Monday, November 30, 2015

How To Brew Loose Leaf Tea

Making tea without the help of tea bags can seem daunting at first but it's actually super easy. There's a lot of different accouterments out there but the truth is that you don't really need much equipment at all. At its most basic level, the requirements for making tea are:

- Brewing vessel
- Hot water
- Something to hold the leaves

That's it! The main reason that you'll need a way to remove the leaves is to prevent bitterness. Some people like their tea on the strong so feel to use your tastes as your guide. Brewing vessels can be anything from a utilitarian mug to a fancy teapot and everything in between. As your own interest in tea progresses, so will your preferred brewing methods. When I first got into tea, infuser baskets and paper filters were my mainstays but more often than not I now brew with a gaiwan. The advice that I always give is to start simple and build from there.

Tea bags are often made with lower quality leaves so one of the major differences is that loose leaf can often be used to make more than one infusion. The upfront cost is more but that means your per serving cost could actually be lower.

Paper Filters
Paper filters basically allow you to make your own tea bags. I still use these quite a bit when I'm traveling. Although perfectly functional, there are a few drawbacks. Larger leaved and rolled teas will not have room to expand which could negatively affect the flavor. They can also create waste because not all filters are biodegradable. 

Tea Balls
Tea balls offer a similar function to paper filters but in a reusable form. They are available in a wide range of sizes but giving your leaves enough room can also be an issue here. Loosely woven mesh is less likely to stop very small leaf particles like rooibos.

Novelty Infusers
Novelty infusers can make tea time a lot of fun but again, they do tend to constrict the leaves. These are a great conversation piece for the office! Co-workers at my old job always asked what I drinking when I used that cute little duck.

Infuser Baskets
Basket style infusers are definitely my go to when it comes to simple brewing. The wide open design leaves plenty of room for your leaves to stretch their legs. They often come with lids which can serve as drip catchers in between infusions. 
Teapots
A lot of teapots come with infuser baskets. Some people prefer to let the leaves float free in the teapot. Small strainers are placed over teacups when pouring to stop leaves from getting through. The flavor will continue to get stronger so you'll want to drink it up fairly quickly.

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