Why I don’t Hate on Teabags

For the last few weeks, I have been having a rather interesting conversation with a person leaving hateful comments on my blog, saying that I am not a real tea drinker if I drink tea from tea bags and don’t condemn the use of tea bags on my blog. I responded to her in an email the reasons why I won’t do that. The hate kept coming until I quit trying to have a conversation with her and blocked her. I am just done. If you don’t like the content on my blog, please keep scrolling there are other tea blogs out there that are more to your taste. I can even recommend several for you.

There are several reasons I will never hate on teabags or those who drink tea from teabags. The first reason is I am not a hypocrite. Although, I do prefer to drink loose leaf tea and do most of the time, I have several different kinds of bagged teas that I love. These teas include several that I buy at my local grocery store and will continue to buy until they discontinue the brand or flavor. Tazo’s Wild Sweet Orange and Passion flavors were teas I used to drink with my friend, Dawn, around the table at her farm. Those teas hold very warm and wonderful memories for me and will always have a special place in my tea stash.

The second reason I will never condemn the use of teabags is because it wasn’t all that long ago the 5-dollar box of Red Rose black tea I bought once a month was a real treat for me. One I saved my change for all month long to be able to afford. I started drinking loose leaf tea at the beginning of the pandemic when I was sent home by my job to work for extra pay because I am an essential worker. The only bills I had were rent, electric and internet. I could afford to try whatever teas I wanted and buy whatever tea gear and gadgets I wanted. Not everyone was or is so lucky. I will never condemn someone because they can’t afford what I can.

These are the reasons you will always hear me say if the tea you are making and how you make it is giving you a cup of tea you enjoy drinking you are doing it the right way. These are the reasons I will always post recipes with tea or tea leaves in them with bagged versions of the tea and loose-leaf versions of the tea, if I possibly can. I want A Cuppa and Conversation to be a safe, inviting and educational place for everyone, no matter where they are in their tea journey.

Teatime Fun #16– Learn to cold brew

Its already the end of August. I don’t know how that happened but here we are. I thought we would start out teatime fun tea explorations with my favorite way to make iced tea before we slip out of iced tea season for another year.

The method is called cold brewing. Its flat out the easiest way to make iced tea and, in my opinion, produces the tastiest iced tea. The method is simple, just put the tea leaves or tea bags in any container that holds water, add water, put in the fridge for a minimum of 4 hours, strain and pour over ice. Since no heat is applied to the leaves the tannins that turn tea bitter and cloudy never get extracted from the tea leaves. This method produces a smooth, clear tea that never gets bitter no matter how long you let it steep.

What kind of containers should I use to make cold brew in? I brew my cold brew in 4 cup bottles I bought at Target. I also have a gallon and 2-quart jugs that I bought specifically for making iced tea. They have infusers built right into the jugs, so you don’t have to strain out the leaves. They also fit in the door of the fridge so they don’t take up a lot of space. They are nice but not necessary. I have seen people cold brew tea in jelly jars, mason jars, directly in iced tea glasses. It doesn’t matter, as long as it can hold water you can brew tea in it.

What kind of tea can you cold brew? I, literally, try every tea I get as a cold brew. I tend not to like teas with spearmint, peppermint, or ginger as cold brew. So far, my favorite is just plain, unflavored Darjeeling black tea that I got from a company called Plum Deluxe.

I suggest trying every tea you try hot as a cold brew as well, even if you didn’t like the tea when you made it hot. I don’t know the science but a cold brewed tea can taste completely different then when it is brewed hot.

How much tea do I use to cold brew? The accepted wisdom is to use 1 teaspoon loose leaf tea or 1 tea bag per 8 ounces (1 cup) of water. In general, I find that a great place to start. If it isn’t strong enough for you, increase the loose-leaf tea by 1/2 teaspoon per 8 ounces of water or add an additional tea bag per 8 ounces of water and then brew up a small batch, 1 or 2 cups, until the tea is strong enough for you, then scale it up for bigger batches. Keep a small notebook by your tea so you can make notes about the name of the tea and how much tea you used to make a batch and how long you steeped it for future reference. Take it from me you will not remember this if you don’t.

Aren’t 16 teaspoons of loose-leaf tea or 16 tea bags a lot of tea for one gallon of iced tea? Yeah, but you want to brew tea for iced tea a little stronger than you normally would for hot tea because you don’t want the ice to dilute the tea. The good news is, if you use quality loose-leaf tea, you can generally resteep the same tea leaves for a second gallon of iced tea. If you brew your tea using tea bags you won’t be able to resteep them for a second gallon. They are a one and done kind of tea.

How long should I steep cold brew iced tea? There is no getting around it, cold brewing your iced tea is a slow process. I find it takes a minimum of 4 hours to get a good batch. It is even better if you can leave it the fridge overnight. Because of this lead time, I generally throw at least a quart in the fridge each night before I go to bed and then start a 3-cup glass brewing on my desk at work each morning, so it is ready after lunch when I almost always crave iced tea.

How long does cold brew iced tea last in the refrigerator? I generally only make enough cold brew iced tea to last me about 2 days, so usually, 2 quarts at a time. I have drunk cold brew iced tea that’s been in the fridge for 7 days and it’s been fine. If you aren’t comfortable with that or its moldy, stinks or tastes off, dispose of it and make a new batch.

Cold Brewed Iced Tea

8 cups of water

8 tsp loose leaf tea or 8 tea bags

Place water in a pitcher. Add tea bags or loose-leaf tea. Place in the fridge and let steep for at least 4 – 6 hours up to overnight in the refrigerator. Remove tea bags or strain out the leaves and drink over ice.

August 2022 Tea Basket

This weekend I updated my tea inventory list and discovered I have over 150 different teas in my tea stash, and I am always adding more in the form of teas from my subscriptions and random teas I find when I am out and about. While tea doesn’t go bad if you store it properly, it does lose its flavor over time, so I want to make sure I am rotating the teas I use. I do this by pulling teas for a tea basket the last weekend of every month.

A tea basket is all the teas I want to concentrate on drinking over the course of the month. I try to include a lot of different brands, flavors and types of tea. I also try to pull older teas from my stash and teas that only have one or two cups left in them. I also try to put one or two teas in the basket that are just teas I love. I originally saw the basket idea on Free Spirited Sara’s you tube channel and thought it was a great way to make sure I was rotating my teas.

This month’s tea basket includes:

  1. Raspberry Ganche black tea by Tea Forte. I bought this tea for my 52nd birthday in December. I love its chocolatey flavor. I am including it my tea basket because, even though I love it, it tends to get over-looked in when I am constantly trying new teas.
  2. Havakai Frost Tea by Harney and Sons. I got this tea in my monthly subscription a few months ago. It is one of the most unusual teas I have ever drank and it is one of my all-time favorites. I want to spend some time experimenting with different brewing methods and just enjoy this tea more frequently.
  3. Porch Sippin Pecan, Strawberry Rhubarb Oolong and Placid Orange Black by Plum Deluxe. I got these teas for making iced tea this summer. Now that the iced tea season is winding down, I just want to make sure I use them up, so they don’t sit in my stash all winter.
  4. I have several teas from several companies in my basket that I want to brew in my Gaiwan so I am going to set aside some time to do that. Brewing tea in a Gaiwan is supposed to bring out different aromas and flavors in the tea. I want to experiment that.
  5. This month I cancelled one of my subscriptions, so I put all my teas from this month and a few leftovers from previous boxes. I want to make sure to use these teas, so they don’t get lost in the shuffle.
  6. I also pulled a lot of tea bags from my stash. I have no issue with drinking tea from tea bags, but I prefer loose leaf tea so tend to go for that first. I want to make sure I am using my teabags as well.

These are just some of the teas I will be drinking this month. How many do you think I can get through by the last weekend in August? I’ll let you know.

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.