All About Tea
Everything You Need to Know About Loose Leaf Tea
A tea infuser is a tool used to brew loose leaf tea. They can be found in all sorts of shapes now, but usually a ball or egg shaped container that has small holes or mesh coverings to help keep tea leaves inside. They allow for the leaves to expand and the flavour to be released into your cup, while preventing the leaves from escaping. To use, place your loose leaf tea leaves inside the infuser. Then place the tea infuser into your cup, kettle, or teapot filled with hot water to brew and steep. When the appropriate amount of time has passed, remove your tea infuser. Basically, an infuser works the exact same way as a tea bag.
An alternative to using tea infusers is a tea strainer. A tea strainer is a tool made from fine mesh and is placed over your cup. It's used to catch the tea leaves from falling into your cup as you're pouring your tea. They are useful for when you like to brew tea directly inside your cup, kettle or pot.
Kettles can range form all kinds of makes and models. A pitcher-shaped metal or heat resistant glass vessel used to heat water on a stovetop or other means of heat or electric kettles that tell you the temperature of your water. Both types of kettles can be used. With a standard kettle you may need to use a thermometer to check the temperature of the water. This is because some delicate teas need water heated at a lower temperature whereas less delicate teas can be heated with water at a higher temperature.
Around 160 F. - tiny bubbles about 3 mm each form on the bottom of a pot of water on the stove.
Around 180 F. - tiny bubbles about 3 mm each rapidly rising to the surface of the pot.
Between 190 F. to 200 F. - bubbles that are between 4 and 7 mm in size, rapidly rising and a moderate amount of steam.
212 F. Full Boil - large rapidly rising bubbles, large amount of steam.
White tea is comprised of new, young tea leaves and buds from the Camellia Sinensis plant and is only harvested for a few weeks each spring in the northern district of Fujian, China. The leaves are generally picked in mid-March to early April and only on days when it is not rainy or humid. White tea can only be called “white tea” if it comes from the Fujian province. White tea gets its name from a silvery type down that covers the leaves and unopened buds.
White teas are best prepared with a milder water temperature of 175°-185° F. Water that is too hot can cause the leaves to overcook and become astringent. To capture the best flavor, we recommend steeping white teas for 1-3 minutes only. Although some white teas can be re-steeped, it is not generally recommended, as a second or third steeping may not yield as flavourful or fragrant a cup.
Green tea, also known as unoxidized tea, is made solely from the leaves of the Camellia Sinensis plant. The leaves are plucked, slightly withered, then immediately cooked to preserve the green quality and prevent oxidization. As a result of these methods, green teas have a much higher concentration of chlorophyll, polyphenols and antioxidants than other tea types. The growing conditions for green tea can be broken down between two different types: sun grown and shade grown. The leaves are generally harvested three times a year with the first flush producing the highest quality leaves. Some methods of manufacturing green tea include:
Pan Firing - Chinese green teas are often pan or wok roasted to neutralize the natural enzymes then dried, which generally results in a pale green colour.
Steaming – In general, most Japanese green teas are quickly deep steamed resulting in a bright green infusion.
Green tea is best prepared at a mild water temperature of 180°-185° F, with a steep time of about 3 minutes. Water that is too hot may result in the release of tannins from the leaves, causing the tea to become astringent. Higher quality green teas can be re-steeped 2-3 times before the flavour begins to degrade.
Black tea, also known as “red tea” in China for it's rich, reddish infusion, is unique in that it is comprised from two different forms of the Camellia Sinensis plant: Camellia Sinensis Sinensis and Camellia Sinensis Assamica. Camellia Sinensis Sinensis yields shorter leaves and is primarily used in China and other neighbouring East Asian countries. Camellia Sinensis Assamica has larger leaves and is used in parts of India and Sri Lanka. Dry black tea leaves are 100% oxidized, leaving them with a blackened colour, thus earning its name. While the method in which it is produced varies from region to region, the process always involves withering, rolling, oxidization and drying.
Black tea is best prepared at a water temperature of 206° F, with a steep time of about 3-5 minutes, to get the maximum amount of flavour from the leaf. Unlike most other tea types, black teas fare well when steeped with extremely hot water. The only exception to this rule is with Darjeelings, which are more delicate and should be steeped at a lower temperature of 180°F for no longer than 3 minutes to avoid bitterness. Black teas can be re-steeped multiple times although the flavour will depreciate with each steeping.
Pu-erh tea, known as “black tea” in the Far East part of the world, originates from the Yunnan province of China and is named after the market town in which it was first developed. Pu-erh tea is post-fermented, which means that the tea leaves go through a microbial fermentation process after they have been dried and rolled, causing the leaves to darken and change in flavour. This process allows the teas to not only improve with age like a fine wine, but many Pu-erh's are able to retain their freshness for up to fifty years! Pu-erh teas can be found in compressed brick form or in loose leaf form and can be made from both green and black tea leaves.
Puerh tea is made from a larger leaf strain of Camellia Sinensis called Dayeh, which are ancient trees with mature leaves that are said to be between 500 and 1000 years old. These trees are usually grown in temperate regions and although they can be harvested year-round, the opportune time to harvest is in mid-spring. Various conditions and environmental factors can impact the flavour profile of Pu-erh, resulting in a rich experience for the tea drinker's palate of this bold tea that can be smooth, fruity, peaty, grassy, musky, herbal and earthy.
"Awaken' the leaves by quickly rinsing with hot water at about 206°. Immediately flush out the water and re-steep. Pu-erh is brewed gongfu style, meaning that the tea leaves are only immersed in hot water for a short time before the tea is poured into another container. The best Pu-erh teas can be steeped up to 10-12 times before beginning to lose their flavour. Best enjoyed when slurped, this allows for exposure to the air, which will activate the diverse flavours while providing greater contact with your taste buds.
Herbal Tea (a.k.a. Tisane) is not technically a true tea as is does not derive from the Camellia Sinensis plant. Herbal tea is an infusion or blend of various leaves, fruits, flowers, roots or bark. Tisanes come from many different plants, so their brewing instructions vary widely. However, generally speaking, water at a full boil (212 F) will work.