Post 215 Brewing Tea Leaf, Herbals, and Powders

Post 215

Brewing Tea Leaf (camellia sinensis), Herbals (tisanes), and Plant Powders

So much of brewing teas and herbs can be personal preference. Whether you like your tea strong or mild, the following information will help you to prepare an expert cup of an average brew.  No matter what your preference, steeping tea is reliant upon the 3 T’s in order to prepare an infusion that satisfies and presents the subtle layers of flavor and the best experience. So what are these 3 T’s ??

  • Type
  • Temperature
  • Time

Why People Drink Tea (besides the caffeine)

Tea preparation and descriptions are very similar to wine. Both are social. Tea has a variety that coffee cannot doesn’t fulfill.  Tea is an experience. To capture all of the benefits, it is important to follow a process or routine. This can include developing a special time of day to prepare it, setting aside a quiet moment. Tea is often paired with a food you enjoy. Try setting up a tea station and use beautiful teaware with special cups, mugs, tea pots, serving tray, and accessories. A sense of relaxation and wind-down in the evening for example, will help you sleep better. This can be very helpful for hyper children and by your example, can lead to developing a lifelong healthy habit. The social side of tea is comforting, even therapeutic in some cases. The processes described within this material, once experienced, is likely something you will carry on with indefinitely and as a welcome addition and reflective component of a happy centered life.

Measuring Loose Tea Leaf & Herbs

When you steep loose teas (camellia sinensis) and herbs (tisanes), they will either be in a cut in what is called a “broken” form or a more “whole” form. The whole forms will have more volume and will look “larger” whereas the broken-cut forms will be more dense and be considered more compact. This is why it is important to understand that weight and volume are not the same thing. The volume is the appearance and the weight is truly how you measure your product. I personally do not prefer 2 grams as my measurement to make tea because I have a long history of coffee consumption, so I like beverages that are more bold and stronger in flavor, no matter whether tea or herb, such as 3 grams and not 2 grams. You will have your preferences as well, so use this material as a guide and not a requirement for preparing your teas.

Basic Measurement

  • Tea Leaf--  2 grams to 1 (8 oz) cup of water or 3-5 for large mugs, like 10-12 oz.  Most people prefer 3 grams to an 8 oz. cup, who prefer a more bold beverage.  For iced tea, brew twice the amount of hot and pour over ice to account for dilution. Such as, brew 4-5 grams of tea leaf to 8 oz. of hot water, after steeping, pour over a 16 oz. glass of ice. This will prepare the perfect cup of tea!  NOTE:  always dissolve a sweetener in hot water prior to pouring it over the ice.
  • Herbs–  2-3 grams of any lighter volume and 2 for finer cut. A lighter example would be herbs such as florals (generally milder with the exception of lavender or hibiscus)  and a finer cut would be peppermint (stronger)
  • Powders–  1 tablespoon of loose cut herb or tea = approx. 1 teaspoon of powder. Any tea or herb can be used in powdered form using this adjustment as your measurement. A good example is Matcha. Most use about 1 gram for 1 (8 oz) cup of water. Depending upon the grind, this can result in a more grainy brew. You may want to steep and strain it, most just let the powder settle to the bottom of the cup, this again is just a matter of preference.
  • Medicinal Powder Remedies–  Many herbal remedies are blended in powder form. For this use, most use 1 teaspoon of powder to an 8 oz. cup of hot water, 1-3 times per day. If the medicine is in loose cut form, use 1 tablespoon just like an herb tea. For a therapeutic use, follow instructions for making a Tea Concentrate. You find this explained under Post 2.  Remedies are for medicinal benefits and are not reliant upon taste but rather purpose.

Preventing Bitter Tea

When you want a stronger tea (camellia sinensis), always use more tea. With the first steeping, letting 2 grams of tea steep longer is a certain recipe for a bitter brew. The first brewing is when you extract the highest amounts of antioxidants, caffeine, l-theanine, and tannin from the tea leaf. So if a strong infusion is desired, increase the amount of tea leaf and then steep it appropriately for the type of tea using the chart below. This will help you to get the results you are looking for. Here is a quick guide for you to steep tea without bitterness;

  • Green– 3 minutes
  • White– 2 minutes (some specialty teas may even suggest 1 minute)
  • Oolong– 3-4 minutes
  • Black–  4 minutes

Herbs on the other-hand, are tisanes and not the same. All tea leaf is sensitive to specific heat ranging from as little as 160 to 206 degrees. Tisanes are not sensitive in this way and 206 degrees is fine. Herbs are steeped from 7 minutes and up without any issues causing bitterness. If herb tea is bitter, it will be bitter in 2 minutes and is still bitter in an hour. Tea leaf is a specific plant and not an herb which is a tisane.

Infusing

Infusing your tea and herbs can be accomplished a number of ways. A tea infuser is not required, just convenient. Here are your options– Remember this– tea leaf is steeped an average of 3 times (back to back, not the following day) and herbal tea is steeped once to capture the benefits. Steeping herbal tea multiple times, which contains spices, such as cinnamon or chai spices for example, you can still expect some flavor. Each steeping results in a weaker brew. Benefits of tea and herbs are most recognized through multiple steeping, averaging 3 + times, making it possible to extract the medicinal qualities of the polyphenols, antioxidants, and anti-cancers. Tea leaf which is considered more of a beverage, is medicinal even though herbs are by definition. Here are some options;

  • Take the tea leaf or herb and add to hot water, allowing it to simply float or steep freely in the water, for the correct time. Then strain using a mesh strainer, into a cup. If you set the tea or herb leaf aside, you can add water again, covering and let it steep until ready to drink another cup.  All tea leaf, not herbs, should always be repeat-steeped at least 2-3 times, preparing multiple cups of tea from one serving.
  • Place tea or herb into a tea infuser, which most often looks like a metal ball that fits together, put it into the cup of hot water, steep appropriately and remove it, setting it aside while you drink your tea. Place it back into the cup again and add water, usually 2-3 times is considered enough to capture the benefits
  • Use a tea-sleeve which is made out of paper or nylon. This is a pocket that you fill with the tea or herb, staple shut or hang over the rim of your cup, steep, and then remove after the correct amount of steeping time. Drink your tea and then place it back into the cup and prepare another cup or two.
  • Overnight method– use either a cold water or hot water extraction- this is an excellent way to cold extract which protects so many of the medicinal benefits.  Place loose tea or herb in a pint or quart mason jar. Pour cold filtered water over the herb. Place the lid on and give it a quick shake. Place either in the refrigerator or on the counter overnight. The next morning, strain the tea and consume during the day. This method you will have up to 6 days to consume your herbal tea (refrigerated) and 1-2 days for tea leaf. This makes herbal medicinal tea brews especially easy because you can use measure a quart per day (3 cups) as a therapeutic dosage or for work, it makes it easy to transport without preparation needed on the job. Whether you serve it hot or cold is your option.

The Invention of Tea Bags

The invention of the first tea bags was an accident. Back in 1904, a New York coffee and tea merchant named Thomas Sullivan, was trying to cut out the tea-tin expense when he sampled out his teas. Rather than a tin, he prepared a hand-sewn silk pouch and placed the tea in it for transport. The potential customers must not have received adequate instructions because they started steeping the tea in the pouch rather than loose. Later as they returned for tea, patrens began requesting to purchase tea pouches rather than traditional loose. The merchant quickly realized he had struck gold and began marketing his tea in the new pouches which quickly became known as “tea bags”.  The new method made the tea portable as well as simple, clean and fast to prepare. Within this same year of 1904, tea bags became so popular that their sales spread across the world. Commercially, Thomas Sullivan had a home run and tea preparation from this time forward was never the same.

What is the Best Quality Tea — Loose or Tea Bags? 

Loose leaf tea is the ideal type of product to use. Quality ranges from standard commercial to premium high grade. These are truly two different issues. Regardless however, the best form of tea for purchase will always be loose leaf. If you want to put your loose leaf into tea bags, doing it yourself will assure that you have the best quality every time.  Commercial tea bags reduce the bulk of the plant material so they can get it into the tea bagging process. This alone means it is more processed. Tea sleeves are available for filling it yourself. Because these bags are longer and larger, you can fill the bag without cutting the volume down by breaking up the leaves. These types of bags are made from cotton or hemp fiber and available in a wide variety of sizes ranging from a cup size, mug, pot, or gallon jar. The float room for the leaf is also better so you can extract more flavor from the tea which is important especially for more fragile types such as White. When you have 2 minutes to extract the tea, a better floating room for the material is important so using a tea bag you fill yourself is always superior. The same float room issue goes for tea infusers. These come in small 1 inch sizes up to 3-4 inches. A 1 inch tea infuser is good for a more fine cut tea. The larger sizes are better for whole leaf teas and herbs. You need the plant material to be able to expand and unfurl in order to release the full bouquet of the subtle flavors, nuances, and notes of the individual tea types. Bottom line–  if you steep your tea properly, you won’t miss out on the undertones that are hidden in the plant. Steeping tea involves the 3 T’s;  type, temperature, and time.

Tea Measuring Guide
Tea by weight and volume to steep an 8 oz. cup of hot tea

To make iced tea, steep double the weight of dry leaf tea. Steep loose leaf in 8 oz. of water and pour over a 16 oz. glass filled with ice to produce the perfect dilution. If sweetening your brew, dissolve sweetener in tea while it is hot and steeping. Sweeteners do not dissolve well in cold or iced beverages. 

 TEA TYPE

WEIGHT PER 8 OZ. CUP OF HOT TEA

VOLUME PER 8 OZ. CUP OF HOT TEA

Black Tea

2 grams

1 tablespoon

Black Tea Blends & Puerh

2 grams

1 tablespoon

Green Tea

2 grams

1 tablespoon

Green Tea Blends

2 grams

1 tablespoon

White Tea

2 grams

1 tablespoon

Oolong Tea and Blends

2 grams

1 tablespoon

Herbal Tisane Teas Single & Blends

2 grams

1 tablespoon


Tea Steeping Temperature Guide

Tea Leaf (Camellia Sinensis) & Herbal Singles & Blends (Tisanes)

 TEA TYPE

Steeping Temperature Fahrenheit

Steeping Temperature Celsius

Black Tea

202-212

95

Black Tea Blends & Puerh

202-212

95

Chinese Green Teas & Blends

170-180

74-86

Japanese Green Teas & Blends

160-170

74-86

White Tea

170-185

85

Oolong Tea and Blends

180-190

74-92

Herbal Tisane Teas Single & Blends

202-212

95


VARIABLES IN TEA PREPARATION

Measuring tea can vary based on the volume. Some tea may be more hydrated and others more dry. This all affects the volume for measuring. For this reason, we recommend weighing your tea to the correct grams to prepare tea instead of measuring by the teaspoon or tablespoon, if you have a gram scale. The basic industry standard for measuring tea leaf is 2 grams. Broken tea leaf will look more dense and smaller than whole leaf lightly rolled leaf. Bancha, Sencha and Dragonwell, although 2 grams, may look like a tablespoon compared to a teaspoon, just based on the the type of leaf. Tea that has spices blended in with the tea leaf, whether broken or whole, will weigh more because spices are heavy compared to herbal flowers for example. If a tea leaf is broken, it is more dense and also will be stronger in flavor because of this. The same comparison can be made for herbs;  a chamomile or rose blossom tea will require a tablespoon, even a heaping tablespoon compared to spearmint or peppermint which is fine cut and much stronger in flavor; this would require a teaspoon. If you like to use cream and honey, use more grams to make your tea stronger so you can maintain the strength of taste, otherwise it will be too diluted.

BREWING A POT OF TEA

All you need to do is follow the cup size for your pot. If you are using a 3 cup pot, increase your grams using the math for 1 cup. 1 cup needs 2 grams, so 3 cups needs 6 grams.

INFUSING TEA- HOW TO SELECT A TEA BAG OR INFUSER

What are your options?

  • Free float in a pot and strain
  • Cotton tea sleeve- fill, use and discard
  • Mesh infuser with a handle or chain- fill use and repeat use
  • Silk tea bag- fill, use and discard
  • Tea Press– also used to make coffee
  • Clear tea pot– often preferred for preparing a blooming flower tea so you can enjoy the experience of the tea and flower unfurling in your view

All of these will do the job. What you want to look for is the float room. If you are using an herbal tea in a mesh infuser that is too small, you won’t be able to extract the flavor as well as a larger one. If you want to see the herb, such as floral or colorful herbal blend, you will need a clear glass tea press, clear tea pot, or single serve silk fillable tea bag like a silk tea bag. It all becomes a matter of preference so long as the float room is adequate.

BATHING WITH TEA

Bath Tea is so easy if you follow simple preparation. Many people add the herb directly to a hot bathtub. Consider the temperature of the water. You cannot extract tea in this lower temperature. Solve this by following these steps;

  • Bring water to a boil on the stove using a covered pot
  • Stir in herb and remove pot from heat
  • Cover and steep for about 15 minutes or more
  • Using a mesh strainer, pour the tea into a container and add to the tub water OR just strain directly into the tub
  • Is using Epsom Salt, this will dissolve in any hot bath water directly

Filtering your herbs will prevent plugging your drain. Some people are adding coconut oil to their bathes. Do not do this– think about what coconut oil looks like in the jar (Crisco right?). This is what coconut oil will look like in your drain. Avoiding coconut oil in the drain is the same as when you cook or when you use “Oil Pulling” and spit the rinse into the trash. Coconut oil is solid. Apply oils after you get out of the bath. The herbs need to be able to reach your skin and penetrate into the epidermis. Oil gets in the way during a bath and is best applied to warm hydrated skin when you first get out of the tub. It is the same as when you prepare pasta– don’t put oil in your water or it coats the noodles and the sauce won’t stick! All applications are great in their proper order.

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