An Introduction to Tea – A Prelude to ‘High Tea & Fantasy’

You can never get a cup of tea large enough or a book long enough to suit me. ~ CS Lewis

So. When I was getting ready to switch my blog over back in September/October, I was thinking of some features that I wanted to do on a semi-regular basis.

One of the ideas I had was for a feature called “High Tea & Fantasy” combining two of the things I love most. You should be able to figure out what they are. 😉

My intention is to have this feature show up every couple of months, and I’ll have a book I’ve chosen to feature (usually high fantasy, but there might be some other things thrown in occasionally) and a tea. Possibly a snack type thing as well. Like scones. Or cookies. Recipes will be included.

Sometimes there will be giveaways. But this completely depends on my budget.

Moving on…

But I felt like I needed to do a basic introduction to, say, tea, because so many people don’t know how to enjoy a good cup of it.

Tea really isn’t that complicated, but there’s one thing you don’t do with most teas (there are a few exceptions).

You do not just throw a random tea bag in a mug, pour boiling water over it, and let it brew for 10 minutes before you throw some sort of sweetener in it and start drinking. Without removing the tea bag.

That is how I used to drink tea (coughLiptoncough) when I first discovered the wonders of tea. It’s okay to start there, but please don’t stay there, because you have no idea what you’re missing.

The tea most people are familiar with is simple black tea. This is what restaurants make iced tea from, what you’ll usually get if you ask for hot tea at an IHOP (If you’re lucky, they might also have chamomile or another herbal variety. Sometimes they have Earl Grey or Darjeeling. But not often.), and what is easiest to find at, say, Walmart.

Many places have upped their ‘tea game’ in recent years, but finding good quality tea locally can still be a challenge for many people.

However, as long as you know how to brew a ‘proper’ cup or pot of tea (I use this term loosely, because I very rarely brew it ‘properly’.), the quality of tea can be very forgiving.

There’s three things to keep in mind when you brew a cup of tea:

The type of tea.

The more common types of tea that you’re likely to find on the shelf at a local supermarket are going to be things like white tea, green tea, black tea, and herbal teas (herbal teas are actually tisanes, but we’re going to skip the etymology lesson for now).

There’s a few other types of teas you’ll run across, but you’ll have to actually be looking in tea stores most of the time to do so.

White and green teas are the most delicate ones. It’s easy to ruin them if you brew them wrong.

Black teas (including varieties like chaiEarl Grey, Irish Breakfast, and Darjeeling) are incredibly easy to over brew.

Herbal teas are the most forgiving.

The temperature of the water.

That thing I just said about the type of tea?

You need to know that so you can use the correct water temperature.

The only teas that require boiling water are black and herbal – and even then there are exceptions.

White and green tea brew best with temperatures less than boiling – closer to 180 degrees Fahrenheit, or less.

The length of time to brew it.

Remember when I mentioned up there how I used to drink tea, before I started really exploring tea?

Yeah. I would often notice that there was a bitter taste to it, especially the longer it sat in the cup. Turns out that’s a thing that happens when you… brew tea too long.

Once again, some teas are more forgiving of this, and herbal teas aren’t really affected by this principle at all. The bitter taste doesn’t bother some people (coughMichellecough). But if you’ve noticed the bitter taste, you might try brewing your tea for 4 or 5 minutes, instead of 10… or 20. 😀

Also, some teas are meant to be brewed multiple times. Especially white and green ones.

More About Tea…

Everything I’ve said above is just a guideline, by the way. If you like to brew your black tea for half an hour before you drink it, more power to you. I don’t understand, but I won’t call you any less of a tea lover.

I don’t really understand the people who say that re-boiled water makes tea less flavorful, either. If you don’t like re-boiled water, that’s fine, but it seems a waste to me on my meager budget.

Yes, this post was really an excuse to rant and rave about tea. But I am not, by any means, the know-it-all when it comes to this subject.

So here’s a few of my favorite brands of tea, and what they have to say about the subject of, well… tea.

Stash TeaDiscover the World of Tea

Adagio TeasGoal: Perfect Cup

Harney & SonsThe Correct Way to Brew Tea

Do you have a favorite type of tea? Does the bitter taste bother you when you brew tea too long? What’s the worst tea you’ve ever had?

25 thoughts on “An Introduction to Tea – A Prelude to ‘High Tea & Fantasy’

  1. Interesting…I didn’t know that bit about white and green tea steeping better at lower temperatures…
    I’m not a tea connoisseur by any measure, but a few years ago I started picking up different stuff at David’s Tea and my tastes have definitely broadened as a result. ^_^

  2. There is a brand of tea put out by Disney that is delicious. It’s a red tea called the “mad hatter tea blend” So good. My friends mother drinks it every morning. I am typically a republic of tea girl but am excited to start trying the Adagio Teas soon. Another friend has been raving about them and my first bag is on its way to me as I type. 🙂 I am looking forward to more of this feature

    1. Republic of Tea has some delicious flavors! I like their Mango Ceylon a lot.

      Adagio has some of the best prices I’ve seen for loose leaf tea, especially for the quality of their teas. What type did you get for your first try?

    1. Hehe, ‘oh, my darling tea’ sounds fun indeed!

      I’ve had a tea from a local coffee & tea shop that was similar to Earl Grey, but also had rose petals in it. It’s one of my favorites, but I haven’t had it in a while.

  3. That’s all way too complicated for me at the moment. I’ll stick to pouring my boiling water over my tea bag and, usually, leaving it in the water (except with some of the blacks where I pull them out after about five minutes).

    1. Hehehe. Tea has really become a ritual for me, though it’s not for a lot of people. It’s 5-10 minutes where I just take the time to relax and know that something comforting is coming soon.

      Half the reason I don’t leave the tea bag in the cup anymore, though, besides noticing the bitterness, is because I’d usually end up with the tea bag on my nose trying to get that last bit of tea.

  4. MY ETERNALLY STEEPING TEAS ARE THE BEST. 😀

    I do have exceptions, believe it or not. The Harney & Sons hot cinnamon spice tea I get from B&N is about the only one that I will never take out of the cup, because the sweet/spicy taste gets stronger the longer it steeps, and if you take it out too soon, it tastes really watery.

    And certain Tazo teas steep REALLY fast (or maybe that’s just Starbucks). I have to ask them to only put one teabag in their larges, because otherwise the tea (especially the Earl Grey) gets waaaayyyyy too bitter, even for me. And I have to take it out after 5 minutes, max.

    Worst tea I’ve ever had…hm…that’s hard. OH WAIT. I bought a custom blend at a little shop in Tulsa (not a tea shop, but they had some small jars of custom teas) because it had a lot of flavors I liked in it: cinnamon, orange peel, etc. etc. It tasted like tree bark. I didn’t even oversteep it. I ended up tossing the tea and giving the jar to my roommate.

    1. Haha, if you say so, dear. 😛

      The Hot Cinnamon Spice is probably one of the few black teas that I brew for a MINIMUM of five minutes, rather than a maximum.

      And I’ve noticed that about Tazo teas, also. Though I haven’t bought any Tazo on my own, I’ve only ever had it from Starbucks, so it could be the temperature of their water. And I prefer the Tazo herbal teas rather than their black ones. All of their black teas are extremely strong and seem to go bitter even after just a short brew.

      And ICK on the local tea blend. They must have had poor quality ingredients.

  5. Wow, you take your tea as seriously as i take my coffee. I’m impressed and taking more than a few notes from your post here. I may enjoy tea more if it isn’t just the tea bag hot water mess I’d had up until now. Looking forward to High Tea and Fantasy.

    *~ MAJK ~*

    1. 😀 I do take my tea quite seriously… I had to scale back this post a LOT, because at times I went “Bekah, if you do this, you’re going to come across as a snob. And not the nice kind of snob.”

      Thanks!

  6. A fellow tea lover! There’s nothing I love more than a well-brewed cup. And while I don’t always do it the proper way, I certainly know how to and savor the ritual at a tea room once in a while with my mom. My favorite is Taylors of Harrowgate afternoon Darjeeling. It’s a little on the pricey side, but when I find a deal, it’s the one I grab because it has such a full, bold flavor. And no overbrewing here, thanks. 🙂

    Can’t wait for the next installment of this series! 🙂

    1. I will have to look up their teas, I don’t think I’ve had any of theirs before! We’ve got a couple of tea houses around here that do high tea, and I definitely want to try one out sometime. It just hasn’t fit in the budget yet.

  7. Mmmm, tea. Although you forgot the wonder that is mom tea…brew a cup, forget it on the counter for two hours. Microwave, take a few sips, forget it again, microwave and repeat for 24 hours lol.

  8. Pingback: Bonded by Michelle Argyle – High Tea & Fantasy | Rebekah Loper

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