs. Bagged Tea: Which is Better?

March 8, 2016

Tea connoisseurs will argue avidly about the superiority of whole leaf (or loose leaf) tea to bagged tea. However, when it comes to choosing between loose tea and bagged tea, there are a few key factors to consider: flavor, convenience, health benefits, and price.

loose-leaf-tea

FLAVOR

Loose tea is left whole. This allows the leaves to absorb the water and allow it to move through it. This process creates more bold and dynamic flavor patterns. Each leaf expands to its fullest potential releasing more antioxidants, flavors, and aromas.

Bagged tea, however, is made most commonly from low grade tea dust and fannings. This gives bagged tea a one-dimensional flavor profile, and is the reason over-steeped tea bags often become quite bitter. The finely broken leaves used in bagged tea lose many of the essential oils and aromas during processing, which when steeped release more tannins. The reason for the diminished flavor profile is simple: the dust and fannings are what’s left after the whole tea leaves are processed. However, the strong bitter brew handles milk and sugar well.

CONVENIENCE

The misconception is that it’s “harder” to brew loose tea, but it’s about the same number of steps to brew a teabag and loose leaf tea. However, taking the tea with you can be a little cumbersome. Loose teas are often held in tin containers and you’ll have to bring the steeper with you. Some companies are now making whole leaf tea bags, which allow you to reach almost identical results to steeping loose tea.  [Check out directions for brewing here]

Bagged teas, on the other hand, are individually wrapped and easy to transport. They appeal to the on-the-go lifestyle, which has contributed to its success for hundreds of years.

HEALTH BENEFITS

Generally speaking all teas contain some level of antioxidants. It’s because of these antioxidants the following health benefits occur:

Tea contains flavonoids which act as antioxidants. These antioxidants help neutralize cell damaging free-radicals which in return has a positive impact on some chronic diseases including some types of cancer (skin, oral, lung, ovarian cancer, etc.) and cardiovascular disease.

Research studies show that the theanine found in tea is a distinctive amino acid that preps the immune system to help fight infection, bacteria and viruses. This theanine helps the immune system generate higher levels of interferon. Interferon is a protein our bodies produce and one of its main functions is to build up our immune system.

Libretea.com

The biggest difference between loose teas and bagged teas are the levels of flavonoids that diffuse. Meaning, with a whole leaf tea you get more bang for your buck.

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PRICE POINT

When comparing loose tea to bagged tea, the loose tea ends up being cheaper. Even premium loose varieties that retail for about $20 come out to about $0.10 per cup. This doesn’t include the fact that whole leaf tea, because of its more flavorful profile, can be brewed more than once and still make a nice tasting cup.

We’ve given you the pros and cons of each, but at the end of the day, the choice is yours, and its a matter of preference. Whether you’re choosing whole leaf or bagged tea, you’re doing your body good by drinking tea!

Let us know which you prefer, loose or bagged tea, and why in the comments below!

Tea Guides

How to Store Tea at Home

November 15, 2015

So you’ve fallen in love with the magical world of tea, and now you’ve got more varieties than you can count? Have no fear!  We’ve found a few ways to store tea that help keep you calm, cool and collected, just the way tea connoisseurs intended.

First let’s go over the rules for tea storing:

  1. Tea should be kept oxygen free.
  2. Tea must be kept free from heat.
  3. Tea must be kept away from light.
  4. Tea must be kept away from strong odors.
  5. Tea must be kept moisture free.
  6. Tea is best when stored in bulk.

Keeping these in mind. Below are a few fun ways to store your teas.

Use dividers to organize a drawer, or maybe repurpose an old photo storage box to file away your teas. If you want to invest a little more on the decor side, a tea storage box with compartments, is a lovely addition to any kitchen.

Tea Storage Boxes

Tea Bag Organizer / Tea Bag Storage / Wood Tea Box

Tea Bag Organizer / Tea Bag Storage / Wood Tea Box (Etsy.com)

unfinished 6 compartments wooden display box

unfinished 6 compartments wooden display box (Etsy.com)

Handmade wooden boxes make for great kitchen accents. Check out some other Tea Storage Boxes.

 

Modular Flip Out Bins with customizable labels.

Modular Flip Out Bins with customizable labels. (ContainerStore.com)

Mason Jars

Mason Jars with Locking Lids

Mason Jars with Locking Lids

Mason jars with locking lids are an easy way to store teas in pouches or teas that aren’t individually wrapped and sealed.

These small mason jars easily double as loose leave tea storage. (uncommondesignsonline.com)

These small mason jars easily double as loose leave tea storage. (uncommondesignsonline.com)

Gold Bird Washi Tea Tin from Teavana.

Gold Bird Washi Tea Tin from Teavana.

Small mason jars are perfect for loose leave teas. You can pack as many dry leaves tightly within them. Keep in mind the rules of tea storage, you don’t want your tea to aerate, small jars allow you to use your teas without worrying of early degradation. If mason jars aren’t your aesthetic, you also have the option of storing your loose leaf teas in decorative metal tea tins, but don’t forget to label them!

I know you guys can come up with more creative ways to store tea. Why don’t you tell us about them below?

Tea Guides

Non-Pumpkin Flavors to Enjoy This Fall

October 16, 2015
tea and mittens

gloves and white tea mug

Now that it’s fall, odds are you’ve encountered the pumpkin craze. But pumpkin spice latte isn’t for everyone. Some people see it as the epitome of the season but there are plenty of other flavors to enjoy this time of year. Here are some of our suggestions for those of you looking to expand your taste beyond pumpkin

Apple

An apple a day keeps the doctor away, but who said it couldn’t be apple tea! This tea makes us especially reminiscent of our childhood of drinking warm apple cider, less thick and heavy.  Here’s an Apple Tea that you’ll love and is perfect to cozy up with on a chilly night. 

Chai

You can really never go wrong with chai. There are so many variations that you’re bound to find some type you like. Our personal favorite is Bigelow Vanilla Chai. This flavor has the best aroma every time you make it and has the perfect balance of sugar and spice. If you’re going for more of a sweet drink, add some milk, sugar and/or honey and you’re golden!

Gingerbread

Who says it’s too early for holiday flavors? Gingerbread is the perfect essence if you’re looking for something to awaken those taste buds. This gingerbread spice tea, with a blend of cinnamon and ginger, will satisfy any sweet tooth and it’s naturally caffeine free! (Ideal for an after dinner delight)

Vanilla

We love this vanilla black tea! It’s tasty with some milk and sweetener but still lighter than a latte.

Caramel

This new salted caramel tea from Bigelow is to die for and has a combination of sweet and salty! Like vanilla black tea, salted carmel is best with milk and sweetener and paired with a treat.

Maple

Maple tea has the smoothest flavor for those looking to indulge. This particular tea comes in a wooden box, which can be used for decor or preservation!

Cinnamon

Cinnamon tea is just slightly spicier than chai but still has that cozy flavor perfect for fall! This combination of warm and spicy flavors is best enjoyed outdoors by a campfire.

Earl grey

Earl Grey is a classic tea that can really be enjoyed year-round. But what we love the most is the blend of citrus and black tea, especially in the fall. Bigelow makes a great earl grey with amazing bergamot oil from Italy.

Chamomile

This honey vanilla chamomile tea is our all time favorite variation of the herb. The honey vanilla flavor adds sweetness but doesn’t overwhelm the chamomile flavor. At the end of a long fall day, this too is the flavor to cozy up to.

While pumpkin is the obvious popular trend this time of the year, there are plenty more flavors to “fall” in love with! Cozy-up to some of our flavors by fireside or on a brisk walk — we guarantee you’ll enjoy every sip.

Have any additional flavor suggestions of favorite fall teas? Let us know in the comments below!