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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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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.

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!

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?

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

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.

DurianGray
Dec 23, 2010

King of Fruits


Magicmat posted:

What's the most convenient way to quickly brew tea in the morning? I usually only have, at most, 10 minutes of free time in the morning to eat or do whatever else before I leave, and that's not long enough to boil water, steep tea, and then drink it.

I don't know much about automatic tea makers. I personally find that the most time consuming part of tea is actually drinking it. About 10 minutes usually gives me enough time to boil water and let the tea steep, but if I'm in a rush I'll just pour the tea into a thermos and take off. If time is really tight I'll just boil the water, put some tea leaves in a disposable tea bag and steep it later when I have time.

Sudoku posted:

I present a question to you all: When you drink tea, do you usually eat anything with it? I know there's tea cakes and cookies and crumpets and all, but would you drink it with, say, a fast food meal, a pizza, anything of that sort? I tend to have mine by itself without food (I go to soda for that) since I find the preparation time to be a hassle when I'm wanting to eat.

I'll usually drink it on it's own, but if I do eat anything with it, it's usually some sort of baked treat. I could only imagine that most foods, especially the greasy sort of things like fast food or pizza would more or less overpower and nullify any flavor you'd be getting from the tea. Sweet tea is probably the only exception.

Arnold of Soissons posted:

Where can I get something similar to that, in the States? Obviously the flavoring means that the tea itself can be of a less-perfect grade and not really be noticeable, but starting with good tea made it a million times better.

I just googled around and found a few websites selling it. This site is actually in the States and it's an Earl Gray Darjeeling. The rest of the sites at least on the first results page were all either British, didn't have the Darjeeling Gray, or had had their servers recently hacked.

DurianGray
Dec 23, 2010

King of Fruits


jerman999 posted:

My family is Chinese and whenever we would drink tea, we'd just throw leaves into a cup and pour water over it and keep refilling the same cup with water because...we didn't care so much. All this talk of steeping makes me feel like we've been doing it wrong...?

That's pretty much how you drink tea from a Gaiwan from what I understand (that is, if you don't decant it after it steeps). It's not wrong, it's just a different style of drinking tea.

DurianGray
Dec 23, 2010

King of Fruits


I would think that it just takes longer in the fridge.

When I was younger, my family would make sun tea during the summer. Just stick some water and tea bags in a big glass pitcher and leave it outside for a few hours. Voila, not-so-instant tea. Ah, sweet nostalgia

To that end, does anyone else have weird/interesting tea traditions in their family? Jerman999 already mentioned his/her Chinese family leaving the tea leaves in the cup while you drink it.

DurianGray
Dec 23, 2010

King of Fruits


Jenkin posted:

I'm going to be in Beijing and Shanghai soon and I want to get some tea for my girlfriend. She's pretty into tea and I don't know a ton about it; does anyone have suggestions for what I could look for that would make a nice gift? I realize this is a bit broad. Also, thanks for all the good info already in the thread.

Ask her what she likes, or if you want it to be a surprise I guess you could be nosey and peek into her tea stash and see what she seems to have a lot of. Other than that, I like .Z.'s suggestion of getting her some China-specific teaware.

Cpt. Wacky posted:

Does anyone add in fresh herbs while steeping? I tried a few mint leaves once but couldn't notice any difference.

Mixing in herbs really only works well if they've been dried previously, fresh ones probably won't have much of an effect, especially mint. The character of fresh herbs is sort of delicate most of the time, at least the sort that you'd want to put in your tea. What might work is adding some in after you've steeped the tea and it's cooled to a more drinkable temperature. It's also possible that just using more of the herbs would help.

DurianGray
Dec 23, 2010

King of Fruits


That kettle looks fine to me. You mostly want to make sure that there isn't too much plastic that comes in contact with the water, because it can, sometimes, make the water taste a little off. I just had a look through Amazon's tea section, and it doesn't look like they have any tea at all that's on Prime, and most of it is either not loose, brands that you could buy for a lot cheaper at a grocery store, or from third party vendors I've never heard of.

Honestly, I'd try looking at some of the different vendors listed in the OP and see what samplers they have available. Especially if you're just getting into blacks and oolongs, you can't really go wrong with Adagio's various samplers (assuming you're in the US). They might not have the fanciest teas, but the quality is great for the price. I've always been pretty happy with their stuff and their customer service is really top notch.

DurianGray
Dec 23, 2010

King of Fruits


QuentinCompson posted:

Anyone have Adagio's UtiliTEA? Are you satisfied with it? It's the lowest-cost variable temperature kettle I could find anywhere.

I've got one. It's technically my boyfriend's, but I've come to prefer it over non-electric or single-temperature electric kettles. You can't really get perfectly exact temperatures on it, but it does pretty well in regards to having boiling or near-boiling water. I'd say it's a decent investment.

DurianGray
Dec 23, 2010

King of Fruits


The Bravo is passable. It's not the best Earl Grey I've ever had, but it's by no means the worst. For the love of God, though, DO NOT get the Earl Grey Moonlight. It's the only thing I've ever regretted buying from them and it's still sitting around in the bottom of my tea box somewhere. It's possible I got a bad batch, but the stuff seriously tasted like soap every time I made it.

And when you say "stronger" EGs, do you mean darker tea, or a stronger bergamot (citrus) flavor? My local tea store has this Russian Earl Grey that's a bit pricier but really citrusy and has a pretty unique profile for an EG. It's also one of my favorite teas.

DurianGray
Dec 23, 2010

King of Fruits


I've only ever had the Oi Ocha from Ito En, and as far as bottled teas go, it's probably the best I've tried so far. I think I've seen the Tea's Tea stuff (if that's what you guys mean by the American Ito En) and I can't remember if I tried it or not. If I did, it obviously didn't leave much of an impression.

I went to my local tea place the other day and splurged on some chrysanthemum and a mix they have called 'Jazz Mint'. It's just a blend of a jasmine green tea and mint leaves, sort of like a Moroccan mint but wow, does the jasmine add a different profile to it. The chrysanthemum is really interesting too. The only other tea I've had that was just dried flowers before was camomile and it's a lot different. It's almost... peppery? I don't know how to describe it exactly, but it does blend with almost anything.

Jenkin, good call on the (amazing tea) that you got her. I saw what it was before you changed it and have heard a lot of good things about that one.

DurianGray
Dec 23, 2010

King of Fruits


Most of Teavana's really tasty stuff is just fruit/tisane blends. Honestly, if you really like blends like that, you can buy a lot of the 'raw' ingredients from various tea retailers for damned cheap and mix it yourself. You could also just make your own mixes. Adagio has a lot of fruits and flowers and the like for damned cheap and I love that company for so many reasons. Teavana's website lists a lot of the stuff that's in the blends you mentioned, if not all of it, so it's probably pretty easy to approximate.

Also, what the gently caress is SUPERFRUIT ENHANCED supposed to be (besides a marketing gimmick)?

DurianGray
Dec 23, 2010

King of Fruits


Adagio is awesome

I mean, if you want more variety/choice once you figure out the styles of tea you like, you should probably go elsewhere*, but as far as an introductory seller, or a seller that has great prices for good quality stuff and amazing customer service, you can't go wrong. drat their reward point system too, it keeps me coming back again and again because I have free stuff to redeem.

Their sample packages are a pretty great deal too, and perfect for figuring out what you like and starting to develop a tea palate. I'm kinda sad that they went to the bag-only packaging. I loved those tiny little tins you would get with the samples. I'm glad I kept all mine.

Also, if you haven't checked out their custom blend area it's... interesting. I can say that pretty much the entire Zodiac series is fantastic. It's also bizarre seeing the pop-culture based series of teas that come out. I've seen Twilight, Harry Potter, Dr. Who, Game of Thrones, and others in the past and unsurprisingly someone has made a My Little Pony series...

It really is a pretty cool feature and worth checking out if you're into blending your own stuff, though.

*Even people on the tea forum that Adagio itself hosts admit that while Adagio is a great starting point, most of them have since moved on to other retailers.

DurianGray
Dec 23, 2010

King of Fruits


tirinal posted:

People just dislike them because a lot of their marketing is bullshit, they gouge you on accessories, and the teas themselves are indeed expensive. I don't know how you can call them fairly cheap if you compare them to something like Upton Teas.

Oh, I know Upton is a hell of a lot cheaper than pretty much anything else, especially considering the huge catalog of stuff they have, but if you don't know exactly what you want it's incredibly intimidating. Hell, I've been pretty into tea for the last 2+ years and I'm still sort of scared by just how much stuff they have (I get their quarterly catalog thing and drat is it huge). Their website design is pretty atrocious though. Out of curiosity though, what do you mean by Adagio's marketing bullshit? I've never seen anything from them as terrible as a lot of tea retailers that tout (false) health benefits constantly and make tea seem like some sort of miracle sap gathered from the gently weeping teat of Great Odin himself. Just sort of confused as to what you're referring to. Adagio is pretty inexpensive compared to about 90% of tea retailers I've come across. Unless perhaps you're getting them confused with Teavana, in which case every single accusation you're making makes a hell of a lot more sense.

Just an interesting comparison between Teavana and Adagio:

Both have Black Dragon Pearls for sale. From what I've heard (this is conjecture, but seems plausible) they probably get their BDPs from the same supplier.
Adagio charges $50 for a pound.
Teavana charges $60 for HALF a pound.

Hummingbirds, don't feel bad at all. Adagio was my starting place, and the starting place for a lot of people, and while I haven't gotten anything from them in a while, I probably will get a few things from them in the future when some of my "daily" tea stock starts running out. And when I have money.

DurianGray
Dec 23, 2010

King of Fruits


indigi posted:

What's "the Russian style?" Also how long do tea leaves stay good?

He might be referring to the fact that the popular style of tea in Russia already has a lot of things added into it like fruits and flowers, so it's pretty sweet to begin with and adding sugar is sort of par for the course (at least as I understand it).

The OP mentions how to keep your tea leaves good longer. It's best to use them within a month or so of getting them, but this can vary a lot with the type of tea. They don't really go "bad" as long as they don't get wet (and therefore moldy), but the flavor starts to leech away after a while. Exposure to air and sunlight is what takes the flavor out of tea the fastest, so just keep it in a sealed container and out of the light.

DurianGray
Dec 23, 2010

King of Fruits


Hey, Aldantefax and anybody else who wants to do a write-up or how-to guide of some sort, feel free! As long as it's mildly tea related and has good information in it, do whatever you want.

I think that bubble tea probably has a place here if you want to discuss it, I'm really not picky. Any sort of alternative non/semi-teas you want to discuss is fine by me. I know I'd actually love to see some information on kombucha if anybody is familiar with it.

Serendipitaet, I'd say you could resteep your darjeeling. I mean, at worst, you get a watered down second steeping, so it's worth a try. I've resteeped mine before and it was fine.

DurianGray
Dec 23, 2010

King of Fruits


Oh, I'd totally forgotten about Steepster! I had an account on there a while ago, and it's actually still around. I haven't been on there in a while but it doesn't look like it's changed much from a year or so ago. It's pretty good for reviews of teas from specific vendors that you might be thinking of trying out. A lot of the people on there tend to be pretty harsh in their criticisms, moreso than you'll see in reviews that might be hosted on the vendor's actual sites, which can be a good thing sometimes. It can be a good way of keeping notes on the teas that you have and what you liked or didn't like. Their forums, from what I remember, can get sort of catty occasionally. No idea if that's changed.

DurianGray
Dec 23, 2010

King of Fruits


Scented teas can be kind of a crapshoot, but they're not all terrible. The one you had was probably artificially scented, especially given the price; they tend to have that handsoap taste sometimes.

If you get a Jasmine or other 'flower scented' tea, make sure that it's been scented with real flowers. Same can go for some of the flavored teas, the cheaper ones can taste like chemicals sometimes, especially if you oversteep at all.

DurianGray
Dec 23, 2010

King of Fruits


Caffeine really does effect different people differently. I have a friend that can have just one cup of a black tea and she's practically bouncing off the walls. I, on the other hand, can have a whole pot (say, three cups) of the same and fall right asleep. It really just depends on how sensitive you are to it.

Sirotan, besides just looking at plain tisanes, you could try blends. Sometimes if you just get the right plants together, their flavors can do some really weird and interesting things you wouldn't expect. Adagio's Foxtrot is sort of like that. It's rooibos, mint, and chamomile, but somehow when those are blended together it turns out almost creamy and you'd probably have a hard time placing what was in it if you didn't know beforehand.

I'm pretty sure that I've heard of places that sell good decaf teas, but I honestly can't remember exactly who. You could try looking up reviews either on seller websites or on Steepster or something. I've heard that the method of doing a brief steep, dumping it, then steeping it again is pretty effective, too.

DurianGray
Dec 23, 2010

King of Fruits


The only thing it's damaged so far is my finances.

Pretty much the only 'danger' I've ever heard of is drinking it when it's too hot which has obvious immediate effects of hurting like a bitch, but in the long term may* cause damage to your mouth and throat. I've heard of people who get stomachaches when they drink darker teas (or sometimes matcha or other green teas), but that's on an individual basis. Otherwise, pretty much what Goddamn said. Oh, and as long as you're not heaping a bunch of sugar or something in it too, it's pretty healthy. Oh yeah, and you might want to be careful with some herbals/tisanes if you've got bad allergies or something. My local tea shop has/had pennyroyal for sale, which can kill almost anyone if you aren't really careful with how much you drink of it

*I think I read an article somewhere that said there was possibly some link between some cases of mouth/throat cancer and drinking really hot tea/coffee/whatever too often, but I can't remember where it was or how valid that study might have been.

DurianGray fucked around with this message at Nov 28, 2011 around 04:32

DurianGray
Dec 23, 2010

King of Fruits


Yeah, there's been some discussion about them and their sales practices already in this thread. Sorry you had to go through that twice You'll probably have a lot better luck if you can find a non-chain* local tea store. Every small tea store that I've been to has had pretty laid back employees. Barring that, there are a ton of online retailers listed in the OP.

*I'm pretty sure that Teavana is the only nationwide American tea store chain right now, though.

DurianGray
Dec 23, 2010

King of Fruits


I like infuser baskets. As long as it's open/wide enough, I don't think it 'restricts' the leaves enough that the flavor is impacted. (Tea balls are another story.) They're really convenient if you like to brew up a big pot and drink out of it over a period of time but don't want your tea to oversteep and get nasty. I've been to a few tea cafes/houses before that left the leaves loose in the pot, and by the time I'd had my food and chatted the last cup or so is just astringently awful. I know some people dig that crazy tannic bitterness, but if you don't, get an infuser basket.

DurianGray
Dec 23, 2010

King of Fruits


Colt Cannon posted:

http://www.teavana.com/the-teas/whi...bylon-white-tea

I love this tea, but can only find it at Teavana, which greatly upsets me. Anyone know of another place to find this blend, or one that is similar? I can't find a pineapple anywhere, or at least where I look.


Also, what happened to specialteas? It is really sad to see them get bought out by Teavana.

Your best chance might be to blend it yourself. You could try heading to a local fancy/health food store and see if they have the various fruits in dried form, then get a white tea you could blend them with. If you can't find the fruits already dried, it's not that hard to buy them fresh and dry them yourself. That blend does look pretty delicious, though.

DurianGray
Dec 23, 2010

King of Fruits


Wedemeyer posted:

Speaking of things with strong smells, is honeybush tea supposed to smell like pickles/rubber? It's so overpowering I can't even taste the tea.

Maybe the water was too hot or you steeped it for too long? That's really weird, but I've had some pretty weird flavors show up in different teas because the water was too hot.

DurianGray
Dec 23, 2010

King of Fruits


That's really interesting, I didn't know that chai in India was just milk. A lot of the chai that gets sold in the US has recipes/instructions that say to use a mix of milk and water. I'm probably gonna have to try making some chai with just milk sometime and see how that comes out.

Just wondering, Haier, can you get teas imported from China where you are or do they not do that? I'll admit I don't really know anything about the politics/trade relations between India and China.

DurianGray
Dec 23, 2010

King of Fruits


Here's a basic run-down of the southern style sweet tea that I grew up around:
1. Get a bunch of generic tea bags from the grocery store. Orange Pekoe is typically the only identifier it'll have beyond it being a black tea.
2. Fill a small pot with maybe 2 or 3 cups of water and bring to a boil. Put in about a handful or two of teabags.
3. Boil for 5-10 minutes (or longer sometimes).
4. Drain teabags and toss 'em. Pour the tea concentrate you just made into a large glass jar of some sort.
5. Add water to dilute the tea and lots of sugar (to taste).
6. Serve over ice with lemon slices and fresh mint leaves (bonus if you just picked them out of your back yard).

e: You really need to cool the tea down before you ice it. Hence the concentrate and dilution in this recipe/technique. Otherwise the ice is just going to dilute the tea even more when you don't want it diluted so it'll be bland water. You can even hold back on diluting the concentrate very much and depend on the slow melting of the ice to dilute it for you later.
e2: I re-read how you said you were making it. It's not concentrated enough for an actual southern-style tea if you're just using two of those large bags for two quarts. You should at least double up the recipe. And boil the water with the bags in it. It's sacrilege to any other method of tea brewing, but that's why southern tea is so tannin-heavy. If it's too strong or too bitter you just add more water/ice or sugar

^^^^ I've heard the thing about sun tea being potentially dangerous before, too. I've never gotten sick from it the times I've had it, but I can see why it could become a health hazard since the water is just sitting out and never brought to a very high temperature. It's also possible to cold-brew tea in a similar style. Pretty much the same approach as sun tea except you leave it in the fridge for a day or two instead of outside for a few hours.

DurianGray fucked around with this message at Jul 23, 2012 around 16:42

DurianGray
Dec 23, 2010

King of Fruits


Hawkgirl posted:

The Adagio ones are pretty but I got the free red white and blue ones from their 4th of July promotion and the colored ones seem to be way shoddier. I don't think the lid on my blue one is airtight.

I was wondering if those were like the regular ones or not. Guess I didn't miss out on much I am glad that I kept all the Adagio tins I got while they were still using them to fill all their orders instead of the bags.

DurianGray
Dec 23, 2010

King of Fruits


I use a Nissan thermos: http://www.amazon.com/dp/B00009V4FM...sl_96ig0s2tuh_e

It's a bit pricey, but if you want your drink to be just as hot as when you poured it in 6+ hours after the fact, it pays for itself.

Steve Yun posted:

Question about recommended tea temps: when they say that green tea is ideally brewed at 175 for 3 minutes, does that mean that the water should ideally be at 175 the whole three minutes or do they account for the temperature of the water dropping?

I think it accounts for the temperature dropping slightly. Really, if it's at 175 and you're only waiting 3 minutes, it's not going to be a huge drop anyway. I wouldn't really worry about it. Preheating your brewing vessel is a good idea if you're worried about it cooling the water more than you intend when you pour it in. (Personally, I don't find it makes much of a difference at least with the stuff I brew with, but to each their own.)

DurianGray
Dec 23, 2010

King of Fruits


I use my boyfriend's pretty much every day. It works nicely and I'd say it's pretty consistent based on the settings you choose. My only complaint might be that the little knob doesn't have any temperature labeling so you'd need to remember exact temperatures on your own if those are important to you. I'd say it's worth the price though.

DurianGray
Dec 23, 2010

King of Fruits


If you're having problems with your honey not mixing in I would definitely just mix it more or even keep stirring it every now and then as you're drinking the tea. If you let it get too cold there's a chance it could separate out again, too.

I just noticed recently that at least with some of the honeys that I have, the locally made/unprocessed ( and of course more expensive) honeys tend to do better with mixing and not crystalizing than the more processed, cheap, store-bought honeys. Just wondering if anyone else has found that to be true in their experience.

DurianGray
Dec 23, 2010

King of Fruits


Renzuko posted:

They just kinda stay in there till I make a new jug.

BUT this time I decided I'd see if I can use the same bits of plant twice (brother bought me some rooibos and herbal tea) and so far it does not look like it's working, REALLY opaque instead of the purple it was when I first brewed it.

edit - to clarify for the first bit so not to sound too gross, I've made jugs one after another, not leaving them sitting there.

Even if it's cold, the tea is going to keep steeping as long as it's in water. If you're doing a hot brew first, there's not much reason to keep the leaves (or whatever you're using) in there, especially once it's cooled down. If you're cold-brewing--that is, just starting with cold water and leaving the leaves in overnight or longer, which is what it sounds like you're sort of doing already--then you can keep the leaves in if you want, but personally I would probably remove them once the tea was done.

At any rate, if you're leaving the leaves in for a long time then most of the flavor is leeching out and you won't get a very good second go with them. Repeat steepings work better for smaller batches, like a few cups per steep. And, of course, if you hot brew and then take the leaves out it'd probably be a while before you could use them again (unless you do it more or less immediately and use another container), in which case you wouldn't want to because they'd likely get nasty.

But yea, the leaves sinking is totally normal. They'd get waterlogged after a while if you're leaving them in there for any appreciable length of time.

DurianGray
Dec 23, 2010

King of Fruits


I'm going to go ahead and agree with the past few posts. I usually only sweeten the middlin' to lower grade teas that I have. I'm a fan of trying different sorts of honeys and I usually use the tea more as a conveyance for the honey than anything else so I don't want to 'waste' a good quality or expensive tea for that purpose unless it's a one-off experiment just to see how it tastes sweetened.

And in regards to whether the more expensive tea is worth the cost in it really depends, I think. There's certainly a big difference between grocery store fannings/dust tea bags and everyday loose leaf, but once you start getting into the really high grades it takes a pretty well-developed palate to be able to tell much of a difference, like with most things.

Maybe you could see if the place with the more expensive tea would give you a sample for cheaper? Like half an ounce or something? It'd suck to spend $30~ on 4oz of a tea and find out you're not a big fan of it.

Though $35ish for 4oz isn't too bad if you break it down to cost per cup. If you get about 55-60 cups from that 4oz, it's only about 60 cents a cup or so (not counting multiple steepings if it's a tea suited to it, which would technically cut that cost at least in half if you do it everytime you make tea). If you get tea at restaurants/cafes a lot, it's a pretty big savings comparatively.

DurianGray
Dec 23, 2010

King of Fruits


So I actually ended up getting one* of Teavana's Yixing teapots with two matching cups for Christmas. It's the Blue Cherry Blossom one, and actually pretty adorable and I'd say worth the cost (even though it was a gift), which was surprising to me given Teavana's tendency to price gouge.

The only problem I sort of have with it is that it came with two 1 oz (or so) samples of the Mate Samurai Chai mixed with some other Oolong Chai that Teavana makes. While it's pretty tasty, I found that I kept getting pretty bad stomach aches after drinking the tea. At first I was worried that it was some weird effect from the teapot until I tried a plain oolong I got a while ago from Upton in it and was just fine. First time I've ever gotten a stomachache from a tea, and I've got a pretty strong stomach overall.

At any rate, it's done nothing but enhance my desire to avoid the majority of Teavana's stuff.



*Actually 2 sets since the first one came with a badly broken cup and the Amazon seller she got it from sent another full set (cups and pot) without asking for the original one back

DurianGray
Dec 23, 2010

King of Fruits


I'll admit I've never heard of that style of tea before, but I would say just use whatever tea you think would be good or tasty. I'd probably do it with a strong Earl Gray, but that's just my personal preference. The thing with tea, or any sort of recipe is that you really need to experiment to see what works best for you. Just experiment until you like what comes out

I'd probably skip getting the prepackaged tea powder stuff. I've never had very good luck with those sorts of things, they always come out reminding me of watery instant hot cocoa. Granted, that is from a Japanese company so it might be different/better that what I've experienced.

DurianGray
Dec 23, 2010

King of Fruits


I like rooibos, but I will say that I've gotten in from a few different places (including Adagio) and there are always little bits that get through the metal strainer I use. If it really bugs you, I'd say throw down a couple bucks and get some paper filters like these http://www.adagio.com/teaware/paper...e87d40054df6404 or something similar. You might even be able to find them at a local grocery or tea store if you have one.

They're also really great if you just want to make a single cup and not a full pot, or if you're like me and only have enough time to fill a thermos with hot water before you have to leave for work, but have enough time to let the tea steep while at work. I've also taken a few with me and some re purposed sample size tins of tea when I know I'm going to be travelling somewhere that there won't be teapots.

DurianGray
Dec 23, 2010

King of Fruits


I don't see why you couldn't put a touch of salt in it, especially with all the other flavors going on. I would think it'd help bring out more of the flavor and sweetness while not having to add more sugar, just like a lot of other sweet things that call for a pinch of salt. I've done that before with some of my regular teas just to add a little variety. It's really just the tiniest little bit, of course, but it can be pretty nice every now and then.

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DurianGray
Dec 23, 2010

King of Fruits


Tea doesn't usually do too well in cold water unless you leave it in there for a really long time--probably from 6-12 hours at the very least. At that rate I would suggest just making a largish batch of tea, refrigerating it, and then just divvy it out over the next few days.

Tea does have some documented health benefits* (I don't like pretending that it's some sort of magical miracle drink--it's just as healthy as fruits or vegetables can be as far as I see it) but I don't know how much temperature effects that. And you don't have to stick with just green tea; health benefits are pretty much the same for black tea, oolongs, etc. They all come from the same plant so the effects, whatever they may be, are pretty much the same.

*I guess especially if you're using it to replace soda or other calorie/sugar heavy drinks

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