“But indeed I would rather have nothing but tea!”
~ Jane Austen, Mansfield Park
Welcome to the wonderful world of tea!
I guess I should amend that first comment to: “Welcome to the wonderful world of loose leaf tea!”
Maybe you’ve determined, like so many others, that if you want a quality cup of tea then you’ll have to move to the loose leaf variety. Trust me, you’ll not be sorry! (The reasoning behind choosing loose leaf over prepackaged teabag tea is a whole other can of worms that I’ll get into later.)
Since committing to the loose leaf tea, you’ve discovered brewing it is slightly different – it will require different tea accessories to get that great cup of tea. There are so many different tea accessories available, how do you know what things you need?
It can become a significant investment for those on a budget, but that really depends on your preferences. It doesn’t have to be expensive for a beginner who doesn’t know if they even like loose leaf tea.
Here’s what you need to start…
Now, notice I didn’t say tea pot. A tea pot is a whole other accessory.
A tea kettle is what you heat your water up with. Traditionally, a tea kettle is what sits on your stove with water in it. You fill the kettle up with water, turn on the heat and once it reaches boiling temperature the kettle typically whistles.
Maybe you already have this traditional whistling kettle – and that’s great! It will work perfectly and then there’s no need to run out and buy something else…unless you really wish to.
The problem with the traditional kettle is that you don’t have strict control over the temperature of the water – which is needed if you’re going to make a great tasting cup of tea.
It’s important to note that each tea variety (black, white, green, oolong, etc.) requires a different water temperature to steep the tea properly. If steeped at the improper temperature the tea will have a bitter, or astringent, taste.
As with everything else in the world, modern technology has afforded us advancements in the water heating area as well. So now there are many electronic water heating options available to tea consumers that allows them to control the temperature of the water down to the degree.
Pretty handy if I don’t say so myself.
Although, you can get the same precision out of your traditional kettle if you just take the temperature of your water with a cooking thermometer. Then allow the water to cool as necessary prior to adding the tea leaves.
If you choose to go the more modern route and get one of these electric tea kettles you should be able to find something that would work at your local superstore for around $20-30 (and can be used for more than just tea). I found mine at my local superstore for around $35 and I get water hot enough for my favorite Oolong tea in couple of minutes.
Now see, I mentioned you need a tea pot.
Ok, ok. So I’m technically lying. You don’t need a tea pot – just some sort of “device” to steep your tea in.
There are many options available to you out there in this department.
You can go with the traditional tea pot, which I recommend if you’re serving more than one person tea (or if you’re having a tea party).
But there are so many more options for steeping tea for one person:
- A cup with a mesh strainer insert.
- An infuser ball (or shape to your liking) that can be inserted into a cup or mug of your choice.
- A Teaz infuser (or similar) – this is a device that steeps your tea then you sit it directly over your cup and it drains just the tea (and not the leaves) into your cup. [Perfect for multiple infusions.]
- A tea-for-one set which includes a stackable cup and tea pot just enough for one.
- A teabag envelope that just sits in your tea cup (or mug). [Great for those who what tea on the go!]
There are many more options available to you, but these are just the most common.
There are benefits to any options you choose. My recommendation is to just go with what works for your lifestyle – and don’t be afraid to experiment.
Important note: Whatever method you choose to steep your tea, just ensure there is plenty of room for your tea leaves to unfurl (open) and release their flavor.
Cup or Mug
If you already steeped your tea directly in your cup, getting a new one is pointless and you can skip over this section.
But if you chose to steep in something other than your cup or mug then you’ll have to locate one. The bonus of this is that you probably already have one – that will work too. No need to run out and buy something new.
There are many options available, but the cup or mug you drink your tea from is the ultimate personal decision. You have traditional tea cups, mugs, jumbo mugs, travel mugs, and so many more.
The goal is to find something that fits into your lifestyle and with your personality, whether that is something you already have or something you need to find.
This one is pretty self-explanatory. You just need some sort of timer or alarm you can set to let you know when your tea is done steeping.
Keep in mind each variety of tea may require different times so make sure you check the packaging your loose leaf tea came in for instructions on steeping time (as well as water temperature and serving size).
Most smartphones come with some sort of alarm or timer that will work. But you can also get the traditional kitchen timer (an electronic one over the traditional egg timer works better).
The reason behind this is so you don’t let your tea steep for too long and let it become to strong and bitter. As you get used to steeping your tea, you may not need to have an actual timer.
The important thing is to just try it!
All of these items will get you started experiencing loose leaf tea – which is quite an experience.
As you can see, it won’t take as much to get going. But the key to remember is that tea (and brewing tea) is truly up to personal preferences. Don’t be afraid to experiment, that’s the only way you’re going to find out what you like. As you continue to experiment with your tea you can add to your collection of tea brewing accessories, which there are plenty of out there to try.
Since you’ve decided to give loose leaf tea a try, now you know what you need to brew it too!
Just try it!