Tea Time

November 22, 2011

Tea can definitely warm up your winter; find out how tea drinkers categorize the many different teas as well as proper steeping times here

Tasting tea is just about as artful as tasting wine, and during the colder months we’re all looking for soothing hot beverages that are tasty and healthy. If you are new to tea or are looking to expand your tea tasting experience it may be necessary to understand the vocabulary that goes along with the experience. Similar to wine, tea tasters have their own vocabulary to describe and evaluate various teas; (which can get intimidating) so here’s your guide to tasting and trying new teas.

Tea Terms: aroma, the scent of the rising steam from freshly brewed tea; astringency the puckering sensation or feeling of dryness, activating the salivary glands; body, tactile sensation or weight in the mouth; muscatel, characteristic found similar to grapes – and found most often in high quality Darjeelings; full, possessing color, strength, substance and roundness; thick, has substance but not strength; thin/weak, lacking strength and body; toasty, caused by over-firing.

Brewing the perfect cup of tea is not as simple as it may seem; there are various ways to brew the perfect cup – involving the right combination of these seven factors:

Tea quality: use the best that is available to you, visit specialty shops and natural food stores to find teas without additives and natural flavors.

Water quality: water makes up 90 percent of the final product, so make sure it’s good quality. Tap water is fine as long as it tastes good by itself. Do not use distilled water.

Tea to Water ratio: generally use 1 rounded teaspoon per 8 oz. water – but refer to specific instructions if available.

Steeping temperature: this varies depending on the type of tea, usually being higher for stronger teas like black tea.

Steeping time: varies with the different types ranging from 2-3 minutes for white teas to 7-8 minutes for Puerh teas.

Allow the tealeaf to expand fully: the leaf should expand 3-5 times in size, so the pot should allow for such expansion.

Remove the tea: if the tea stands for too long in the water it will have a tendency to turn bitter. As soon as the tea is steeped for the suggested time, remove the tea leaves from the liquid.

Tea has many health promoting properties and an increasing number of studies show that the benefits of drinking tea are numerous. Besides being a refreshing drink with zero calories, tea is a good source of minerals including: manganese (essential for physical development) and potassium (maintains body’s fluid balance, and it’s an electrolyte). Tea is also packed with flavonoids, antioxidants that help combat free radicals, combating the stress in our body. Studies also show that tea drinkers are less likely to suffer from cardiovascular disease than non-drinkers.

The already famous flavanoids also demonstrate their ability in the prevention of oxidation of “bad” cholesterol, as well as protecting the blood vessels from inflammation and, inhibiting blood clotting. Tea (especially black tea) is also a natural source of fluoride, which can help strengthen tooth enamel, and helps cut down plaque on teeth. Being a fluid, tea can help replace the lost fluids from the body on a daily basis. Tea does not have more caffeine than coffee; it contains about half the amount, but if sensitive to caffeine choose teas lower in caffeine like white tea.

Today, tea is grown in Kenya, India, Sri Lanka, Indonesia, Turkey, Iran, Tanzania, Malawi, Zaire, China, Argentina and many other places around the world.

So now that you know the tea basics, go grab yourself a cup.