Retrain Your Taste Buds: 3 Tips for Enjoying Straight Tea

Tea with Creamer and Sugar

Care for some tea with your cream and sugar?

It is possible to retrain your taste buds to enjoy tea without milk or sugar. You are not so much retraining your taste buds but your brain. How people enjoy food is a rather complex system that scientists are still studying to understand, but there is a general consensus that flavor preferences are built by what is consumed routinely. So if you are wanting to remove that milk and sugar from your tea or expand your tea habit into new areas like puerh or green tea, here are 3 tips to help you in that process.

  1. Slowly remove the milk and sugar from your tea. This includes stevia and other sugar substitutes. If you taper it down over time, your brain won’t reject the change. Try reducing the milk and sugar by half what you normally put in the first week. Then reduce by half the following week and follow the same pattern until you are at zero. The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition ran a study in 2016 that had half the participants reduce their sugar intake and then judge the sweetness of certain foods before and after 3 months of a reduced sugar diet. It was not a surprise that the group found certain foods more sweet after reducing their sugar intake. Our brains are very good to adapting to what we do, if we constantly consume sugar the brain stops consciously registering the sweetness. So we consume more sugar to get the sweetness we think we want. This particular study used 3 months, but other studies on taste have indicated that the taste preferences reset anywhere between 3-6 weeks.
  2. Keep trying that new tea. It will take between 5-10 tastes to adjust. Yes, new flavors are learned. So a single sip will not work, it requires repeated consumption to register the new flavor with your brain. You need to think when consuming this new flavor. What do you like? What is different? Why is it different? Is different good or bad? This practice is termed mindful eating. If practiced enough you will enjoy new foods more.
  3. Pair that new tea with something you love. If you are really serious about bringing green tea into your diet but are having trouble with the flavor, drink that tea while eating something you like. This is called associative conditioning. Our brains will associate the new flavor with the one you already like and condition you to enjoy that new flavor more than if you consumed it alone. You will need to do this more than once for it to work, usually about 4 or 5 times. This trick also works really well when introducing new foods to children.

Enjoy trying new tea and retraining your taste buds!

 

 

 

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How to Tell if Your Tea Has Gone Stale

Old Antique Tea Tin

While this is a super cool find its probably best to pitch any tea you find inside.

Tea leaves, when stored properly, will have a long shelf life. However, the flavor will change with age. So here are some tips on how to tell if your tea is stale and its time to feed it to your garden plants.

  1. Tastes flat or like paper. Those paper wrapped tea bags are meant to be used quickly, usually under a year. So don’t second guess yourself when you feel like you can taste the tea bag. If you need to keep those tea bags longer, get them into a resealable plastic bag. If it is not tea bag tea, and it tastes like paper, it’s also stale.
  2. Your tea starts to brew darker than normal. For green and white teas, this will start to come after the one year point. Generally you may not notice it if you are drinking it daily, as the change is gradual. There is nothing wrong with the darker brew, it is just an indication that the tea is aging. Eventually your white tea will brew like a green tea and your green tea will brew like an oolong or black tea if you keep it long enough. To really get the original taste, you need to drink your white teas within 1 year and your green teas in under 2 years.
  3. If your tea is blended with spices or nuts, the shelf life is dictated by those ingredients and not the tea leaves. Those other ingredients will go stale before the tea leaf does, especially the nuts. So if your favorite blend starts to taste weak or has an odd after taste, it is not your imagination, the other items in the blend have gone stale. If there are nut slivers in your tea, you really should drink it all before the 6 month mark to ensure good flavor. Your favorite chai should be consumed within the year to get the full effect of the cardamom and cinnamon.
  4. The hardest tea to tell if it has gone stale is black tea. If stored properly, it can hold its flavor a long time. For stronger blacks, you will notice the ending bite fade and the tea will taste more like stale bread. For the softer Chinese blacks, they will develop a bite that wasn’t there before.

Storage is critical to keeping your tea fresh, which you can learn about here. However, drink your tea regularly. It is meant to be enjoyed.

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3 Oolong Teas Worthy of Cold Weather

Loose Leaf Oolong

Loose Oolong Tea Leaves

As temperatures start to drop, warmer heavier flavors come to everyone’s mind. It is no surprise Pumpkin Spice Chai is popular in the fall, it contains both spice and the flavor of a vegetable Americans associate with fall. There are plenty of other teas that carry warmer, earthier flavors that can fill the bill for a fall/winter tea, without being a chai. Oolong teas can carry the much needed warmth and earthiness while allowing you to enjoy something other than black tea. Here are 3 of our favorite oolongs for colder mornings.

  1. Ruby Oolong – This darker oolong, meaning it is allowed to oxidize longer, from Nepal is amber in color and complex in flavor. It carries earthier flavors than a typical oolong, making it closer in flavor to black tea yet more complex. It has a heavier mouth feel, with a lingering butterscotch flavor on the finish.
  2. Fanciest Formosa – This oolong from Taiwan carries both floral and woody flavors while also being creamy. If you are paying close attention, you can even pick up stone fruit flavors like peach with this tea. It has a slightly sweet finish that is reminiscence of honey pastries and breads. It is not as dark in color as the Ruby Oolong but still brews a golden orange color that reminds us of fall leaves.
  3. Golden Buddha – While having a floral aroma, this tea carries a heavier mouth feel with a stone fruit flavor, like plum or peach. This brews a light amber color and finishes with a sweet caramel flavor that lingers. If you are not sure you want to try oolongs, this is a perfect place to start.

Oolong teas are often overlooked here in the U.S., which is a shame given their wide range of flavors. So explore and enjoy this category of tea with us.

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Hundred Year Tea – A Modern Twist on an Historic Beverage

Loose leaf hundred year tea.

Hundred Year Tea

The inspiration for Hundred Year Tea comes from the first Korean encyclopedia, published in 1614 C.E. The author, Yu Su-gwang, tells the story of an old man punishing another man who appears to be even older still. When chastised for punishing the older man, he replies that the other man is actually his son despite his appearance. He is punishing him because he did not follow his instructions to drink hundred year wine each day and now has aged to the point where he appears older than his father. This hundred year wine, known as Baeksaeju, is available in many Asian markets, and is made of numerous spices found in traditional Asian medicine. We have taken those spices and added them to green tea for our own version of this beverage

Hundred Year Tea: Ingredients from Traditional Asian Medicine

Some of the ingredients that add the spice in this tea are recognizable to most Americans, like the cinnamon, goji berries, ginger and licorice root. The schisandra berries and astragalus deserve some explanation. Both of these ingredients have been used for centuries in Chinese medicine to treat a wide variety ailments.

Schisandra berries are also called the five flavor berries. These red berries look like small cranberries because of their color but they pack a complex flavor. It’s salty, sweet, bitter, sour and pungent all at the same time! It adds a depth to this tea that would otherwise require many more ingredients to get. The Chinese have long used this schisandra berry for coughs, other lung ailments, to regulate blood sugar and assist with liver functions. Schisandra hasn’t been widely tested by the medical community in the United States but the Chinese have derived and use widely liver treatment drugs from this fruit.

Astragalus is a type of legume or bean that is native to Northern China and Eastern Russia. By itself, it tastes like dried hay or wood. Combined with tea, it smooths out the flavor. It is the root of the astragalus plant that is harvested and has long been used in Chinese medicine to boost the immune system. It has been proven to help increase white blood cell counts and assist in decreasing the duration of cold and flu. More recently it has been studied here in the US for its ability to turn on an enzyme in humans called telomerase, which lengths the telomeres at the end of the DNA strands in humans. The US medical community has been studying telmeres in relationship to age related diseases and agree that it is the shortening of telomeres that makes a person susceptible to age related diseases like heart disease, certain cancers, and diabetes. For now, the medical community thinks the shortening comes with the repeated copying of the DNA, but there are several studies looking at how diet, exercise and environment effect telomeres. In the meantime, we are going to appreciate the fact that humans knew several centuries ago that this plant helped and modern science is now telling us how.

Hundred Year Tea: Taste

While it is nice to see modern proof for a centuries old story, we are more focused on how it tastes. This tea is subtle yet spicy with a flavor profile more complex than Indian chai tea. The spice in this tea removes the grassiness often associated with green tea, making it a good introduction to green tea for those who are not fond of the typical green tea flavors. For the routine green tea drinker, this is fun change that preserves all the health benefits while giving you a new flavors to enjoy. Give it a try and let us know what you think.

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How to Make a Single Cup of Iced Tea

Fresh Iced Tea by the Cup

Preparing a single cup of iced tea.

In warmer weather one of the things we offer in our Purcellville Tasting Room is iced tea in a variety of forms. With over 100 different teas to choose from we don’t want to limit guests to what we have prepared ahead of time or what’s on the nitro tea tap. So we also offer any tea, iced by the cup. And guests regularly ask how they can do the same thing at home.

Making a single cup of iced tea is very easy. So if you are wanting a cup of iced tea but not in the mood for a full pitcher, here is how it’s done.

Single Cup of Iced Tea: Equipment

  • Kettle (yes you can boil water on the stove but its well worth picking up an electric kettle)
  • Glass measuring cup (we love Pyrex 8 oz measuring cups)
  • Strainer
  • Glass to drink from (Preferably 16 oz, but you can scale this smaller or larger)

Single Cup of Iced Tea: Instructions

To make a 16 oz cup of iced tea we are effectively going to make a concentrated cup of hot tea and pour it over ice to rapidly cool and dilute it to the right strength.

1. Start by measuring out double the amount of tea you would use for an 8 oz cup into the glass measuring cup. For large leaf tea, this is 2 tablespoons and for small leaf this 2 teaspoons.
2. Get your water to the right temperature in your kettle and pour 1 cup (8 oz) of water into the measuring cup. Allow the tea to steep for the appropriate time. If you are unsure, just check the for the correct time here.
3. Fill your drinking glass with ice. The trick here is to know how much ice to fill based on the density of your ice. You may need to play a little bit, but generally you will fill the 16 oz glass half full with ice.
4. When time is up, pour the hot tea through the strainer onto the ice. You know you have the right amount of ice when most of it melts and just a few cubes remain.

Hint on sugar: If you want sugar in your iced tea, add it to the hot tea while steep and stir. It will dissolve the sugar/honey quickly and the strainer will catch anything that doesn’t melt.

This method works with all tea types and herbal/tisanes. Enjoy!

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