Good news for our local customers in Tampa, FL, especially those living in the South Tampa area. Our teas are currently available at Village Health Market located at 3225 S. MacDill Avenue in the tea section. Teajo Teas are the first loose tea products to arrive on their shelves, which is very exciting. This is just another step in our mission to introduce and promote loose tea.
Recently, we have had a few customers ask us if the Smart Tea Maker is safe to use in the microwave. While many of our customers do use their Smart Tea Makers to brew their loose tea in the microwave, the manufacturer has not laboratory tested the units in the microwave. Even though many of our customers are brewing their tea in this fasion without incident, we cannot make the claim that the Smart Tea Maker is safe to use in the microwave.
If you want to use the microwave, our suggestion is to heat the water first in the microwave and then pour into the Smart Tea Maker. Of course, you can always use a hot water dispenser, a pot of boiling water or a kettle as well.
What do I mean by the loose tea lifestyle? It's pretty simple, and it is not just about tea. Living a loose tea lifestyle means you actually place a priority on quality, freshness and flavor and not convenience. You are willing to spend a minute extra to brew loose tea over a tea bag. You are also the type of individual who actually chooses to use your kitchen to prepare a meal from fresh ingredients instead of opting for prepared foods. Sharing this experience with friends and family are also a part of this lifestyle. So how do you live your life...like a tea bag or a batch of fresh loose tea leaves?
The primary reason for the difference in flavor between Japanese Sencha (green) tea and Chinese green tea has to do with the processing. With Japanese Sencha, the loose tea leaves are initially steamed for a very brief period to prevent oxidation, whereas Chinese green tea leaves are initally pan-fired without any steaming process.
Ultimately, the steaming process with Japanese sencha creates a more vegetal, almost grassy-like flavor. The Sencha loose tea leaves are also much greener in color and have a long cylindrical, needle-like shape.
Need another reason to switch to loose tea? For those of you who are also foodies in addition to being tea drinkers, try making a quality tea rub out of tea bags. With loose tea, not only do you not have to tear open tea bags, but you start with a much better quality blend. With its whole tea leaves, whole ingredients and spices, flavored loose tea, in particular, will provide much more flavor when preparing a tea rub as compared to a tea bag. You will notice the superiority of loose tea in the freshness, aroma and flavor of your tea rub. You can try different grades of loose tea as well to see how the flavor changes with the leaf size.
For those of you who are tossing out your tea leaves after a single brewing, this is for you. You can easily get a second brew out of your tea leaves, especially if you are drinking quality tea. Just pour hot water over your already brewed tea leaves and brew according to your tea type (Black and green teas - 3 to 4 min, Rooibos and herbals - 5 to 7 min). You might need to brew a minute longer the second time, but as long as your water has not cooled off, you will enjoy just as much flavor out of the second cup as the first!
This process is much simpler when you are using a brewer like the Smart Tea Maker. You can still do this with a tea filter, but it is a little messier, as you will have to store your soggy, tea-filled filter on a spoon rest or similar until you are ready for the second brew.
Because loose tea is basically a non-perishable food item, you have plenty of options when it comes to storage. However, the way you store your tea can significantly affect its shelf life and freshness. The basic rules to loose tea storage are as follows:
Minimize the exposure to light - Tea should not be directly exposed to light, so avoid glass or any other type of transparent materials.
Avoid exposure to moisture - Store your tea in a relatively cool and dry place. This is especially important if you live in a warm, humid climate.
Avoid exposure to air - Exposure to air is your number one enemy when it comes to maintaining freshness. A stand-up resealable pouch or a tin canister with an air-tight lid will be sufficient.
Keep away from foods with strong odors - Tea will absorb flavors and aromas from surrounding foods and spices, so as long as you keep your tea in an air-tight container, you should be fine.
Maintain a moderate tea inventory - This may not be a standard rule, but it is one of mine. Why spend lots of money on a lot of tea that will ultimately go stale because you aren't going through it fast enough? Unless you drink a lot of tea on a daily basis, we don't recommend you purchase more than 2-4 oz at a time, which is enough for 25-50 servings. If you are buying your tea from the mall, watch out for those crafty salespeople, who will have you walking out of the store with 6 months worth of tea!
By the way, if you do buy your tea from the mall, you may be surprised to learn that quality and freshness are not their top priorities. I recommend you read http://www.teajo.com/about_our_tea.php, and then ask the tea salespeople at the mall if their tea follows the same standards. Sometimes you don't always get what you pay for!
Are you still drinking tea from a tea bag? My goal is that by the time you finish reading this article, you will reconsider your tea bag ways and think seriously about switching to loose tea. If better quality, freshness and flavor are not important to you, then continue with your tea bags. Otherwise, you may want to read some of my arguments below in favor of loose tea.
I hear the following excuse all the time..."I don't have time to make loose tea and like the convenience of the tea bag..." We as Americans are so caught up in convenience and instant gratification that we continue to sacrifice quality and flavor, not to mention health benefits when it comes to tea. Making loose tea is so simple that it takes only requires a marginal increase in time over using a tea bag. All you need to brew loose tea is either (a) an unbleached tea filter pouch or (b) a Smart Tea Maker or similar brewing device. Visit http://www.teajo.com/teainfo-preparing.php to learn more about the brewing options for loose tea. If using a Smart Tea Maker, you are looking at an investment of less than $20 to enjoy great loose tea. You can also purchase a box of 100 unbleached tea filters for less than $6.00. In terms of time, it may take a few more minutes to prepare loose tea vs. tea bag preparation. But isn't it worth a few extra minutes of your time for superior quality and taste?
While there are some tea bag products that try to duplicate the quality and freshness of loose tea, few of them come close. Tea bags traditionally contain dust or fannings, which are the lowest grade of leftovers after the tea leaves are processed. There are a few companies that are now placing higher grade tea into their bags, but they still fall short of loose leaf quality. Break open a tea bag, look at the contents and compare the size of the leaves to that of loose tea. Do you notice how much larger and more defined the loose tea leaves are? There is an entire grading system for tea leaves, which is based on the leaf size and texture. I will not go into detail here but will expand upon tea grades in future blogs. The other differences you will notice are the superior aroma and freshness of loose tea, especially when it comes to flavored teas. Unless the tea bags are individually sealed, they are exposed to air and will lose flavor and freshness much quicker than loose tea. The tea bag also restricts the amount of space needed for the tea leaves to expand, which also affects the infusion process.
When you are finished drinking loose tea, there are no staples, nylon or silk bags to throw away. Loose tea is much more environmentally friendly. The worst offenders are the pyramid shaped silk tea bags which purportedly offer the quality of loose tea in the convenience of a bag. What is the point of putting a healthy, organic product like tea into a synthetic, non-environmentally friendly bag and throw them both together in boiling hot water? These pyramid tea bags look pretty, but considering their ridiculous cost, they are still lacking in quality and flavor when compared to loose tea.
In the end, it comes down to having enough compelling reasons to change any habit. If you decide to make the switch to loose tea, I have the feeling you will not return to tea bags. I understand that not everyone feels the same way about quality and flavor as I do when it comes to tea. If this is the case, stick with your box of 100 tea bags for $2.99. It is not worth your time or money to convert to loose tea. However, if you really care about what you are drinking and you still drink tea from a tea bag, it is time for you to make the change.