Smell Like Tea

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One my favorite, incredibly specific pleasures in life is that moment you open up a new box of tea. I always stick my nose right in there and take a deep breath. There’s something about the smell of tea that just… smells nice. I’m very into it.

Last year, I discovered a perfume that replicates this experience. It’s called Tea Escape, from Maison Martin Margiela’s Replica line. The line’s tag is “reproduction of familiar scents and moments of varying locations and periods.”

It smells like opening up a box of green tea.

You can purchase it here. It’s quite expensive, but you get 3.4 fl oz. I’ve had this bottle for most of the year and have barely put a dent in it, as you can see in the picture.

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Survivabili-tea

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We do what we must to survive. Sometimes, this means brewing tea in a styrofoam cup at work and writing a blog post on your phone one minute before opening.

Sometimes it means using a microwave to heat your water because you live in a dorm and that’s all you’ve got. I set something on fire once. Don’t ask me to elaborate on that one.

Sometimes there are like, actual bad things happening.

Regardless of circumstance, for me, a cup of tea is always soothing–no matter how terrible the blend.

What’s the weirdest way you’ve made tea?

update: did put too much sugar in, will still drink it

Culture in a Cup

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In previous posts, I’ve discussed the different types of tea. But what about the people drinking them? Tea culture is as varied as the drink is itself. Each world region where it is popular has distinct practices and rituals surrounding tea.

This video takes a look at the differences between Chinese tea culture, where tea drinking originated, and British tea culture.

There’s no right or wrong way to make or drink tea. How you prefer your cup depends on your culture–and your taste buds!

Chai, Darling

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It’s fall! Allegedly. The weather doesn’t seem to think so, but according to the calendar, it is autumn now. That means it’s chai tea latte season for me.

This is the one tea drink that I don’t make at home. I’ve tried; it is never good. Maybe it is the lack of a milk frother. I don’t know what Starbucks uses to make theirs, but they’re addictive.

So what’s in chai tea? It’s a black tea from India, but in addition to the tea leaves, it’s got a ton of spices in it–which is pretty par for the course for Indian cuisine. Common spices used are cardamom, cloves, ginger, cinnamon, and pepper.

My tip is to order one with a shot of espresso. To me, the flavor combination of the chai and espresso tastes like fall in a cup.

Now I might have to go get one. Woops.

His[tea]ry

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Above is a video from TED-Ed on the history of tea.

Did you know tea is the second most consumed beverage, second only to water? I sure didn’t. There’s an interesting story behind tea that stretches back thousands of years. It’s roots–literally, because the tea tree, get it–began in China, but today tea can be found across the globe.

I love learning the history behind things that I love. Maybe this is what people mean when they call me a nerd, BUT knowing stuff is cool! Watch the video and you, too, can be a nerd who knows stuff about tea.

Quizzes on Tea

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Guess who’s still ill and too lazy to write a proper post? It’s me. We have progressed to wracking sinus headaches.

When I’m sick, I often don’t have the mental capacity for … uh, anything. See? Not even enough for good syntax. So, sometimes I will do mindless things, like take quizzes on the internet.

I went searching for some tea-related ones. It was surprisingly hard to find good ones. Here’s a few.

Cough Syrup Is Out, Bourbon Is In

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It’s September. I’m sick. This is unsurprising, considering we’re into cold season and my roommate was sick last week. This is also unfair, considering my twenty-first birthday was last week, but them’s the breaks.

There is one good thing though: now I can soothe my cough with a hot toddy.

What’s that, you ask? Why, it’s maybe the best thing you can drink while sick short of some magical elixir that cures you of the common cold. It certainly tastes better than Nyquil.

Now, traditionally a hot toddy is made with water, but I learned a different way. I’m sure you can guess what that is, given the theme of this blog. I usually use a decaffeinated black tea, then mix in honey, lemon, and a healthy splash of bourbon.

The warmth of the tea soothes you, while honey and lemon do wonders for your throat and cough. The bourbon helps you fall asleep.

Here’s a link to a recipe with actual ratios. Personally I eyeball it, like most things, because I like to live on the edge or maybe am just too lazy to get out the measuring spoons. Next time you’re sick (which, let’s be real, will probably be soon), try a hot toddy!

What’s in Your Cup?

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What’s in a name? A tea by any other name would smell as sweet. Right? Nope! I mean, sort of nope. Let’s talk about varieties of tea.

There are four classic types: white, green, oolong (blue), and black. But wait, you might say, isn’t there only one tea plant? Well, dear reader, you would be right there. All tea (non-herbal teas, that is) come from the leaves of the same plant, Camellia sinensis. This is an evergreen shrub native to Asia.

So how does one plant yield four different tea types? It’s all in the processing. The video below explains it much more professionally than I would.

Alright, assuming you watched the whole thing, let’s review.

  1. White: the least processing, yields a light and delicate taste
  2. Green: slightly more processing, stronger flavor than white
  3. Oolong: leaf is semi-oxidized or bruised, more bite to its flavor
  4. Black: leaf is fully oxidized, flavor the most robust

The video also goes on to explain less common tea varietals, yellow and red teas. Yellow is similar to green, and red teas are aged for anywhere over eighteen months.

What’s your favorite type of tea? I prefer black tea, but I’ll drink any of the four depending on the day.

Me + Tea = <3

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Okay, so, I know that last time I said that there’s no real, exact, “proper” way to make tea. Do whatever you want; the process isn’t going to vary that much between people because there’s only so many ways to pour boiling water. Unless you’re trying to scald yourself.

(This blog does not condone scalding yourself. Be careful out there, folks.)

This morning, in a half-asleep stupor, I documented my own tea making process. Truly it is a wonder that I did not scald myself. Here’s how I make tea.

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First, we start by getting the water boiling. Note that the eye is on “high.” Also note that beautiful aluminum foil–and the slight Dutch angle of this shot, which conveys how tired I was when I took this picture.

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Next, you want to get your tea and sugar. I use tea bags because I am “uncultured” or something. There’s debate over whether loose leaf provides a better brew, because it’s full leaves rather than the ground stuff you get in bags. Personally I don’t care, the bags work fine, leave me alone.

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Put a bag and some sugar in your mug. I do two of those little scoops because I only like a little sweetness. Oh! I am using Tetley’s British Blend, which is my go-to morning time tea. More robust than a standard English Breakfast. I’ve been drinking it for… [redacted].

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Pour that boiling water in there. Remember not to scald yourself.

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Now we steep. Typically you want to let a black tea like this one steep for three to five minutes. I tend to lean toward five (or more) because I like a strong cup. I have been known to let it steep for up to half an hour. Whether this is an accident, I will leave up to reader’s interpretation.

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Remove the bag and add milk to taste. Stir. I am out of milk. That was my roommate’s milk. Sorry, Kayla.

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And that’s how I make my standard cup of tea! I drank this cup while eating toast and listening to NPR, because secretly I am about sixty years old.

 

What’s Up, Hot Teas?

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How to Make a Proper Cup of Tea

  1. Who cares.
  2. Tea originated in China, so I’m not particularly fussed about the Brits’ opinion anyway.
  3. What is “proper”?

How to Make A Cup of Tea

  1. Find a blend you like.
  2. Stick the bag/loose leaves/whatever into a mug.
  3. Pour boiling water overtop.
  4. Sweeten to taste; add milk if desired.
  5. Drink it and live your life in peace.

I learned to make tea from a Canadian whose parents are from England, so I guess technically I do know how to brew a proper cup. I don’t always follow the precise rules though–I usually used bagged tea, the horror!–but it comes out just fine. Maybe this is a metaphor for how I approach life, or maybe it is just how I make tea.

What you eat and drink is your own experience. To me, it feels wrong to police how someone makes something. There are a few standard “hmm, maybe that is not the best way” protocols: Microwave tea is bad tea, though I did have to resort to that for the single semester I lived in the dorms. Generally speaking though, if you like the result, then however you did it is fine. Some people take themselves too seriously. It’s all just leaf juice at the end of the day, right?

For the next month, I’ll be taking you through the different ways that I enjoy a cup of tea. You will certainly learn something if you follow along, though whether it will be of any use to you is debatable.

Brewing a cup of vanilla chai on my parents’ back deck.