When I began working at Simpson & Vail I was a new tea drinker and my knowledge of tea began and ended at the instant iced sweet “tea” mix you buy from the grocery store.
Do they even still make that?
Needless to say my knowledge on the subject was just about none. Now, I am nowhere near an expert, but I’ve had the privilege of tasting a variety of teas from around the world and even been able to create a whole collection of tea blends (National Park Tea Collection). It still fascinates me how much there is to learn about tea and how much dedication goes into the process of loose tea! Here are a few simple tips I wish I knew when I first started to speed up the learning curve.
I never liked green tea when I made it at home, it was always flavorless and I was never able to taste the underlying notes in the tea description. It turns out I was burning it! Well not burning it in a traditional sense, but green tea, in particular, is very delicate and the water should not be boiled. When boiled it will lose the subtle tastes and overall deliciousness of the cup and can turn out bitter or bland (similar to what happens with a black tea if you leave it steeping for too long). Most green teas should be brewed at a temperature of about 185 degrees or right when steam starts to show (no bubbles), but make sure to check the brewing instructions for each tea since some teas are better at even lower temperatures. Green tea brewed correctly is full of flavor.
If you are a flavored tea person, like me, you know there is a plethora of flavored tea options. The key thing to understand with natural and artificial flavoring is that it can vary, which means something you really like to eat you may not like in tea form and vice versa. For instance chocolate flavors, which are delicious, but often don’t have the same flavor burst as a chocolate bar does. I love chocolate, but chocolate tea just wasn’t, well, my “cup of tea.” While I am not a fan of strawberries in fruit form, Strawberry Cupcake Black Tea always makes my top 10 list of favorites. Simpson & Vail’s sampler gift boxes are a great way to branch out and try things you may not normally choose.
I know, I know…We lure you in with teas like Caramel Walnut Shortbread and Apple Cinnamon French Toast, but in order to understand the flavored teas completely I highly recommend trying some straight black or green teas. Especially the tea bases that the flavors are on. This way you can truly differentiate between the tea flavor and the flavor “flavor.” Not to mention there are so many vastly different tasting teas, no flavor necessary–we offer over 15 teas JUST from the Assam Tea Gardens and each one has a unique flavor profile!
As an employee of a loose leaf tea company I am completely biased on this topic…but still think it is important to mention. Tea bags from the grocery store are easy, yes, but I found myself dumping endless sugar and honey in them just to make them drinkable. Until you try loose tea via a filter or infuser, you truly will not know how GOOD tea can taste on its own. If you do stick with teabags, make sure they are natural and/or biodegradable. And going back to tip #1, always make sure you read the brewing instructions for each tea.
Tea can be consumed in a wide variety of ways and if you don’t like it hot–try it again when it cools down. If you are a new tea drinkers and if you still don’t like it, try it iced! Different flavors are brought out at different temperatures, so it can taste like a whole new cup of tea. We always recommend boiling your tea for iced tea and letting it cool or using the “half & half” method–half boiling water and cool water. Some great teas that work both hot and cold are: African Outback Rooibos, Yosemite Black Tea, Moroccan Mint Green Tea, and so many more!
When I first started drinking tea, I had no idea that the caffeine content varied based on the different type of tea. White tea has the highest caffeine content because it is the least oxidized form of tea and rooibos or herbal “tea” doesn’t have any! Most may not notice the difference, but if you are sensitive to caffeine this is definitely something you want to pay attention to. More caffeine content information can me found HERE.
Herbals can be a great addition to a healthy lifestyle and has many natural benefits, especially herbs like Rooibos, Turmeric and Tulsi. For instance, Echinacea is possibly effective for preventing some colds by activating chemicals in the body that decrease inflammation, BUT it may react with certain medications and can possibly have a negative impact people with certain auto-immune diseases. https://www.webmd.com/vitamins/ai/ingredientmono-981/echinacea
The key message to remember from this tip is that you should always consult your doctor if you have any questions about herbal remedies and/or their possible interactions.
A common method to keep food fresh is to keep it in the fridge or freezer…do NOT do this with tea. As a new tea drinker you will learn that loose leaf tea is very sensitive to moisture and when it is exposed the moisture can get in causing moldy tea. No one wants that! Light also has a negative impact on tea and can make it go stale or lose its flavor, so storing it in a mason jar on the windowsill is a terrible idea unless you want flavorless tea. A good rule of thumb with tea is to store it in a cool, dark place, like in an air tight tin or in a foil lined bag, in a drawer/cabinet.