Say No to Tea Bags
4 Loose Teas to Drink Now
Loose leaf teas can be as sophisticated as fine wines or craft beers. White, green, oolong or black, each can come from different corners of the world and, depending on steeping time and the number of infusions, a single tea can produce a variety of flavors. Most teas come from the same type of Camellia sinensis plant; the differences lie in where they come from, when they’re harvested and how they’re processed (left to wilt, dry, oxidize and ferment). White teas have the most antioxidants and subtlest of flavors, coupling well with breakfast or late nights; greens have more grassy and herbal flavors; and oolongs and blacks, being more intensely withered and oxidized respectively, tend to be on the high end of the flavor scale. The size of the leaf, steeping time, and the number of infusions will further inform the flavor of the tea. The most important thing to keep in mind when buying tea is that loose tea is always better than pre-bagged. With that in mind, Henrietta Lovell, founder of Rare Tea Company, helped us choose these four great loose teas.
White: Water temperature: 150° Fahrenheit; steep time: 1-3 minutes
Green: Water temperature: 150° Fahrenheit; steep time: 1-2 minutes
Oolong: Water temperature: 185° Fahrenheit; steep time: 30 seconds to 1 minute
Black: Water temperature: 185° Fahrenheit; steep time: 45 seconds to 1 minute (2-3 minutes for more tannic teas)
Silver Tip White Tea
White Tea: White teas are only lightly oxidized. Their leaves and unopened buds are left to dry naturally in the sun. In general, white teas need the longest steep times (one to three minutes) and lowest water temperatures (150 degrees Fahrenheit). They’re also the sweetest of natural teas because they have the lowest amount of dissolved tannins. These silver tip tea leaves come from delicate spring buds in China’s Fujian mountains. “When infused white, silver tip tea brews to a pale golden cup”, says Lovell. “These whole leaves can be re-infused, and the second cup is even better than the first.”
Best Served: With 158°F water and 2 grams of tea per 150 milliliters. Infuse for one minute to begin with, and then 30-60 seconds for a second, depending on taste.
Green Tea: Green and white teas come from the same plant, but green teas are harvested at a later time. They are then partially fermented, before being steamed and dried. Green teas generally aren’t bitter and taste subtly herbal. They pair well with breakfast (especially stuffed salmon and scrambled eggs), brunch and afternoon snacks. This green tea is named after Japan’s first geisha, Kikuya. It’s a blend of organic Japanese sencha, rose petals and more, which gives it soft notes of grass and the sea.
Best Served: Use 8 ounces of tea per 250 milliliters of water (between 158°F and 175°F). Let the tea brew for around three minutes. Make sure to make a second infusion, which should steep for around 5 minutes.
Organic Ti Kuan Yin Oolong Tea
Oolong Tea: Oolong teas are believed to have been first produced in China near the end of the Ming dynasty. Today they remain China’s tea of choice. Partially oxidized, oolong teas have both tannic and herbal qualities that make it the perfect middle ground between green and black teas. This tea is Fair Trade Certified and hails from a farm in China’s Jiangxi province. It has multifaceted, earthy notes of grass, the forest floor, and a tinge of floral sweetness.
Best Served: With 150mL of water at 176°F. Use 2 grams of tea to serve. Oolong teas usually don’t have to steep for as long as black teas, so steep for between 45 and 90 seconds. The drinker can re-infuse the leaves numerous times to reveal different properties in the tea each time.
Thé des Amants
Black Tea: Black teas are the most oxidized of the four teas. This means that once picked, they’re left so that their chlorophyll can break down, turning the leaves a darker color. This traditionally makes black teas the most tannic. Sharp with flavor, they’re meant to wake you up quick or spike your palate after lunch. This black tea is blended with hints of apple, cinnamon and vanilla. Milk is recommended.
Best Served: Brew using 2.5 grams of tea per 150mL of water at 176°F to 195°F and infuse for 2 to 3 minutes.
Tea is often blended with leaves from different states of harvest, and from different areas. “Everything you know about tea is true with wine”, says Lovell. “So when you make a wine, you generally don’t just take one grape from one field. You blend it several from across the estate and get a little bit of this and a little bit of that.”