Tired of drinking bland tea from pouches? Well then, you’ve come to the right place. Loose Leaf Tea Guide is here to help you learn more about the rich and flavorful world of Loose Leaf Tea.
So how does Loose Leaf Tea compares to the more typical bagged tea you typically see on super market shelves? Loose Leaf Tea is not sold in single serve pouches, but must instead be steeped in a tea pot before serving. This process unleashes the full flavor of the tea. Readers can find step-by-step instructions on how to steep loose leaf tea, along with information on all the different kinds of loose leaf tea available. Loose lose teas don’t just taste better, their higher potency enhances their health benefits as well. There’s nothing better (or better for you) than a freshly brewed cup of natural tea.
Loose Leaf Tea Guide also contains useful articles on finding the best tea related accessories including tea pots, cups, and more. Readers can learn more about the history of tea, tea culture around the world, the various health benefits of loose leaf teas and other interesting facts.
Welcome to the world of Loose Leaf Tea!
Organic Loose Leaf Tea
Organic loose tea is gaining popularity among tea lovers. The reasons are many, but perhaps the most cited reason the teas are favored would be health benefits. Several teas are purported to be beneficial. Among them are green tea, rooibos, and oolong. Green tea is rich in catechins, an antioxidant. Green tea’s antioxidants are said to combat cancer (due to the fact that antioxidants inhibit free radical damage to cells) as well as warding off viruses. Rooibos tea can boost the immune system and help ward off allergies.
Rooibos tea contains flavonoids, which are purported to have antimicrobial, antiviral, and anti-inflammatory benefits. Furthermore, Rooibos organic loose leaf tea is caffeine free, high in antioxidants, and low in tannins, making Rooibos tea a good choice for children, pregnant women, and those who should avoid caffeine. Oolong tea has weight loss benefits. It is low in caffeine and it enables the body to burn fat, it boosts the body’s metabolism, and can act as an appetite suppressant.
Perhaps the most widely recognized organic loose tea would be the black teas. Darjeeling tea is a black tea that hails from India. This type of tea has a delicate taste and would be on the lighter side. Many would detect just a whisper of ripened grape in the flavor. Earl Grey is a popular English tea. It is infused with bergamot fruits and is extremely aromatic and quite refreshing. Ceylon is another fragrant tea. It is very rich, making it a great tea first thing in the morning or even in the afternoon.
Irish Breakfast tea is another tea that is wonderful in the morning—hence the name ‘Irish Breakfast.’ It is extremely full-flavored, so much so that many drink it with a bit of milk splashed in. Chai is spiced black tea. Many of the spices hail from India—among them are cinnamon, clove, green cardamom, ginger, and even black pepper. These teas can be characterized as sweet as well as spicy. Often these teas are served with cream or whole milk. Honey complements the tea wonderfully as well.
White tea is another type of organic loose tea that is gaining popularity. White tea hails from China, and is harvested while the leaves are young and tender. White tea is very delicate—just as its name implies. It’s light and airy. Its flavor can be overwhelmed by food; therefore it is often enjoyed by itself. Many describe the flavor of white tea as sweet and fruity with hints of pear or melon. This tea is often blended with fragrant flower petals such as rose or jasmine. Dried fruits such as peach or pear can be included in the blend as well. White tea is also available as White Earl, infused with bergamot oil. It has extremely low caffeine content, and like many other organic loose teas, it is believed to have some health benefits. It may be combined with other antioxidant-rich foods such as acai berries for an even more powerful punch to free radicals. All in all, organic loose tea is delightful and varied. It is not only a treat for the senses, but a treat for the body as well.
Brewing Loose Leaf Tea
Drinking tea is a familiar part of many peoples daily routines all over the world. The familiar motions and flavors create habits that many adore. The simple pleasures of darjeeling, and the richness of an earl grey. The spectrum of greens that unfold like wine varietals. The omnipresent tea bag, however, is often filled with sub-par tea and just doesn’t offer the excitement and variety available with loose leaf teas. Stepping into a tea shop with walls thickly lined with canisters and brewing devices is an exciting experience for any tea lover. There’s a certain romanticism to loose teas, but it’s easier than many assume. Brewing loose leaf tea is as simple as using a tea bag with nothing but delicious benefits to offer.
There are several methods available when brewing loose leaf tea. The general concept is simple enough to allow variations on the theme: bring the leaves into contact with water, while allowing for the eventual separation of those elements. Most infusers are small basket of metal mesh, shaped like small cups and sized to sit in the top of your mug of teapot. These are simple to fill with tea leaves (about 1 2/3 teaspoons of tea per cup of water is a generally good ratio to follow, although it can be adjusted to your personal tastes), then the hot water is simple poured over the top and allowed to steep. A similar type of infuser resembles a tea spoon and fully encloses the leaves. There are other metal infusers shaped like balls on chains that work just the same as tea bags, as well. Cleaning these infusers can become a hassle, but small disposable paper bags are often available at businesses that sell loose leaf teas. These bags have the potential to send the occasional stray leaf into the water, but they are excellent for slipping a bit of tea into a lunch for comfort on the go.
Beyond simple infusers, there are many other methods for brewing loose leaf tea. The french press, a popular method for making coffee, also brews excellent tea. The admired ability of the press to maintain many of the natural oils present in coffee translates perfectly over to teas of all kinds. It also creates an attractive and unique presentation compared to individually brewed mugs with tea bags hanging limply down the side. Similar to the french press, the coffee-associated percolator can also be used to create rich, robust teas. Yerba mate gourds are another unique form of brewing, although they are intended for the tea of the same name. They operate in a set: the gourd or cup and the bombilla: a straw with a filter on the end. The tea is simply mixed directly with the water inside the gourd, then filtered as it is consumed. Exploring the various brewing methods can become as much of an adventure as trying the various teas of the world, as the gadgets and recipes are just as varied. They each offer their own upsides and come with flaws, but each comes with the benefit of the increased flavor, quality and personal cntrol of loose leaf teas.
Loose Leaf Tea Bags
A new trend, seeming to be gaining traction, is loose leaf tea bags. Not too long ago, when walking the aisles at the grocery store individuals were limited to a rather small selection of packaged tea bags. Today’s consumer seems to be moving, in all faucets in the direction of simplifying, reducing and going green. Shoppers are willing to take extra time and spend extra money in order to fulfill this lifestyle shift. With the expanding concept of rejecting the manufactured in favor of more natural products consumers are beginning to see more loose leaf tea bags line the shelves. This trend of favoring loose leaf tea is hitting restaurants as well. Loose leaf teas give off a stronger aroma and have a more visually pleasing look than processed, bagged teas and therefore dinners are seeing loose leaf teas replace regular teas on the menus of higher end restaurants.
The primary difference between pre-packaged tea bags and loose leaf tea is the freshness of the product. Often times, teabags are packaged in cardboard wrapped in plastic. Most loose leaf tea bags are packaged in tins locking in freshness. The size of the particles of the tea plant are larger in loose leaf tea bags, preventing becoming overly dry and stale when compared to their processed counterparts. Tea stores have begun popping up, offering seemingly endless options of tea varietals. Teavana, is a store located in malls across America, whose primary product is tea and tea accessories. These stores are reaching out to traditional and non-tea drinkers alike. They offer in store tastings of their tea products and have walls lined with loose leaf teas, kettles, diffusers, cups and saucers. This wide spectrum of options also follows the desire of consumers to find more customized products, geared towards their specific tastes and preferences.
There is a luxury attached to the concept of loose lea bags. Due to the nature of scooping the tea leaves into a bag and then steeping the bag in the tea it provides more of a ritual feeling to the experience of making oneself a cup of tea. Rather than just plopping a prepackaged bag into hot water, the concept of being able to mix blends at home and physically seeing the tea as it is scoped into the diffuser or bag allows the drinker to able to visually inspect the tea prior to consuming it. Since it has a more upscale feel to it, often the packaging of loose leaf teas is something companies put a great deal of thought and effort into. Some of the tins are so decorative; they can even serve as vessels for various household objects after the tea has been consumed. This attention to packaging, also lends itself to being a hostess or get-well gift. Tea is fairly inexpensive and when sold as loose leaf in a pretty little tin or container to can make an excellent gift for any occasion. It is easy to see why loose leaf tea bags seem to be gaining popularity.
Loose Leaf Tea Infuser
A loose leaf tea infuser is a metal or mesh device used to contain loose tea leaves while they are steeping. Usually sized to fit in an individual tea cup, these infusers may also be called “tea balls” or “tea eggs,” because they are almost always round or oval in shape. In many countries the loose leaf tea infuser has been somewhat replaced by paper tea bags, which are sold already packed with tea and are usually discarded after a single use. However, loose leaf tea is still sold throughout the world, and is the type of tea preferred by most serious tea enthusiasts.
The typical round loose leaf tea infuser is formed from metal mesh, and consists of two hemispheres that may be separated to add and remove the tea leaves. Non-mesh infusers are made from a rust-resistant metal that has been perforated with tiny holes, and also have hemispheres that are clamped or screwed together. The mesh style is considered preferable, as the openings in the mesh are very small and highly unlikely to allow any leaf fragments to escape into the tea. Certain styles of perforated metal loose leaf tea infuser contain holes that, while still small, do allow some small leaf bits to escape. After adding tea leaves, the loose leaf tea infuser is placed in the tea cup or pot, and the tea infuses into the hot water contained therein. It is important to note that a loose leaf tea infuser sized for a single cup cannot hold enough tea leaves to adequately brew an entire pot of tea; however, larger infusers designed to brew a whole pot are also available. These look identical to their smaller counterparts, but contain more tea.
A loose leaf tea infuser usually has a chain protruding from one side that is used to lower the infuser into the hot water and to remove it when the tea is done steeping. If the tea is not removed, the tea will turn bitter and unpalatable. Infusers that lack such a chain often have a thin handle that is used to remove the hot ball. Handled infusers may also use a handle system similar to kitchen tongs both to move the infuser and to open it. When the handle is squeezed, the two halves of the infuser separate and allow loose leaf tea to be inserted. It is important to understand that tea infusers may become dangerously hot after steeping in boiling or hot water; they must be handled with caution until they have had adequate time to return to room temperature. In the absence of a dedicated loose leaf tea infuser, a French coffee press may be used to brew loose leaf tea. This is not ideal, as there is no way to remove the leaves from the press and prevent the tea from becoming bitter. However, this method may be used in a pinch, especially when the tea will be poured quickly and the leaves will not have the opportunity to sit in the water for an extended period of time.
Loose Leaf Tea Pot
There is nothing so lovely as a good cup of tea and most everyone agrees that the very best tea comes loose leaf, not bagged. In order to make that good cup of tea then, you will need a loose leaf tea pot. Not all loose leaf tea pots are the same. It is the type of pot that you choose that will determine the final quality of the tea.
First, a word about the tea strainers and infusers found in loose leaf tea pots. Both a strainer and infuser serve the same function: they keep the tea leaves from pouring into your tea cup. They come in many shapes and sizes. Some loose leaf tea pots will have a strainer built right in at the entrance between the pot and its spout. This is usually seen in ceramic pots and looks like a grid of small holes. Unfortunately, the holes are not small enough to prevent anything except the largest leaves from pouring through. Some tea pots come with a metal infuser that is placed across the top of the unlidded pot. Water may be poured through the infuser and the lid may be placed upon it. They do a reasonably good job of keeping the leaves from escaping into your teacup and have the added bonus of being easily cleaned. The third type of loose leaf tea pot resembles a French press. You pour the tea directly into this type of pot. At its base is a removable mesh, similar but finer than the kind found in an infuser. When the tea is steeped, you simply press the pot to the top of each cup and the tea drains through the mesh and into your cup. The last two of these methods work the best and still make it easy for you to clean your loose leaf tea pot.
The next thing to consider is the loose leaf teapot’s size, shape and composition. While much of this is aesthetic, it can have an effect on the quality of the tea and you should take into consideration how you will use the tea. Tea pots are generally made of ceramic or metal. Glazed ceramic loose leaf tea pots are easily cleaned and are well suited to many types of tea. Some ceramic tea pots are unglazed and are often of a reddish or dark brown clay. These loose leaf tea pots are used to make only one type of tea and are never washed with soap and detergent. The clay will absorb the flavor of the tea over time, enhancing its flavor and darkening the pot. It is said that with time, it may no longer be necessary to add tea leaves to the pot as the flavor will come from the clay itself. The third type of loose leaf tea pot is cast iron. These are quite heavy and retain heat quite well. Often they are small and meant to be used by one individual. They can be kept over an open flame. Is the tea pot tall or is it short and squat? The short and squat tea pots heat up fairly quickly, but they also loose heat fast. If you are serving tea to a group of people, then this type of pot may work best. Most people tend to simply buy the teapot that appeals to them the most.