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.