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a home + living guide for the post-college, pre-parenthood, quasi-adult generation

10.15.2001

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T is for tea by Cynthia Salaysay | 1 2 3
continued from page 1

5. Let steep for three to five minutes. You may wish to experiment to find the right time for brewing according to your taste and the particular type of tea being used.   Green teas take between one and three minutes.
6. Serve with sugar or honey and cream, or lemon for black teas. I like to pour in the sugar before the cream, since its easier to dissolve sugar crystals when the tea is at its hottest. Green teas are best plain. Herbal teas can take honey and lemon.

Perhaps most importantly, a cheap tea tastes, well, cheap. If you skip the Lipton and spend a little more, you¹ll gain a new world of flavor. The grade of tea used in your everyday commercial bag of tea is what’s known as fannings, or dust. There are no whole leaves in there, just little specks. Little specks of little flavor.  There’s a whole world beyond that, of fine teas of whole leaves with romantic names like Dragonwell and Gunpowder.

Sure, wandering through the tea section in a good grocery store or gourmet shop can be as intimidating as wandering through the wine aisle.  The sheer variety can be confusing, and the prices are frequently fairly high. As a general rule, the better teas, composed of larger leaves, do cost more money, but you don’t have to spend a lot to get a better cup of tea. For little more than you’d pay for the Lipton tea dust, you can get bags of orange pekoe, which isn’t a different type of tea but rather, a higher grade of the leaf used in tea bags. And a low-priced loose leaf tea of large, whole leaves will beat a box of tea bags any day.

If you’re going to venture into more exotic tea flavors, it helps to know a little about the basic varieties available out there. There are three major types of teas, black, oolong, and green, all of which come from the same fresh green leaf of the tea plant. Their differences come from the processing. Black teas are the strongest flavored of the three types, and the ones with the most caffeine. The leaves go through a drying process and then are twisted and rolled to bring out the leaves’ juices. When the juices hit the air, they oxidize and turn black, giving the teas their black color and strong taste. Oolong tea is only allowed to partially oxidize, creating a tea that is lighter in taste. It's good with Asian food and is commonly served in Chinese restaurants. Green teas, on the other hand, aren’t oxidized at all. Rather, the leaves are steamed, then rolled and quickly dried, preserving the fresh taste of the green tea leaf. Rich in antioxidants and lowest in caffeine, green teas are very good for your health.

Tea, like coffee, possesses different qualities depending upon where it’s cultivated. Grown around the world at high elevations with plenty of humidity and rain, most teas are named after the region in which they’re produced.  

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