A Better Cup of Tea

Any tea aficionado is ever in search of a better cup of tea. It is part of the passion—the hunt and that first sip. A century ago in China, tea lovers paid thousands for special mountain varieties that could only be reached on foot. The mania continues today but certainly at a more modest price. Sometimes the answer to your prayers come from strange items. If you are perplexed, I will reveal the secret to tea drinking success: installing a reverse osmosis water filter system in your home that can be purchased online. After you have garnered a dozen of the world’s greatest teas, you only have to conquer one more thing: the brewing water.

I eschew those automatic on e-cup machines that use prepared pods. The water is filtered, for sure, but the taste is mundane at best. There are only so many brands available. For me, I might as well use a tea bag. I like to collect some rare types that I find when traveling. I am in a tea club and we also exchange loose tea now and then. We all know that filtering the tap water makes a difference and there is no need to use bottled liquid with unnecessary cost. I find that tap water tastes better when filtered compared to most any water brand. Thus, I never run out of water when I crave that morning or afternoon cup.

Next to the porcelain or metal tea egg, the mini water filter is the most ingenious invention for avid tea lovers. I am glad that they don’t take up much room given that I have ten canisters of assorted teas of choice in my cupboard, with the one for the day sitting prettily on the countertop. There is nothing so varied as tea drinking. As many varieties of coffee that exist, I find that many are similar—Kona, Columbian, Brazilian, etc. Another way to spruce up your teatime is to use a different mug or cup. The experience of a basic mug is quite different from a china cup and saucer. Thus, there are many components to fine tea drinking for perfect and full enjoyment.

I take another water filter to work or while traveling so I can indulge in the best cup of tea at all times. You never have to sacrifice! The little gadget fits tidily in my handbag or backpack, as I wish. Plus, I buy tons of them as gifts for club member friends and to accompany holiday presents (usually a nice bag of tea). Life just wouldn’t be the same without this do-it-yourself filter. No need to buy a kitchen faucet device that you have to clean from time to time.

So let’s give a shout out for tea drinkers and their treasured gear. Join me in my search for the ever better cup of tea. Next time I will talk about milk or cream and types of sugar.

Flea Markets are the Best!

Tea kettles, cozies, mugs, and strainers—they all have a prominent place in my cluttered kitchen. There is barely room for dishes and pots and pans. I have a cupboard full of cute and colorful cups and saucers, many cherished gifts from friends and family. They all know what I collect and the presents never stop. While I have all the usual suspects, recently I found something quite out of the ordinary. I was at a flea market surveying the cool wares when I spotted a local metalworker demonstrating his skills on the most unique tea kettle I have ever seen. Sure, I have bought dozens of teas at these fairs, and even a kettle or two, I had never fallen for a metal device to make my favorite brew.

I got as close I could to watch the artisan at his craft. It was fascinating and a rate glimpse into the creative process. The piece was almost finished and he was soldering a few decorative details in a contrasting metal over the surface in a vine pattern. It sparkled and shone and was absolutely divine. It would be a major coup for the collection that included mostly hand-made items. Adding something in metal would be a real plus. I have never seen something so precious. Little did I know that this ordinary, routine visit to the flea market would yield such a treasure? But I was afraid to ask about the price!

Flea market finds are not expensive as a rule, but when it comes to metalwork, there could be a hefty price tag. I continued to watch and glanced about to observe any other finished products. I was so entranced with the welding that I didn’t notice a few other teapots behind the worker, sitting side by side in all their glorious essence. He looked up and smiled and bent back over to finish his project. I stayed longer than I expected, or thought was polite, until he remove his protective face shield and asked, “Are you interested?”

“Of course,” I replied. “It would be lovely in my home—such an extraordinary piece. How did you make all of those intricate details?”

“Thank you,” he smiled. “I used a plasma cutter after reading about them on a web site called Rate My Welder. Why not take it home?” Seeing a slight bit of hesitation he added, “It can be yours for $25.” I practically beamed. Such a deal! I immediately started to open my wallet.

“I saw your enjoyment and I love to place my pieces in worthy homes.”

“I assure you that it will be treated with dignity and respect.”

“Let me put it in a box for safekeeping.” He grabbed a soft pouch and stowed it efficiently inside.

I couldn’t wait to get home and display the metal gem in full sight. It was a star in my collection. I loved that I watched it being born. Most of my collection, while handmade, is anonymous. I now had insight into its history and insisted that the artist sign the kettle at the bottom. This is what I call flea market success!

I Did it Myself!

Mundane things can be irritating. This blog is about just one. I was in the process of making a steaming hot cup of tea when the kitchen faucet starting dripping. It drove me crazy as I could do nothing to stop it. There was no miracle wrench under the sink. It wasn’t just the torturous sound but the thought of all that wasted water too. Yes, I am an environmentalist. People say that tea drinkers are more tuned into the land. It isn’t a bad assumption. I am proud to care about conservation. Nevertheless, the faucet had to go. It wasn’t enough to try a repair as it is so old and worn out. It has clearly seen much better days when it had a nice finish and didn’t feel inferior to all the new state-of-the-art designs you see in new homes and online. Have you seen the extraordinary innovations in the field? The latest models on sale at Kitchen Faucet Depot are like works of art. They shame your old traditional model. They not only give you instant hot and filtered water, but they are the epitome of curving grace. Some are dressed in wraparound spring.  You can have touchless if you want the latest invention. Nothing rivals the new unity of form and function other than modern toilets. Now that is another huge subject. It seems that fixtures are in a state of change. I had to take advantage of the dripping to get the perfect Delta brand faucet.

I don’t like the way the old faucet comes down so low to the sink. Who designed it this way? Now faucets offer the option of enough height to fill a large cooking pot or tea kettle. If you don’t have a long one at the sink, you can install a special model over the stove. The new necks are not chintzy. I knew that a brand as vast as Delta would have just the right style. They have a good reputation for durability, modern design and a choice of amenities. The price is right with this company. The question was could I install it on my own. I know you need the right tools which I don’t own. How many of us regularly do plumbing! Okay, I borrowed what I needed and watched a YouTube installation video. You can follow the procedure step by step. I had my brother waiting in the wings in case I got myself in trouble. He fully expected to come to the rescue. I paid close attention and knew just what to do. I was worried about having the strength but with the right tool, it doesn’t matter. I was determined to conquer any obstacle.

It went well, and the faucet now gleams and glows in my updated kitchen. It is a triumph of technology and style. It feels even better since I did it myself. Just call me a handywoman, my new name.

Gorgeous Find on my Way Home Today!

As a dyed in the wool tea lover, I collect unusual teapots in any shape and material from porcelain to earthenware and ceramic. Some are oriental while others are Early American. There is a variety of sizes and colors. I have quite a few now, nicely displayed on a special shelf installed just for them. I actually use them and promptly return them to their designated space. I have made sure that there is room for more. I have three shelves that take up an entire wall in my dining room. It is a wonderful alternative to ordinary artwork or a mirror. So mundane!

I love to scour the flea markets and thrift shops for unique items. I don’t need to spend a bundle on something brand new. I like the idea that each teapot has a history. I fantasize about the owners, where they live, and what kind of tea they like. Now it is mine and has a new life in my home. If you are a collector, you know how I feel. Each addition is a gem and you never know from where it will come. Recently, for example I had a stroke of good luck.

I window shop a lot when I walk the streets of my town as it helps pass the time. It is for amusement mostly, but sometimes it ends up in a real find. Such was the case the other day when I spotted a really different teapot in the window of a small shop. It stood out among the other items on display and I knew I had to have it. I struck up a conversation with the owner and asked the price. I also found out that it had been in a local family for several generations and was quite old. It could be considered a true antique, and very valuable, except that it had the tiniest crack on the bottom. If it were perfect, it would be worth a fortune. The good news for me was that it was affordable. It would be the new star in my growing collection.

I accepted the price after a small discount and watched the shopkeeper wrap in carefully in tissue paper and bubble wrap. It would be very secure in my business backpack that I bought from https://www.businessbagreview.com/. It happened to be empty today because I wasn’t going to the gym on the way home from work. I had left it open and free for shopping later. Now it housed this fabulous find and would make sure it got home intact.

The teapot made the journey well and enjoyed being unwrapped in its new environment. It took a liking to my other collectibles and agreed to sit quietly on the top shelf where it would be safe and secure. Fortunately, we don’t have earthquakes in my area or the entire group would be in grave peril. Now the various receptacles for tea could rest assured of their longevity.

Incompatible

I have to announce it. I have broken up with my boyfriend. I know, I know. He is one amongst many and there are likely more to come if this relationship is any indication. I haven’t been doing that well in the love department and my reputation is going to follow me everywhere; but this time it is not my fault. I should have known that he was wrong for me because he smokes when he drinks coffee, which is all the time. Oh, lord, he does it in bed. The mattress is a smelly mess, a receptacle for his evil habit. It is permanently ingrained with stale odor. Those darn cigarettes are potent. As a nonsmoker, I probably am more sensitive to it, but it doesn’t make it any easier.

I have to find a way to get rid of that smoke smell from my mattress just like I got rid of that guy! Ha. Frankly, the smoking made us incompatible. I know that there are more serious reasons to split, like taste in music and food, but this one was top on my list. I hate the stink in the bedroom. The odor clings to the bedding and the quilt. I am going to wash it all first with extra soap powder. I want to believe what the TV commercials say about Tide. Is it really the best? As for the quit, I made a beeline to the dry cleaners. They had a special on comforters—a flat $20. It is well worth it to get rid of any remembrance of the human chimney.

A few days later, everything was neatly back on the bed, but there was a lingering scent of smoke. I couldn’t believe it after all of my effort. I washed the sheets and pillowcases in eucalyptus oil mixed with liquid soap. It helped a lot to mask the smoke residue. I didn’t want to do it again and wear out the cotton. These used to be nice sheets. Not anymore. I may have to give in and buy new ones. I know that there is no future smoker in my life after this fiasco. Honestly, how can you even taste coffee after smoking like a haystack?

My friends are proud of me that I sacrificed romance for health. It is a no-brainer to stop subjecting myself to second-hand smoke. My family agreed and confessed that they didn’t want to invite him over and pollute their environment. What were you thinking? Was on everyone’s lips. I never smoked a day in my life, not in high school or college. This wasn’t my form of rebellion. That will be revealed in a later blog.

My ex called me after a few weeks and begged for a meeting. Why bother, I thought. He said he would quit smoking if I would take him back. These are empty words. Few men his age willingly change their ways. He should have thought of this before.

Tea Time Interruptions

I learned to drink tea long ago in the lovely Japanese tea gardens in Golden Gate Park in San Francisco. While tearooms are not few and far between and exist in every town, sitting at a wooden bench among the trees and lush greenery was pure heaven. It happened to be a sunny afternoon with the shadows growing long in the late afternoon. We had been strolling on a walking trail and came upon this gem by surprise, hidden within the foliage. This is the day – eureka – that I learned to love tea. This passion has stayed with me throughout my life. There is no question of rebelling at the smell of fresh-brewed coffee. Not ever. I will not be a traitor to the exotic green leaf. I read about all the mysterious mountain villages where special teas are grown in China. A really rare one can cost a fortune. I want to go on a mission to try the best in the orient. I am willing to trek near and far to achieve my goal.

Meanwhile, I am writing this blog to extol the virtues of drinking tea and to get people to share their favorites. I know that this will not include my new neighbor. He is an absolute horror. He has a wooden floor and stomps around on it day and night. When I want to relish a steaming hot cup of tea with honey and a biscuit, English style, he is trying to annoy me. I assume this since he loves to vacuum round the clock. No one needs that much cleaning; no one has that much dirt on the floor. The machine rattles and roars. Isn’t it working properly? I wonder if he’d chosen a Bissell or Hoover? These models should be powerful enough to do the job – once a week. Apparently not. I am going nuts and soon I will go to the basement of the apartment building and find the circuit breaker to his unit.

He won’t be happy but I will find relief. I found out the hard way that there are consequences to rash actions, and not just from an upset Facebook post. He came down the stairs and knocked on the door. “Is your power out,” he asked, nicely at first. And then the big question, “Did you do it? Why is your electricity on?” Okay, I was caught in the act, as the French say “en flagrant délit.”

“Well,” I huffed and puffed. “You are the one who has ruined my teatime.” He turned pale. “I love tea!” he stammered. “Let’s go get a pot.” I was flabbergasted to say the least. I turned off the light, put on my coat, and locked the door. We trotted a half block to Starbucks. Amazingly, we talked for hours about nothing but tea. We drank, listened to the piped in music, and became friends. Who would have imagined that the vacuum cleaner fanatic would turn out to be a great guy?

Why Sports Make Me Crazy

Picking out a soccer ball for a gift for a friend’s son is not like selecting a tea to drink or even a new ceramic mug. In other words, for me it isn’t easy. I don’t know much about soccer for youth or adults. I am going to have to get some help. That means going online and reading stuff from places like Top Corner Mag and then going to the local sports emporium and questioning the salesperson. I set about my task with some trepidation but my fears are unwarranted. The store has balls in every size so surely one of them is right for this boy. While I did get a good answer, and bought the item recommended, it was not the most fun I ever had. I was in another realm, as far from my world of tea as you can get. When this happens, the insecurity makes you crazy.

Soccer is so hot right now that I should know more about it. I know it is a favored choice amongst kids these days. As any child on the street and he or she will explain all about soccer balls. They might even drag you home to look at their own choice. I won’t have to buy one for myself, but if it comes down to a birthday or holiday present, I am now up to speed. My friend tells me that her son is ecstatic over the new ball and thanks me profusely for being so attentive about the best one. Next time I have a personal challenge, I should remember this quest and know that I can find a solution to any problem.

As a way to thank me very individually, I was invited over to watch a soccer match on my friend’s TV. We enjoyed tea (of course) and snacks during the game. I actually found it rather exciting despite low scores. It is dynamic, action packed, and engenders patriotism when it is your own team. The son gave me a gift of a similar kind: a book on the rules of soccer in the US. Now I will be well versed in the subject. As my friend’s child grows up, we will continue to share the joys of his favorite pastime. The lesson here is clear. You go through life sometimes in a fog until a friend or some relative clues you in on something you don’t know. Soccer opened up a whole new world to me, one that I can share with others as a fan. I don’t have to play it myself.

I am sitting with my new book in a big overstuffed chair, comfortable and content, hugging a mug of tea with my free hand. It is a delightful way to pass an afternoon. But wait. There is a European soccer tournament on TV today. I set the book aside and set my gaze intently on the screen.

Pilot Light Problems

I am sitting quietly in the kitchen over a steaming cup of my favorite tea. When I do this, my mind relaxes and begins to wander, often to strange subjects. I go over past events and scrutinize their meaning. I get bored with that and move on. Today I am thinking about my home and how it serves my needs. I am reminded that I take things for granted; but then there comes a time when you face reality.

I see the gas water heater in the corner of the laundry area. Have I ever seen it before? You normally don’t pay attention to your appliances until they don’t work anymore. A stove is just a stove. A refrigerator just drones on. Such is the mundanity of life. When something malfunctions, it becomes a noticeable situation and you then call for help. I can’t say that I have state of the art stuff, so I won’t be surprised when something unforeseen happens. As a matter of fact, the other day the water heater went out, and I really missed my hot bath. I was less than pleased, so I turned to Twitter to vent. It was inconvenient and unpleasant. You realize how much you depend on everyday things. The repairman said I have a simple issue with my pilot light and that is the one drawback of not having an electrical unit. He fixed it mighty fast as it only needed tightening. I don’t claim to understand the inner workings of a water heater but it is time to learn how to light the pilot after all. I have been a bit intimidated by gas; but it isn’t much different from turning on a gas oven. My mother says, get over it!

One factor in prompting me to get on with learning to light the pilot was the realization of how many heated tea kettles of water it would take to have a warm bath. It is simple math and a practical point. I think I can put up with a testy pilot now and then. I prefer not to spend a chunk of money, so I turned to the internet to read some gas water heater reviews. I would feel compelled to get a new tankless model to be up to date and they can be expensive. Why put it something obsolete and old fashioned? I am not a modernize everything freak, but I do want reliability and longevity. Listening to the repairman has made me aware of how much control I already have over my existing water heater. I don’t have to assume, erroneously, that only an electrical model will do. My gas device will serve me well for many years to come.

I am finishing with my musings and am ready to pour another cup of hot tea. I switch to a new brand and savor the aroma. The warm liquid soothes my throat and also my mind. I am no longer meditating on my pilot light or buying a new water heater that is easier to use. It is time to clear the brain.

Memories

Tea lovers unite! I am tired of coffee dominating the beverage market whether it is for morning or afternoon consumption. Tea is like drinking a little bit of heaven in a china cup. Delicate porcelain painted with dainty flowers sure beats a logo mug from the office. You know the kind that is all stained at the bottom. There are many kinds of tea in my cupboard from jasmine, English breakfast, Earl Grey and orange spice to lemon herbal and chamomile. What is your favorite? My grandfather loved green tea and we used to share stories over steaming cups of this lovely brew. I was so fond of him and our special times together. The memories bring me to tears.

My grandfather was an expert at woodworking and had a large work space in the garage. He had so many tools that he ran out of space and had to hand them on the wall. He had a peg board for this very purpose. His work bench was made of wood and had seen better days. It no doubt had witnessed some fine creations. He was known in the family as Mr. Fixit, but he also made wooden boxes that were a sight to behold. They were so perfect and he even etched designs into their surfaces. You considered yourself blessed if you got one of them as a gift. You would expect his skills in woodworking to be passed on, but it didn’t happen to me. I am a true beginner when it comes to woodworking, even after reading this guide.  I am one dimensional about tea. I read about various tea drinking and serving traditions such as the one in Japan. I imagine myself in different countries partaking of a social custom.

I also spend time in antique stores on the hunt for teapots to add to my growing collection. I can go for months without finding anything of interest. But then I get hooked on something that I can’t live without. Recently, this “aha” experience happened with a set of high quality woodworking chisels. Imagine that. Not a teapot! If you are wondering why, it is because they are the spit and image of my grandfather’s tools. They reminded me of him so much that I had to have them. One look and so many memories arise. I see him in my mind’s eye bent over his work table, a chisel in hand. He is smiling as he works, and when he sees me in the doorway, he grins from ear to ear.

A woodworking chisel may be a common item, not something to collect, but I have a different opinion. When it evokes something from your past, it becomes more than a mere antique. I will place them strategically at home and know where to go to generate fond memories. Teapots, china cups, and chisels. It is a nice combination, don’t you think? We all have our idiosyncrasies. I am getting so nostalgic as I write that I am prompted to get out the old family photo album.

ComforTeas

I am probably biased but I can’t think of anything more comforting than a good cup of tea. It doesn’t matter if I am stressed, sick, or simply cannot sleep, tea is always the answer. Sometimes just the simple ritual of heating the water and steeping the leaves calms and soothes me. Other times, I need a certain type of tea to help nudge me in the right direction. Here is a quick cheat sheet of what I have in my cupboard and why:

I treat some of my herbal teas like a natural medicine cabinet. When I have an upset stomach, I drinka ginger tea to curb nausea.It really helps to settle my stomach down, even better than my previous standby—flat soda. Once I quit drinking soda, I lost my access to this option and discovered the joy of drinking tea made with ginger instead. It works just as well and I actually have it on hand. If I feel a cold coming on, I try a Rooibos tea with some added lemon to give my immune system an extra dose of vitamin C. Other good options are Echinacea or anything with natural citrus—like orange or lemon peel. When I get stuffy or am congested, I go straight for something made with peppermint. Sometimes just holding the warm cup in my hands and breathing in the minty scent helps clear my clogged sinuses. And if I have a sore throat, I have discovered nothing is better than a hibiscus tea sweetened with some locally sourced honey.

Tea can also be an excellent mood booster. If I am feeling down or stressed out, I break out the lemon zest. I put it in a cheery mug and it feels like I am drinking liquid sunshine. It never fails to perk up my mood. Lemon tea is also an option for me on those cold, gray winter days when the sun is nowhere to be seen and I can’t think of a good reason to crawl out of bed. When I am feeling down and lethargic, I will typically go for a good, strong black tea or a spicy chai. Nothing seems as terrible as originally thought with my hands wrapped around a good cup of green tea. I drink it when I need to settle frayed nerves or when work really has me spun up.

I love a good chamomile tea if I am trying to get to sleep. It works almost every single time. There are also special Sleepytime blends that also work well for me, and they have the added convenience of being bagged teas so I don’t have to worry about cleaning out an infuser before I stumble off to bed. I love the vanilla flavor. Almost anything warm without caffeine in it can do in a pinch.

This is just a brief overview of how I use tea to cure what ails me. Maybe one day I’ll do a more in-depth post that goes into more specifics about my go-to flavors. Let me know if you have any questions, I’d love to talk about this more!

Tea Time is Me Time

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Like I am sure is the case with many of my blog readers, I have a stressful job. I do love it, and I’m very happy there, but it has a tendency to follow me home. Sometimes I feel like my boss expects me to be available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. He sends emails to all the members of his department—and expects our responses—well outside of work hours.And while I’d like to be that available and prove my dedication to my work, sometimes it can leave me feeling tense and burnt out.

My friends are always telling me to take a vacation. I do–I am sure to take my all of my allotted vacation days every year.Unfortunately,any work I missed is always sitting there for me when I return. I’m not exactly irreplaceable at work but nobody fills in for me while I am gone. The stress of catching up is often not worth the time off. Any restful, rejuvenated feelings I get from being away from the office typically disappear the moment I return. More and more, that Sunday nightlikefeeling of dread creeps into my vacation time as well.That defeats the whole purpose of taking time off in the first place. I felt like I needed to come up with something else, something that actually felt relaxing. I wanted something flexible that I could do as a quick rest or a longer break, something that would be easy to do either at work or at home.

I realized that I drink my favorite beverage at both locations, so I decided to make a relaxing routine out of my already established tea drinking habit. To make it a little more special at work, I brought a favorite mug from home (bye bye, gross and environmentally irresponsible Styrofoam cups!) along with a selection of my favorite types of tea. I put the teas in a cute little container on my desk right next to the mug where I can see them, to remind me to take a break every once in a while. I also set up a strict rule for myself: my tea time is me time. There is nochecking email or picking up the phone. The same goes for when I am at home—although at home it is more of a call screening than a complete avoidance. Friends or family I will answer; work I force myself to wait until I am finished with my break; and numbers I don’t recognize don’t get answered at all. The only thing that I am allowed to do, if the mood strikes, is to read. But it cannot be work related, it can only be for pleasure.

By forcing myself to take a few minutes several times during the day to do something I love helps me get through my day with a smile on my face and a lighter feeling in my heart. I didn’t realize how much I needed to carve that time out of my schedule until I actually did it, and I am so thankful that I did.

What about you? Do you have me time? If so, what does it entail? I want some more ideas to incorporate into my own time!

I’m a Little Teapot

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Some people collect shot glasses, cookie jars, or salt and pepper shakers. I am a collector too, but I prefer to collect teapots. I have some cutesy kiddie type designs, a few fancy china pots, and just about everything in between. My grandmother got me started when I was young when she presented me with a teapot shaped like Winnie-the-Pooh’s tree house. I have collected many others since that first gift, and some of them are high on my list of favorites–but that first one will always have a special place in my heart. I frequently look online and scout out garage sales to see if I can find something unique and special to add to my collection.  I like to say that I have a discerning eye because I don’t just buy every single one I see; instead, my goal is to curate a unique collection in a variety of shapes and styles to show off my eclectic sense of style. I have about forty right now; I keep telling myself that there isn’t enough room in my tiny loft apartment for more but I always manage to find space for the next one whenever I stumble across something worthy of joining the rest of my teapots.

However, I don’t want you to get the wrong impression of me. I am not just a hoarder. The teapots are actually part of my business model. I dream of one day opening a quiet little tea shop and café. It’s the perfect way to indulge in my favorite activity, get my own supply at a great rate, and talk to people about something I love all day long. Making a profit would be an added bonus. I plan to hire someone with pastry experience to bake sweet treats for the customers while they eat. I also want to have some books and magazines, maybe not for purchase but for perhaps for borrowing, like a lending library. I want to be able to serve all my customers with their very own little teapot. I think that will be a fun and unique way to present beverages. I also want the teapots to serve as décor. I have this vision of a shelf that goes all the way around the shop, lined with the teapots I am accumulating. I put every spare penny I have towards achieving that dream. I am maybe halfway there. In a year or two, I think I will start scouting locations. I already know exactly what I am looking for: aquaint main-street-stylebuilding with the tea shop on the first floor, and then I could live in the apartment above.

You’d come and have a cup of tea with me at a place like that, wouldn’t you?

Loose Vs Bagged Tea

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Some people have clear preferences on whether they choose loose or bagged teas. Loose leaf tends to be better in quality and flavor, but bagged tea has a convenience factor that is hard to overlook. At first, I was afraid to use loose leaf tea—I thought it was too complicated to be worth the effort. But once I purchased an infuser teapot and learned how to use it properly, I have really come to enjoy loose leaf tea as well. I have no problem going back and forth between the two—it usually depends on both what I want to drink and where I am.

Loose leaf tea is mostly made from whole tea leaves, and bagged teas tend to be crushed tea leaves. The whole leaves bring a depth of flavor that little bits of broken-up tea leaves cannot match. That tends to be why theloose leaf is a little more expensive—but to most people, the difference in taste tends to make the added expense worth it. It is just like any other higher-ingredient product. It’s either worth it to you or it isn’t. Sometimes I can afford to splurge and sometimes I would rather spend the money on something else. Bagged tea is also more convenient for me to buy because I can grab it at the grocery store along with everything else I need. It doesn’t require a special trip. I can definitely taste the difference, however. That means whenever I want to drink something special or a fragrant tea, I use a loose leaf tea.It just feels more special that way!

For me, drinking loose tea feels more sophisticated. I also enjoy the ritual of measuring it out, then steeping it. Bagged teas I kind of plunk and go, which means there’s no finesse involved. Having said that, bagged teas are great for places like work. There, I don’t have the time to measure out the leaves or have to worry about bringing in and cleaning an infuser from home. It is an extra step that I can’t always be bothered with at work, and sometimes I only have a quick minute or two on mybreak but still want my tea. I can run the hot water setting on the office single-use coffee machine and throw in a bag—done. So, sometimes bagged tea wins!

The great thing about both is that steeping time tends to be the same, which is something that most people don’t know or they just assume one takes longer. That’s not true at all! It depends more on the type of tea you’re drinking rather than the format of the tea leaves. Whichever I choose, about three minutes is all it takes for total tea perfection!

What about you? Do you have a preference?

My Tea Making Ritual

The Japanese have whole ceremonies dedicated to the art of preparing and serving tea. They believe that it is a sacred art form and have both formal and informal versions. Many other countries have something similar—for example, an afternoon or high tea. While I am not quite as formal as all that, I do love the ritual of making and drinking tea. I have my own ritual, now that I think about it. It starts with filling the kettle with water. Then there is the click and whoosh of the gas stove as it kicks on, the blue flames licking at the bottom of the kettle.  I love perusing through all the mugs in my collection—some gifts, some souvenirs, some just magically acquired, but all with a distinct memory attached—to choose the one I feel best represents me in that moment. Next, I peruse the many available varieties of tea that I have in my kitchen. I like to keep a mixture of loose leaf and bagged tea in the house at all times, in an assortment that contains both caffeinated and herbal options to choose from. I tend to pick something caffeinated in the morning, something sweet in the afternoon, and something soothing at night.

I will select my tea and gather anything else I need—spoon; a sweetener such as honey; milk if necessary; and, depending on the type of tea, my tea infuser. While the water is heating up, I prepare my cup. I wait for the sound for the sound of the kettle whistling before removing it from the heat. I love pouring the water into my cup. I watch as the tea slowly infuses the water, changing its color and flavor. The brand and type of tea determine the length of time it is submerged in the water. I like the sound my spoon makes as it rhythmically hits the sides of the cup. I can do these things on autopilot; it is so familiar to me. But I do each thing consciously and mindfully. It is as close to a meditation or prayer as I get.

Once the tea has been prepared, I will bring it to one of my favorite spots in the house to be savored. That usually means that I bring the cup with me into the living room. Then I will curl up in one of the armchairs with my tea and something to read. I have small end tables next to both armchairs specifically to hold my cup while I sit. I breathe it in the way some people select a wine. My very favorite part is my first sip. The payoff to all of my meticulous preparations. I remind myself that even if I have a busy day ahead of me, tea time is my time to let responsibilities go and just savor the moment.