Tea Journal

Living a Loose Leaf Tea Lifestyle: A Commitment?

Tea Time

It has been just four short months since I made the commitment to start drinking loose tea. I thought it would be fun to take a look back and see what changes I’ve made to accommodate my loose tea lifestyle.

Loose Tea Seemed Too Complicated

During my tea bag years the thought of drinking loose tea seemed much too complicated.

First of all, I had no idea how to steep the leaves without having leafy chunks in my cup. Using an infuser/filter was a totally foreign concept to me at the time. Consequently, I placed the idea of drinking loose tea into an imaginary box in my mind labeled: I don’t have time to figure this out right now.

Plus, if it wasn’t on the grocery store shelf, I didn’t buy it. I was totally resistant to trying something new. This was partly due to the fact that I had had many undesirable taste experiences with off-the-shelf brands.

When I finally found a tea brand that I liked, I stuck to that brand for years. I ended up drinking a very limited selection of tea and rarely left my comfort zone of safe teas to drink.

But for some reason, a few months ago I decided to venture outside the tea bag. This required a few changes in how I approached buying and preparing tea. In a way, my loose tea drinking had become a commitment I was willing to make.

The Loose Leaf Tea Commitment

Here are the changes I’ve made to accommodate my new loose tea lifestyle.

Change #1:

I now spend a lot more time on the purchasing process. Unlike tea bags, I can’t simply go down to my local grocery store and find a variety of loose teas. Instead, I have to go online or travel an hour away to find a teashop.

I find myself spending a good 30 to 90 minutes every couple months on tea webstores like Adagio, American Tea Room and Art of Tea. Part of that time is spent reading tea reviews. The rest of the time, I’m like a kid in a candy store who can’t make up her mind which tea to buy because they all look so good!

When I only bought tea at the grocery store, the main challenge was trying to find a tea that actually tasted good. Now, my main challenge is trying to choose among a wide selection of delicious teas I want to try!

Change #2:

Next, drinking loose tea does require some additional equipment.

Tea Accessories

First of all, an infuser basket (e.g., Finum Brewing Basket) teapot or paper filter (e.g., Finum Paper Filter) is a necessity. That is if you don’t want tea leaves floating in your brew.

Here again, like trying to find loose tea locally, it is very difficult to find a variety (if any) infusers or teapots in my hometown. Unless of course, I want to use a tea ball strainer. Ugh! I’ve learned that these contraptions are fairly useless—they don’t allow enough room for the tea leaves to expand during steeping.

Another tea accessory I have found handy is a thermometer; I use it when I want to make sure the water temperature is just right for the tea I want to prepare. Luckily, it is pretty easy to find a thermometer at nearly any store that sells kitchen gadgets.

In addition, I’ve spent a small fortune on just tea canisters to keep the tea fresh longer. I also like to use a teaspoon to measure the tea. I’m not very good at using the “just a pinch” method of measurement.

Lastly, something I’ve come to believe is a requisite to fully enjoy the taste of loose tea is a water filtration system. I personally use an inexpensive Brita Water Pitcher with Filter and have found it quite convenient.

Change #3:

I’ve also been taking a little more time to prepare loose tea.

First, I use my Brita Water Pitcher to filter fresh tap water.

Next, I wash my infuser basket or teapot (if I haven’t done so already). If using a paper filter, I can skip this step. But I think it actually takes more time trying to get the tea to fit into a small paper filter then it does to measure it into an infuser basket or teapot. Therefore, I don’t use paper filters very often.

Then, I measure the tea with a teaspoon and place in teapot or infuser basket.

Once the water has been filtered, I pour it into an Electric Water Kettle and wait for the water to boil.

If I’m steeping tea that needs a water temperature below boiling, like a green tea, this takes a little extra time. I have to wait for the water to cool to the temperature I want before adding the leaves to brew. Although, it’s definitely worth the wait!

Lastly, I pour the hot water over the tea leaves and let them steep for the appropriate amount of time based on the tea I am using.

Overall, it really doesn’t take that much more time to brew a cup of loose tea than it takes to use a conventional tea bag but, it feels like it takes much longer.

It’s all perception I guess.

It Is Worth the Commitment

Despite having to spend a little extra time planning my tea purchases, finding tea accessories and preparing loose leaf tea, the effort is worth it.

I’ve never enjoyed tea as much as I have these past four months. Tea bags just cannot compare to loose tea when it comes to taste. It’s worth the commitment.

Vendor Provided Sample: No

Affiliate Links: Yes

Photo Credit: A Girl With Tea

This is “a girl with tea” signing off once again.

Remember to live, laugh, love and drink plenty of tea.

What are your thoughts about loose tea being a commitment? Or, how do you prepare your loose tea?

Does Bad Mood Equal Bad Tea?

My White Gibson Teacup

Yesterday, I decided to open a sample pack of Grand Imperial Yunnan I had purchased from the America Tea Room and ended up having a wonderful tasting experience. The flavors were rich and complex with hints of dark chocolate and black pepper. Yum!

I was looking forward to re-living that experience today, but alas my cup only gave me an apparition of the taste I had experienced 24 hours ago.

Not to long ago, I happened to have watched a video where Gary Vaynerchuk commented on how the flavor of wine can change based on one’s mood, which got me thinking: If mood can affect the taste of wine, why not tea?

Looking back on my day and comparing it to the day before, I realized that I was feeling a bit more rushed and on edge today. I also didn’t take time to savor the flavor of each sip. I drank my tea somewhat mindlessly because my thoughts were elsewhere.

I do think there is something to mood affecting flavor. I’ll have to investigate further.

For now, I’ll give the Grand Imperial Yunnan another try and focus on taking a few minutes to relax and enjoy all the nuances of taste my teacup provides.

Vendor Provided Sample: No

Affiliate Links: No

Photo Credit: A Girl With Tea

This is “a girl with tea” signing off once again.

Remember to live, laugh, love and drink plenty of tea.

What are your thoughts about mood affecting the taste of tea?

I Love Lemon

neoliminal - via Flickr CC Attribution License

For some reason I was in the mood for lemon yesterday. I did have a few Bigelow “I Love Lemon” tea bags squirreled away in a drawer, so I steeped one of those up. The taste wasn’t too bad, it was actually quite refreshing. But, it got me thinking about lemon tea.

My Lemon Tea History:

I’ve never really explored all the varieties of lemon tea before. In fact, in addition to the Bigelow tea above, the only other lemon tea I’ve tried recently is the Tazo Zen(which happens to be one of my favorite summer time teas).

Oh, I almost forgot that my mom used to buy Lipton’s instant tea with lemon (unsweetened) when we were kids. Although, I never drank the stuff since I was more of a soda fan at the time.

In my college years, however, I did chug down quite a few containers of the diet (artificially sweetened) instant lemon, peach and raspberry tea. Nothing like a glass of “foamy” tea! I would dump some instant ice tea powder into a glass, then turn on the tap and fill the glass with water; this always gave the tea a nice head of foam. Those were the days!

Adding Lemon Slices to Tea:

And of course, how could I forget the days I used to always order iced tea with lemon.

Unfortunately, several years ago I watched and exposé news story that unveiled all the bacteria lurking in lemons served with beverages in restaurants.

Yummy Lemon Flavored Water!

As a side-note, just Google “lemon slices in restaurants” to learn more, if you dare. Because, I haven’t ordered water or tea with lemon since learning about it.

In fact, this information pretty much turned me off of eating-out all together (but that’s another story). So, if you love ordering tea with lemon, forget I said anything!

At home, though, I do love to add lemon slices to my water just to give it a little extra flavor.

I rarely add a lemon slice to tea unless it’s a plain-black-iced-tea like the kind you would brew from a Lipton tea bag. In fact, I’m not a big fan of adding real lemon to already brewed tea in general, but I do like the taste of lemon flavored tea…okay that is just strange!

Looking for Lemon Tea:

Since I’ve been drinking more loose tea these days, I am thinking that I need to re-explore more lemon flavored teas. Perhaps, there are even some teas with real lemon bits? It will certainly be fun to investigate more thoroughly; my mouth is already watering!

Vendor Provided Sample: No

Affiliate Links: Yes

Additional Photo Credits: A Girl With Tea

This is “a girl with tea” signing off once again.

Remember to live, laugh, love and drink plenty of tea.



Do you have any “lemon teas” that you can recommend?

Organic & Fair Trade Tea from Persimmon Tree Tea

Persimmon Tree Tea Tins

Yesterday, I stopped at the Post Office to check to see if any new teas had arrived, and I was pleased to see a package from Persimmon Tree Tea. This is the first tea vendor I’ve run across that provides only organic and fair trade teas. I think that’s pretty cool!

Anyway, back to my new package…

Upon opening the box, I was pleasantly surprised to find that the tea blends all came in beautiful little mini-tins, which were all nestled in brown gift shred.

Usually, I am pretty laid-back about trying new tea. I’ll put-off any temptation by telling myself to wait for the “right time.” Translation: When I feel like it.

But, for some reason I just couldn’t wait to tear into each sample of tea and give them each a whiff. It must have been the packaging that got me all excited!

After taking in the indulgent fragrance of each tea, I got pretty eager to try each one then and there. Within a span of a couple hours I had tasted each of the four teas I had received.

Here are my initial thoughts.

Chocolate Banana (rooibos blend): Wow! It tastes like real banana. I really enjoyed my first cup of this blend.

Coconut Cacao (pu-er blend): Interesting, reminds me of licorice for some reason and usually I don’t like that particular flavor, but in this tea it was quite subtle and appealing.

Vanilla Chai (rooibos blend): Not too excited about this one, but a decent chai. I would have liked it better if there had been a slight creamy taste to underscore the spice, but that is a personal preference.

Earl Grey Crème (black tea blend): Yum! This is one of the best Earl Grey teas I’ve tasted. Of course, I’ve only tried three others my entire life and they were all of the bagged variety. Yet, I couldn’t get this tea out of my mind all day today! Therefore, numerous cups of this blend where drunken throughout the day.

Vendor Provided Sample: Yes

Affiliate Links: No

Photo Credit: A Girl With Tea

This is “a girl with tea” signing off once again.

Remember to live, laugh, love and drink plenty of tea.

What is your favorite tea packaging?

Obstacles to Drinking Loose Tea in a Cubicle

dan4th - via Flickr CC Attribution License

Life in a cubicle can be a challenge, especially when trying to appreciate loose tea, so I’ve found myself resorting to old habits: the tea bag.

Three Main Obstacles

For me, there seems to be three main obstacles when trying to drink loose tea in a cubicle:

1. Access to good tasting water

2. Access to a way to heat the water (other than a microwave)

3. Time

First off, I have to admit that I am quite fortunate because hot (not boiling) water is readily available in my work area. However, it tastes funky, like it has been sitting in a metal container for too long.

There is of course the option to bring in a water filtration system, such as a Brita Water Pitcher with Filter (like I use at home). But, that doesn’t solve the problem of having a heat source to boil the water. Heating elements outside of the break-room are not allowed for safety reasons.

I do have access to a microwave, but I’m not fond of how the water tastes when boiled in it. The water seems to take on a strange flat like taste, making it not much better than the hot water already being supplied.

Then there is the matter of time: It can take a little more time to drink loose tea than use the convenient tea bag.

For instance, I’ve got to take the loose tea and put it into some type of filter (e.g., Finum Brewing Basket, T-Sac or Teapot) to keep my tea free from leafy chunks. This wouldn’t be any big deal but, I have back-to-back appointments and barely have enough time to pee let alone make a cup of tea. Ha! That rhymed!

Tazo Awake Tea

I guess loose tea just isn’t going to be an option at work for now. Maybe someday I’ll be able to work at home! Yep, that’s the ticket to ever-flowing delicious tea while working!

For now, I will continue to use my tried and true friend the tea bag. I am quite found of Tazo Awake tea (and consider it one of my staple teas) because it does a good job of covering-up the taste of not-so-desirable water. I am happy with that.

One Alternative

Although, I could bring a thermos filled with hot water to work with me. But, I am not sure if it would keep the water hot long enough to quench my thirst for tea. It might work for a cup or two at the beginning of my day. I guess I won’t know until I give it a try.

Appreciating Clean Water

As I get near to finishing this post, I realize that I have a lot to be thankful for, including clean water to drink.

There are so many people around the world without access to un-contaminated water and here I am complaining about flat tasting water at work. With that said, I’m going to be a bit more mindful of appreciating clean water, even if it does taste a bit funky.

Vendor Provided Sample: No

Affiliate Links: Yes

Additional Photo Credits: A Girl With Tea

This is “a girl with tea” signing off once again.

Remember to live, laugh, love and drink plenty of tea.

Do you have any thoughts about drinking tea in a cubicle? Or, what is one tea that you tend to always have on hand?

No More “Fishy” Tea Please

Vintage Collection – via Flickr CC Attribution License

Today, I tried puerh for the first time. It’s an experience I won’t soon forget!

A New Tea Experience

I decided to start the day with a new tea, something I had never tried before.

After several minutes of deliberation, I selected a puerh I had purchased a couple months ago from a teashop that sourced its teas straight from China. Therefore, I was expecting a rather unique tea experience, which I got, but not in the way I was expecting!

I was thinking that puerh would taste like black tea; it doesn’t. But, I didn’t know that when I sat down with my breakfast and cup of warm brew.

As I was eating my morning meal, I took a sip of puerh. Big mistake! I discovered that drinking puerh while eating peanut butter, banana and toast is not a good combo!

After I recovered from my moment of repulsion, I elected to finish my morning meal and then investigate the strange tea flavor in my cup.

Fishy Tasting Tea

Once breakfast was completed, I came back to my still warm brew and took another sip. That Ew! Factor was still there. In fact, I found the taste to be quite dreadful.

But, I really wanted to understand why I didn’t like the flavor, so I took another sip.

Then it hit me; my tea tasted fishy.

Not being a big fan of fish or any type of seafood for that matter, it made sense why I was repulsed by the taste.

Yet, I was also fascinated by how the tea leaves can acquire such a fishy flavor. It got me to wondering if puerh is grown near the ocean. Perhaps it’s where the tea is cultivated that makes it taste so strange. I guess I’ll have to investigate further.

I May Never Try Puerh Again

Despite my fascination with why tea would taste fishy, I just couldn’t bring myself to drink any more puerh.

I also found myself questioning whether I wanted to venture further into the world of loose tea. I’ve had bad tea, but never tea that had me literally wanting to run away from it.

Plus, I spent most of the day with a fishy-seaweed-like-taste in my mouth. My puerh experience certainly left quite an impression on my taste buds!

On the other hand, I do want to be more adventuresome and try new things. I’ve been fantasizing recently about traveling to far-off places to taste exotic teas. However, I don’t think I’d make very many friends abroad with that Ew! look on my face.

I guess, I’ll just have to put on my big girl panties and be prepared for new surprises, good or bad. That’s what makes life interesting, right?

This is “a girl with tea” signing off once again.

Remember to live, laugh, love and drink plenty of tea.

P.S. I haven’t given up on puerh yet! I’ll give it a try again someday…

Have you have had a tea that you strongly disliked?

I Dread The Greens

Adagio Masters Collection

Yesterday, after the 16-inches of snow had been plowed and the cars de-iced, I settled in with a pot of Gyokuro Imperial from Teavana.

I had been putting off trying this green tea since October, the day I purchased it at the Teavana store at the Mall of America, simply because I was afraid I wouldn’t like it.

I realize that the above may sound quite absurd, but I tend to not be a big fan of green tea. Yet, I really do want to like it.

Of course, my familiarity with green tea is quite limited. I’ve only had two loose green teas my entire life, both of which I surprisingly liked: English Tea Store’s Jasmine with Flowers and Pinhead Gunpowder.

Despite this agreeable encounter, however, my aversion to green tea continued to linger. I’m not sure of the primary cause, but I seem to dread the greens.

Although, my recent scare (drove to work in a bizzard and almost went into the ditch several times) seemed to have given me the chutzpah to finally give the Gyokuro Imperial a try.

At first, I wasn’t sure if I liked the flavor in my cup; it was quite vegetal tasting. But then the flavor started to grow on me, the creamy finish certainly helped.

The color of the liquor was a beautiful greenish-yellowish hue, which I attempted to capture via my digital camera. While I was doing this, my pot of green tea went cold and turned a dark, piss yellow. This wasn’t very appetizing, so I ended up throwing the rest away.

I could have done a second infusion with the leaves, but decided against it because it was getting late.

Hopefully, someday I will start to appreciate green tea more fully and stop dreading them!

For now, I think I’ll stick with my robust black tea and venture every so often in green territory.

Vendor Provided Sample: No

Affiliate Links: No

Photo Credit: A Girl With Tea

This is “a girl with tea” signing off once again.

Remember to live, laugh, love and drink plenty of tea.

Are there any types of teas that you dread or are afraid to try?

Scones, Tea and Creative Flow

Trader Joe's Wild Blueberry Scone

The day started off with a Trader Joe’s Wild Blueberry Scone and a pot of Teavana’s Copper Knot Hongcha. Yum!

Then I got to taking some tea pictures and uploading them to Flickr.com and before I knew it, I was starving and in need of food and drink.

Not Wanting to Stop

When I get into creative mode, I tend to not stop until I start feeling dizzy from lack of sustenance. Unfortunately, by this point, I am so hungry that I grab whatever is most convenient.

I know better.

Yet, being in that creative zone is tremendously satisfying.

When I think about it, I realize that there is a part of me that is afraid to take a break.  I fear that I won’t be able to find that exhilarating and wonderful flow again.

Eventually my body starts screaming at me, and I am forced to stop, whether my mind wants to or not!

Taking A Break

When I finally decided it was time to take a break I felt exhausted from focusing on one thing for too long.

Dinner was devoured and then I made a pot of Carrot Cake rooibos tea from The NecessiTeas. I settled in for the night with my teapot filled with delicious goodness and Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country.

Sidenote: I’m a big Star Trek fan…I even love the original series with William Shatner and Leonard Nimoy!  Woohoo!

Anyway, I hope I can find my creative flow again tomorrow and remember to take a break before I get burnt-out again.

Vendor Provided Sample: No

Affiliate Links: No

Photo Credit: A Girl With Tea

This is “a girl with tea” signing off once again.

Remember to live, laugh, love and drink plenty of tea.

Do you like to drink tea when you work on a creative project?

A Trip to Trader Joe’s for Tea

jarchie – via Flickr CC Attribution License

On the way home from work tonight, I decided to stop at the new Trader Joe’s store in town. I had never been to one of their grocery stores before so, I was looking forward to a new adventure. I was also hoping to find some cool new tea to try.

After wandering around the store for a good 20 minutes taking in all that Trader Joe’s had to offer, I finally made it over to the tea section.

Looking over the selection of teas, which was pretty sparse, I had a sinking feeling that I was not going to find anything exciting to purchase tonight. Bummer.

I saw that they do carry Yogi tea, but I can purchase that anywhere in town.

Although, they do have several of their own store-brand teas.

After a few moments of deliberation, I decided to try their Vanilla & Cinnamon Black Tea. I suspected that it would be similar to Celestial Seasonings Nutcracker Sweet, which has been an annual holiday favorite. I guess I would soon find out.

Trader Joe’s and Celestial Seasonings (Vanilla and Cinnamon Tea)

When I got home, I immediately tore off the plastic wrapping from the unpretentious light-blue box, lifted the pressed-cardboard lid and opened the wax paper seal. At that moment my nose encountered a very familiar scent: the tantalizing fragrance of warm vanilla and spice.

Once I actually got to drinking Trader Joe’s holiday tea, I knew for certain that this tea was very much like Nutcracker Sweet, but maybe just a tad weaker.

So much for trying something new…

Maybe I’ll try another one of Trader Joe’s teas in the future, but for now I think I’ll take a few moments and enjoy a warm cup of vanilla and cinnamon black tea.

Vendor Provided Sample: No

Affiliate Links: No

Additional Photo Credits: A Girl With Tea

This is “a girl with tea” signing off once again.

Remember to live, laugh, love and drink plenty of tea.

Have you ever tried any of Trader Joe’s teas?

Living a Tea Lifestyle is a Personal Journey

mysza831 - via Flickr CC Attribution License

Lately, I’ve been thinking a lot about what it means to live a tea lifestyle.

At first, I thought it was simply about making tea my beverage of choice.

Then, I naturally gravitated to the idea that living a tea lifestyle is also about taking the time to sit down, relax and have a cup of tea.

To fully enjoy that cup of tea, I discovered that it was essential to be in the moment, to relish each sensation that the tea was willing to provide.

The next logical conclusion seemed to be that in order to make time for tea I had to have some amount of balance in my life.

Despite, the reasonableness of it all, I felt as if something was missing. I sensed that there was more to uncover. Yet, I just couldn’t put my finger on it.

At that point it dawned on me, living a tea lifestyle is a personal journey; a unique experience that comes from who you are and what you want from life.

After coming to the above realization, I decided to sit down and outline what living a tea lifestyle means to me personally.

Here is what I came up with:

  1. Being real and expressing who I am in my daily actions.
  2. Making connections with nature, people and spirit.
  3. Simplify. Simplify. Simplify.
  4. Doing what is right, even if it isn’t easy.
  5. Taking care of my body so, I can fully enjoy life and do those things that bring me joy.
  6. Being mindful of all that I have to be grateful for, from a warm cup of tea in my hands to a roof over my head.
  7. Taking time each day to reflect on what is important to me.

I plan to use the above beliefs as a map to help guide me towards the next step on my journey. Perhaps one day I can fully live the tea lifestyle.

This is “a girl with tea” signing off once again.

Remember to live, laugh, love and drink plenty of tea.

What does living a tea lifestyle look like to you?