Have I told you guys I’m addicted to more than just anime? Books. Pens. Stationary. Makeup. Cat stuff. There are lots of things, and one of those things is tea.
Seriously. I’ve made a five-page tea menu.
When stuff was really hard, I noticed I had stopped doing a lot of things that made me “me”: I wasn’t watching anime nor was I writing poetry nor was I drinking tea. My tea-drinking life began with my mother, and when she became so sick, it looked like it would end with her as well.
It wasn’t just the associations that made it difficult; it was also because I was depressed and couldn’t do self-care. I had a hard time eating, showering and functioning in general.
I decided to change this by making a habit tracker and on it I had things like: class, work, exercise, food, etc. But I also had anime, writing and tea. The idea was I could color-in a little box for each thing every day. Sure enough, I began my days with a cup of tea (because I wanted to color in that red box), and once I did that, I had enough caffeinated energy to get through the next couple hours of life-ing.
When I had my bon-voyage party before heading off for my MA, I served everyone my favorite types tea out of my teacups I had collected. And lemme tell you: all of my coffee friends (who previously rejected my drink of choice) loved the teas, and said they didn’t know tea could taste like that. Even in the UK I met a lot of people who said they hated the stuff.
Which led me to understand that most people aren’t tea-ing right.
So I’ve put together this post, which is basically me talking a lot about tea and what people are doing wrong. I’ve outlined the types as well as times and temperatures you should know if you wanna make a killer cuppa. I’ve also addressed some common complaints I hear people say about this elixir of life. Read on below if you wanna know more!
I’m a firm believer that there is a tea for everyone, just like there is an anime for everyone. The key is finding the right one.
Most people don’t realize that all tea comes from the same plant: Camellia Sinensis. The different types of tea are a product of changing the shape and chemistry of the leaf through processing: plucking, withering, rolling, oxidizing and firing/drying. The majority of the changes are in the oxidation stage, where the enzymes are doing a little foxtrot with oxygen.
There are five main tea types: black, oolong, green, white and Pu’erh. Ever heard of herbal/red teas? Not actually made with tea, but we’ll address them here because they are necessary for tea-drinkers.
The most common tea in western culture, what with Jolly “Good” Britain’s imperialism. It goes through the five steps, but gets to have a full party of oxidation. This tea has the strongest flavor and caffeine level.
Oolong is the super complicated, time-consuming, refuses-to-live-with-labels friend. It’s just a halfway love-child between black and green teas. As such, teas can range from 8%-80% oxidation.
It uses all the steps and rolling/oxidizing are done more than once–sometimes lots of times. This can take hours or days, and usually requires heating to offer the enzymes a chill-pill. The result is a layered tea which is both smooth and rich! One of my recommendations for new tea drinkers!
First three steps. Green tea gets just a wee bit of heat to prevent oxidation, which can be done in a variety of ways. If you’ve ever felt green tea tasted grassy, you’re probably having tea that was pan-fired.
Aka: unprocessed! It only goes through the first two steps. As such, white tea is super delicate and light.
When I say herbal I mean either one of two things: red tea or infusions.
Contrary to the name, red teas aren’t a type of tea for the western world. In Asia, that’s a different story, but I’ll be using the western definition for this post. Red teas are things like rooibos and honeybush, and can be almost nutty/earthy in flavor. They’re really good as dessert teas.
A big part of bitterness comes from over-brewing. I’ve had someone offer me a swig from their thermos of tea, and I didn’t know that they had left the bag in there. Guess what: it was more bitter than me every time I think about Noragami not having a third season while One Piece has been going on for twenty years. (disclaimer: I have nothing against One Piece. I just feel like there are series that would benefit from another season and that we should spread the love)
TAKE THE BAG OUT, PLEASE.
Timing is the first step in taking your tea game to the next level. Timing can vary on how much tea you’re using, the type of tea, and temperature you’re brewing at, but for the most part follow these guidelines:
- black: 2-5 min
- oolong: 2-5 min
- green: 1-3 min
- white: 1 min
- herbal: 5-8 min. If it’s an infusion, that sh*t is indefinite, really. Depending on what different herbs/fruits you’ve got in there, it could go bitter at some point and your time is gonna vary.
If you’ve mastered your times and want to become a pro tea-master, temperature is important. Did you know green and white teas are way more sensitive to heat than black teas, and go bitter faster in higher temps? Now you do! If you have the money, spend a little extra in getting a kettle that has temp control. It’s so worth it. (It’s also the first appliance I bought for my apartment, so I clearly had my prioriteas in order. bud-dum, tssss). Here are your temps:
- black: 206F or 95C
- oolong: 180-206F or 80-95C, depending on the ratio of black to green tea
- green: 160-180F or 70-80C
- white: 170-180F or 75-80C
- herbal: 206F or 95C
a handy little cheat-sheet by yours truly.
It makes me sick or vomit.
Have you ever felt nauseous or sick to your stomach after drinking tea? It was probably black, you probably had it on an empty stomach, and you probably didn’t take it with milk or sugar.
Black tea contains tannin, which is also found in wine. Tannin is a naturally occurring compound in tea, and increases with brew time. It tastes bitter, and can leave your mouth feeling dry. What’s more: it’s acidic— sometimes more than coffee. The acidity can cause acid reflux or heartburn.
Annie’s answer: milk & sugar/honey in tea, biscuits & breakfast, brew time & temp
Milk binds the tannin, lowering its acidity. Even having a builder’s brew (very little milk) will help curb the nausea / upset tummies.
Sugar & honey have different properties that help, as well. I’m not sure on the exact chemistry of it, but they probably help break down the tannin or help maintain pH balance in your stomach.
Breakfasts & biscuits: ever had wine on an empty stomach? It probably didn’t feel great, either. Having food in your stomach prior to consuming tea is guaranteed to lead to a better experience. Plus, who can say no to a good biscuit, really?
Brew time & temperature seriously impact tea as I mentioned earlier. Over steeping leads to way more tannin and sick feels. Don’t leave your tea in for too long, and make sure the temp isn’t ridiculously hot.
I don’t like the flavor.
Which teas have you tried, and what flavor do you not like, exactly? Is it that bitter tang of an over-brewed black tea? Is it the grassy taste of a wok-fired green tea? A lot of people who say this to me have only had those two teas, and I feel like those teas were probably brewed incorrectly.
But there are a whole world of flavors with tea, some mild and some mighty. And I guarantee you there is something for everyone.
Annie’s answer: brew correctly; try a different tea type
Reach for different flavors, and also try loose-leaf teas. They have a completely different taste then pre-bagged. Read on below.
It just tastes like hot water or leaf juice.
Sometimes a tea can smell amazing, but when you taste it, you’re super let down. While that could be due to brewing, I find it’s more the kind of blend you’re drinking than anything else. You’re going to find things are more bland with cheap, pre-bagged teas. There’s also a good chance that those tea bags were produced with some chemicals, too, which can make taste or make you feel icky.
Annie’s answer: ditch the pre-bagged teas and try loose leaf
Yeah, it’s some extra effort, and perhaps some extra money, but once you go loose-leaf, the world of teas really opens up. Flavors are more vibrant and intense because they have room to open and expand.
I can’t drink it at night.
I heard this one more when I was in the UK, because breakfast teas are the king of teas over there. Who wants to drink caffeine right before they go to bed? Not me. But a chamomile lavender infusion with a touch of lemon and honey? Now that I could do with.
Annie’s answer: decaffeinated teas and infusions.
Red treas and infusions are the way to go here: none of them have caffeine or midnight jitters. In fact, they’ll probably help you relax and fall asleep.
It makes me pee a lot.
Well, you got me there. But hey, at least you know your kidneys are happy.
Annie’s answer: nothin’. endure the bathroom breaks and play an extra level CandyCrush.
Tea is a sacred time for me. That sounds silly, but it’s true: I don’t drink tea for anyone else, and I’ll use that time drinking to practice mindfulness. Or I’ll just watch an episode. It doesn’t matter what I do, as long as I do that thing for myself. Even if it’s not tea, I hope you find a way to exercise self-care–even if it’s a simple thing—, and take some time out of your day just for you.
That’s all for this post!
Take care and watch on, Annieme-niac!