Nothing beats a cup of hot tea

October 24, 2006|by LAURA BELL and ELIZABETH KRAMER

Has anyone ever given you a cup of tea when you were sick? Have you ever made a cup for yourself when you were angry? Or in a bad mood? In a good mood? Just because you felt like it?

If you have, read on.

Last weekend, we attended a tea-tasting in Hagerstown - like a wine tasting, but without the wine. During the two hours we spent there, we learned several things, not the least important is that it is possible to get drunk off tea.

We tasted several samples of each of the seven main types of tea. - not from a tea bag, but real, hand-picked, cured, withered, fired, bruised tea leaves. It was unlike anything we had experienced before - kind of like growing up drinking soy milk, then tasting actual cow's milk.

John and Siming Macpherson organized the tea-tasting event. They own Spirit of the Lotus tea House, a Hagerstown-based tea importer.


Ankit Lochan, who has been running his family's tea business for several years, led the tea-tasting. He patiently explained the many purposes, uses and benefits of loose, organic tea.

For starters, Lochan said, tea contains moderate levels of caffiene. The average cup of coffee has 120 mg of caffiene. The most highly caffienated cup of tea, however, has about 60 mg.

Also, teas have been used for medicinal purposes in East Asia, China and India for hundreds of years. They contain antioxidants, and, according to John Macpherson, theas can help lower blood pressure.

So, if you have a free afternoon, check out teas at your favorite hangout. Many coffeehouses offer a variety of teas.

Brewing the perfect cup

Start with good-tasting water. Experiment with different spring waters. Do not use boiling water when brewing a white, yellow, green or Oolong tea. Boiling water cooks the leaves of these teas, destroying their flavor.

Choose a ceramic teapot, or covered cup, with a twelve to sixteen-ounce capacity for one or two people, use a larger pot for more people. A teapot with a built-in strainer will prevent leaves from entering the spout (and your cup!). If you don't have a teapot with a built-in strainer, you can pour the tea through a small, fine-mesh strainer into your cup. Preheat the teapot with hot water, then discard that water. Place the suggested amount of tea in the warmed pot, fill with the proper temperature water and steep as directed.

Experiment to find the ratio of water-to-tea that suits your taste. For starters, we suggest the following:

For most loose teas, use approximately 1 to 2 teaspoons of tea per 12 to 16 ounces of water.

· Japanese green teas: warm to hot (140 to 160 degrees); steep for 3 to 5 minutes.

· White, yellow and green teas: hot (160 to 180 degrees); steep for 3 to 5 minutes.

· Flavored green teas: very hot (180 to 195 degrees); steep for 5 to 7 minutes.

· Artisan teas: very hot (180 to 195 degrees); steep for 5 to 10 minutes.

· Oolong teas: very hot (180 to 195 degrees); steep for 5 to 10 minutes.

· Red teas and chai: near boiling to boiling (200 to 212 degrees) Steep for 5 to 7 minutes.

· Black and Pu-Erh teas: full, rolling boil (212 degrees); steep for 5 to 10 minutes.

· Flavored black teas: full, rolling boil (212 degrees); steep for 5 to 10 minutes.

· Herbal tisanes: very hot to boiling (195 to 212 degrees); steep for 5 to 10 minutes.

- Courtesy of Spirit of the Lotus Tea House;

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