The response to the growing demand for information from eager English-speaking tea and coffee/ espresso connoisseurs in the U.S. inspires this post. Bon Teavant Market carries some great books, and there are some here that we do not carry because they may be out of print or very freely available elsewhere. Regardless, here is a first-installment list of books that are well worth a read as well as a couple of books that will increase the depth of feeling and awareness of the tea and coffee connoisseur:
Tea FAQs and Lore
What a fascinating plant, Camellia sinensis, the plant from which all tea derives. Its history is filled with facts and myths, offering limitless hours of enchantment and research. Here are some basic facts and tea lore to get you started in your search for information about tea and tea culture.
What is tea?
All “real” teas come from one plant species, Camellia sinensis. Any plant or spice–like peppermint, chamomile, cinnamon, or rooiboos– can be infused, but these are considered to be herbal infusions or tisanes, not teas.
What does tea culture mean?
Tea is more than just a beverage. It is a phenomenon. Tea culture is used to describe this unique marvel. Over it’s five-thousand-year history, tea has been the impetus of poetry, art, storytelling and war, as well as fueling economies and influencing the social aura and etiquette of whole nations. Its reputation as an agent of healing and meditation also underscores its value and mystery as it has moved from continent to continent across the world. In each culture it enters, tea seems to influence the social, religious, creative and economic framework of the region, taking on different expressions and inviting new traditions. At the same time, in every expression of tea, one will find common threads: community, vitality, poetry, sanctuary, and ritual. We in the United States are just embarking on the creation of our own new tea culture, and you are a part of that culture.
How is loose leaf tea brewed?
Thanks for losing the tea bags! By doing so, you have already diminished the carbon footprint of your tea by a whopping 90%. Steeping loose leaf tea is easy, and there are several methods you can employ. The tea pot is probably the easiest, but you can also use a gaiwan, a glass infuser, or a mug with an infuser.
First, put the loose leaf tea in your steeping vessel, which, ideally will be heated with hot water before you add the leaves.
Next, add hot water and rinse, draining off the rinse water.
Steep the leaves for the desired amount of time
Pour tea into a serving vessel like a cup or pitcher so the tealeaves don’t oversteep.
How should tea be stored?
After receiving high quality teas from Bon Teavant, you will want to be sure to store them properly to ensure their continued excellence. Here are some guidelines:
-Store away from odors, especially food.
-Store in a cool, dry, dark place where light and heat will not have an impact on your tea.
-Store tea in the packaging it comes in or in a porcelain air tight vessel. For puerh teas, store in paper packaging or in porous ceramic that is not airtight.
There are five main tea types: Black, Green, White, Oolong, and Pu-erh. Tea type is determined by oxidation and processing method. Green and white teas are minimally oxidized and processed. Oolongs are semi-oxidized and more elaborately processed, and black teas are fully oxidized. Puerhs are considered a tea type because of the varietals grown and the distinctive way in which they are processed. Some are oxidized and some not. Many are also fermented, and often molded into cakes, bricks and mushroom-shaped balls or cast in bamboo stalks and other unusual tea “containers”.
Are teas fermented?
With only a couple of exceptions, teas are oxidized not fermented. Oxidation is a chemical process, which takes place when tea leaves are exposed to air or oxygen. When tea leaves are exposed to air, the polyphenol enzymes in the leaves are broken down, influencing the color and nature of the tea. Oxidation is halted when teas are exposed to heat, such as pan firing or steaming. The degree to which a tea has been oxidized determines the tea type. Black teas are fully oxidized, oolongs partially oxidized, and green and white teas have undergone little or no oxidation. Pu-erh teas are the only teas that are fermented (which is a bacterial process) and aged after being oxidized.
Do all teas contain caffeine?
Yes, all teas contain caffeine in varying amounts; however, many people tolerate the caffeine in teas better than with coffee or other substances that contain caffeine, like sodas and chocolate. Experiment with different teas to see what you can drink and what gets your heart racing. Don’t drink tea at all if you cannot tolerate caffeine or must avoid it for health reasons.
How long should a tea be steeped?
Different teas require different steeping times. As well, many high quality loose-leaf teas can be steeped multiple times and each steeping might require a different duration or water temperature. It’s best to buy quality teas from tea merchants who can share their knowledge of the best ways to steep the teas they sell. When you buy teas from Bon Teavant, you will receive a tea brewing chart with recommendations for tea quantity, water temperature, and steeping times.
Basic steeping guidelines:
All guidelines refer to 3-5 grams of tea steeped in 6 oz. of water. It is recommended that you use the best quality water available and/or filter your water before using it to steep tea.
Green & White Teas: 140-175ºF water and steeping times that vary from 15 seconds to two minutes.
Oolongs: 175-200ºF, 30-90 seconds first infusion, 30-60 seconds for subsequent infusions.
Black: 195-200ºF, 60-120 seconds.
Green Puerh: 185-200+ºF for 10-30 seconds.
Cooked Puerh: 185-200+ºF) for 60-120 seconds first infusion, and 15-60 seconds for subsequent infusions.
Experimenting with different temperatures, leaf amounts and steeping times will help you earn your scout badge for tea. You will have fun finding out how much you can change the taste and character of a tea by changing the variables of water temperature, brewing vessel, amount of leaf used, type of water used, and steeping time.