Tea has grown into a vastly popular drink; have we not witnessed today's Bubble Tea pop-culture phenomenon? Aside from the fact that it's been around since time immemorial (dating back to the ancient days of the Chinese), tea has become quite the fashionable attraction these days-- a testament to the recent boom of the 'choose-health' trend.
Tea: the wise choice indeed; for it not only aids against cancer and supports the immune system, it helps create better smelling breath, and initiates weight loss too.
TEA TRIVIA: Tea was discovered by the ancient Chinese ruler Shen Nung, when a fateful leaf fell into his boiling water.
So what exactly is tea, might you ask?
Tea is the 2nd most consumed drink in the world, ranking next to water. All teas originate from the same plant: the Camellia Sinensis; a subtropical evergreen plant native to Asia, but is now grown around the world.
Tea is made of three basic components:
Essential Oils: Provides the tea's delicious aroma and flavors.
Polyphenols: Brings about the "briskness" or astringency in the mouth; the components that carry most of the health benefits of tea.
Caffeine: Found naturally in coffee, chocolate, or tea; caffeine provides the natural energy boost that comes from tea.
And what isn't? -- Tisanes.
Herbal teas, which experts term Tisanes (a French word for "herbal infusion") are usually dried flowers, fruits, or herbs steeped in boiling water (no actual tea leaves are included).
TEA FACT: In Europe, including some other countries, the use of the word "tea" must strictly refer to the Camellia Sinensis kind.
Some Like it Loose: Tea Bags vs Loose Leaves
Tea bags are a relatively new invention. The quick and easy clean-up of the leaves makes it enticingly convenient, BUT it sacrifices the tea's most valuable quality: flavor. The innovation of tea bags had created a new problem: the improper expansion of leaves. In order for a tea leaf to fully release its flavor, it needs a great deal of room to expand; so an obvious solution was to use smaller leaves. Merchants started purchasing cheaper grades of tea known as "fannings" or "dust"-- the lowest achieved rankings of tea. Sure, this 'tea' may add some color to your cup, but not nearly as much flavor!
Though thanks to modern technology, companies have come up with larger high-quality bags, allowing the leaves to expand; wherein more water is allowed to flow through, bringing more flavor into the cup.
Making the Perfect Cup: How to prepare tea the proper way!
Factors to Consider:
Water: If it tastes funny, so will your tea! Tea is 99% water; it's the basic foundation of your tea liquor. Tea companies recommend that you use either spring or mineral water.
Tea Weight: More tea means a stronger brew. The general rule is to use one teaspoon of leaves to 6-8 ounces of water; but there is no exact formula. Adjust the tea weight according to your personal preference!
Temperature: Use boiling water (212F) when preparing Black, dark Oolong, and Herbal Tea. These teas are tough. They can take the burn; and may even require it in order for its leaves to break down, releasing its flavor and antioxidants. Use cooler water when steeping more delicate teas, such as Green, Green Oolong, and White teas. Water that's too hot will cause a delicate tea to taste overly bitter or astringent.
Time: For most Black teas-- 3-5 mins.; dark Oolong and White teas-- 3-5 mins. (though these teas are much more forgiving types, and will remain drinkable even if steeped a bit longer); light Oolong and Green teas-- 2-3 mins. if you're looking for a strong cup (a little time-TLC must be employed when steeping these delicate types).
Tools of the Tea Trade
To steep loose full-leaf tea, you will need the following:
Kettle to heat water
Teaspoon for measuring
Teapot with a strainer or tea infuser (Make tea time fun! Check out the following quirky infusers!)
Small dish to save spent leaves
Watch or a timer
Water and loose full-leaf tea.
To steep tea bags, all you need are:
Kettle to heat water
Small dish to save steeped bag
Watch or a timer
Water and a teabag
Heat water to optimal temperature using a kettle.
Pour a bit of hot water into your teapot; swirl and discard water.
Scoop desired amount of tea and place it in your teapot.
Pour your heated water into the teapot.
Start your timer. Once you've reached your desired steeping time, remove the strainer/infuser that contains the leaves.
Place the spent leaves on a small dish (to save them for succeeding steeps).
Pour the freshly brewed liquor into your tea cup; enjoy!
More interesting TEA TIME TIPS:
Add milk, honey, or sugar to your cup, not to the teapot.
Premium quality tea leaves may be steeped multiple times; you may put the spent leaves back in the teapot and restart the process.
When water boils, oxygen is released. The Chinese call boiled water, "dead water"; you can't get the best cup of tea from water that has been repeatedly reboiled.