Brewing the Perfect Cup of TeaFood & Ingredients
It seems that tea has come back into fashion with specialty tea shops showing up in malls and new tea tins appearing on super market shelves. True tea comes from the Camellia sinensis plant, and although several products on the market are called "herbal teas," their correct classification is an herbal infusion since there is no tea in them.
People are finding that the natural antioxidants found in tea help to fight free radicals and reduce mental and physical stress. I recently had the pleasure of sitting in a class with Bruce Richardson, reknown tea expert, when he was in Chapel Hill, NC at A Southern Season. He mentioned the following natural substances found in tea:
Flavonoids - these appear in green and black teas and can also be found in wine and dark-skinned fruits and vegetables.
Catechin - this is a special flavonoid found in both green and white teas.
epigallocatechin-3-gallate (EGCG) - this is the healthy antioxidant found in green and white teas.
Theonine - an aminoacid which is produced only by the tea plant and has been shown to reduce mental and physical stress.
Caffeine - found in all variety of teas to a varying degree. According to Stash Tea, based on an 8 oz. cup, black teas have the highest amount of caffeine at 5 mg per ounce while oolong has 3.75 mg, green tea has 2.5 mg and white teas have as 2.0 mg per ounce. Compared to a cup of coffee at 16mg per ounce, by switching to tea, you've reduced your intake by more than two-thirds!
You can brew the perfect cup of tea in three simple steps:
- Measure the correct amount of tea. When using loose tea, I like to use tea sacks. These are easy to use and can be easily removed from your tea pot. Some tea pots have a tea basket you can use, and a tea ball can work as well. Just make sure there is room for the tea to expand.
- Use the correct water temperature for the tea you've chosen. Once you decide what type of tea you want, the next critical step is to brew your tea at the correct temperature. I like following the Teavana guidelines. White teas are very gentle requiring 175 degree water whereas black teas can take a higher temperature at 195 degrees. Herbal infusions such as rooibos, pepperment, and chamomile teas are best brewed at 208 degrees. For precise water temperatures, invest in an electric boiler and warmer. A friend of mine introduced me to the Zojirushi models, and I use mine everyday.
- Brew or steep your tea for the appropriate amount of time. Most teas will steep for 5 minutes, but some teas such as white and green teas require only a few minutes. Make sure you remove your tea sack at the appropriate time, and don't over brew it, or you'll find it becomes bitter and overpowering.
Once you discover the joys of brewing your perfect cup of tea, you'll find that you'll crave to have at least one cup a day. Bruce Richardson recommends 4 cups of green tea per day for good health. Listen to your body, and see what tea or herbal infusion works best for you!