How Much Loose Leaf Tea to Buy

amts-of-tea
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.

milky-jade-leaves-on-wall-web
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.

montage-2-web

Note: Premium Milky Jade oolong and premium Japan Gyokuro green are 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:

tea-measuring-spoon

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:

pouring-water-web

steeping-web

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.

tea-ball-web

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

metal-filter-web

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

finum-web

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

clock-web

Best

timer-web

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:

strainer-montage-web

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:

filter-montage-web

And enjoy your perfect cup!

cup-of-tea-web


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

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

What Is the Difference between Fruit Tea and a Tisane?

I peer out the window:thermometer_web

and stroll through my yard:daffodils_web

and check out the woods behind my house:wildflowers_web

Yep, definitely iced tea season in Michigan!


plum montageAnd because beautiful days call for beautiful teas, I pull out some plum fruit tea.

This tea has it all:

  • lustrous ruby red color
  • fruity aroma
  • strong, tangy plum flavor

And this fruit tea, available from TeaHaus, is a beguiling mixture of blossoms (hibiscus, peony, tea, rose, and mallow) and rose hips, cinnamon chunks, carob and red beet pieces—and fruit (plum and apple pieces).

It is made of all natural ingredients, and is caffeine free.

This “tea,” however, is actually a tisane because it does not contain any tea leaves (Camellia senensis).

But—

While “tisanes” are defined as any beverage made by infusing fresh or dried herbs, fruit, and/or spices in hot water. . . .

. . . the second definition of “tea,” according to the Oxford Dictionary, is “a drink made from the infused leaves, fruits, or flowers of plants other than tea.”

And—

To confuse the terminology further, a “fruit tea” can refer to a blend that contains both Camellia senensis (tea) leaves and fruit. . . .

. . . or it can refer to a combination of fruit, blossoms, herb leaves, spices, and so on (no C. senenis).

One Way to Distinguish the Two

The Tea Wall at TeaHaus distinguishes these by referring to tea (C. sinensis) blended with fruit (or other additives) as “aroma teas.” Thus, you can have a “black aroma,” with a black tea base; a “green aroma,” containing green tea rather than black; and so on.

The blends (or tisanes) that do not contain C. sinensis but are composed primarily of fruit are labeled “fruit tea.”

Other tisanes include those blends based primarily on herbals/flowers/spices (“herbal tea”) and those containing  rooibos or honeybush.

So Is It “Tisane” or “Fruit Tea”??

Both terms are used interchangeably, and yet they are also used to refer to different things altogether.

According to common usage and the dictionary, you can use either term to refer to a beverage made of fruit and no C. senensis.

You just can’t use “tisane” to refer to a blend of fruit and C. senensis.

Got that?

Oh what the heck—just go make a cup and call it whatever you want!plum-tea-dry-in-woods_web

Should You Microwave Your Tea? Part 2: Flavor

According to researcher Dr. Vuong (Hoh 2017), brewing tea in a microwave oven imparts greater health benefits and results in tastier tea.

So, About This Claim

While I cannot test the health factor (see my previous post), I can test the flavor! Admittedly my little experiment wouldn’t meet any laboratory standards, but anyway.

I brewed teabags (standard teabags, purchased from a grocery store) and loose leaf Chinese green teas (again, standard tea)—both in the conventional manner and with Dr. Vuong’s method.

Experiment 1: Brewing a Teabag

I used 8 ounces of hot water, steeping a teabag of Chinese green tea for 2 minutes.

I put a second teabag into hot water and immediately microwaved it for 30 seconds at half power, and then let it sit for a minute before removing the teabag, per Dr. Vuong, who advocates this method.

Neither he nor the teabag company suggested what temperature “hot” should be, so already this experiment is not at all controlled. Nor does Vuong provide what wattage the “half power” should be.

Experiment 2: Brewing Loose Leaf Tea

I measured a teaspoon of loose Chinese green tea and brewed it in 8 ounces of hot water for 2 minutes.

I put another teaspoon of loose tea into 8 ounces of hot water and immediately microwaved it for 30 seconds at half power. After letting it sit for an additional minute, I filtered out the leaves.

So Does the Microwave Make a Difference?

I had my husband and daughter do a blind taste test.

Teabag Results
Me: 
preferred microwave version because it was stronger
Husband: thought the microwaved version was stronger but he preferred the conventionally brewed one
Daughter: thought the microwaved version was stronger but the conventionally brewed one was sweeter

Loose Leaf Tea Results
Me: microwaved version was awful so totally preferred the conventionally brewed version
Husband: preferred conventionally brewed one
Daughter: thought the conventionally brewed tea was stronger but the microwaved one was sweeter

The Upshot

With Teabags
It seems—based on this extremely limited trial—that if you are using a teabag and you like stronger tea, you may want to give the microwave a try.

These results intuitively make sense because in this photo of the teabag contents after brewing, you can see that the tea leaves have been chopped into tiny bits.

When they are brewed, there is a lot of surface area and the flavor is quickly extracted.

The microwave apparently maximizes that process, without contributing bitterness to the brew.

With Loose Leaf Tea
If, however, you have loose leaf tea, I personally would follow the recommended conventional brewing method.

For the loose leaf tea, the leaves are in large pieces or nearly whole, as seen in the photo here, taken after brewing.

Compared to small bits of leaves, whole leaves retain more of their flavor and health benefits, and they also release them more slowly—which is why many green, white, and oolong teas can, and often should, be brewed more than once.

The microwave was not sufficient, at least in my little study, to extract the flavor that I expect from these leaves.


Source: Hoh, A. “Microwaving tea the best way to brew and extract health benefits,” ABC News, April 10, 2017

How to Properly Store Tea

You found a loose leaf tea that you love. Now, how do you store it so that it maintains its incredible aroma and flavor?

THEN: Form over Function

When tea from China first arrived on their shore in the 1600s, Europeans sought to properly store—and protect—the costly leaves. Elaborate tea caddies, often with locks, eventually became all the rage for those who had money to spare.

small caddy with text
These caddies frequently contained one section for green tea and another for black, and sometimes a bowl, as shown in the ornate caddy below. While separating green from black tea is a definite plus, the caddies also were commonly lined with lead, a decided drawback.

tea caddy montage

AND NOW: Form and Function

storage tins montage

Today, we don’t have to worry about locking up our favorite leaves, but we do need to protect them from other aromas, moisture, and light.

This rules out glass jars, tins that have been used to store anything with an odor (including other, heavily scented, tea!), old plastic containers, and anything that does not tightly close.

Because every tea has its own wonderful aroma, it is best to store each type of tea in a dedicated container so that the flavor is not compromised. And with all the pretty options out there, that isn’t so hard to do!

For example, these charming Kotobuki tins are wrapped in Japanese rice paper and have an interior plastic lid that really seals.

round tin_inner lid_cropIf minimal is more your thing, simple tins that tightly seal are also perfect for keeping your tea tasting its best. A second inner lid is even better.

So although modern tea tins have nowhere near the artistry of a 1700–1800s-era Chinoiserie tea caddy, they also do not contain lead or other harmful chemicals that may leach into your tea. And they will keep your tea fresh for a very long time!


Sources:
The Luxury of Tea and Coffee: Chinese Export Porcelain, Highlights from the Shirley M. Mueller Collection, by Shirley M. Mueller and R. Craig Miller, Indianapolis Museum of Art, Indiana, 2016.  

–Walne, T. “
Antique tea-caddies brew up a profit,” This Is Money. September 28, 2009.

Tea tins pictured above are available for purchase online at TeaHaus and EatMoreTea.

How We Get Our Tea: From Truck to Cup

You overslept; you had to wait for a train on your drive in to work; it started pouring, just when the car in front of you pulled into the last parking space that was even remotely close to your building. And then you find that your go-to tea is out of stock!

So when our shipment of tea arrived at TeaHaus truckthis morning, there was palpable excitement—on our part and on the part of our customers.

I am not exaggerating here. This is serious stuff. (Upon learning that we would no longer be able to get one of our favorite teas, there were tears and wailing!)

The Tea Truck Cometh

TeaHaus teas are shipped from Germany—after undergoing rigorous testing for pesticide and heavy metal residue (none of that is allowed in these teas) and for quality. Once they clear customs, they arrive in Ann Arbor by semi, on pallets.

pellet and boxes
Bringing . . . a Whole Lot of Work

Many large and unpacking and storingunwieldy—and oftentimes heavy—boxes need to be unpacked.

For delicate teas such as white teas, each bag of tea is shipped in its own cardboard box so that the tea leaves are not crushed in any way. But every one of those boxes needs to be opened.

Bags of more durable teas are simply placed into the shipping boxes. These bags are tin-lined, ensuring that the tea doesn’t pick up moisture or odors, and protecting the tea from light.

After verifying that the box contents are correct, the bags go into storage or on our wall.

and TEA! (which makes it all worthwhile)

The best part of all this is opening a new bag of tea and pouring it into a tin from our tea wall. The aroma is amazing!

The tins keep the tea fresh and protected from light.

Also, each tin is dedicated to a particular tea because the tin will pick up the tea’s aroma. It is crucial that the tea not be compromised by being stored in anything that will alter its flavor.

filling tintin on wall

The tins are stored on our Tea Wall, ordered by tea type:

Black Classic, Black Aroma, Oolong Classic, Oolong Aroma, Yellow, Green Classic, Green Aroma, Black and Green, White Classic, White Aroma, Decaf, Rooibos, Fruit, Herbal, and Ayurvedic Herbal.

FROM TRUCK to CUP!

truck to cup