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The Care And Handling Of Loose Tea
Relax. There's no reason to be afraid of loose tea if you take sensible care of it. Otherwise, loose tea can be dangerous when wounded.
That was a very poor joke. (I know - don't quit my day job!) But lots of people, even tea lovers, deny themselves the pleasures of loose tea because they think there is a lot of maintenance and mechanics associated with brewing loose tea leaves rather than go through the convenience of using a tea bag.
But loose tea often has a richness of flavor that bagged teas usually can't touch. And, you have the freedom of controlling the flavor and strength of your tea when it is brewed loose, whether adding other kinds of black teas or herbs and spices.
If you already use sugar or any kind of powdered sweetener in your tea, then you already know the basics of the care and handling of loose tea.
Storing Loose Tea
Loose tea is often sold in plastic or thin paper packets that easily rip. It's rare to get loose tea sold in little tins or even wooden "chests". In order to cut down on the cost of the tea leaves, many places keep their packaging to a minimum.
Have a tea canister or big Ziplock bag or SOMETHING waterproof to keep the tea in before you open the bag. The bags have a way of suddenly exploding open when you least expect it. When I lived in England, I kept loose tea in either small jars with a well fitting lid or small biscuit tins.
Keep the loose away from extreme heat. A dry cabinet cupboard is a good place.
Spooning Loose Tea
This is really the only other consideration to keep in mind when caring and handling loose tea. Use a dry spoon or clean, dry fingers every time you make a pot or cup. If you use a wet spoon, this moisture can introduce bacteria that spoil the rest of the loose tea.
There are many convenient tea infuser balls or spoons with holes in them that you stick in a mug in order to brew one cuppa. Some are even shaped like houses or tea pots. Many tea pots sometimes come with a detachable infuser that is an area to place loose tea in and then keep the leaves in place while you pour.
These tea infuser balls are very convenient for just one cup of tea, but the boiling water rarely gets all of the goodness from the leaves as opposed to when they can freely float about. Don't pack the tea ball tightly, but loosely. You will spill quite a bit of tea in the beginning until you get used to the trick. Expect to make a mess and don't cry over spilled tea leaves.
Intense, powerful and silky smooth black tea can be made best, in this writer's opinion, by using the traditional brewing method. Stick a teaspoonful of tea for the pot, and then another for each cup of tea the pot makes. So, if you know the tea pot makes two cups of tea, it needs three spoonfuls.
Add the boiling water, don't overfill (it will spill when you pour if you do) and then place a small sieve over your tea cup or mug. After the required brewing time, usually about five minutes, stir and pour into the sieve over the mug. This also requires a little practice, as some tea will spill.
But it makes a lovely cuppa, and that's the important thing.