Brewing The Perfect Cup Of Loose Leaf Tea, Part 1: The Tea

by Elena Popec 11. July 2012 11:46

So you’ve decided to make the switch from bagged to loose leaf tea.  Great!  Now what?  With so many options, becoming a loose tea aficionado may seem intimidating.  Don’t worry – with a little know-how and a few good tools, you’ll be brewing and enjoying your loose leaf tea in no time.

The first step is finding the tea leaves to brew.  You may have noticed that they’re not as prevalent as packages of pre-bagged teas, but you’ll be surprised how easily you can get your hands on loose tea leaves if you look for them.  You can start with a look around your area for an independent tea shop.  Finding a local shop is great because you’ll be able to get information, guidance, and brewing tips from the owner.  You’ll also be supporting a local business and contributing to your local economy.  If you can’t find an independent tea shop in your area, make a trip to the nearest shopping mall.  As the popularity of whole, less-processed foods has grown, so has the demand for loose tea.  Tea shops are popping up in malls all over the country.  If your mall doesn’t have a tea shop (yet), and you can’t find an independent shop in your area, there’s one easy and convenient option – the Internet.  A quick search will reveal countless suppliers, across the country and the globe, offering countless varieties for you to try. 

Once you’ve found your tea supplier, your next step will be picking out the type of tea you want to try.  Most teas come from the same plant, and are categorized by the processing (usually a combination of wilting or steaming and oxidization) needed to arrive at the finished product.  White teas are the least processed and the lightest in color and flavor.  Black teas, the traditional alternative to morning coffee, are darker, bolder, and have higher amounts of caffeine than other teas.  Green teas have a pleasant, light but distinctive flavor that pairs well with many fruit flavors.  Oolong teas, which you’ve probably had if you’ve ever ordered tea in a Chinese restaurant, have a bold and unique flavor and are known for their weight-loss properties.  Unlike conventional teas, herbal, rooibos, and maté varieties are made from a combination of dried herbs, fruits, and flowers.  These blends come from plants around the world and have flavors as diverse as their origins.  Their light, fruity flavors (and the fact that they’re caffeine-free) attract many tea enthusiasts to the herbal family.

Loose teas give you the freedom of buying small quantities.  You can sample many types and varieties, without committing to a whole box of a tea you might not prefer.  Most tea shops have samples brewed; many are even happy to brew up a special taste of something you’re curious to try.  Ask your tea vendor how to store your favorite tea to best preserve its flavor (usually an airtight container), and you’ll be ready to brew!

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Preparation

Tea: The Essence Of The Fragrance

by Steven Popec 29. April 2010 20:37

The fragrance of tea depends on the essential oils and tar substances that are contained in plants. Essential oils are complex mixture of substances that belong to the most diverse class of compounds which are soluble in organic solvents and possessing the ability to escape from water vapor. Overall the total content of essential oil is minimal; it is determined by only hundredths of a percent. For example, aromatic black tea contains about 0.02% of oil. Pure essential oil of fresh tea leaf is a green color with a strong fragrance of fresh greens. In the technological processing of tea leaf occurs the formation of a new aromatic substances that contribute to the specific flavor of the finished product. Thus, the composition of essential oil of green plants is different from the finished black tea. The substances that make up the oils can be divided into 4 main classes of compounds: acids, carbonyl compounds, alcohols and phenols. These volatile compounds found in tea are trace amounts - 0.01% of dry matter, but their role in the establishment of the tea flavor is tremendous. 
 
Some parts of the plant contain different amounts of volatile compounds, which, in turn, differ in their compositions. The maximum concentration of essential oil found in the tender stems and leaves. The top leaf with the growing bud and two next leaves are equivalent to the content of essential oil. Further down the stem, as general coarsening occurs, oil content decreases. Which explains why the top three leaves are the most vaulable for high quality tea. 
 
In the formation of the aroma of tea, the main role is played by aromatic aldehydes (Organic compound that has OH-group in its structure. They are used in organic synthesis as fragrances). In the composition of essential tea oils are vanilla, lavender, cinnamon aldehydes, etc. During the processing of tea leaves into black tea, the various fractions of volatile compounds undergo significant changes. The total content of these compounds increases most radically in the early stages of rolling. In the process of withering the relative content of components with higher boiling point reduces and low-boiling point, on the contrary, increases. 
 
Along with essential oils important role in creating a tea aroma played by various resinous substances - carriers of flavor. They are in a close chemical relation with essential oils and are a complex mixture of different classes of organic compounds. 
 
The content of tarry substances in tea leaves ranges on average from 3% to 6%. These substances are separated by several fractions, the most valuable of which is a neutral faction. It has a pleasant sweet floral aroma. In the process of technological treatment , the amount of this fraction in tea leaves increases by 40%. 
 
During the processing of tea leaves, the content of resinous substances decreases, indicating the result of oxidation. I.e. ratio: fresh leaves – 3.48%, withered leaves – 3.27%, after two hours of curling – 2.92%, semi-finished product – 2.35%. 
 
Through fragrance of tea, all the deficiencies that have arisen as a result of violations of technological regimens or improper storage of products, can easily be found. Disadvantages may include: acidity, mustiness, smell of the green, smoke and other uncharacteristic for tea scents. Most difficult to improve defect is acidity, which results in a violation of the fermentation process. Since in the processing of tea leaves, especially during the fermentation, occurs a reduction of Tannin. Therefore, the tea produced in violation of this process turns out with a bitter flavor and pale color of infusion. The cause of the smell of greenery is an infringement of withering, rolling, and fermentation. Such a tea has a mild flavor that the brew is a greenish color in the cup with a greenish ring on the surface and instead of the characteristic astringent taste; this product has a bitter taste. If there is excessive moisture in semi-finished product (more than 7.5%) tea is aging much faster. For extended storage. it gets the smell of dampness and can come in unsuitable conditions for consumption. 
 
In addition, it is worth noting that different varieties of tea, as well as different ways of brewing, have an imprint on the final quality of the drink

A Wonderful Tea Schedule For The Entire Day

by Elena Popec 25. April 2010 16:19

Every profound, self-respecting tea connoisseur has a collection consistent of several teas, where each type is brewed depending on time of the day, occasion, company or just the mood. Typically such a collection of teas includes:

- Teas for breakfast

- Afternoon teas

- Evening teas

In addition, during each occassion, several varieties of teas can be served.

Tea for breakfast - This tea should invigorate and tone the body and mind. The taste of this drink should be rich and strong. In addition, tea for breakfast is often served with muffins, scones, sweet breads, therefore it should be perfectly balanced with flavors. The most popular teas for breakfast are:

English Breakfast Black Tea Blend with a marvellously dark infusion and malty spiciness, best when slightly sweetened with a dash of milk or cream.

Irish Breakfast Black Tea Blend with a deep dark infusion and character spice. A definite “must have” for each tea lover.

Afternoon tea - Such a beverage is usually drank after a good lunch without milk or sugar, so it will help digestion and vigilance. The selection of afternoon tea should be approached with particular care because this social beverage prompts friendly conversations. If we generalize the basic properties and characteristics of mid-day tea, then the tea will have the following form:

Not too strong, must have a rich flavor, with exquisite and delicate aroma, but the main thing it is understandable and enjoyable not only for the host, but also for every guest. The most popular afternoon teas:

Earl Grey  ( black or green tea blend)  lightly flavored with fine bergamot oil that forms a harmonious basis for the popular, fruity, hot drink.

Caramel Black Tea Blend comes up to the highest expectations with its tempting creamy caramel pieces and the sweet, full caramel flavor with an unforgettable vanilla note.

Cinnamon Roll Black Tea Blend with perfectly balanced taste of expressive cinnamon flavor. Quite simple and perfect.

Jasmine Green Tea with intense bouquet of jasmine and delicate taste.

Oolong, White tea, Green tea…pure and flavored, regular and decafeinated… The list of choices are endless, the world of tea is infinite!

Evening tea - This tea is usually chosen using special blends, which include different varieties of teas, they are mostly with little or no caffeine content, not very strong and have a pleasant, delicate taste and aroma.  Rooibos, Honeybush, Ayurvedic, Herbal and Fruit blends are the most popular evening teas. Evening teas offer soothing aroma and taste to relax the body and mind for a better night sleep.

Iced Tea Time! How to Properly Brew Iced Tea

by Elena Popec 15. April 2010 21:50

ESP Emporium Iced Tea

According to “urban legend”, iced tea was discovered accidentally by an enterprising Englishman ­ Richard Blechynden who had come all the way from Calcutta, India to represent teas from the Far East at the 1904 St. Louis World’s Fair.  Not meeting with much success in the stifling heat, Mr. Blechynden poured the tea over ice and met with a near instant success. However, the oldest printed recipes for iced tea were published in 1870. Russian tea with sugar and lemon slices was fashionable in the USA and served in hotels in 1860th under the name “tea a la Russe” both hot and cold.

 

America is unique in its tea consumption habits. In the United States over 85% of the tea is consumed as an iced beverage. Iced tea has gained wide spread popularity as an alternative to carbonated soft drinks being an attribute of a healthy life style. This refreshing drink is traditionally served sweetened or unsweetened with lemon slice over ice cubes in a tall glass. Black tea is the classic ingredient used to make iced tea.  With incredible offers on the market today for black and green teas, Rooibos, blended teas, ayurvedic, flavored, herbal and fruit teas, try to find your preferred beverage by experimenting with such a variety. For iced tea to have consistent strengths from start to finish, use ice cubes made from leftover tea.

 

Here are three ways for making perfect iced tea:

 

Hot Water Method

Boil water. Steep your favorite tea with double the amount of loose leaf. Strain prepared drink to remove the tea leaves. Sweeten with sugar or honey if desired. Pour the strained tea into a pitcher with ice cubes. Serve in a tall glasses filed with additional ice cubes, garnish with a lemon slice and a spring of fresh mint.

 

Cold Water Method

This method is the best to achieve a crystal clear drink result. Fill a large pitcher with cold water and loose leaf tea (8 teaspoons of tea per 4 cups of water), let it chill overnight. Strain the mixture to remove tea leaves. Sweeten with sugar syrup if desired. Serve and enjoy.

 

Sugar syrup: combine equal amounts of water and sugar in a small saucepan. Bring to boil and simmer until clear, about 7 minutes. Cool and store in refrigerator. You may add lemon zest to the mixture while boiling, proceed as directed, discard the zest and enjoy lemon sugar syrup with your favorite iced tea!

 

Sun Tea

“Sun tea” is tea brewed by being left to steep in the sunlight. In a glass jar, combine water and loose leaf tea (8 teaspoons of tea per 4 cups of water). Place the jar in a warm, sunny location for 3-4 hours. Strain the mixture to remove tea leaves. Sweeten with sugar syrup if desired. Chill in refrigerator. Serve and enjoy!

 

There are also lots of different variations of iced tea.  Common modifications to the traditional recipe include adding fresh fruit, flavored syrups, cranberry or orange juice, sparkling water and even champagne to make a delicious tea drink. Bubble tea is very popular in Taiwan and worth to try on a hot summer day as an exotic desert. A strong black tea sweetened with condensed milk and served cold with large tapioca pearls. Great low calorie desert that quenches your thirst! The possibilities for making a unique and refreshing glass of iced tea are virtually countless. Experiment and enjoy your summer!

 

The Mystery Of Oolong

by Steven Popec 9. April 2010 12:25

Oolong

Chinese Wū long or Oolong is a type of tea located between green and black in the Chinese classification. In other words, Oolong is half-fermented tea. Oxidation ranges from 20% to 40%, and the most characteristic feature of this tea is that the leaves are fermented unevenly. Along the edges of the tea leaf fermentation can be quite astringent, almost like black tea with well pronounced reddish rim around a leaf but in the center of leaf fermentation, is very weak, close to green teas. As a result, Oolongs have a wonderful aroma and taste that combines the freshness of green tea and tartness of black tea.

Oolong combines the best qualities of both green and black teas. Some highly fermented Oolongs give a fairly dark brown-reddish infusion. However, such Oolongs constitute only a small share of the vast diversity of this type of tea. Basic and famous Oolongs have a gentle light yellowish or greenish tinge honey extract. By appearance of the infusion, they are closer to green teas and by taste - to black teas. A good Oolong is both refreshing and delicious with no trace of bitterness and stronger aroma than any green or black teas. Oolong is a well known type of Chinese tea used in ceremonies. A widely-used ceremonial method of brewing Oolongs in Taiwan and China is called Gongfu Cha. For a complete appreciation of the taste of this tea, tea pairing is recommended: tea bowl and snifter cup used to appreciate the tea's aroma. Tea poured into a snifter cup and a drinking bowl is placed upside down over the top of the snifter cup. Then the two are inverted so that the snifter cup is upside down in the drinking bowl. The final stage is when the snifter cup is lifted and the tea is released into the drinking bowl. After all this manipulations, tea drinkers can respectfully receive the aroma and then enjoy the taste.
 
There are two main types of Oolong that are grown and harvested in China and Taiwan, the mainland and island tea. The next classification is the type of traditional treatment and characteristics of climate and soil. Oolongs grow high in the mountains, shrouded in fog, on the poor stony soils. The quality of tea depends on the orientation of the slope, the number of fogs during the growth and professionalism of collectors, who manually collect and sort out the tea leaves in difficult mountain conditions.  
 
Oolong often resembles the form of twisted lumps consisting of strongly folded and compressed whole leaves. When touched, the lumps are elastic and dense. Fresh tea should be slightly shiny and have a strong fragrant. During the brewing process, the tea leaves unfold, expend and consume the entire volume of the teapot when steeped 2-3 times. Usually, Oolong brewed with water temperature of 176-194º F for 3-4 minutes. A teapot 150 ml takes about one heaped teaspoon. Expensive Oolongs can withstand multiple infusions up to 20-25 times. The fragrance of tea can vary from delicate peach tones to astringent walnut, with a corresponding color change of infusions darker with each subsequent brewing. There are varieties of oolong that color does not change and remains yellow-green, while others, originally given infusions of intense color give a pale infusion each subsequent brewing.

Oolong tea is the most diverse among Chinese teas in terms of taste and appearance . Oolong is tea-perfection conceived by Heaven and Earth. 

Great Tips For Preparing The Perfect Cup Of Tea

by Elena Popec 29. March 2010 21:46

There are numerous methods for brewing tea leaves. In Japanese tea ceremonies, powdered tea is whisked into green foam, in Mongolian, they reduced tea leaves dust by boiling with salted milk…Western tea lovers follow the Chinese way of brewing tea leaves in hot water. This way seems very simple, but there are several essential tips that are critical to a good cup of tea.

1. Make sure you use good quality cold water
2. Your kettle and teapot need to be clean
3. Use the correct amount of tea leaves
4. Use the correct amount of water at proper temperature
5. Make sure tea is steeped for the right length of time
6. Use proper storage for tea leaves

Use good quality cold water

Water that is used to make tea has a large influence on the tea taste. Water composition, chalk content, mineral content and hardness differ from region to region and influence the taste experience, greatly. For the best taste results, use good-tasting water.  Only use fresh water which was not already cooked previously. Bottled spring or filtered waters are ideal for this purpose, find the kind you like. If using tap water, make sure it runs for couple minutes before poured in the kettle. Tap water lacks oxygen when it sits in water pipes for hours. Do not use distilled water.
 
Kettle and teapot need to be clean
Tea should always be prepared in a specific container, such as a teapot made out of glass or ceramics. Always preheat your porcelain, ceramics or glass with hot water. The best water and the finest tea can be easily destroyed if the kettle or teapot is not clean. A brownish residue on the inside of teapot builds up after every brewing and needs to be taken care of; otherwise it will add a bitter taste to freshly brewed tea. So, just rinsing a teapot does not take care of the problem. Use a small amount of detergent while washing and wipe out the inside with soft cloth or sponge. Make sure the teapot is rinsed off thoroughly after washing, otherwise you may add extra “flavor” to the delicate bouquet of brewing tea leaves. Even the kettle is used only to boil water; it needs to be washed occasionally due to mineral deposits build up. Iron teapots are especially suitable for green tea and oolong tea. In Japan, these pots are only used to keep the water hot for the tea ceremony. For Europeans, the Japanese have enameled the pots on the inside so that they can be used to brew tea. Iron pots are very stylish and are almost indestructible.

Use the correct amount of tea leaves
I have the easiest solution – read suggested instruction but if you like to experiment, here are some general tips to follow:

1. Use a tea measuring spoon. The decorative tea measuring spoons are available in many different forms and decors and determine the amount of tea needed for one cup. Particularly the longer spoons represent a good aid to reach the tea in the deep tea tins.
2. Use one teaspoon of loose leaf tea per each serving (6oz cup), 1-2 level teaspoon of herb blends and Rooibos, one heaped teaspoon of fruit blends;
3. After the amount of tea leaves is measured and placed in the teapot, add hot water;
4. Use tea strainers or tea filters while steeping. It will allow removing tea leaves easily when brewing process is done.

Use the correct amount of water at proper temperature
Each tea variety requires its unique treatment with respect to brewing. Most tea companies provide a suggested instruction on the package that refers to cup of tea being 6oz. The temperature of water varies depending on type of tea. Suitable thermometers for taking the appropriate water temperature are available.

1. Black and Oolong Tea requires fully boiling water 203-212 F;
2. Green and White Tea steeps best at 176-194 F, first stage of boiling also called “string of pearls”, when small air bubbles rising to the surface and water is starting to steam.

Right temperature will allow the delicate bouquet of tea composition to unfold fully, presenting its aroma.

Tea should be steeped for the correct length of time
The length of time depends on specifics of brewing leaves which need adequate time to open. White and Green tea requires 2 to 3 minutes due to being unfermented. Infuse the tea and let sit for 2 minutes. Many green tea drinkers also start by infusing half a cup of green tea with hot water for one minute before sieving it. Then the same tea is brewed again. This way, many of the bitter substances are eliminated.

Fully fermented black tea steeps longer 4 to 5 minutes. Pour the bubbly-hot water over the tea and let sit for 3 to 5 minutes. Note: 3 minutes for an energizing result and up to 5 minutes (and a little less tea) for a more calming effect. Stir the infusion once and then pour it over a sieve or tea filter. The brewing time also depends on the size of leaf, the bigger the leaf the longer infusion time. Do not let tea brew too long, otherwise it will become bitter and taste will suffer.
 
When it comes to fruit, herb and Rooibos tea, you do not have to worry. Due to being naturally decaffeinated, these tisanes need about 10 minutes on average to brew and will not go bitter.

There is a "Perfect Tea Hourglass" available to keep to correct time.

Proper storage for tea leaves

As all products, tea leaves have an expiration date. Although each type of tea has a different shelf life, it’s best to use tea within six month since day of purchase. Green and white tea is the most perishable due to short fermentation process. These types of tea need to be consumed in year of harvest. Black and Oolong retain their properties for several years. Pu-Erh gets only better with time. However, tea should be kept away from heat, moisture and sunlight. In order to preserve freshness tea should be stored in cool, dry, dark place in tea tin or ceramic container. Tins in various sizes are ideal for the storage of loose tea. The sensitive teas are well-protected against smell and light effects. The market offers many different decors that fit each tea character.

Now, when you know all the tricks, let Tea Party begin!

 

 

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