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.
As a tea drinker I’m sure you can relate to this scenario: you and a friend go out for tea/coffee and a chat at the local coffee shop. Your friend orders a latte, you order a tea. You get handed a cup of whatever-temperature-they-have water with a bag floating in it, or worse, a cup of water with a metal spoon in it with a bag on the side. (Has everyone forgotten basic science?) Your friend gets a properly ground and brewed espresso shot, carefully foamed milk of their choice and a topping of latte art. Thankfully not all coffee businesses diss the tea drinker. There are some coffee companies that realize coffee drinkers sometimes drink tea or invite friends over who do. Amora is that kind of coffee company.
Firstly, Amora is a specialty coffee company that understands the beauty in the details. From their website, they roast “on-demand” for their customers, giving the freshest experience, and they have a 9 part roasting process (they say the usual is 3) I have not had their coffee, but I did work for a roastery at one point and can tell you the fresher the roast the better the experience.
Amora wisely recognized that there is a tea drinking market and that tea and coffee drinkers are social with each other. So in 2015 they “ added Amora Tea: "because tea drinkers deserve the same love.” (Yes. Yes we do.)
Their tea offerings, like their coffee, are focused on a blend of quality and ease. Not all tea drinkers are into the more involved process of loose leaf tea selection and brewing. Amora uses bags which are very popular for the occasional tea drinker or those who want to have something to offer their tea drinking friends. Their bags are biodegradable and pyramid shaped which offers more room for the tea and water to mingle.
If you’re put off by the bag part, remember, not all bagged teas are alike. As you can see from this side by side comparison of Amora’s Green Cloud Mist tea and a well known, readily available green tea in a traditional paper bag (No. I'm not name-shaming.). You can see that the Amora green tea is larger pieces of leaf and deeper in color.
In my experience pyramid bagged tea usually indicates a better quality than the tea in old fashioned paper bags. But the proof is in the taste. I gave my friend who is a frequent but casual green tea drinker one of the Amora bags and he noticed a marked difference in taste, saying that it was smoother and tasted better. The more broken the leaf the more quickly it loses flavor and the dust/fanning bagged teas release more tannins for a more bitter experience. Amora is offering a bridge between full loose leaf and extremely broken bagged tea with the convenience of a bag.
So if you want to have tea on hand for your occasional tea mood, for your tea drinking friends or you just prefer a good standard tea with no fuss Amora teas hit the spot.
The black tea for Amora’s English Breakfast is sourced from the Iyerpadi tea estate in India.
I picked up a fruity, sweet, round taste with a body that can take cream and sugar but not so heavy the spoon will stand up in it. (That is as it should be. The spoon standing should be left to Irish Breakfast and Scottish Breakfast blends.)
Teas often feel like experiences to me and this one is like walking through a forest picking wild berries.
An interesting extra note for iced tea drinkers: the organic Iyerpadi Black BOP doesn’t get cloudy when cool.
The leaves for this tea are sourced from the first organic tea estate in the world (certified in 1989): Idulgashinna, bio-dynamic estate (since 1999) in Sri Lanka
If you are an Earl Grey drinker you may be aware of the myriad of Earl Grey’s out there - some with double or triple bergamot, a lighter bodied tea as a base, or the addition of other elements like lavender or lemon. This is a straight up Earl Grey that I think would please most casual Earl Grey fans.
Green Cloud Mist
This is an organic Chinese tea called Yun Wu or Cloud Mist from remote Mount Putuo in the Zhejiang province.
I found this to be a satisfying light bodied green with minerality, a touch of butter and leaving a pleasant dryness on the tongue. I liked it steeped for shorter time or in more than 6-8 oz. water.
This one also reminded me of an experience: walking along a beach with the scent of the water rushing over the rocks.
Ginger Lemongrass (herbal)
This blend is 100% natural organic ginger root, lemongrass, licorice root, lemon peel and mint. The flavors all dance well together. Though very fresh smelling the ginger is not hot or overbearing. Also, for those unfamiliar, licorice root doesn’t taste like the candy. It lends a natural light sweetness to tea blends.
This is a great nighttime tea and good for any morning stomach upset as it is mild.
Thanks to Amora for supplying the tea for this taste adventure. Like a great house wine, it is wonderful to have quality tea at the ready for guests or for yourself. Check out Amora’s other teas and coffee offerings shipped directly to you priority. Enjoy!
Note: The links in this post are not affiliate links. All opinions are my own.
We love the teapots and the gaiwans but travel mugs for tea are so important in our busy lives. Just because we are moving from place to place at speed doesn’t mean we can’t have our tea fix. Here are some tips and tricks I’ve used that make using a travel mug a more enjoyable experience.
Test that the lid is on tightly BEFORE putting the mug your bag or walking around with it (who has experienced this fail with me?). To make sure you have a good seal after putting the lid on tilt the mug over the sink, or turn it fully upside down if you’re feeling cocky. If it dribbles, runs or pops fully off try securing the lid again.
Check your Gasket
The thin rubbery rings you find on tea mug lids act as a sealant when working correctly. If they get damaged, out of place or stretched out they don’t work right. Some are replaceable. Check with the manufacturer of your mug before giving up on it and condemning it to the trash bin.
Keep it Clean, People
Travel mugs often have grooves and moving parts that can hold residue (ick) that can make your tea taste nasty and get in the way of a good seal. Baking soda is a great natural way to remove tea residue from travel mugs (and cups too). You can use an old toothbrush to get into the harder to reach grooves. For the twisty tops, a good soak in white vinegar and water may help get to the places a brush can’t reach. Remember to clean under the gasket too, especially if you have milky teas. That build up is particularly gross.
Some Like it Hot
If you use a metal, insulated travel mug these can have amazing heat retention. I had forgotten to finish a travel mug of tea and discovered it was still drinkably warm 12 hours later! The only downside to this level of insulating heat is it may take hours before your tea reaches a drinkable temperature. When using these mugs I found it easiest to let the tea cool to a drinkable temp before putting the lid on.
If I’m not planning on drinking the tea for a while or have to transport it a long way then I just put the lid on while hot. Some travel mugs are a bit risky to use if the lid is put on while the tea is piping hot. The heat can create a seal where either the lid is very hard to remove or when it is removed it tends to cause the spillage of scalding hot tea. Ouch.
Turn Up the Heat
If your mug doesn’t do a good job of retaining heat give it a boost by heating the mug before putting your tea in it or steeping your tea in it. This is just like you would heat a teapot (if you’ve not tried this it could be one the reasons your tea sucks)
If you have one of the ridiculously shaped travel mugs that won’t fit in a standard car cup holder, there are gadgets that can be attached to car windows which are adjustable so that you don’t have to do the dangerous drive with your scalding hot beverage between your legs thing. That’s ridiculous.
Don’t Cross the Streams
I have nothing against coffee. I have had good times with coffee also (Don’t worry. Tea knows and is ok with it). But when it comes to odors and residues, tea is like the clean, coiffed girl at the gym and coffee is the guy that gets on the elliptical next to you and smells so strong you have to move, not to another machine but to another room...and want to make sure you clean every machine you use before you use it (you do that, right?). Coffee lingers. The smell. The oils. So unless you want a stale coffee-laced tea keep your tea and coffee travel mugs separate.
What tips have you discovered in your travel mug experience? Share with us on FB and Twitter. Together we can create a better tea experience.
by Cassandra Vincent
As this is a section of tea with deep history, specific materials and methods the choosing of a teapot can feel overwhelming. I felt that just deciding to start was better than getting lost in the details completely. So I am learning as I go and sharing that experience with you. Join me down the rabbit hole, luvvies!
I ordered my first Yixing teapot from a Chinese vendor online, but I admit that I am not familiar with the artist’s stamp (which appears on the bottom of the teapot) nor have I been able to verify its authenticity. To my knowledge, the clays in modern Yixing teapots are often mixed, called Pingni, blending natural clays (Yixing earth clay and zisha clay) and even artificial colors. Some pots touted as Yixing have very little Yixing clay in the mix and may even include lead.
I suggest that you do your research if that concerns you and be as informed a consumer as you can be in this aspect of tea culture. Price is an indicating factor and the range is wide. I’ve seen these teapots everywhere from $10 to thousands for vintage ones or those from famous artists. I even saw some being sold online that were from a discovered shipwreck dating back to the 1800s.
You have many options on what to spend and where to purchase. If you have a local tea shop that sells Yixing teapots ask them for more information on the pots they sell prior to purchase.
I stopped by Wing Hop Fung recently. They have displays of Yixing teapots with placards including details on some of the artists. The placards were entirely in Chinese though so you may need to bring a Mandarin-reading friend with you on your Yixing teapot shopping trip if you, like me, cannot read Chinese.
The teapot I ordered online was a fanciful dragon teapot with a dark purplish-brown colour. I noticed this tone was referred to as ‘black’ in other places.
There are many variations in color of Yixing teapots. Plain Yixing earth-clay is white while zisha comes in a variety of colors, though artificial colorants are also used. Even the temperature of firing will affect the color. The high-temp fired ones I have seen look brighter. Low fired, rougher textured, darker pots often using inferior clay are said to be better for the dark teas like black and puerh. Higher temperature firing of finer clay is touted as best for the less processed tea categories like oolong, green and white.
These teapots tend to be smaller and designed for gong fu style tea (aka kung fu or gongfu) steeping where more leaves are used in a smaller amount of water than in Western style steeping. In this style steeps tend to be short, like a 10 second initial steep for example.
With gong fu in a Yixing teapot you can enjoy multiple steepings of good quality tea where the flavor evolves pot after pot. The leaves release their character gradually as the pot absorbs more and more of the tea’s essence.
I encourage you to check your local tea shops, trusted online vendors or even just find a teapot that makes you smile when you look upon it and begin this satisfying journey. I look forward to sharing more posts on Yixing as my experience unfolds. Check out my first post on Yixing for curing and basic info and feel free to share it and share your Yixing experience with us on Facebook and Twitter.
Note: The non-Tea Deviant links in this post are not affiliate links and this is not a sponsored post. These links are included because I feel they support the further understanding and exploration of the subject in this case.
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