|This is a Weekly Coffee Share Essay.|
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Today I was working up an email to a friend about moving up to advanced enjoyment of tea and decided that this was good enough material to share with my coffee share peers, because there are times, when coffee, no matter how modified it is with various contaminants, is just too strong.
So, not wanting to upset the coffee sensibilities of anyone, I would like to share some of my lessons in Advanced Tea Enjoyment.
First, let’s talk about caffeine.
Let’s be frank, caffeine can be both a blessing and a curse. It’s a well known and dependable pick-me-up and jolt of energy when you need one, but we do tend to over-use it and sometimes just need to slow down, let our metabolism withdraw some by reducing our caffeine intake some.
The details are interesting but more detailed than you might want to read, but the end result is that your average a cup of coffee contains much more caffeine than black tea and green tea contains even less because it is prepared differently. Herbal teas most often have plenty of taste and zero caffeine.
Then, there’s taste. This attribute really does vary wildly. If we can remove the addictive nature of coffee from discussion, we can quickly realize that tea can be as full of flavor, as strong, as light, as flexible about sweeteners and creamers as coffee can be. Frankly, I think the taste options of tea are wider than that of coffee especially if you include the herbals which are not normally made with real tea but are a very pleasant set of recipes with lots of different stuff that leak interesting flavors into your cup when exposed to hot water.
Tea can be as convenient as any coffee, but, like coffee, with a bit of care and judgement, you can make either tea or coffee even more satisfying by purchasing better products. In producing both, manufacturers employ a variety of steps that impact final taste. If you pay for better preparation, you get a better drink (normally).
For ease of use, coffee has it’s pods and machines and tea has its bags. Tea bags are popular and easy to deal with but I’ve found the best taste comes from loose leaf teas which are equivalent to selected and personally ground coffee beans. For tea, there is often sachets available which are these cool little bags of real loose leaf teas that you use like a normal tea bag, but you would be well advised to pay attention to the brewing temperatures and times because now you’re playing the the tea adults and will get better results if you do.
We all have our list of favorite coffees and this post is using coffee only as it compared to tea, so here are my favorite loose leaf teas. I’ve chosen to buy mostly from one respected tea vendor who covers all the bases of tea types well and maintains a high degree of quality and sophistication about the whole process. I use (US based) Harney & Sons as my vendor of choice.
First for plain, unflavored black teas I love Darjeeling for it’s classic black tea taste, but if it’s going to be a tough morning and I need something stronger I go with the Assam-based Irish Breakfast which is stronger stuff and may need a bit of milk to calm it down to taste.
For flavored black teas, I go for either the classic Bergamot-tinted British taste of Earl Grey or the more flavorful experience, I go for H&S Paris tea. Think of Earl Grey with a dose of vanilla and other spices.
For a taste and drink that I can literally drink all day long, I go with a black tea that is prepared somehow so differently that if Irish Breakfast is a slap in the face, Formosa Oolong is a warm cuddle with trusted warm body. It’s rich and easy to just sip all day long as desired. If black tea is stronger than what I want, a personal favorite is a flavored green tea called Cherry Blossom. This cherry-tinted tea is also so smooth and easy on the taste buds as to lend itself to being your night time sipping drink.
Green teas often need less than boiling water and less time to steep, so are popular because you can be ready to roll with them faster. For straight up unflavored green tea, I’ve settled (for this week at least) the Yanagi Green tea, but for a much more satisfying flavor, you really should try H&S Genmicha. which uses toasted rice as a flavoring for a green tea. I was amazed at how good it is think of green tea flavored with the Japanese carb-of-choice.
Of course there are others, but this essay is already long on details so I’ll wrap this up with some things I’ve found help me produce a great mug of tea each day. Here are two items found in my container of tea-sentials.
A handy timer because you will quickly find that the time you steep each tea controls how strong your drink is. Loose leaf black (flavored or not) and green teas differ greatly in recommended time to steep. Too short of time can = weak flavor and too long can = bitter flavor.
A handy one-piece Thermometer with folding probe. Black teas can be a no brainer, just use boiling water for about 5 min. Green teas often recommend only 175 degree water for only 3 minutes. Lacking a preset hot water dispenser or thermometer, exactly how would you get 175 degree water? The answer is not stick your finger in BTW. . . Too hot or cold of water greatly effects the resulting flavor. I have a flavored black tea, a Sri Lanka orange pekoe, which I don’t like steeped for 5 min, but 3 and half is perfect.
Finally here are some photos of similar products to what I have, love and use. The links above will take you to Amazon where you can read up on each.
Of course, you already know you’ll need a source of hot water. Make it as clean (perhaps filtered) as possible because less than pure water will be noticed with good teas where coffee might hide it. You’ll need a tea pot and there are thousands of excellent choices to match your preferences and needs. You might want to pick up a one cup/mug infuser as well for times when it’s just you, a good book and a mug of tea. Regardless, I’ve found my morning just start better with a favorite tea.
I hope I’ve tickled an interest. Thanks for stopping by.
I’ll be around to visit your share real soon. First I have a half written story calling for my attention.