5 Teas to Try Iced or Cold Brewed

Two great teas over ice.

Iced Ti Kuan Yin and Nilgiri

There are many teas that we associate with drinking hot that actually make great iced teas. It all comes down to getting your brewing time and amount of tea correct. Below are just five teas that people may overlook in trying to find new and fun iced or cold brewed tea options.

  1. Irish Breakfast – Yes, your favorite cup of black tea in the morning makes a perfectly good iced tea. You can thank the Assam tea from India that makes up the largest portion of this tea blend. Assam tea’s strong and astringent flavor holds over ice. This makes it a perfect tea for an Arnold Palmer(link to recipe).
  2. Sencha – This staple green tea from Japan is truly tasty cold brewed. If you not familiar with it check out an earlier post on cold brewing tea to find out how easy it is to have tea waiting for you first thing in the morning.
  3. Ti Kuan Yin – Also known as Iron Goddess Tea, this toasted oolong remains smooth and sesame in flavor over ice. It is a nice alternative to typical bold black tea used for iced tea. It also pairs nicely with strawberries or peaches, so feel free to add some to the pitcher or cup to change things up a bit.
  4. Moroccan Mint – This fragrant green tea is just as refreshing cold as it is hot. This one can be prepared either iced or cold brewed.
  5. Nilgiri – This beautiful black tea from India brews crystal clear and remains clear when cold, even after three days in the refrigerator. It also keeps its smooth woody and floral tea taste while cold. Lemon and sugar can be added with no problem. If you want to learn more about this beautiful tea and the region of India it comes from, check out this blog post.

These five teas are just the tip of the iceburg when it comes to ice tea options. So feel free to try your favorite tea cold, you may be surprised by how good it is.

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Cleaning Tea Accessories (For Optimal Tea Enjoyment)

Tea deposits brown tannin stains over time.

Before And After – Cleaning Tannins from Tea Cups

At the start of spring, the inclination to clean and freshen up from the winter kicks in and we should use this habit for cleaning tea accessories that may not have been as thoroughly cleaned as needed from our routine use. Below are some tips on how to properly deep clean your tea accessories.

Tea Infuser

Cleaning this tea accessory is generally the easiest since they are usually dishwasher safe and hopefully you have been doing that. However, if you are like me, my infuser is not always near a dishwasher or I don’t want to risk it disappearing from the dishwasher at work. So to help clean out the tea stains soak the infuser in boiling water for 10 minutes and then rinse under cold. Dispose of that boiling water and repeat. You can also use a toothbrush to help get stuck tea leaf parts out of the holes in the infuser. Gently scrub with the toothbrush after the infuser has soak in the boiling water for at least 5 minutes.

Tea Cups & Tea Pots (Porcelain)

So with age, our favorite porcelain tea cups and pots start to turn brown on the inside. This is a natural formation of the tannins from the tea. This is harmless, but if the color bothers you, you can remove it by combining boiling water, the juice and peel from a quarter of a lemon and 2 tablespoons of baking soda. Allow it to sit in the teapot or cup for at least two hours if not over night. Pour off after it has soaked and wipe down with a gentle cloth. You may need to repeat if the stain is very stubborn. Before putting in your next pot of tea, make sure you rinse with at least one pot or cup of plain boiling water.

Tea Pots (Silver)

So silver tarnishes both inside and outside. I am not one to put silver polish on the inside of my silver teapot, so this is a better method for getting rid of that tarnish. Line your kitchen sink with aluminium foil, shiny side up, and pour in 1/2 cup of salt and 1/2 cup of baking soda. Then fill the sink about 2/3 full (enough so the tea pot fully submerges in the water) with water that is just shy of a boil. Allow the teapot to soak for 1-2 minutes and then pull it out and dry immediately with a soft cloth.

Before and after photos of tarnished followed by clean silver pots.

Cleaning Silver Teapots in 2 Minutes Flat! (aka a great science experiment with kids)

Tea Pots (Iron)

These pots are the easiest to clean as you can clean them after each use by pouring in boiling water and allowing it to sit for about 3-5 minutes and then drain. Do not use a scouring sponge on this pot as it will cause scratches on its surface. If your iron pot develops rust, all is not lost. Generally, the rust is not a problem to consume and some cultures, like the Japanese, like the taste of tea from a rusted iron pot. If rust is not your thing, take some used tea leaves and put them in the pot with boiling water and allow it to sit for 20 minutes. The tannic acid from the tea leaves will react with the rust and create a coating that will prevent future rust formation assuming you don’t leave standing water in your teapot.

Don’t forget after you have cleaned your tea accessories, you should probably check those shelves in the pantry that are home to your tea collection and review our storage guide to help you determine which teas may need to head to the compost pile. Happy Spring Cleaning!

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The Best Way to Experience Tea: By Flight

Cupping teas in flight for comparison is a fun way to explore new flavors.

Tea flights are a great way to explore new teas.

What’s the best way to enjoy a cup of tea? Finding the best way to drink a cup of tea is truly a personal experience. No two people are going to agree on every aspect of which tea, which cup or pot, time of day, whether it is shared with others or enjoyed quietly with a good book or a beautiful view of nature. In developing Dominion Tea and most recently in opening our first retail space, David and I had to grapple with answering that question while allowing for the education of new and experienced tea drinkers alike. We borrowed the idea of a flight of tea from the local Virginia wineries, who offer flights of their wines when you visit them.

How Many Teas in a Flight?

In designing flights, we have opted for three teas. Why three? Well, even though these flights are not full cups of tea but just two ounces of each, there is only so much tasting and distinguishing a person can really do with tea, or wine for that matter, before the flavors blend together. It also helps to minimize the wait time for people as the tea steeps. Some days five minutes feels like an eternity when you really want that cup of tea. Also, by trying more than one there is an opportunity to practice real consciousness when tasting and comparing teas together. Don’t forget there is a lot to tasting that we humans have managed to take for granted.

Get To Know Your Tea

Tea flights also give us an opportunity to educate people about the places these teas come from and the care given to them from the farmers and manufacturers of the tea. As we all know, good tea requires just the right terroir, handling during plucking and manufacturing and proper storage to make it as good as possible. There are a lot of people out there who have no idea where tea comes from and how to make a proper cup of tea, so we seek to make use of this opportunity to help educate those who come into the tasting room.

I will also admit that it is fun to think up all the possible combinations of tea. So while it might be a little unorthodox to think of drinking teas in flight, we hope this new experience excites our fellow tea drinkers while recruiting new ones. Do you have any thoughts on the perfect pairing of three teas you would like to share?

Visit our Purcellville Tasting Room

Are you in the Northern Virginia area? We are located in Western Loudoun County in the heart of Northern Virginia Wine Country. Stop by and visit before heading off on your wine country excursion. Our Purcellville Tasting Room is located at 148 N. 21st St, Purcellville, VA 20132. We are open daily (except Thursday) 10 AM to 5 PM.

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Five Tips to Help You Savor Tea

Experiencing tea involves all of the five senses.

Neural Pathways in the Brain Delivering the Full Tea Experience – by NICHD/P. Basser (CC BY 2.0)

When David and I started to really build Dominion Tea, we sampled a lot of different teas with experienced and inexperienced tea drinkers alike and found out how little we knew about what it means to adequately describe the experience of drinking one tea versus another. Taste is so much more than just the five senses that our tongue gets (sweet, sour, salty, bitter and umami). It also includes touch, smell, and sight. To say that you taste something ignores that fact that it really does require all five senses to register what is in your mouth. To savor tea acknowledges that it requires more than taste to truly enjoy a cup.

It is a testament to the complexity of the human body that all five senses can so quickly execute when we consume beverages or food that it often leaves us lost for words about what we just experienced. To help me figure out how to better describe tea, I went hunting through books on food, brain neurology and what scientists have learned about our mouths. Below are five tips on how to better understand what you are experiencing with your next cup of tea. These take time, patience and practice, but are well worth it.

  1. Play when you drink the tea. Smell the tea before you put it in your mouth and try to describe the smell. Then slurp the tea when you drink it. Yes, slurp. It allows the aroma to travel up the back of your mouth into your nose again. Smell is actually what gives you the complexities of what you taste, not your tongue. Then try to describe what you just drank. How is your second description different from the first? Then sip the same tea while you pinch your nose closed and you will realize what you are missing when your sense of smell is taken out of the process.
  2. Drink with others. No two people have the same tasting experience. Our genetics effect how strongly we taste bitter, salty and sour. There is no wrong way to describe what you taste but having someone else around to compare your experience with helps you get better in finding the right words for what you are experiencing.
  3. Swish the tea around in your mouth. After you have had fun slurping, try swishing. As you swish the tea around in your mouth, what do you feel? Does your tongue feel dry around the sides or does the tea feel creamy down the middle of your tongue?
  4. Know your biases around taste. Our experiences with food are written back into our brains, so if you associate a smell or taste with something bad, even unconsciously, it will affect your future experience. The same holds true for good experiences. Knowing your biases helps to guide you on what to try and may also help you explain why something doesn’t work for you.
  5. Practice describing the what, how, where and when around the cup of tea. What refers to the five tastes. How refers to the intensity of the taste – low, medium or high. Where refers to where in your mouth you taste the tea and when refers usually to the start, middle or end (finish). Practice being precise as possible with these as that will ultimately help you understand what types of teas are pleasing. Often a tea can be pleasing not for its smell or taste but for how it feels in your mouth (think smooth).

Practice these five tips and you will become better on describing your tea experience and learn to appreciate the flavor of more than just your favorite cup of tea.

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Water Quality for a Great Tea Experience

Water droplets.

Do you have great water quality for your tea? Are you sure?

Are you sacrificing a great cup of tea because your water leaves a little something to be desired? Water is the single biggest ingredient in your cup of tea so making sure you have great water quality is a great idea; especially if you have a well!

What is Water Quality?

Well the answer, like that of what is quality tea is, it depends. Water quality can be subjective and depends on the application. It’s really probably better to think in terms of fitness for use. Quality water for swimming, showering, and washing clothes is a very different discussion from the water quality desired for tea.

Its important to start off with a baseline. A large part of what we are trying to do when we make a cup of tea is steep leaves in water in order to extract the favor (and usually caffeine as well) from the leaves. The leaves contain both water soluble and water in-soluble compounds that can impact flavor.  And some of these compounds are more soluble than others at a given temperature. We are looking to extract desirable flavor compounds while minimizing the tannins which result in bitterness.

So for tea we are looking for the ideal water to extract the right amount of flavor.

All We Want is Fresh Clear Water, Right?

Since we are looking for the best water to extract the right balance of flavor what does this look like?  In short, fresh clean water, without off odors, and which has some minerals but isn’t too hard. Sounds easy right?  Here are a few things you will want to know.

  • Tap water is not the same across the country.  Some areas have naturally harder (or softer) water than others. Hardness being a measure of dissolved minerals. The ideal hardness for tea is between 50 and 100 parts per million.
  • Calcium in water creates scale which damages electric tea kettles and increases the energy required to boil water.
  • Public water supplies may have added chlorine and fluoride, may not be as soft as desired, and after travelling through a network of pipes, may not be as clean as you think.
  • Private (aka well) water may be all over the map. It depends where you live, how deep a well you have, what the local geology looks like, and more. While well water is tested for new wells this is minimal testing, primarily for coliform.  It’s not necessarily for radon, pesticides, hardness,  or other things which impact water quality.
  • We do not want distilled water or reverse osmosis water.  The former leaves behind all minerals but not volatile organic compounds (for example benzene or other fuel-related components).  The latter provides pure water with no minerals; flat, boring, and providing an equally boring cup of tea.

Getting Great Water Quality for Tea

First and foremost get your water tested.  If you are on public water you can get a good baseline from the annual water quality report put out by your jurisdiction. However, this will only have basic information in it and won’t account for what happens on the journey from source to destination. It’s a great idea to get your personal water supply tested.  If you are on a well this is really a must as water quality changes over time due to groundwater changes or due to damage to your well head or casing. As a homeowner you will only know the full details of your water by testing yourself. The CDC offers some thoughts on testing.

After testing, consider available solutions to address your water situation. This may be a basic sediment filter, a carbon filter to remove odors and other organics, softening through sodium (salt) ion exchange, and/or scale inhibitors.  Its important to realize that there generally is not a one-sized fits all solution, you may use a combination of methods, and you may want to consider cost and options for treating all your water or only drinking water.

One more note on water quality. While we stated that its different from place to place there are exceptions for large nationwide coffee/tea chains and similar establishments. These businesses are looking for an exact flavor experience every time regardless of which shop you visit. These establishments actually use reverse osmosis to remove everything from the water. Then they use a pre-formulated solution to add back the exact mineral content for exactly the same water, everywhere!

Finally, A Note on Descaling Your Electric Kettle

Pamukkale Travertines of Turkey. Water quality for tea is a measure of disolved solids. In this case lots of calcium formed the travertines.

Extreme Example of Calcium (Scale) Buildup at the Pamukkale Travertines in Tukey. Photo by flickr user SaraYeomans (CC BY 2.0)

We find it amusing that the answer to scale or calcium buildup in your kettle is to purchase special descaling chemicals. However, regular descaling, as if it occurs at the same rate everywhere, is exactly what many electric kettle manuals even claim you should do! Scale, or calcium buildup depends on water hardness which, as we’ve seen, varies dramatically across the country as well as between well and municipal water. So descaling monthly is a bit inappropriate for many consumers. Regardless, you can use white vinegar to remove scale, so why buy something else? More importantly, if you are looking to enjoy your tea and you have excessive mineral buildup in your kettle then you have a bigger problem: hard water. By now you know that the first step is to have your water tested so you know what you are dealing with, can treat it appropriately to have great water quality, and ultimately have a great tea experience.

 

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