Tuesday, February 10, 2015

Brewing the Perfect Cup of Tea?

Why, I've come to a surprising realization about modern trendy tea!  

You might have noticed how popular tea is lately.  Tea online, tea in the mall, tea is the new coffee, back when coffee was en vogue.  But I'm an old school herbalist.  When I say herbal tea, I'm thinking you get some hibiscus leaves or rose hips for zing (remember Red Zinger, back when it was good?) and flowers for color, maybe some dried lemon rind, or a hint of peppermint. Herbal tea was made from herbs.  Tea had tea leaves in it.

So I've been ordering tea online because where do you get good Earl Grey?  Well not around here, that's for sure.  But I noticed that some of my teas are...kinda fake tasting.  Specifically the Hazelnut vanilla.  But, silly me, I thought maybe they're using that fake vanilla flavoring?  Right?  Tea, right?

Now there's a tea place in the mall and I bought some and I've discovered...well, they're in lovely shades like fuchsia and the flavors are wonderful, but this is all fake!  I've got a couple that don't even actually have leaves of any kind in it!  It's like...like...bits of bark soaked in colorants and flavoroids!  And it's even sweetened! 

The modern tea is really just Kool-Aid for adults.  It's not tea.  The tea part is there to con you into feeling snooty and giving them the excuse to be charging exclusive prices because only exclusive people drink tea.  Pinky out!  It's not tea!  It's not tea!

You should have seen the people rushing in and out of that shop to get free samples!  You want to know something else?  Their free sample of green tea was bitter.  That right there is a major tea fail.  Anytime a tea place serves you bitter green tea, run.  Why?  Green tea is steeped at 175F.  Go with hotter water like for black teas or for coffee  (I'm looking at you, Starbucks)  and it's bitter.  Steep it too long and it's bitter.  You want to explain to me how a genuine tea place doesn't know about temps and steep times?  Because this is how tea is made.  It's the basics.

Tea Steeping Instructions

You ever get served bitter green tea at an Asian restaurant?  No, you don't.  Because they know what they're doing.  
FYI-if you're looking for REAL tea, with genuine tea leaves actually IN it, try an Asian market.  They still sell tea.
Lordy, going to the basement in the mall in Japan with the barrels and barrels of variations of green tea, THAT was heaven.  You could smell it as you came down the escalators and it's the entire basement level, one big open room, FULL of barrels.  Genuine big wooden barrels.  It was amazing!  You ever go to Japan and manage to stop by a mall, get to the basement.

You want to know how deep it's getting in the world of tea snobbery?  They claim that they can taste the difference between water boiled in a proper kettle versus water boiled in a microwave.  I'm totally not kidding!  How about never use a metal mesh ball for tea leaves because your tea will taste metallic?  Yup, that's a thing now.  Hey, doesn't matter that all the tea in the world has, for decades, been served using some form of metal mesh in some form or another.  Tea-snobs have special tea powers.  Sure they do.  Even if you have antique porcelain tea pots like I do with the holes built into the spigot, you pour the tea through a metal sieve over the cup to catch the tea leaves, or you better learn to read tea leaves like a boss to cover your faux pas.   

And, hey old-school tea drinkers, you know what's all the rage in Europe (yes, even Paris)?  Those electric kettles that you set the temp for whatever tea you're drinking.  Very handy if you don't have a cooking thermometer and a good memory to remember how long for each water temp for each kind of tea you have.  And I DO encourage you to try different teas, just be aware of what you're drinking. 

You'll notice Lipton isn't even mentioned?  Right.  Now, granted, when I was growing up, it used to have a flavor.  It did!  I swear!  Now, it pretty much just tastes like water.  Brown water.  Yum!  You want unflavored black tea, no bells and whistles, go to your local Asian market.  Discover what tea is suppose to taste like.  Change your life. 

I used to have a tea tree at our first house. Tea is a Camellia. Camellia sinensis .  Little plain white flowers.  I grew it as a novelty.  I also had a cinnamon tree. 

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