Tea and related infusions

There is only one kind of tea plant, but many infusions. Black, green and white tea are just oxidized for different amounts of time. Other interesting related infusions include:
* “Red tea” (Rooibos) which is made from the roots of rooibos bushes.
* Yerba Mate
* Mint “tea” which is just mint or spearmint infused in water
* Lemon “tea” which is commonly made with lemon grass

Common brewing/steeping instructions for tea:
1 Clean the pot.
2 Use good dechlorinated, preferably filtered water
3 After the kettle has boiled, pour some water into the tea pot, swish it around, and let it sit for a short time. I sometimes time it by adding more water to the kettle, and boiling the kettle again.
4 Pour out the water out of the tea pot. You now have a “steeped” pot.
5 Use one bag/tea spoon for the pot and one per person. With most tea one bag/tea spoon is roughly two grams. Obviously there’s more factors.
6 Wait two to three minutes, and pour into tea cups.

Chinese preparation of tea includes “washing water” to wash the tea leaves, and doesn’t leave the tea sitting in the pot for long. The more common practice in that case is to use small one cup tea pots, and add more water before making a new cup. Common tea used for the style is large leaf (i.e. not cut up or ground) green teas, though white tea is highly regarded.

There is a British standard for brewing tea. It is “BS 6008:1980″, now ISO 3103. This standard is similar to instructions on many tea’s, but brew time six minutes.

Tea has less caffeine than coffee, but that’s measured for standard brew times. The long the brew/steep time, the more caffeine released. I suspect how ground the tea is effects how much flavour and maybe caffeine is released into the water.

Red Rose tea has 3 grams of tea per bag versus the more common 2 grams. Red Rose tea also seems to use tea leaves that have been ground up more

Ceylon tea comes from what was once the country of Ceylon and is now called Sri Lanka. Assam tea comes from the Assam province of India. Tea comes from Assam trees, and other varieties of the same species.

In India, tea is commonly known as Chai. Translating Chai tea into English makes it seem as funny as it is: Tea tea. Traditional recipes for tea in India, and other places are more accurately called spiced tea. Extending the Table has a good recipe for spiced tea. Several people I know say that Red Rose tea is the only tea to use for making good spiced tea, and that it’s best made on a stove with milk instead of water.

Real Earl Grey tea is more than black tea with bergamot flavour/oil. One commonly missed ingredients is lapsang souchong which is black tea that has been smoked with cedar.

A good London Fog is made with real Earl Grey, brewed in a pot of milk, with good quality vanilla extract. Real vanilla tastes noticeably different than artificial, but is twice the cost. Watch out for real vanilla extract that has a low quantity of vanilla in it. I suspect the extracting agent of vodka/alcohol and the additive of sugar can make a significant difference in vanilla extract.

Tea tastes best when it’s fresher. To keep the flavour of tea, keep it in sealed containers, away from heat and moisture.

I like pre-bagged tea the best at home and work as it’s easy to clean up. “Coffee” presses, various tea balls, tea strainers can be used, but removing finer ground leaves can involve more work than cleaning regular dishes.

Yerba Mate is a nice tea like infusion. It’s great by itself, but is also nice with honey. Make sure to use good honey though as some store bought brands of honey taste noticeably worse than good local clover honey.

Some of my favourite teas and infusions include:
* Earl Grey
* Yerba Mate
* London Fog
* Darjeeling
* Common black teas (Red Rose, Assam, Ceylon…)
* Prince of Wales
* Black Currant
* Lapsang Souchong
* Sweetened/unsweetened lemon iced tea.

Quality ingredients that can be added:
* Manitoba clover honey (it’s local to me)
* Good quality vanilla extract (I’m having trouble finding a good source)
* Whole spices to grind when making spiced tea
* Raw sugar
* White sugar (it’s the sweetest additive)
* Fresh milk (I like 2%)
* Lemon juice (don’t mix it with milk. I use lemon extract for convenience.)

Drew Daniels

Comments are closed.