I love tea. I love almost every kind of tea. From a morning cup of English Breakfast with liberal amounts of milk and sugar to a light, crisp green tea so perfect with spicy foods, to a lemon-infusion (more properly called a tisane) as an after-dinner digestif, I love tea. Sadly, 99% of the tea widely available out there does nothing to inspire loyalty in tea-drinkers. Bagged tea is generally the crushed bits and leftover dust from tea leaves, and pales in comparison to tea made from actual tea leaves. Don’t get me wrong, I like even bagged tea. But there’s a whole world of tea out there to explore! It might take a while to get used to the subtler tastes and delicate blendings of tea if your palate is used to the full-on, super-bold, caffeine-enriched coffee from your ubiquitous corner coffee shop. I think we all know who I’m talking about here. As much as I may yearn for a Toffee-Nut Latte or a Mocha Frappacino, and I do yearn, believe me, I have come to the conclusion that the splurge is just not worth it–for my waistline or my bottom line.
Tea, on the other hand, is the ultimate do-it-at-home beverage. Home-brewed coffee may require an expensive espresso machine (or may taste like the acidic, burnt crud that builds up in the bottom of your Mr. Coffee) but tea, ah, tea! You can hardly screw up tea. You don’t even need a teapot, if you’re that much of a minimalist. (Although with these cute-yet-inexpensive teapots, why not have one around?)
Start with some loose leaf tea. You can go for the simple Twinings English Breakfast, if you like a medium-body black tea. This is a good one for beginners/former coffee addicts. You can buy a little tin of this in most grocery stores (in the tea section, in a nifty little red tin you can save and use to put other things in later, and think yourself quite cool).
Boil water in a teapot or in a regular old saucepan. Once water is boiling, either add tea leaves directly to pot, or put tea leaves into a one-cup strainer (see picture) that hangs on the side of your mug. Let tea steep for 3-8 minutes, depending on the type of tea and how strong you like your tea.
Add milk and sugar, if it’s a black tea, honey if it’s an herbal tea (a tisane, remember), nothing at all if it’s a green or white tea, and lemon only if you’re seriously misguided. Okay, kidding about the last one. Plenty of people enjoy lemon in their tea. Probably the same oddballs who salt their cream of wheat rather than adding brown sugar, but hey, to each their own!
Now sit back, preferably with a good book or the paper, turn on the telly for the wee ones, and enjoy!