3 Unique Uses for Used or Old Tea Bags

Old tea bags

Old tea bags are great for the compost!

Tea drinkers inevitably have old tea bags in their pantry along with their other teas. As we have either given up tea bags for higher quality loose leaf tea or been given them as a gift by a non-tea drinking friend, these old tea bags take up space because it feels wasteful to throw them away. Well, here are 3 easy ways to use those old tea bags around the house without ever having to drink them.

Fertilizer and compost for your plants. You may not like the taste of stale tea bags (if your tea tastes like paper, it is stale), but your plants love it. Break open those tea bags and put the tea leaves around your house plants or out in your flower beds. They will decompose quickly and their nutrients are helpful for any plant.

Treat yourself to a tea bath. The Chinese have used tea for centuries to help alleviate the pain of sun burn or poison ivy. Black tea is best for this, but other teas will work as well. You can place a cool wet tea bag on a burn to alleviate the pain. Brewed black tea also helps to dry out a weeping poison ivy rash. After you have brewed the tea for your skin, allow the bags to cool and use them as a compress for your eyes. Black tea helps to remove the puffiness around tired eyes.

Deodorize your home. There is a reason tea is stored in air tight containers. Tea is hygrosopic, which means it absorbs moisture and odor from the air. The Chinese will leave a small plate of used tea leaves in freezers and refrigerators to remove odor. Put those tea bags in your closets to remove odor. Dried used tea bags also work in removing odor from shoes. The good news here is that the tea doesn’t impart its own smell while absorbing odors. You know when to change the leaves by smelling them. They will smell like the odor they absorbed.

So, clean those bags out of your tea cabinet and put them to work for you!

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Growing Regions of Sri Lanka – Terroir & Tea

Tea bushes in Sri Lanka.

Ceylon Tea Plantation in Sri Lanka.

Most people do not think of Sri Lanka when they think about tea, until you realize that Ceylon tea comes from Sri Lanka. The British East India Company named the island Ceylon and the name Sri Lanka was actually given to the island in 1972, long after the British had gone. So Sri Lanka is Ceylon, but not all Ceylon teas are created equal. This is a mountainous island, so terroir is going to make a huge difference. The island nation of Sri Lanka boasts 7 different tea growing regions, each producing a different flavor profile for their teas. Below we give you a brief description on what to look for from each region.

Uva – This high elevation, remote, mountainous region of Sri Lanka produces the most complex teas. Their mellow, woody, and floral flavors are considered the finest of Ceylon tea, containing both the copper color and smoother flavor. These flavors are a product of the southwestern monsoons and winds of the northeast. So the area is dry during the prime harvest season and wet during other seasons, creating the best growing conditions for the plants.

Kandy – This mid-elevation region produces a strong bodied tea with a copper colored infused. The monsoon winds heavily influence the flavor. The more the wind and rain, the smoother the flavor.

Nuwara Eliya – The most delicate and lightest of the Ceylon teas, this is  generally higher elevation than Uva. It produces a gold colored liquor in the cup and a light floral flavor. This is a Ceylon tea that most Europeans and Americans would not identify as Ceylon. Exposed to cold winters, the tea plants in this area get a dormant period that other growing regions do not get.

Uda Pussellawa – This wet monsoon region is known more for its leopards than its tea. It still produces a tangy, yet pinkish brew that is somewhere between the flavors of Uva and Nuwara Eliya. This heavy rainfall regions produce the stronger Ceylon teas that are known for holding their flavor in milk.

Dimbula – This region averages 4,000 feet high with rugged terrain, lower than Uva. That terrain produces micro-climates at various estates. Some can be dry, while others are rainy. Generally,tea from Dimbula is mellow, missing the finishing bite from other Ceylon teas. It produces a golden-orange cup that is darker than Nuwara Eliya but lighter than Uda Oussellawa.

Ruhuna – This southern coastal region of Sri Lanka is low-elevation. This lower elevation produces the largest tea leaves in Sri Lanka. It also produces the darkest and most flavorful of the blends. If you like your Ceylon tea with a drying finish, this is the region to turn to. Much like Uda Pussellawa, it will more than hold its flavor in milk. In fact, you may want to only drink this tea with milk.

Sabaragamuwa – This mid-elevation region is a mixture of valleys and mountains. It is located on the north end of the island, making it slightly less wet than the other parts of the island. It produces a sweeter, more caramel flavored tea with a dark reddish-brown tinted brew.

While Sri Lanka works to educate the world on the differences of its growing regions, now is the time to learn these differences and to start to explore the different regions of Sri Lanka and Ceylon tea. Ask your tea merchant which region they buy from, that will tell you whether they have taken the time to learn about Sri Lanka and all it has to offer.

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Cheese Tea, Bubble Tea, Milk Tea and Nitro Tea: What are you Drinking?

Cheese Tea

Fresh Cheese Tea being prepared at Gong Cha in Guangzhou, China.

Cheese tea, bubble tea, milk tea and nitro tea are all available in the US markets. However, few consumers know what they are and where they originated from. We explore each of these delicious treats to explain what they are and provide the essential back story so you can hold your own in any foodie conversation.

Cheese Tea

This is tea topped with a combination of cream cheese, whipped cream and sugar. Yes, this sounds strange, but done correctly and it is an awesome culinary experience. We are found of Tie Kuan Yin or Jasmine Green in this combo with low sugar. Originating out of Guangdong, China by the Royal Tea Company, now called HeyTea, it is immensely popular in China and comes in a wide range of flavors and levels of sweetness. It can be served warm or over ice. The company Gong Cha, also from China, has chains in New York City serving what is supposedly the same recipe, but the cheese is more whipped cream than cream cheese and sweeter. (We prefer the ones we had when visiting Guangdong over the ones served in New York City). Rest assured this is not a low calorie beverage or a low sugar beverage. The cheese topping is said to contain at least 20 grams of sugar but could have as much as 50 grams and that is before they offer to add more sugar to the tea. We haven’t found a company in Virginia making anything close to the original, but Gong Cha is moving into the area beginning in Rockville, MD.

Bubble Tea or Boba Tea

This is a tea like beverage containing large tapioca pearls at the bottom of the drink. Yes, there is tea in the liquid but you may also find that it has been blended with fruit juice or milk. This also comes in a wide variety of flavors and requires an extra large straw to suck up the tapioca pearls. It is generally served cold or at room temperature. It is a different beverage to drink as it is chunky. So if you are ok with chewing on the tapioca pearls, you may enjoy this. This is another calorie dense drink as the tapioca pearls themselves will give you over 100 calories and may be cooked in sugar water to help sweeten them, adding even more. With milk, fruit juice and other sweeteners added this beverage quickly makes it way above 300 calories.

Milk Tea & Thai Iced Tea

Milk tea originates in Hong Kong and is simply evaporated milk (not sweetened) and tea. The milk is sometimes steeped with lavender, jasmine or other floral flavors and then blended with the tea. Sugar is added on request and the beverage is generally served warm. Think of this as a reflection of the century of rule by the British Empire. Thai Iced Tea is a very close in nature to the Hong Kong milk tea. Originating in Thailand, it is served cold and with sweetened condensed milk. This makes the beverage much thicker and sweeter. Sometimes additional spices like star anise or ginger are also added. The milk and sugar add calories, but no where near cheese or bubble tea.

Nitro Tea

This American invention is the tea lover’s answer to nitro coffee. Nitro tea is cold-brewed tea pressurized in a canister of nitrogen gas and dispensed out of spigot just like beer. The nitrogen gas makes the tea naturally sweeter and adds little bubbles to the tea. There are no additional calories, unless the maker of the cold brewed tea added sugar or fruit juice. So think of this as bubbly iced tea. You can add simple syrup after dispensing it but it will deflate the bubbles.

So as you are out and about, keep your eyes open for these unique versions of tea.

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New Teas for New Habits

With the new year right around the corner, we thought we would share some teas to help you form new habits. Whether it is expanding your horizons by trying new things, reducing your caffeine intake or adding a cup of green tea to your daily routine, here are some of our picks to help you get off on the right foot.

Reducing Caffeine

Generally tea has half the caffeine of coffee and one third the caffeine of soda. So replacing those beverages with tea is an easy answer for reducing caffeine. Not only that but the caffeine in tea is less jolting too! If you are looking to replace coffee, check out this post on 3 teas for coffee drinkers. However, if you are like us and tea is your go-to constantly, then we have to talk tisanes (French term meaning tea like drink without tea). One of our favorite tisanes is Honeybush. This cousin of Rooibos is slightly sweet and woody. It is naturally caffeine free and a great substitute in the evening just before bed.

Adding Green Tea

It is almost daily that we are asked about the health benefits of green tea. They are numerous, but to get them you must drink at least one cup daily. For some, this may be somewhat daunting, especially if milk and sugar are part of your tea routine. Green tea should not be drunk with milk or sugar. There are a few green teas that make it easier to transition to this tea type. Hundred Year Tea is one of these since it is blended with other ingredients that give it a slight spiciness and help to tone down the grassy flavor of tea. The other is Liu An Gua Pian, also known as Melon Seed Tea. This green tea from Anhui, China is subtly sweet and much less grassy in flavor than most green teas, making it a good introduction to this type of tea.

Trying New Things

Expanding one’s horizons is often a fun resolution and gives you a reason to expand your tea drinking habits. This leads us tea drinkers into the world of Puerh Tea. Admittedly the flavor profiles on these fermented teas range from peat moss to collard greens, which may not be appealing to all. However, this category of tea surprises many and opens up a wide range of highly crafted and cared for teas, whose history is thousands of years old. A good place to start is sampling a few of the teas in a flight of tea at our shop or picking up a sample size of Golden Fortune Puerh or Puerh Leaf Satemwa.

There are many teas out there that can be incorporated into your new habits for the new year. So join us in exploring them all!

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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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