Wednesday, January 28, 2009

January 28 More about tea

The tea pot is on, the cups are waiting, Favorite chairs anticipating. No matter what i have to do, My friend, there's always time for you."
As with iced tea, there are lots of ways to make hot tea. The simplest method for one serving is to place a microwavable mug of water in the microwave. When the water is heated, take the mug out of the oven and place your tea bag in to steep.

The traditional method for making hot tea is to put a kettle of fresh, cold water on the stove to boil. In a separate container, place a small amount on the stove to heat. Use that bit of water to warm the teapot you will be using. Put the water in the teapot shortly before the kettle boils. Then, pour it out and put in the tea -- 1 teaspoon of black tea or one teabag for each 5 1/2 ounce cup of tea you plan to make. Use 1/2 teasoon per cup for oolong and 2 teaspoons per cup for green tea. You can put the loose tea into the bottom of the teapot. However, an easy way is to use a tea ball or tea infusion. Some teapots come with an infuser basket inside, and that's probably the easiest method of all. Do not pack your infuser or tea ball more than 1/2 the way full, as the dried tea leaves need room to expand when soaking in the hot water.

Immediately when the kettle boils, bring it to the pot and pour the water in. Hod it close to the mouth of the teapost so that the steam of the water does not get cooled by air during pouring. Put the lid on the teapot. Cover it with a cozy if you have one. Steep black tea for three to five minutes, oolong for about five minutes, and green tea for one to two minutes. Don't judge by the color of the water as the tea starts to seep in; wait the alloted time so that all the ingredients of the tea diffuse into the water.

Once the tea is brewed, you must get the leaves or bags out immediately to prevent your tea from becoming bitter. For teabags, simply lift the out. The same applies to a tea ball or other type of infuser. If you put the leaves directly into the pot, you will need to strain it as you pur the tea into a new teapot that has also been preheated.

When using teabags, you can pour hot water into a cup that is safe to hold it and place a bag in the cup to brew. This is handy when serving a number of guests who have different preferences in tea. A lovely tea presentation is to use a pretty basket or plate with several different types of tea and/or herbal teas. Each guest can then choose his or her preference.

If everyone is taking the traditional type of tea, it's nice to brew it the traditional way so that you can simply pour it into each person's cup without each guest having to deal with a tea bag.

Some people enjoy milk in their hot tea -- particularly in black tea. This is not as common in the Southern U.S., where I live, as it is in other regions and other countries. Even so, some do enjoy it this way. There is some evidence that milk ruins the healthful benefits of tea. The casseins in the milk prevent the absorption of beneficial compounds. Of course, if you are drinking tea purely for pleasure and not for the potential health benefits, this is not a consideration.

It's also common for people to enjoy lemon and sugar or lemon and honey in tea. Lemon is never used when milk is used, as the lemon curdles the milk. Some like tea simply with sugar or honey.

Green tea is traditionally not served with a sweetener, but I confess that I do put sweetener in a cup of hot green tea.

If you're confused about the terms black tea, green tea, and oolong tea, just remember that black teas are completely fermented in processing, green tea is not fermented at all, and oolong is somewhere in between the two. White tea is harvested before the leaves fully open. The buds are covered with a fine white hair. Like green tea, it undergoes little processing. White tea has less caffeine in it than green tea, and some think that it has even more potential health benefits than other types of tea.

Fermentation in tea means how long the tea leaf is allowed to oxidize by drying. It doesn't mean that the tea becomes alchoholic in any way. Fermenting the tea to a certain degree allows certain flavors to emerge.

Chai tea refers not to the type of tea, but how it is served. It is usually served with milk or cream, and it has lots of spices in it. Three of the spices commonly used in chai tea are cardamon, cinnamon, and cloves.

Unless you intend on becoming a tea expert, you don't need to be confused by the plethora of tea blends that are available. Just buy a good brand of the kind of tea you prefer. Any good black tea is suitable for a tea party.

Should you use tea bags or loose tea when making hot tea? Well, theoretically, it shouldn't matter whether the tea is loose or in a tea bag. True tea lovers, however, point out that manufacturers do sometimes use better tea in packaging loose tea than they put in tea bags. Also, tea bags are not necessarily stored in airtight containers, and it tends to go stale more easily than loose tea. Moreover, a lovely pot of tea is more attractive and easier for your loved ones to deal with than a bunch of tea bags. So, if you give lots of tea parties or frequently serve hot tea to your family, it's worth it to prepare loose leaf tea in the traditional way. If you and your family seldom drink hot tea, you'll probably do just fine with tea bags. It's a matter of personal choice.

Most everyone knows that a soothing drink for a sore throat and congestion is to prepare a cup of hot tea with lemon and honey.

Since the mid-twentieth century, at least, American culture has been more known for the morning coffee than for the afternoon tea, unless you count the Southern custom of serving lemonade or iced tea on late summer afternoons. However, most of us do take a snack or a beverage in the mid to late afternoon. Even if it's just you and your children who are participating in the afternoon break, why not make it special? Use pretty dishes and prepare dainty or tasty foods ahead of time to delight your family. Just a little something in the tummy, combined with loving attention and a pretty atmosphere can soothe the mind and body and head off the late afternoon "fussies".

The afternoon tea as a social even has made a come-back in the past decade. It is especially popular now to give brides teas rather than showers. There is a lot of information available today about how to give a tea, so I won't go into detail about that right now. However, those of you who love old-fashioned menus and recipes, I've included a few tea menu suggestions from Mrs. Henrietta Dull's 1941 cookbook. Mrs. Dull was a famous cook and home economist from Atlanta. I thought you'd enjoy thinking of how teas were done in our mothers' or grandmothers' day:

Chicken sandwiches; cheese and nut sandwiches; salted nuts; fancy cakes; mints or candy; Have nicely appointed table, with platters and dishes of the articles suggested, and see that they are kept flled as needed. A glass of tea on a small palte is served from the pantry. Fruit punch may be served.

Frozen fruit salad with crisp crackers; salted nuts; olives; iced tea -- all on one place, and each guest served a plate, from the pantry.

A vegetable aspic on lettuce with mayonnase, chicken salad sandwich, cheese sandwich, olives; ice cream; cake; fruit punch; fruit punch served from a nicely appointed table.

For a bridge tea; chekcen salad; tomato sandwich; carckers; olives; iced tea

For a bridge tea: Nut bread sandwich; frozen fruit salad; cheese straws and coffee.

(You Southern ladies were waiting for those cheese straws, weren't you! They're a must-have, even for today. :) )

Happy Homemaking!

Elizabeth

4 comments:

Wenonah4th said...

My own bridal shower, five years ago, was certainly close to a formal tea. The hostess is known for doing things very well and making a wonderful occasion when she has a party. (and this amidst being The Piano Teacher In Town!)

That hostess and her family are best friends of my family. Her daughter & I are the same age. The daughter is getting married in March- and my mother is hostessing *her* shower this weekend! I expect my mother will live up to Piano Teacher's precedent.

Ridenour Family said...

I never realized until very recently that all of the teas (besides herbal) come from the same leaves!! You definitely learn something new every day. Thanks for all of the information!
~Tricia

Elizabeth said...

Hi There Wenonah:

Your bridal shower sounds lovely. I'm sure your mother will also give a lovely shower. My daughter's main bridal shower was a tea -- a little over two years ago.

Hi Tricia,

Yes, it's amazing how many different ways to prepare tea come from one plant!

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