How Much Loose Leaf Tea to Buy

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Buying loose leaf tea in bulk at TeaHaus

The world of loose leaf tea can be intimidating—so many choices! And how do you decide how much to buy?

Those pesky grams . . .

It doesn’t make it any easier that bulk tea is often sold in grams or in odd amounts of ounces.

That is because most of the world uses grams, and the U.S. equivalents end up being an odd amount. So a nice round 50 grams of tea ends up being 1.76 ounces in the U.S.

But how much IS 1.76 ounces?

For some comparison, a single-serving Hersey’s chocolate bar is 1.55 ounces while a Snickers bar is 1.86 ounces.

But 1.76 ounces of loose leaf tea gives you roughly 15 to 20 cups of tea.

The range of cup yield is because you will use a different tea leaf to water ratio depending on the type of tea you have.

Some teas need one level teaspoon per 8 ounces of water, whereas others need more—especially for light, bulky teas such as Silver Needle white tea (incidentally, those are more accurately weighed rather than measured by teaspoon, but expediency rules for most of us!).

And making tea an even better bargain—

Unlike coffee beans, which can be brewed only once, tea leaves can often be reused.

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Milky Jade oolong leaves

Most oolong teas and many green and white teas can—and often should—be rebrewed. The leaves will continue to release flavor, and successive brews may even be more flavorful than the first infusion.

So 1.76 ounces may actually give you anywhere from 30 to 60 cups of tea!

When thinking about the price of high-quality teas, even an expensive tea may not be so costly when you consider the number of brews you can make per teaspoon of tea leaves.

Compare the premium Japan Gyokuro (which can be rebrewed) to a bottle of wine.

For about the same price, you can get fifty grams of tea or a decent bottle of wine. The wine bottle will give you 5 five-ounce servings, but the 50 grams of tea will give you at least 30 to 40 eight-ounce servings!

So how much to buy?

Here is a handy chart (this is assuming an 8-ounce cup and a one-time use of the leaves):

  • 50 g = 1.7 oz = 15–20 cups
  • 100 g = 3.53 oz = 30–40 cups
  • 250 g = 8.82 oz = 75–100 cups
  • 500 g = 17.64 oz = 150–200 cups

While tea keeps for months and even years, for optimal flavor you will want to buy only what you will use up in a reasonable amount of time.

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Note: Premium Milky Jade oolong and premium Japan Gyokuro green are available at TeaHaus.

Butter Tea, Lipton Tea, and an Infested Tea Table—from a 1930s’ Diary

Diaries. The word alone conjures up dreams, disappointments, secrets, confessions. . . .

When my husband found his grandmother’s diary, we felt guilty opening it—as though we were violating her privacy, although she passed away decades ago.

But after reading—repeatedly—that the day’s laundry dried well, we didn’t worry so much about the ethics. Because her words didn’t offer much insight into her as a person.

Yet the mundane details that she recorded provide a snapshot of everyday life in a Midwestern farming community in the 1930s.

And much more exciting travel journals can serve a similar function.

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Himalaya View green tea

In the early 1930s, inveterate adventurer Walter N. Koelz traversed—by yak and by horse—the rugged western Himalayan mountains, maintaining his diary throughout.

Taking incredible adventures (and multiple mishaps) in stride, his mission was to collect zoological and botanical specimens—as well as Tibetan objects—for botanical gardens and museums.

Avidly seeking out artwork and jewelry, Koelz also amassed household items, including teapots and tea tables.

Offering us a window into the ordinary while on an extraordinary journey.

In his 1931 diary (p. 121), Koelz notes that he

bought an ancient curiously carved tea table. . . . The carving is bold and graceful and of a totally different character from that of the tables nowadays manufactured. The top was soaked in generations of butter imbibed from the tea that had been spilled by the guests of the ages and the gay paint that the people in this country apply to all carvings has been toned to grey-black by similar agencies.

For those who lived in this cold and rugged mountain range, adding butter to their tea contributed much-needed nutrition.

The butter would have been high-fat-content yak butter, with a consistency closer to cheese. Using a churn, the tea and butter would be frothed and then drunk with milk, a practice still followed in some Himalayan regions.

In the early 1930s—as today—tea and hospitality intertwined.

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Himalaya View green tea

Throughout his diary, Koelz mentions both serving and being served tea, as well as both offering and receiving tea as a gift. On July 2, 1933, he was offered tea and tsampa, “a staple Tibetan food of roasted barley flour, usually served mixed with butter and tea” (Sinopoli 2013).

And tea was everywhere.

Koelz met caravans of mules carrying tea through the mountains. He writes of:

  • bricks and cakes of Tibetan tea and a cake of HR tea;
  • buying Kangra tea in July—at Kulu’s October prices (today, Kangra and Kulu are districts in the Indian state of Himachal Pradesh); and
  • seeing walnuts ground so that the oil could be added to tea.

He bought teacups and teapots—of wood, a Lhasa teapot, some made in Spiti (located between Tibet and India), a copper teapot of “Mongol design.”

He bought tea tables—including one in which “a little bedbug village had located itself” (Sinopoli 2013)! (In case you’re wondering, he put the table in the sun to draw the bugs out, where they died.)

And as it still does today, tea—and water—quality varied.

Complaining on October 30, 1933, that their “Lipton tea had a drugstore taste,” Koelz used prianku (a high alpine, lemon-scented perennial herb that grows in the Himalayas) to add flavor; he goes on to say that they “bought a cake of Tibetan tea that didn’t have any taste. Our herb remedied that too” (Sinopoli 2013).

On January 19, 1934, he writes that their “water makes bad tea so we bought a jugful from a well a couple miles away”; on the following day, when they located “drinkable” water, they drank “tea copiously” (Sinopoli 2013).

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In modern America, it’s unlikely we need to add prianku to our tea, adding butter is definitely a personal preference, and we probably don’t have a dedicated tea table.

BUT, we continue to serve, be served, buy, give, and enjoy tea. Because it is always more than just the tea.

It’s community, hospitality, friendship.


Sources:
–Koelz, W. N. “Diary of the 1931 Expedition to Western Tibet,” Journal of Urusvati, Himalayan Research Center 2:121. 1931.
–Sinopoli, C. M. The Himalayan Journey of Walter N. Koelz, Ann Arbor: Museum of Anthropology, University of Michigan. 2013.

Tea pictured above is available at TeaHaus.

New to Tea? Here’s All You Need to Brew the Perfect Cup

cup of tea

Somewhere in time, after teabags became ubiquitous, the idea evolved that making tea with loose leaves is complicated. Or time consuming. Or best left to someone more experienced.

But really, truly—you can quickly make a great cup of tea!

As far as what you need, you probably already own it. Nothing fancy required here!

Measuring out your tea

This works:pouring-out-tea-leaves

Better—use a teaspoon from your drawer:

teaspoon

Best—use a tea measuring spoon, which has a deep bowl that is designed to hold bulky tea leaves:

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Making the tea

This works—measure your tea leaves into anything that holds hot water and simply eyeball the amount of hot water that you add.

However, for optimal flavor, it’s better to at least somewhat measure how much water you add so that your tea to water ratio is correct (and reproducible).

Best—here I’ve put green tea (China Gunpowder Temple of Heaven, from TeaHaus) directly into a glass measuring cup (which allows a lot of room for the leaves to unfurl) and added the hot water:

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Alternately, measure the tea leaves into a filter, pop the filter into a cup, and then add the hot water.

Many types of filters are readily available, including disposable paper filters (I use the paper filters to make my own tea bags, convenient for traveling).

A round tea ball is fine with CTC black teas—those that consist of chopped tea leaves, which won’t expand a whole lot and therefore can be contained in a small space. Even so, you don’t want to cram too many leaves into a tea ball because you do need room for the leaves to expand so that you get all the flavor that you should.

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Teas that are whole leaf really need a lot more room to expand. Any type of basket filter works with these teas.

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I personally prefer this Finum filter (which also is terrific for when you have tiny slivers of rooibos):

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Keeping track of brewing time

This works—totally guess.

But if you ever want to replicate—or change—your results (and get the best flavor), you’ll want to watch your brewing time.

Better—count, as in:

1 Mississippi 2 Mississippi 3 Mississippi . . .

Better yet

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Best

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Filtering out the tea leaves

This works—if you’ve brewed the leaves loose in a cup or measuring glass, anything that holds the leaves back will work (even a fork will work with large whole leaves).

Better—an inexpensive all-purpose kitchen strainer:

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Best—just because it’s easier than using a kitchen strainer—pour your brew through a basket filter. Or, if you put the leaves directly into the filter, just lift the filter out:

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And enjoy your perfect cup!

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Note: TeaHaus in Ann Arbor carries a complete line of filters, glass measuring cups, timers, measuring spoons, and more. Shop online at teahaus.com.

Anthropomorphic Gay 90s Teapot: Creepy or Charming?

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So I inherited this Gay Nineties (Lady) anthropomorphic teapot from my grandmother.

makers-mark_webMy first reaction? A definite Eww!!

But my husband recognized the pattern, having seen it in antique stores.

Indeed, this seems to be a collectible that people do collect. Since my vintage teapot was never used (the built-in strainer is pristine), it was strictly for display.

This handpainted teapot was made in Japan sometime between 1949 and 1961, by the Miyao Company (now Miyawo) under the PY trademark, and probably sold through an American distributor.

The Reference

The Gay Nineties—an American expression—refers to the 1890s. The expression began in the 1920s and was widely used during the Great Depression in the 1930s as people looked back to a supposedly happier time.

Yet although this nostalgic term evokes an era of gaiety—and assuredly many of the upper and middle classes did prosper—the decade of the 1890s was anything but. An economic crisis began early in the decade, worsened by the Panic of 1893, which brought unemployment, business failures, bank closures, a stock market plunge, and a depression.

The Face

So why would a teapot be anthropomorphized?

Well, the hairstyle and hat do evoke an earlier era, making the teapot a fun, nostalgic tchotchke. It definitely makes serving tea to a guest memorable!

But according to Rick Nauert (2015),

thinking of a nonhuman entity in human ways renders it worthy of moral care and consideration.

Maybe this is just as much advertising as nostalgia. Maybe the human face compels people to purchase it. And once it is in your house, those eyes make it difficult to throw the thing out.

Because it is still in my house. And it is growing on me.


Source: Nauert, R. “Why do we anthropomorphize?,” Psych Central. 2015.

Moroccan Mint Tea

Mentha_spicata_webEarlier this week, my husband and I drove through mid-Michigan mucks—historically, prime land for growing mint. In fact, at the turn of the 20th century, our state supplied 90% of the world’s supply of mint oil!*

Along with North America, this aromatic herb is native to Eurasia, southern Africa, and Australia, and since antiquity has been valued for its heady scent and invigorating flavor. Mint was tossed into baths, drunk and eaten, and used medicinally.

Mint’s MOA: Scientifically and Culturally

Menthol is the essential oil that gives mint its cooling effect. When menthol binds to receptors on sensory neurons, calcium ions move into the cells, sending a “cool” message to the brain.†

No wonder mint is so popular in the southern, sultry states of the U.S.—in the form of mint juleps—and in Morocco in northwest Africa, where sweet mint tea is embedded in the culture.

Mint, in fact, means hospitality in many regions (think “hospitality mint”!). In Morocco—with African, Arab, Berber, and European influences—the architecture emphases community, and mint tea signifies family and hospitality.

mor-glasses-montage_webMint Melded with Tea

Tea apparently was introduced to Morocco in the 1700s as trade between Asia, Africa, and Europe grew. By the 1800s, China green gunpowder and Young Hyson teas were being imported into the country.

Moroccan mint tea is traditionally made in a silver teapot and then poured out while holding the teapot high above the glass. This both cools and froths the tea.

The sweet brew—made of green gunpowder tea, mint leaves, and sugar—is served in beautifully decorated glasses.

While I didn’t pour my Moroccan Mint tea into a Moroccan glass, I did make sure to brew it at 194°F for 2 minutes and enjoyed it hot on this chilly morning.

This tea is also excellent iced—especially cooling on a hot, sunny day, and perfect to offer to family and friends!


Sources:
*Schaetzl, R. “Mint,” Michigan State University.
†Cotton, S. “
Menthol,” Uppingham School, Rutland, UK.
The Moroccan Mint tea and Moroccan glasses shown above are available from TeaHaus

Earl Grey Tea: Who Was It Named For?

Although Earl Grey tea—with its distinctive bergamot flavor—is one of the most well-known and beloved tea blends, the origin of the tea and its name is less certain.

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Charles, the Earl Grey

Charles Grey, the 2nd Earl Grey, is often cited as the source of Earl Grey tea. There are stories about his being gifted with such a tea and how he requested that British tea merchants supply it.

While it is true that his Reform Act lowered the cost of tea, allowing more people to drink it . . .

Or Maybe Henry George, the Earl Grey

Charles was born in 1764 and died in 1845—whereas the first evidence that linked “Earl Grey” with “tea” was an advertisement. In 1884.

Which would be in the 3rd Earl Grey’s lifetime (Henry George, 1802–1894).

Or Perhaps a Tea Merchant Named Grey?

However, there were earlier ads of a pricy “celebrated GREY MIXTURE” of tea that had been “rewarded with the most distinguished patronage.”

Merchants named “Grey” abounded in the 1800s, so the tea could refer to one of them. But who was the patron? Or was that just an advertising ploy?

And, we still don’t know what “mixture” meant. As the Oxford English Dictionary points out, these ads don’t mention bergamot at all.

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Earl Grey tea

And About That Bergamot—

Researchers know that bergamot was added to tea as early as 1824—but to cover up low-quality tea! One company was brought to court in 1837 for misleading consumers by selling the secretly doctored tea as a higher-quality product, with a corresponding price tag.

It is possible that the addition of bergamot to tea caught on and eventually the oil was added to better-quality tea—evolving into that “celebrated Grey mixture”—but we are not certain.

Unless, of course, we can believe early 20th-century ads, such as those (in 1914 and ca. 1928) by Jackson’s of Piccadilly that assert that Earl Grey tea was introduced in 1836 “to meet the wishes of a former Earl Grey.”

Which could be Charles or Henry George!

But Anyway!

Regardless of its true origin, aficionados of this tea will agree that Earl Grey tea is indeed—as Jackson’s of Piccadilly proclaimed a century ago—the “world’s most fashionable tea” with its “delicate aroma and distinctive flavor.”


For more about bergamot oil, see my earlier post: Bergamot Oil: The Essence of Earl Grey Tea


See these informative sources for more details and for examples of the ads mentioned above:
–”Earl Grey tea,” The Foods of England Project. Feb. 20, 2016.
–”Early Grey: The results of the OED appeal on Earl Grey tea,” OED Appeals, Oxford University Press.
Tea shown above is Earl Grey No. 69, available from TeaHaus

Drink Tea! Lose Weight?

best tea for weight loss!
weight-loss teas!!
drink tea to lose weight!!!


shangri-lade-montage-webWhat’s not to love about that?

Drink what I love and lose weight at the same time?!

Except for the fact that I drink tea all day long and have not experienced any notable weight loss. And the fact that I am always skeptical of claims written with exclamation marks!

But every so often these claims re-emerge in news reports—enough to keep people talking.

And it turns out that there is some science behind the claims—enough to keep scientists pursuing this line of research.


First, the secret to weight gain (or, what happens when we eat lots and lots of junk food)

Not so hard to figure out the cause and effect of food and physique! What happens physiologically is that:

  • fat cells get bigger
  • we get more fat cells

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Second, can we counteract that??

Back in 2009, J. Söhle and colleagues looked at human precursor fat cells (preadipocytes) and white tea extract. Did tea affect whether the precursors matured into full-blown fat cells (or adipocytes, specialized cells that store fat)?

Short answer? Yes, actually.

And were their results tea dependent?

Well, they used white tea because it undergoes the least processing (oxidation) of all the teas, and only the new growth (buds and first leaves) of the plant are used. This means that white tea contains more polyphenols (including epigallocatechin [EGCG] and epicatechin) and more methylxanthines (caffeine and theobromine) than do green or black teas.

So about those results—

Söhle’s team (2009) found that the human cells exposed to white tea extract had lower triglyceride levels; the acting agent may be the polyphenol EGCG.

Lower triglyceride levels mean that fat is being broken down (lipolysis), with triglycerides being converted into fatty acids and glycerol.

Further, white tea extract appeared to discourage precursor fat cells from turning into full-fledged fat cells—at least in human subcutaneous cells. As Söhle et al. (2009) state,

This plant [white tea] extract is, therefore, an ideal natural source to modulate the adipocyte life cycle at different stages and to induce anti-obesity effects.

The caveat?

Exposing cells to white tea extract under laboratory and controlled circumstances is nowhere the same as a person drinking a cup of white tea.

However,

We do know that tea—Camellia senensis leaves—provides many health benefits, and results of this study are definitely encouraging. So I am putting the kettle on right now!


Source: Söhle, J. et al. “White tea extract induces lipolytic activity and inhibits adipogenesis in human subcutaneous (pre)-adipocytes,” Nutrition & Metabolism 6:20. 2009.