There are many ways to get your tea on, from simple to geek-level complicated. The best tea brewing method for you isn't just about taste, or even health benefits. It's also about your lifestyle, and what you're looking to get out of your tea experience. We’re going to explore hot brew, cold brew, flow through and grandpa style!
Hot Brew - Classic style
Western hot brew is pretty common: steeping tea with hot water ( preferably at a temperature suiting the tea you're making ) in a pot or cup. In Britain and the US this style is familiar, accessible and relatively easy. For ultimate ease just use a tea bag and a cup, or be classic with loose leaf tea, a teapot, a strainer and go Downton Abbey on that thing.
Hot brewing brings out more of the tannins and caffeine in tea versus cold brew. If you like the astringency of those tannins and getting the most caffeine out of your cup, hot brew is great.
When it comes to a traditional British black tea with cream and sugar I am so accustomed to hot brew that it feels like the soothing familiarity of a favorite cozy blanket. When it comes to green tea though I am a fan of cold brew.
Cold Brew - Progressive style
This method is as simple as putting leaves in water and letting them steep in the fridge (I’ve steeped anywhere from 8-24 hours). The main considerations are water quality and leaf to water ratio. Avoid using chalky water (because it’s gross) or distilled (because the flavor compounds won’t have anything to cling to resulting in a cup of blah). Use filtered or spring water. You’ll be happier, and happiness is what we are aiming for. The amount of leaves to use depends on your palate. Some people use more leaves for cold brew (like with cold brew coffee) others use the same amount as they use in hot brew and are satisfied.
Cold brew differs from hot brew in taste because they are different chemically. (Help me out, Science!) The molecules move around more slowly than in hot brew. This results in fewer of certain compounds being released from the leaves, like polyphenols and caffeine. That’s why the taste of cold brew is smoother with no real acidic bite.
Flow Through - Geek style
Tea blending is truly an art form. One of my favorite blends from Harney & Sons is Eight at the Fort, a blend of eight teas created for a meeting of eight world leaders in 1997. The site mentions silver, black and green teas which you can see when looking at the leaves. How they get them all to play together so nicely when brewed at black tea temperatures, I don’t know. It just works.
When making your own blends, whether with herbs and a base tea or mixing tea from different categories, it may take some experimentation. One way to test and enjoy your blend is using the flow through steeping method.
This is where steeping gets a little more complicated. The idea is that you steep the tea that takes the hottest water first and then steep the other tea(s) in the strained first tea at the temperature best for them.
As an example I made a blend of ¾ Chinese green tea to ¼ peppermint. I steeped both together at green tea temperature (I chose 175 degrees F/ 79 degrees C for this tea) for three minutes as a control. Then I steeped the peppermint in just boiled water for five minutes, as herbs release more of their goodness in hotter water and longer steeping times. After the peppermint finished, I steeped the green tea in the peppermint tea for three minutes.
Though the same amount of leaves was used for both the taste difference was noticeable. In the control tea the peppermint was milder and the green tea was more forward, but to me, murky. In the flow through method the tea was overall more aromatic, with the peppermint being very forward though the green tea still made its presence known.
I asked someone else who I’ve never made tea for which one they enjoyed better. At first they thought they would like the flow through one better, but after multiple sips they decided they preferred what they called the earthiness of the control one. That is the beauty of tea. You can make it to your preference. With this flow through example, I think it depends on whether you want the peppermint or the green tea to be the dominant note.
When flow through is used with blends of different categories of tea, like black and green, it can give each tea it’s due. If steeping the lighter tea in the darker one doesn’t please you, you can also steep each separately at their correct temperatures and combine them afterward. Indulge your tea geekery and discover what works for you.
The unboxing video above shows you an overview of what was in the BRUU tea subscription box. Now let’s talk a bit about the teas. It is my understanding that the types of tea change each month. When you join the service you indicate your tea preferences and they create boxes for you around them. BRUU sent me a box to review, so I did not indicate my preference. This time there were 2 CTC (crush tear curl) black teas, a flavored green tea and one herbal tisane. Let's get our tea on!
The first black tea in the BRUU box was an orange pekoe named Somerset Pekoe. This was a very broken leaf tea that gives flavor over very quickly. It has a fruity nose, floral notes and a briskness taking milk and sweetener well. This orange pekoe tea is from Sri Lanka (aka Ceylon). The card that came with this tea indicates it was grown in a cooler region on the Talawakelle tea estate. That information is interesting because temperature is one of the factors that affects the antioxidants (and flavor) in tea. (Note that polyphenols are a type of antioxidant and catechins are a type of polyphenol. Ugh. That’s it for the science lesson for now. We’ll come back to that in another post.)
For those who aren’t aware, orange pekoe (abbreviated OP) is the name of a grade of tea and has nothing to do with the flavor. There is no orange in it. This one is a broken leaf orange pekoe which is usually without golden tips.
Surianalle black tea, from Munnar
This was the "discover' tea in the box and came with a special large information card. From the town of Munnar in the state of Kerala, India this is a high elevation tea - listed as 1532m above sea level.
Both from what I've experienced and what I've been taught tea grown at higher elevations tends to have a more complex flavor profile. One reason is there is greater carbohydrate content in the leaf which lends a sweeter flavor. This happens because the conditions are so difficult that to grow a plant needs to put more carbohydrates in the leaves.
Other details listed include the soil: sandy loam; season: December-February; and average temperature: 19℃.
This is another very broken CTC tea. I found it to be softer, rounder than the OP, and less brisk but fuller bodied. It would also take milk and sweetener well and be a good morning cuppa in the British fashion.
A simple, but pleasing mix of 3 ingredients: apple, pineapple and lemongrass. The fruit and herbaceous notes work well together. They have a pleasant party (without any actual turkey, though it's a funny little image on the package there.)
The card on this herbal tisane said it is a famous tea. If Turkish apple is a famous tea, I must live under a rock. Not surprising as I'm more of an underground, cult favorite kind of person anyway. I am more familiar with the traditional black tea in Turkish culture, made in a samovar as a concentrate with hot water added to obtain the desired strength.
Per my research Turkish apple tea was introduced as a tea for tourists a while back because traditional Turkish tea, just like their coffee, is very strong and most western tourists weren't into it. So a no tea, caffeine free, herbal version was created of which there are many variations. Some use flavorings as opposed to actual pieces of fruit. It looks like this is a variation on that tourist aimed tea.
This is a flavored sencha tea, a Japanese green from Shizuoka. It has everything in it: flavoring, mallow blossoms, rose petals, freeze-dried strawberries, blackberries and raspberries and freeze-dried yogurt granules (that’s a new one for me).
It is very berry indeed, and the sugar in it means no sweetener is required. The tea took a back seat in my opinion, but I think that was the point. If you like the benefits of green tea but prefer fruity tasting tea this would be a good blend for you.
There are different types of tea subscription services for different types of tea drinkers. BRUU’s subscription box is a low cost introduction to a variety of teas for a tea lover looking to expand their knowledge and experience the fun of getting tea delivered to their door every month. The information cards are a fun addition, though a bit hard to read (but that’s why cell phones have magnifiers). They use responsible packaging from recycled sources too with the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) symbol on their box. Yes, they deliver to the US.
This tea subscription service would be good for the tea drinker who is:
Thanks to BRUU for supplying the box for this tea adventure.
I knew I had to do this post just as much for myself as for anyone else out there who might be going through something similar. I’ve found that grief is something that comes in waves. It is a process. It doesn’t have a rule book or manual. It is an individual experience, and it takes however long it takes. Going through it alone however is a kind of self-induced torture.
During this time of covid-19 and human rights atrocities, we’ve lost so much: structure, outlets, human contact, jobs, income, security, respect, freedom. Some have lost their lives or people they love or beloved pets.
In a time where we are asked to stay alone or in small groups our grieving process has been taken too. Funerals, wakes, gathering together to celebrate the life of another, are limited if they are available at all. This makes it even more important to create new rituals and to soothe ourselves. It’s also extremely important not to become emotionally isolated. A phone call or video call may not substitute for a hug and an actual shoulder to cry on, but they’re better than being alone with cycling surges of loss.
I’ve had two personal situations during this time that made me realize how important it is to engage in self-care and to reach out. Someone dear to me thousands of miles away is being cared for in a facility, but no one is allowed to visit. I don't know how much time she has left. The powerlessness. The uncertainty.
Then my beloved cat fell ill and deteriorated. This magical creature that has been a part of my life every day for years was in pain. Not getting better. Having to make a decision when or if to end his life before he was in excruciating pain is one of the hardest things I’ve ever done. Watching the light leave his eyes felt like light was leaving my life.
Waves still hit me.
Rituals like tea and conversations with friends don’t eliminate grief, but I’ve found they help me process it. That’s the goal. Not to wallow in grief, not to reject it and have it haunt me later, but process it, get on the other side of it, and continue to live.
There have been some days that looking forward to a cup of tea is what got me out of bed. When so much of life feels out of control, making a cup of tea the way I like it reminds me that I do have choices. The calm from the L-theanine and the energy from the caffeine are a feel-good combo. They help my focus when my mind wants to fly away or just put me to sleep.
Video calls with friends over tea (and sometimes something stronger) give me a feeling of connection. To share something positive with those I love and who love me in return does more than ease grief, it builds relationships, continuing the story until the next time we can take hands and breathe the same air.
I don’t believe we are meant to be islands. Though it is difficult to be vulnerable in front of others, handling emotional pain alone isn’t heroic. It doesn’t save the world. Vulnerability isn’t shameful. I encourage you to reach out to someone you trust.
Perhaps you feel everyone in your life is currently so burdened you don’t feel comfortable talking to them about your pain. I get it. Perhaps you don’t feel you have someone in your life you can be that vulnerable in front of. I get that too. If you’re surrounded by empty platitudes rather than people who actually show up you can still show up for yourself. You can also reach out to a third-party like a professional. Sometimes it is easier to talk about something emotionally heavy with someone who is completely uninvolved. They’re not someone you will see on a regular basis, their opinion of you matters less, and they’re not emotionally attached to the issue.
Now I’m not a counselor or psychologist. I’m just a person learning to manage my own sadness during this time, and sharing what I hope will be helpful to you managing yours. Even though I do have people who are in a good place to reach out to (and who I appreciate immensely for supporting me), I do occasionally use a couple of the resources below. I hope that they are helpful to you when you need them.
Whatever your loss or grief I wish you healing and that love and joy win the battle for your heart.
Grief and Mental Health RESOURCES
Anxiety and Depression Association of America
Video resources, therapist directory
No insurance, low cost:
Messaging therapy (fee based/weekly), paired with a therapist
Crisis Text Line
Free 24/7 resource in US, Canada, UK, Ireland
Pet grief resources
Multiple resources including a forum, chat, coping suggestions for children and adults and more
The Rainbow Bridge poem: https://www.rainbowsbridge.com/Rainbow_Boutique/Rainbow_items/Poem_upclose.htm
Though I started this in May, I needed time and clarity to complete it. This is not a sponsored post. Resources were just those I've found and/or used.
Happy International Tea Day everyone! This is the first official observance of this international day. For those who don’t know, this isn’t just a day to celebrate your tea love. This day was created to put a focus on the needs of tea workers, the industry, the importance of sustainability, and the worldwide impact of tea economically as well as culturally.
Brief Tea Day History
An unofficial International Tea Day was celebrated in 2005 in New Delhi. It is now an official day of observance each May 21 as decreed by the United Nations General Assembly:
“In 2015, during a meeting in Milan, Italy, the IGG on Tea discussed the idea of an International Tea Day. The proposal was then endorsed by the FAO Committee on Commodity Problems (CCP) and subsequently adopted by the United Nations General Assembly in December 2019” - Wikipedia
Drought, Prices and Hard Times for Tea Workers
The tea industry has been hard hit by recent droughts and fires that have actually destroyed some ancient tea trees particularly in the Yunnan province. (Check out my Tea from a Drought Year post.)
When you see a higher price point for some of your favorite teas, especially the rare ones, understand that there are plantations and workers who have been dealing with reduced harvests and lack of employment prior to covid-19 because of drought and fire damage. The cost increases are justified considering the smaller yields. The taste of the tea when it has gone through a drought is really unique it is and worth the higher price point for that too.
To learn even more about this official day check out the United Nations site. There was also a webcast today by the Food and Agriculture Organization of the UN (FAO) bringing together professionals from major tea producing countries around the world. They discuss tea varieties and how they are part of cultural events and pay homage to those who have passed on the love of tea from generation to generation. You can see the webcast here: http://www.fao.org/webcast/home/en/item/5271/icode/
There’s been a lot of talk about mindfulness in regard to health and how we view our world. International Tea Day is a great opportunity to appreciate the beverage you love, the earth that nurtured it, and all of the human hands that came together to bring it to you. In some ways tea really does bring the world together.
Share a picture of your tea or tell us what you are drinking in social!
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