A Beginner’s Guide to Loose Leaf Tea
Drinking loose leaf tea is an age-old tradition that dates back long before tea bags were invented at the turn of the 20th century. Whether you’re a tea enthusiast or a newbie to drinking this time-honored hot beverage, brewing loose leaf tea can seem like a daunting task. So why forgo the convenience of simply dropping a ready-made tea bag in hot water and opt for a seemingly more involved preparation process instead?
Contrary to popular belief, loose leaf tea is no more complicated than its bagged counterpart! Plus, it offers its own benefits and a taste experience that tea lovers and first-timers alike can enjoy. If you’re ready to go beyond the bag, this beginner’s guide will break down everything you need to know to brew the perfect cup of loose leaf tea.
What is loose leaf tea?
Simply put, loose leaf tea is tea that doesn’t come in a pre-packaged bag. It can consist of buds, whole leaves, partially cut leaves, or a combination of the three. The leaves have a larger surface area and expand when steeped in hot water, allowing them to release all their flavor and nutrients.
Brewing the perfect cup
There are three basic steps to follow to make a delicious cup of tea:
- Measure your tea leaves.
- Pour your hot water.
- Let it steep.
Seems straightforward—right? When it comes to brewing loose leaf tea, there are a couple of other variables to consider: the type of tea, the tea to water ratio, the water temperature, and the steeping time. So, how does one create the perfect cup of tea based on these factors? Unfortunately, brewing tea isn’t an exact science, and there are no hard-and-fast rules. However, these basic guidelines can help get you started. As for nailing down an exact process, it all boils down to your personal preference. Don’t be afraid to experiment, and let your palate guide you to find the best method for your taste.
There are several different devices that can be used to brew loose leaf tea. Here are some of the most common:
- Teacup: A simple method for brewing loose leaf tea is using an infuser in your teacup. Tea infusers can come in many shapes and forms, but typically they’re either a ball or basket made of metal, silicone, or bamboo. These tools hold the loose leaf tea leaves and sit in your cup as it steeps in hot water. They can easily be removed whenever your desired steeping time is up.
- Teapot: Teapots come in a range of sizes and materials, and they’re ideal if you like to brew more than one cup at a time. Many teapots come with a built-in, removable infuser or strainer to hold the loose leaf tea, making for an easy clean-up.
- French press: French presses are usually used to make coffee, but they’re also a good alternative to traditional teapots. The tea leaves are placed where you would normally put coffee grounds, so it’s important to thoroughly clean the press of any coffee residue before using it for tea.
- Coffee maker: Like the French press, a countertop coffee maker can also be used to brew loose leaf tea. The tea can be made in the same way you would brew coffee by placing the leaves in the coffee filter instead of coffee grounds. This is an especially good option for brewing large batches of tea.
It’s important to store loose leaf tea properly to maintain its shelf life, quality, and taste. Here are some best practices to keep your tea fresh and flavorful:
- Use a tightly sealed container to limit oxidation from air exposure.
- Keep your tea in a dark cabinet or opaque container away from light and heat, as these conditions can cause it to degrade quickly.
- Avoid storing it in a spot that has a strong odor. Tea absorbs odors easily, so it’s best to keep it away from food, spices, and trash cans.
- Moisture and humidity are also a no-no. Don’t put it in the fridge, near the dishwasher, or other places that it can be exposed to these conditions. A cool, dry storage spot is key to keeping your tea at its best.
We hope that this beginner’s guide calmed any anxie-TEA that you have around preparing loose leaf tea. If you’re ready to dive into the world of loose leaf tea, our new loose leaf tea blends are a great place to start! Happy brewing!
Wise Words Written By: Lauren Kuda is a nutrition professional, recipe developer, content creator, and overall health enthusiast. She educates and empowers others to maximize their well-being through sustainable lifestyle changes and harness the healing power of whole foods. Connect with Lauren on her website.
“All About Tea.” Global Tea Initiative, 10 June 2019, globaltea.ucdavis.edu/all-about-tea.
Benwick, Bonnie, et al. “How-to: Steeping Loose-Leaf Teas.” Washington Post, 21 Oct. 2014, www.washingtonpost.com/lifestyle/food/tea-how-to-steeping-loose-leaves/2014/10/21/f6727f86-526c-11e4-892e-602188e70e9c_story.html?itid=lk_inline_manual_13.
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