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Sunday, February 6, 2011

Time for Tea

I love tea.  I have always loved tea.  I was the only seven-year-old I knew who ordered iced tea at dinner.  I felt like I was special.  I felt then, as I do now, connected to other tea drinkers.  Let's face it:

Tea brings people together.

My taste in tea has changed over the years.  I used to love LOVE love Nestea instant tea.  I went through it by the jarful.  When I stayed home sick as a tween, all my mom needed to do was make up the pull-out and leave the remote and the Nestea on the end table, and I was set for the day.

As the years went on, I discovered the wonders of green tea, said wonders being that it existed.  Working in the mall, I fell in love with the Blackberry Jasmine green tea at the various Asian restaurants in the food court.  I'm not a flavored tea person, but if it's not sweet, I can appreciate it.  This leads me to a tea-drinking quirk of mine.  While I do enjoy a rich, full-bodied tea, hot or cold, I prefer my tea weak, more like tea-flavored water.  (I better not see any comments about how tea is, in fact, tea-flavored water.)  My loved ones have joked about misplaced drinks, saying that if it looks like pee, it must be my tea.  Now there's a visual for you.

My wonderful husband, who normally does not indulge my addictions, introduced me to Jasmine Pearls.  These are full green tea leaves rolled into balls with jasmine.  They bloom when you add hot water.  The jasmine flavor is flowery, but it's so subtle and soft that it's not too much.  A lot of people who do not like flowery teas like jasmine.  I like to add a little lavender to my Jasmine Pearls.  Sometimes I mix them with white tea.  Sometimes I mix my white tea with lavender.  Tea is fun.  If you want to discover new flavors of tea, the best way is to find a bulk loose-leaf section and grab a few pinches of each flavor that interests you, not in one bag, of course.

I must interject here with some tea-care instructions.  Be sure to store your tea in a cool, dry, dark place...metal canisters are great for this.  Do not display your tea on the counter in a clear-glass canister or jar!  Not only does light degrade the tea quality and flavor, it decreases the amount of antioxidants.

I also feel the need to throw in some brewing tips here.  Remember: you can always add water to tea that is too strong, so be sure not to use too little!  Alton Brown gives his guidelines here.  (Note: He likes both tea and coffee very strong.)  He also tells you proper brewing temperatures and times.  To paraphrase Mr. Brown's comments in his tea episode, when your kettle whistles...  For black tea, bring the tea to the kettle (it brews hottest).  For green tea, bring the kettle to the tea (so it cools just a touch).  For white tea, remove the kettle from the heat for a couple of minutes before pouring (white tea is delicate).

I enjoy drinking my tea in another nifty and thoughtful gift from my hubby, my Libre Tea glass.  I can brew my tea on the go, I don't have to change containers, and I don't need an infusion ball because the filter's built in!  The glass is insulated, so I don't burn my hand, and my tea stays hot.  Hubby actually got me two: a glass one and a plastic one.  The plastic one still has glass on the inside, but it's not as fragile as the all-glass one.  Those of you who know me can guess that's the one I use.

I recently had a new tea experience.  The yummy Japanese restaurant Le Hana near the base of the Portland Aerial Tram serves a wonderful green tea, nutty and smokey.  I asked the hostess/server about it, and she said the brand was Miyako.  Unwilling to wait for an Internet order and knowing I've seen this type of tea, green tea with toasted brown rice, from other brands in the past, I looked for the tea in the bulk loose-leaf section of New Seasons Market (thank you for your vast selection of bulk loose-leaf tea!).  I found it made by The Republic of Tea.  Yay!  Yum!  Introducing the Tea of Inquiry.  [Ooohhh...Aaahhh...]

Don't be surprised or disturbed if your preschooler points out the "bugs" in your tea.

The excitement is building!

I wish I could have gotten a better picture of the beautiful swirling motion of the leaves as I poured in the water.  Maybe next time.

For some strange reason, the tea separates into two groups: floats and sinks.

Suddenly, the floats group starts to fall.

I know my tea is ready when all the tea is at the bottom.  Neat, huh?

Ahhh...ready to drink.  And the next cup is already brewing!

I love drinking tea.  It relaxes me and makes me happy.  I love sharing tea with my friends and loved ones.  I feel like I'm part of a big family when I connect with other tea drinkers online, in stores, in coffee houses, in tea houses...  We're everywhere!  (That was a little more ominous than I intended.)

What is your favorite tea?  Where do you like to drink your tea?

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