I don’t know about you, but I sure have enjoyed having my husband, Randy, stop by for regular features. He’s here again today to share about his new insights on how to make tea (both hot and iced tea) using loose leaf tea. Take it away, Randy!
I feel a little silly saying I just discovered tea. Humans have been drinking it for thousands of years and it’s only the second most consumed drink in the world behind water. And I myself have enjoyed tea in some form every day of my life since I could hold a sippy cup. So I was already a fan of tea, however, what I just discovered was how to make tea much better.
I stumbled into a quiet coffee shop while on vacation recently. I had a hankering to try something different so I asked the barrista to hook me up with a cup of hot black tea. (I usually drink coffee every morning then black iced tea at lunch time). They had a big selection of loose teas. I sort of randomly pointed to Thunderbolt Darjeeling not knowing anything about it. The description said fine black tea. The dude put 2 scoops of tea from the tin into a French press then poured hot water over it. He suggested I press and pour the tea into my cup after about a 2 minute steep. I did and added about a teaspoon of honey. I took a sip and it was really good. It tasted like black tea that I’m used to but a lot better. I had 6 cups of that tea over the next 4 days. Every time I was surprised how good it tasted. It had a floral quality like a bunch of fresh rose petals and even a subtle citrus-like thing going on. I drink a lot of iced tea and it reminded me of really good iced tea that I’ve had in the past. Come to think of it it’s been a long time since I’ve had a great glass of iced tea.
On the way home I did a lot of reading on the internet. I learned several things. Among them, tea people believe loose tea is better than tea made from tea bags and water temperature and steep-time are critical and vary with different varieties. Also, according to my sources on the internet, tea blends contain a mixture of teas of varying quality. High quality, single-estate teas are preferable.
Another thing I learned on the internet is Darjeeling is not a type or a brand of tea, it’s a region in India in the foothills of the Himalayas renowned for growing some of the most flavorful teas in the world. Tea bushes grow slower in the high altitudes and that is said to produce fine delicate flavors, according to my internet sources.
I’ve been doing a lot if experimenting. I went into a funky hipster independent tea shop and ordered a black iced tea for $4. It tasted like dirt, literally like soil. A few days later I ordered a $2 hot black tea from a well known chain coffee store and it wasn’t much better.
My local grocer has a small selection of loose black tea blends. I tried an English Breakfast tea and an Irish Breakfast. I prepared hot and iced teas from both according to directions below. They were both good (a lot better than tea prepared from tea bags from the same brand). Finally Amy ordered me some Darjeeling from Amazon. It’s my favorite so far.
I know it takes a little more time and effort, but it’s well worth it. No joke, I look forward to waking up so I can have my tea.
If anyone is reading this from the UK or India or China they are probably chuckling at the thought of middle aged American just figuring this out. Better late than never.
Lose the bag and try making a cup or glass at home from quality loose tea. You’ll be glad you did.
- 1½ teaspoons loose tea leaves
- 8 ounces water
- Place loose tea into French Press.
- Bring 8 ounces of water to just shy of boiling. Pour hot water into the press over the tea leaves.
- Put the plunger into the top to the water level.
- Steep for 3-4 minutes
- Press plunger down to filter tea being careful not to press tea leaves (it makes it bitter).
- Pour filtered tea into cup. Add honey or sugar to taste.
- If you think you will want a second cup within an hour just leave the wet tea leaves in the bottom of the press and re-use them with the same steep time. Many tea drinkers believe the 2nd and 3rd pours off the same leaves yield better flavors.
- Makes ½ gallon.
- 4 tablespoons loose tea leaves
- ½ gallon water
- optional: sugar
- Heat half gallon of water in a saucepan until almost boiling.
- Scoop 4 tablespoons loose tea into the hot water.
- Steep for 3-4 minutes.
- Optional: If sweet tea is desired, scoop ⅓ cup of sugar into a ½ gallon tea pitcher.
- Pour steeped tea through a strainer into tea jug.
- Stir, cover, and refrigerate until ready to serve.
- Serve over ice and enjoy.