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.
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.
For the more delicate of you who dislike discussing any of the body’s magical fluid management techniques read no further (are any of you even reading this blog, lol?) For the rest of you let’s get sweaty ‘n stuff:
With temperatures above 100° F and beyond, breaking records, hydration is yet again a hot topic. Literally. I find myself in a water bottle fill-empty-repeat cycle multiple times a day (mine also has a mister on top that I love. Less exciting than running through a sprinkler but more portable). I also find myself taking trips to the toilet more often.
I know that as a singer I drink more water than the average person and if you factor in my tea intake even more so. Still, sometimes on days where the temperatures are relentless and the running about causes me to slip from my hydration routine I feel my mind slipping away. Apparently this is a sign of possible mild dehydration. Research shows that most people in the Western world are in some state of dehydration and are unaware of it.
There have been conflicting reports over time about whether or not caffeinated beverages like coffee and tea contribute to dehydration. I have never felt that my tea intake hampered my hydration efforts and a 2018 article in Time magazine supports this ‘tea and coffee are helpful’ side of the argument with info from a Doctor/Professor at UCLA Medical School. A Live Science article agrees indicating that increased intake of any fluid will cause increased urination. That doesn’t mean dehydration is occurring. From my scrapes with heat exhaustion while performing outdoors I learned it’s when you stop urinating or sweating that there’s a real problem.
The Live Science article also refers to a 2005 study that indicated a higher dose of caffeine had no more impact on hydration than a lower one. That doesn’t mean you can’t overdose on caffeine, but it’s hard. Like really hard. Like 100 cups of coffee a day hard, which means many more cups of tea (though different types of tea have different amounts of caffeine a cup of tea is usually around half that of a typical coffee or less. Check the Mayo Clinic’s breakdown ). Likely you’d have some heart palpitations giving you a clue to slow down way before that happens.
Now what about sweat? According to Dr. Weil, perspiration doesn’t smell in itself. It is when it mixes with bacteria on the skin. Ick. We are such interesting beasts aren’t we? We have 2 types of sweat glands, eccrine and apocrine, and it is the apocrine ones which are in the hairy areas that contribute to stench. Caffeine can increase sweating and Dr. Weil suggests removing caffeinated beverages from your diet if excessive sweating occurs because of them. Interestingly though, he suggests using deodorants which contain green tea extract to help control the smell as it is naturally antibacterial. I found multiple mentions about coffee potentially contributing to body odor but none for tea. Another point for the tea lovers!
So tea can contribute to your hydration when you ingest it (drinking a ton of water alongside it doesn’t hurt) and it can reduce your body stench if you rub it on your pits. Tea might help get me through this summer after all. What is your summer go to tea? Have you ever used a green tea deodorant? Let us know on social here or here. Stay frosty, people.
One of Greater Los Angeles’ very cool evolving areas is Highland Park. From music venues with an independent community scene, to vegan cafes, to dollar stores, to long standing local favorites to new privately owned specialty shops Highland Park is eclectic and surprising. I became intrigued by this area when hosting for the Youbloom music festival at the Hi Hat. Recently I felt the urge to do more exploring there. Interestingly, the very first place I discovered after parking was Wild Terra - an herbal apothecary with a small, carefully curated tea section. They had only been open a week. The owner Danielle Noe and I got talking about a mutual love of tea. She said Earl Grey was her ‘comfort food’ growing up.
The energy. The serendipity. I had to do a blog on this place.
Even better for this tea and entertainment blog, Danielle has a wild background as a special effects makeup artist having worked on some stuff you may have heard of - HBO’s True Blood and the Aquaman film, for example. As a matter of fact, the windows at the back of the shop were from Merlotte’s bar! (see the gallery below) Man, TV and film are everywhere in this town. So cool.
From Bon Temps to Herbs and Tea
Danielle has a clear love for herbs and spices, how they grow and what they can do for the body. Most of what she carries herb-wise is from California and all of it is organic. She even grows some herself. There are two sections of wall dedicated to herbs and spices including 3 types of Holy Basil, Damiana, Mugwort, Skullcap and on and on.
Tea-wise the selection is small but carefully chosen. Some of the teas are from Biodynamic farms, most are organic except for those from Africa which are Fair Trade. She orders directly from some of the estates including Bitaco, a certified organic tea farm from Columbia which has been growing tea for 60 years. Danielle shared their Tippy Negro 2 with me which reminded me of a light Yunnan - smooth and mellow and the color of liquid amber. She has multiple teas from Kenya, including the new purple tea (read more on what that is here). She has an organic Assam from India and some compelling Chinese teas. There are teas from Japan on the way too.
Included in the tea wall are Yerba Mate, and the only US native plant with caffeine, Yaupon. It is in the same holly genus as Yerba Mate and Guayusa and contains similar amounts of caffeine. Danielle also carries two types of Coffee Leaf, regular and mango scented. Yes, there is such a thing as coffee leaf that is steeped like tea! Crazy! (I got to do some tasting and will share that part of the experience in a separate post).
Other Unique Finds
Wild Terra has a variety of mushrooms including whole Reishi mushrooms which look like some pre-historic relic (see pic). She makes tinctures from them too with a triple extraction process:
Wild Terra also carries:
So go get your tea and herb on in this little gem in Highland Park! Tell Danielle the Tea Deviant sent you;)
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