Dame Ursula here - chatting with you lovely fairy friends about getting started with tea that doesn’t come in a bag from the nice people at Liptons.
One of the things you hear when you tell people about loose-leaf tea, is “that sounds great, but I have no idea how to make it!”
I thought I would share some of my favorite methods for brewing tea, beyond dumping the leaves into hot water and hoping!
Most people start their loose-leaf tea journey with a tea ball. It’s simple, elegant and easy to acquire, BUT not all tea balls are created equal. Old school tea balls have large holes or very loose mesh that can dump a more delicately leafed tea into your cup rather than keep it in the ball where it belongs! Rubiee's OCD helps those of us who don’t want to buy a bunch of tea balls - she’s discovered one of the best on the market that has a tightly woven mesh that, when closed properly, keeps the tea where it belongs. Tea balls are best (in my opinion) for making a single decent size cup or a small (2 cup) pot (16-18 oz max).
Tip 1: you can make a second cup of tea from the same leaves if you actually take the tea ball out of the water after an appropriate brewing period (approximately 3 minutes for green and herbal teas, 4-5 minutes for black teas) This is why cell phone timers are your friend.
Tip 2: Don’t over pack the tea ball, or you’ll end up with a cuppa MUCH stronger than you were planning on. If you have a Dryad “perfect tea spoon” this much tea does in fact make a perfect 8-10 oz cup of tea. I admit, I don’t tend to drink from anything that small. My favorite cups are more accurately described as tea vats. Which is why...
For larger cups of tea, or pots of tea, consider using a brew basket - these are usually the size of a small cup and fit inside the cup or pot, allowing the tea to float freely in the water, but inside the containment of the basket. I tend to aim for a slightly heaping tablespoon of tea for my vats, depending on the tea. Same deal - you can make more than one cup/pot, and don’t over-fill it, unless you’re planning to make several cups of tea in a day from the same leaves...
The one small problem with tea balls and brew baskets is that they can make a mess when you empty them, especially in an office or at school. And this is why they make disposable tea bags!
You can find them at fancier grocery stores, kitchen specialty stores and the like, or order a bunch off of Amazon.com. Fill’em, use’em and toss’em. They tend to come in larger sizes than a tea ball or brew basket and thus are my brewing method of choice when I need to make a large pot of tea.
Much like the pirates’ code, the stated measurements above are merely guidelines, and my opinions on cups, pots etc. are my own thoughts. One of my favorite things about tea is that everyone’s opinion is right, because it’s YOUR cup of tea - experiment with how strong you like your tea, how light, how bitter - its all up to you!
Cheers, darlings! - Ursula