By: Melissa Picoli
Of all the rituals to incorporate into our daily lives, tea is perhaps one of the loveliest. Somewhere along the way, tea got crushed and powdered and stuck into little paper bags. Hot water still got flavored, but the beauty and benefits of each plant became annihilated. The tea itself became a bit lame.
I get it. We’re busy. Loose-leaf tea is a “process” and it’s nice to just grab a tea bag and go. But, there’s so much more to it, and we’re missing it.
A few weeks ago I was staring at a tea aisle for a major health food store in Seattle, who thought BijaBody’s tea was too expensive and decided not to stock it. Our blends have nearly 4 solid ounces, in American made tins with soy-based ink labels. Our ingredients are organic and fair-trade, and we lovingly blend each batch in Montana. It retails for between $12-$15. This whole aisle was filled with boxes containing less than 1.7 oz of powdery, weak plant material which hadn’t been in the actual ground in years!* And so much paper and paper packaging, not fairly traded, retailing for just a few bucks less. I want real tea back in people’s cups! I left that store even more determined to remind people of the inherent joy in a real cup of tea, and the health and beauty benefits present when real leaves get to unfurl in your favorite mug.
Tea is an agricultural commodity, which represents jobs. A good tea ritual, which is a bounty of health & beauty love, can also be a force in keeping families housed, fed and schooled. And it simply tastes good.
Let’s get you back on real tea. Here's the basics:
1). True tea comes from a single plant, Camellia Sinensis. This includes White, Green, Yellow, Oolong, Black and Pu-erh. Yup, it’s all the same leaf. Difference is in the picking, processing, and the growth region. I’m sure you know lots about Green and White Teas, since they’re the darlings in America. I prefer Oolongs and Pu-erhs. They’re more complex, have a whole different set of tonic-like benefits, and I like my cuppa to taste really earthy. But to each their own!
2). Herbs, twigs and seeds from other plants are generally considered Tisanes, not tea. But whatevs (insert valley girl tone). We’ll call it all tea for simplicity’s sake.
3). You need about 3 tsp tea for a solid cup of tea. And good quality, loose-leaf tea can be brewed several times (hello, economical!). Don’t get too snobby about it for day-to-day. It’s alright if you forget it for 9 minutes! Or don’t measure it exactly. At the end of it all, it’s leaves in your cup. For a dinner party, it’s awesome to spend the extra minute making it perfect.
4). There’s four “gadgets” crucial to an easy, breezy tea making ritual for ridiculously busy peeps who really don’t have time for fancy: French press, Electric Tea Kettle, Mesh Basket, To-Go Tumbler. Two kettles, one for work, one for home. These items are easy to deal with, you don’t have to mess with a goofy clasp on a ball, or chew on leaves and twigs (unless you like to!).
|Melissa Picoli's tea station at home (left: BF's tea thermos)|
6). And, of course, you need good tea! Here’s 3 teas to lull you back to loose-leaf tea world:
a). Milk Oolong: The leaves are processed by boiling milk beneath them and the smell itself makes you think of deliciousness.
b). A simple, Aged Pu-erh: Usually aged in caves, or cave like environments, good Pu-erh is a true treat.
c). BijaBody’s Daily Beauty Tea: Oolong and Pu-erh blended with herbs and spices used for hundreds of years for skin, metabolism and over-all well-being. A daily beauty tonic.
For the milk oolong and pu-erh, my favorite source is Sumitra D’Argon, a tea collector in Seattle, whose collection makes me want to boil endless water. Send her an email, tell her you want a bit of each tea above. Her website is Panther Moon Essentials where you can contact her. For BijaBody Beauty Tea, go to: http://www.bijabody.com/
Alright, start there. I hope you love it. Tea yourself right.
Note: *(except for Zhena Gypsy Tea, a favorite, even though they’ve moved their blending to China! I love them.)