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I love hearing back from my tea shop’s customers. It’s very exciting to know that something I’ve packaged at my home in Lithuania has reached people in as far as the United States. However, unless I hear from them, I can only imagine the experiences they’re having.
I’ve had the pleasure to talk to Jesse – a fellow tea lover living in Portugal. He’s been looking for an East Frisian tea blend to replace the one that he’s been drinking, but couldn’t purchase anymore as the tea shop he used to buy it from has closed.
I’ve been drinking loose leaf tea for several years now and have already shared my tea preparation tips on this blog already. However, Jesse’s been a loose-leaf tea drinker for about 30 years:
I quit using tea bags about 30 years ago after discovering how good tea is when brewed from the leaves and not from sweepings from the floor.Jesse
In my previous blog post, I’ve asked the readers to share their tea preparation tips, and Jesse’s been kind enough to share his expertise.
How I brew the perfect pot of tea
I thought I’d add some of my own brewing tips to those excellent points already provided by Vincas.
I quit using tea bags about 30 years ago after discovering how good tea is when brewed from the leaves and not from sweepings from the floor.
Use fresh, oxygenated water
Use fresh water, either directly from the tap or from a bottle. Don’t use water that has been previously boiled and cooled or water that has been sitting out for an extended time as it will have lost much of its oxygen (and flavor!).
Bring the water just to a boil and then turn off the kettle. Don’t let it continue to boil and lose oxygen.
Preheat the teapot
Fill the teapot with some of the boiled water. Don’t just pour in a little and splash it around. Fill the pot. The goal is to heat the pot so less of the water’s heat is lost during the brewing process.
Use a teapot
Always brew the tea in a pot, It is impossible to properly brew tea in a cup. As for teapots, don’t use glass, china, or metal; they cannot retain the heat.
Personally, I use only vintage Brown Betty teapots. These are made from special red clay which is excellent for heat retention. They are still made in England. I’ve never used a new one so I can’t comment on how well it works but I assume it has to be better than glass, etc. The point is to use a teapot which will keep the tea as hot as possible.
If you want very hot water, do like the East Frisians do: put about half the required water into the pot with the tea leaves and brew for the allotted time. Remove the leaves and then pour in some freshly boiled water, the amount to meet the water requirement.
Use a proper teacup
Here’s a rule: mugs are for soup, cocoa, and coffee. Never for tea. There are these things called “teacups” for a reason. Whenever tea is made and served, no matter how informal the situation, use some nice china (cup and saucer). It will make the time spent with your cuppa more special.
Strain out the leaves
If this is a special tea occasion and fancy china or a silver teapot is called for, heat it while the tea is brewing in its ugly stepsister pot. After the brewing is complete, the liquor is poured from the brewing pot to the emptied china pot, straining out the leaves.
Loose leaf tea needs space
Always either pour the dry leaves directly into the pot or use the largest mesh strainer the pot will accommodate. The goal is to directly expose the tea leaves to as much water as possible. Don’t use tea ball strainers, etc. They are way too small.
Also, I have no proof for this but I don’t trust using the paper tea bags that you pour the tea in yourself. Some of them use bleach and other chemicals in their production. Even if they don’t use these chemicals, I suspect that the favorable oils of the tea are trapped inside the paper. I used to use these but have given them up years ago with good success. My knowledge is purely existential!
Experiment and learn
Experiment with the amount of tea used each time a pot is made. Tea is an artisanal, hand-made product of the earth and is variable. Each box or bag of tea will vary as will each spoon of leaves used for the tea. Don’t expect every pot or cup of tea to taste the same.
Get to know the box or bag (and brand) of tea you’re using and do a little experimenting from the time you open it and begin to use it.
Some people recommend rinsing the tea leaves quickly prior to brewing them. It’s not something I do but I am considering it. This advice is very new on the internet and I don’t know its origins.
Pour the water directly onto the leaves in the pot (or in the strainer). Steep for the allotted time.
Don’t forget to cover the pot with a quality cozy to keep the pot and tea hot.
At the end of brewing and once the leaves have been removed from the pot, stir the liquor to distribute the flavor evenly.
Remember: brew, don’t stew! Over-brewed tea is bitter and not worth drinking. With time and practice, you’ll learn the correct amount of time necessary to brew a cup of tea exactly to your tastes.
Even though I try to research, learn and share about tea as much as I can, I’m still a relatively novice loose-leaf tea drinker. Someone with decades worth of experience will inevitably provide wisdom that I couldn’t.
Personally, after Jesse’s tea preparation tips, I will consider getting a proper clay pot, instead of my current glass one. Also, the idea of brewing tea in a different teapot than the one you serve in is very clever! I never knew what to do with the tea that’s left in the teapot after the first round is served – it’s not an issue if the tea leaves are already strained.
Viston Tea is not only about providing you with great loose leaf tea – it’s also about building a community of tea lovers. I’m very excited to hear your stories and insights, and I will definitely re-share them with the rest of the community! Make sure to subscribe to the newsletter, so that you don’t miss them.
Let me know in the comments – how did you get into loose leaf tea?