Loose Leaf Tea – an Introduction
Tea is the new wonder drug. Tea can cure anything from Alzheimer’s to that fungus on your feet. Tea can increase your libido, and save you from that Cobra bite. It can make you sleepy or wake you up. Cure depression, make you thin and fix your bad breath.
Do I have your attention now? Let me start off by introducing myself. My name is Mike, and I am a tea addict. Not only am I an addict, but I also blend and sell gourmet teas through my company, TeaFrog.com. Many of you already know me, as you have ordered through TeaFrog before, but it is not likely that we have spent much time chatting about the tea you are buying and drinking. Well, this is your chance to learn a bit more about what you are putting into your body.
I have been drinking tea since I was a kid. Many of you have the same memories, sitting in Grandma’s kitchen with a cup of Orange Pekoe, made unrecognizable with equal amounts of milk and sugar. They are fond memories. 🙂 Somewhere along the way, I started with coffee (about exam time in grade 10 I think…) and forgot all about tea. It just was not a “cool” drink in high-school. Since then, two coffee detox’s later, I have come full circle back to tea. I have discovered, as you will, that there are a multitude of flavours and strengths to find in tea, that will satisfy even the most discerning coffee drinker amongst you! This is not to say that you should stop drinking coffee, I enjoy the odd cup myself, but overall tea is better for you, and you have so much more choice.
This first article is meant only as an introduction to tea. Throughout the year, I will get more in-depth with different types of tea, from Black teas to Green, White, Yellow and beyond. There truly is a world of tea out there, and we will travel a little bit of it this year together.
What is Tea?
Well, tea, by definition, is an infusion of the Camellia Sinensis plant, or the “tea bush” or “tea tree”. Anything else is a Tisane. That includes standard “teas” such as Chamomile Tea, Herbal Tea, or Fruit Teas. Anything that is not purely made from a tea leaf, is not a “proper tea”. You will note the prolific use of quotations above. That is because I do not necessarily subscribe to that thinking. To me, a tea is a tea. I am not a tea snob, so I do not turn my nose up at calling Chamomile a “tea”. It is a tea, because that is what YOU call it. By you, I mean, well, almost everyone in the world. It may not be proper, but it is what it is. So if you are an aficionado of tea, be forewarned, I want no email when I refer to “Herbal Tea”, or “Fruit Tea”, yea, I know it is not really “tea”, but really, Tisane is just too awkward to type on my keyboard!
Tea has been drunk for thousands of years. It all supposedly started in China, when some monk’s water was polluted with a leaf and he decided “hey, I’ll drink this anyway” – and he did, and now we all do. That may be a simplification, but the point is, tea is a drink that has been consumed, around the world, for much longer than you and I have been here. Tea is the second most consumed drink in the whole world, with approximately 2.5 million (yes MILLION) metric tonnes of tea brewed for consumption, per year.
Loose Leaf Vs. Tea Bag
The most often asked question with tea is, why loose leaf as opposed to tea bag tea? The easy answer is, why instant coffee vs. brewed? Tea bag tea is generally a fast infusion for a quick flavour pop. Loose leaf tea is a bit of a longer infusion, (generally 3-5 minutes) but has MUCH more flavour. There are exceptions, as some tea companies are putting high quality loose leaf tea into tea bags, but you won’t find those in your local grocery store!
Tea bags are filled with the “fannings” of tea, or what is left over on the conveyer after all the larger leaf has been sorted. Try opening one of the tea bags in your cupboard, and see if you can find any pieces larger than than a grain of salt. How much flavour do you think you will get, compared to say, a tea leaf the size of a bay leaf? There is no comparing, loose leaf tea has more flavour and complexity.
Oh boy, there is so much to cover here, we have barely scratched the surface even of an introduction! If you are like me, you have just skimmed the bunch of text above me, to see if anything catches your interest. STOP SKIMMING NOW. I want you to read the following and give it ALL of your attention:
TEA IS ENJOYED ACCORDING TO YOUR OWN PERSONAL TASTE.
That is what it all comes down to. I am going to write, over the next year about many things, different kinds of tea, brewing techniques, what you “should” and “should not” do, but in the end, you HAVE to enjoy the tea that you are drinking, or else why drink it? One thing that I will guarantee, that no matter how hard core a coffee drinker you are, there is a tea out there that you will like. Even if you have to taste a hundred teas, then the hundred and first will be just what you were looking for. I personally have sampled well over two hundred teas, and I have to tell you that there is always new ones to try, and new flavours to experience. To study tea takes a lifetime, but to enjoy it, only an afternoon.
With all this in mind, here are some quick-shots to think about until our next article…
Health Benefits – to achieve some of the “advertised” health benefits of tea, you have to drink 8-10 cups per day. I float in that much liquid!
Types of tea – there are as many types of tea as there are days in the week (or more even!) Black, Green, White, Oolong, Red, Yellow, Pu-erh, thousands of herbal and fruit, thousands of flavoured combinations of black, green, white, basically the list is endless, but the main types are Black, Green and White.
Where you can buy tea – from me of course – http://www.teafrog.com – but also from many different online vendors, not to mention grocery stores, coffee shops, and dedicated tea stores and shops.
So, throughout the year, we will cover these quick-shots in more detail, including reputable online and in-person vendors, types of tea in general, and in more detail too, how to make tea, how to drink tea, tea accessories, examine health claims, and so much more! Stay tuned to Wondermoms.ca every month for a new article. Until then, cheers, and enjoy your cuppa! (I know, it’s a British thing, I don’t get it either…)