Katherine: Tea is the delightful go-to beverage for populations around the world. In our mystery book Kat Out of the Bag readers discover that Pam is our biggest fan of drinking tea. Partly this is from her growing up in England with its traditions. Pam has definite preferences in her tea leaves, but there is such a breadth of variety available, it's wonderful there is a National Tea Day to celebrate the brews.
Moonjava: No need to limit the celebration to a day. Drink up! There's so much to know about teas. They've been around forever. The history of tea dates back to ancient China, almost 5,000 years ago. According to legend, in 2732 B.C. Emperor Shen Nung discovered tea when leaves from a wild tree blew into his pot of boiling water. He was immediately interested in the pleasant scent of the resulting brew, and drank some.
Katherine: That's one of the things I like about tea, it's so easy to make and enjoy.
Moonjava: Easy, oh yeah. Although knowing a few thoughts will enhance your pleasure steeping a great cup.Katherine: Like what, MJ?
Moonjava: For starters, the water you use. Tea is as good as the water you use. If your tap water tastes great, the chances are it will make great tea. or you may want to filter the water for better taste. Be sure not to use water that has been sitting in the kettle for days. Always use fresh water.
Katherine: That makes sense. How much of the tea leaves should be measured for the kettle, I mean if you're not relying on random leaves from a wild tree blowing into your pot.
Moonjava: I recommend one rounded teaspoon per 8 oz of water, but keep in mind the kind of tea leaves you're steeping. For very fine particle tea a level teaspoon will be enough, but for bulky leafy tea you should use a big pinch. It's all to taste so no worries, after making a cup or two you'll get the hang of it!
Katherine: There are so many different types of tea leaves in the world. I keep my inventory well organized for whatever I'm in the mood for. Sometimes I'm not sure and I try tea leaves that are a mystery to me until that first sip.
Moonjava: Discovering and trying different teas is an adventure. For example, there are Pam's favorite Black Teas. Black tea is withered, fully oxidized and dried and most often medium or highly caffeinated.
Katherine: Pam's favorites are Earl Grey and English Breakfast, but she does stray from black tea on occasion. She also enjoys herbal teas.
Moonjava: Brews made from herbs, flowers, and grains are likely as old as her other favorites. Tea leaves were consumed as a medicine long before they were a beverage, and many popular herbal teas were originally made for those purposes. Common types are chamomile, mint, and rose hip, but Pam may also want to check out elderflower, Greek mountain herb, and chrysanthemum teas.
Katherine: What else do you recommend? I like to try new things.
Moonjava: Green tea production endeavors to avoid the oxidation of the tea leaves, in order to retain its natural green color and fresh flavor. It can taste like spring peas, fresh cut grass, gently toasted hazelnut, and even brackish seaweed floating in broth. Quality greens are intensely aromatic and sweet on the tongue.
Katherine: I'm not sure that appeals to me, maybe with honey and lemon added.Moonjava: That sounds like a tasty experiment. Now you're seeing the fun of teas. You may also like to try an oolong. In Taiwan, high mountain oolongs may look almost as green as green tea, but tiny nudges of oxidation have transformed crisp and grassy flavors into creamy, buttery ones with a strong floral lilt. Or a white tea. Where oolongs are all about intensive processing, white teas emphasize letting nature take its course. Plucked tea leaves are air dried with minimal processing, either in the sun or with powerful air vents. As they dry, the leaves undergo a slight oxidation, developing a rich, creamy body and subtle floral flavors.
Katherine:Moonjava: Yellow tea is a niche but traditional style in China, with processing similar to green tea but with some extra steps to smother and sweat the leaves, yielding a less sharp, more rounded tea that's neither a green tea nor a white. And how about in the Darjeeling hills, the first flush, or harvest of the year, is processed into a tea that's sold as "black tea" but is really nothing of the sort-it's heavily withered but barely rolled or oxidized, so the leaves retain spots of green and it brews up a pale amber, with fresh piney flavors not quite like anything else.
Katherine: I'm always in the mood for hot tea. The weather is never too hot for me to enjoy that, but I know you like iced tea throughout the year as well.
Moonjava: Many of these different teas taste delicious either hot or iced. Some taste better iced. There are a number of teas made from roasted grains that are especially popular in Korea and Japan. Barley, tartary buckwheat, Job's tears and corn silk all make soothing, naturally rich brews. Even better, these teas are fantastically refreshing when cold brewed or ice, making them the perfect caffeine free drink to make by the pitcher and gulp all through the sweatiest days of summer. And don't forget sun tea.
Katherine: Yes, our porches often show off your big, covered, water-filled pitchers of tea leaves steeping for hours in the sun. It's actually fascinating to watch the color come in, and then deepen over time. If only Seattle had more sunny days, you could do this even more.
Moonjava: The weather is a consideration. It is, after all called sun tea. With all teas, sun or kettle, the steep time is important, and at the right temperature. High quality teas can be delicate. If oversteeped, they will taste bitter, especially green teas. If you prefer stronger tea, use more leaves rather than steeping it longer.
Katherine: I think tea is also fairly economical.
Moonjava: Tea is a generous drink. With only a third or so the caffeine of coffee, it offers a gentler path to a morning jolt, allowing you to drink more. Most tea leaves can be steeped several times before depleting their flavor too. And what benefit, the different types of tea are also rich in a substance called l-theanine, an amino acid that studies have linked with feelings of calm and well being.
Katherine: I could use a little calm to think over the clues to our new mystery our author is currently finishing.
Moonjava: Cheers to our fellow tea drinkers, fellow mystery readers, Happy National Tea Day every day!