December 23, 2017 4 min read

Teas newfound popularity has been on the increase for some years, and a whole tea ‘re-education’ has been underway. As tea drinkers tastes evolve, new teas are being rediscovered and old classics recipes are being updated - tea has never been so exciting in all of it's more than 3,000-years history.

Through serving plenty of tea samples, running numerous demonstration workshops and having the opportunity to meet hundreds tea and coffee lovers alike; we thought it would be good to highlight some of the main questions asked about tea.

How to make loose leaf tea?

While there are so many types of teapots of all shapes and sizes - any teapot with an infuser will work. The two primary requirements are that the tea leaves have space to open up; and that you are able to take the leaves off the water at the right moment so that they don't over-steep.

The beauty of leaf tea as compared to tea bags is you can infuse larger leaves to get a fuller flavour (and more cups of tea) and also that you in more control of the infusion process.

How to get the right water temperature to make green vs black tea?

As a speciality tea drinker ideally you would want to make sure each tea is made using fresh water to the exact degrees Celcius. But what do you do if you are not able to measure exactly how hot the water is or for how long you need to infuse the tea leaves?

As an easy rule of thumb: When making organic black tea, you can take water just off the boil, but lighter green teas need a water that is a little cooler- up to 5 minutes off the boil. The drier the leaf and more ‘processed’ the tea the hotter the water can be. And if you want a stronger cup of tea, just add more leaves but don’t let the tea infuse for longer as it will go bitter and will lose the delicate tea flavours. Generally, tea likes 3-4 minutes at most in the water.

If you get the water temperature right and infuse the tea for the proper amount of time, you will get 2 or more good infusions off of the same leaves. Green tea will have the most infusions as the tea is not as strong and less extracted out of the leaves compared to black tea. Treat a tea well, and it will treat you well!

How long can you store dry tea for?

As a general rule within the tea industry, tea is sold with a shelf life of 3 years and if kept sealed airtight can last that long. Like most foodstuffs, however, when first exposed to air tea does lose some of its freshness. That’s why we sell our teas in airtight caddies, and if always kept closed and stored in a cool, dry environment tea will last that long.

In China and India, certain teas can actually be aged. For example, Pu'er or pu-erh is a fermented tea produced in Yunnan province, that actually improves with age much like a fine wine.

Is there caffeine in green tea?

All tea has caffeine. The only tea that is naturally caffeine-free is any of the herbal teas as they don’t come from the Camellia Sinensis plant, the origin of all tea leaves regardless of their final fermentation (black, green, white, etc). These, however, may have other properties that may act as stimulants. Green tea by the way it is made, is less dense than black tea, with black tea being fermented or dried during its production.

An average cup of green tea has 15-40 milligrams of caffeine and a cup of black tea 40-80 milligrams. This compares to espresso coffee having 100 milligrams of caffeine in it.

How do you get the caffeine out of Rooibos ‘tea’?

Rooibos has no natural caffeine in it as it is produced from a different plant to the Camellia Sinensis plant. It is made from a herbal shrub initially growing wild in the Cape South Africa but now cultivated in tea farms.

Why is leaf tea better than tea bags?

Tea bags were originally invented as a convenient way to make tea - a quick instant brewing tea; and they rapidly grew to over 95% of global tea sales. But they have their disadvantages: supermarket mainstream brands tea bags normally contain smaller cut, lower grade leaves, which not only need to be small to fit in the tea bag but also because they are smaller and broken they brew very quickly.

However, this does mean that unlike loose leaf tea, you don’t get multiple infusions or cups of tea off of the same tea bag - one of the reasons why we need to squeeze the teabag against the side of the mug.

Also, a tea bag produces a tea that can be more bitter than a leaf tea as the broken leaves release more tannin. A final drawback of using teabags is that you often get the taste of the teabag in the drink. This has, however, all changed with the invention of loose tea pyramid tea bags - we are now able to pack large leaf teas in a tea bag able to recreate the loose leaf experience with the convenience of a tea bag.

Chateau Rouge Gourmet Fine Foods UK_Organic peppermint herbal tea bags

Leaf tea on the other hand steeped in an infuser that gives the leaves enough space allows you to infuse the whole leaf, undamaged by tea bag production and allowing the brew to absorb the full flavour and natural essential oils from the leaves.

It also means you can see what is in the tea bag and the added bonus of seeing the leaves open up and unfurl while you are making the tea. Plus of course, you get more cups of tea off of the same leaf.

So ironically while tea bags may look cheaper, in the long run, the leaf tea works out less expensive as you get more cups of tea, plus you end up getting a better tasting cup of tea!

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