Monday, May 12, 2014

A Perfect Cup of Tea: How to Brew Loose Tea Leaves and Blends

When I was a kid I hated coffee and tea. Couldn't stand it. I didn't even like the smell! Over the past few years though, I've become a fan. I would say I'm a "seasonal" tea drinker! I tend to veer towards coffee in the in the fall and winter and tea in the spring and summer.

Last week I received a wonderful gift in the mail from my friend Jodi who lives in Vero Beach, FL. She sent me 4 samples of tea from her favorite local tea shop: Tea and Chi. Several years ago I found a little black, cast iron Chinese tea pot (similar to this one) and it's been my favorite vessel for brewing loose tea leaves. However, I don't have any local tea shops close by to purchase fresh, whole tea leaves and blends. So Jodi's package was a very welcome surprise!

And Jodi just so happened to find a blend she thought I'd absolutely love...

Well she was right! (Along with being a lemon & ginger tea blend...:-) Rooibos is a red tea that is naturally decaffeinated so it's perfect for a cup of hot tea in the evening. The same night Jodi's package came, I dug through the kitchen cabinets to find my Chinese tea pot and and I made a pot of tea.

I love the packaging that Tea and Chi places on their bags of whole tea leaves and blends. They tell you the type of tea you have, how much dry tea to use per cup, how long to brew it, what ideal temperature to brew it at, and then if it contains caffeine or not.  Brilliant, my friends. Just brilliant!

Now I'll be perfectly honest, I didn't take the temperature of my boiling water. However, I did only let my water just come to a rolling boil before pouring it over the tea leaves.

My particular pot came with a mesh metal strainer. You simply place 1-3 teaspoon of dried whole tea leaves and pour the hot water over it. Allow it to brew for several minutes as directed on your package. For the Lemon Ginger Rooibos, allow it to brew for 4-6 minutes.

I measured out 2 cups of hot water after it boiled to make sure I had the correct ratio of water to tea leaves. Then I poured it over the tea. Easy as that.

And voila... 4-6 minutes later, lovely warm fresh brewed hot rooibos tea. I prefer tea with plain ol' sugar. Sometimes honey, but honestly I just like sugar in my tea. Sometimes with green tea, I prefer it with no sugar at all. I generally use about 2-3 teaspoons of sugar in a large mug of tea (about 16 ounces). I don't want it syrupy sweet, just sweet enough to taste.

Jodi also spent the past few months creating this gorgeous throw for me! I LOVE a long throw, a cup of hot tea and a good book! Thank you so much Jodi! 

So far, from the batch that Jodi sent, I have tried the Lemon Ginger Rooibos, the Magnolia Oolong, and the Florida Sunshine Rooibos. The Florida Sunshine smells amazing when you brew it! It has just a hint of citrus, and the scent when you open the tea package is refreshing!  I've used the Magnolia Oolong for an iced tea, and while I'm generally not a fan of things that taste very floral, this tea is so delicately floral and fresh that I've really enjoyed it! I've brewed the tea fresh, added a little sugar, stirred it until it melted into the tea and then poured it over ice. Really delicious!

Another great thing about freshly brewed, whole tea leaves like this is that you can often reuse them at least 2-3 times. The green tea leaves below are Magnolia Oolong. I've used this batch of tea twice so far, and I'll probably use it at least one more time before adding the leaves to our compost pile in the back yard.

You can keep wet tea leaves in the fridge for up to 2 days, or you can just allow them to air dry on a paper towel on the counter and use them 2-3 times (allowing them to dry between uses.)

There's just something relaxing and therapeutic about making fresh tea from real, whole tea leaves! Thank you so much for such a thoughtful gift Jodi! I plan on trying the Five Peak Green Jade tomorrow.

Do you like to use fresh dried tea leaves? 
Do you have a favorite tea shop that you go too? 

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