Tag Archives: Tea bag

Matcha Whisk

Top 5 Tea Accessories

We get this question a lot from our newest tea converts: what do I need in order to brew myself the perfect cup of tea? While the truth is that, at its simplest, all you need for a good cup of tea is leaves and water, we have a few favorite tools that we think can make the process easier and more enjoyable. These accessories make great gifts for both the beginning tea enthusiast and the longtime connoisseur.

Infuser Basket for Large Leaf Tea

Infuser Basket

1. Infuser Basket: Hands down, baskets are the best option when it comes to steeping your tea leaves. Unlike an infuser ball, baskets do not compress the tea or pack it in too tightly, allowing your tea leaves to expand as they infuse, which in turn leads to a fuller flavor extraction. Tea baskets are designed to fit a variety of mug sizes, and some can fold or collapse for easy storage. Look for stainless steel for easy, dishwasher-safe cleaning, and for fine straining holes to allow for a variety of cuts of tea or tisanes.


Teapot with Removable Strainer

Teapot with Removable Strainer

2. Teapot with Removable Strainer Basket: Want to brew more than a single cup? Teapots with a removable strainer make it quick and easy. After your tea is finished brewing, the basket lifts out so you can pour, share, and not over-steep. (we’ve got these in our Purcellville, VA location)


3. Paper Tea Filters: Looking for an easy way to brew tea at the office or on-the-go? Paper tea filters let you leave your infuser basket at home. Simply fill the packet with your desired amount of tea, then fold down, infuse in hot water, and discard when your tea is ready. Our favorite brands are biodegradable, so that you can compost both bag and leaves when you are finished.


Matcha Whisk

Matcha Whisk

4. Chasen (Matcha Whisk): Sometimes, traditional tools are far better than modern equivalents. Unlike a metal kitchen whisk, the fine bamboo tines of a chasen will easily mix up your matcha green tea powder without leaving clumps or residual powder behind.


5. Glass Gaiwan: Extremely popular among Chinese tea connoisseurs, the clear walls of a glass gaiwan allow you to watch your tea leaves unfurl and “dance” as they infuse. This is a beautiful and meditative way to enjoy your loose-leaf teas!


Glass Gaiwan

Glass Gaiwan


By: Jen Coate

Builder’s Tea: A Workman’s Tradition

Builder’s Tea is a uniquely British concoction that is both indispensable to its working class and a fascinating unsung contributor to its tea culture. This creation of Yorkshire Tea is still a staple that drives its marketing, like the ad for Yorkshire Tea starring Sean Bean, which we enthusiastically recommend that you treat yourself and give it a watch (we’ll include a link at the bottom). “Proper brews… for Yorkshire!” Now that’s the passion that good tea deserves.

Worker's Enjoying Tea

Worker’s Enjoying Tea – Gunbower District, Victoria

Builder’s tea has been around far longer than there has been a name for it, but it is thought to have developed in the 1970’s, as the U.K. was finally regaining its economic footing in the decades following WWII. The British manufacturing industry was on the rise, domestic production was highly valued, and skilled laborers were in demand to work assembly lines and construction sites. A new blue-collar culture began to emerge, and with it, a demand for low-cost, quick-brewing tea that could provide these workers a rapid dose of refreshment. This need was especially vital for those working outside factories and offices, where deadlines were tighter and breaks more sporadic – everyday tradesmen like carpenters, electricians, and bricklayers.

The essential elements of a cup of builder’s tea were thus tailored to the demands of the laborer. Traditionally, the blend utilized would consist mostly of Keemun (also known as Qimen or Qimen Gongfu) a Chinese black tea out of southern Anhui Province. First produced during the Qing Dynasty, this tea has been popular in the West since the late 19th century. Its characteristics make it ideal as the base of builder’s tea, which needed to be inexpensive, highly caffeinated, and with a flavor able to withstand a fast and brutal preparation. Historically favored brands include Tetley’s, PG Tips, and – of course – Yorkshire.

Colonial Breakfast Tea Liquor and Loose Leaf

Colonial Breakfast Tea

Builder’s tea was always brewed directly in mugs instead of a teapot. Boiled water was poured directly over teabags (loose tea was never preferred), and each mug was then subject to vigorous stirring. The idea was to extract as much flavor and caffeine from the teabag as possible in an abbreviated amount of time, and stirring was thought to speed the process along. Once the desired steep strength was reached, the bag was discarded, and generous amounts of full-fat milk and white sugar were added for an extra boost of energy and calories.

These days, although still conspicuous on any British construction site or factory floor, builder’s tea is waning in popularity as coffee blends and energy drinks seek to crowd out competition. Brands like Yorkshire Tea, however, still insist on keeping builder’s tea alive. And if you’re curious to try a strong black tea to get you through the workday, we at Dominion Tea recommend Colonial Breakfast. This Keemun blend boasts a malty kick and a delightful smoothness, and is perfect for both a morning start or an afternoon pickup. Hard to beat that for a proper brew!

By: Jen Coate
Yorkshire Tea Commercial: https://youtu.be/8cipMoGKXGE

Five Reasons to Keep the Paper Tea Bag

I will admit up front I love the variety of loose tea so I rarely use a tea bag anymore. However, the tried and true paper tea bag is far from extinct and still deserves a place in your tea drinking routine. Thus, we felt it would be fun to compile our list of the top five reasons not turn our noses up at paper tea bags just yet:

Silken Doesn’t Mean Silk

Tea bag.

Modern Tea Bag

Most, but not all, of the pretty “silken” tea bags are made of food grade plastic, nylon or polyethylene terephthalate (PET). Food grade plastic does have a melting point well above 212 degrees Fahrenheit (the temperature of boiling water).  However, these plastics do start to break down at 169 degrees Fahrenheit, so it is possible for them to start leaching their polymers into the hot water (Orci, 2013). We forget that plastics have not been around for very long in the food arena – 1980s is when they really took off. There are plenty of studies looking at all types of plastics to figure out what they do and do not put into food. In the meantime, paper has been used for centuries to filter water and is known to be safe.

Paper is not a Tea Flavor

The “paper” flavor that some claim is imparted on the tea leaves really comes from user error.  Like loose tea, tea in bags goes stale.  In fact, it actually goes stale faster because the tea pieces are smaller.  So don’t buy boxes of 100 plus tea bags unless you plan on at least using one tea bag a day.  Buy them in smaller quantities and use quickly. For storage, it helps if you get them out of the paper box and put them in a canister or Tupperware.  It will slow the process of moisture and unwanted smells making their way into the tea bags.  Also, don’t leave your tea bag in your cup.  Given the small particles, your black tea will brew in 2-3 minutes instead of the 5 minutes needed for larger loose leaf tea.  You are less likely to taste paper if it isn’t floating in your cup while you sip.

Composting Tea Bags

You can compost your paper tea bags and they will actually dissolve.  The mesh tea bags made of plastic will take close to 1,000 years to decompose in a landfill, even if they are a corn based plastic instead of the traditional petroleum plastic (Atteberry).  My tea leaves are always headed out to the compost bin, so it is nice to just toss the bag in as well.  Also paper tea bags have come a long way with many companies using unbleached paper coming from sustainably harvested wood pulp.

TeaBrew paper filter package.

TeaBrew Sustainable Paper Filters

Make Your Own Tea Bags

Make your own tea bags with loose tea leaves and single serve paper tea filters. These are great, allowing me to get my tea fix while running late. I can just scoop my loose tea into the filter, pour in hot water and take it with me to steep in the car. I just pull out the tea filter and discard like tea bag.

Have Tea, Will Travel

There is no doubt to this traveler that tea bags are the most convenient way to travel with tea. I can put a few into a small ziplock and they fit right in my purse. However, I will totally admit to packing my infuser or paper single serve sacks, a spoon, and a ziplock of my favorite loose tea into my suit case for longer trips.

Whatever your tea source, it might be a great idea to have some paper tea filters on hand. You can even prepare them ahead of time using your best loose leaf tea. Simply add the tea, fold them over, and store in a ziplock or recycle an old tea tin to have your tea at the ready.

Works Cited
Orci, T. (2013, April 8). Are Tea Bags Turning Us into Plastic. Retrieved from The Atlantic: http://www.theatlantic.com/health/archive/2013/04/are-tea-bags-turning-us-into-plastic

Atteberry, Jonathan. Are food-based plastics a good idea? Retreived from http://science.howstuffworks.com/food-based-plastics.htm

Trade as the Mother of Invention

Saint Emilion Grand Cru

Wine from the Saint Emilion region of France.

We are passionate about culture, history, and how many products and values are shaped by the interaction between people around the world.  This includes tea, and how it has shaped and been shaped by history and culture over thousands of years.  We referenced how the notion of terrior relates not only to tea but to wine and other products as well.

On a recent trip to France we were struck by yet another facet of history.  The notion that global trade, and the requirements associated with shipping products around the world have led to many of the great products we have today.  During our tour of wineries with TéléPro Tour in the Saint-Émilion region outside of Bordeaux, our guide noted that while wine has long been traded with England and others.  Over time, innovation led from clay vessels to wooden barrels and at one point someone noticed that the wine shipped from France to England tasted significantly better after shipment.  The difference forever changed wine production as producers determined it was the wine aged in oak during transport that produced exceptional flavors and aromas.  As a side note, the standard 75 ml bottle we see today came from the fact that the 225 liter barrel makes exactly 300 bottles if the barrel is full.

Men working on the Tea Horse Road carrying large bundles of tea.

Tea Porters by Ernest H Wilson, CC BY 2.0

For tea, much like wine, it was the necessities of transportation which led to the development of Pu-erh.  As early as 1600 BCE the road between China and Tibet and other locations was long and arduous, travelling over treacherous, high terrain.  It was used to transport goods for trade including sugar, salt, tea, horses, and of course culture and ideas.  Tea became important to the people of Tibet and similarly horses became important to China for military use.  Thus tea and horses were commonly traded via this road giving us the Tea-Horse Road by which it is known today.  This nearly 1500 mile journey would have taken a very long time to traverse and efficient transport of goods was a must.  So tea leaves began to be packaged into cakes.  This packaging allowed tea to be compressed and stacked for easier transportation by both man and horse.  Like wine, it was discovered that the tea actually had new flavors and aromas after the trip then at the beginning.  It turns out that time in the heat and humidity during the long trip along the tea horse road substantially changed the tea resulting in something like the pu-erh enjoyed today.

Tea bag.

Modern Tea Bag

Like aged tea and wine barrels before it, tea bags were also developed by accident as a result of trade between people separated by distance.  A far more modern development the tea bag was created by Thomas Sullivan of New York.  Upon receiving tea, Mr. Sullivan began to package teas in small silk bags in order to send small samples on to his customers.  Not realizing they should take the tea out of the bags some customers simply immersed in water.  When they reported back to Mr. Sullivan that the silk was a bit to fine, he realized the opportunity, switched to gauze and the tea bag was born.

Yet again, we find ourselves fascinated with tea, how it has been impacted throughout history, and has contributed to global culture.  Are there other analogous inventions you might be aware of, tea or otherwise?

Beyond the Teabag – 5 Things To Upgrade Your Tea Experience

For so many Americans, our only exposure to tea is from teabags, the tea served at Chinese restaurants, or those few selections offered at one of the nationwide chains.  Are you aware that there are 6 major types of tea and hundreds of options when you consider growing conditions, manufacturing methods, and local variations?  Unlike other beverages there is something for everyone, however too much choice can often be overwhelming.  Here are a few of our thoughts to simplify your early experience with loose leaf tea and tisanes:

  1. Start simple with a black, oolong, green or blended tea.  If you prefer no caffeine then consider an herbal or rooibos.
  2. Loose leaf tea is easy to make:  Start with a good infuser or use a good paper filter.  Avoid the stereotypical tea ball and go with something large to allow room for the tea to move around while steeping.
  3. If making black, oolong, or pu’erh, use boiling water and steep 1 tsp per 8 oz mug, no longer than 5 minutes.  If you are like us, you use a large mug or travel tumbler, so make sure you know roughly how much water is in your mug of choice and adjust the amount of tea accordingly.
  4. When steeping green, yellow, and white tea, allow boiling water to cool 3-4 minutes before adding tea.  Never use boiling water with these.  Use 1 tsp per 8 oz of water for green tea or 1 Tbsp per 8 oz for white tea or yellow tea.  Don’t steep any longer than 3-5 minutes.
  5. Steep 1 tsp per 8 oz of water for pure herbals (those containing no tea at all), rooibos, and honey bush for 7-10 minutes with boiling water.

More Ways to Upgrade Your Tea Experience

If the top five list above doesn’t quite satisfy your need, here are a few other things to be aware of.

Re-using an infuser after simply knocking out the prior tea leaves yields a mixture of the old and new leaves.

The result of adding boiling water to an emptied, but not really clean, fine mesh infuser.

  • Green tea really does not need to be bitter.  The key is to make sure you do NOT use boiling water.  With green tea you really want 170-185 degrees Fahrenheit and you don’t want to steep longer than 5 minutes.  Steeping at a lower temperature is often better.
  • If you use a fine mesh infuser, be sure to at least rinse it with boiling water before adding a new tea.  If you are like us, you are very busy and it’s so tempting to just knock out the last tea leaves and refill.  Without rinsing with boiling water you end up with lots of contamination from the last tea you brewed.
  • It pays to pre-heat your mug when steeping black, oolong, and pu’erh teas.  Adding boiling water to a mug, especially a ceramic mug, will almost instantly drop the temperature below 200 degrees.  If you add boiling water to your mug first, discard, and refill a second time for steeping you will keep the temperature higher for a longer period of time adding to the intensity.

Start Simple Then Experiment

Most teas do come with recommended times and loose tea per 8 oz serving size.  These more specific suggestions are certainly a better starting point than the general guidance above.  However, if you are new to loose leaf tea there really is no need to make it overly complicated.  Find something you like, use a good infuser or single use tea filter, and follow the general time and temperature guidance above.  As you drink tea more often you might try to start varying the amount of tea you use, as well as temperature and time to see how the taste varies, perhaps finding a combination more to your specific taste.

Clay Yixing Teapot in Hot Water

Yixing Teapot by Flickr SOLO-ASSA, CC BY-SA 2.0

Making tea can, of course, be a lot more involved if you want it to be.  We didn’t talk about specialty teapots, gaiwan sets, or the myriad other accessories and techniques for steeping.  Nor did we talk about making your own blends or baking tea on your own.  These are all topics for another day if and when the curiosity arises.

Know someone who could benefit from this post?  Please share and help others experience loose leaf tea.  And be sure to like us on Facebook or follow us on Twitter for more information on tea, its history, and culture.