Article provided by Global Tea Mart
For a long time, most American tea drinkers simply grabbed a box of tea bags off the supermarket shelf. Today, however, many people are recognizing the vast culture of tea. From exotic flavor blends to soothing preparation and serving rituals, tea has been elevated to a whole new level. Loose leaf tea is preferred by most tea aficionados, but if you are new to the world of tea, you might not know what to buy or where to start.
Why choose loose leaf tea?
Tea bags are quick and convenient, but they remove most of your choice. What if you want extra-strong tea? Or you want to combine a few ingredients to make your own custom blend? With loose leaf tea, you can brew exactly as much as you want in whatever combination you prefer. You can also re-steep loose leaf tea multiple times, so there is no need to worry about wasting it.
Teabags are mass produced in huge batches. They can sit for weeks or even months, gradually losing flavor. Loose leaf teas are inherently fresher and more flavorful. In addition, mass production means that stems and seeds often make their way into bagged tea, which can introduce a bitter flavor. Loose leaf tea does not contain these materials, leading to improved taste.
When you start your journey into the world of loose leaf tea, you may be shocked to learn just how many teas are out there. Did you know that black, green, white, oolong, and pu-erh teas all come from the same species of plant? The differences are in growing location, harvesting time, and processing methods. Here is a basic rundown of the different types of teas:
- Black tea: Arguably the most familiar to those just entering the world of tea, black tea is the most heavily oxidized of the teas, which provides its familiar coloring. Black tea has a strong, bold flavor, and pairs well with flavorful additives such as tropical fruits and even chocolate. It provides a boost of caffeine and is settling to the stomach.
- Green tea: Green tea has made some inroads in American culture, but is not yet as well-known as black tea. Worldwide, however, it is among the most popular. It is much less oxidized than black tea, and has a more subtle flavor. Consequently, green tea pairs best with lighter fruit additives that will not overwhelm it. A number of health claims have been made about green tea. While the results remain controversial, it does appear that drinking green tea has some moderate benefits for overall health.
- White tea: White tea is light, with a subtle taste. It is delicate and not often paired with additives, which could easily overwhelm the tea.
- Oolong tea: Oolong tea undergoes a unique processing method in which it is slowly withered in strong sunlight. The amount of oxidation ranges from light to heavy, creating a vast range of flavors and colors. Different varieties contain different amounts of caffeine. This type of tea pairs well with flowery and fruity additives.
- Pu-erh tea: Pu-erh tea is heavily fermented, creating a dark color and rich, bold flavor. It is sometimes flavored with floral notes. Interestingly, pu-erh tea contains small amounts of natural lovastatin, a prescription medication for lowering cholesterol.
- Chai tea: Rapidly gaining in popularity, Chai tea is actually strong black tea mixed with a bold blend of Indian spices. It is traditionally prepared with milk and sugar, although other preparations are possible.
- Herbal tea: Herbal tea includes any tea made from plants other than the tea plant. Peppermint, chamomile, and a wide range of fruits are among the most popular herbal teas. They do not contain caffeine, and may have some health benefits.
Brewing and serving loose leaf tea
To prepare loose leaf tea, you will need some sort of tea infuser. These run the gamut from simple metal tea balls to elaborate teapots with built-in infusers. Start with a ratio of one teaspoon of tea leaves per cup of water, and adjust up or down to your taste. Green, white, and lightly oxidized oolong teas are best steeped at temperatures just below boiling (around 180-185 F), while stronger teas require boiling water. Steep green and white teas for approximately two minutes, and stronger teas for three to five minutes.
Before serving, remove the tea from the water to avoid developing a bitter taste. Serve with a variety of accompaniments such as milk, sugar or honey, and an artificial sweetener. Some people also provide a kettle of hot water for those who like weaker tea.
There is no right way to enjoy tea, and loose leaf allows you to experiment to your heart’s delight. If you don’t like how a particular cup tastes, next time, adjust the steeping time and temperature or the ratio of tea to water. Some people enjoy steeping multiple times to bring out subtle flavors. When it comes to tea, exploration is the name of the game!
At Global Tea Mart, we hope to become your online home for all aspects of the world of tea. If we can be of assistance in any way, please do not hesitate to call us at 888-209-4223. We look forward to being a part of your journey!