As Sip Tea Lounge is only open for a portion of the day, sometimes it becomes necessary for one to enjoy tea in the comfort of one’s home, or god forbid, at work. Not to worry! It’s easy to brew loose tea on your own. Here’s my guide for making things a little less scary.
Loose tea offers greater quality and variety than bagged tea. The bits and pieces you find in tea bags, the finings and dust, come from the leftovers of the tea manufacturing process. Why not treat your body to the good stuff!
Loose tea should be stored in lightproof containers that seal well in a relatively cool place. Light, moisture, and air will change the flavor of your tea. It is also important to keep your tea canisters sealed against the strange cooking odors that are usually found in the kitchen, as tea tends to pick those odors up. You don’t need to buy official looking tea canisters, although it looks nice. Spice jars, reused tea canisters, and metal and ceramic containers will do well. There’s no problem just using the bag the tea came in, either! As you can see, I use an assortment of containers and I label each one.
Now for the important stuff, making tea sans tea bag.
- Your favorite loose tea of the moment
- A teaspoon
- A tea ball, infuser basket, or tea sac for your leaves
- Your cup, or a teapot and cups
- A rest for your infuser or strainer
- A timer
If you are brewing green or white tea, it’s useful to also have:
- A digital barbecue thermometer
- A ceramic or glass cup or pitcher
I tend to stay away from the cute little tea balls or infusers you might get as a present. Loose tea needs room to expand, and room to let the hot water pass through the leaves. It’s best to use the biggest strainer possible for your tea. Our store sells an infuser basket that works well for both coffee mugs and teapots. I use a basket that just barely fits inside my teapot that you can find at stores. Those come in different sizes, so measure the opening of your teapot.
Start boiling your water. Measure out your tea. For the majority of teas, one teaspoon per 8 ounces of water is enough. For fluffy teas, such as White Peony, or some herbal blends, you might need more. The package usually will tell you what you need to do. Here, since I know my kyusu teapot holds about 12 ounces, one and a half teaspoons of a Chinese green tea from Anhui province will do. My basket filter drops nicely into the pot, and the tea goes in there.
Whether you use a teapot, an infuser, or a tea bag, it’s important to get both the water temperature and brewing time correct for a good-tasting cup of tea. What you might read on the package may not really be the best advice. Especially with green, white, and Darjeeling teas, brewing with water that is too hot, or brewing for too long, will give you astringency and bitterness that overpowers the fine flavors you want. And overbrewed black tea gets kind of funky. With tea brewing, it’s always better to go a little bit under, rather than over. If you want a stronger tea, either add a little more leaves, or agitate the tea leaves to create more water flow-through. Here’s my (Dan’s) personal guide for temperature and time. Certain teas, such as Gyokuro and Jasmine Green Pearls, may have different requirements.
|Japanese Green (-cha teas)
||30 seconds – 1 minute
||3 minutes maximum!
Here’s a trick for getting the water temperature down quickly for white and green teas. I use a heavy ceramic cup to cool off the water. My cup holds 12 ounces, just about the size of my teapot, and when I pour boiling water into it, it drops things down from 212° to about 190-195°F instantly. Then, if I need the water down to 175°F for Japanese teas, I just have to wait about 3 minutes for it to cool off, instead of a very long time. I like to make sure I’m in the range by measuring with a digital thermometer. Once you get used to getting the temperature right, you probably won’t need the thermometer much!
Now pour that water over your tea leaves, and set the timer. Once you’re done, get those tea leaves out of the pot and let them rest. You can reuse your tea leaves for a couple more steepings, but if you leave them in the pot… you will have overbrewed, useless tea. Now pour yourself a cup and enjoy! Super-Domo approves!
– by Dan Kerr