Taking time for tea

14 September 2017
I was pleased to read a post about teabags on nannachel's blog yesterday as a follow up to my link to how tea bags are made.  Chel wrote to Neranda, the maker of the tea she buys. You can read here what they wrote back. This tied in well with my planned post today because a few readers wrote and asked what's the best way to make tea using loose eat instead of tea bags.  They've all been tea baggers in the past, have never made loose tea, and want to change.  So here goes.  

If you make frequent cups of tea or coffee, it's a good idea to set up a tea station. Organise this close to where you keep your cups and electric kettle, or next to the stove where you boil water. In addition to the tea, store your sugar, honey, tea spoons, tea strainers and tea pot there. 

There are many different tea balls and baskets of varying shapes and sizes, the ones I have here are just a few of the vast variety.  Buy what you think will work best for you. I can't tell you which shops have these things but you'll probably find them in Kmart and Target as well as the kitchen shops.  You'll also need some loose leaf tea.  Like Chel, I buy Neranda tea.  I buy the 250 gram pack for $3. It's always cheaper to buy loose leaf tea and it's usually better quality tea.  This pack will last us 4-6 weeks. How much you use will depend on how strong or weak you like your tea, how big your cups or mugs are and how many people you're making tea for. Don't buy too much at a time. A 250gram pack is good for a single person or a couple, 500 grams for a larger number. 

The tea basket over the side of the cup and the tea basket in the cup will help you make a good cup of tea for one using loose tea.

Of course you could always pay much more for organic black loose leaf tea - it's at least double the price but I'm happy with Neranda. It's grown and processed in Australia, it's insecticide-free, it's very tasty and I can get it locally at a very good price. I'm also fond of Earl Grey tea, which is just black tea with the essential oil bergamot added. However, a 125 gram pack of Twinings Earl Grey loose tea costs $7, so it's an occasional buy, not a frequent one, here. I used to buy King tea but I haven't seen it in any store lately.  Another one bites the dust.

A tea pot and a tea strainer will have you making tea the same way your great grandma made it.

The traditional way to make tea is in a tea pot.  I have a large tea ball (above) in which I put three teaspoons of tea and cover with boiling water. I let it brew with the lid on for about three minutes.  Large tea balls are very handy because they'll retain the tea leaves and you won't have to strain them through a tea strainer when you pour the tea.  However, you can easily just throw the loose tea into the tea pot, cover with boiling water and let it sit for a few minutes to brew.  If you make tea this way, you can either use a tea strainer or carefully pour the tea into the cup. If the tea is brewed properly and you don't shake the pot, most of the tea leaves will remain at the bottom of the pot and you won't need a strainer.

Above and below, these tea balls are like tea bags. They float in the boiling water and slowly the tea is brewed. When you remove the ball, it sits in the little cup to drain. They can be used repeatedly for years and are easily cleaned in the dish washer or can be washed by hand.

A pot of tea is ideal for a group of two or three, or more.  If the tea is for you alone, use one of the little tea balls, or a tea basket hooked over the side of the cup or a basket inside the cup.  One teaspoon of tea, pour over boiling water and let it sit for three minutes. The crucial element here is time.  Tea needs time to brew. The boiling water will soften the tea leaves and leaving them to steep for a few minutes will give you a full flavoured cuppa. You can then add milk, honey, sugar or lemon, depending on your taste.

Tea can be reused a few times before all the flavour goes. If you've got a few people to make tea for, make up a pot, pour the tea into all the cups you need, then add more boiling water to the pot. Allow it to steep for four minutes, remove the tea ball from the tea pot and put a tea cosy on the pot to keep it hot for a second cuppa for everyone.  And when the tea leaves are discarded, throw them into the compost where they'll decompose with the organic matter already there. The leaves will break down just like fruit and vegetable peelings do.  You can also use tea leaves on your blueberry bushes. They add a bit of acidity to the soil which the bushes love.

Good tea can't be rushed. Making tea like this and taking the time to slow yourself down enough to do it helps build slowness into your days. The urge to move through the day going as fast as possible is challenged by the process of making a cup of tea, especially if you make a pot and you go through the ritual of pouring tea from a pot. The ritual slows you down before you sit down to enjoy the tea. Surely in these days of multitasking and doing as much as you can in a day, the time you take to make a good cup of tea is an investment in your own mental health.