I have always loved drinking tea, but in the past few years I have become increasingly obsessed with it.
Part of this is thanks to my increased exposure to really high-grade teas.
In ye olden days, I used to collect box after box of Celestial Seasonings (herbal tisanes, not actually tea, so I will not refer to it as such), Twinings (their Earl Grey used to be one of my jams for a long time) Good Earth Tea (which I used to love til I found out that their cinnamon flavor was artificial), Harney & Sons (shockingly — especially for a supposed high-end tea — they use a lot of artificial flavorings, too) and the like.
Then, a few years ago, some tea-loving co-workers got me into collecting a ton of loose tea, either ordered online from places like Adagio Tea and Simpson & Vail, or purchased at Ren Faires and farmers markets. Those teas are definitely far above supermarket stuff. Made me swear off pre-bagged tea forever — I upgraded to “rolling my own”, buying empty tea bag paper from Daiso & filling them with my tea of choice.
HOWEVER — my partner has introduced me to the Holy Grail of high-quality tea, which lives in a shop not far from his place. Lucky for us, because we are both OBSESSED.
Don’t get me wrong — I still like some flavored teas and herbal infusions. But learning to appreciate the taste of fine tea and all its myriad flavors and nuances — instead of covering it up with other additives — is a complete game-changer. I thank Xiu Xian Tea, a shop in WA, for deepening my tea education. Forget Teavana, and FUCK all that powdery stuff in pre-made bags. Xiu Xian is a fine example of a legit tea shop.
Tea has become an almost-daily habit for me. I’ll share an example of my process, adapted from what I’ve learned.
Water temperature is important for tea, so having a nice electric kettle has been very handy.
Today, I decided on a nice pu-erh variety. This one comes in a compressed brick, so to make yourself a cuppa, you break off a chunk & break it apart. I didn’t have a gaiwan (small, lidded tea bowl) handy to brew it in, so I just used a regular glass.
One thing I learned about great tea-brewing is that you ought to rinse it before drinking. That is, the first infusion should be brief, and when the water comes to just under boiling (like 208 degrees F), add a little water to the tea, then strain it & dump out the first infusion. That will wet the tea & wake it up, so to speak.
After rinsing, brew away. Most fine tea varieties can stand up to multiple infusions. And forget that “steep in boiling water for 3-5 minutes” bullshit. It takes a little experimenting to brew it to your taste, but the basic guideline is.. steep it til it looks like the right color for the variety of tea you’re drinking. Usually just a few seconds — 15-30 — per infusion. With each infusion, you can let it steep a little bit longer. The tea prices at Xiu Xian might seem a bit steep, but you can get multiple cups of tea per tablespoon of tea that you use. I think I got about 5 cups out of this batch of pu-erh.
Just make sure you seal it up the rest of your tea. Tins or glass jars are great too, as long as they seal up airtight.
And that’s what I know about tea thus far.