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DurianGray
Dec 23, 2010

King of Fruits


Tea is an interesting drink. It's done everything from soothe colds to start wars. Tea has also brought us this:
A Cup of Brown Joy

BAGS VS. LOOSE LEAF

Loose leaf is almost always the best choice. Bagged tea has gotten better than it was in the past in some cases, but for the most part, it's not that great. With loose leaf you have a greater variety to choose from, the quality of the leaves is much better (more on that later), and as far as price goes, unless you're buying rare award winning poo poo, it's going to be a lot more cost effective. While you do need a means to steep the tea and it's a little messier, the end result is so much more worth it. It can completely ruin you for bagged tea, though, so be warned if you just can't get enough of those pretty little Celestial Seasonings boxes.

(Real) Tea
Camellia sinensis


The traditional sort of tea originates in China. Most teas drunk in China itself tend toward the lighter end of the spectrum; the more familiar Greens and the variable Oolongs. The British brought large tea plantations to India after the Chinese told them to gently caress off during that whole Opium Wars scuffle, and for a while Indian and Chinese teas were the most common. More recently, Africa has taken over as one of the largest producers of Black tea that's exported around the world, usually in the form of tea bags. Tea can grow anywhere as long as it's finicky climate conditions are met, but the majority of teas are going to come from East Asia, India, and thereabouts.


Variations of Teas

Black Tea

The most familiar tea, often served cold and sugar coma sweet in the American South. Served oversteeped and diluted with dairy in the British Isles. The leaves have been left out to dry for a while before they were processed, making for a dark liquor and a strong taste. Many of these are Indian (because of British tastes). Assam and Nilgiri are fairly common Indian Black teas. Yunnan is one of the more common Chinese Blacks.

Oolong

This tea is oxidized less than Black teas and more than Green, but they can very greatly in their lightness or darkness. Ti Kuan Yin (or however the gently caress you feel like translating it) is usually one of the most expensive teas in the world, but you can find very affordable Ti Kuan Yin.

Green Tea

One of the least oxidized teas, they're often marketed as being the most beneficial to your health. To be fair, the admittedly small health benefits that teas do have are pretty much the same regardless of what "color" the tea is. China makes a great deal of the Greens you'll find, as does Japan. Japanese Greens really do have their own unique flavor, which I can really only liken to the smell of fresh grass clippings, but that's what makes them great.

White Tea

Greens can be tricky enough to make without oversteeping them to the point that they taste like a soccer field, but White's are even worse. The leaves are barely oxidized, if at all, and the flavor is so delicate that it can be hard to tell you're not just drinking hot water sometimes. Even so, this can be one of the most rewarding teas when it's prepared correctly.

What the gently caress are all these strings of letters I'm seeing before the name of the tea?

Wikipedia has a good explanation of the weird acronyms you might come across when looking at teas. The grades aren't really that important in my opinion as long as you're getting a good product. The various grades basically break down into this.
Dust/Fannings: The shittest of the poo poo. This is literally leftover dust from the tea process. Dust and Fannings are what's used in bagged teas, and because the leaves are broken apart, most of the oils and flavor in the tea has escaped.
Broken: A little bit more damaged, but still mostly whole. Usually cheaper leaves but still serviceable and flavorful.
Whole Leaf: These leaves should be entirely intact. The more letters tacked on to the end, the more expensive it is usually. SFTGFOP (Special Finest Tippy Golden Flowery Orange Pekoe) is something that I've only come across once, and it cost twice as much as the FTGFOP, but didn't look much different. YMMV, however.

Not technically tea, but still relevant:

Yerba Mate


Well, that's great and all, but maybe you prefer to imbibe enough caffeine in a single drink that your heart explodes. In that case, try Mate!
Mate comes from a South American plant and has roughly the same amount of caffeine per cup as a cup of coffee does. It's traditionally drunk from a gourd, and has an earthy-foresty taste which can be odd at first but is pretty easy to get used to and even enjoy. It's become pretty popular lately, and you can probably find some in your local grocery's health food aisle.

Rooibos and Honeybush


But I hate caffeine! Well, you can always try Rooibos. This is southern Africa's herbal tea (or at least that's how it's marketed). Rooibos comes in Red and sometimes Green. Honeybush is a similar and sort of related plant. If you find the taste of Rooibos too earthy/woody, then the sweeter and milder Honeybush might be your thing. Both lend themselves very well to blending with other flavors.

Other Tisanes (or herbal teas)

Almost any plant can be made into a tea as long as it's not, you know, toxic or anything. A lot of herbal/tisane teas blend really well together or with 'real' teas. Some examples of the many tisanes available are Mint, Lemongrass, Chamomile, Lavender, Raspberry Leaves, Ginger, Cornflowers, Hibiscus, and it just goes on and on.

Preparation!

Now that you've chosen the dried vegetation you want to put in water, here are some rough rules of thumb (and of course, adjust these to taste and tea as necessary):

Boil the water in a separate container than you'll be steeping in. This means you'll want a kettle of some sort, and a tea pot.

Usually you'll want a ratio of roughly 1 teaspoon of plant stuff to 1 cup of water.

Black Tea: Use Boiling water. Steep for about 5 minutes.
Oolong: Use near-boiling to boiling. Steep for 3-5 minutes.
Green Tea: Use near-boiling, possibly barely-boiling. Steep less than 3 minutes.
White Tea: Use barely-boiling or looks-like-it-might-boil-within-the-next-few-minutes. Steep for 2 minutes. Get frustrated because it tastes like poo poo for some reason. Keep experimenting until you find a time and temperature that work. Have a mild orgasm because it's that satisfying. Always forget what the exact time and temperature you used to make it taste good were and repeat on subsequent drinkings.
Herbals: Near-boiling to boiling. Steep for 5 minutes- When the gently caress ever.

So I went to Teavana and the girl there said I should spend $80 on a cast-iron teapot that holds half a cup of liquid...
HOLD UP. A slight warning to those of you new to the whole tea thing. You'll run into people that say you need expensive poo poo to really get the most out of your tea. While certain preparation devices and serving methods can certainly have an effect on what you're drinking, you're probably not missing too much if you're using your great-aunts hand-me-down tea pot versus a 100 year old gaiwan hand crafted by the great-great-great-grandson of an unknown Chinese Emperor. If you're really into your tea and want/are able to drop Goon-like amounts of cash on your hobby, then by all means. Just don't feel bad that you don't have a fancy cast-iron teapot.

Tea Kettles VS. Tea Pots
There is some confusion on this front occasionally, usually from newbies. Just so you know:

This is a Kettle for making water hot:

A Stove-Top Kettle

An Electric Kettle

This is a Pot for steeping the tea:

A Cast-Iron Tea Pot

A Ceramic Tea Pot

Tea Pots DO NOT go on the stove. Kettles are used ONLY to heat water, NOT to steep tea. And please to not put electric kettles on the stove, they will probably melt. And while both pots and kettles can come in cast-iron, many modern companies coat their cast-iron teapots with some sort of glaze on the inside, so really, don't put it on the stove.

A Quick Note on Preservation and Longevity of tea
Good loose teas (or any teas) are going to start to degrade after a while. Unless you've got something like a pu ehr, that get better with age, you're optimally supposed to drink your tea within a month or two of buying it. Teas should be stored in dry, dark, air-tight containers. Exposure to air and sunlight start to leech the flavor out of a tea, and if it sits around for too long it can actually go 'stale'. This aging effects some teas faster and worse than others, but it's something to keep in mind.

Where do I get this stuff, anyway?
If you're anywhere near a city, you've probably got a local tea store and don't even realize it. Google around and see what you can find. There's also a chance you can find decent loose leaf teas in your local grocery store. If it's not actually in the tea section, try the hippy/new age/health food section, or stores that you think might have a lot of that stuff. If you're a homebound neckbeard shut-in, you can always use the internet!

Internet vendors from around the world!


https://www.adagio.com is a good place to start out and has great customer service.
https://www.uptontea.com has an insane selection with amazing prices. Their printed quarterly catalogue is surprisingly hefty.
https://www.teavana.com I'm not a particular fan of the place, and this is more of a warning than a recommendation because of what I've experienced and heard about some of their sales practices (they also push the "health food" angle to a disgusting degree). Be aware that they overcharge for almost all their stuff and they upsell like crazy in their physical stores. I will admit that the blends they make are pretty tasty though.
http://www.zhitea.com/ "You can even go to their store if you're in/near Austin. They also field questions and have videos, so it's nice if you're a tea noob like me." (Thanks, Aerofallosov)
http://www.silkroadteas.com/ "For Chinese tea it's easily one of the best places to order online from that I've found." (Thanks, windwaker. I've heard good things about Silk Road myself, but totally forgot about them before!)
https://www.souvia.com "If you live in Phoenix, AZ I would check out their stores as well. Very cool stuff and run by very cool people." (Thanks, Angor)
https://www.sevencups.com/ "I wanted to chime in and say that I've ordered incredible tea from [them]" (Thanks, noodlesinabag)
http://www.puerhshop.com/ "they have a remarkable selection of pretty much every grower, though I kind of wish they wouldn't mention the aging potential as an investment since like wines you're rather unlikely to strike gold sitting on a batch, especially since the recent bubble burst killing quite a few producers." (Thanks, MedecoKiller)
http://www.mightyleaf.com/ "Though they are fairly expensive Mighty Leaf has some great selections of tea and some excellent blends." (Thanks, Toadsniff)
http://www.us.kusmitea.com/en/ "They're kind of expensive, but they go on sale on Amazon sometimes for $10ish per 4.4oz tin." (Thanks, Noricae)
http://www.teance.com/ "They have good service and their teas are well-sourced, but can be expensive.... Overall, probably better than Samovar, but you might find that they have an air of elitism." (Thanks, aldantefax)
http://www.teasource.com/ "It's not overpriced for most things. While they do carry some of the high grade stuff, for the most part the stuff they have is solid tasting and un-blended." (Thanks Jhet)
http://www.teavivre.com/ Recommended by lots of goons. (Keep an eye out for their anniversary sales.)


https://camellia-sinensis.com "I'd like to throw in a recommendation for the Camellia Sinensis tea house. Especially if you're Canadian, but they'll ship for free to the US too if you buy $50 worth of stuff. Good god is their Earl Grey ever good, blows away all of the ones I've had from Upton." (Thanks, Goddamn)
http://www.davidstea.com/ "Black teas will always have my heart but I do love my genmaicha from David's Tea." (Thanks, adventure in the sandbox)
http://www.teaopia.ca/"If you buy at least 250g of tea, they give you a 10% discount, and 15% if you buy 500g." (Thanks, mojo1701a)
http://www.granvilletea.com/shop/ "I highly recommend anyone who lives in the Vancouver area to pay them a visit." (Thanks, Famine Poodle)

(and New Zealand)
https://t2tea.com "Aussie goons can do pretty well from T2. It's a little on the pricey side but has an amazing amount of teas available." (Thanks, Pseudomonkey)
https://www.tleaft.co.nz/ "The Walkin Stores are all over the place as well, often with some tea on for people to try" (Thanks, Someone Vague)

(Europe)
http://www.teagschwendner.com/US/en/Homepage.TG "I love their selection, and they provide very concise directions for preparation that takes a lot of the guesswork out of making the tea taste awesome." They have a ton of locations throughout Germany and sprinkled around all over the place. (Thanks, Zoesdare)



http://www.teapigs.co.uk/ Is a great little site that says loose leaf, bag tea (which are whole leaf) and even Matcha!
http://www.whittard.co.uk/ Well known big site, prices range from cheap to expensive. Biggest range from any UK base tea site I know.
http://www.hasbean.co.uk/ This is mostly coffee base but it sales a a good amount of loose leaf / bag teas. But mainly ask for it to be included because it sales Cascara/Coffee Cherry Tea, which is classed as a herbal tea [it's husks from the coffee bean] but its massive in caffeine and you make it the same way as you would tea. (Thanks, Fluo for all three of these)
http://www.clipper-teas.com/ "Really nice teas, wide variety, also do hot chocolate etc. These are my go-to for everyday black tea bags, and we have loads of their lemon and ginger too." "...loads cheaper than Teapigs" (Thanks Battle Pigeon and pointsofdata)

Goon Vendors

Chaos Motor posted:

We sell an Indian chai made with Assam black tea, you can get a free sample from our website at chai-me.com. We have a 5 star rating, 100% customer satisfaction, and a money back guarantee. Give us a shot if you like black teas, I am certain you'll like ours.

edit: Here's our thread in SA-Mart. Here's the free sample, makes enough for 2 smaller cups or 1 large one. We say 10g but usually you get more like 14-15g so it could make 3 cups depending on how strong you like it. I like it strong.




https://steep.it is a great online tea (or anything) timer that I just remembered. It even has steeping time/temperature suggestions!

So let's put the kettle on and talk about some tea. I've been into it for several years now, so if you've got questions feel free to ask and I'll see if I can answer them.

DurianGray fucked around with this message at Aug 27, 2016 around 13:44

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Birb Katter
Sep 18, 2010

BOATS STOPPED
CARBON TAX AXED
TURNBULL AS PM
LIBERALS WILL BE RE-ELECTED IN A LANDSLIDE


I'm all up in this tea house. Currently got a lovely cup of oolong going steeping right now. Aussie goons can do pretty well from T2. It's a little on the pricey side but has an amazing amount of teas available.

Bruce Leroy
Jun 10, 2010


Ok, so I really love this one particular variety of (loose leaf) green tea at my local tea and smoothie shop, but every time I try to make it at home, it tastes generic and bland in comparison to how awesome it is when the proprietor makes the tea.

This happens with pretty much every tea I've bought from this shop, but it's particularly problematic with this variety of green that I genuinely love, which is why it is so aggravating. To more specifically describe the difference in taste, almost every loose tea I make at home just tastes like some bottom-shelf, supermarket, generic tea with no particular character or difference from one tea to another, but with the store-brewed stuff, I can taste all these subtler flavors, like fruit, spice, etc. I could probably differentiate every single different tea blindfolded with the store-brewed stuff, but all the stuff I make just tastes the same. My stuff is not quite as bad as the "soccer field" thing from the OP, but it's just the pits compared to how flavorful every tea is when made by the people working in my local store.

I've followed the directions as instructed but it still tastes like generic green crap (as bad as supermarket tea bag stuff) and the lady who owns the shop just looks at me like I'm retarded when I try to explain this with her. Hell, I may be a bit retarded when it comes to cooking but making tea shouldn't be all that hard.

http://www.tealux.ca/brew-in-mug_ex...?category_id=25

This looks similar to the infuser I use for my mug, could this be the problem? Should I use something smaller like one of those golf ball-shaped infusers?

I use my Zojirushi water boiler for the tea, could that be the problem? Should be boiling a pot on the stove?

Should I be brewing a whole pot rather than individual mugs?

Should I use more or less loose tea than I'm currently using? Could this be an issue with "crowding" the infuser?

Am I just brewing it too long?

Thanks in advance, the OP was awesome.

Comic
Feb 24, 2008

Mad Comic Stylings


Bruce Leroy posted:

but every time I try to make it at home, it tastes generic and bland in comparison

Are you using tap water? This might make a difference compared to filtered/bottled water. Sorry I can't help more than that! The tap water here is just fine but tap varies wildly from place to place, and rarely for the better as far as flavor is concerned.

Personally I'd try measuring how much tea you use per how much water you have, maybe the temperature of the water too (boiling? just below boiling? etc) and an approximation for how long you steep before talking to the lady who owns the shop, so she has some details to compare it to- it would also help people here I think. Saying it turns out bad isn't all too helpful for knowing why if nobody knows what you're actually doing.

FAUXTON
Jun 2, 2005

daef


I have a fairly bad problem. I really, really enjoy the white teas, and while I can get passable at home (over the course of a loving long time experimenting with dropping pieces of ice into the water to attain the right temperature, then working on narrowing down the steeping time) at work we've got a hot water tap (you know, the kind they slap on the side of a coffee machine, it typically has a red handle, the water is basically superheated) which I am almost positive shoots out water that has no damned business being that loving hot (it makes my local tea shop's Irish breakfast taste like a mouthful of sticks and grass after ~4 mins steeping) yet somehow isn't immediately boiling.

Basically I'm wondering if anyone has any tips so I don't have to look like a prick with a thermometer and a stopwatch as an alternative to the current "drown that grassy taste in sugar" tactic I have.

Comic
Feb 24, 2008

Mad Comic Stylings


You could probably just mix it with some room temperature or cooled water? the temperature would be lower overall at least. Like take half a cup of hot water with room temperature water for the other half.

Culinary Bears
Feb 1, 2007



I'd like to throw in a recommendation for the Camellia Sinensis tea house. Especially if you're Canadian, but they'll ship for free to the US too if you buy $50 worth of stuff. Good god is their Earl Grey ever good, blows away all of the ones I've had from Upton.

DurianGray
Dec 23, 2010

King of Fruits


Bruce Leroy posted:


This looks similar to the infuser I use for my mug, could this be the problem? Should I use something smaller like one of those golf ball-shaped infusers?

I use my Zojirushi water boiler for the tea, could that be the problem? Should be boiling a pot on the stove?

Should I be brewing a whole pot rather than individual mugs?

Should I use more or less loose tea than I'm currently using? Could this be an issue with "crowding" the infuser?

Am I just brewing it too long?

Thanks in advance, the OP was awesome.

Your infuser should be fine if you're just doing a mug at a time. A tea ball would just make things worse in all likelyhood because the leaves can't expand at all in those things.

Your Zojirushi should be fine, but is the inside metal or plastic? There's a slight chance that pitted metal or plastic pieces could make the water taste off, and therefore the tea. And like Comic said, the water you're using could be what's doing it. Try using filtered water or spring water and see what happens.

The one advantage to brewing in a pot might be that you'd just have more room for the leaves to expand in.

As far as flavor, you could try brewing with more leaves (just a tiny bit more) at a slightly lower temperature. I usually find that that can help bring out the more subtle flavors in greens.

I'm glad you liked the OP

The Entire Universe posted:


Basically I'm wondering if anyone has any tips so I don't have to look like a prick with a thermometer and a stopwatch as an alternative to the current "drown that grassy taste in sugar" tactic I have.

Besides learning to mix the right amounts of room temperature and hot water, the most practical answer I can give you is make it at home and bring a thermos to work. Whites are just so finicky I can't imagine myself getting a successful cup without using a timer and a thermometer. A vacuum sealed thermos would be your best bet, especially since once you brew a white, it can react badly to cooling off.

Aerofallosov
Oct 3, 2007

It was so peaceful beneath the glittering stars.


I like Zhi Tea (https://www.zhitea.com) myself. You can even go to their store if you're in/near Austin. They also field questions and have videos, so it's nice if you're a tea noob like me.

I love the Vanilla rose and golden lily oolong. There's something charming about watching rose buds unfurl in hot water. Working on finding a green I really like. So far the mint green tea is working best for me.

And for some reason I can practically never get white tea to work out for me. :/ I even use a timer and thermometer/water boiler I can set.

The OP was nice!

windwaker
Jul 9, 2004

That's like killing a unicorn!


Any love for Silk Road Teas? For Chinese tea it's easily one of the best places to order online from that I've found. My favorite category of tea is Japanese green (Gyokuro, specifically) and that is a whole other world, but for everything else I definitely prefer Silk Road. The guy who founded that company also was part of a pretty okay tea documentary.

Test Pattern
Dec 20, 2007

Keep scrolling, clod!


I love our little Bodum pot. Lately, we've been making Russian Caravan tea and really enjoying it.

Punting
Sep 9, 2007
I am very witty: nit-witty, dim-witty, and half-witty.



I'm heading on a road trip with some friends next weekend, and there's a strong possibility we'll be stopping at a tea store. I love tea, but I've never bought/brewed anything more complicated than a Bigelow teabag. Anything I should keep an eye out for or stay way far from should I happen to come across it?

Someone Vague
Apr 26, 2010


Adding for the New Zealand People

https://www.tleaft.co.nz/

The Walkin Stores are all over the place as well, often with some tea on for people to try

Zoesdare
Sep 24, 2005



How about some love for Tea Gshwender? I love their selection, and they provide very concise directions for preparation that takes a lot of the guesswork out of making the tea taste awesome.

http://www.teagschwendner.com/US/en/Homepage.TG

DurianGray
Dec 23, 2010

King of Fruits


Punting posted:

I'm heading on a road trip with some friends next weekend, and there's a strong possibility we'll be stopping at a tea store. I love tea, but I've never bought/brewed anything more complicated than a Bigelow teabag. Anything I should keep an eye out for or stay way far from should I happen to come across it?

I'd say just find a loose leaf version of the teas that you'd usually buy bagged. If you like Breakfast blends, see if they have Irish/English/Whateverish Breakfast. If you like chai, get a chai blend. You can probably even just tell the vendor what sort of bagged teas you like and they should be able to make some well informed suggestions.

I guess the only thing you might want to avoid is pu ehr? I like it personally, but it's pretty polarizing even among people who love different types of tea. It's basically a black tea that's left to... sort of rot or ferment for a while and then pressed into cakes (usually). It's got a really strong barnyard taste. The chances of coming across it accidently are pretty minimal, though.

I'd also like to thank everyone for suggesting various retailers, it's really helpful!

Bob_McBob
Mar 24, 2007


DurianGray posted:

I guess the only thing you might want to avoid is pu ehr? I like it personally, but it's pretty polarizing even among people who love different types of tea. It's basically a black tea that's left to... sort of rot or ferment for a while and then pressed into cakes (usually). It's got a really strong barnyard taste.

Puerh starts out as maocha, so it's much closer to a green tea if you want to classify it that way. What you're describing sounds like cooked puerh (shu) which is piled like compost to simulate aged raw puerh (sheng). Bad cooked puerh is pretty disgusting, and even the good ones are an acquired taste.

Puerh is a pretty insanely complicated subject when you get into the aged stuff, different types of storage, the limited (and skewed) selection available to Westerners, the bizarre quirks of the market in China, and other factors. I would avoid buying it from most Western stores that don't specialize in it, because you'll probably be buying crap, and paying a lot for the privilege.

Fuzzy Pipe Wrench
Nov 5, 2008

MAYBE DON'T STEAL BEER FROM GOONS?

CHEERS!
(FUCK YOU)


What about loose leaf black tea for Southern style Iced Tea? I like a good sugar coma and if I can make it an even tastier sugar coma then that'd be pretty cool! Or does all the sweetness just mask any benefit I'd get from going bag->loose leaf?

angor
Nov 14, 2003
teen angst

If you really want a tetsubin (cast iron tea pot) but don't feel like paying out the nose, check out your local TJ Maxx, Ross, etc. You can usually pick them up for about $12.

Southern Iced Tea: I don't know if you'd notice a huge difference in the taste if you're dumping insane amounts of sugar into it, but it can't hurt! I would imagine if you used loose leaf and a ratio of 10:1 (or something, I dunno) of black tea to lapsang souchong it would be add a hint of smokiness and be pretty tasty.

Question: I have a brick of pu erh sitting at home. I bought it about 4 years ago and haven't touched it yet. Can I assume this is still ok to drink?

Also, I'd like to give a shout out to https://www.souvia.com as a tea supplier. If you live in Phoenix, AZ I would check out their stores as well. Very cool stuff and run by very cool people.

angor fucked around with this message at Sep 19, 2011 around 08:19

MedecoKiller
Jun 12, 2005

You used Kwikset?
Bahahaha!


angor posted:

Question: I have a brick of pu erh sitting at home. I bought it about 4 years ago and haven't touched it yet. Can I assume this is still ok to drink?

As long as it's been kept dry and is free of mold, then yes definitely, if it was not cooked pu erh then it could even be better now than it was.

Speaking of pu erh I reccomend http://www.puerhshop.com/ they have a remarkable selection of pretty much every grower, though I kind of wish they wouldn't mention the aging potential as an investment since like wines you're rather unlikely to strike gold sitting on a batch, especially since the recent bubble burst killing quite a few producers.

DurianGray
Dec 23, 2010

King of Fruits


Bob_McBob posted:

Stuff about Puehr

You are far more informed on the subject than I am. I didn't know it starts out as a green and I was only vaguely aware of the aged vs. compost methods. The More You Know...

As far as teas to stick in a Southern Style, yeah, you'd want to go with stronger blacks. You also need to brew with more leaves than in hot tea to make up for the cold diminishing some of the flavor. Yunnan and Assam and the like would work pretty well. Some online retailers and local tea stores will sell loose leaf blends specifically for iced tea, too. Adding a bit of Lapsang Souchong would be pretty interesting too I'd think.

Angor, as far as I know (from what little I'll admit that I know about pu ehr) It's probably fine assuming it's not moldy or anything like that. Some pu ehr will age for decades before they're used, so I don't think five years is gonna hurt it much.

And on tetsubins, do you know if the ones at those places are fully cast iron, or are they enameled on the inside?

rockcity
Jan 16, 2004


Has anyone on here grown tea before? I'm growing some in an aerogarden right now, or at least I just started growing it and I'm not sure exactly the best way to use them once I am able to harvest. Can you steep them while they're still green or do I need to dry them? I'm really anxious to see how these plants do.

DurianGray
Dec 23, 2010

King of Fruits



I've never heard of people growing their own tea before. Herbals, yes, but not actual tea plants. It looks like it's possible, though. Here's an about.com guide that looks pretty reasonable.

http://coffeetea.about.com/od/prepa.../growingtea.htm

You'll definitely want to dry them out a bit first. I mean, I suppose you could try putting them in when they're freshly picked but I have no idea what would happen. If it's possible to make a fresh-leaf tea, I'd worry that it'd be even trickier to get right than a white tea.

Good luck with your project though! Let us know how it turns out after your plant is mature enough to harvest.

E: I just noticed in that guide, it suggests the plant be 3 years old before you can actually harvest the leaves. So... yeah.

DurianGray fucked around with this message at Sep 19, 2011 around 18:40

Bob_McBob
Mar 24, 2007


Growing tea at home is certainly possible, but you're not going to get a usable amount from a little plant in a pot. Also, like coffee, the growing region (altitude, soil and weather conditions) has a massive impact on the quality and taste of the end product, so it won't be very good tea either. That's even assuming you're growing the correct varietal and you're familiar with the processing steps required to get drinkable tea (very different depending on the country of origin and style).

Basically, grow a tea plant at home for novelty, not to make tea.

rockcity
Jan 16, 2004


Bob_McBob posted:

Growing tea at home is certainly possible, but you're not going to get a usable amount from a little plant in a pot. Also, like coffee, the growing region (altitude, soil and weather conditions) has a massive impact on the quality and taste of the end product, so it won't be very good tea either. That's even assuming you're growing the correct varietal and you're familiar with the processing steps required to get drinkable tea (very different depending on the country of origin and style).

Basically, grow a tea plant at home for novelty, not to make tea.

It's more for novelty than anything, though I'm sure I'll be able to come up with something to at least try out. I'm not expecting to have a ton of it or anything. It's in an aerogarden so aside from the nutrients I have, it won't have any effect from region or soil. That being said, aerogardens grow like crazy, so with 7 seed pods I'll end up with a fairly steady amount coming up. The bad thing is that there are a few different types and I think it'd be better off with 7 pods of one type. I'll keep people updated on what comes of it and if it's even drinkable. In the instructions they say you can just steep the fresh leaves, I've never heard of that, so that's why I was curious if anyone had tried it.

noodlesinabag
Dec 25, 2009



I wanted to chime in and say that I've ordered incredible tea from https://www.sevencups.com/
I really like the fact that they list when the harvest is from because I've found that teas really vary from year to year. I ordered some white tea in 2010 from the first harvest that year and it was just incredible. The quality of the leaves made my jaw drop to the floor. I also paid $26 for about an ounces but what the hell. The only other time that I've had anything remotely as good was when I got some o'sulloc green tea from Jeju island in South Korea right off the giant lava rock roaster they were using to roast the tea. Amazing stuff, tea. You'll pay out the nose for it, but it's soooo worth it.

Edit: should mention that I don't know if it would be worth it to buy some of their older teas - but I've found that teas do degrade/oxidize over time despite my best efforts to try and limit that. But if you really want to taste some good stuff, try their Shi Feng Long Jing (Shi Feng Dragon Well) Green Tea 2011 ($27.20 right now for 50g). I ordered this in July last year and it was definitely better than drinking it February this year.

noodlesinabag fucked around with this message at Sep 21, 2011 around 20:52

noodlesinabag
Dec 25, 2009



The Entire Universe posted:

I have a fairly bad problem. I really, really enjoy the white teas, and while I can get passable at home (over the course of a loving long time experimenting with dropping pieces of ice into the water to attain the right temperature, then working on narrowing down the steeping time) at work we've got a hot water tap (you know, the kind they slap on the side of a coffee machine, it typically has a red handle, the water is basically superheated) which I am almost positive shoots out water that has no damned business being that loving hot (it makes my local tea shop's Irish breakfast taste like a mouthful of sticks and grass after ~4 mins steeping) yet somehow isn't immediately boiling.

Basically I'm wondering if anyone has any tips so I don't have to look like a prick with a thermometer and a stopwatch as an alternative to the current "drown that grassy taste in sugar" tactic I have.

I love white tea too. My tip is, if you don't have a thermometer ready, cooler is better than too hot. If I'm boiling water on the stove and I feel lazy, I wait for the little bubbles to start breaking the surface (consistently at about 1 bubble a second) of the water and the tiniest bit of steam to rise. This usually will be when the water's anywhere between 180 and 192 or so. I would suggest you test the water at your cooler once with a thermometer so you know how hot the water is... you don't have to do it every time, but that'll give you an idea of how much cold water to mix in the next time. Also, ~4 min is way too long for a white tea. My first steep is usually 2 minutes, 3 if I want an especially strong tea. My second is usually about 3 minutes, and 3rd, I just leave it in there. I don't know how people get 6 steepings out of their tea, by the 4th time, I find it too weak.

Koaxke
Jan 18, 2009


I have a little cast iron tea pot that I bought about a year ago but haven't really used because I'm incredibly lazy and have just been buying bags of tea. I really would like to start buying nicer quality tea and getting some use out of it though. It has a little mesh thing that you put in with the tea, but the couple of times that I made tea in it I just boiled the water in the pot and then dropped in the little mesh thing full of tea.

After reading the OP it seems that I was doing it wrong and I need a kettle or something to boil the water in, pour it into the pot over the tea leaves in the mesh thing, and then let it steep?

If this is correct, are there any good places to buy a super cheap kettle?

noodlesinabag
Dec 25, 2009



Koaxke posted:

I have a little cast iron tea pot that I bought about a year ago but haven't really used because I'm incredibly lazy and have just been buying bags of tea. I really would like to start buying nicer quality tea and getting some use out of it though. It has a little mesh thing that you put in with the tea, but the couple of times that I made tea in it I just boiled the water in the pot and then dropped in the little mesh thing full of tea.

After reading the OP it seems that I was doing it wrong and I need a kettle or something to boil the water in, pour it into the pot over the tea leaves in the mesh thing, and then let it steep?

If this is correct, are there any good places to buy a super cheap kettle?

I use a pot... as long as you know how to pour it in without spilling everywhere!
Also, I wouldn't worry so much about boiling the water separately. It's just easier to time steeping if you have a separate kettle, but it's not necessary. Just don't steep for too long, or boil your tea with your water. It sounds like what you're doing is just fine.

Errant Gin Monks
Oct 2, 2009

"Yeah..."
- Marshawn Lynch


This may be a sin but I hate southern iced tea. Its terrible. I also live in Texas, where iced tea is queen to football's king. regardless I wanted to stop drinking 3 liters of diet coke a day and so I went to Teavana.

I left 150 bucks poorer but with a very interesting mix of teas. Something called Youngberry and something citrusy. I now make iced teas with the mixture of these two. It is phenomenal. It is also really good steeping it to make hot tea.

So if you are a tea pansy like me and just want something nice to drink I wouldn't scoff at the nice herbals at Teavana... just get ready for a stupid amount of sticker shock.

Caitlin
Aug 18, 2006

When I die, if there is a heaven, I will spend eternity rolling around with a pile of kittens.


I live by a Teavana and pretty regularly get my herbal-based teas there but I don't even know how you managed to buy $150 worth of tea for a single person. How many ounces did you buy? I hope you have airtight containers for them or they're going to lose potency right quick. The tea prices there are okay for being fancy blended ones and all, but all of their accessories are massively overpriced.

Comic
Feb 24, 2008

Mad Comic Stylings


Errant Gin Monks posted:

This may be a sin but I hate southern iced tea. Its terrible.

Being oversteeped is the norm, really, and usually with low quality tea at that. It's not hard to imagine. Then you get into stuff like sun tea which from my understanding is not all that safe to drink (due to being at a temperature which is very inviting for bacteria for prolonged amounts of time), while also having those properties.

Kilersquirrel
Oct 16, 2004
My little sister is awesome and bought me this account.

I'd like to throw my 2 cents in on the sweet tea question, I love love love sweet tea but that lipton and lusianne poo poo does not cut the mustard.

I've made a metric shitload of iced tea and my favorite thus far(in both the quality and price categories) is the Sadaf special blend cardamom tea, with Ahmad as a close second.

I make it by the gallon, so reduce/enlarge these ratios as you will:

Scant 4 tbsp Sadaf cardamom blend
1 gallon water
1 1/8 c sugar

Add to your water and then kill the heat/take the pot off the burner and steep for 3-4 minutes max(this stuff can get overly tannic fast), then pour through a strainer into some kind of vessel with your sugar in it, then lid and let cool(I've found this stuff will form a shiny little skin on the top if you don't lid it). If you can somehow crash-cool it, go for it.

If you have differing sugar tastes in the house/apartment/mother's basement, then just whip up a batch of simple syrup and put in a squirt bottle instead of sweetening the whole batch. Also handy for booze(everybody loves a multitasker, right?).

I realize I maybe don't have to write this whole detailed thing out for people in a thread centered around fine teas, but I figure there will be more than a few people who are brand new to the whole thing and could use the specificity. I know I could have used advice like "don't add boiling water to green tea, dummy" or "there is such thing as oversteeping, it generally happens pretty fast, and your tea will be lovely if it happens" back when I was trying to hash this all out.

Kilersquirrel fucked around with this message at Sep 22, 2011 around 07:54

rockcity
Jan 16, 2004


Captain Stinkybutt posted:

I live by a Teavana and pretty regularly get my herbal-based teas there but I don't even know how you managed to buy $150 worth of tea for a single person. How many ounces did you buy? I hope you have airtight containers for them or they're going to lose potency right quick. The tea prices there are okay for being fancy blended ones and all, but all of their accessories are massively overpriced.

I'm assuming he also bought a tea pot or some other accessories. Those will easily set you back $60+ there.

On an unrelated note, has anyone here ever traveled with their tea? My job has me on the road two nights a week and I'm often really in the mood to relax and have some tea in my hotel and the awful tea bag that's usually in the room is not cutting it. I'm not flying on these nights away so I'm not worried about security stopping me thinking it's drugs or anything. Are there any tea bags that are worth drinking or should I find some small lock and lock type containers and a tea ball or something to bring with me?

Comic
Feb 24, 2008

Mad Comic Stylings


rockcity posted:

Are there any tea bags that are worth drinking or should I find some small lock and lock type containers and a tea ball or something to bring with me?

I find most Twinings brand tea is drinkable. Particularly in comparison with hotel/free teas. Much easier to deal with while traveling and you don't have to worry about cleaning out a tea ball or anything.

Serendipitaet
Apr 19, 2009


I was raised on black tea and herbal infusions. Black tea for breakfast and a little thermos to take to school, herbal for dinner.

My favourite herbals are fennel seed, a fennel, anise, caraway blend and thyme.

All of them are supposed to have health benefits. Thyme is antiseptic - Listerine contains some amount of thymol - and is pretty good when you have bronchitis or a sore throat. I never drank them only for that reason because they all taste very good.

Drinking herbals might not be the same kind of experience as well prepared real tea, but you have to pay much less attention to the brewing process and they make a healthy and flavoursome alternative to drinking water all day.

Charmmi
Dec 8, 2008

:trophystare:


I have seen people post pics of their travelling teaset and it included a portable water heater, water filter, and an assortment of gaiwan. He custom modded a suitcase to keep everything encased in foam. I have had Two Leaves and a Bud brand teabags and they are decent.

Sirotan
Oct 17, 2006

Sirotan is a seal.


Ham Wrangler

You can buy empty tea bags that you fill with your tea and then fold over the top to make a bit of a pocket. I've bought some before at a Japanese grocery store. That could be one solution for you.

rockcity
Jan 16, 2004


Charmmi posted:

I have seen people post pics of their travelling teaset and it included a portable water heater, water filter, and an assortment of gaiwan. He custom modded a suitcase to keep everything encased in foam. I have had Two Leaves and a Bud brand teabags and they are decent.

Jesus, that's a bit much. I was thinking just a small airtight container that would fit my tea and a tea ball or just some disposable tea bags or something. Ideally regular tea bags would be easiest, but just about everything I've bought from a grocery store just tasted bland to me, like it needed way too much sweetening to get some flavor out of it. I haven't had either of those brands so maybe they'd be worth a shot.

axolotl farmer
May 17, 2007

I had me a vision
there wasn't any television



Nap Ghost

I have this packet of tea:



A pile of them appeared at my former office and I don't remember who brought them there. I asked one of the Chinese people and was told that it was a very good 'Iron Buddha' tea, which I after some googling realize is Tieguanyin (鐵觀音).

It's actually whole leaves rolled into spheres, and they unroll and inflate in hot water. When I tried it at the office I just put some in a cup and poured hot water over it and let it steep for a long time.

Very fragrant stuff. I usually like bitter and plain black teas, like Ceylon teas, but this one was really nice.

So a couple of questions:

- What's the proper way of preparing this tea?
- If I would like to get more like it, what should I ask for?

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DurianGray
Dec 23, 2010

King of Fruits


Koaxke posted:

After reading the OP it seems that I was doing it wrong and I need a kettle or something to boil the water in, pour it into the pot over the tea leaves in the mesh thing, and then let it steep?

If this is correct, are there any good places to buy a super cheap kettle?


You can probably find really cheap kettles at Wal-Mart or whatever super-store thing you've got around. It's usually just easier to use separate pots but none of this is hard and fast, and if your method works for you, then keep on doing it. The fact that you're using a cast iron pot is interesting and slightly problematic though, at least if you're using it for different types of teas. The cast iron, over time, is going to start to cure and take on some of the flavor of the teas that you've been putting in it. So unless you want ALL of your tea to taste sort of like whatever has been in that pot the most, you might want to think of using some other pot.

On the Teavana thing, I do admit that their stuff tastes pretty great and I've bought some really good honeybush from them before, but it's possible to find stuff that tastes just as good for easily half the price. The price gouging that they tend to do, especially with people who are new to tea, just really irks me. I know a really sweet older couple that wanted to get into tea and they went to a Teavana. They ended up dropping $200~ on all the supplies and poo poo the salesperson said they just ABSOLUTELY HAD TO HAVE. Well, no. You don't really have to have a $100 teapot or everything is loving ruined. Keep in mind that the Teavana employees are paid on commission, so they're going to needle after you like starving dogs to spend as much money as possible. Then again, I might be mostly thinking of the girl that works at the one near me and is loving insane about just how necessary those tiny ridiculous little cast iron pots they sell are. They're enameled on the inside too, which completely defeats the loving purpose of using a cast iron teapot.


axolotl farmer posted:

I have this packet of tea:



.....

- What's the proper way of preparing this tea?
- If I would like to get more like it, what should I ask for?

Interesting that you say it's pearled. I've never seen pearled Ti Kuan Yin before.

Ti Kuan Yin (or Ti Guan Yin, there are a bunch of different spellings) is an Oolong. It's considered one of the best. You'll probably want to have the water just below boiling and steep it for about 3-5 minutes or whatever you find tastes the best. It's usually translated as Iron Goddess of Mercy, or something closer to that, but if you go and ask for a Ti Guan Yin, any tea store worth it's salt is going to know exactly what you're talking about. Just get ready to potentially pay exorbitant amounts of money for it. If you like the Oolong style, then just try other Oolongs, too.

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