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.

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.