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

Original Writing & Photography

by Gail Rhea

 

 

 

HOW TO BREW LOOSE TEA

 

(In tea talk, 1 cup = 6 oz. not the standard 8 oz. The standard measurement of tea is 2 grams per 5.5 oz. of water or 2.25 grams per 6 oz. of water. The British method of 1 teaspoon of tea per serving plus "one for the pot" is because they make their tea strong to support the addition of milk. They also provide a pitcher of hot water so those who don't want milk tea may dilute it.)

Below are directions for tea, ice tea, tea for a crowd, and sun tea.


How to brew hot tea:

1. Bring fresh cold water in the kettle or saucepan to a rolling boil. While waiting for the water to boil, fill the teapot or cup to preheat it with hot water because water temperature drops faster when steeping in a cold vessel. Do not over boil, never reboil water leftover in the kettle from a previous time, and never start with hot tap water or your tea will taste flat. If making oolong, green, or white tea, let the water cool to 180F or below. Japanese greens do better at 10 lower than other green teas.

2. Before the water reaches a boil, discard the water used for preheating your teapot or cup and wipe out the excess water. Measure tea leaves into it or your brew basket and insert the basket into the pot or cup/mug. Typically, you'll want to start with 1 tsp. or 2.25 grams per 6 oz. cup until you determine the best amount needed for that particular tea to suit your taste. The exception is gunpowder for which it's best to start with 1/2 tsp. or 1 gram per cup so it isn't intolerably strong the first time you brew it. Put the lid on the teapot or a saucer over the cup or mug. This will start opening the leaves and drawing out their flavor and aroma before the water's poured on.

3. When the water is ready, pour it onto the tea and cover. You'll need to take the teapot to the kettle for black teas because they need boiling water and too much heat will be lost if you take the kettle to the teapot especially if it's out in the living room like some do when they're entertaining guests. If the water isn't hot enough for black tea, about half the leaves will float near the top.

4. Set your timer and wait, stirring once about mid-way to enhance circulation of the water through the leaves. Do not judge the strength of the tea by color because different leaves produce lighter or darker brews. You're doing this for better flavor so, you may as well do it right.

Find tea bliss with a taste test:

Steep for the minimum time on the directions and taste. Continue steeping for an additional 30 seconds and taste again. Repeat every 30 seconds until you reach the "ahh..." sensation up to the maximum time. If you have a brew basket, conducting a taste test is easy because all you have to do is lift out the basket, taste, and reinsert the basket.  

If the brew is too strong at the minimum time, add hot water to dilute it, and use less tea next time. Don't steep for less than the minimum time because the time is needed to extract the flavor and develop any nuances.

If a black tea is still weak at the maximum time, start over using more tea. There's no sense in going over the maximum time with black teas because they'll only get bitter and any nuances are overwhelmed.

If you think an oolong, green, yellow, or white tea is harsh or astringent, steep with cooler water - down to 140F. Some Darjeeling first flush teas do better in water that's 190-200F instead of boiling like other black teas.

For best results, conduct a taste test for each new package of single estate loose tea because soil differences and climate changes affect the taste of tea from batch to batch.

5. When the timer goes off, stir the brew again especially if you're making tea for two or more so that the liquor is the same strength throughout. Strain the tea into cup(s) or mug(s). If you're using an infuser basket, remove the basket, then stir and serve. 

If you're steeping more tea than what will be immediately served and have more than one teapot, you can steep in one teapot and strain into another. If you have only one teapot, measure the leaves into the pot used to heat the water after you take it off the stove, then strain into the teapot when the steeping time is up so the leaves won't sit in the teapot and make the beverage bitter.

If you're brewing a tisane (herbal tea) or an infusion (fruit tea), you don't have to remove the leaves because, while the brew may get somewhat stronger which most people don't mind, it won't get bitter like tea does.

6. Oolong, green, yellow, and white teas are meant to be consumed as is, but a sweetener such as sugar, honey, stevia, jam, marmalade, or other preserves as well as milk or lemon may be added to black teas and tisanes to suit your taste. Cream is not recommended because it's too heavy and the tea will curdle it. Don't use milk and lemon together because the lemon will curdle the milk. Let sugar dissolve and stir before adding lemon or the lemon will greatly slow the sugar's dissolving. The same goes for milk; it's best to add milk after the sugar dissolves because the addition of milk will lower the temperature of the tea and make it harder for the sugar to dissolve.

 

If you take your tea British style, milk tea, that is, black with milk, you may get embroiled in the argument about whether the milk goes into the cup before or after the tea. Logically, milk is added last to let any sugar dissolve and so you'll have the right amount since you can't tell how much you'll need before the tea is served when you're drinking a new tea or visiting a place where someone else brews the tea for you. However, when the lower classes of Britain took up the practice of drinking tea that only the refined upper classes had been enjoying, it was necessary for them to put their milk in first to prevent the hot tea from cracking and ruining their cups. The higher classes didn't have that problem with their fine bone china. Eventually, the tea ware of the lower classes improved, but many retained the milk-first practice out of habit, many likely not knowing the reason why it was done that way at the beginning. 

Some may insist that the milk goes in first to avoid it being scalded by the tea, and vice versa, but scalding milk with tea is a myth and has nothing to do with it. In fact, milk is more likely to be scalded by putting it in the cup first and pouring the hot tea into it since tea has to be strained immediately to stop it from over-steeping. Adding milk to tea that's already in the cup allows the tea to cool somewhat longer.

7. Sip, slurp, and/or drink at will until your cup is empty.

8. Save oolong, green, yellow, and white tea leaves to infuse at least twice more. Most black teas cannot be reinfused; if you want to try, your best bet is with a whole-leaf Assam or Yunnan. The reason that you can't reinfuse teabags and get the same flavor as the first steeping as you can with loose tea is because the dust used in teabags releases 80% to 98% of the flavor in the first infusion leaving you with only colored water. Larger leaves release their flavor much more slowly. 

 

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How to make ice tea the super-easy way:

1. Fill quart pitcher with fresh, cold water.

2. Stir in 8-10 tsps. of loose tea.

3. Let sit in refrigerator overnight or for at least six hours.

4. Strain and serve over ice.

 

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How to prepare tea for a crowd (Developed by the Tea Council of the U.S.A., this concentrate serves about 25):

1. Preheat quart-sized teapot.

2. Heat 1 quart of fresh cold water to the proper temperature for the tea you've selected.

3. Empty teapot and add 2/3 cup loose tea.

4. Pour hot water over the tea and brew for 5 minutes.

5. Stir tea, then strain into a quart-sized pitcher or another teapot.

6. Keep this concentrate at room temperature up to four hours. Pour 2 Tbl. into each cup and fill with more hot water when ready to serve. For ice tea, use 2-1/2 Tbl. per glass and fill with cold water and ice.

 

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Sun Tea

Unfortunately, sun tea has the potential of being hazardous to one's health quite unlike the methods above.

From the Colorado State University Extension (http://www.ext.colostate.edu/safefood/newsltr/v3n2s06.html):

"Using the natural rays of the sun to make tea is fun and popular in the summer. However, using such a method to make tea is highly discouraged. Sun tea is the perfect medium for bacteria to grow."

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Copyright 1993- Gail Rhea.

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