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New to tea- Some general questions and the like

Guess who just got started? I’ve not yet brewed my first cup (I’ve some loose-leaf tea ordered, but not yet arrived. They’re some blends I’ve wanted to try for a while, but since I’ve never “done” tea -being a coffee person -it just hasn’t happened) I’ve already read the mixed reviews about teavana, so I won’t worry about asking about them; I only went for one thing, and that was this brewer.

That said, I do have a few general questions:

1) I’ve had people tell me to add my sweetener while it’s steeping, but this confuses me: how will it properly dissolve? does it not? does it get sweet just so? Please shed some light, I would love to hear about this (Don’t worry, all of you that don’t think they should be sweetened -I only sweeten very lightly to cut any harsh bitters, if at all)

2) Milk? when I have bagged earl grey I usually milk my tea. I’m guessing this generally comes down to preference?

3) Is there anything I really should avoid, now that I’m moving into the world of loose-leaf teas?

4)Thoughts about adagio.com? I kind of got started by being linked there, bought a few blends. everything that I bought was fairly simple and in flavors that sounded good (and lets be real: they had nerdy themed teas and I’m a sucker for that kind of thing)

And to close: any general advice?

10 Replies
Azzrian said

Hello and welcome!
I am not a fan of adagio while they have a few good teas for me it has been far too hit and miss – mostly misses. Of course that is a personal opinion but they were also one of the companies I started with.

Milk, sweetener, its all preference. You can even add coffee creamers – you know the flavored ones if you want. I often use Non Dairy liquid creamer in the sweet cream flavor to my matchas and some black teas.
Although I prefer a great tea without either sweetener or sugar as a great unadulterated tea is best. Trust me you will find SO very many you do not need to add anything to.
As for cutting down on bitterness – there should not really be bitterness – some teas have astringency but you will learn the difference between bitterness and astringency soon. :)
If you brew your teas at the right temperature for the type of tea bitterness is not a problem.
That is something if you are very new to tea that you will want to look up – the right brewing temp and time for black, green, white, etc….

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Alphakitty said

Welcome to the wonderful world of tea!

1) You can add sugar whenever you like. Adding it in while steeping is fine, but you can do it afterwards too. However, if you’re using rock sugar you will probably want to put it in while the tea is steeping since it takes a while to dissolve.

2) Milk is a personal preference. It goes well with many black teas, but is kind of weird in green/white/oolong. However, it’s up to you—experiment and see what you like!

3) Avoid steeping your tea at the wrong water temperature! A mistake a lot of newbies make is scorching whites and greens (along with lighter oolongs) which need to be steeped at below boiling. You can look online for the exact temperatures, and it’s a mistake I’m sure all of us have made at some point! Also make sure you don’t oversteep: a tea that is amazing at 175 for 30 seconds will be absolutely atrocious steeped for 5 minutes in boiling water.

4) Adagio is a decent place to start, but many of their blends are not great at all. Their black base is REALLY finnicky and some of their flavoring is very artificial tasting. They do have a great selection and a few gems in there, and they are a decent place to start. However, if you’re looking for a place with cheap samples (and much better quality) also consider Upton (http://secure.uptontea.com/), Persimmon Tree (https://www.persimmontreetea.com/), Verdant (http://verdanttea.com/), Tealuxe (www.tealux.ca), and Della Terra (http://www.dellaterrateas.com/).

Azzrian said

That is awesome – our posts were nearly identical in content :)

Alphakitty said

Great minds think alike XD

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Angrboda said

1&2) This goes for ALL additives really, but I would strongly recommend not adding anything at all until you have tasted how the tea is on its own. You might not need any additives. Additives change the character of the tea, either enhancing aspects or masking them and not everybody likes additives in their tea at all. Personally I can deal with milk if I absolutely must, but I don’t like the way sweetener changes the tea. For me it doesn’t work as any sort of flavour enhancer, it just breaks the tea.

If you find that you prefer to have sugar added to the cup, then it doesn’t matter if you do it before or after steeping. Suger is highly dissolvant in water, so unless you add so much as to get a saturated solution, don’t worry about it not dissolving properly.

As for milk, there are Views on this, depending on whether the (milk-using) person that you ask is milk-firstie or milk-lastie. In relity, however, whether you add milk first or last makes little to no difference. There’s an argument to be made for aesthetics in favour of milk first, though, because milk added last will appear to be hiding itself just under the surface of the tea and it looks really odd and murky. However, a good stir with a teaspoon gets rid of this.

3) You may be tempted by steel tea balls or tongs or what have you, for the ease of dealing with the leaves or just brewing a single cup. Teavana isn’t available in my country so I have no idea what this brewer is like and therefore whether you would be tempted towards these steel leaf-traps, but it’s a common mistake to make, so I’ll include it.

The problem with these is that tea leaves, when they get wet, will expand and unfurl. Much like you can’t measure out coffee grinds based on how much was in the filter from last time, because it expands. (I got BANNED from making coffee in my parents’ house for this reason once. The result was nearly tar and they had to boil more water to thin it out with.) If the leaves are inside such a metal contraption, it stands to reason that there is simply not enough room for them to do so, and also not very much room for the water to get in and really interact with the leaf. If you feel that you prefer to have your leaf contained in some way, a large brewing basket is preferable. Even better, leave them floating loosely in the pot and pour through a strainer.

Another thing, which is an often repeated myth. You cannot remove the majority of caffeine from the leaf by simply discarding the first steep. Many people believe that this is so, but it really doesn’t work that way. Yes, you will remove some caffeine that way, but not so much that it really matters.

4) What the others said about Adagio is very true. It IS a good place to start because the selection is so large and it’s reasonably priced. It’s just important to pay attention to steeping time because of the base they use. As long as you are still new at it pay attention to brewing recommendations. Later, as you gain experience, you will learn how to take your own preferences into account and can take them with a grain of salt.

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mrmopar said

A good place to start brewing without one of those tea balls is a french press it gives lots of room for the leaves to expand. I agree with all of the above comments. If you get into Pu-erh tea I should be able to help you in this category. Welcome to tea! Once you go loose you will never go bag!

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david said

I agree with Angrboda, it always helps to try the tea alone first. When we first started drinking tea (a long time ago) we would quickly sweeten everything. Once we got into higher quality loose leaf tea, I began to notice that it wasn’t so necessary for many of the blends and traditional teas. For specific blends of tea, we usually sweeten a little. For traditional teas (Dragonwell, Yunnan King, Iron Goddess) I suggest nothing.

Milk is also a subjective thing. It also really depends on the type of tea. Only certain types of tea are good with milk as a latte. A nice Chai with milk or a good rooibos blend works nicely.

I’m the owner of www.SteepCityTeas.com with my wife and we’d love for you to try some of our tea at some point (no rush). The world of tea is great and there is alot of good tea out there. We do have a 15% discount for steepster folks that is going on now for a limited time. Try code “steepsterdeal”

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Lala said

Welcome to the wonderful world of tea!
My advice is to just try it and see what you like. Play around with having your tea plain, and adding sweetener and milk, etc, to your taste.
Buy teas in small quantities until you figure out what you like.
And shop around. There are many websites out there that sell tea. In addition to tea shops, also check places like local grocery stores, bulk product stores, and websites like amazon.
Do a little bit of research on the types of teas and how to prepare them (ie. water temp, how much tea to use, how long to steep, etc).

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Kamyria said

I want to welcome fellow loose tea newbie! :)

I’ve drank tea for years, black, green, herbal, white, all in the bags. The problem surfaced when I was trying to find good white tea in tea bags. I couldn’t find it. They all brewed brown and ugly. Then I found a tin of white loose tea and BINGO! Delicious, golden in color white tea I always wanted. That prompted me to check out other loose teas, which led me to Steepster, and so here I am.

It hasn’t been that long. I made my discovery at the beginning of December, now is end of January and I am hooked. Mrmopar is right.. Once to go loose you’ll never go bag. :D

I never add milk to my tea unless I’m drinking one of those fancy chai teas at Starbucks, then it comes with milk and all frothed up.. It’s delicious, however that’s a treat. At home I used to add honey to all my tea but ever since switching to loose tea I found out I don’t really need to add anything. Seriously, a lot of loose teas are great on their own. Make sure you always take a sip before you add anything, you could be pleasantly surprised.

Most of all, have fun! The world of tea is really exciting! :)

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Lynxiebrat said
Given the choice most of the time I would definitely choose loose over bagged, (whether it is traditional tea bags, pyramids or sachets, etc.) However, I still use bagged/etc. if I don’t want to be bothered hunting up a strainer, I want the convenience or I’ve yet to find a replacement taste for a favorite tea in loose leaf form. So, you don’t have to give up bagged if you don’t want to, and there are some companies out there that do a fair job.

Keldeyarbrough, Question: How are you brewing your tea? If it’s by stove top kettle that is good, if it’s by microwave…..not good. So the cheapest way to brew your tea at the various temps depending on the type is to get a tea temperature gauge. Teavana sells them, but you can also check around to other tea stores, they might sell them too. Down the road you can consider getting something like a variable temperature kettle, alot of models have preset buttons, black, green ,white, oolong,etc. Though to warn you: There is no definite temp for each tea, there is usually a range. Like I’ve seen suggestions for black tea be 208-212. Green tea: 170-175, (though got some that is 158, as well.) and so on. So if you do buy a tea temp gauge….keep a hold of it, you might still need it. I’ve yet to get one, but a month after getting into loose leaf I bought one of the variable temp kettles, and while I am glad I did, was able to try some great teas, I wish I had also gotten a temp gauge, and hoping I’ll remember next time I am somewhere that sells them to buy it.

If using rock sugar, putting it either in with the tea, in the strainer/infuser before your pour the water, or in the cup itself. I was confused about the ‘adding sweetener when it’s steeping’ too.

If you haven’t already, check out the ‘Places’ tab on top, type in zip code or state/region and country and it will come up with a list of the tea places nearby, whether they just sell tea, (and accessories.) and/or they serve it. You can also check ethnic grocery stores for teas, helps to know the language though it can be to take your chances too;) and some fruit markets, grocery stores and health food stores might have interesting selections of tea.

And lastly but least, every so often there will be a long term member that has more tea then they got the room for, and will offer to send a package of tea off to people, though sometimes it’s a limited amount, so keep your eyes peeled:) those and swaps are great opportunity to try out different teas and companies.

Another thing: A lot of companies sell samples, so trying those out 1st is good too.

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