Tea 101… Practice Makes for YOUR Perfect Cup!

Last week we held an intimate class called Tea 101 at the fascinating, old-world styled spice / tea shop in Laguna Beach called Spice Merchants.  I posted about them last week here.  I hadn’t put on an “intro to tea” class in awhile; therefore, while pulling the materials together for the class, I was reminded of just how simple preparing a great cup of tea can be, and yet, how easily it can go all wrong.  Below are a few photos of our class set-up at Spice Merchants.  Our students were engaging and really interested in learning more about tea.  We had fun while tasting four different pure teas from the shelves of Spice Merchants, paired with a few tasty food bites.  Below are my tea making tips…it’s almost as easy as boiling water…a little practice will get you the results you desire.

Tea 101 ... ready to go at Spice Merchants, Laguna Beach...an intimate sized class for a few students desiring to know more about tea.

Tea 101 … ready to go at Spice Merchants, Laguna Beach…an intimate sized class for a few students desiring to know more about tea.

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In Tea With Betty, my tea manual, I include details of what key ingredients are needed to make a good cup of tea (there are 4)…along with steps about how to accomplish this fete :-).   While preparing a great cup of tea to your taste should be as easy as boiling water and tossing in some tea leaves….it’s often not…there are questions such as … what type of water to use? And at what temperature for which tea?  What type of tea to  use? Just how much tea for how much water?  And how long should the tea leaves sit on the water? Then, how do you effectively get the leaves off the water?  And finally, when do you add things such as milk (for black tea only plleeease!) …all these considerations go into the simple process of preparing a great cup of tea.  It sometimes feels like all the stars need to be aligned for the resulting brew to come out just the way you want it. Whew.

However, it is REALLY simple.  Here’s what you need.

1).  Good, clean, fresh spring or filtered water.  Tap water may have chlorine or other minerals which can distort or cover the lovely flavor of your delicate tea leaf as it exudes it’s liquor.

2). Use quality, leaf teas… tea leaves (not tea dust). I am careful to know where my tea leaves originated from…I primarily use teas from Harney & Sons, Mighty Leaf Teas, Adagio Teas, Tea Forte, Numi Organic Teas, Peet’s Teas, Steven Smith, Tazo, and a few others.  Spice Merchants teas are sourced primarily from these established tea purveyors.  It matters where your tea leaves come from…you are dousing them in water and ingesting the liquor these leaves leave behind…I want to know if these leaves are from a farm using sustainable practices and fair trade methods.

Variety of leaf teas on display

Variety of leaf teas on display – whole leaves, no tea “dust”…

Quantity of leaves to water ratio is where you will want to “test things out a bit to meet your preferred taste”; however, a rounded teaspoon per 8 ounce of fresh water is the place to start.

3). Water temperature makes a difference and varies depending of the type of tea you are brewing…just to boiling 212 degrees for black teas.  Greens and white teas scorch at this temperature, so go lower with these tea types (160 – 190 degrees).  Don’t boil your water to death, the oxygen in the water as it is coming to temp assists in releasing all the excellent flavor from your tea leaves as you pour the water over the leaves.

4) Brewing time matters.  Do not steep your tea longer than recommended or it will taste bitter.  The reason many Americans say they don’t enjoy tea is that they have experience leaf teas that have sat on the water too long and gotten astringent…not a pleasant thing to consume at that point.  Remove the tea (liquor exuded from the steeping leaves) as soon as they are done steeping.  Pour the tea into another warmed pot to serve or into your awaiting cup.

That’s it…not too difficult.  And practice a bit with a few steepings to determine what your favorite taste is…in the end, it is all about what you prefer.  Practice does make the perfect cup of tea for YOU!

 

 

 

 

Spice Merchants, Laguna Beach…Go for the Spices & Join us for Tea 101

Have you ever come across a recipe you want to try which calls for one teaspoon of a spice you don’t have in your pantry?  You vacillate about preparing it as you realize to purchase the required ingredients at the traditional grocery store demands an investment of dollars beyond your liking, and… you already have a cupboard full of aging spices from other recipes that asked for a teeny bit of this and that spice.  What to do?  Go to Spice Merchants in Laguna Beach, Ca….they have an enormous selection of spices… and, with their expert assistance, they will dole out the amount you need.  They also have a wide selection of whole leaf teas and herbal infusions, as well as, beautiful tea ware, gift packaging and air tight tins of various sizes for storing your purchases.  You can create unique, custom gifts of spices or teas with their skilled guidance too.

Spice Merchants on Ocean Ave. in Laguna Beach...offering a wide array of spices and teas with beautiful gift packaging and tea ware

Spice Merchants on Ocean Ave. in Laguna Beach…offering a wide array of spices and teas with beautiful gift packaging and tea ware

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We will be holding an intimate, first time, Tea 101 class at Spice Merchants this coming Tuesday, October 14 at 7 p.m….

Come learn a bit of history about tea, how to prepare a great cup of tea, and taste a variety of types of teas.

We will taste tea in their “tea room” towards the back of the shop pictured below  (center display will be moved out for our tasting experience).  Check out details on our “events” page and call Spice Merchants to hold your spot.  Their contact information is phone: 949 715-9600 and are located at 311 Ocean Avenue, Laguna Beach, Ca 92651

The tea room at Spice Merchants -- a wide variety of teas and tea ware from various purveyors are available.

The tea room at Spice Merchants — a wide variety of teas and tea ware from various purveyors are available.

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Spice Merchants offers  teas from quality purveyors…

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Quality teas from Spice Merchants...in tins or you choose how much you want to try...

Quality teas from Spice Merchants…in tins or you choose how much you want to try…

It’s also just a great location to come to and wander around town before or after class.

Welcoming, Dutch door at Spice Merchants...come on in...

Welcoming, Dutch door at Spice Merchants…come on in…

In visiting the shop this morning, I saw they just got in beautiful soup fixings too…they are ready for fall … as most of us in Southern California are…hoping the heat stops soon.  I’m ready for soup and hot tea!

 

 

Our Prolific Pomegranates…Fall is here!!!

Pomegranates are good for you!  The juice from the seeds have high levels of powerful antioxidants (similar to what you get from a whole leaf tea)!  I didn’t enjoy them much as a child, as they were usually too tart for my delicate palate; however, they’ve grown on me since using them as an ingredient versus eating them straight.  The tree is a beautiful sight.  We planted one about 20 years ago.   This year we have an incredibly large harvest of huge fruit.

 

Our prolific pomegranate tree...this year we have giant fruit and plenty of it...

Our prolific pomegranate tree…this year we have giant fruit and plenty of it…

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Our tree was planted more for it's ornamental value as a centerpiece for our other fruit trees...we have come to love the fruit for more than just harvest table decorations...

Our tree was planted more for it’s ornamental value as a centerpiece for our other fruit trees…we have come to love the fruit for more than just harvest table decorations…

We picked a basketful of poms. last week, along with some of my husband’s favorite Fuji apples (which he will not share with anyone), and a couple Fuyu persimmons, most are not quite ripe yet.

The morning harvest...plenty of giant pomegranates, some fuji apples and a couple fuyu persimmons...then the last remnants of our summer garden cucumbers and jalapeños

The morning harvest…plenty of giant pomegranates, some fuji apples and a couple fuyu persimmons…then the last remnants of our summer garden cucumbers and jalapeños

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Pomegranates are excellent as toppings for salads…adding a nice crunch and acidic flavor.  They also make an excellent juice … straight … or with a bit of sugar.  My husband has figured out an excellent way to get the seeds from the fruit without turning everything pink…he breaks open the fruit in a deep bowl of water, pull the seeds out by knocking the back of the opened fruit with a spoon (or with your hands).  It works well.  Remove the seeds from the water and juice them or use whole seeds.IMG_4105 IMG_4020

 

My favorite is sprinkled into a super chilled glass of bubbly.  Pomegranate infused teas are also available from many quality purveyors.  Harney and Sons has a delightful pomegranate oolong.  Peet’s teas has a pomegranate cooler.

 

One of my favorite ways to use pomegranate seeds...with the bubbly

One of my favorite ways to use pomegranate seeds…with the bubbly