Loose-Leaf Tea Strainer – A must have for all tea lovers

Have you ever considered starting to drink loose-leaf tea instead of bagged, yet didn’t feel up to getting all those fancy accessories you see online – or just not knowing exactly what it is, where to get it and how to make it? If yes to any of those questions, you’ve come to the right place!

Although this post is only going to be discussing the use of loose-leaf tea strainers and which ones I have found to work the best for myself, you can head here for my post on Tea Bags vs Loose-Leaf Tea. Future posts will explain how to prepare loose-leaf tea and where to find more accessories.

What is Loose-Leaf Tea?

Bagged tea is much easier to find in stores and far more popular in Western countries, especilly South Africa. Loose-leaf tea has a plathora of health benefits over the bagged though! Instead of consisting of dust left over from production, loose-leaf teas are actual tea leaves or buds from herbal plants which have been dried and packaged.

If you’re not sure if you want to start drinking loose-leaf teas nor know exactly why they’re considered much better than bagged, you can read my post explaining the difference over here: Tea Bags vs Loose-Leaf Tea.

Strainers – With Loose-Leaf, You Need This

Since there is no tea bag to hold the tea leaves in, you need a strainer (also called an infuser) to do this. Tea strainers are most commonly steel, but some are silicone or a hard plastic. There are so many varieties – some super cute and in animal shapes, others highly practical and minimalistic.

I generally go for the strainers which clean out the easiest since this becomes quite a nuisance.

Types of Strainers – There’s a Hoard of Them

From a meshed ball of steel to a plastic water drop with holes, you can find the most ingenious and adorable infusers for your brew. The most basic categories can be described as baskets, balls and novelty in the sense that almost any shape of infuser can be created. Here are a few examples:

Described as a “brewing basket” on their website, Art of Tea offers this strainer with a stainless steel mesh and a heat tolerable frame for under $10. The lid on the strainer even doubles as a dripping tray! This is super since I always get drops of tea all over my desk when I make loose-leaf tea and forgot to get a saucer to put the strainer on. It’s also dishwasher safe. (Click here to visit their site)

This strainer is without a doubt adorable. With the silicone rubber pants of the man being able to slip off you can out your tea leaves in there and smile while drinking your cup. It isn’t mentioned whether the strainer is dishwasher safe, but you can check the product out over here on Secrets of Tea’s website under their “Gifts” menu.

They have a few other strainers too! I especially like how modern this one looks. It’s made from stainless steel and is dishwasher safe. Another cool aspect is that this pen-like strainer can be clicked to open a compartment for the tea leaves to be inserted!

 

A more conventional shaped tea infuser, yet updated in material: this cute infuser is based on the spoon type of infuser shape but is made from silicone which is easier to clean. It also comes in white and pink and has a nice silicone cushion for your hands where you squeeze the infuser to open the ball.

Click here to view this product on Kusmi Tea’s website.

 

A total classic: the stainless teel mesh ball strainer. This type of strainer has been used for loose-leaf tea for years now and is definitely a classic and has been proven over and over to work well. It’s dishwasher safe and can add a tad of elegance to any cup.

I had one of these strainers for years now myself and still use it from time to time. It’s perfect for a single cup of tea and works well. After years of use, the little clasp used to keep the two half-spheres of the strainer together has loosened a bit, allowing small pieces of tea leaves to fall through. Otherwise, it’s great! Click here to go to The Tea Box’s home page. They sell one of these under their “Teaware” menu.

Which Strainers Works Best?

With such a vast variety of tea strainers out there, it’s difficult knowing which one to choose. As I mentioned earlier, I find that the easier a strainer is to clean, the better. Silicone infusers are quite easy to clean if it’s hard silicone, such as the spoon infuser above. Ones with small spaces such as the man one can get annoying when leaves get stuck in those spaces.

Another thing to look out for when choosing a tea strainer is how big the area is for the tea leaves to expand. The more room there is for leaves to expand, the richer flavour you will get and the more nutrients will be present. You should remember to not over fill your strainer since the dry leaves are almost half the size than when you pour water over them.

There are loads of other tea strainers out there which I haven’t mentioned in the examples above – there are simply too many! You can see others on the websites linked to them.

Final Notes and My Strainers at Home

I honestly have way too many strainers…I just love them! There are hundreds of cute novelty ones and also others with different sizes which I use to make a teapot full and smaller ones for a single cup.

I mostly use my spoon-like infuser. The one I have at home doesn’t have a silicone cushion like the one from Kusmi Tea, but rather is made only from stainless steel and has so far given me no major problems.

I hope you found this post helpful, and as always, happy steeping

Dom

Tea Bags vs Loose Leaf Tea

Every avid tea drinker has their own preference for what the best cup of tea should have. Some people are adamant that milk has to be in black teas, others swear by only drinking herbal with no additives. What makes your comfy drink taste the best?

Although the preparation of your tea is important and very opion based, the type of tea – loose leaf or in a bag – is also a factor which influences the flavour of any cuppa. So which way is best to take your tea: using tea bags or loose-leaf tea?

What Loose-Leaf Tea is

You can usually find loose-leaf tea varieties in tins or sealed packets. The tea is actually full or partial dried leaves from the actual tea plant, or even buds from herbal plants for herbal teas. Many brands hand pick their leaves and even sort through them to find the premium pieces for their customers. 

Whole tea leaves not only look gorgeous, but they still have all those essential oils intact. Although bagged teas also contain essential oils, they don’t have as high of a concentration as loose leaf blends do. The same applies to nutrients and antioxidants.

You can find loose-leaf tea in artisan stores or online. Click here to go to the Teabox, a great online loose-leaf tea store.

What’s up With the Bag? 

The reason the health benefits of bagged teas are dampened are because of how they are prepared, packaged and stored. Instead of being hand-picked and sorted like loose-leaf teas, the tea in tea bags are sometimes processed and contain dust from dried leaves. Other parts of the tea plant like the husk or stem is also added in some tea bags, alternating the flavour.

Tannins are also present in tea bags from the contents of the ‘tea’. Tannins have a bitter taste and  strengthen over time. 

Bagged and Loose in Flavour

Since the tea you find in your teabags are much finer than that in loose leaf teas, the essential oils can evaporate faster. This also impacts the potency and flavour profile of the tea, and of course the nutrients.

Bagged tea is also kept on shelves in retail stores for a long period of time, which can lead to your tea going stale. Not good. Stale tea tastes bitter and much less potent than it would be fresh – the tannins in the bags’ contents have more time to develop. 

With the whole leaves and other parts such as buds or spices added to loose-leaf blends, you can find more subtle tastes with complex notes while the flavour from bagged tea is mostly one dimensional and strong in order to stay enjoyable after a long time on shelves.

Water Circulation – Less is More

While it is easy to think that the more tea leaves you put in your strainer when preparing loose-leaf will result in a better and stronger flavour, this is incorrect. Tea leaves more than double in size when wet – meaning that if you filled your strainer more than half-way, it would be bursting. 

In such a case, there would be little to no space for water to circulate through the leaves and extract the flavour, resulting in a flavour profile very similar, if not weaker, than only filling your strainer up half-way.

Since the leaves are whole in loose-leaf, there is more room for water to be absorbed and the tea leaves to expand for the maximum amount of flavour, aroma and nutrients can be extracted. 

It’s in the Shape – Pyramid Tea Bags are Changing the Scene

A huge part of why the quality of most loose-leaf teas is so much better than bagged teas is due to the water circulation which is hampered by the tea bag. 

Usually tea bags are square pockets with minimum room for tea leaves to expand – most brands offering bagged tea don’t contain whole tea leaves. A new innovation has arrived to the tea scene though: pyramid tea bags.

These tea bags are made from an array of materials, but the most important aspect of them is the volume the have for leaves to expand in. Many brands even use a blend of silk to construct their bags with, allowing loads of water to pour through the bag.

Money, Money, Money – Why is Loose-Leaf Tea so Expensive?

Taking into consideration the premium flavour and care taken by producers to offer their customers when making loose-leaf tea, it is easy to see how bagged tea is inferior in regard to the quality of the mighty loose-leaf. The fact that bagged teas also often contain the plant husk and dust is also an obvious indicator as to why it is much cheaper than loose-leaf.

Although the price tag on loose-leaf is exponentially higher than that of bagged, you can make two cups of tea with around 7g of tea (depending on the brand). My loose-leaf teas have more cups as an output than bagged teas and I consider them to be of around the same price range since my loose-leaf tins last me so long.

It should be noted though, that you should use your loose-leaf tea within six months since it can go stale much sooner than bagged teas and thus lose its flavour and essential oils.

A Few Final Thoughts

There’s no argument that the convenience of popping a tea bag into a mug beats having to get a few leaves into a strainer, take the strainer out a few minutes later and keep it from dripping all over, then having to discard the leaves and wash the strainer… What a mouthful.

Besides the convenience and mostly more affordable aspect to bagged tea, loose-leaf tea surpasses the quality of most bagged teas and also has a richer flavour to enjoy. There are also such a vast variety of loose-leaf blends to choose from compared to pre-packaged teas you find in the supermarket.

Do you prefer using loose-leaf tea or bagged? Let me know in the comments below!

All the best and happy steeping

Dom

 

Sources:

  • https://spoonuniversity.com/lifestyle/a-steep-dilemma-tea-bags-vs-loose-leaf
  • https://www.billi-uk.com/loose-leaf-tea-vs-tea-bags/
  • https://harmonyhoneybush.co.za/loose-leaf-tea-vs-tea-bags/
  • https://www.theteamerchant.co.za/blogs/news/8874843-why-should-i-use-loose-leaf-tea
  • https://tastessence.com/loose-leaf-tea-vs-tea-bags
  • https://spoonuniversity.com/lifestyle/a-steep-dilemma-tea-bags-vs-loose-leaf
  • http://theteaspot.com/loose-tea-vs-tea-bags.html

Drinking Tea vs Coffee – Let’s Settle This

First off, yes, this is a blog about tea, and yes, of course I am biased towards my favourite beverage! This doesn’t mean that I will take the science behind coffee’s advantages and ignore them – rather I will argue both sides fairly. This age-old feud between two gloriously comforting beverages has been the subject of debate in many conversations which started out amicably.

So here it goes, a post revealing scientific backup whether tea or coffee is better for your health.

“Caffeine is bad for you” – Wrong

As with everything in life, consuming caffeine in moderation isn’t detrimental to your health – it is actually even beneficial! Caffeine comes from many plant sources including coffee beans, tea leaves, cocoa beans and guarana beans.

Yes, you read right, tea leaves. Tea and coffee almost have the same levels of caffeine and so if you go with the argument that caffeine is bad for your health, then tea would also be falling. Scientist actually determined that drinking 300mg of caffeine a day is actually very good for you: that amount of caffeine is found in roughly four to five cups of coffee or tea. It has been found that it can reduce the risk of type 2 diabetes and liver cancer. How cool is that!?

It can be detrimental though…

Drinking too much caffeine – in the range of around 500-600mg – can cause some health problems though. The all to infamous crash after a great high from caffeine energy can lead you to feel jittery and even anxious. It is also no shock that too much caffeine can cause insomnia and some people experience tremors.

All of these symptoms are mostly due to the consumption of too much caffeine in one day.

Coffee vs Tea – Some Facts

While coffee is undoubtedly the most popular beverage of the two in northern America, tea surpasses it everywhere else!

Debunking the Myth – Coffee and Heart Disease

A study in the 1960s showed that coffee is linked to heart disease, stroke and heart attacks. This study, however was flawed. It wasn’t taken into account that coffee drinkers were more inclined to smoke and consume alcohol. A recent study published in 2013 actually showed that drinking coffee and the risk of heart disease was not directly proportional – coffee consumption does not increase your risk of developing heart disease.

Caffeine – Different Effects from Different Drinks

The difference between the caffeine found in coffee and that in tea is how long it takes to kick in. With coffee, you can feel the energy-boosting effects of the caffeine roughly ten minutes after drinking a cup. This is also linked to a slight feeling of depression after drinking coffee, as shown in a study here.

All tea coming from the plant Camillia sinensis (your black, green, oolong and white teas) contain an amino acid called L-theanine. This tiny chemical has a structure similar to another amino acid in your body (glutamate) which helps with sending nerve impulses to your brain. L-theanine is responsible for slowing down the absorption of caffeine, giving you a more gradual boost of energy without that crash once it wears off. The amino acid also helps you to stay calm since it stimulates a neurotransmitter GABA in your brain.

Some Quick Notable Benefits of Coffee

  • It helps with muscle endurance as many studies have shown. In 2006 a group of volunteers with an average age of 21 all did fitness tests before and after consuming coffee. Some members of the group were also given a placebo instead of a caffeinated drink. The results showed that the volunteers who consumed coffee or a placebo before doing a workout (a few hours before!) performed better than those who did not. This doesn’t only show how coffee boosts our muscles, but how we even think bodies into doing it!
  • Caffeine is a neurostimulant and so it makes us feel good. Any coffee lover can attest to their mood being lifted after a cup. Although further studies are needed before it can be conclusive, coffee has been found to be a preventative measure for depression.
  • Antioxidants are also found in coffee. Everyone knows that your fruits and veggies are a great source of antioxidants, but so is coffee!
  • Using coffee grounds as a mask tightens your skin. This is due to coffee being a diuretic (increases the amount and water in your body to help lower blood pressure). Just use the left over coffee grounds from your coffee machine to make a mask or face scrub and you’re good to go. (You can also add more ingredients such as coconut oil to your mask for a moisturizing effect.)
  • Great pick-me-up on Monday mornings. Since caffeine is quickly released in coffee, you can get a quick jolt of energy to give you the boost needed to start out a difficult week.

Tea Helps Too – General Benefits of Teas

There are a plethora of different teas available, and most of them harbor a great deal of benefits for your health.

  • Major weight loss benefits! Green tea contains a component which actually shrinks your fat cells – EGCG. The compound has also been proven to cure sepsis in mice and clinical trials on patients are yet to be undertaken. You can read more about the many benefits of green tea over here.
  • Tea helps you to keep calm by stimulating a neurotransmitter GABA which helps to reduce anxiety. As mentioned earlier, the amino acid L-theanine found in tea slows the body’s absorption of caffeine, giving you a more gradual energy boost. Chamomile and lavender teas are especially notorious for having calming effects, mostly due to their aromas. Click here to view my post on chamomile tea.
  • The antioxidants in many teas are cancer fighting. More studies are required for irrefutable proof, but so far tea may help prevent breast, ovarian, colon, skin and liver cancers.
  • Tea has been linked to a lowered risk of Parkinson’s disease in all genders.
  • Many teas have been found to decrease the onset of neurological disorders. Alzheimer’s and related diseases fall into this category. Especially green tea is known for this property.
  • Tea can be beneficial even if you only inhale the scent of it! Chamomile and lavender teas are renowned for the calming abilities they have. These good feelings come from the wondrous fragrance billowing from these teas – aromatherapy is slowly gaining hold in popularity.

So…Who Wins? Coffee, or Tea?

It’s quite difficult to determine which world-renowned beverage to say is the best when people have super strong opinions over their preferred drink. I mean, in all honesty, it’s pretty close. Both drinks have caffeine, which isn’t really bad for you health (unless you go overboard), both stain your teeth – yes, not only black tea gives you yellow teeth.

It should be noted though that these health benefits and studies done to determine them were with sugar free and black coffees and teas without any extra flavoring added to them. So while a cup of coffee also gives you a heap of antioxidants and helps you build muscles, you won’t gain many benefits by drinking four cups with loads of sugar and milk, especially if your goal is to lose weight. The same goes for tea.

                                           Final Thoughts

My vote definitely goes to tea – I always drink it without anything added to my brew. Tea has loads of other benefits not mentioned in this post and don’t have as severe side effects as coffee has. Some people get muscle cramps due to coffee hindering your body’s ability to absorb magnesium even though it contains a lot of it. This can also make you restless at night.

Which do you think is the winner? The world’s second most popular beverage next to water, or coffee? Let me know in the comments below!

All the best and happy steeping

Dom


Sources:

  • https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/21824504
  • https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/coffee-worlds-biggest-source-of-antioxidants#section1
  • http://healthland.time.com/2012/09/04/13-reasons-to-love-tea/
  • https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2007/11/071108115608.htm
  • https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/16937961
  • https://healthyeating.sfgate.com/black-tea-ltheanine-12266.html
  • http://www.primallyinspired.com/homemade-coffee-scrub-mask-recipe/
  • https://www.yixingxuan-teahouse.com/popularity-facts-coffee-vs-tea-winner/
  • https://www.ahajournals.org/doi/10.1161/circulationaha.113.005925
  • https://www.webmd.com/vitamins/ai/ingredientmono-1053/theanine

Lipton Tea Review – Blueberry Muffin Black Tea

This tea is one of Lipton’s pyramid flavoured tea range, and definitely my favourite out of the three I have tried so far. I have previously reviewed Lipton’s Strawberry Cupcake Green tea and also their Apple Cinnamon Green tea – just click on the teas’ names and the link will take you to those Lipton tea reviews.

A really great thing about this range is that natural ingredients are used: real dried berries instead of only flavourants. Yes, there are a little of those added as well.

Read on to know what to expect when sipping on this from the taste, texture to aroma. (Spoiler: It smells exactly like a muffin!)

Preparation: temp 100C/96F steep 3-4 minutes

Servings: there are twenty pyramid tagged teabags in each package. The pyramid shape of the teabag allows the tea leaves to unfurl more and for the water to infuse more with the ingredients, resulting in a stronger and better flavour. The teabags are also quite thin, which allows more water to infuse, yet not so thin that the teabags break when you squeeze them with a spoon.

Ingredients: Black Tea (camillia sinensis), Blueberry Pieces, Flavourants

Steeping for Three Minutes

The underlying earthy note of black tea was subtle, but still there. It worked well with the slight sweetness you got from the blueberry pieces and a little of a butter taste. All of these flavours work really well together, but it doesn’t taste like a blueberry muffin at all, sadly. It just tastes like flavoured black tea, which I guess it essentially is.

This tea isn’t very fruity since the black tea dampens the blueberry flavour. There is a sweet aftertaste though, which is quite pleasant. As mentioned earlier, it smells exactly like a fresh blueberry muffin from the oven…but otherwise I don’t get any blueberry muffin from this, yet it is still very enjoyable.

Texture-wise, the Lipton tea was very, very smooth. I thoroughly enjoyed it as many flavoured teas can have a sharp feel, yet this one is very natural.

Going for Five – So much Different!

Well…steeping the tea for five minutes changed the entire flavour profile. Firstly, the tea became very sweet and left a tangy aftertaste which is very artificial and left me thirsty – I know that sounds strange, I mean, it’s a liquid!

The pleasant earthiness you got from the black tea when steeping it for three minutes was completely masked by the blueberry flavour when I steeped it for five minutes. It became much more like a fruit tea, yet tasted blatantly artificial. The flavour improved with adding a little bitsy of milk though.

Strangely enough, the aroma of a blueberry muffin also dissipated when I steeped the tea for longer. It faintly smelled akin to blueberry candy or baked berries. I wouldn’t recommend steeping it for more than four minutes to avoid the tea tasting too sweet and unbalanced.

Overall – Would I Buy it Again?

In all candor, my favourite aspect of this tea was the blueberry muffin scent billowing from it – it just made me smile and tricked my senses into thinking that I was drinking a liquid form of muted blueberry mixed with a bit of butter. The taste itself wasn’t bad, but not outstanding, yet very enjoyable.

I probably would buy Lipton’s blueberry muffin black tea again, or maybe a brand with a similar variation. For the hefty price Lipton asks, I don’t think the taste of the tea is unique enough to warrant the bucks. The quality is excellent though.

Where to Find Blueberry Muffin Black Tea – or Something Similar

Not many retail stores stock up on specialty tea (or specialitea…), so the best way to find unique tea blends are online, or if you are lucky, a nearby tea store. What makes Lipton’s Blueberry Muffin tea unique is that blueberry flavours are usually paired with white tea rather than black tea, making it sweeter and lighter. You can order this from Amazon or eBay.


I hope you found this post helpful in considering whether to buy a tea similar to this.

All the best, and happy steeping

Dom

Earl Grey Health Benefits – Black Tea With Citrus

Black tea with bergamot orange – what could go wrong? With the luxurious and decadent, heavy flavour of black tea, a dash of citrus is a wondrous relief, yet preserves the comfort from a good dark brew.

Earl Grey tea is quite popular among many tea drinkers, especially in Britain. The tea’s namesake is mostly unknown but the story goes that an earl (Earl Grey) helped a Chinese tea maker who then gifted the Earl a blend of black tea and named it after him. This was in the 1800s.

Now we have scientific research showing that not only is Earl Grey tea delicious, but it also has loads of health benefits (and can help with weight loss – more on that later). Many of Earl Grey tea’s health benefits derive from the bergamot pieces or oils usually incorporated into the tea leaves.

What’s in Earl Grey Tea? – It’s not that Exciting

The short answer is that Earl Grey tea is not much different from your usual Ceylon(normal tea) blend with some citrus flavours added. Some blends add bergamot oil, derived from a bergamot orange. These oranges originally came from Italy around the 1500s and is actually a lemon!

Besides your normal black tea and bergemot, tea manufacturers can put whatever additional tastes or aromas they want in it. It’s popular for you to find a grapefruit or lemon tasting earl Grey. With the loose lea variety, flowers are often added to make it look more appealing.

Quite interestingly, tea manufacturers add the oils and extracts to tea by either spraying them with it or infusing them.

Earl Grey and Losing Weight

Many teas can help you keep your waist slim and earl Grey teas are no exception. The bergomot in the tea contains enzymes which increases good cholesterol (HDL) and reduces your total cholesterol (LDL) or bad cholesterol. It further also prevents the absorption of cholesterol in the stomach.

Drinking earl Grey also boosts your metabolism since it contains caffeine and also because of the abundant vitamin C found in the citrus. Your metabolism truly plays a huge part in losing weight. It regulates how often toxins can get out of your body.

How many cups should I drink to lose weight?

Studies have shown that drinking two to four cups of this aromatic tea can help you to lose weight and increase your metabolism. You should also keep in mind that adding sugar and milk to your tea won’t help you to lose weight, so rather add a dash of lemon juice or a bit of honey for extra flavour.

Tea drinkers in general have a lower body mass index than non-tea drinkers. This is due to the many antioxidants and caffeine present in the majority of tea blends!

(You can read more about other teas and their health benefits here for rooibos tea and here for chamomile).

Other Health Benefits

Earl Grey tea is filled with a bunch of nutrients and aromas which help with alleviating many health ailments, yet, as with anything (maybe besides chicken soup) it is not a cure-all.

Antidepressant – It’s in the smell

Aromatherapy is a from of alternative medicine and is gaining popularity at a blinding speed. It has shown to enhance moods, improve brain function and to relieve anxiety. The bergomot in earl Grey releases an aroma that relieves tension and can help you to relax.

Stress and anxiety leads to depression and so taking time to relax with a cup of aromatic bergomot in your earl Grey tea will surely help to improve your mood. A study in 2011 showed that when school teachers were given bergomot oil to inhale and they were reportedly less stressed!

Antioxidants

Ever heard of free radicals in your body? Almost sounds like terrorists doesn’t it? Well, they could be seen in such a light. Free radicals are by-products of cells in your body breaking down. They consist of an oxygen molecule which can be detrimental to your health if there is an excess of them in your body.

Antioxidants come into play by helping your body to remove free radicals. There are many dietary sources of antioxidants, such as fruits and veggies, but teas are thought to have more in them per serving – totally awesome, right?

Digestion Aid

Give your digestive system a boost with earl Grey! The caffeine helps relieve constipation, and the bergomot can relieve nausea and even subdue acid reflux by calming an upset stomach.

Drinking too much tea, of almost any kind with many antioxidants and metabolism boosting properties, can give you a runny stomach. Stick to under more or less ten cups a day to skip the inconvenience.

It Helps Your Mouth! – Not Just the Taste Buds

Earl Grey tea has been documented to be beneficial to oral hygiene. The antiseptic properties of earl Grey tea can help soothe mild inflammation, usually the types you get in your mouth and throat.

Fluorine is present in earl Grey brews as well and is an element that strengthens your teeth! Your breath can stay fresh with a cuppa while also keeping your gums healthy. Yes, black teas do stain your teeth, but brushing them thoroughly and visiting the dentist to whiten them once a year is sure to keep them pearly.

Everything in Moderation – Side Effects

As a general rule of thumb, stick to drinking under 6 cups of black tea a day since the caffeine

and other chemicals in it can cause irregular heart beats and lower your blood pressure drastically, causing dizziness. A few other side effects associated with earl Grey tea include:

  • headaches
  • insomnia
  • diarrhea
  • stained teeth
  • muscle twitches

Where to Get it – I need a Cup Now

Online tea stores are growing in popularity, and with good reason. There is a much larger variety of teas and especially loose-leaf teas available online than that you find in retail stores. Here are some awesome online tea shops where you can find some earl Grey tea:

  1. The Tea Box
  2. Art of Tea
  3. Oola Tea
  4. Secrets of Tea
  5. The Tea Merchant
  6. The Tea Stash

There are so many stores that I would have to have another post to contain them all! You can try out any of the above which I know to a very vast selection of teas.

I hope you found this post helpful in explaining the health benefits and some side effects of earl Grey tea. Let me now what you think below!

All the best and happy steeping

Dom


Sources:

 

  • https://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/health/news/10732973/A-cup-of-Earl-Grey-as-good-as-statins-at-fighting-heart-disease-study-finds.html
  • https://www.livestrong.com/article/328271-side-effects-of-earl-gray-tea/
  • http://www.healthcare-online.org/Earl-Grey-Tea-Benefits.html
  • https://tea101.teabox.com/antioxidants-in-tea/
  • https://tea101.teabox.com/earl-Grey-health/
  • http://www.aromatherapy.com/
  • https://www.teatulia.com/tea-varieties/what-is-earl-Grey-tea.htm
  • http://www.med-health.net/Earl-Grey-Tea-Benefits.html
  • https://www.stylecraze.com/articles/is-earl-Grey-tea-effective-for-weight-loss/#gref
  • https://articles.mercola.com/teas/earl-Grey-tea.aspx

Twinings Tea Review – Vanilla Smooth and Creamy

Who can say no to vanilla? This is just such a comfy and delicious flavour – plus it smells amazing too. Did you know that vanilla actually comes from an orchid!? The orchid flower only lasts for one day too, so plantation workers need to be on constant lookout.

Twinings is a tea company based in the United Kingdom and has quite a great reputation and a large variety of teas available. Their teas are always of the utmost quality – thus the hefty price.


 

Preparation: temp 100C/212F steep time 3-5 minutes (or to taste)

Price: R51,82/$3,93

Number of Bags: 25 Envelope Tagged Bags

Ingredients: black tea (fermented Camellia Sinensis ), vanilla pods, vanilla flavouring

Vanilla in a Cup – The Taste

Wow. This tea blew me away. Vanilla can be a hard flavour to pull of on its own as it’s usually used as an ingredient which enhances other flavours. Yet, Twinings definitely made it work! I love it!

The tea is quite plain by itself, but since it’s also a black tea, adding milk makes it so much more flavoursome: the vanilla sings. Milk and vanilla go together like peas in a pod, and with black tea thrown in, a winning combination is born. People also told me that they like to add sugar to this tea, yet I find it better with milk only. The sugar doesn’t dampen the vanilla, but it does change it to taste more artificial.

Without milk, the tea is still great, but much more subtle and bitter – almost like vanilla essence. I also like this way of drinking it as the vanilla tastes more organic and earthy almost. There wasn’t any almond milk in my fridge, but I can really see this vanilla tea suiting it.

I had a buttermilk rusk with one cup, and it was divine…it made the rusk taste like a vanilla muffin.

Texture!

Twinings describes this tea as “smooth and creamy”. It really is. I love it when you find a smooth black tea that you can easily enjoy without any milk – it’s so rare! The vanilla flavouring didn’t alter the texture as flavourings often do, which is commendable.

The longer I brewed it for, the more powerful the black tea became. When brewed for too long, milk is a must. I would recommend steeping it for around 3-5 minutes if you’re planning on drinking it a very silky tea.

Personal Notes – Love, but not Forever

Yes, I have stated that I love this tea quite a few times now, but I would have liked more vanilla. The flavour is there, but I want more. Maybe if cinnamon was added, or even a bit of citrus this tea would have been a 10/10, but it tastes as though something little is missing. I would still recommend it though.

The aroma is to die for. It smells as though there are biscuits in the oven, waiting to be devoured. Vanilla was definitely evident and smelled divine.

Alternative Brands?

Twinings is a very expensive brand, mostly due to it being manufactured in the UK, thus having to convert and import with pounds. This Vanilla Tea is very tasty and you notice that it is very smooth, but you can get similar flavours and textures from other brands.

Many online stores have vanilla tea variations, with more flavours added. I personally love vanilla chai teas – the spices present in chai just work so well with vanilla.

Here are some online sources which offer vanilla teas:

Make your own – it is possible

Loose leaf teas are just tea leaves and other bits of fruit, flowers or roots mixed up. You can definitely go and add some chopped vanilla pods in your strainer and steep it in almost any of your teas. I know that rooibos/red teas go excellently with vanilla and cinnamon. I have added vanilla essence into my rooibos before, and it worked!

Let me know if you tried mixing your own tea and how it went in the comments!

All the best and happy steeping

Dom

Everything about Rooibos Tea – Health Benefits and Origin

Rooibos tea. You’ve probably never heard of it, yet it is a favourite of South Africans. The plant is endemic (only grows in) to South Africa and is now widely exported and slowly gaining in popularity among tea drinkers worldwide. The tea is also called “red tea” because of the colour of the brew. Directly translated from Afrikaans, “Rooibos” means “red bush”.

Rooibos only grows in a certain region in South Africa, making it quite scarce, yet it has many health benefits and remedies, especially in skin care.

Why is it so Unheard of?

The tea was first grown by the Khoisan – the indigenous bushmen of South Africa. When they slowly dwindled in population, the rooibos plant went with them until an English botanist started cultivating it again.

Later – during the Second World War – trade routes were compromised and many countries couldn’t get access to teas which predominantly came from Asia. South Africans jumped to the market and started exporting Rooibos tea! The popularity grew. The tea is still quite underrated, especially compared to green tea and black teas, but surely does not earn a backseat in terms of its health benefits.

Rooibos tea isn’t actually even a tea – technically speaking. The needle-like leaves come from a low shrub in the Western Cape area of South Africa. The ‘tea’ is more of an infusion. By fermenting the leaves, they turn red and allows the yummy rooibos flavour to bloom from them, as well as for many awesome properties to develop.

Anti-inflammatory Goodness in a Cup – or not

Many teas are rich in antioxidants and anti-inflammatory properties. Praises have been sung over green teas’ super properties for years, I now believe that rooibos deserves some glory.

Yes, red tea/rooibos tea has many health benefits, but according to a study done in a laboratory, there isn’t that much anti-inflamatory properties in rooibos tea. The study was based on the intake of rooibos tea versus that of water in rats. In the end, the chemical compounds associated with inflammation fighting were not much more pronounced in the rooibos tea group than that of the group who received water…

Fear Not, There are many more Benefits

Antioxidants and Polyphenols – Go Red!

The rooibos plant is known for its vast amount of polyphenols, flavenoids and proanthocyanidins (all chemicals found naturally in plants) which boosts its antioxidant effect on your body.

Antioxidants are very important for your health since they stop damage from happening to your DNA and other cell structures. The reason for this is that the body produces something known as “free radicals”. These are oxygen molecules produced as waste from your cell processes. Antioxidants “scavenge” these radicals by neutralizing them and so improving your overall health!

From the Outside, Looking in – Skincare/Beauty

Many face products (especially acne face washes and moisturizing creams) are starting to incorporate rooibos extract in their list of ingredients. This is because the benefits and compounds in the rooibos plant has been researched vigorously during the past few years.

All of those antioxidants in this tea also help to slow down the aging process of your skin by helping with the manufacturing of collagen, a compound found in almost all of your skin tissue. Studies have also shown how antioxidants can ward off skin cancer.

Tea Bags for the Eyes – How and Why

The vast amount of antioxidants and other natural chemical in rooibos tea helps with so many ailments around your eyes. It can help with puffiness, redness and inflammation. Here is how you go about treating this:

  1. Make a cup of rooibos tea, but keep the tea bag
  2. Squeeze all the excess water from the bag and allow it to cool. For extra strength, leave the bag in the fridge for up to fifteen minutes.
  3. Lay back, relax and close your eyes. Place the cool tea bags on your eyes for up to thirty minutes.
  4. Massage the area around your eyes.
  5. Repeat three times a day for two weeks to see best results.

You can even add a slice of cucumber over the tea bags for even more benefits!

Many other herbal teas can also be used for your eyes. Some are: chamomile, comfrey, lavender and fennel.

You can read more about chamomile tea here.

Rooibos as an Anti-Carcinogen – Kicking Cancer

CANSA, a non-profit organization based in South Africa, has dedicated eight years to research and test the effect rooibos has on cancer cells and if it can be considered as an anti-carcinogen. Their findings are superb.

A type of antioxidant found in rooibos cannot be taken orally, yet it is one of the body’s greatest antioxidants for fighting off those free radicals. This is amazing! That amount of the same antioxidant reduces naturally in your body as you age, so rooibos may heighten those levels if taken regularly. The antioxidant (glutathione) has also been found to help with the risk of cancer and to lower the chance of having a heart attack.

CANSA suggested that you should drink up to six cups of rooibos tea for three months to get a full 100% increase in your glutathione levels.

Can it Help with Weight Loss?

Well, rooibos is free from calories. This doesn’t mean that drinking eight cups of rooibos tea while also eating unhealthily and not doing much exercise will keep your waist thin. As with any wonder food/drink, you need to have a good diet and exercise regularly to lose weight.

Since rooibos tea is free from calories, it is a better beverage to drink than a cup of coffee with milk and sugar if you are trying to lose weight. The antioxidants mentioned above also help to boost your metabolism, which has been shown to help with losing weight.

Rooibos vs Allergies – I hate pollen

Okay, I hate allergies associated with pollen – but I do love flowers. Summer and Spring are beautiful seasons, yet they can wreak havoc to your sinuses. With the new budding plants and pollen flowing through the air, many people are bound to get runny noses and hay fever.

Researchers in Japan have found that drinking rooibos tea helps to increase the production of an enzyme that fights allergies. Yay! It has been shown to be effective in helping with pollen allergies and asthma as well as other chronic allergies.

By bathing in water infused with rooibos tea bags, you can alleviate eczema and itchy skin. You can also take some lukewarm rooibos tea into you sinuses and then blow your nose. This does sound quite yuck, but it helps with bad sinuses and hay fever.

Where to Find this Miracle Tea

As mentioned earlier, Rooibos/Red tea isn’t very popular outside of South Africa. Many online stores do have rooibos tea for sale though.

Secrets of Tea is a great online store which focuses on teas to help with maternity and babies. They also have a bunch of herbal teas, including rooibos. You can take a look at their website here.

That is only one of many stores offering red tea. I personally love to drink a cup a day a find it very refreshing. The taste of rooibos is almost sweet, yet very earthy.

All the best, and happy steeping

Dom

 


Sources:

  • http://www.joekels.co.za/2108-2/
  • https://www.madefromearth.com/healthy-skin-rooibos-tea
  • https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/301506.php
  • https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/19419525
  • http://www.biogen.co.za/products/platinum-range/collagen/
  • https://www.cansa.org.za/rooibos-tea-as-an-anti-carcinogen-project/
  • https://reportshealthcare.com/tea-bags-for-eyes-know-these-amazing-ways-to-use-them/
  • https://www.africanextracts.com/about/tips-and-advice/rooibos-benefits-we-love
  • https://www.miamiherald.com/living/health-fitness/skin-deep/article205855634.html
  • http://www.rooibostea.com/history-of-rooibos-tea.php

 

 

 

Woolworths’ Peach and Apricot Rooibos Tea Review – My take on this infusion

This tea is described as an infusion of ice tea flavours, and I can definitely attest to that – especially in the sense of its smell. I don’t generally like variations on rooibos tea as much as the plain, standard red tea.

Preparation: temp: 100C/212F time: 3-5min

Price: R34,99/$2,59

Ingredients: Rooibos, Orange Peel, Liquorice Root, Flavouring, Stevia, Peach and Apricot Pieces

Number of Teabags per Packet: 20

How it went down

I oversteeped my first cup…it wasn’t a good experience. I steeped it for around 9 minutes. Regrets.

The apricot flavour was overpowering when I did this and tasted blatantly artificial. It didn’t taste like real apricot fruit, but rather a candied dried one with a bit of peach. Needless to say, I didn’t enjoy it when I steeped it for that long…All the rooibos flavour was lost.

The aftertaste was a lot like dried apricots and lingered in my mouth for about an hour, even when I drank water and ate a tangerine.

Let’s try again – the 2nd Attempt

The second time I had this tea I steeped it for three minutes, with a way better result. The flavours were far more balanced and I tasted rooibos and the earthiness associated with it. A bit peach flavour shone through, but still not much while the apricot was still prevalent.

I loved the smell from brewing it for 3 minutes. It smelled like a peach ice tea and It tasted a bit like one too! I waited for another cup to cool down when I brewed it for 3 minutes, and it tasted really yummy. Very much like an ice tea, but not as sweet. It was sweeter than the tea when it was still hot though. It also tasted more like peach when cooled.

Overall, brewing it for three minutes was better than nine in all aspects – even the aftertaste wasn’t as strong in apricot and went away when I drank water.

Brewing it for 5 Minutes – The box told me to

The recommended brewing time on the box is five minutes. It was the best cup for me: All the flavours (rooibos, peach and apricot) were evenly balanced and the apricot was not overpowering! It was subtle and only obvious in the aftertaste which wasn’t too strong.

As the box also describes, the tea does taste a lot like peach ice tea when brewed at this time. It wasn’t too sweet and I could taste the rooibos tea at right away. The rooibos flavour does get a bit overpowered by the other tastes in the tea, but it was still really good.

The aftertaste was very similar to that of peach ice tea as well. It was quite pleasant.

Yay or Nay? – Would I recommend it?

I prefer natural, plain and standard rooibos tea without any sugar or milk (or anything else) added myself. This is only my own personal preference and I know that people who enjoy fruit teas and honeysuckle tea would love this. It’s not overly sweet, but is still flavoursome without sugar or milk.

I know many people enjoy their cup of rooibos with some honey and lemon or milk and sugar, but I find that adding these ruins the ice tea aroma you get from this. Rusks also don’t work too well with this tea – it’s far too tropical to go with homey butter and carbs.


Other Brands – Not only Woolworths has this!

I have only ever tried Woolworths’ Rooibos, Peach and Apricot tea and cannot vouch for the quality of the other brands I know of who offer this rooibos variation.

Here they are:

  • Laager
  • Freshpak
  • Oriental Royalty
  • Basilur Tea
  • Adagio
  • Whittington

There most probably are more brands selling this that I don’t know of. Just check out on the web or retail stores near you.


All the best and happy steeping!

Dom

 

Green Tea and its Health Benefits

Green tea – some people love it (me!), others hate it. One thing all of us can luckily agree on about it, is that it has hoards of health benefits which have been claimed for years now. This bitter, cleansing and sometimes a bit sweet tea is undoubtedly my favourite. Yes, I said it. I have a favourite. It is also the second most consumed beverage worldwide after water – sorry coffee lovers.

Comes from the Same Plant as Black Teas

Say what now?

It’s true. Black tea and green tea is made from the exact same leaves from the same plant – the Camillia sinensis. The big difference in flavour and nutrients come from the fact that black tea leaves are fermented.

Black tea leaves are fermented for around four hours, rolled up and dried by heating them. Green tea on the other hand is just rolled and dried straight from picking. The process of drying the leaves out halts fermentation.

Many other teas also stem from the Camillia sinensis, or tea plant, such as oolong tea and pu-erh teas. As with black tea, the difference comes from the tea leaves being fermented for different periods of times.

Green Tea and Antioxidants

A study done in 2010 confirmed that green tea is one of the best sources of antioxidants in your diet. How cool is that!? The study also looked at how the method of brewing tea and also how it was processed (as in bagged and extracted) influenced the bioactive compounds in green tea which gives it all of its health benefits.

It found that bagged, loose-leaf and powdered green tea all had different levels of antioxidant and other bioactive compounds. (Read more about the study here.) Another study also found that green tea has more antioxidants than fruits and veggies. I rest my case.

Antioxidants also increase your metabolism, which in turn helps with weight loss. It is still important to exercise and eat correctly to lose weight though. Many scientists claim that antioxidants are beneficial to your health beyond the aid in weight loss: yet another study proved that the antioxidants in green tea inhibited the damage tobacco can cause to your DNA.

Cancer Fighting Green Tea?

Green tea contains a lot of a chemical found naturally in all plants: polyphenols. There are hundreds of different polyphenols, each with its own properties. Green tea is the tea with the highest concentration of polyphenols.

In laboratory studies, scientists have found that the polyphenols found in green tea actually induced cancer cell death while not affecting normal, healthy cells. There isn’t sufficient data to prove that this will always happen in a human body, but the tests found that the polyphenols killed ovarian cancer cells, breast cancer cells and stomach cancer among others.

Your blood is constantly circulating through your body (of course) and so the amount of polyphenols you gain from drinking a cup of green tea will drop after about two hours. It has been recommended to drink around seven to ten cups a day to keep those polyphenol levels elevated to have these cancer fighting abilities.

Anti-Inflammatory to the Rescue

Inflammation is your body’s natural response to a physical injury or bacterial infection. It helps to heal the damage and presents itself as a swollen, red area on your body and can be quite painful. Usually drugs are used to help deal with inflammation, but now as traditional medicine and herbal remedies are gaining popularity, scientists have been researching teas and their health benefits even more.

What makes the anti-inflammatory drugs useful is their ability to health the denaturing (breaking apart and losing the properties) of a protein which fights inflammation. Green tea has the exact same property thanks to one of its many polyphenols.

Usually inflammation is a precursor to cancer, and since green tea has anti-inflammatory properties, it further helps to prevent cancer cell growth. The anti-inflammatory super powers also come from those polyphenols, one of which is called catechin. Although green tea contains very little catechins, these chemicals have been linked to antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties.

Arthritis is a disease which causes your joints to become inflamed and is incredibly painful. Many people have said that drinking green tea and black teas have helped with this pain, which is amazing. Researchers from Cleveland even found that green tea can stop arthritis to progress!

It’s Good for the Skin

The anti-inflammatory and antioxidants in green tea makes it a popular ingredient in face creams and washes. Since acne is mainly caused by inflammation of the skin and by bacteria, green tea is ideal for treating this. Green tea is also used to soothe inflamed blood vessels which cause those dark circles under your eyes.

Green tea will not help with any dark spots since it does not contain any anti-pigmentation properties. It will help to tighten your pores however, and also to reduce puffiness around your eyes.

Before using green tea for your skin you should make sure that it doesn’t irritate your skin by applying it to a small area first, as with most skin products.

More Benefits!!!

With all of its bioactive compounds, green tea has an abundance of health benefits. Many of them are attributed from the many polyphenols the green tea plant possesses and the preparation method of the tea.

Some other benefits include:

  • decreases the risk of cardiovascular (heart) disease
  • lowers cholesterol
  • lowers bloop pressure
  • boosts your immune system
  • aids people with chronic fatigue syndrome
  • prevents non-alcoholicfatty liver disease
  • helps with Chron’s disease
  • relieves constipation

People also use green tea to help with athletes foot by soaking their feet in a bath of the tea.

A Little Recommendation

The Teabox, a company selling loose leaf tea, has a huge range of green teas to choose from. You can find them here.

They also sell samples and pretty nifty accessories!

So much to Love

With all of these health benefits, this tea can be seen as a super food. I know that many people are put off by the taste, but after a few cups of tea, the bitterness isn’t as pronounced and is very pleasant. Some of my friends were converted like this.

I vote you should give it a try before writing this beverage off. Do you like green tea? Let me know in the comments below.

All the best and happy steeping

Dom


Sources

  • https://www.webmd.com/food-recipes/features/health-benefits-of-green-tea#2
  • https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3401676/
  • http://blog.arthritis.org/living-with-arthritis/health-benefits-of-tea/
  • https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3679539/
  • https://www.webmd.com/food-recipes/features/antioxidants-in-green-and-black-tea#1
  • https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0963996909002877
  • https://www.sciencedirect.com/topics/neuroscience/catechin
  • https://www.webmd.com/vitamins/ai/ingredientmono-960/green-tea
  • https://www.edenproject.com/learn/for-everyone/plant-profiles/tea
  • https://www.thedermreview.com/green-tea-for-skin/

The Tea Merchant’s Licorice Tea – Review

The Tea Merchant is one of my favourite loose-leaf tea sources. They have gorgeous tea containers and also sell you tea to the gram. In store The Tea Merchant also sells other great tea brands such as Kusmi Tea. Their licorice loose-leaf tea comes in a triangular tin and the smell when opening it is to die for…

Preparation:  temp 100C/212F      steep time 5-10min

Ingredients: aniseed, licorice root, star anise, blue mallow flowers, flavourants

The Taste – Oh yes

This is a herbal loose-leaf tea of note. I have tried several licorice teas – all bags – and find this one the best in flavour. The aniseed flavour does not overpower the licorice root, as many licorice teas do. All the flavours were balanced at any time interval I steeped it for  with varying strength of the general flavour.

For a loose-leaf tea, this one comes off quite strong in flavour. There has been a long debate about whether loose-leaf tea is better than bagged and some strong opinions about it too. I’ll add my say in a post at a later date.

Aftertaste

A pleasant licorice aftertaste lingers in your mouth after a cup. It is not too sweet and not too bitter as many licorice flavoured foods and beverages can be. Any residual flavours go away as soon as you eat or drink something else, so don’t worry about having a perpetual licorice taste in your mouth.

This is one of my favourite aftertastes from licorice teas. As a bonus, your breath smells good afterward!

Steeping Reccommendations

For a mild licorice and aniseed flavour, I suggest letting it steep for around six minutes. Aniseed can get quite a bite if you steep the tea for a long time. In the case of this licorice tea, I wouldn’t let it infuse for more than ten minutes. Since this is a loose-leaf tea, you can’t push a tea bag around to get more flavour out of the tea in less time and a bit more effort is required to brew it. (The effort is 100% worth it)

Where to Buy This

The Tea Merchant has many physical stores but you can also order yourself some online on their website here.

Some of the stores in South Africa are located in (the rest are listed on their website):

  • Centurion Mall
  • Mall of Africa
  • Gateway
  • Clearwater Mall

There it is

I hope you found the review helpful and might consider trying out licorice tea if you haven’t yet.

You can read about some side effects of drinking too much licorice tea (surely possible) over here.

All the best and happy steeping!

Dom