Have you ever dissected a tea bag? I did and found myself in a magical world of aromas, flavors and colors.
I remember a time when Starbucks sold crushed tea in paper pouches and my cup of tea was nice, but a total stranger to me. Those days fill me
with much nostalgia for many things passed...but as far as tea is concerned, I’d never go back. See, unlike kids growing up in, say, Southeast Asia, the only teas we had in the house were Celestial Seasoning’s Red Zinger and a couple bags of Lipton. Life was beautiful, but my beverages were a drag. Through G-d’s kindness however, years later, a simple encounter would transform me from a naive paper tea bag consumer
to an enthralled and impassioned tea enthusiast.
It began as simply as walking into The Coffee Bean & Tea Leaf shop in Los Angeles and finding myself face-to-face with jars of brightly colored whole tea blends in stylish mesh sachets. I know you were expecting a more dramatic tale, but that’s the whole story. I was hooked.
At first, it wasn’t so much about the taste as it was about the beauty of the spices and flowers. I brought the tea bags home, cut them open and sorted out the different ingredients. Cardamom pods, pink peppercorns, chamomile flowers, rose buds, lemongrass...ahhh, I felt like I’d walked from my simple kitchen into an exotic fragrant world. A new calling overwhelmed me: I must go out and make my own tea.
Almost as suddenly as I discovered tea, I discovered the myriads of Indian spice markets near my home. Who would have thought? Loose tea, cinnamon sticks, star anise, cardamom pods, cloves, dried ginger...all in abundance, inexpensive and around the corner from me. Other
ingredients like chamomile blossoms, lavender buds and lemon verbena, had to be tracked down at my local health market.
And thus, with the help of t-sacs and some boiling water, a hobby was born.
Apparently I’m a bit of tea late bloomer. Boutique tea stores and companies that sell loose tea have been around for ages, but the trend of whole leaf blends in silky bags has just started gaining traction in our market. Today you don’t necessarily need to seek out boutique vendors for the experience–most tea companies already sell them. But there is still no more gratifying tea experience than buying the teas and spices and assembling them yourself!
All you need are 3 things:
1. Freshly boiled water
2. Teas/spices/blossoms/herbs/flowers of your choice
3. A t-sac, tea-ball, or just a strainer.
Tea assembly can be an intuitive process, but be careful not to overload your cup with spices. Start simple, see if it’s your taste and then continue with your adventure. (If all else fails, cut open your favorite tea bag and take notes on what they are doing right!)
Instructions: Use around 1 shot glass full of ingredients per 2 cups of water. Transfer ingredients to t-sac or t-ball. Place in cup. Add boiling water. Steeping time depends on desired intensity of flavor.
Here are some on my favorite blends:
Soothing Mint Tea
Mint is refreshing, but you knew that already. Try mixing it into a soothing floral blend.
- Lavender buds - Chamomile blossoms - Spearmint leaves
- Optional additions: White or Green tea - Coriander seeds
A Floral Blend
Sweet, tart, and fun, floral teas are not only fragrant but also beautiful to assemble.
- Rose petals -Chamomile blossoms -Lavender buds -Lemon verbena
- Optional additions:White or Green tea
Green Tea with Dried Ginger
Spicy Chai Tea Blend
Adding black pepper will give your tea an extra kick of flavor! This is a great recipe to experiment with. Make a latte by adding steamed milk
and some honey.
- Black tea (Assam or Darjeeling)*
- Cinnamon - Star anise - Cloves -Dried ginger -Cardamom pods - Pink peppercorns - Black pepper -Fennel seeds (optional)
*Use rooibos tea for a caffeine-free option.
Labeling your tea can turn into arts and crafts. A little twine and wooden labels will go a lot way.
Tea Tips - There are many ways to store your tea blends. Using a tin box will keep the tea the freshest. Use within a few weeks of purchasing. If
your spices lose their flavor, try grinding them a bit with a morter and pestle.