Please enjoy the original writing, Christian travel journal, and photography by a hapa haole named Gail Rhea.

Original Writing & Photography

by Gail Rhea






The minimum that you'll need is:

1. Tea.

2. Good water - if your water is chlorinated or you don't like the taste of tap water, use filtered or bottled water for your tea, particularly bottled spring water - it makes a difference!

3. Measuring spoon - the variable measuring spoons that slide from 1/8 to 1 tsp. and from 1 tsp. to 1 Tbl. are ideal. Although it's better to get a pocket-sized scale that weighs in grams like the My Weigh 400Z because voluminous teas are difficult to measure accurately with a spoon and teas are measured by weight, not by volume, but when you're just starting out with loose teas, you're more likely to buy smaller, broken leaves for which a spoon will do just fine.

4. Kettle or some kind of pot for boiling water - I got my 3-qt. kettle from Big Lots for only $10 and my neighbor got a smaller kettle for $6.00 from Wal-Mart. Both are stainless steel, whistle, and have a lidded opening on top for easy filling and cleaning. An electric kettle saves energy by being faster to boil water than the stove, but the initial outlay costs more. Using a microwave is not advised because it doesn't boil water and it makes tea taste flat. Also, it's dangerous if your microwave doesn't have a temperature probe you can set since microwaved water may superheat and explode without ever coming to a rolling boil like on top of a stove. If you insist on using a microwave, please be sure to insert a microwave-safe object into the water such as a wooden stick, plastic stirrer, or microwave-safe thermometer so that it doesn't explode. Also, an instant-read thermometer may be used (outside the microwave) to pre-determine how much time is required to heat water to the desired temperature. Use that time setting religiously, remembering that determining the appropriate time has to be done for each microwave that you use because all are different.

If you don't believe that people have been scalded without any warning, please read about my personal experience with exploding water.

5. Instant-read thermometer for oolong, green, yellow, and white teas - I bought an Accurite thermometer for $5.44 from Wal-Mart that's in 2 degree increments. A digital instant-read thermometer sells for <$12. Microwave-safe thermometers are available online for about $8.00.

6. Teapot - if you don't already have one, a Pyrex cup or anything into which you may pour boiling water without it breaking will do. If there isn't a lid, a saucer, bowl, or plate should be used as a cover in order to retain heat, flavor, and aroma while the tea steeps.

7. Timer that indicates minutes and seconds - I use the one on my microwave oven.

8. Infusing basket or strainer - the best strainer I've found for capturing small leaf particles and rooibos is the Empress Tea Room Tea Strainer with Drip Bowl by G&H Tea Services that's available from various websites for $4 to $4.50 (or more). Ekco makes a coarser-meshed, but still decent stainless steel strainer that Wal-Mart sells for <$2.00. The best brewing baskets are Chatsford, Finum/Teeli, and SwissGold because they give leaves the most room to expand of any infusers and have very fine mesh to retain leaf particles keeping your beverage from oversteeping and clean so you don't get leaves in your mouth.

9. Cozy or towel to cover your teapot to help retain warmth.

10. Cup or mug.

10. Container(s) to store your tea(s) - Since tea is robbed of its freshness and flavor by exposure to heat, light, moisture, and air, you need to store your tea at room temperature in an airtight container in a dark, dry location away from the heat of the stove. Tea tins or ceramic canisters with air-tight lids are ideal for this purpose. Foil sample packets may be folded, paper-clipped shut, and stored in plastic zip bags. Tea readily absorbs other aromas and flavors, so don't leave a container open around other foods and avoid storing open packets of different teas together in a single container or reusing a storage container for a dissimilar tea. It's possible for oolong or black teas that are stored well to last 2 years (valued Pu-Erhs are known to have been kept 30 years, but Pu-Erhs are the exception) although green, yellow, and white teas should be consumed within a year. Here are a couple of suggestions for inexpensive tins if your tea isn't available for purchase in tins:

The 4 oz tins at Culinary Teas:

At Upton, the 125g tins and the 250g tins:

Other options are available from both sites as well as other places.

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