Beginners Guide To Drinking Loose Leaf Tea
Drinking loose leaf tea is getting more and more popular with many people wanting to try it at home. If you are not sure where to start and considering the graduation from teabags to loose leaf then this guide is a great place to begin.
This is something that packaged teas just simply cannot match. While teabags are convenient, most of the flavour is lost.
HOW TO DRINK LOOSE LEAF TEA AT HOME
Loose leaf tea is in no way more complicated to brew than tea bags, however drinking loose leaf does offer you a much greater depth of flavour and taste. This is something that packaged teas just simply cannot match. While teabags are convenient, most of the flavour is lost. If you want to enjoy a great tasting cup of tea and reap the powerful benefits then it is far better to drink loose leaf.
What Is Tea?
Tea is the oldest beverage in the world. After water, tea is the most widely consumed drink, with many different types. Tea has a stimulating effect in humans primarily due to its caffeine content. Each tea you sip is unique, even though it comes from the same plant. This is from a combination of differences in terroir from region to region (just like wine), the season the leaves are plucked, changing climate conditions, the farmer’s technique in processing the leaf and the many ways we steep them.
Technically, “tea” is made from the leaves of the Camellia Sinensis bush. All true tea comes from this bush – black, oolong, green, white, yellow, pu-erh… all the tea styles start from Camellia Sinensis leaves.
What About Herbal Tea?
Herbal teas, and the popular rooibos tea, are actually not “tea” in the strictest sense because they don’t come from the Camellia Sinensis plant however many people refer to almost any infusion in water as “tea”. The term herbal tea refers to drinks made from infusions of fruit, leaves, or other parts of the plant, such as steeps of rose hip, chamomile, or rooibos. These are sometimes called tisanes or herbal infusions to prevent confusion with tea made from the tea plant. You can still brew herbal teas in the same way you brew true tea and doing so will intensify the flavour and boost the health benefits.
Choosing Loose Leaf Tea
A general rule of thumb when looking at tea is the larger the leaf, the higher the quality and the better the flavour. You should also want to smell the tea to make sure it hasn’t gone stale. If it smells good, it will taste good.
For herbal teas, you want to focus on the colour and the scent. If the herbs are faded or don’t have a fragrance, then they are probably too old and out of date. Always, always check your ingredients. If a tea is full or artificial flavours or sweeteners, then there is a good chance that those things are trying to hide a low quality tea. This is also a good opportunity to see if your tea is fair trade, hand-blended or organic, especially if this is important to you.
Best Loose Leaf Tea For Beginners
There’s a whole universe of flavours available across the different tea classes, from grassy-tasting greens to smoky blacks and earthy pu-erhs, but there are only five basic types: white, green, oolong, black and pu-erh. The way a specific tea is processed—for example, how much oxidisation it’s permitted to undergo—determines how it’s categorised and how it tastes.
One of the most common complaints from beginners is the bitter taste of tea. To avoid this, start with more sweet tea blends that contain fruit flavours such as orange, peaches or berries. The tart and citrus flavours balance out the tannins in the tea and can create a nice balance. This is likely one of the reasons why Earl Grey (black tea with bergamot, a type of orange) is perhaps the most popular tea blend of all time.
How To Steep Loose Leaf Tea
Making loose leaf tea is easy. If you happen to have some tea filter bags, just slip your loose leaf tea inside and steep away. They’re especially great for traveling or taking your tea to the office. If you are a fan of reusable products, a tea infuser is perfect for everyday brewing.
Besides its processing and freshness, the flavour of a given tea depends greatly on the manner in which it is steeped. Some of the most important steeping factors include:
The ratio of leaves to water. The recommended amount of loose tea is one measuring teaspoon per cup water, making many loose teas less expensive than bagged. Using more tea leaves will yield a stronger cup, but make sure that you have enough room in your infuser for the water to circulate around the leaves. The wet leaves are more than double the size of the dry leaf.
The temperature of the water. The brewing instructions printed on most tea containers will include the recommended temperature. Often lightly oxidised teas like greens and whites are steeped in cooler water (say, 180 or 185 degrees Fahrenheit) while boiling water is typically used for well-oxidised oolongs, blacks, and pu-erhs.
The steeping time. Longer steeps make for a stronger-flavoured, more caffeinated cup of tea. Again, brewing times are generally recommended by your tea purveyor and vary depending on the type of tea. With multiple infusions, you typically increase steeping times to account for diminishing strength.
Ultimately, the way you brew your tea comes down to personal preference. Experiment with different amounts, temperatures, and steeping times to sample the impacts on flavour. Go with whatever method results in the tastiest tea for you.
Re-steeping Your Leaves
Many teas can be infused over again. This is especially true for oolongs and pu-erhs, but try it out with all of your teas. With each subsequent steep of the same cup of leaves, lengthen the steeping time. Basically, don’t throw away your loose leaf tea leaves after your first cup. Try steeping a second and a third infusion. This will give you more bang for your buck and stretch the purchase of your tea, saving you pounds which is always a bonus.
It is super easy to brew loose leaf tea at home and also very cost effective not to mention getting a greater depth of flavour and boost in natural health benefits. So what are you waiting for? Go forth and try it out. You can try our loose leaf tea here.