March 15th, 2012


Tea Brewing Techniques

In spite of the warmer temperatures, spring may not be here entirely. I don't have to go anywhere today or tomorrow, and I'm ridiculously excited about that (and pondering the possibility of not going anywhere Saturday). Though I think that has to do with the work because I'm having a lot of fun and I feel like I'm making real improvements. I'm on at least the sixth draft (with each draft involving a lot of re-reading) and I'm still as caught up in this story and these characters as I would be reading a book I didn't write for the first time. I hope that's a good sign.

While I'm tinkering with my writing process, I've also tinkered with one more process in my life: the way I make tea. I know, major, right?

When I first started using loose tea when I was right out of college, I used a tea ball, mostly because I wanted to be pouring the tea out of a teapot to serve it (one of the points of doing "real" tea), and if the tea sits with the tea leaves too long, it gets nasty. I have a really good tea ball that's a very fine nylon mesh and seals tightly, so no leaves get into the tea, and it's a long cylinder, which gives the tea room to expand while brewing. Back in those early days when I was just discovering tea, I'd improvise a "tea cozy" using potholders and dish towels and pour my tea out of the pot.

More recently, I've gotten into the habit of putting a pot of tea in a Thermos so I get perfectly hot tea throughout my afternoon writing session. That actually saves me a few minutes each day because I don't have to reheat tea. Meanwhile, thanks to gifts (when people learn you like tea, you get a lot of tea as gifts), I have a lot of varieties of flavored loose teas that I drink occasionally. I don't like to brew these in my usual teapot because I don't want the flavor getting into my regular tea (I'm mostly a fan of tea-flavored tea). I used to have one of those travel mugs with an infuser basket, but the basket never really worked, letting way too many leaves through, and then the cup itself cracked when hot water was poured in (which, of course, you expect to happen in a cup supposedly designed for brewing tea). I wanted to make some of that tea the other day and got the bright idea of just brewing it loose in a glass measuring cup and then straining it into a mug. I was surprised by how much the tea leaves expanded and unfolded and how rich the flavor was.

So, it occurred to me that since I pour my regular tea into a Thermos right after brewing anyway, I might as well use loose tea in the pot and then strain it into the Thermos. It made the flavor so much stronger that I can use less tea and brew it for a shorter time, so it saves time and money. The only problem is that it's a bit of a pain to clean out the teapot, but I'm working on finding the optimal way of doing that.

See, I'm not totally a creature of habit. I can change my ways. A little.