Wednesday, December 31, 2008

New Year's Tea Lunch--Making Tea

There is nothing quite like a good cup of tea on a day like THIS:

Which is what Northern Connecticut is looking like AT THIS VERY MINUTE. Snowfall predictions are 5 to 9 inches.

I'm so glad that I don't have to go anywhere today.

For those of you who DISLIKE tea...

For those of you who have made tea with only hot water and a teabag from a box...


Are you still there? Good. Please don't be scared--for your own wellbeing or mine. I just want you to try my tea. Please???

Tea is simple to make, but you need to pay attention to WHAT you use for both equipment and ingredients.

Starring in our tea-making session...

One teakettle, one little teapot, looseleaf tea, and COLD water.

Is it okay that I didn't include the water? I didn't want it to warm up while I took the picture. Because it needs to be COLD.

Anyway, let's take each of these starring characters and explain why each one is important. First, the tea kettle.

The tea kettle is what you heat the water in for the tea. It is not to be confused with the teapot.

The teapot is never ever used to heat the water on the cooktop. It is what holds the tea leaves and water while the tea is steeping and then comes to the table to serve the tea. This is a small teapot for one or two people. It's my everyday teapot.

It comes with a straining basket for the tea leaves.

If your teapot is larger like this one...

Or doesn't come with a strainer, you have a few options.

First you can use a ball strainer.

You could also use a tea filter. It looks like an over-sized teabag.

Or you can forego the strainers all together and let the tea leaves steep in the water and then strain them out with a beautiful tea strainer that fits on the side of an individual teacup.

I don't have one of those, so I use one of the three above options.

Note: If you are only going to drink one cup of tea, you can use a straining basket like the one below...

It has room for just one teaspoon of tea leaves and will steep the tea right in your teacup.

Okay, that's the equipment. Now let's talk about the ingredients.


Harney and Sons Tea is the kind I use most often because 1) it's really good, and 2) I can buy it a mile from my house at a local shop. I've tried other looseleaf teas when I have had the chance. If you find a looseleaf tea you really like, use it.

Some of you may still be skeptical about the whole "looseleaf vs. teabag" difference. In the interest of science, I submit to you...

"Exhibit A" a teaspoon of looseleaf black tea from Harney and Sons.

"Exhibit B"--black tea from a teabag
(produced by a well-known English tea company--which I received as a gift this Christmas.)

Here they are side by side...

Which one looks better to you?

I believe that better looking = better tasting.

For you coffee fanatics, which one is better--freshly ground beans or instant coffee granules?

I rest my case.

Now, excuse me for a moment while I carefully return "Exhibit A" to its home in the tea tin.


Cold tap water tastes fresher than hot tap water because it hasn't been sitting in the hot water heater for a while waiting to be used. Even a water filter can't change that.

Okay, now that we have our tea lesson over, let's make some tea!

First, fill your teakettle at least halfway with COLD water. More if you're making a larger pot of tea.

Since I have great tasting water straight out of the tap, that's what I use. If you are not so fortunate, use filtered water.

Next, set your burner for medium-high heat...

And give yourself 10-15 minutes for the water to boil. During that time you can wait for the water to boil, get ready for the day, throw in a load of laundry, fire up the computer, start a fire in the wood stove, watch the snowflakes get the idea.

Unless you need to figure out how much water your teapot holds.

Mine holds over 2 cups of water.

Now, to measure tea leaves, we use the ratio of 1 teaspoon for every teacup of tea.

That's teacup, not cup.

In the regular world, a liquid measure of 1 cup = 8 ounces.

But in the "tea world," 1 teacup = 6 ounces.

To determine how many teacups my teapot holds, I multiply 8 ounces by 2 cups to get my total number of ounces--16. Then I divide 16 ounces by 6 ounces to give me how many teacups of tea I can fit in my teapot.

Sorry. I didn't warn you about the math word problem earlier, did I?

Find someone good with math word problems to help you. And then never forget how many teacups your teapot holds.

So my teapot holds about 2 1/2 to 3 teacups of tea. Therefore, I will add 2 1/2 teaspoons of tea...

Plus one more teaspoon "for the pot."

ALWAYS add one more teaspoon for the pot. We don't want to make the teapot jealous. It would make for some not-so-good tea.

Now, right before or right when the teakettle starts to "whistle" that it's ready...

Add the water to your black tea and let it steep for 4-5 minutes. The time will depend on what type of black tea you have purchased. Try it at different lengths of time until you find what you like.

If you buy green, oolong, white, or herbal tea--the steeping time will be different.

Again--finish getting ready for the day, throw in half a load of laundry, read an email or two, check the wood stove, watch the snowflakes fall...

When your 4-5 minutes is up...

Take out the tea straining equipment...

And enjoy a steaming cup of tea!

Paired with some slices of Banana Bread (with chocolate chips instead of nuts) and you can deal with ANY kind of "frightful" weather.

Let it snow, let it snow, let it snow! bjh


Linda said...

Great post! The photos are fabulous! Happy New Year!

Anonymous said...

I've had a water cooler that produced instant hot water for years and just recently got my first tea kettle (in a while). I wasn't sure whether or not to use cold water and I found your blog on google. Thanks! It was so cute and very helpful, and I can't wait to try loose tea. I'm an Earl Grey nut (mostly Earl Greyer from the Republic of Tea) but your teapot looks so cute I have to try one. Thank you!

Charity Grace said...

Have you ever tried tea from Portsmouth Tea Company? Oh my it is good!!! It's pricey, but I won a tin several years ago and I was really miserly with it so it would last a long time. It was delicious.