TEATIME Fun list

One thing I have learned since becoming a tea drinker is the world of tea is vast and much more complex than I ever imagined. It can be overwhelming, and to be honest, more than a little intimidating. Everyone seems to have an opinion on what tea you should drink and how you should make it. I think a lot of tea professionals and “serious” tea drinkers have forgotten tea is a journey of exploration. Tea is supposed to be fun.

Thats why I was so excited to find a card in one of my subscription boxes that listed 20 fun things to explore and learn about tea. The things on the card pointed me in the right direction to learn about things I would have never thought of, like trying pink tea and Puerh teas. I am going to share that list with you along with a few I added to the list I think will be helpful in starting your tea journey. Over the next few months, I will share what I have learned about tea following this list. I hope you will take the journey with me and share your journey in the comments.

Teatime Fun List

  1. Read a tea related book
  2. Start a tea journal
  3. Learn to use a flavor wheel
  4. Buy a tea mug or cup that reflects your personality
  5. Create a dedicated tea nook
  6. Learn to make Matcha
  7. Learn to make Pink Tea
  8. Try a cup of flavored tea
  9. Try a cup of pure green tea
  10. Try a cup of pure white tea
  11. Try a cup of pure black tea
  12. Try a cup of pure oolong
  13. Try a cup of Puerh tea
  14. Try a tea subscription
  15. Learn how to make a tea in a Gaiwan
  16. Try making cold brewed iced tea
  17. Make a tea cocktail or tea mocktail
  18. Learn how to make tea in teapot
  19. Share your tea with a friend
  20. Learn to sit quietly and enjoy your tea

Tea Brewing Equipment

While we are waiting for our tea to arrive, we can start gathering the equipment we need to brew our tea.  Like many things about tea, the equipment used can be as simple or as complicated as we have the money for.  I am going to share with you the absolute basic equipment, really all you need, most of which you probably already have in your kitchen.  After that I will share some equipment that I have found nice to have but not absolutely necessary.  Please keep in mind that this only my opinion on things that I use or have used to make tea since I have started drinking tea.

Basic Equipment

When I started trying tea, I didn’t want to invest a lot of money buying equipment because, at the time, I wasn’t sure if I was going to like tea enough to continue drinking it so I used what I already had in my kitchen to make tea.

  1. A saucepan to heat my water to a boil in.
  2. A ladle to get the water from the saucepan to my mug without out burning myself. This isn’t an absolute necessity if you are sure you can get the water to the pan without burning yourself.  I am not that good hence the ladle.
  3. A mug or cup –This one is kind of self-explanatory.  You can’t make tea if you don’t have something to hold it in.
  4. A tea ball — This is the only piece of equipment I bought when I started drinking tea.  A tea ball is the easiest way to remove the tea leaves when your tea is done brewing.
  5. A measuring spoon to get the right amount of tea into the tea ball and to measure and stir any sugar you use in your tea. 

That’s really it.  Every other piece of equipment you may see or hear about is entirely optional.  Some equipment is nice to have and may improve your tea experience to a degree but if you never get them you will still have great tea. 

Nice but not necessary

Over the last year or so I have gotten somethings that I have found are really nice to have and make my tea a little easier to make or help me enjoy it more.

  1. Mugs — No one tells you that when you start drinking tea regularly you will also start collecting some sort of tea drinking vessels.  While any mug or cup will work to drink your tea out of, tea just seems to taste better in a pretty cup or a mug that expresses some aspect of your sunny personality.
  2. A mug warmer — I have a mug warmer at home and on my desk at work because I am absent minded and hate cold tea.
  3. A variable temperature-controlled tea kettle. — If you are going to stick to black and herbal teas then a plain whistling tea kettle is perfect for heating your water.  If you are going to expand your tea explorations into green, oolong and puh’er teas you may want to invest in a variable temperature-controlled tea kettle because the temperature we brew these teas at does affect the quality of the tea we drink for those more delicate teas.  A few months into my tea journey I bought one and there hasn’t been single day I haven’t used it at least once.  The things I love about it is the water comes up to temperature fast.  It has a keep warm feature that holds the water at that temperature for 30 minutes.  Best of all it shuts off automatically if you don’t use the keep warm function which means I won’t burn down the house because I am absent minded and forgetful.
  4. A stainless-steel tea infuser — There are a lot of ways to contain your tea leaves when you brew tea, but a stainless-steel infuser is the best. It is big enough to allow the tea leaves to expand fully and water to pass around the leaves to extract the maximum amount of flavor.
  5. Disposable tea filters — I have tea at my desk at work all day, every day and find it easier to use disposable paper filters then a stainless-steel infuser. These may be easier to deal with if you travel a lot as they don’t take up much room. I buy several boxes with 100 filters in each box. Each box lasts about 5-6 weeks of daily use, 4-5 cups of tea a day.

There are going to a lot of tea people who are certain there is only one right way to brew tea and you need a lot of fancy, expensive equipment to do it. Just remember tea has been brewed for hundreds of years without any fancy equipment. So, if the way you make your tea gives you a cup that you enjoy it is the right way to make tea.

Tea Treat Tuesday — Green Tea Noodle Soup

If you are new here, you may not know A Cuppa and Conversation originally started out as a food/recipe blog called A Solitary Feast. For 8 years I adapted family sized recipes into small batch recipes with 3 servings or less. So, it wasn’t much of a stretch to find ways of incorporating my new passion for tea into my old passion for cooking and baking. I was amazed at the number of recipes I found that incorporate actual tea, brewed or tea leaves, into the recipe. I am going to share some of my small batch adaptions of the recipes I found here. If possible, I will link to the full-sized recipe as well.

We are going to start our tea cooking adventures with a soup. Yes, I know it’s the middle of summer and that it is hot, but I love soup and eat it all year around. Plus, this soup recipe is quick and easy. I will be making it often on those nights I am hungry but don’t want to spend a lot of time in the kitchen.T

What type of green tea should I use? The recipe called for 4 Bigelow green tea bags. I had those on hand so that is what I used. You could use any green tea bags as long as they are plain green tea and not flavored. Make sure whatever brand you choose is one you enjoy drinking. If it doesn’t taste good to you when you drink it, it won’t taste good when you cook with it.

Can I make this soup with loose leaf green tea? You certainly can. Just use one teaspoon loose leaf green tea for each tea bag. You can just toss them in the water and then strain them out before you add the carrots and the noodles. You could also use disposable tea filters if you have them. I tried this soup with some Jamine green tea and Gun Powder green tea, both tasted good to me.

What are Soba noodles, and can I use any other noodles? Soba noodles are a traditional Japanese noodle made from buckwheat flour instead of wheat flour. You can find them in the Asian or ethnic section of your grocery store. If you can’t find them you can use Udon noodles, Ramen noodles or even thin spaghetti. If you have leftover cold noodles or rice you could use that too.

Green Tea Noodle Soup

From Bigelow.com

4 cups water

4 teabags plain green tea

1 TBS minced garlic

1 tsp grated ginger

1 TBS rice wine vinegar

1 TBS soy sauce

2 shredded carrots

1/4 cup chopped green onions

2 TBS minced cilantro, Optional, for garnish

In a 1 1/2 quart sauce pan, bring the water, teabags, garlic, ginger, soy sauce and vinegar to a boil. Reduce heat to medium, let simmer for 10 minutes. Remove teabags.

Add carrots and noodles. Cook noodles until they are done to your liking, between 2-10 minutes, depending on what type of noodle you use.

Serve with a sprinkle of cilantro, green onions and a dash of hot sauce if desired.

Welcome To A Cuppa and Conversation

Welcome to A Cuppa and Conversation, a blog about tea. Over the last year and a half, I have fallen in love with tea. I love drinking it, cooking with it, baking with it and learning about it. The subject is vaster and more complicated than I ever imagined. If I am being completely honest, it is a little intimidating too, especially when you are new to the world of tea. It seems like everybody has all this fancy equipment you can’t afford and is drinking teas you have never heard of. Even more intimidating, are all the people who think their way is the only way to make tea and the tea they drink is the only tea worth drinking.

It was really hard to find a place that embraced tea in all its forms, from the lowly grocery store tea bag to the expensive, rare Puerhs and the idea that if the way you brew your tea gives you a cup of tea you enjoy then it is the right way to brew your tea. Since I couldn’t find a place like that, I decided to create the tea blog I wanted to find. A Cuppa and Conversation is a place for all tea drinkers, not matter where they are in their tea journey, to come and learn about tea. Everyone is welcome here, whether you drink tea from grocery store tea bags and heat your water in the microwave or have all that fancy equipment to make all those fancy, expensive teas. I hope you will come and learn with me as I progress in my tea journey and, hopefully, have some fun along the way. But first, We need to get some tea.

The first step to becoming a tea drinker, is finding tea you like to drink. That isn’t as easy as it sounds. There are thousands of different flavored and unflavored tea and different types of teas. There are hundreds of different companies to buy your tea from. It can be overwhelming, and more than a little intimidating so where do you start?

First decision, we have to make when we decide to become a tea drinker is, are we going to use tea bags or use loose leaf tea?  While the answer to this question comes down to personal preference, there are some pros and con to each choice.

For many of us, our first and only experience with tea is through tea bags purchased at the grocery store.  I know that is how I first started drinking tea.  Tea from a grocery store tea bag can be yummy and comforting but there are some down sides to grocery store tea bags to be aware of.

  • The tea used in grocery store tea bags is of the leavings of lose leaf tea after it has been processed.  It is called tea dust and tea fannings.  It isn’t the best quality and often has added natural and artificial flavors to get to taste good in a short amount of time.
  • Tea leaves expand a lot, easily 2-3 times the size when steeped.  Traditional tea bags aren’t big enough to allow the full expansion of the tea leaves or allow the hot water to freely move among the leaves to allow for the full extraction of flavors from the tea.
  • The tea dust and tea fannings that are often used in grocery store tea bags often lack the essential oils that provide both flavor and the health benefits of tea.
  • The bags themselves may not be biodegradable.

Does that mean a tea drinker should never buy a tea bag?  Of course not,  there are many reasons to reach for the tea bag over loose leaf tea.

  • It is convenient.  It is much easier to carry and use a premeasured, individually wrapped tea bag then it is to carry loose leaf tea, an infuser and a measuring spoon.
  • Tea bags are easier to dispose of quickly and neatly then loose-leaf tea.
  • It is affordable.  Really good loose-leaf tea can be expensive depending on where you buy it.  Most grocery store is between 3-6 dollars a box. 
  • It is accessible.  The reason most people start learning about tea from tea bags is because tea bags are easy to find in many places like grocery stores and restaurants.  Tea from grocery tea bags is often what leads us to explore loose leaf teas in its many types.

If tea bags are so convienent, why on earth should a tea drinker look into loose leaf tea?

  • Loose leaf tea is just better-quality tea so it just plain tastes better.
  • Loose leaf tea is often more economical than tea bags.  Often the initial cost for loose leaf is more expensive but because loose leaf tea is better quality tea than tea bags you can often resteep your loose tea 1 or 2 times for more cups of tea from each serving of leaves which can bring down the cost per cup.
  • There is infinitely more variety in types and flavors of tea in loose leaf tea compared to tea bags.  I know when you see the tea sitting on grocery store shelves it looks like a lot of varieties of teas, but it barely scratches the surface of what is available for types and flavors of teas.

For most of us, if we want to move beyond ordinary grocery store tea, we are going to have to do it online. If you Google tea, tea shops, or where to buy tea, you are going to get hundreds of results.  How do you choose where to buy tea from?   How do you know it is good tea?

First, I would ask for recommendations from any of your tea loving friends, you know and trust.  If you’re lucky maybe that tea loving friend will invite you to try some tea out of their stash.  If not, almost every tea company has samples of their tea to purchase so you can try tea before you commit to buying full size packages of teas.  Samples range in size from enough tea for one or two cups of tea to enough tea for up to 10 cups of tea.

Remember, a company’s samples aren’t supposed to give enough tea to drink for the entire month. Samples are supposed to help you decide what you like without committing to a full-size bag.  Once you have tried several different samples from several different companies, you can start developing your likes and dislikes in types and flavors of teas and make decisions about teas we want to start including in our tea stash.

Do tea bags have the equivalent of samples? Yes, some tea bags come in sampler boxes where they have several bags of several different flavors of tea in each box. Usually, these samplers are broken down into caffeine and decaffeinated teas samplers. Unfortunately, not all brands of tea bags provide samplers for sale. If you choose to use tea bags over loose-leaf tea you have to be more willing to buy full size boxes of tea without knowing if you are going to like them or not. I tend to save any tea that isn’t to my taste to give to my tea drinking friends or to use when I have friends over for tea so it doesn’t really go to waste.

Now, it is up to you to make the decision about whether you want to use tea bags or loose-leaf tea and where you want to buy your tea from. Start looking into different companies and seeing what appeals to you then place your order or orders and wait for it to arrive so we can start exploring the many different kinds of tea.