Since today is the autumn equinox, I thought I would dedicate the rest of the week listing some of my favorite things about autumn. The summers in the Northwest never seem to last long enough for me. I dread those first signs of the fleeting summer that signal autumn’s approach. Yet, once I reach the point of acceptance, I fully commit to the transition and willingly embrace autumn’s arrival.
As the temperatures have cooled, I’ve really been enjoying tea. I’ve only recently developed a true appreciation for tea. I never really learned much about tea and how long it needs to steep and always felt it had a bitter quality. Now that I’ve learned more about how to prepare tea, I realize this is not at all the case. Although there are some teas that are intentionally bitter, for the most part the teas I was preparing were simply over-steeped.
If you know anything about Seattle, you know it is a coffee town. I too love coffee, but I recently kicked the coffee habit and have found myself drinking a lot more tea. I work a block away from a great tea house called Vital Tea, where they have daily tea tastings. Between going there and learning about tea from friends, I now know how to avoid making bitter tea, and I’m hooked. Lately I’ve been drinking tea pretty much all day. I find it so hard to drink cold water all day when I’m already struggling to stay warm, and nothing can warm me up quite like drinking tea.
There are thousands of teas out there, but I thought I’d share some of my favorites right now. I’ve just put together a few notes about these teas, but this is in no way comprehensive and I am far from an expert.
Sencha creates a nice, cloudy, deep green tea. It has a delightful grassy flavor, and is the tea I drink the most.
Oolong teas: Blue People, Milk Oolong
Oolong comes in what looks like little balls of tea leaves. After steeping once or twice, the leaves start to unfurl and create a beautiful, toasty golden tea. The Blue People also has ginseng, so I like to drink it when I’m in a bit of a mental fog. The Milk Oolong is probably the best tea I’ve ever head. It’s a very light blonde color and has a buttery flavor. It’s…amazing.
Herbal teas: Chrysanthemum, Medicinal
When I don’t feel like having any caffeine, I usually go for the Chrysanthemum with a little bit of stevia leaves added for sweetness. It’s a really light, floral tea that is also somewhat relaxing.
I also use several medicinal teas for everything from boosting the immune system to clearing out the sinuses during a head cold to helping calm an achy stomach.
There are two things about tea that I never knew before that have helped me develop a greater appreciation for them. Maybe everyone already knew this, and I’m just the last one to know. Just in case that isn’t true, here are the two things:
- Different types of teas need different temperatures of water for steeping. For example, you don’t want to make green tea with boiling water, but it’s great for herbal teas. Here is a great resource for water temperatures for different teas.
- When you use quality tea (not from a teabag at the grocery store), you pay more for it, but you can actually steep the leaves numerous times – usually 3-4 times depending on the tea. This actually makes it a pretty good value.
I rarely use any sweetener in my tea, although I do like to add stevia to some herbal teas. Otherwise, I prefer my tea on its own. If you do like sweetener, I recommend giving stevia leaves a try. You can just add them to your other tea leaves, and a little goes a long way. You don’t have to use refined sugar or artificial sweeteners to get a delicious sweet flavor to your tea that isn’t overpowering. The one other sweetener I’ll use is honey, but usually only if I’m sick and want the honey to coat my sore throat.
If you use a good quality tea with the right temperature of water, you’ll never have to drink another bitter cup of tea again, unless, of course, that’s what you want. I’ve actually tried a bitter green tea that is said to aid weightloss. It was very, very bitter.