Ever since we have been going to Chocolatea in Portage I’ve been drinking more and more tea. I’ve written about this in the past a few times and I’ve discovered a lot and learned even more. I couldn’t have done any of this without the wonderful people down at Chocolatea who take great pride in teaching the public about tea and guiding you along the route to really enjoying all the teas they have to offer.
I’ve enjoyed a good number of teas, from the classic Earl Grey which was the first black tea I ever tried and really liked to various green teas and Oolong teas. Each varietal brings something I never expected to my cup. The greens are very light and easy to drink and very healthy for you – but then again, they ALL are. The Oolong teas are interesting because they are full-leaf teas and there is a Chinese method called “gong-fu” which is brewing tea many times. Most teas can take up to three infusions before they peter out, but Oolong can take it and enjoys up to seven or eight infusions with hot water for progressively longer steeps. The flavors that are expressed in each steeping shift from instance to instance which makes Oolong a very interesting tea to explore. I’ve kind of Oolong’ed myself out of that tea after drinking it for a long while and so I decided to get back on the warpath and explore more types. There are some other tea-like plants that you can make “teas” out of, Rooibos and Yerba Mate. The first is nice, but it lacks any caffeine which is okay for a right-before-bed tea but doesn’t give me the kind of kick that I need during the day. Yerba Mate has a caffeine-like substance that gives you a lift without feeling jittery. All of this I learned at Chocolatea and online.
Amongst all these teas, I’ve found one type that really knocks my socks off. I really enjoy drinking it and can drink it all day long. This tea is called pu-erh tea and I put five grams of leaves into my infuser basket and boil water and set it for no more than three minutes. This tea creates a very dark brew that looks a LOT like coffee. The scent of the tea is very earthy and the taste, well that’s something special. Pu-erh tea tastes like vanilla and caramel and brown sugar. This particular tea is called “Caramel Pu-erh” so that’s where the caramel notes come from, obviously. This tea is what I love about really great coffee without the bitter astringency that I really don’t like about coffee. I regard it as the coffee-drinkers tea and I bet that if I brewed a cup of this and gave it to my coffee-obsessed family that they would be blown away as much as I was when I first tasted it. Since that first time I’ve bought 2 ounces of this tea which costs about $3.85 per ounce. That’s about 56 grams of tea, for about 33 to 44 cups of really awesome coffee-without-the-bitterness. It has all the rich flavor that you want from coffee, a nice small kick of caffeine per cup, not to mention a bunch of unproven-but-maybe health claims ranging from numerous phenols which are antioxidants and good for you, to appetite suppression (caffeine) and even increased fat breakdown (in rats, it suppresses a metabolic pathway that leads to the formation of fatty acids and triglycerides). WebMD even went so far to claim that Pu-erh tea can sometimes contain Lovastatin which some think is naturally created by one of the fermenting microbes as the Pu-erh is manufactured. This lovastatin is apparently one of the drugs in cholesterol drugs that suppresses LDL cholesterol and enhances HDL cholesterol, so once again you have a maybe-claim to lowering the bad cholesterol and enhancing the good. There were other maybe-maybenots that pointed to antimutagenic properties and perhaps even anticancer properties. Is it true? I don’t know. I don’t think there could be a study in humans where you could control to that fine a detail in the right way to know one way or another. So it’s nice to think that this tea might have these great properties and that it certainly won’t do you any harm. With a taste like this, in the end who the hell cares? If it’s not bad for you, and tastes this good, then any other benefits are just gimmes.
Amongst all of these teas that I’m trying, thinking about my past and what I used to think about tea does make me feel a little chagrined. Tea was awful because it was of crappy quality in a really crappy delivery mechanism. It was designed to fail. A nice cup, such as a Bodum insulated borosilicate glass cup makes enjoying tea very convenient, an infusion basket for holding the leaves, and most importantly really great loose-leaf teas are a must. Considering how cheap the per-ounce price is from Chocolatea and how you can infuse most teas at least three times if not more, your bang-for-the-buck is huge. Plus you don’t need a coffee machine, expensive baskets, filters, or the silly beans or grinds that are all going to die in your pantry of age-related death because coffee, unlike tea, just can’t last in the long-haul.
As I explore more I’ll blog about what I discover at Chocolatea. If you haven’t visited them, you really should. Even if you only drink coffee and think tea is awful, go there and tell them and ask them to impress you. I’m sure you’ll enjoy it!